Mao Shanghai opening night
OK, it's the one we've all been waiting for.
Soma art management, followed up their disastrous and controversial stint at the Dream Factory by signing up to try again. This time they have joined forces with the Japanese investors behind Mao Beijing to open up their own venue.
It's round two of the fight to perform a great leap forward to the age of middle size music venues.
Ladies and gentlemen, here are the rules. Mid-size venues usually clock in at about 1500-2000 people. Mao makes the minimum requirement at a formidable 800. You need bands who meet the Brad Ferguson Standard, one hour of quality original material with which to headline such a venue. You need a promoter who knows which bands will do that for you. You can no longer rely on hacking a dodgy PA or inadequate acoustics. To counter your visibility you need clear and consistent laws and procedures regarding operations and a g*v*rnm*nt who are happy to let you work within those guidelines.
And we're into the preliminaries.
Jake and I were invited to pop our heads into the venue, which was heavily under construction, a week ago. Soma peeps were very nice to us and left us with the genuine impression of wanting to do it right and do it well. The space looked amazing and there was no hint of PR gloss in the after-talks, it was all fully open and friendly. The manager of Mao Beijing and rep for the Japan side of the operation explained to me how they invested and stuck with Mao Beijing for over two years until it became successful on a weekly basis. Good start.
It was however, still very much under construction and it didn't surprise me when the official opening featuring My Little Airport was dropped. So now we had the "low-key soft opening", so it was pitched to me the Sunday before. Saturday night was to be a free show featuring Momo, Sonnet and Life Journey.
When checking to see what was happening on my way over it turned out that "low-key soft opening" meant "actively promoted sponsored event with 1000 pre-bookings taken". Thanks for the heads up guys. So, yeah, it was packed.
OK ... so, the space is amazing. A perfectly sized pit in front of a properly raised stage and the square venue being raised around that so that pretty much every one of the 800 people can get a view of the band. Really good sound. I came in to the middle of Sonnet's set and it was loud and clear from every vantage point. It really is Shanghai's first proper mid-sized venue that meets the standards. So credit where it's due.
But ... that where it ends. The show, as much as it went off fine, was not any indicator on how it will work in the future. This was a very SOMA night much in the vein of these previous two I was at. This was a free promotion crowd, not a die-hard show going crowd. They shunned the bar and filed out en-masse around their early bed-times/ last train times - despite a tight crowd pleasing performance from Life Journey still being in full swing. As I entered, some non-plussed looking punters walked past me with fingers in their ears. Ooohh, it's so loud at gigs. Also, after Momo and Sonnet did their on-time and short sets, leaving the place warmed up and ready, there was an onstage promotion for Casio before the main band. It went on a bit and involved audience games and Lezi hosting (again) in his panda suit.
The night was simply not an indicator of how things will go for ticketed rock shows when a particular month has to be held down by local acts. So we'll have to wait and see.
... and here's something else. The Mushrooms are in the closing stages of negotiating a record deal that might take them off to Ta*wan . So the 3rd October may be the last time they'll play an affordable gig in Shanghai for a long long time. So come down to Mao for that one if you're yet to check the place out.
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