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Shanghai may be Paris of the East, but as an NYU student, I'm constantly comparing it to the "Big Apple". In cheap eats, bubble tea selection, and friendliness of taxi drivers, Shanghai wins out. Sometimes, there is no clear winner. Shanghai and New York both have an inordinate amount of Starbucks and awful traffic jams. But what I miss most about New York (besides real cheese) is the arts and culture scene. Whether it was new exhibits at P.S. 1 or free concerts in Central Park, I never had to look to far for something to do. Shanghais arts scene, however, has taken me a bit longer to discover.
I knew I was in for a treat when I discovered Mao Livehouse would be hosting the Raveonettes last week. The Swedish band has long been putting out quality albums and their latest, In and Out of Control, is no exception. Its melodic with haunting guitar riffs, easy listening but not boring. Coming in at 200 RMB presale, the concert was especially pricey by Shanghai standards, but the less than full venue meant I was only a few feet from the stage, a much more intimate experience than being one of the sweaty masses at other concerts. The set was unfortunately plagued by sound issues and the shrill tweet of feedback, but Sune Rose Wagner and the gang persevered, delivering an exceptional rendition of "Dead Sound" and a good selection from their most recent albums. Added bonus? Getting to dance and sing along with the bands Chinese fans, most of whom seemed to be hip girls with bobbed hair ...
My search for the Shanghai arts scene continued to Dada Photographers Night, where the bar was screening short films by local photographers.The first was composed of slick, continuous shots sliding through Shanghai at night. A mirror effect made it difficult to discern lighted highways from streetlight shadows and the whole could have been a great Daft Punk music video. The show continued with a slew of stop-motion videos including an epic road trip and a mountain climbing adventure. These were enjoyable but also left me feeling like Id just watched someones vacation album at high-speed. The highlight of the night was also the shortest video: a preview for what promises to be a delightful documentary featuring Hip Hop Granny.
Though Shanghais arts scene can be lackluster at times, Im looking forward to exploring more of whats out there. My next move? I want to hunt down as much of JRs The Wrinkles of the City as possible. JR is a recent winner of the TED prize and acclaimed artist. In Wrinkles, hes taken to the streets to interview and photograph elderly residents, believing their stories and faces contribute commentary to Shanghais rapid changes. The portraits have been pasted up in different neighborhoods throughout the city, including two impressive ones near the Magda Danysz Gallery, which features more of JRs work. Happy hunting!