330 Metal Music Festival
When: April 22
Where: QSW Culture Center
Headliners: Ritual Day, Suffocated, Demon Spirit
Tickets: 180rmb pre-sales; 220rmb at the door
What Is it: Beijing’s biggest metal show — in a city that’s really never lacking for metal shows — makes its Shanghai debut. A much abbreviated version of the 330 Metal Music Festival (it gets its name because it usually happens on or around March 30 every year) is showcasing about 9,000 combined years of Beijing metal experience on stage from a group of bands generally indebted to Sepultura, Death, and Metallica — the classics. Organized by one of the dudes in Beijing death metal mainstays Suffocated, this is the 16th year for the show and it’s a big deal up north. In 2015, the concert was cancelled by the fuzz and it was like cancelling Christmas — check out these super sad heshers. Given the notoriety of the show and the super cheap ticket prices, expect this one to be huge. If you’re looking for inroads into Beijing legacy death / thrash / melodic metal, this is one to catch.
What to Expect: Getting some dude from Ningbo’s hair in your mouth in the pit. About 90 variations of Cannibal Corpse shirts.
2017 Strawberry Music Festival
When: April 29, April 30, May 1
Where: Expo Park
Headliners: Charli XCX, The Vaccines, The Drums, Caspian, KSHMR, DJ Krush, Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg, PG Lost, Headhunterz, and Violet Youth
Tickets: One-day pre-sale: 320rmb. Three-day pre-sale: 780rmb. Available right here.
What Is it: Strawberry is a big annual indie, electro, and pop music festival organized and hosted by China's biggest independent music label, Beijing's Modern Sky Records — given that one doesn’t examine too closely what “indie” means. In recent years, they've expanded their brand, stable of acts, and festival banner to organize marque events in America and Europe, and are still pretty much the biggest name in town when it comes to large-scale, multi-day open-air music festivals in China. Strawberry is working off some bad mojo from last year for the cancellation of the Shanghai performance of The Prodigy (the UK rave act couldn't get their gear down from Beijing in time), and have also folded their EDM brand MYTH into a stage at this one, but the juggernaut rolls on. They've always got a few big — but never too big — international acts, mixed in with bigger domestic bands (generally from the Modern Sky label) and a few crossover acts/pop shits to get more people through the gates. With nary a Shanghai band in sight. This year is no different.
What to Expect: Lots of lounging around on the grass, wearing sunglasses, wondering WTF that total cacophony is in the far distance.
Crazy Lotus Festival
When: April 29, April 30, 1pm-12am
Where: Building 13, The Cool Docks
Headliners: Jacques, Reeps One, Zhang Ze, and more.
Tickets: It’s… complicated, check the ticketing page. They’re available right here.
What Is it: From the concerns behind kwazy kids kastle The Mansion comes kwazy Crazy Lotus, their latest “festival experience”, combining electronic music performances, with speakers conferences, workshops, demos, a VR room, interactive installations, arts, sports, music, food, fun, fun, fun. Learning = fun, right? Looking to offer more than just music on a big stage, the event is part “Conference” and “Classroom” featuring guests dispensing knowledge on a variety of topics from sports and entertainment to business development and technology to music production. Plus a pillow fight. It’s The Mansion after all.
Intended more for out-of-town attendees looking to sample what Shanghai partying is all about, The Crazy Lotus Full Package gets you free entry to 10+ parties at various nightlife venues in town: Celia, The Mansion, New Amber, URVC Vinyl Club, Reel 2 Reel and Smash, in addition to the festival.
What to Expect: The Marilyn Mansion army out in force. Those kids have built a real little community out there in Never Never Land and they’re all pretty tight and supportive.
JZ Spring 2017
When: April 30, May 1, May 2
Where: Paid concerts at Shanghai Center Theater. Free pop-up concerts at Jing’an Park, Reel, and more.
Headliners: For the paid concerts, the The Giovanni Tommaso Trio on May 1; and Peter Erskine on May 2.
Tickets: Free entry to the pop-up concerts in and around the malls and park at Jing’an Temple. Tickets to the Shanghai Center Theater shows are 280rmb on April 1; 180rmb on May 1; and 80rmb on May 2. Available here.
What Is it: China's jazz empire throws this fest in Jing'an every year, with free performances in Jing'an Park and Jing'an Temple Square, and a series of (not free) concerts at the Shanghai Center Theater. It’s like they’re trying to give back after making all that Lays Chips money at their proper JZ International Festival in the fall. This one is more locally focused, with mostly JZ artists on the lineup, and international guests at the Center Theater. JZ has been wildly successful with their events for the last several years, attracting top international jazz talent. Even though this is the more scaled back iteration, it's definitively one to check out for fans of jazz and gospel.
The paid shows: Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir, a church choral ensemble known for their message of hope, love, and faith in song. May 1 is the Giovanni Tommaso Trio, world famous for their Gershwin renditions and rounding it out on May 2 is drummer phenom Peter Erskine.
