Finally, on to the continuing problems with MAO. I think they are suffering from an expectation problem, for which they are at least partially responsible. However, it must be said that we, as in Shanghai underground music fans, are also to blame. I for one know that I expected a lot from this venue when it was getting off the ground. We wanted it to be like Yuyintang with better sound and more capacity. Well, we got those things. We really did.Well, it's true that you can't have expectations that are too high in an underground scene and this blog for one was happy in old YYT with a single room and a small fridge. But the fact of the matter is that the show on Saturday charged three times over the going rate for a show on the scene and Mao opened with lofty proclamations of a livehouse revolution.The sound has not been any better than Yuyintang, it is often worse. There's more but let's get on.
Mao history (the venue not the dude) and other blather
Jake wrote up the Maybe Mars gig at Mao this weekend and we also shared some thoughts about the scene on the podcast. As far I was concerned the subjects were done for a while.
And then Zack wrote up the show at Layabozi and got everything going again in my mind.
After noticing/being annoyed by the same stuff as us, Zack makes a good point at the end about expectations:
So, on the pod we talked about the scene punching over it's weight. Where did the demand for a larger venue come from? What's the history. The history, that includes ventures such as 4Live, came to a point when a combination of independent promoters started to get regular shows going at the Dream Factory. This included Yuyintang and Splitworks, also people like Abe Deyo, Brad Ferguson and Frank Fen.
They had just started to creep over the break even line despite many problems and challenges when this happened:
So, they pulled out again three months later having
fucked it all up decided they weren't satisfied with the deal. And then, barely eight weeks after that, SOMA announced they were teaming up with Japanese investors to open an even bigger venue in Shanghai - Mao. This was highly questionable. The progress made at the Dream Factory had still not answered the question of whether the scene could sustain a larger venue at this point, and in this political climate. Even that progress had been set back by the actions of SOMA taking it over then pulling out again.
Soma then came out with re-assuring statements. This would be a livehouse revolution for Shanghai. They would move in their studio and focus on scene development and long term planning. They were aware of the issues and history and wanted us to know that it was not simply a vanity project or an elaborate face-saving plot. But then, after the initial oversight from the partners left them to it, everything has been run on a shoestring and skeleton staff.
Here's the thing: everyone, me included, wants the venue to succeed, that's why we go there and buy tickets. So why are we so worked up about the shortcomings, especially in the opening stages?
Exactly because we DO want it to succeed and all the signs are pointing towards failure. We have just over three short weeks before the six month point, which is usually a make or break point one way or another. Talk to anyone who worked on 4live: the venue is not big enough to survive on one sell-out show a month. Talk to anyone who worked on 4live again: how do neither-big-nor-small venues with one big event a month get by during the middling/average attendance days - the bar.
Would anyone like to comment on the bar at Mao?
On the opening day, an extremely nice guy from Mao Beijing told me that they floated the place on investment for two years until numbers went up. Let's hope the same support will be on display here.
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