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Clip: Dirty Three in China

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  • Carl Z.
    Dirty Three: Showdown in Shanghai! Trio s performance incites riot; The
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2006
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      Dirty Three: Showdown in Shanghai!
      Trio's performance incites riot; "The audience was going crazy." -- Warren Ellis

      Dirty Three's previously reported tour of Asia is over now, but it was
      an eventful one for the instrumental chamber rock trio. As originally
      reported in Shanghaiist, the band's very first date-- at Shanghai's
      Yun Feng Theatre on October 26-- erupted into chaos.

      Before they even got to China, the country's government "decided to
      cancel our performance permit because they thought we were a
      pornographic act due to our name. They asked that we change it to Dirt
      Three," wrote violinist Warren Ellis to Pitchfork in a detailed e-mail
      account of the event.

      With the help of Australian trade organization Austrade and tour
      manager James Chen, the band were able to "seal the green light three
      days before the show, on the grounds that we were an important
      Australian cultural act and that we had no lyrics, so we couldn't be

      So far so good, but here's where things get crazy. Yun Feng Theatre,
      which is owned by the People's Liberation Army, "decided to move the
      show forward an hour" in order to accommodate an acrobatic performance
      "for local dignities and officials. James was told to take the offer
      or cancel the show," Ellis continued.

      "The government has been closing down lots of venues and making it
      difficult for bands to play, and this decision to change the show was
      seen by the audience as another attempt by the government to curb
      their self-expression."

      About that audience: many of them were students, and there were about
      600 of them in attendance. So when-- as a result of all this
      bureaucracy and confusion-- "the theatre decided to light the house at
      8 o'clock instead of 8:30 [and] then close the curtains, the audience
      stormed the stage.

      "It was in the middle of 'Sue's Last Ride'. I had my back to the
      crowd. When I turned, I noticed some people climbing the curtains
      trying to pull them open. The audience was going crazy. Probably one
      of the most exciting moments I have ever had onstage. You could hear
      them screaming over the music, and we were playing very loud. In the
      wings, the acrobats were dancing and watching. Then a guy ran and
      jumped on me.

      "By this stage, I had no idea what was happening, but our tour manager
      was white and shaking, holding people and the curtains back, assisted
      by others. There were people everywhere: crowd, security, and
      acrobats. It was fantastic. When we stopped, the place exploded, and
      James [Chen] grabbed me and said, 'Get the fuck out. The police are
      coming, and you may be arrested.' I asked why, and he said he couldn't
      explain. We packed and were shielded into a waiting van. The audience
      was chanting 'Dirty Three,' and the theatre staff shook our hands.
      Confusing? You bet.

      "We were back in the hotel for half an hour, and my friend, guitar
      maker James Trussart, was at the show [and] called me and said all
      hell had broken loose, the people wouldn't leave and were throwing
      things at the officials and that it was announced we would do another
      show. Jim [White, drummer] walked back to the venue to see what was
      happening. He spoke to some people but didn't come back with any
      clearer picture.

      "We played a second show that night in another venue. James Chen spent
      the whole night refunding people's money. I didn't know the price of
      the tickets. We do get involved in that sort of detail but really had
      no idea what was the norm in China, and you hope that your people
      represent you well. Dirty Three were not being paid for the tour, only
      costs and a token fee. [Chen] returned all the money he had. Then the
      theatre director felt sorry and gave him some to refund. Then a
      policeman gave him some from his pocket. I think they just wanted
      everyone to leave. He refunded 300 people and expected to refund the
      other 300 people over the following days."

      Fortunately for the band, said Ellis, "the rest of the dates were
      fine, maybe a little less exciting. We had a fantastic time and thank
      the people of China and Taiwan. A lot of these places don't have the
      infrastructure or the experience dealing with this sort of thing, and
      it's really part of the attraction of touring there: you never know
      what is going to happen."

      We're still trying to wrap our heads around this ridiculous situation
      (an austere, instrumental rock trio inciting a riot?!), but it is
      pretty great that the theatre staff shook the band's hands on their
      way out. There is at least one thing of which we're fairly certain: no
      one in the audience noticed that "in the excitement, we missed that
      last change in 'Sue's Last Ride'."

      Posted by Dave Maher in tour, wtf on Wed: 11-01-06: 04:30 PM CST
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