For this first round-up, we’re looking specifically at festivals in which music is the main focus — “music” in the broadest sense of the term, that it. Come back later on for the complimentary round up of food and drink throw-downs for the next little while.
Where: Expo Park
Headliners: The Chainsmokers, Curtis, Moti, Nic Fanciulli, Sasha with John Digweed, Armin Van Buuren, Dave Van Buuren, Dubfire, Martin Garrix, Carl Cox, Satan, Devourer of Souls, Lord of the Unclean, Architect of Humanity’s Demise
Tickets: 780rmb for one day; 1580rmb for two days. PEANUTS.
What’s the Deal: It’s the world’s biggest EDM festival (They’re all the world’s biggest EDM festival) and it’s coming to Shanghai for it’s first year. We have arrived, y'all. The Miami-originating electronic Ultra Festival music event dates back 19 years and has spread like… like… a very benevolent spreading thing… to cities all over the world. The most recent original edition of Ultra, in 2016, saw 165,000 people through the gates. Intimate! Expect the stage that looks like the spaceship that catches escaped robots in the movie AI, the smoke, the explosions, the whirling things, the fraggle dancers, the glow sticks, the woo-ing, the getcha hands up-ing, the EMD’ing — you know. The Chainsmokers are playing this. Here. Look.
What’s Good: Damn. That’s a tough one to start off one. What’s good, huh. I just got back from vacation, my minds not into this. Well, I guess it sounds very primordial. And dauntingly impressive. Like, it’s impressive how alarming it all is. A swarming, throbbing mass of humanity and glow-sticks all pointed at a stage that’s pounding out music that sounds like Transformers 2 fisting Transformers 3.
That’s sort of intriguing in a harrowing, awe-inspiring sort of way.
I went to the press conference and they had ULTRA FESTIVAL carved out in a big ice block. In. Credible.
Concrete & Grass
Where: Shanghai Rugby Football Field
Headliners: Thurston Moore, Carsick Cars, Princess Nokia, TOY, Radwimps, DIIV, Ringo Deathstarr
Tickets: 280rmb for one day; 460rmb for a two-day pass. Tickets available here.
What’s the Deal: Back for its second iteration — hey, Split Works, you made it! year two! — it’s two days of music and more at an outdoor festival at the Rugby Club. As with the first iteration, they’re casting a wide, wide net, appealing to pop crowds at the gate with massively famous Asian tween idols — hello, Radwimps, and your 150 million YouTube views — mixed in with critically sound avant-ish international artists working in modern rock and dance music genres.
This year’s iteration has a pretty strong nostalgic streak running through it. In addition to hosting back in Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, one of the platform’s first ever China bookings, they’ve also convinced Beijing shoegaze act Carsick Cars to reform with the original line-up to perform their debut record in full, and are hosting a few older Shanghai bands who… let’s just say they don’t play that much any more.
What’s Good: Better organization and production values that the average PRC music festival meat grinders. It’s a nice day out. If they manage to build off the good things from last year, expect fairly decent organization in terms of festival layout, spacing, amenities, and overall good vibes. Along with the music, there’s art, food, sports, games, and random festival detritus shite. Gotta have that.
Good one for families too. Nice green space.
Where: Shendi Ecology Park (near the Disney Resort)
Headliners: TBA (Rumored: Judas Priest)
Tickets: Two-day pass, 680rmn. Available here.
What’s the Deal: Feel the music, party people!!! Can you feel it, Shanghai? Celebration generation! Get your hands up! Getcha hands up! Here we go! Are you with me? Here we go, Shanghai! I love you, Shanghai! Scream for me, Shanghai!
China’s own massive EDM festival has locked in the third week of September for their Shanghai homecoming, but as of this writing, they have not released any names from the line-up yet. Not even PHASE ONE. Where’s PHASE ONE!? I need to know PHASE ONE!
2017 was a huge year for Budweiser Storm. In addition to shows all over China — they were in Guangzhou last weekend and Nanjing this weekend — they’re also taking the brand international.
So yeah, even though the line-up hasn’t been released, previous iterations have seen Skrillex, Alesso, Hardwell, Afrojack, and pretty much a complete mix up of DJs who appear on the Top 100 DJs list, playing on giant, strobing, gushing, egregious lit-up Event Horizon stages, visible from space, through time, and in the darkest regions of the bottom of your soul. I think it’s going to be like that again.
