Wu Bai - A Perfect Score
by Dan Bloom
January 18, 2002 China Post article
Reproduced with permission from the author, who retains all rights to the article.
His name is Wu Bai -- "500" in English -- and he fronts a band called China Blue.  Together they are called Wu Bai and China Blue, and a few weeks ago they rocked two small local pubs in southern Taiwan with long three-hour shows.  One show was in Kaohsiung, the other in Chiayi -- and for fans who managed to get tickets, they were memorable concerts, all the more so because they were staged inside small pubs that did away with all the show business paraphernalia of huge arena rock concerts. 

At the Chiayi show at a newly-opened pub-disco called V6 Party, Wu Bai and China Blue played two sets, with a 30-minute break in the middle, along with three encores.  The fans couldn't get enough and were still calling for a fourth encore when the lights finally went up at 12:30 a.m. 

The Chiayi concert was a homecoming for Wu Bai, who just turned 34 on January 14.  He was born in nearby Hsinkang, about 15 kilometers from Chiayi City, and went to high school there as well.  Singing in both Mandarin and Taiwanese, Wu Bai and his bandmates went through a long repertoire of hits and memorable tunes, and the concert turned into more of a sing-along karaoke party, with the audience singing loudly through almost every song.  At some points, Wu Bai would turn away from the microphone and let the song continue from the floor, where 500 twentysomething and thirtysomething fans kept up the rhythm and the beat. 

A black t-shirt uniformed fan club of sorts that often visits Wu Bai concerts around the island formed a line in front of the stage and egged the singer and his bandmates -- bassist Shiao Zhu, 39, keyboardist Big Cat, 31, and drummer Dino Zavolta, 40 -- on.  Whenver Wu Bai forgot some words or missed a note, his fan club would smile and tellhim to keep on going, and with a smile on his slightly embarrassed face, the hometown boy-turned-superstar would get back to work.

As anyone who has ever attended a Wu Bai concert knows, the man can rock, and China Blue packs a wallop.  The Chiayi pub show was a hit for both fans and performers.  Dino, the U.S.-born drummer who has been with Wu Bai and China Blue since the beginning, told Prime Distractions in a telephone conversation a few days after the show that it was "a night to remember."

"We were high, that's for sure," he said from his home in Taipei.  "The fans at the Chiayi pub were great, the energy in that room was powerful, and the entire band was rocking hard that night....It's concerts like that that make the music life so great.  The give and take in a small venue, between the audience and the band, was phenomenal.  It was a highlight of our trip down south."

Wu Bai and China Blue start out each show with a group handshake in front of the stage, almost like a sports team getting ready to play under the floodlights, challenging themselves to give it their best shot.  While Wu Bai is the nominal leader of the group, as lead singer and guitarist, each of the other three musicians have their own fan groups who call out their names during shows.  And when Wu Bai stops the concert in mid-flight, and calls on his bandmates to do some stylish solo playing, the audience in Chiayi went wild, showing a great respect and admirations for Wu Bai's rock partners.

As one fan, a California woman who runs an English-language  Web site devoted to the group, said of Dino's drumming, "The man can jam on the kit, that's for sure.  He seems like a cool guy, and he's Italian like me, so he's gotta be awesome." 

The name of her Web site?  The "Wu Bai: Relentless Balls-to-the-Wall Rock & Roll" Web site says it all.  When asked how Wu Bai (real name Wu Jun-Lin) got his nickname, the California fan said, adding yet another perhaps apocryphal story to the Wu Bai legend:  "Because when he was in school in Chiayi when he was a kid, he kept getting a score of 'wu bai' (500, the highest mark possible) on his tests, so his grandfather started calling him 'wu bai' as a nickname." 

Cooper Ke, a staffer at Magicstone Records, Wu Bai's label, was with the band during their recent southern tour and said it was their first pub tour in over four years.  "The shows were very well-received, and everybody went home in seventh heaven!  These guys really know how to connect with an audience, that's for sure." 

Among his other talents with guitar and vocal chords, Wu Bai has a warm and engaging stage presence, and at the Chiayi show, he was able to be upfront and personal with his fans, almost as if the entire concert was a private party for friends and family.  Not to mention that the show took place two days before his 34th birthday, and naturally, a group of female fans handed him a bouquet of flowers onstage before the band went into a popular release from their latest album.

"Wu Bai writes his music from his heart.  As his life goes on, he adds experiences to it, with his music changing to reflect that," according to one of his American fans living in Taiwan.  "Even though I don't understand all the words, still, his songs can also make me cry at times.  He seems sometimes so full of sadness that spills out into his music and lyrics.  If Wu Bai would smile at me, I think I would faint."

Wu Bai rocks Taiwan, women faint.  Is that Taiwanese rock-n-roll heaven or what?
Some additional comments from the Webmistress of this site:  It wasn't an American fan living in Taiwan who said that last quote, it was me, and I'm still in California, more's the pity!  I wrote that in a message on my board, and there's a bit more to it.

And my comment about how Wu Bai got his nickname is second-hand info from one of the Taiwan fans.  I can't verify that it's true, but it's what I was told when I asked.  If it's wrong, I'd like to know the real story :)
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