Festival talk 2008

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Yue FestivalOver the past couple of years, festivals have entered the music scene and then bashed up against the glass ceiling and dissapeared as quickly as they came. I recently read a bit of news and had a couple of conversations out the back of gigs.

The Shanghai scene is quite a different, and shorter, story than Beijing. Talking of Beijing ...

Most of the recent talk started with this post over at China Music Radar. I want to go through this step by step for non-China based readers. It is standard practice here for large events and also licenced (known) smaller events to be shut down during any national meeting of political importance. This is usually a tight window but this year we had the sporting event that shall not be named - which started to wreak its havoc from May onwards. So, the news at China Music Radar was that the cancelled Midi Festival in Beijing was to be revived in the October public holiday. Alas, this is exactly when Beijing indie label Modern Sky are holding their own festival in the same park. Read that link for more info.

What about Shanghai? Well, the history of Shanghai festivals is much easier to relate as there's hardly any of it. In fact there's only really been one indigenous festival of note - the 1234 Beach Rock festival - and that has only managed to appear once. The other festival was the Yue Festival organised by Split Works. Split Works are experienced international promoters and the festival brought in big names from abroad. No word on the site about rescheduling for this year ... Archie? Comments are open with no registering now. 

1234 started out down in Fengxian at the man made beach and was mainly organised by Frank Fen of Mortal Fools. It expanded last year and moved to a new site near Shangnan in Pudong. Alas, the date clashed with the National People's Congress in Beijing and the plug was pulled at the last minute. This year has been another write off due to the sporting event that shall not be named. Frank says it could be done late this year but that they simply don't have the money to get through the approval process. He will focus on smaller events in the future.

Now for a confession. I can't stand large scale open air shows. They suck. I don't drink and i'm not interested in the party atmosphere at shows. The best show I ever saw was when White Zombie showed up at Birkenhead Stairways - a little smaller than the Dream Factory here. They were touring for their major label release La Sexorcisto Devil Music Vol 1 and only played two UK shows, London and Birkenhead. Wierd. But, it set the standard for me. A legendary artist at the peak of his powers, right there in front of you and you're experiencing a connection. Also, most shows I saw ever were in the Liverpool Royal Court which is a mid-scale touring venue and about as big as I like to go. Another amazing small scale show I saw was Love/Hate at the Tivoli in Buckley. Donington Monsters Of Rock was the main event for my crowd at the time - but really, buckets of piss flying through the air?!   

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Just thought I'd add something here for ppl not familiar with me too much. I am aware of the upcoming Jazz festival and the China Now festival and indeed all festivals and events that involve music that is not rock/indie-esque ... or is an unforgivable mix of the two. I just don't cover them.

I remember when they canceled that 1,2,3,4 one... That was a huge bummer. Someone should throw a bunch of money at Frank and let him have at it again...

Yeah, I was quite up for it, despite my lack of enthusiasm for outdoor events. City Weekend had a big feature on it with a great photo spread.

Some of the equipment companies looking to sell in China should defo throw money at it. They seem to be absent from the local scene in that repsect. Apart from equipment loans and unhelpful stuff like that. How about some equipment and money gives?

You perhaps deliberately skipped RockIt and its offshoot the Summer Music Conference last year. One may - okay, everyone does - have issues with the sponsor/venue, Bonbon/Dino Beach, but they were nonetheless successful events with some great performances.

RockIt 2007 was a split-off of 1234 in 2006: two of the main organizers, Frank Fan and Wu Jun, amicably went separate ways. Both were very diplomatic about the split, and Wu Jun never claimed (to me at least) that RockIt was year two of 1234, but he got nonetheless some abuse from certain third parties. However, having interviewed both Wu and Fan, and covered both events, I think that RockIt can be as fairly considered 1234 v2 as the actually-named 1234 v2, given that it actually happened... Regardless, we'll see what happens to both in non-Limp Icks years, as well as what impact the Shibo ends up having on local culture - nourish vs squish.

