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28 Degrees Taurus

Celebrating the life and legacy of Jinsen Liu (RIP) and 28 Degrees Taurus

Readers’ note: If you're inclined to skip straight ahead to the interview with Ana Karina Dacosta from 28 Degrees Taurus then by all means scroll down a few pages and you can’t miss it. Otherwise, The Deli invites you to enjoy the following misty-eyed reminiscences... 
Glasslands. Death By Audio. Cameo located behind the Lovin' Cup Cafe. Cake Shop. Goodbye Blue Audio. Trash Bar. If the names above ring a bell it probably means that you were a live music junkie 10-to-20-years ago forever looking for a fix on the mean streets of turn-of-the-millennium Williamsburg and Bushwick and maybe even Manhattan's Lower East Side and East Village...

…and while your average schmuck on the street today may have very well read Meet Me In The Bathroom and be able to tell the Strokes from the Interpols, Vampire Weekends from Moldy Peaches, it still doesn't mean they're experts on that particular chapter in New York City music history and I'd ask the nameless schmuck a couple questions like these as a litmus test: Did you see 28 Degrees Taurus when they played with You Aren't My Mother and The Soundscapes at the Trash Bar on 11/19/2006? Or did you see them when they played with June Moris and Quiet Loudly on 10/28/2007 also at the Trash Bar?  

I'm guessing the answer's "no" and not to humble-brag too much but I was at both of those gigs and that's why I'm paid the big bucks to write for the Deli instead of some schmuck on the street who probably doesn't even have a real name but I digress...

...with the larger point being that the bedrock of New York City's indie-rock aughts salad days was less rooted in familiar names that anyone would know and more so rooted in names that are long forgotten or never on the radar. I mean, just consider the hundreds upon hundreds of bands and other musical artists who play NYC venues week after week, month after month, at glorified dive bars like the aptly named Trash Bar...

...a bar known for its adventurous and/or simply anarchic booking practices and its ratty basement couches and its glistening tater tots served up fresh out of the deep fryer from behind the bar and...suddenly I'm flasing back to the time I watched a highly inebriated woman assume a reverse cowboy position over a men's room urinal at the Trash Bar and take a long, no-doubt satisfying piss without a single drop hitting the floor and that's about as "indie sleaze" as it gets isn't it...

...and while I don't pretend to be any better at remembering names than the next functional alcoholic—somehow or other I've managed to retain a few of them despite partaking in a few too many "5 Jägermeister shots for 10 dollars" drink special at the Continental (talk about your trashy bars!) back around that same time—I do clearly remember Strange Things Done In The Midnight Sun and Coyote Eyes and 28 Degrees Taurus with 28dt being a personal fave around the years 2006-09, a Boston-based duo with rotating drummer and occcasional additional collaborators, that played up and down the Eastern Seaboard on a regular basis...

...not to mention how 28dt played on bills with one or two bands that my own band "back in the day" also played with which is pretty cool and all (apologies for all the not-so-humble bragging) but the point here is that I'd be willing to wager five Jäger shot that a few of you or more are less than "six degrees of separation" away from 28 Degrees Taurus too...

...seeing as how the band's main songwriter/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/backing vocalist/record producer Jinsen Liu is someone who knew lots and lots of people and who was positioned as a central node attached to some of coolest of musical entities and events across New England and beyond but he was never one to brag or even to humble brag about it...

…and when it comes to the actual music 28 Degrees Taurus has been described as “explosive, intense, dreamy, ultra romantic neo-psychedelic/ambient/indie rock walking the thin line between darkness and light” with live shows described as “loud, ultra high energy, psychedelic, chaotic freak out session usually done on mass quantities of alcohol” but whose recorded output occilates to the other end of the shoegaze spectrum with “dreamy, intimate and romantic influences including 60s pop, Japanese noise, the Jesus & Mary Chain, Cocteau Twins, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Slowdive, and The Bee Gees” as described in what I'm guessing may have been their old MySpace band bio... 

