I have to start by saying that in my 23 and a bit years of watching live music, in any particular country, I've never liked festivals. On top of that, the China festival scene's famous shortcomings have made them a nightmare no-go zone for me for most of the time I've been here. But then, in Strawberry Shanghai 2013, all the elements needed to placate me fell in to place and along I went.
The Expo Park site was nice and just the right size, there was little or no obnoxious c**tish behaviour, the weather was great and the bands I wanted to check out all put in a good turn. The entrance / exit was efficient and well organized, there were plenty of water and drinks stands everywhere. Even the toilets were not that bad and constantly maintained. The atmosphere was good and I met bunches of people. The only slightly confusing brand-issue thing was a small stage called 'The School of Rock Stage' that was clearly the least 'rock' of the stages, excluding the electronic stage of course.
I saw Hedgehog
at the main stage. I managed to get right up to the front in the hardcore fans pogo section while the band played all the hits. Got a couple of minor beer showers and photobombed a friend accidentally via the mega-screen. It was great. The real surprise though was The Gar
. They played the Love Stage, housed in a converted factory building. At first I felt it was a slightly larger scale version of a typical YYT gig and all that, but they really got going and played energetic and tight. The audience grew and grew and the band moved from hypnotic indie tracks to dynamic extended jams and then by the time they kicked out Two Mothers everyone down on the floor was going for it ... and then, as the crowd were screaming for more and the guitar was keeping the noise alive, feeding back in anticipation ... a staff member came out and reminded them to get off and keep the schedule tight. The Love Stage slots were only about 20 minutes each too. And so, possibly the best band of the day left with a salute to the crowd who were ready for much more. Pity.
Gripes? I dunno, it was good all round to be honest. You couldn't have imagined it existing in that form even 5 years ago here. Second Hand Rose
were a big deal, second to last on the main stage. They were polished and professional but reminded me of old AOR bands. A bit meh, I thought. In fact I went wandering around the site after half their set, taking in the evening by the river near the electronic stage. Did the sound cut out for Lenka? Yup it did, but I was watching The Gar at that time. Was there not that much beer around, yeah. But it was there, and people weren't assholes in general, win for me. The biggest gripe for people like me is always the same, and is not really to do with the festival. There were ship loads, Titanic loads of fans there, loads of them, everyone you've ever seen on Douban plus thousands more - all loving the bands, clearing knowing who the local acts were too, and all dressed in style and part of the sub-culture. And yet, the Gar could still play YYT or Mao and if not heavily pushed, get less than 200 in. I'm sure there are various explainable circumstances but could we get, say, 60 more per gig in? And two or three more dedicated local bands. That would be awesome, thanks.
Spot the Andy, it's not hard.