I used to love those old maps of the world at night, images taken from outer space that created eerie voids of blackness in areas of the world yet to grasp the consumption-at-any-cost that we Americans live by. What I remember most about those photos is the huge darkness blanketing China and how empty I imagined the country to be. Well, that was stupid. And after the 2nd largest Chinese music festival took place in Beijing, I knew for damn sure that with all the electricity being pumped out from the main stage we blew out all those swaths of black and will show up as a bright light on future maps of the night.
Foolishly named, the Beijing Pop Festival (none of the bands are pop) is only in its 3rd year but has grand ambitions of becoming the number one festival in China (currently held by the Midi Music Festival) and boasts a steadily improving lineup of bands. Headliners this year included an aging, yet still interesting, group that included Marky Ramone, Brett Anderson, the New York Dolls, Public Enemy, Nine Inch Nails and Mando Diao. Besides the stellar (for China) lineup of foreign bands, some kick ass Chinese bands got a chance to strut their stuff in front of an enthusiastic audience. While respect is given for attempting something of this size in China, the festival has a lot of logistical and organizational problems to overcome before it can claim to be near international standards.
While I missed out on the frisbee action it was a great weekend for beer drinking and plenty of public urination. Beijing security was out in force and during Marky Ramone’s set (guess who was on stage for that!) some of the expat and local kids started to get a little frisky getting in a few shoving (minor slapping) matches with the (barely out of puberty) security personal. These altercations were mainly due to the festival placing a huge VIP section center stage, keeping the real fans (who don’t have connections) more than 100 feet from the bands. Government officials, media and friends of the promoters enjoyed great seating, private dinning and superior service while the paying, working class fans enjoyed (eye squinting) poor views of the bands while being corralled on to a shadeless patch of grass that was void of F&B services or toilets.
I wonder if the irony of this division of class was lost on any of the government (communist) officials or promoters. Probably so. I for one was happy as a lark to be back stage and smug in my knowledge that I enjoyed special treatment. Agghhh….the joys of a bourgeois lifestyle.
AjiSignal is a magazine
about new music in cities.