...but plagiarism aside if I had to guess how 28 Degrees Taurus got their name I'd say "Taurus" reflects their Taurus-like embrace of warmth and earthiness and sensuality, but then there's often an underlying chill, or even a haunted quality, that also frequently present what with all the woozy near-ASMR vocals and the eerily chiming guitars...

...not to mention 28dt's frequent use of Eastern scales and Medieval-like parallel intervals, basslines that chase the guitar's shadow and lyrics that are tap into a guile-free immediacy, so with all this in mind I figure the “28 Degrees” part of their name could be a reference to the body temperature (measured in Celsius) that's the lowest you can go without catching hypothermia so in other words it's chilly...

…but a little chill never deterred the Taurus-like perseverance of 28 Degrees Taurus who released five full-lengths plus a remix EP over the course of a dozen years culminating with 2019’s Lost & Found singles compilation but then in March 2020 Jinsen Liu tragically passed away at 42 years of age which besides being an unfathomably terrible loss for his friends and family and for longtime bestie-bandmate Ana Karina Dacosta, is also a terrible loss for the the Boston music scene and beyond...

...in light of his unyielding work (though I doubt he ever thought of as "work") supporting emerging artists, booking shows, and generally acting as a hub of Boston's local music scene, and I haven't even mentioned Deep Heaven Now yet, a a multi-venue festival and meetup that Jinsen instigated and curated in 2010 (and also in subsequent years with later editions) catering to psych/shoegaze/ambient/experimental artists not only from Boston and Massachusetts but also from across the Northeast and Midwest regions and the whole thing was a tribute of sorts to similar gatherings held in '90s Boston that helped shape Jinsen's own musical tastes and his hyper-local perspective...

…but on Friday 10/21 it's Jinsen Liu's turn to be on the receiving end of a musical tribute taking place at the Windjammer in  Ridgewood, Queens as presented by The Footlight Presents, and despite the tragic circumstances that led to the show it's sure to be a barnburner because that's how Jinsen would have wanted it...

...with producers and participants looking to put on a raucous celebration of Jinsen's life, because rumor has it that his life was pretty raucous at times but in the best possible sense, and it'll feature the music of 28 Degrees Taurus as performed by Ana Karina with special guests (in keeping with the band's collaborative ethos) plus a stacked lineup with sets by Dead Leaf Echo, Ceremony (the East Coast Ceremony) and Brief Candles visiting all the way from Milwaukee so here's your perfect chance to get caught up on what was happening at the Trash Bar in 2006 and '07...

…and one last piece of sliver lining to this dark cloud is that I got a chance to speak to Ana Karina, Jinsen's partner and collaborator in 28dt across its entire lifespan, so check out the transcription below where A.K. was kind enough to share some compelling memories of Jinsen and 28dt...

...and in closing The Deli offers our deepest condolences to Jinsen Liu's loved ones, and raises a glass for all the great music he created and facilitated, not to mention all the lives he touched and enriched, and we hope that at this very moment he's looking up some old contacts who've likewise passed over and planning his next musical blowout in that great DIY space in the sky, but until you get a chance to check one of his Deep Heaven Afterlife shows we say "get thee to the Windjammer" for a sneak preview... (Jason Lee)



Ana Karina Dacosta: I have the best memories of driving around in Jinsen’s shimmering pastel green Honda Civic listening to the Bee Gees , and a lot of other music he loved or was currently working on. A lot of his friends remember doing the same thing with him as well, it was a real era! It was definitely some of our personal best times, Without fail it always built up to us driving aimlessly listening to "Alone." We shared this deep and ridiculous respect for how undeniably cool Barry Gibb sounded in the opening lines to that song and all of the songs he sang....."I was a midnight rider on a cloud of smoke, I could make a woman hang on every single stroke"---like, what kind of badass says that?? A lot of our bonding came from overanalyzing Bee Gee's lyrics.

