Mayday primarily sings in Mandarin and Taiwanese, with some English sprinkled in
They've been together for 20 years
Few rock bands can sell out 10 shows, in one month, in the same city.
But for Mandarin-language rock band Mayday, it’s typical. The Taiwanese five-piece – dubbed the “Asian Beatles” by the music press – packed the Hong Kong Coliseum with 10,000 screaming fans for their near consecutive ten night run.
“We’ve known them half our lives,” said Crystal Wu, 26, who traveled with three friends from mainland China for the show, to see the band for the sixth time, after previously catching them at sold out London and Los Angeles shows. “We relate to their spirit,” she added.
Each year, since 2007, Mayday – who have just celebrated their 20th anniversary – have played a series of shows in Hong Kong in May, adding more and more shows each year, hoping to take over the whole month.
This year, the band’s Hong Kong dates are followed by shows in mainland China in July and August, Malaysia in October, North America – including dates in San Jose, New York and Toronto – in November and Singapore in December.
In recent years, their Hong Kong dates have become famed as marathons of music, with each show typically lasting upwards of three and a half hours with multiple encores, costume changes and lasers. This year, between songs, they broadcasted mini-movies, caricaturing each band member as a superhero fighting a monster.
During most of the songs, fans stood up, frantically waving blue wands.
The night before the last show, Taiwanese actor Richie Jen and Hong Kong singer Edmond Leung were in the audience and joined Mayday onstage.
Live shows act as the band’s glue, said frontman Ashin, fusing them together: “Although each person has his own life and project, once we are onstage, we try our best.”
Mayday primarily sings in Mandarin and Taiwanese, with some English sprinkled in. Songs are catchy and addictive, happy-go-lucky, pop-infused anthemic rock, akin to U2 or One Direction, And with titles like “Party Animal,” “Cheers” and “Here, After Us,” they project the innocence of a younger generation, with all its accompanying hope and heartbreak.
Other artists from Taiwan have encountered difficulties in China for being outspoken about the island, which China regards as a breakaway province, but Mayday has largely steered clear of politics. Ashin says the group wants their music to be at the forefront.
Generations of audiences
“Their lyrics are cheerful and realistic,” said Henry Ho, a 20-year-old Hong Konger, who was introduced to Mayday by his girlfriend, Heidi Shek. The 19-year-old only had one word for why she liked Mayday -— “attractive.”
It is this relatability that continues to draw in a youthful fanbase – a significant portion of which are almost half the band members’ age – 20 years into the band’s career.
“Young people bring their parents and parents bring their young kids,” said Mayday’s guitarist Stone, 41. “We cross generations” he added.
Stone and his bandmates are in their 40s, but despite their grueling touring schedule, look much younger. Talking to CNN before their last show in Hong Kong, they were fresh-faced and earnest, even embarrassed about their “concert clothes,” all black outfits with skinny black pants. They’ve played together since high school, through military service, solo projects, getting married and raising families.
Five members, one stage
“Since we have been together for so long, we know each other very well,” said Tsai Shen-yen, known as “Masa.” “We often just pay attention to one’s virtue instead of their shortcomings.”
Drummer Liu Yen-ming, nicknamed “Guan You,” is the oldest at 43 and takes on the patient parental role. He has the best temperament, says Stone, so they all like making fun of him onstage.
Stone, or Shi Chin-hang, is very thoughtful, said guitarist Masa, and pays attention to the details the rest overlook.
Bassist Masa is the most playful and energetic, said guitarist Wen Shang-yi, or “Monster.” Monster, in turn, is very sentimental, said Masa.
Finally, frontman Ashin, is “the soul of the band,” said Guan You. He’s always working, figuring out how to improve the next show.
At 41, Ashin, or Chen Shin-hung, is also the last single member of the band. The rest are married, but vow to “take care of him,” said Guan You.
As for the future, they hope to last another 20 years.
“We hardly believe we have been together for 20 years,” said Masa. “We don’t want break this relationship.”