Brain Failure


“Don’t addict me, I know it’s heaven.

Don’t talk about political, I know it’s hell…”

———-New York City by Brain Failure

I went to the gig of Brain Failure with my friend the other night (22th Oct). Brain Failure is one of the best known Chinese rock bands and has been around for almost ten years. The gig was part of 2009 Melbourne International Arts Festival, and the Beijing-based band was also backed by one Australian band The Go Set and rock singer Goldie Lux. Strong political orientation, expression of frustration within the changing urban landscape, plus a bit of innovation or a sense of black humour would be a summary of the spirit of Rock and Roll in China, while Brain Failure happens to be a representative of that spirit.

I was actually a bit surprised by the venue and its atmosphere when I first got to the gig place. I expected the gig to be held in a sort of “underground” places like a pub or even a renovated garage, with people crowding around the stage and concentrating on the performance at anytime, as that’s what a gig is like in China. While this venue, the Forum Theatre on Flinders Street, is a huge place with sofas, bars and plenty of room for people to walk around with drinks and socialise with each other. I feel that while rock music might be a form of collective expression under the social context of China, it seems to be more about a way of lifestyle here in Melbourne.

Brain Failure’s show started with the vocal Xiao Rong repeatedly murmured “Come… come…. to see the city of Beijing” in Mandarin in the total darkness with strong bass in the background. Then the spotlight moved slowly to capture a Chinese girl playing pipa– a Chinese musical instrument in the middle of the stage. The audience was all attracted by this kind of arrangement and came to gather around the stage, when suddenly all the lights went on and Brain Failure began to rock people with their song “Living in the City”. The inclusion of pipa seemed to be a new experiment they band wanted to try in this performance and was actually impressive.

Language was not a big problem for Brain Failure’s performance as a good number of their songs are written in a mix of Chinese and English, and the band tour internationally quite often. The three-hour performance included some of the band’s classic songs, such as “One Coward”, “Stay Free”, as well as some new ones. During an English rap Xiao Rong improvised some lyrics by incorporating their experience of this trip to Melbourne, like “we come from the east but this is “the place to be”’, “We were nearly ‘paralyzed’ got off the plane, but feel bloody alive seeing you”, which all generated a wave of screaming among the crowd down the stage. The climax was reached at the song “Anarchy in the P.R.C”, when everybody waved their hands and shouted “An-ar-chy” with the band together. In the final song, the guitarist Gao thanked the audience with an awesome 30-second guitar solo.

After three-hour of shouting and rocking, we left the theatre all half-deaf and half-mute. It is a really cool thing to experience the spirit of Beijing rock in a place far from China.

Some Photos taken at the gig:

Pipa + Rock Crossover:


Vocal Xiao Rong:

Vocal Xiao Rong

Xiao Rong + Gao:

Xiao Rong + Gao

And also, check out this Interview with the vocal Xiao Rong before the Melbourne performance.