And just like that another year bye and bye. As I’m sure most of you know 2016 was a strange one. Not just on a macro level (let’s not even get into that clusterfuck) but on a micro level here in Beijing as well. We saw some significant changes to the musical landscape – some good, some bad – but each shedding light on the evolving scene. Here’s a overview of 2016!
The Old What? Bar, one of the scene’s unsung heroes, closed abruptly late this summer to the dismay of many old school musicians. Mao Livehouse closed in late spring only to quasi open again in the summer due to its landlord not being able to find a renter – they’re essentially operating in purgatory. The festival season found itself setting up shop outside of Beijing, again to the dismay of many – word is, next year will see city festival restrictions lessened. The scandal forever known as ‘Boobgate’ occurred at DDC when an artist allowed audience participants to grope her breasts on stage as part of her performance – the fallout led to DDC getting shut down for a short time, the Sound of the Xity Festival scrambling to relocate its massive multi-venue lineup (as most of the venues hosting the bands didn\’t have the right approvals), as well as a huge strife forming between DDC and the rest of the Gulou venues – a strife that hasn’t really been made public but still lingers today and has forced some bands to pick sides and cut their loses. And finally, just last month Tempe and Dada where forced to shut down amidst other raids and crackdowns – under the façade of the good old ‘fire escape’ excuse (remember when Mao Livehouse and Yugong Yishan had to shut down due to similar reasons back in the day). They’re back and running again but the uncertainty and dickish nature of the officials left a bad taste. As far as I can see (and that’s not that far) there remains lack of transparency from all sides of the issue in each of these incidences, proving once again that the music scene continues to operate in a grey area, for better or worse.
Not all was bad though, and the panic that stemmed from those above incidents was often times exaggerated by all parties involved (including myself). In actuality, 2016 saw lots of new players enter the scene. First up fRUITYSPACE – the basement venue located on Meishuguan has effortlessly filled the experimental void that XP held before, providing a home for some of the city’s most offbeat rockers and artists – from noise music, to ambient electronica, to hip hop parties – the venue is doing great things and is an undeniably charming place to boot. Then in autumn, Yue Space magically appeared in Beixinqiao, a bonafide 300 plus capacity venue fronted by music platform MusiKid. They’ve been showcasing some serious local acts and are essentially the new incarnation of the Shuangjing Mako Livehouse – a hot ticket indeed. Nanluguxiang staple 69 Café, opened up its new space Mogu Space, conveniently located in Xizhimen to entice the university kids. Finally, Jiang Jin Jiu Bar, who shuttered their doors last year in the Gulou area, have found a brand spanky new home in the Temple of Heaven area – Omni Space – and are looking to be a genuine mid-tier venue along the lines of Yugong Yishan and Mao Livehouse. In the Qianmen area, Ao Livehouse has been getting their name back out there and were joined the impressive luxurious jazz club Blue Note. Beyond those, there have been venues popping up even further outside the ring roads – by the Communications University along the Batong Line (Mars Livehouse), in the 798 Art District (Chen Livehouse) and even down south at the bottom of Line 10. School Bar doubled their investment on Wudaoying Hutong by adding in a dive bar next door. Places like Aotu Studio and even Café Zarah picked up the pace with interesting live music events and Modernsky Lab has had virtually no issue mixing big shows among smaller attended showcases and Caravan shows no signs of stopping. Far from a dry year in terms of growth.
Live Beijing Music on the other hand has continued to coast on its hobo charm, again, for better or worse. We hosted so more shows this year, helped curate the Fete de la Musique Festival in mid-June with the French Embassy and other dear friends, and have contributed to various global music platform, including beehype, who are going stronger than ever, and FrequencyAsia who have amassed legions of podcasts and radio shows on their site. Personally, I’ve been helping with the cassette-based Nasty Wizard Recordings, one of the more fun side jobs of mine, and even recorded a music video for one upcoming NWR release. We’re in the WeChat game now, which is pretty much where LiveBeijingMusic receives all its hits. Besides that, we don’t have much else going for us (and in case you haven’t noticed ‘us’ simply means ‘me’). Not gonna lie though, here’s to hoping 2017 goes a bit more smoothly.
To A Fruitful Year of The Rooster!
– Will Griffith, Live Beijing Music