Midi Festival, China

MIDI FestivalThe Crimea played at the MIDI festival in China yesterday, and will be playing various gigs around Bejing for the next few days. Here’s a round up of the Chinese based Crimea articles on the web.

Firstly though, here’s Flickr’s latest stream of MIDI Festival 2007 pics. I see no Crimea shots next but there’s some there’s sure some well dressed kids over in the big C.

Lord knows how but someone managed to sweet talk the Chinese government into thinking they’re some kinda superstars, and apparently Davey & Co were having tea with the big wigs a couple days ago. The British Council promoting them as the biggest British act at Midi may have had something to do with it. Somehow I can’t help thinking Davey’s gonna do something mental and fuck it all up. But I guess I found out where I know that Filter mag pic from :)

The lifestyle website City Weekend has a Midi Fest preview with a paragraph on The Crimea and comments from Owen.

And purely for the Chinese locals, Midi fest has a write up of the band on their site and China News is most likely mentioning the Witching Hour album giveaway.

MIDI 2007 Music Festival

China’s biggest music festival MIDI 2007 will take place in Haidian Park on 1-4 May. There will be 90 bands (67 Chinese bands and 23 foreign bands) and 57 solo artists (folk, hip-hop, rave and experimental electronica) performing in front of thousands.

There will be three bands from the UK performing on the MIDI main stage or the Gibson Guitar stage. If you are a fan of UK music, make sure you don’t miss their shows:

1. The Crimea: 18:20-18:50, 1 May, MIDI main stage
The Crimea will perform during the Antenna UK Reel 4 screening at Beijing MAO Livehouse 8PM on 30 April. Ticket: RMB30.

They will also perform on 2 May 8PM The Stone Boat at Ritan Park west gate and 4 May 9:30PM at Beijing Star Live.

1. The Crimea

Davey MacManusVocals, guitar
Owen HopkinDrums
Andrew StaffordKeyboards, backing vocals
Andrew NortonGuitar
Joseph UdwinBass, backing vocals

What goes on in Davey MacManus’ head is not always so pretty. But as frontman for The Crimea, he turns it into beautiful and sweeping rock’n'roll. ‘Tragedy Rocks’, the London band’s debut album, is both lush and lacerating; fourteen edgy and melodic cocktails sweetened by sonic ambition and spiked with Davey’s debauched, bitter-funny tales of mean streets, meaner romance, good gin and not-so-good times.

Having already received high praise from John Peel (the legendarily impassioned British DJ called “Lottery Winners On Acid” “one of the best songs I’ve heard in years”) and SPIN (which deemed the band’s 2003 SXSW showcase “an arena-worthy performance”), The Crimea are set to establish themselves as one of the brightest hopes on the British music scene.

“We want to be a timeless rock band, lyrically, musically and aesthetically,” says drummer Owen Hopkin. “I don’t want to be pretentious and compare us to the Beach Boys, but we really like Brian Wilson’s term ‘pocket symphonies.’ We’re trying to do something that isn’t just drums, bass, guitars. Something intricately woven, but always sort of skewed.”

Though the Crimea now includes guitarist Andrew Norton, keyboardist Andrew Stafford and bassist Joseph Udwin, much of ‘Tragedy Rocks’ was hashed out solely by MacManus, an Irishman who doesn’t use the Internet or listen to other bands but is already a published author. ‘Unamazing Disgraces’, his book of stories and poems, came out last year from Shiny Beast, and he performs solo under the name Kernel Krok. Welsh native Hopkin, who moonlights as a journalist, co-founded the band with MacManus.

That happened at a house in Plaistow, where MacManus developed something of a Travis Bickle complex during a succession of tedious and unrewarding jobs. When he wasn’t stocking the supermarket freezer or sweeping up the park, he worked maniacally on songs, honing the lyrics down to maximum sparseness while building up the music on an eight-track recorder, using E-bow, a toy piano, various guitars and an aging Roland synth. Along the way, the living room collapsed right into their Shepherd’s Pie — about all they could afford to eat – and they had to boot a housemate who used to steal everybody’s milk. Happily, they got a bassist in the deal when Udwin, who came to England from Zimbabwe, moved into the house.

