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China rockers Second Hand Rose won't play second fiddle

Updated: 2014-10-10 15:59
By JACK FREIFELDER in New York (China Daily USA)

China rockers Second Hand Rose won't play second fiddle


Members of the Beijing-based rock band Second Hand Rose pose for a photo following an interview with China Daily on Thursday. Pictured (from left) are: Eric De Fontenay, band manager; Liang Long, lead singer; and Jeroen Groenewegen-Lau, the band's percussionist. The group is in the United States as part of a two-week tour.

Rock music has origins that date back more than 60 years, but one Chinese band in the midst of a tour in the US is looking to introduce an American audience to a more contemporary Chinese form of the genre.

"A few Chinese bands have toured in the US before, but usually it's quite low-key," said Jeroen Groenewegen-Lau, percussionist for Beijing-based band Second Hand Rose. "Some of that started about 10 years ago, but never really in any organized way. Now you're seeing a more concerted effort."

Groenewegen-Lau also said some of his band mates had previously been to the US to perform, but 2014's trip marks the first time "we've done a more structured tour".

Second Hand Rose, a six-piece, Chinese rock fusion band, is entering the second week of its Useless Rock tour of the US' East Coast.

The band kicked off its tour with an invitation to play at the inaugural US edition of the Modern Sky Festival, an outdoor rock music event in Beijing and hosted by the Modern Sky music label. The first US edition of the event took place on Oct 4-5 and was held at Central Park's Rumsey Playfield in New York.

Although the band has already played for crowds in Boston and New York, other stops on the tour include Washington (Oct 10, Atlas Performing Arts Center) and Philadelphia (Oct 15, Hard Rock Café), where the group will play a pair of concerts before returning to New York for their final performance on Oct 19 at Webster Hall.

A series of musically oriented talks have been sandwiched in between performances too, including a dialogue Tuesday with students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and a panel discussion on Thursday at the China Institute in New York.

"The chat at Berklee was a nice, relaxed way to get some people-to-people interaction," Groenewegen-Lau told China Daily. "In general, we realized that as part of coming to the US for the first time, we need to tell people what we're about."

"People are really interested in what's happening in China," he said. "Those people that are curious about how young people in China think, they can get an understanding of that through listening to our music."

Liang Long, lead singer for Second Hand Rose, said the American side has been "interested in China for a long time" but now there is more interest in "getting access to contemporary culture".

"A couple years ago, when bands came to China they were actually very curious," Liang said on Thursday through a translator. "Just getting there is something quite special and a big accomplishment, but after a few years they realized that didn't really make an impact."

"If you do a couple shows and people don't remember the name of the band, it doesn't build into something more sustainable," Liang said. "This is exactly what motivates us to come here. It doesn't help to stay in Beijing and think about all of this. You have to go there."

Groenewegen-Lau, who is Dutch and acts as the de facto translator for the group, said rock music got a late start in China, so that by the latter decades of the 20th century, many Chinese bands had begun to just imitate popular Western models.

"That's why we picked the name Second Hand Rose, to criticize their second-handedness and to poke fun at that," he said. "We have explored incorporating Chinese instruments, themes, lyrics, etc., so we try to make the spirit of rock music a bit more fun and energetic. The rock element is definitely there, but at the same time, we try to connect with larger Chinese realities."

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