transmitCHINA 2010 - Guangzhou
// by Louise Upperton, photos by Tobyn Ross / May 29, 2010

It's a 7:30 am lobby call at the Harbourview Hotel for the bands, managers and transmitCHINA crew. Caffeine is essential – it will be a long day of travel for the group. Enroute to a coffee shop, a few team members notice the late-night stragglers leaving the Wan Chai clubs. transmitCHINA host producers Archie Hamilton and Nathaniel Davis are busy wrangling everyone in the lobby. Shortly thereafter, more than 60 pieces of gear and luggage are loaded onto the tour bus and about 40 people squeeze into the narrow seats as it shuttles off to Hung Hom train station in Kowloon. This station in Kowloon connects Hong Kong to the Guangzhou East railway station.

"This is the largest travel party that transmitCHINA has ever seen," comments Archie. The band members and their gear have now filled up an entire corner in Hum Hong station. In less than an hour, the large touring party of transmitCHINA has managed to clear customs and board a train on it's way through the New Territories of Hong Kong and then into the southern People's Republic of China.


Skyscrapers are replaced by low-rise buildings and farmland. Guangzhou is about 120 kilometres northwest of Hong Kong, in the middle of the Guangdong Province. This sprawling city is the primary manufacturing hub of the Pearl River Delta, and one of mainland China's leading manufacturing regions. It's the third largest city in China (following Beijing and Shanghai), with a population of six million people, or nearly 12 million if you count the urban areas surrounding the city.

For Westerners, Hong Kong is a fairly easy Asian city to navigate. Business if often done in English and there is a significant expat community in Hong Kong, so Western amenities are not difficult to come by. On the other hand, mainland China can be somewhat of a culture shock for first-timers. On the train to Guangzhou, one of the musicians notices than while there are still billboards everywhere, there are now almost entirely in Chinese – and off the train, the language barrier becomes even more apparent.

The Racoons recently toured in Indonesia. illScarlett performed in Japan, and Ohbijou previously played gigs in Japan and Taiwan. But for all of these Canadian bands, transmitCHINA's Ginger Beef tour marks their first foray to China.

Stepping onto the train platform in Guangzhou East railway station, the traveling party gets it's first real wave of the humid, subtropical climate. Guangzhou has a lengthy monsoon season, and apparently, we've arrived just in time for it. In the drizzling, hot rain, everyone is struggling with gear and weaving through the busy station.

Today is a tight schedule for all the bands. They quickly load their gear onto another tour bus, then it's off to the hotel. Everyone has 15 minutes to drop their bags off before heading out to lunch. After a long, hot journey, the group is ravenous and ready to eat. Thank goodness they are serving everyone's favourite: sandworms!

Following lunch, it's off to the venue – the Yangcheng Creative Industry Zone Live House – for soundcheck. The shows tonight begin early, at 6:30 pm, so it's a long day of travel, loading-in, and performances. Guangzhou is sprawling, and this particular venue is located in a more remote area of the city. The industrial building is somewhat dilapidated and reminiscent of an abandoned train station, but it makes for an exotic setting for the Canadian bands. On top of the usual traffic in this city, the Guangzhou fans have also managed to make their way out to this venue in torrential downpour to hear some music.

Wil takes to the stage first. He's a passionate performer and easily wins over the crowd. "I've only ever toured Canada and the US. I've been doing this for 15-17 years. Just being here doing this has popped my cherry," says Wil. "You hear a lot about bands going elsewhere, making impacts, or not making impacts, but just doing something and moving people in different languages. What I hope to get out of it is that if I can move one individual – as deep as that sounds – who has no idea what I'm actually singing, then that's pretty fantastic because that's sort of the whole point."

Wil says he doesn't have specific places he wants to conquer – he doesn't think of the future like that. He hopes to just keep playing music in front of people, and he'll do it anywhere. "I feel like I was designed to be up on a stage and emote things that I've written for people, so if that's Tuktoyaktuk or if it's in a prison, or an old folks home, or to 30,000 people in a stadium, or my Mom's kitchen… I'll sing a song that I wrote that means something to me, and that's all I can hope for – that it will mean something to somebody else."

Next, Victoria-based band Racoons sweat it out on stage, delivering a high-powered performance to the receptive crowd.

Montreal indie rockers Parlovr keep the energy high, especially when Alex Cooper leaps off the stage to play his guitar in the audience.

Flash Lightnin' led Guangzhou fans to the crossroads of dirt blues and desert metal.

Ohbijou lets the beautiful sounds of their instruments and their tender lyrics soar to the ceiling.

Mississauga's illScarlett rocked the end of the night with hand claps and head bopping, along with their rock-reggae cover of Ace of Base's "All That She Wants." Before the show, lead singer Alex Norman commented, "It's my first time in HK and China. So I had no idea what to expect… There's a certain freedom playing for people who have no idea who you are and what you do."

China is not without it's challenges… The monsoon made it difficult to leave the venue in search for food, so everyone tucked in backstage under tents for beer, pizza and oreo cookies. By midnight when the show ended, both crew and bands were back on the bus, nodding off, and headed back for the hotel.

Partying like rockstars will have to wait until Changsha...

To see the full gallery of Guangzhou, check out Tobyns Website HERE for day 1.

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This is an excellent log. Sorry about the rain! But the Chinese fans look as if they are loving it. More photos of the excited fans please!

by Andrew Hamilton () / June 1st, 2010