“I knew how I wanted to do things, and didn’t stop until I’d done it,” says MacManus of the recording process. Album opener “White Russian Galaxy” – which he sums up as “man cannot understand woman, what the fucking hell?” – came to him so easily it might have been a dream, “but all the rest were like mathemetical equations. Six months of killing myself 24 hours a day.”

His secret weapon was his voice – instead of composing and arranging the material on actual instruments, he’d sing the different parts, then turn those vocal melodies into guitar and keyboard lines. “That’s why I think they’re a little bit more hooky than your average guitar solo,” MacManus says.

Even though they eventually got themselves a 16-track recorder, The Crimea remain amazed their Wall of Sound and vivid lyrics found the U.K. press comparing them to such greats as The Flaming Lips and Leonard Cohen. Or that they were handpicked for opening slots with the likes of Kings of Leon, Dashboard Confessional and Ash. Or that their third single, “Baby Boom,” came in at #8 on John Peel’s 2003 Festive Fifty, just ahead of “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes. Or, most of all, that they disproved a music business myth by getting “discovered” at SXSW.

Jetlagged from the flight and shoehorned onto the tiny deck of a faux-Irish Sixth Street bar, both Hopkins and MacManus say their Austin show was terrible. But MacManus is a notorious performer – “not quite the guy out of the Doors, but I’m baring my soul up there, giving absolutely everything,” he says. Adds Hopkin, “He’s very, very, very full-on. Some of the shapes I see him pull don’t really comply with the physics of the body.”

So sure enough, after SXSW, a swarm of A&R men checked out two subsequent gigs in New York City, with Warner Bros’ Perry Watts-Russell as the winning suitor. “It was really really exciting,” says MacManus. “The music actually did the work, which I never thought would happen in my lifetime.”

The music is still doing the work. From the wry and unsparing evocation of male lust in “Baby Boom” to the epic despondency and Dusty Springfield references in “The Miserabilist’s Tango”, ‘Tragedy Rocks’ is an impressively realized debut album that lives up to its title and then some. Ever the brooder, MacManus admits his personal preference is for the dark complexities of songs like “The Great Unknown” but he knows why people fall for the woozy jangle of “Bad Vibrations,” or the carnival-ride lope of “Lottery Winners On Acid.”

“It’s the only happy song on the album,” MacManus says of the latter tune. “That’s why it’s my Mum’s favourite.”

Article from the British Council website, April 2007.

MIDI 2007



East London indie band The Crimea began life as The Crocketts, signing to a major U.K. label, V2, in 1998, but were later dropped. Unwilling to quit, Davey MacManus and Owen Hopkin formed The Crimea. Comparing The Crimea to their former band in an early press release, MacManus commented, “If the Crocketts were four cavemen banging stones together, then this is the sound of four Tchaikovskys banging Kylie Minogue.” The Guardian described their songs as “mini-epics” that reduce front man MacManus to “spasms of jerking anguish.” The band signed to Warner Bros Records following a showcase at the 2004 SXSW Festival in Texas. And their debut album, “Tragedy Rocks,” came out in 2005, with the first single from the album, “Lottery Winners on Acid,” released in January last year, entering the U.K. singles chart at No.31.

In regards to this year’s Midi, The Crimea say, via band member Hopkin, that they are honored to attend and are “looking forward to heading East, plugging in and playing in a country we’ve admired from afar for so long. We also look forward to hitting the stage, hitting the sights and then hitting the bars for a week we hope we’ll remember for a very long time.”

Article from City Weekend, 16/04/07.


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Article from the Midi Festival site, April 2007.

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Article from the China News site, 30/04/07.

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