This week’s photo essay is by Kristen Ng, a Chengdu-based promoter and musician who runs the offbeat touring label Kiwese, facilitates live music programming at NU SPACE Chengdu and performs electronic music as Kaishandao. She’s selected seven snaps from her recent nationwide tour with New Zealand’s The All Seeing Hand: hardcore slow train tour life.

“Stop the music!”

Panic reared its head. The warmup band fled the stage. Bar staff scampered into action like clockwork — house lights and quiet pop music came on, tables moved into place, merch stashed away, gig posters covered — it was all very Matilda. I was half expecting Ms. Trunchbull to walk in.

“They’re checking downstairs now,” said Midie Livehouse’s bar manager, putting a tray of IPA on the table. “If anyone asks, you’re just customers.”

In the lead up to 十九大, the National Congress, authorities were checking bars and clubs around Xi’an for any sign of… well, anything, really. An hour passed. It wasn’t looking good. If the cops came and saw The All Seeing Hand on stage they’d probably think it was some kind of black magic cult gathering. The manager politely suggested we call it a night. Stubborn Sagittarius, I refused to give in — we came to Xi’an to play, and that’s what we were gonna do.

Close to midnight, The All Seeing Hand played four of their heaviest tunes. I closed the night as Kaishandao. The handful of people that remained were ecstatic. We’d stuck it to the man.

***

6am. Two hours sleep, straight to the station. Short one ticket for the sleeper train to Chengdu, I martyred myself to the hard seat. Excruciating. I lasted two hours before finding an upgrade to soft sleeper.

“Oh my god, so comfy!” I announced, collapsing on the bed after dragging a case of gear through a packed train of National Holiday passengers.

Here’s a photo of my fellow passenger’s phone screensaver:

现在人不能吃苦!” (young people these days can’t take hardship!), he said.

Damn straight.

TOUR TIP #3: Avoid touring in China around the National Congress meeting and/or National Holiday Week. Avoid like the plague.