The Shanghai Tourism Festival has done well sometimes, suprisingly so, like in 2003 when it opened with a line-up of Cui Jian, The Honeys, and Crystal Butterfly.

I totally agree that the outdoor festivals are rather tedious and less important than simple regular shows. Midi is perhaps why death metal now makes me inexplicably sleepy. However, the fests do make a public splash and ideally broaden the audience core. And it is really good for the artists to experience playing on a big stage for a change.

Opps, my log in is giving me trouble.

Hey Lisa, great comment, thanks. A lot of material there to add to the post.

Yeah, Obviously it's my personal blog and not 'articles' but I did think it through and decide to go only with events big enough to qualify as festivals in the accepted sense of the term back home. Also, rock bits or sections in 'other' festivals are not on my bill either. Even though all the ones you mention are legit in their own ways (and all the ways you outlined in the comment.

Split Works operate very much along the lines you mention, big events giving needed exposure both between acts and to the public. Step in if i'm worng there, Archie.

Bonbon puts me right off as I'm a snob. I haunt YYT mainly because it's feels like a rock dive to me. I am however, about to expose myself as a hypocrite tomorrow night as I go to the second 'Battle of the Bands' at ... the Blues Room.

By the way, nice job featuring Crazy Mushrooms the other month.

Happy to add my 2 cents...

We're actually just about to send out a press release about the next steps for Split. Like everyone else, we've had the same sort of problems with getting anything licensed, so we've pretty much decided to write off 2008. We have, however, just come back from a road trip to 2nd tier cities with PK14, Queen Sea and local support in each city, which was pretty rad. Managed to fly under the radar until Xi'an, when the police caught up with it all. You can read more at www.dazeddigital.com and search for Converse Love Noise in English or lualua.blogbus.com for Chinese.

I live in hope that the next few months will be a return to the upward curve. We're trying to get some money together for the Rockkid festival at Songjiang which has been pulled through lack of funding, and as I said, there will be some more news on other stuff soon. Just someone give us a decent venue in Shanghai with reasonable management and we could start doing so much more. In the interim, keep up the great work everyone. It's a labour of love, but it will work for us eventually.

One more thing - Midi is scheduled to go ahead in a stadium this year (Modern Sky have a long term contract with Haidian Park for the October holiday)...

Thanks, Archie. It's a depressing non-suprise that 2008 is now basically a write off.

I think it's important to support the emergent 'proper' venues too. I mean the ones run by music people that have the real culture. If, say, YYT and Live Bar went under, we'd be right back to one off shows in a variety of not quite suitable bars and expensive places. I don't think there can be a 'scene' without those regular spots that 'get' the culture.

Just re-read my comment and it comes across wrong.

I love YYT/ Live Bar and what those guys are doing and have huge respect for anyone working from the ground up. These guys are the lifeblood of any scene anywhere and we wouldn't have music without their love and dedication. I will qualify my comment by saying "give me a decent mid sized venue and we could start doing so much more", and by that I mean the room, the sound, the lighting and guys that know how the equipment actually works. Until that happens, the bands won't have anywhere to go and will eventually get "proper jobs"

You are right, there's no where to go up. My comment was more an addition to yours than a counter point.

"If YYT, Live Bar, 288 were shut down"...

What matters now is that ther is a critical (probably too critical!) mass of musicians, fans, media, etc, who will strive and revive no matter what happens. For all my nostalgia for the intimacy of the late 1990s scene, I am flabbergasted and giddy about the energy today. The obstacles remain, but the momentum is ever greater.

Venues come and go. Bands come and go. That shit happens is kinda par for course by now. But the institutional memory is finally here, the community support, for bands and for venues is permanent, and developing really excitingly. Things are finally, finally congealing, and it is heart-breakingly awesome.

Thanks for the feedback on the columns. Some great news in September's, if you haven't already heard and new editors don't butcher it. To hint, I'm ambivalent but mostly fascinated about the in-progress track I heard from the Mushrooms' debut album... As well as others'! :)

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This page contains a single entry by Andy Best published on August 26, 2008 10:15 AM.

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