Beijing Pop Festival day one

RR and I arrived a little later than I had intended, missing Joyside entirely. At the entrance to Chaoyang Park, we stopped and read the “informational” sign about the festival. I put “informational” in quotes because we learned very little from it aside from getting an idea for what part of the park to head to. You have to purchase a separate park admission (¥5) and then walk quite a distance before getting to the music stages. From the south park entrance, you first come to the smaller stage. You can walk right in without having a ticket, so we caught the last couple songs of New Perfume.
When they finished we wandered in the direction of the main stage, following the confusing signs. After a bit we came to the “promotion area” where the festival sponsors have booths set up and there was a sign for TICKET OFFICE without an arrow. Probably the most amusing one is for a company that produces canned tuna. Free samples!
Then we passed the T-shirt and CD booths, some of which seemed to be for individual bands. Then the food area, and finally a small van with a sign taped on it for purchasing tickets. After much back and forth, I managed to buy tickets for both Saturday and Sunday. My friend decided to avoid the confusion and just get the single day pass.
When we got to the main stage, Rize was playing.
Fairly heavy rock, with a bit of something like Red Hot Chili Peppers thrown in. I think we must have caught most of their set.
Next up was the Russian band Mumiy Troll. They were very fun, tending toward a little bouncy ska beat sometimes, and other times doing a kind of folk-rock oom-pah beat. Most of the lyrics were in Russian, but they got quite a cheer when they did one verse of a song in Chinese. The lead singer did his between song banter in Chinese. All I can say is his Chinese is better than mine. Thumbs up on this one – I would buy a CD.
Next was XTX, a Chinese rock band that reminded me of Cui Jian gone all heavy. I was intrigued because during the setup, two guqins were brought out onto the stage. I rather liked them from a musical standpoint, but the vocals were not very good, mostly off-key screaming. Their set ended very abruptly after a song that did not have the feeling of a final song at all. Music stops, “Zaijian,” and they’re gone. Never did touch the guqins.
By that time I was getting pretty hungry, so I left the main stage area to hit the food booths. One place had a set of one slice of pizza, two beef skewers and a glass of sangria for ¥40. The skewers were excellent, the pizza passable, and the sangria hit the spot. I found my friend and we ate while Shelftalker was on the main stage and The Crimea was on the small stage.
To finish off the day, we caught the last three acts on the main stage: New York Dolls, Brett Anderson (“ex-Suede” as all the promotional materials said), and Public Enemy. The Dolls were good campy fun, and really got the crowd going.
We missed the very beginning of Anderson’s set to go back out and get beverages. I’m not familiar with Suede, and couldn’t tell you what they were playing, but it sounded pretty good, and much of the crowd was able to sing along with the lyrics. Good solid Britpop which I’d have to say I enjoyed more than Coldplay, though there was some superficial similarity.

As it turns out, this is the second time I’ve seen Public Enemy. The first was in Seattle back in about 1989. I’m not much of a fan, though I recognize their place in music history, and I was intrigued by the thought of this band playing in the Peoples Republic of China. It took them forever to get the stage set up, not because they had anything fancy, but due to what seemed like miscommunication and ineptness on someone’s part. While the sound check was going on, someone had left a mic patched into the main speakers so we got to hear “Mike, talk to me. Can you get mic two? Check, check. Mike, are you there? We lost the second guitar. This is messed up. Chuck, do you have a mic?” – “I’ve go two!” – “Check one.” – “Check, check.” – “Which one is that?” – “This is mic two.” And so one for a long time.

Eventually they came out, and the sound was surprisingly good (much improved over the last time I saw them). They had live bass, drums, and guitar players, and approached rap-metal at times. I never thought I would be able to say something like “One of the best guitar solos of the day was for Public Enemy.” But the guy was really good. I don’t really care for their whole military shtick, with the two “dancers” in fatigues, but they are what they are. We hung around for three or four songs, and then took off. We ended up walking all the way home because we couldn’t find a taxi, and made a quick stop at KFC along the way.

It was quite a day, and I was looking forward to Nine Inch Nails and Cui Jian on day two, and hoping the weather would be as nice.

Here are some shots from around the festival.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard that a Chinese musical called "Butterflies" is a hot topic right now, a household familiar Chinese legend turned westernized show. Probably its numbers are not pop or rock. It does offer off-stage English subtitles, which sometimes can be confusing or laughable.