transmitCHINA, Day 1

[SOMEWHERE NORTH OF BEIJING] – No one shoud ever attempt a transpacific flight without some kind of super-heavy-duty sleeping pills, especially if you’re in economy.  In fact, if airlines want to save money on catering and booze, they should simply hand out the meds as passengers take their seat, just like those Versace-clad flight attendents did to Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element.  

But after a connection through San Francisco and a cab driver who couldn’t read Mandarin nor speak English (not to mention the crazy truckers on the highway–all driving rigourously inspected rigs, I’m sure), I arrived at The Commune at the Wall in Badaling.  Yes, the name conjures images of young commies waving little red books and praising the tractor production targets of the People’s Republic, but it’s actually a very chic boutique hotel-cum-convention retreat.  And The Great Wall is…right over there.  Cool.

I’m here for transmitCHINA, a by-invitation think-tank music conference/networking schmooze designed to connect various parts of the music industry.  The hope is that if you get all these people in one place for a couple of days, they’ll come up with ideas about how to save the industry–or, at the very least, move it forward.

And it IS pretty cool.  I shared a cab with a woman who basically ran the music video department for CBS Records in the late 70s and early 80s.  She’s now helping out the people with Turntable.FM.  

Charles, the friendly guy at the end of the table, runs D-22, probably the coolest live venue in China.  He invited me to a gig Friday night featuring a local sensation named Mr. Graceless (They took their name from a Rolling Stones song; no one can figure out which one.)  

And next to me at dinner?  Seymour Stein, the founder of Sire Records and the discoverer/signer of the Ramones, the Talking Heads, the Smiths and Madonna.  (“I have to get back on Sunday because Morrissey wants to talk to me.  He wants me to release his new record.  I haven’t heard it, but it’ll be good.  Too bad about that movie of hers, huh?  I hear they’ve been giving W.E. a rough ride in Toronto.”)

I’d have stayed at the opening night cocktail mixer, but after 24 hours of travel through 12 time zones, I’m worried I might say something stupid and be perceived as thicker than I am.  Time for another magic pill and a coma.  I’ll report any findings/discoveries/gossip whilst I’m here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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