West End China Shop

Courtesy of Franklin Ellis

West End China Shop

October 19, 2016

Bull In The Lo-Fi Rock: West End China Shop at 660 Stewart

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When I stooped into the basement of 660 Stewart on Saturday night to catch the debut performance of Cornell’s own West End China Shop, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Going to Fanclub Collective and Ithaca Undergound shows, one sees their fair share of lo-fi rock bands. While there are many standouts, far more common are the acts which are perfectly forgettable. Would West End China Shop be yet another half-serious, irony-soaked project by a group of 20-somethings who, at the end of the day, probably had something better to do? Another whiney, soul-bearing emo band? Another technically skilled, but conceptually uninteresting, post-rock outfit?

One possibility I hadn’t considered was that they’d be really fucking good. As I found my place in the packed and bumping crowd and finally opened my ears to the sounds coming from the amplifiers, I was delightfully surprised. Where I’d half expected would be lackadaisicalness and pretentious distance were genuine passion and engagement, and all of a sudden I was forced to consider whether or not the Facebook-event-page promise of a “night of toe-tappin’ rock n’ roll music” had indeed been ironic.

The frontman sounded like Stooges era Iggy Pop, or Velvet Undergound era Lou Reed, and damn near had the stage presence to match. After the set, I heard a Bob Dylan comparison kicking around, which, if I didn’t quite agree with it at the time, seems totally valid now that I’ve listened to the band’s recordings on Bandcamp. “Because I’m alone,” he sang on standout track “October,” “and I end up stoned/I got no home/I could be hanging with the wrong crowd,” and for better or worse I think most of the room could relate. Accompanying his voice was well-crafted, punk-tinged, rock n’ roll, underpinned by a keyboard which balanced the raw power with its melodious warmth. The band played self-described “bangers” from their latest and first release “WM Demos,” and finished up with a cover, apropos to their aesthetic, of Weezer’s “Undone —The Sweater Song.”

I stayed to hear the next couple of acts as well (Groupie and Idaho Green) — two bands more established than West End China Shop, who put on impressive and enjoyable performances — but I daresay that it was China Shop who stole the show. I couldn’t be more excited to see what they manage to do and release in the coming months.

Matt Pegan is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at mpegan@cornellsun.com. 

  • GeologyNerdsRock

    This article is ridiculous! You didn’t even mention Vundabar and provided two thoughtless and generic adjectives to describe the soul-awakening catharsis of the other performances! Just another “technically skilled, conceptually uninteresting, post-rock” music review I suppose.

    • MadAboutThis

      It’s a little strange to situate West End China Shop as the underdogs who stole the show without any understanding of how recently created the other bands are. Also, I wish there was a SINGLE musician referenced in this article who isn’t a white man. Just generally feel frustrated to see men praised for mediocre lyrics while women playing at the same shows are skimmed over.

      • StillMadButMaybeMoreNuanced

        I feel like it’s also important to note that it’s not really about the band here, but more about the way they are written about and written in relation to a very specific, exclusive cannon, which is so frustrating.

  • Thesadtruth

    “The frontman sounded like Stooges era Iggy Pop, or Velvet Undergound era Lou Reed, and damn near had the stage presence to match.” okay this is fucking INSANE!!!!! you can’t make this comparison and not elaborate! Also, how are you comparing the level of lyricism to BOB Fucking DYLAN??!! Though I don’t agree he should have, the man just won the Nobel prize for literature! I don’t think the cliche lyrics of a white boy, who probably got introduced to the Young Hegelians a year ago and drones on and on about race theory yet can count the number of non-white friends on one hand, singing about being “stoned in college” could be compared to Dylan. On second thought, maybe it is the perfect anecdote, that here, like Dylan, a mediocre band w. subpar lyrics are lauded for their genius, while others who work just as hard are not recognized. Matt Pegan, please be better!

  • ya’llneedtochill

    Damn! Let’s dissect the hate in these comments for a minute –

    First of all, the other bands are not mentioned because this is a review *specifically* for West End China Shop, whose first performance was at 660 two weekends ago. The Sun could have sent someone else to write about Vunderbar or the other bands that played. Matt chose to write about this one.

    Second of all, to the person who wants a “SINGLE musician referenced in this article who isn’t a white man,” did you go to the show? Do you know the lead singer?? Why the hell would you assume shit, SMH – that’s all I’ll say to that.

    Finally to the commentary about how terrible the writer is to make comparisons to iconic rock stars like Iggy Pop and Dylan – Isn’t the way we typically understand art is to compare it to other art? I grew up listening to all the icons cited in this article and I get why Matt mentioned them. When I was in the crowd that night listening to them play, there was something old and familiar in the sound. It gave me that lonely open road kind of feeling that I used to get listening to “Heroin” or “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.” This is not to say that West End China Shop is the next Dylan or Iggy or whatever – I doubt they even want to be that. No artist wants to be the next anything. Because while there was something familiar in the sound, there was something new too, and it was exciting.

    West End China Shop was one of the best shows I’ve been to in Ithaca. I was supremely moved by the music, and felt even a little dislocated from the institution looming above me on the hill. I think that only good musicians can make someone feel like that.

    Don’t make assumptions about people, especially if you didn’t bother to do any research into what you’re talking about.

    I can’t wait for the next show!