SXSW Music Review: Taiwan Beats Brings the Island to Us

Missing Elysium on Red River

Live from mountains, factories, shrimp fishing centers, and temples, Thursday evening’s Taiwan Beats showcase offered the best of the country’s music scene with an eclectic mix of American influence and Taiwanese pride.

Fire EX (Photo by Carys Anderson)

Backed at dusk by hills and three men in black, author, actress, and singer-songwriter Enno Cheng began the four-act hour, delivering smooth, mild-mannered vocals to minimalist synths and chugging guitar. Cinematic pans of the lush scenery moved the three-song set along, light opener “2017, You” building to pop belter “Light Years of Solitude.”

Indie trio The Chairs soon took their bedroom pop to — naturally — an indoor shrimp fishing center, dreamy guitars and Beach Boys harmonies leaning heavy on the retro.

Moving indoors, punk nationals Fire EX honored the working class with a fiery performance from a Kaohsiung factory. Green Day influence on full display, the scene veterans’ impassioned, political guitar rock proved unafraid of a drum breakdown, a guitar solo, or a singalong chorus – just what “Stand Up Like A Taiwanese,” “Don’t You Fight,” and “Keep On Going” need to rally legions of disaffected youth.

Indie trio The Chairs soon took their bedroom pop to — naturally — an indoor shrimp fishing center, dreamy guitars and Beach Boys harmonies leaning heavy on the retro. The Mac DeMarcos and Rex Orange Countys of the world find a companion in Yun Jin, Zhong Ying, and Benson, whose psychedelic slow jams sooth. In the beach vibes of “Dreaming With You” and the mid-tempo lullaby “Rolling On,” let the solo slow-dancing commence.

NekoJam (Photo by Carys Anderson)

Electronic girl-group NekoJam ended the hour, their high-energy dance-pop illuminating a Taiwan temple. Dancing by themselves, the fourpiece managed to find fun DJing to an empty room with “Ain’t Waiting” and “Bling Bling,” both of which would fit right in on U.S. pop radio. Singer Sandra dedicated closing hit “Together” to the online audience, encouraging us to be grateful for the people in our lives despite the distance.

That proved an apt ending for this virtual experience. If these acts could connect through the screen, what do you think they’ll accomplish once we reunite?

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Taiwan Beats, SXSW Music 2021, Enno Cheng, Fire EX, The Chairs, Yun Jin, Zhong Ying & Benson, NekoJam

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