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China’s Biggest Indie Music Acts Shoot for the Mainstream on “The Big Band” Season 2

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The line-up for the second season of highly successful rock variety show, The Big Band, was finally released this week after months of speculation.

The list of 33 bands for the show on iQIYI — one of China’s biggest streaming platforms — is again dominated by acts from labels Modern Sky and Taihe Music, who have 10 and 6 bands competing respectively, with a bunch of both expected and unexpected participants.

Beloved Beijing band Joyside, as netizens had already guessed, join the show, but wild cards such as Guangdong folk rockers Wutiaoren, Xi’an post-punks Fazi and glam rockers Rustic have also put themselves in contention of becoming one of China’s “Hot 5 Bands” for summer in 2020, as the show declares the winners.

Related: 

“The Big Band” Effect: Underground Chinese Rock Stars Catapult to Mainstream Influencer Status

It’s a huge mix of bands, young and old, from all over the country, covering a wide range of styles, certainly more so than the first season of the show. (To get a taste of what these artists are about, check out our Spotify playlist below.)

One of the first things that stands out is the amount of long-standing bands such as Gansu folk band 野孩子 (Wild Children), who were formed in 1995, Wuhan rockers Dada (1996), and Beijing rockers Muma (1998).

Similarly, legendary rockers from the underground scene in Beijing, Carsick Cars (who once supported Sonic Youth on tour in Europe) and Rebuilding the Rights of Statues or Re-TROS (who have played in support of Depeche Mode and Xiu Xiu), will be looking to endear fans of the show with their noisy and weird music. As you can see below, they can barely contain their joy at joining The Big Band:

Carsick Cars The Big Band Radii China

Re-TROS The Big Band Radii China

At first glance the list of bands does seem somewhat weighted in favor of older groups taking one last shot at the big time, but there are a bunch of lesser known, recently-formed groups among the 33 acts too.

ETA伊塔 and 号外乐团HOWHY will be hoping to replicate the success of fellow funk band Click #15 last year (we’re sure statements about China not having funk music will also be laid to rest).

Related: 

“China’s Prince” is Bringing Funk Music to the Masses With His Band Click #15

Among the youngest groups to take part in the show are Mandarin, who were formed in 2019, and 白日梦症候群 (Daydream Syndrome) who formed earlier this year.

In terms of who we see winning, we’re putting our money on Beijing pop-rock act Queen Sea Big Shark to follow in the footsteps of New Pants in 2019 and blaze a trail through the show and onto some major stages (once major stages open up again, that is).

Otherwise, we’ll be looking to see whether Re-TROS can get away with playing any of “Hang the Police,” “Pigs in the River,” or “Red Rum Aviv,” or Carsick Cars will be allowed to play “Zhong Nan Hai” or “Guangchang” (“Square” which comes with a chorus of “this is a square of no hope”).

The actual release date of the show on iQIYI has yet to be announced, but until then, enjoy our playlist of bands that you can expect to hear in the second season of The Big Band.

Cover image by 编号233

Bryan Grogan
    Bryan is RADII's Culture Editor. He is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with an interest in health, technology, science, the arts, culture and everything in between.