Before I get on to the main business of this year's Strawberry Festival, I just wanted to share a bit of info from the capital's other big festival, Midi. According to Shanghai-based writer Sam Gaskin, heavy rainfall in Beijing this evening caused the power to be cut at Midi, meaning no lights or sound for a while. Carsick Cars tried to play on by playing acoustically through megaphones and with torches for lighting, but it didn't seem to be working too well. Last word from Sam was that power was back on a while later, so hopefully it all got going again without any problems. Keep an eye on the Beijing music sites for more on that tomorrow.
But anyway, I didn't get to Midi - I spent Saturday to Monday at Modern Sky's Strawberry Festival as I felt it had the stronger line-up of the two. Saturday in particular had a really good line-up with Xiao He, Carsick Cars, The Bigger Bang and AV Okubo amongst those playing. Carsick Cars and AV Okubo also played at D-22 that night as part of their anniversary celebrations along with Hedgehog, which made for a great day of live music. The following two days were good too, with Boys Climbing Ropes making their debut at the festival and sets from Reptile & Retard (at YYT on Thursday), ReTROS and Hedgehog particularly sticking in my mind. I don't think I really found anything new, though Hedgehog, ReTROS and QueenSea Big Shark all showcased some new material, so I'm not going to write too much about the bands individually - they've all been covered plenty on this blog before anyway.
Overall, it was an enjoyable festival experience and worth the 17 hour bus journey up from Shanghai. The sun shone and there was a good atmosphere throughout the festival. There were a few drawbacks though: there were massive queues and no signage at the entrance causing confusion and resulting in a lot of people deciding not to bother (it was really hot weather to be queueing for several hours in). The entire site ran out of beer on each day of the festival, with hour or so waits for fresh supplies. Even when they did have drinks they weren't kept cold.
More importantly though, the sound on the main stages was poor at times. Things on the second stage weren't helped by its proximity to the metal stage. They were far too close together meaning someone like Gia playing a slower song on the second stage for example, was almost drowned out by the metal band overlapping on the stage nearby. Although you have to credit their ambition, having six stages seemed unnecessary, especially when the Douban stage was in a small patch of dirt near the toilets and stages frequently clashed with each other, making some acts inaudible. Sound always leaves a little to be desired at festivals, but having stages so close together that their sound overlaps is just poor planning.
Speaking of the Love Stage (the second stage), there were two VW Polos sat on it the whole time. I know that the festival needs sponsorship to make it viable and that's fine, but having two cars sat on the actual stage (ironically there during Carsick Cars' set incidentally) was just crass. It made it feel like the acts there were performing in a shopping mall.
Still, these criticism aside, I had a great time at Strawberry, at D-22 and in Beijing in general (in particular School, with Bian Yuan behind the bar and Joyside and Casino Demon members hanging out in it was cool, as was New Pants' Bye Bye Disco bar). I'm knackered, but enjoyed my trip up to the capital. Now back to Shanghai...