What to Expect: Good park vibes. And free for that one too. Jazz hands!
Taihu Midi Festival 2017
When: April 29, April 30, May 1
Where: Taihu Lake, Qidu Zhen, Wujiang District, Suzhou.
Headliners: Second Hand Rose, Wang Wen, Whitechapel, A Night in Texas, DragonForce
Tickets: One-day pre-sale: 150rmb; 180rmb at the gate. Three-day pre-sale: 400rmb; 450rmb at the gate. Bring your own tent or rent one for 150rmb a day.
What Is it: MIDI is China's first, oldest, rawest, most metal-ish rock music festival. Although in recent years they making forays into the electronic scene, hosting “Midi Electronic”, they’ve since been looking for partnerships with INTRO — there’s no “Midi Electronic” this year. So, this MIDI is back to the basics for them: legacy pot belly Chinese metal and old man dad alt rock mixed in with a random smattering of obscure Euro bands from out of nowhere. Biggest names this year are American deathcore band Whitechapel and prog / power metal titans DragonForce. They’re returning to the closest place they can get to in Shanghai — Suzhou, in a lake area / janky amusement park that you can camp at.
What to Expect: Chinese rock kids are really something for brand loyalty. Expect healthy crowd of spazzy metal kids waving around flags, just lovin’ life. Music and production quality vary from year to year but it’s really more about that unquantifiable MIDI Chinese festival experience. It runs deep. If you’ve been you know. Expect that and huge piles of discarded chaunr sticks.
Springwave Sunset 2017
When: April 30, May 1, 2pm-9pm
Where: Guangming Ecology Park
Headliners: Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix
Tickets: One-day pre-sales: 580rmb. Available right here.
What Is iI: Springwave is a Taiwan import, having been around on that island since 2006. This is their second year in Shanghai, and while last year’s saw a bunch of twee Taiwan pop on the stage, it’s clear this year they’re feeling the winds of change and throwing their chips into the whole dance music EDM thing. Someone’s gotta keep Steve Aoki in fresh socks right? They’ve got a big festival space out in Dishui Lake in Pudong, and two days of DJs making it more high. It’s a nice area. You can read about it right here.
What to Expect: Do glow sticks work in the daytime?
2017 Croisements Festival
When: May 6 to July 9
Where: Venues around Shanghai
Tickets: To hazard a guess, I'd say lots of it is free with a few marque paid events. Check back on the SmSh listings closer to the dates. We'll be listing each of these events individually.
What Is it: The yearly French arts, music, dance, and culture festival returns from May 6 to July 9 in Shanghai. They’re promising “the festival will include 65 programs and around 216 events, in 30 cities across China. The program’s emphasis is on Franco-Chinese artistic collaborations, with invitations to French artists who draw their inspiration from Chinese life and culture.” This year they’ve got Chinese “cultural ambassadors” — choreographer Wang Yabing, China’s Bob Dylan, Cui Jian , and sculptor Sui Jianguo. These are joining famous French artists such as Isabelle Huppert, Joseph Nadj, Dominique Mercy, and Philippe Parreno on the program.
The centerpiece to the thing is the city-wide Fete de la Musique — musicians playing simultaneous shows all around Shanghai. More info on that TBA.
What to Expect: Depends what your jam is really. It’s a pretty far-reaching event series, covering a lot of different mediums — music, art, dance, stage, and whatever else. This, their 12th installment, has some nice collabs between French and Chinese artists planned. Respect. What else to expect… plenty of conversational Farine hot takes.
Great Wall Rave & Run Festival
When: May 20 (*public admission), May 21 (*VIP admission), 2pm
Where: Simata Great Wall, Beijing
Headliners: Oliver Heldens, Fritz Kalkbrenner, Ben Klock
Tickets: 500rmb (entry only), 650rmb (tickets include the 5K Great Wall Run, swag, and a ticket for the Great Wall Camping Festival later in 2017). Tickets available here.
What Is it: A festival transpiring on The Great Wall of China that combines your love of long distance running and electronic dance music. Headliners are some easily digestible Euro DJs and a few Beijing lifers on three different stages from 2pm. Towards the evening, you’ll get those great views and the nnn tsst, nnn tsst, nnn tsst reverberating across the planes. Note: There’s no camping at this one, so if you want to stay the night at the site, you’ve got to get yourself sorted for a hotel. The organizers have that information right here, as well as transport information.
As far as the 5k run goes, I was unable to locate a single detail about that on like five of their websites, Facebook, and their WeChat. No idea. I guess it’s a 5k run along the wall? On the wall? What? Is there a starting time? Is it organized like a marathon? Are there checkpoints? Is it just a bunch of people on ‘shrooms trying not to fall to their deaths? Who knows. Who knows… Why would you want to tell people about that element before the date? It’s only in the friggin’ title of the event.
