Franz Nicolay Of The Hold Steady Fame Delivers Memorable Performance At Yugong Yishan

By The Good Doctor

Allow me to categorize, in an admittedly clumsy manner, the options expats have for international music in Beijing:

* Foreign bands, usually rather amateurish, that live in China.

* Past-their-prime bands or solo acts that have little more than nostalgia on their side (think Ian Brown or any individual Ramone).

* Super big-pop acts that no one really likes (Lil’ John, Akon).

* Up-and-coming bands that may eventually make it big, or may suck rather hard (Common, Owl City).

For music lovers, that’s not much to look forward to, so it’s incumbent upon us to take chances.

I hit the jackpot last night at Yugong Yishan.

I took a leap of faith based on the fact that the headliner, Franz Nicolay, was at one time a keyboardist for The Hold Steady. With a banjo and an accordion in his arsenal, Nicolay proved to exceed expectations. He put on one of those concerts you tell people about 20 years later (e.g., I drove four hours to watch Live play at Wabash College because I heard their first single on the radio the week before.)

The show featured Nicolay and fellow performer Maria Sonevytsky alternating instruments and musical genres. I would summarize the show as a cross between folk rock and Jimmy Durante with a little bit of Klezmer thrown in for good measure. It was a hipster’s wet dream, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Speaking to the musicians after they show, they related how their first show in Beijing had been played at Hot Cat Club on the same night as the huge rainstorm. Needless to say, the venue was flooded and no one showed up. It’s too bad, because their performance at Yugong Yishan was excellent.

Check out some clips of the show, as well as opening act The Randy Abel Stable (Beijing’s resident Bluegrass band):

Youku video of the above:


The Good Doctor is a writer in Beijing. Check out his website, The Chaos Factory.

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