That era was also spent at a lot of house shows and open mics, consistently and possibly the most fruitful was the All Asia (RIP) on Wednesday nights, where he made so many true friends, it's hard to describe how many but a huge core of his life were friends he made there.

In our first iteration we were called Red Skies, Let’s Die with me on cello playing through a reverb/delay pedal. They were all instrumental songs. Eventually we had a keyboard player named Dan, who was brilliant on keys, and Alyson on drums. She was and still is an amazing drummer and percussionist,and a lot of our later songs carried over that sound. 

We could only get shows with the local Goth community, who were all of these amazing people and bands Jinsen had followed or knew from some place or another. We made a lot of meaningful friendships during that time, such as Kris Thompson who is an anchor and beloved scene captain and musician in Boston with so many bands I would need to make a loooong list!! We played all over the place as Red Skies. I’d nearly forgotten but we were pretty active. 

When 28dt was forming, Jinsen had recruited his "Gemini friend" from High School in Andover, MA, Erika, to play bass with him. He said astrologically it was perfect and that she was maximum rock'n'roll which she really is. I just happened to be at his parents house on the first day they were supposed to practice. The night before though, at a 28 Degrees Taurus show, she’d met a guy named Dan who later became her husband. So for obvious reasons she blew off the rehearsal! I said I would try to play along since I had played the cello and it had four strings, how bad could it be?!

When we transitioned to 28 Degrees Taurus I’d never been the singer in a band before so he would play the demos and I naturally altered my singing voice to mimic his. He loved to sing, but also just wanted to play guitar and come in and out of singing. It’s funny how truly haphazard it was in the beginning. He didn’t really set expectations and as far as I remember–never gave much advice or directives on how I or anyone should play anything, EVER! 

I really loved doubling his guitar parts on bass which made me feel very heavy metal, and Jinsen loved Black Sabbath and lots of multi-metal genres which is probably why he never said anything. The band was never just the two of us because we always worked together with drummers and with other collaborators sometimes, although I would say it was all him running the show. But he would always say it was me. The truth is it was really whoever was drumming for us at the time. 

It was always the drummers who kept the band functioning, shaped the sound and kept things moving in all ways. Every single one of them. Barry, Kyle, Greg, Ian....Max. Who else? Has to be more! I only wanted to take over drumming for Lost & Found, since Jinsen used a drum machine to record all of the drum parts and there was no bass on it. Chrissy Prisco, aka Chris Face, is legendary in our history as well. She went everywhere with us for years and was a huge part of the band dynamic. Our sister for sure. It was always her and the drummers who kept the band moving forward. We were so lucky 

And the words you hear in a lot of lyrics were just things that Jinsen would say like “ “I wanna party! I wanna drink! I wanna feel like this forever. I don’t wanna fuckin’ think!” but with a big hint of humor. These were just his thoughts rolling off his tongue. Another person may’ve said “we need to rework these lyrics,” but we would just laugh at the thought and keep going with it. 

Jinsen was such a social butterfly, so it was easy for him writing from experience. He loved being out at night. He loved to pretend he was a werewolf! He loved meeting new people. He was a local nightlife icon, he called himself the Paris Hilton of Allston, MA for a long time, it was funny!

There are a lot of endearing and wild stories with Jinsen. One night he stayed out for the entire night in New York City and when he finally came back to where we were staying he’d lost his glasses and told us this whole story aboutI hanging out with some new friends and losing his glasses, getting lost and feeling his way along the curb and finally passing out and getting bitten by a rat which elated him, like it was “a great night out in New York” by anyone’s standards!! 

