Taiwan band Mayday (五月天, Wǔ Yuè Tiān), dubbed as the Chinese Beatles, is currently on a “Noah’s Ark” world tour in celebration of their 15th anniversary. On March 22 they performed at Madison Square Garden in New York, becoming the first Chinese speaking band ever to perform there, attracting an audience of 14,000 from around the world.
During Mayday’s North American tour, a large-scale student protest movement is taking place in Taiwan, against the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement, a controversial trade deal with China.
Mayday’s official Facebook page posted a music video “Up,” which was interpreted by the media as a song against the trade agreement. Internet users from Mainland China were not happy with this message, and began to attack Mayday fans.
Lead singer Ashin, while touring abroad, had not kept up with the news back in Taiwan, and didn’t know about it. He responded to people’s attacks on Weibo (like Twitter) one by one, saying that he was “neither blue, nor green, and was not an independence activist,” and that he “never protested against the Agreement and hoped that the two sides can build bridges of peace.”
His remark, however, induced anger on the Taiwanese side, who accused him of pleasing both sides for the mainland market.
At the New York concert, the band members fought back tears and the audience was crying during the song Han Ren. Talking about recent days of public pressure and questioning, Ashin choked up, “I’ve been through the most serious doubts about myself these past few days. The other day, I almost forgot to call my mom for her birthday due to the time difference. I wished her happy birthday, but she said she was not happy, because we have never been so confused and in doubts.”
Responding to the accusation of being a market pleaser, he said: “Some people said that we wanted to please everyone. As musicians, isn’t that what we should do?
“I’ve never cared much about markets. Before this world tour, I told my agent that I did not want any profits coming out of this, as long as you make tickets cheaper, make the venues and equipment better, so more people will love our concerts.” Upon saying this, he asked the audience to hold each other’s hands and convey each other’s beliefs, regardless of nationality or race.
Right before the concert, there were American-Taiwanese people holding Anti-Agreement banners outside the venue as thousands of audience members flocked to the concert.
There were also celebrities coming to the concert to show support, including internationally renowned director Ang Lee. Lee went to the backstage after the concert to congratulate the band, saying that his favorite song was Stubborn, which gave him strength.
“Mayday started doing their own music in a pursuit of freedom,” Lee said. “But now they’ve done it, they are no longer free.”