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John Yingling, a Missoula transplant by way of Chicago, had never left the country.

That didn't deter him from traveling in China for two months to film the country's independent rock bands.

That footage, shot in 2013, will debut Wednesday, March 25, as "The World Underground, Episode One: China," the first in an ongoing, online documentary series on various pockets of do-it-yourself rock communities around the world that rarely gain the attention of American audiences.

The first 90-minute episode traces Yingling's path through Guangzhou, Chengdu, Beijing and Wuhan, letting the bands, artists and residents speak for themselves, either directly to the camera or through live performances.

The most footage is given over to P.K. 14, a nervy, riveting four-piece inspired by English-speaking post-punk acts like Shellac and Wire, whom Yingling followed on a short tour of the mainland.

Yingling, in an interview, pointed out that the music produced there is less jaded than in America, possibly due to its relative youth.

"A lot of it's still new to them," he said. "They've only had a scene for 20 years."

But it's a busy one, and the episode wedges in as many acts as possible, none of which you'll be familiar with unless you've been reading up on Chinese rock 'n' roll.

There's Hedgehog, a three-piece post-punk act with cooing vocals; Nova Heart, a sweeping act that will appeal to fans of dance-inflected punk; White Plus, an experimental electronic act; Diders, a hard-core punk act; Carsick Cars, a melodic, noisy punk act; and many, many more.

Many of the live performances feature subtitles, helping give more impact to many of the songs.

What the project is not, Yingling says, is a broad historical piece.

"This is what's happening now, this is who's playing," he said, a mix of travelogue and music survey. He also wants to include as many bands as possible while keeping it punchy.

Some of the subjects on camera, meanwhile, provide the context.

Nevin Domer, an expatriate who founded an independent label called Genjing, provides some historical context about the growth of Chinese rock and burgeoning interest abroad.

Musicians themselves discuss the myriad factors and barriers: the Cultural Revolution's brutal cleansing of traditional culture and the void left afterward, the difficulties in acquiring government permission to tour abroad and the limiting effects of the countrywide ban on YouTube.

In a nod to the future, an expatriate points out that the explosive growth of China's urban areas in the coming decade will likely increase its alternative arts activities.

And "underground" isn't an exaggeration: it's still a country where lyrics and artwork can get you arrested.

Outside of Wendesday's screening at the Roxy, the episode will be available on YouTube, Vimeo and

The suggested donation is $5. Yingling hopes to raise enough money to edit the next two episodes.

Yingling, 31, raised money to travel to China and produce the first episode via online fundraisers. Prior to the documentary, he spent years filming and photographing rock shows in Missoula and Chicago on his Gonzo Chicago website.

The second installment will follow two expatriate, Beijing-based noise artists on tour in China, Korea and Japan, while the third will focus on Missoula. Footage for those two episodes has already been shot.

The main website will feature a live archive of the various bands featured in the series. Currently, they're available on, where there's plenty to listen to until Episode 2.

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Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Entertainment editor for the Missoulian.