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Travel Around the World- Alternative rock band Surfer Blood performed in Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen is my hometown, a modern city that is located in the south of China, north of Hong Kong. I am staying in Shenzhen during summer break till the middle of August to visit my family, friends and writing for a local newspaper “Shenzhen Daily” that is written in English. I wanted to do an interview and concert review of a local show and found out Surfer Blood was coming to town to perform in early July. So, I contacted their manager and met with Surfer Blood before their show on July 8; luckily I got to sit and talk to them after the concert too. It was an amazing experience that an American indie rock band was performing in my hometown; they shared their experiences of life on tour and love for China.

Surfer Blood arrived in China holding their tour poster (image via eyelight)

Surfer Blood, a Florida alternative rock, indie and surf band was on tour to China and they played at B10 in Shenzhen on July 8.  It was their first time to do a tour in Asia, especially in China. Surfer Blood said they were thrilled to perform in such a big country. They love to have new experiences: explore the food, culture and enjoy the tour in every city. Shenzhen is the second stop on their tour including other five cities in China, which are Guangzhou, Xiamen, Wuhan, Shanghai and Beijing.

On the night of July 8, Surfer Blood brought music “1000 Palms” and some of their hit songs to the B10 live, music and art space that is located in OCT-LOFT, an area that is created by renovated factory buildings in the east part of OCT. Their intense rock style with emotional and cheery melodies fascinated the crowd, and the audience wanted to listen to more songs. People who had never listened to their records enjoyed it; it was hard to dislike their music and live performance. B10 held hundreds of live music performances, including two notable festivals: OCT-LOFT Jazz Festival and Tomorrow Festival.Tomorrow Festival is a non-mainstream music festival covers various styles of music, including experimental, rock and jazz, etc. Surfer Blood is an indie rock band that is part of the Tomorrow Festival.

Interview with Surfer Blood (image via Cuiwen)

The current four members, John Paul Pitts (guitar/lead vocals), Tyler Schwarz (drums), Lindsey Mills (bass/backing vocals) and Mike McLeay (guitar/backing vocals) from West Palm Beach, Florida accepted my interview.

John Paul Pitts (guitar/lead vocals) told the story of how they met their former guitarist before Surfer Blood. John and Tyler started out playing music together during their time in Dreyfoos high school. It was their music that brought Thomas Fekete, the former guitarist to Surfer Blood and he suggested Surfer Blood share their music with more people and went on tours.

After Thomas passed away of cancer, Surfer Blood reformed by adding Lindsey and Mike, who were their friends playing music during high school. John described their music as The Beach Boys meet Pavement since he is a fan of 90’s college radio rock and he added melody and harmony to their songs. 1,000 Palms– their newest album is a continuation of this theme, emotional and more abstract elements of their style. I asked Surfer Blood if people in Shenzhen are more familiar with pop songs rather than indie rock or surf rock. John described their songs as dirty pop and laughed that people would like their music which is a combination of rock and pop music; he also mentioned “Music is universal. People like good string music that we play.”

The show started around 7:30 PM. Surfer blood’s first song “Floating Vibes,” began with a light and catchy guitar refrain with a steady drumbeat that immediately caught people’s attention. John’s voice was melic and in a high tone companied by Mike’s low and profound voice.

“Floating Vibes” combined their surfing elements in the lyrics. “Then you’d better learn how to surf; the tide will break in on itself.” The song described the nostalgia of the boy who wanted the girl to come back to him. It was a good opening song that speaks out for their music, intense rock combined with soft melody.

Surfer Blood at B10 (image via E.G)
Surfer Blood at B10 (image via E.G)

They played a total of fourteen songs from their three albums. They chose to end the show with “Swim.” The song started with a strong chorus to slow paced and melodic guitar solo. The ending was a synthesizer’s sound. “Swim” is a summer feeling song, which makes you feel like it is the summer in South Florida. The song kept repeating “Swim to reach the end.” After “Swim,” people didn’t want to leave and requested “one more song.” Surfer Blood came back to the stage and performed “I Can’t Explain”. It is a love song that asks the girl to open her mind; it is gentler than “Swim.” The light on the stage was amazing; it was a golden color and moved around on the stage.

Surfer Blood at B10 (image via Xuan Chen)
Surfer Blood at B10 (image via Xuan Chen)

John, the lead singer, did a lot of interactions with the audience. He talked about dumplings that they have “with soup bun inside” just like their song “Take It Easy” and walked down the stage, stopped and sang at the front row during “Take It Easy.” The audience did not expect he would come down to interact and move forward to see John and took pictures. His energy and power led fans to sing with him. The audience started to make a lot of responses during the middle of the show. Some people danced in a row, shake and yelled. In one particular song when Michael did playing drum for a little, an excited fan went on the stage and took the drum playing it.

John Paul Pitts (guitar/lead vocal) during their show (image via E.G)
John Paul Pitts (guitar/lead vocal) during their show (image via E.G)

Surfer Blood rocked their show and created an unforgettable night at B10 in Shenzhen. Zhan Songhui, a Surfer Blood fan said, “Surfer Blood live is catching and distinctive. It is special such as adding harmonies in every song they made, Mike plays amazing guitar, and he is shy that he always put his feet together when playing music.“ He was thankful for Surfer Blood to play in Shenzhen; he wishes they would come again.

After the show, Surfer Blood met with their fans, signed posters and took pictures with people. Also they listened and answered people’s questions patiently. A fan said they are really nice and willing to spend more time with people. He got to take a picture using his favorite pose “live long and prosper” with Mike and he felt good.

Checkout more information about my interview with Surfer Blood: Link

My next article will cover places recommended to go, food and traveling tip in Shenzhen, China.


This monthly column will cover my traveling experience, my reflection of the local culture, people and food in different locations.