What’s Good: SmartShanghai’s got reservation tickets, hey!
2017 Diàn Mí Electronic Music Festival
Where: Suzhou TaiHu Camp Midi
Headliners: 2 Many DJs, Asian Dub Foundation, Howie B, Lali Puna, M.E.T.A, Sebastien Leger , Jungle Mico Project, Whai
Tickets: TBA. Available shortly right here.
What’s the Deal: Returning to an amusement park and campsite three hours from Shanghai is Diàn Mí electronic music / camping festival, AKA “Midi Electronic” the more dance-y version of one of China’s biggest and most beloved rock festivals, Midi. Taking place in an 800-acre ecological park, they’re expecting a couple thousand kids out camping for the duration of the thing, supping mostly dance and electronic music (with a few live bands) on four stages.
This year, Midi has broken from their usual programmers, the people at Shanghai’s The Mansion, and it’s a more international and Beijing-leaning focus in terms of artists booked.
What's good: There's some cool Beijing acts at this thing. Jungle Mico Project, Nova Heart, Whai, and Shao, are all great live acts who don't really get down to Shanghai that much. Good chance to see what the (live band) electronics vibes are up north.
Where: Expo Park
Headliners: Higher Brothers, MC Hotdog, Chinese Football, Pu Shu, Perdel
Tickets: 230rmb for one day; 650rmb for the whole shebang
What’s the Deal: One for the kids, Taiwan’s Simple Life Festival is back for the fourth year in a row, offering up stages of Chinese homegrown pop and twee rock for the post-'90s generation. Previous iterations have seen booking of notables like proto-punk influencers Television and Lauren Hill (that didn’t happen of course), but this year it’s all Asian-based talent. Lots of inoffensive, precious indie jangle pop tunage for university kids on dates to enjoy in the summer evening. And, really, what finer thing in the world is there than that? Everybody’s got matching couples shirts at this one.
The theme of this year’s festival is "A Simple Day”. Based on said theme, the festivals main visual “depicts numerous colorful paper planes flying faraway in a convergent stream. Each airplane symbolizes youth's precious creations and the rich color represents the diversity and personality of each creator.”
Music festival speak or someone having a nervous breakdown? You decide.
What’s Good: It’s a mixup of lower profile Chinese artists mixed in with superstars, so a pretty good cross-section of what the kids are into these days. Maybe you’re writing some sort of thesis?
Also, good location. Convenient and green...
Shalanaya Open Air Festival
Where: Dianshan Lake Resort (上海 淀山湖 风景区 )
Headliners: Atoned Splendor, Microgram, james Lealand, Theo-Man, Hat Painting Workshop. Full line-up here.
Tickets: 320rmb pre-sale; 520rmb at the gate
What’s the Deal: Trance in your pants! Free spirits, the Shalanaya Open Air Festival returns with three days of non-stop trance, techno, and chill-out music on multiple stages, camping out in the wilds of Shanghai (ish), multiple workshops on things that don’t exist, vibes for days, people spinning things, yoga at dawn, huge pants, dreadlocks, clashing patterns, baffling sculptures made out of sticks, that’s right, it’s a PSYTRANCE FESTIVAL.
What’s Good: Free spirits in the wilderness. With alllll the trimmings. In addition to the music, they've got art installations, healing circles, flow art?, a market, bonfires, shamanic journey somethings, yoga, vegetarian food, A HAT PAINTING WORKSHOP, sunny vibes, and a lock on the primordial life force of the universe. And 24-hour non-stop music!
JZ Festival Shanghai
Headliners: Kool and the Gang. Kool and the Gang. Kool and the Gang. Jeff Lorber, Chris Dave Drumhedz, Theo Croker and Tia Ray, Andy Summers
Tickets: 260rmb per day. Available right here
What's the Deal What can you say about the JZ Festival? It's a Shanghai institution. Although it's arguably become way, way to sponsored in recent years -- Hello, Lays Chips stage, with its solid programming, it's the large-scale music event of the year in Shanghai. Even if you're not that into jazz, it's a solid afternoon out in the park.
But yeah... hopefully, festival organizers recognized that the corperate branding was far too excessive lat year and are going to scale that back
What's: From rock, jazz, folk, blues, and electronica, its always an eclectic mix of artists from around the world, many of whom can boast 30, 40, 50+ year careers. Kool and the Gang. Need we say more. Get down on it!