Considered by many to be China’s greatest underground band, Joyside was formed by Xinzhiang refugee Bian Yuan in 2001, in a dark dank basement in the north of Beijing. After three years of playing small clubs in Beijing, literally for beer and cigarette money, they lazily released their debut album, Drunk is Beautiful, whose name comes as close to expressing Joyside’s ferociously decadent aesthetic as any three words can – they consider themselves to be bitches of rock ‘n’ roll, addicted to the music and the mad posturing of the pre-punk New York scene.
The band consists of Bian Yuan on lead vocals, Liu Hao on Bass, Guan Zheng on percussion, and on guitar an astonishing young guitarist, Hong Wei, who was featured in a 2007 Rolling Stone article as one of the four most important guitarists in China. Along with their work in Joyside, the band members are actively involved in other projects. Both Bian Yuan and Liu Hao are members of Johnny’s Teeth, and Liu Hao also plays for Dog 13. Guan Zheng performs regularly with Linga and Believers, while Hong Wei has performed in number of one-off and experimental shows throughout Beijing. Bian Yuan’s acoustic performances are a mainstay at the famous Wednesday night Punk on Wood series at Beijing’s D22 club.
It is hard to go to a Joyside show without ending up drenched in sweat – they rock ferociously and in the great tradition of outlaw rock they turn every audience into frenzy, especially as Hong Wei’s intelligent, subtle guitar playing suddenly breaks into a nasty, ugly crunch and twists around Bian Yuan’s singing. There are influenced by the full gamut of rock and roll history, completely at home with the early American rockers, the Mods, or the seventies punk scene, with particular influences being the Dead Boys, New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, Sex Pistols, and the Stooges.