What to Expect: For laowais, going to at least one dance music rave festival on the Great Wall is an important rite of passage dating back to when the Great Wall was actually built in the 7th century BC.
Incidentally, this same DJ line-up played at that one.
Up A Tree Indiepop Festival
When: May 20 and May 21
Where: Day shows at Uptown (1.30pm-7pm); night shows at Yuyintang (7.30pm-11.30pm).
Headliners: Pictured Resort, Juvenile Juvenile, The Cheers Cheers, Gatsby in a Daze
Tickets: 60rmb-200rmb depending on which day and for how much of it you go to.
What Is it: Hosted by Puppy Fat Records this is two days of twee indie pop a la The Pastels, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and the Sarah Records roster. Got a real soft spot for this kind of stuff. During the day, they're having more low key shows at the Uptown Records basement and then capping them off with ever-so-slightly louder shows over at Yuyintang. They've also got a bunch of other cutsie side stuff going on like flea markets and an indie zine display. Love it. Music is straight-up tumblr-core for two days, all day
What to Expect: Sensitive dudes with swoopy hair playing acoustic guitar on folding chairs with their girlfriends playing lead melodica and microKORG.
When: May 27, May 28, May 29, May 30
Where: Anji, Zhejiang, 65 kilometers from Hangzhou
Headliners: Mother earth, GAIA, the personification of the Earth and one of the Greek primordial deities. She of the wide bosoms and fertile womb, who did laid with Heaven and bore him deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus, and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire.
(S)he’s doing a trance set.
Tickets: Entry Only: 300rmb; entry plus Friday 8pm bus: 450rmb; entry plus Saturday 8am bus: 450rmb; entry plus Saturday 8pm: bus 450rmb; bus ticket only 150rmb. Order through their website. (It's ".org" of course.)
Note: If you do not have an entry ticket when you arrive at the site you will not be allowed entry.
What Is it: Dragon Burn is a regional event based on the ethos and principles of Burning Man. The words "Burning Man Festival" probably conjure up images thousands of insane and naked attendees in a desert in Nevada — lusty and heathen images to be sure — but this one's the China "Satellite Burn", which is actually a chill, community-driven event with workshops, performances, music, and camping in a bamboo-laden Anji forest. But yeah, it's a celebration of the ethos over the party. Dragon Burn is strictly "leave no trace" and "no commercial activity." Everything is free (aside from the ticket and tent rental), everyone pitches in, and not even the DJs get paid. This all happens about 4-5 hours outside of Shanghai. For many, Dragon Burn is a container for growth and new experiences, so check out a workshop, installation or a panel discussion. Set an intention and use your time here as an opportunity to learn about others, the world and yourself.
What to Expect: Deep conversations — deeeeeeep conversations — with a bunch of ass-dragging neopagan hippie scum. (They’re the best kind of people.)
Yin Yang Music Festival
When: May 28, May 29, May 30
Where: Huang Ya Guan section of The Great Wall, TianJin (next to Beijing)
Headliners: Worakls (Live), The Shanghai Restoration Project (Live & Visual), Savaggio (Live, violin), Jack de Marseille
Tickets: One-day pre-sale day tickets: 280rmb; three-day pre-sale ticket: 420rmb; At the door, one-day is 300rmb and all three days is 500rmb.
Accommodations tickets: Camping spot (2 nights): 100rmb; camping spot + tent package (2 nights): 460rmb; hotel inside festival location (2 nights): 680rmb. Hotels outside festival locations: various prices.
What Is it: Another festival on The Great Wall of China, organized by party villa The Mansion, and it's dirt cheap and really easy to comprehend. Hey, good for them. They’ve got a daytime stage actually on top of the Great Wall, a night time stage going till 3am at the foot of the wall, and a main stage with 3D mapping that turns the Great Wall into a canvas. Oooo trippy. Camping and hotel accomodtion available. Music by the above headliners and China-based DJs TBD. This is their fourth edition of the Yin Yang music festival so they should have the kinks ironed out. I know the last one came back with some good reviews.
What to Expect: Shanghai’s celebration generation partying down on the Great Wall. I tell ya, the Great Wall of China wasn’t very good at keeping out the Mongolian hordes but it’s absolutely shit at dealing with mashed up Euro interns. Seriously. Way to go, Wall! They're actually dancing right up on top of you with impunity! What kind of wall is that!
Here’s a video recap of last year’s to give you an idea.
Looking ahead to the summer we’ve got the return of Boxing Cat’s Beer Festival for sometime in June; Shanghai Pride — “The Time Is Now” — returns June 15 to 18; Split Works’ Concrete & Grass festival is returning in September; and Ultra China, the biggest EDM festival in the world (they’re all the biggest) is making a Shanghai debut on September 9 and 10.
God, I hate music.