Windows Underground goes down in spectacular fashion

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Windows UndergroundBreaking news over at Shanghaiist that I'm going to rehash here as some of my blog peeps don't go there.

Here's the original article.

So, here's how the story of Friday night went - that's last night. Brad Ferguson, the manager of Windows Underground turned up to work to have his boss tell him that he was now forbidden from booking Chinese bands.

Some background, the Windows family has three popular bars in Shanghai. One of them, Tembo, was not doing much so the boss, a local Shanghai woman, hired Brad to manage in the general sense and to turn it into a live music place. After a great start they moved the whole bar to a bigger location and fitted it out with a good sound system, finally re-naming it Windows Underground.

Here's Brad telling the story from the Sha-ist interview:

My boss forbade me from hiring Chinese bands, saying that Chinese people only want to see foreigners, and that rock is a western thing so westerners do it better. She said she herself would rather see a bad foreigner band than a good Chinese one. We argued about it for a while last night, but didn't make any progress. So, I let Hard Queen, our regular Friday night (Chinese) band, do their final show. The accountant warned me that they wouldn't pay for Chinese bands, but I agreed to pay out of my own pocket. The band are friends of mine, so I also told them why they were being replaced. At the end of their set they said some stuff about the bar and my boss -- all true -- then kicked the drum kit over. The crowd cheered and people seemed to be having a good time. I finished out the night, but when I got home my boss called me from downstairs. She yelled at me for a while, then she called the police. I politely explained the events of the night, and the cops agreed that as there were no damages, no one was injured, and no one broke the law, there was nothing they could do. So, I only got fired.

So, Windows Underground is out of the scene. I'm sorry, but cover bands and cabaret don't count. As Brad says in the article. 

Also, this is not that suprising in some aspects. Windows bars are notorious for barring locals from ticketed events for allegedly not drinking enough. And coincidentally, a few years back when Windows Too was still in Jing An Plaza, I popped in on a New Year's eve and saw the very same owner turning away locals herself at the ticket table in the hall. Bar owners. Again, not surprising. 

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Smells like Harley's Bar in Xujiahui, when they "broke up" with Yuyintang. As the hipster crowd grew the owner got more and more confident that he could survive off 老外 bands and customers alone, and giving Yuyintang a hard time. I wonder how Harley's doing now...

But it does make one wonder why so many bar owners dislike local fans. The cynical me says that it's 崇洋媚外, Chinese/Shanghainese hating on other Chinese. The 显示 me says that local music fans still don't spend enough on drinks (neither do I, haha) and no bar owner is willing to make a risky, long-term investment in building up a loyal local fanbase that might (*might*) eventually turn into a paying customer base.

Should be 现实.

It's interesting. At the recent Yuyintang gigs I went to, the ones I said were packed with locals, there was also a lot of drinking going on. Also, Yuyintang is a venue that sells tickets to its events. But I'm sure the ticket money alone isn't quite enough at around 30 rmb a ticket.

For Windows Underground though ...this is a clear case of someone with prejudices shooting themsleves in the foot. The business took off on the back of two shows by The Subs and PK14 ...both Chinese bands.

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This page contains a single entry by Andy Best published on August 2, 2008 10:47 PM.

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