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The Mayday beat goes on as band nurtures online appeal

Updated: Jun 11, 2020 By CHEN NAN CHINA DAILY Print
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All five members of the Taiwan rock band Mayday in the studio during rehearsals for their annual May concert, which this year was livestreamed from Taipei. CHINA DAILY

For their fans it was a date with destiny, a chance to tune in to the beat. The band's name? Mayday. And therein lies the irony. This May, there was no Mayday.

Every summer since 2012, the Taiwan rock band has been holding concerts at the iconic National Stadium, the Bird's Nest, in Beijing, which has a capacity of about 100,000 seats.

Their shows usually sold out quickly within minutes after tickets became available.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic. But Mayday was determined to deliver a live performance to their fans.

"Who says you won't have the date with Mayday in 2020?" posted the lead vocalist and songwriter of the band, Ashin, whose real name is Chen Shin-hung, to his account on micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo, which has over 23 million followers.

"We will have a concert on the last day of May. We will be there," Ashin wrote.

And, true to his word, they were. At 8 pm on May 31, the band performed at an empty Taipei Municipal Stadium. The one-hour-long concert attracted over 35 million viewers online, being part of a live-show project named "TME live" by Tencent Music Entertainment Group. The number of viewers exceeded the Bird's Nest's capacity by a factor of 350.

The band performed 13 of their hits, including Noah's Ark and Party Animal. When Ashin performed, Suddenly I Miss You, he was joined by other pop singers Jam Hsiao, Li Ronghao and Mao Buyi, who appeared on the screen and sang with him from different parts of China.

There were no fans but the seats were lit up with light sticks, a feature of their concerts.

"In our previous annual concerts we often heard the screaming of tens of thousands of fans in the stadium, and they held light sticks and sang with us until the last minute," said Ashin during the online concert. "This year is quite different."

He also said that the members of the band have not seen each other for a long time due to the pandemic, and this also made the show so special. The five members are Ashin, guitarists Monster and Stone, bassist Masa and drummer Guan You.

As well as performing onstage, the band also played while standing in, and walking along, the empty rows of seats.

"For the first time, we could see the show from your viewpoint," the lead vocalist said to the fans.

They chose the stadium because it was where Mayday held its first major concert, which attracted over 10,000 fans, in 1999. It is also where they filmed their hit, This Is Love, from their debut album, and held their first concert after returning from a two-year-long hiatus in 2003.

They ended the online concert with their song, Stubborn.

Mayday started as a school band in 1997 and has released nine studio albums so far. They have received four Best Band accolades from the Golden Melody Awards.

Mayday is famed for composing and performing original songs, often themed around love, brotherhood, friendship, as well as growing pains and a sense of loss or sudden revelation.

However, their road to success, like that of many others, has been bumpy, as they had been turned down numerous times by record companies until veteran songwriter and producer Jonathan Lee listened to their demo.

They started by performing at live-music venues with less than 100 attendees. As their fan base expanded, they moved to venues with a capacity of more than 1,000 people. Now they sell out the Bird's Nest.

In 2017, they launched an 18-month-long marathon world tour, titled Life, selling 4 million tickets and reaching audiences across four continents. The tour was turned into a film, Mayday Life, which premiered last year in-you guessed it-May.

"Watching Mayday's concerts has become a habit for me and many of my friends," says Xin Xiaocheng, 29, who has been attending the band's Bird's Nest concerts since 2015 and watched the online concert along with her friends at home. They held light sticks and sang with the band in front of the screen.

"I almost cried when the first song started. They are like my old friends and their songs have given me strength and hope," Xin says.

"2020 is so challenging for all of us and they sang for us, like they always do every year."

Another fan posted on Sina Weibo: "It felt like watching Mayday's concert from the first row. Though it's not a live show, I can still feel the excitement and passion for the music."

Mayday's online concert was one of the project's many events, which cover both online and live shows. Since the first online concert, which was staged by Taiwan singer Rainie Yang on March 15, the project has staged six online concerts, including by singers Rene Liu and A-Lin, all of which received warm feedback from the fans.

Paying subscribers of the company's online music service jumped 50 percent to 42.7 million in the first quarter of the year, and the average monthly revenue per paying user jumped 13 percent, statistics show.

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