And then he revived the ‘90s Boston psych-rock fest Deep Heaven, with the name tweaked to Deep Heaven Now. He Jinsen was always inspired by watching and observing other people and how they, went about supporting the scene. And he was nostalgic for the people who had guided him along when he got into playing. Jinsen was very sponge-like, always taking in information and inspiration from others, with a mind like a trap for retaining information and remembering people. He must have had a mental Rolodex the way he could keep so many people’s names in his brain. 

It was really impressive and admirable how many people he communicated with in his life and how he could instantly remember the name of an old online friend he made on GeoCities Chat in 1996.It was a valuable skill to have when a lot of music was being shared between people on physical media all over the place, sending CD's through the post office to each other. Remarkable!

He organized all of our tours and lots of other tours. He made all our records. There’s all these Midwestern bands that I am sure would give him credit for the group of likeminded bands and a whole scene that came out of meeting at Deep Heaven Now. Speaking of which, Brief Candles from Milwaukie will be playing the Brooklyn show.

It’s hard for me to say it, because I feel so close to him still and I know his many many friends do as well. I feel in my heart that he would not live a life with any guard rails. He always told me that we have to accept people for who they are and how they live. He was not afraid of dark waters. He worked hard to be a spiritual warrior despite any demons, and he was exceptional at his core essence. He was quite magical.It was the only way for him. Jinsen had a lot of seasons in his life and that will be visible at these shows. But it won't even do him justice because no one else could possibly be another Jinsen and I love him for that. Even when we weren't getting along, we loved each other and the music too much to consider ending 28dt.

If he didn’t have demons, and didn’t confront his demons head on, Jinsen probably wouldn’t have made the music he did. And we all wouldn’t have had the intense relationship we had with him and with each other as friends. A lot of folks call me when they’re thinking about him. I love that. I feel lucky that I knew him. I didn’t even mention how metaphysical Jinsen was. He read people’s charts all the time. You can hear it in the music. He thought we were all here to teach each other and to learn from each other. 

At his memorial in 2020, the bar tab for his wake came to $666. He would have loved that!


Deep Heaven Now VI --- Friday, Oct. 19 & Saturday, Oct. 20

The Fall 2012 edition of Deep Heaven Now has been announced and will take place Friday, October 19 and Saturday, October 20 in Somerville's Union Square. Coordinated by Jinsen Liu (28 Degrees Taurus, pictured above), DHN showcases the best in the current psych rock, ambient and shoegaze scenes from around the country. With this, the sixth installment, highlights include Bobb Trimble's Flying Spiders, Ringo Deathstarr (TX), and Foreign Resort (from Denmark) on night 1. The second night brings Gosepl Gossip from Minneapolis, Stargazer Lilies (members of Soundpool) from NYC and Glowfriends from Kalamazoo, MI.--The Deli Staff

A full list of links to the bands can be found by clicking here.

Day 1: Friday, October 19
stage 1 - Precinct________________stage 2 - PA's Lounge
1230am - Bobb Trimble's Flying Spiders_12am- Ringo Deathstarr (TX)
1130pm - Brujas Del Sol (OH)____11pm- Boom Said Thunder!
1030pm - Sleep Studies_________10pm - Brief Candles (WI)
930pm - The Foreign Resort (EU)_9pm- Dead Leaf Echo (NY)
830pm - Amber Spyglass_______8pm - Fishing the Sky

Day 2: Satuday, October 20
stage 1: - Precinct________________stage 2 - PA's Lounge
12pm - 28 Degrees Taurus___1130pm - Ghost Box Orchestra
11pm - Gospel Gossip (MN)___1030pm - Hadoken
10pm - Stargazer Lilies (NY)____930pm - Love Culture (OH)
9pm - (members of Autochrome))__830pm - Glowfriends (MI)
8pm - Young Boys (NY)__________730pm - Parachuter
7pm - Moontowers________630pm - Double Awake
6pm - The Vandelles (NY)___530pm - Last Builders of Empire
5pm - Jungle Fires__________430pm -TBA
4pm - Harborlights
3pm - The Freeways
2pm - TBA


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