Here we are again with the yearly Best (and Worst) Shows articles. For this, SmSh carpet bomb emailed a bunch of our friends and industry-type contacts — musicians, DJs, promoters, club owners, music journalists — to get their impressions on the year that was. The request was simple: Tell us about the best show, concert, event, party, or whatever in 2016 and why it was thus. And then tell us which was the worst and why, because that's way, way more interesting to read. Let’s keep the animosity level hight out there, people.
Fair warning: It's a lengthy read. When Shanghai praises and admonishes itself it's impossible to keep people to under a few hundred words.
A big thank you to everyone who responded! Love you all. Hate you all.
Allan Marshall — DJ, Beard, Yeti
This year was a great year for events for me, as I attended and ran quiet a lot of great ones. Stand out has to be Rainbow Disco Club in Tokyo last May. Most idyllic setting for a party I have been to with a Killer lineup and sound, and seeing families with kids starting the day off with Yoga on the dancefloor in the mornings really showed the chilled nature of the event.
But as this is for SmartShanghai, on the local front set of the year for me was DJ Steef from La Dame Noir presented by Holly Shit at Elevator. I have been a long time fan of Steef and he really delivered that night. For our own events Yeti Dis:ko 4.0 with Xinobi and Dicky Trisco was a stand out, was such a vibe that night and Arkham was very close to capacity. I have to thank the whole team for that one everything just gelled from visuals to promo and it was an epic night.
Funnily enough the worst could also be Yeti Dis:ko 4.0 haha as one of our friends sliced her finger open on a fan in the green room. So the night was broken up with trips to the emergency room. Kinda missed half of our own party.
But In terms of bookings by far the worst event of the year was getting tricked to play at Elements in Beijing, I had been turning them down for 6 months, politely. And suddenly when I had gone to play at another venue in Beijing, all of a sudden they changed at the last minute and there you had it I was playing at the most EDM club in Beijing. Rude Door Staff who had no idea made me 20 mins late for my own set and tried to make me pay to enter into a club that can only be described as and Champagne Bottle exploding in a pile of glitter... If you are reading this please don't call me again!
It has been an interesting year for music in Shanghai and China in General. There have been some ups and downs with Shelter and Arkham having their issues, but things seem to be working out there in the end. Elevator has been an amazing addition to the Shanghai scene and It is really great to see it grow into such a great venue. Lastly, I would like the thank all of my team and all of you who have supported us over the last year! looking forward to more Slowmance with you all in 2017. YETI OUT!
Will A — DJ and Promoter for Dada's Minimalist Parties
Best — Hiro and his crew with Peter Van Hoesen for a night of beautifully crafted building Techno at Elevator or the VOID boys bash with Ceephax Acid Crew to end an astonishing run at Shelter. Both nights were absolutely tonk and sadly neither will be about in the same form in 2017. Our Minimalist New Years Eve party at DADA with Jigsaw is going to be insane too so a solid end to the year!
Worst — Every night of soulless, monotonous tech house drivel from Beatport top 10 charts played with a sync button on someones Mac. When will it stop? Or when I had to walk into Sasha's to go for a pee and witnessed grown men singing along to Beyonce. Equally GRIM.
Thoma Cher — Producer, DJ, Dad
The best show I had the chance to attend this year was definitely the pan flute solo concert from my mate Charp. People knows him for his DJ performance, but very few know that he did learn from the greatest pan flute masters during a spiritual retreat in Peru in the late ‘70s. Two hours of flute solo might seem a bit long, but with the costumes and his own interpretation of traditional Peruvian dance, it’s a must-see. Don’t miss it next year.
Regarding the worst, it’s hard, my friend, there are so many candidates. From flat and boring tech house sets to “mashup” sessions… and we only have limited amount of words to write this review, so am gonna skip to keep some words for self-promo/music news, because some stuff did happen
This year was my “coming-out” as music producer on international label. A first release on vinyl on Whiskey Disco. Then, this month new release on Golden Soul for a compilation including artist like Rayko and James Rod.
And two EPs in preparation for next year …
Osheyack — Producer, DJ, Agitator, Aggravator
Best of 2016:
1) DJ Lag
3) That girl humping Tzusing during his boiler room set
Three late twenty-somethings who decided to make performance art after watching a Peaches music video and breezing thru the Karma Sutra Wikipedia page.
Chachi — Singer / Guitarist Round Rye, Hair Thief
The best gig…you know what. Spill Your Guts as Turbonegro was pretty righteous…Does a cover band even count? It really was damn good.
Iron Maiden. I came. They ran out of the Asian-themed artwork T-shirts. You know; the one with the dragon. Got a beer and went to my seat. Horrible opener was wrapping things up. Who were they? Steve Harris’s kid’s band. Oh. They finish and Maiden comes on. They started the show and it was totally starting to kick ass. After the first couple numbers I went to get another beer; they ran out. Two songs into a stadium gig to a capacity audience and they run out of fucking beer. “Fear of the Dark” starts to play…fuck that song. Good time to get something to drink. We come back to our group with a dozen cups of wine. I black out. I wake up. I see Morgan in the distance on the ground level. I think to myself, “I can totally sneak down there. I can make it. Just gotta wait till the guards aren’t looking.”
The guards turn away, I act. I flip over the railing and fall. Fracture my clavicle. I limp past the guards dazed and change from my pockets spin all over the floor. I make it to where Morgan was standing and he’s gone and the show’s over. Go to the doc and he puts me in a sling for 2 months. Fuck man. I’m running free yeah!
Morgan — Editor, SmartShanghai.com, Original Hair
This was the year when I was officially old enough to appreciate all the totally over-the-hill, gassed out bands that always come to play Shanghai. Feel like I’ve finally made it. Feel like the waiting has finally paid off and it’s time for my generation to shine. From here on in I think if I stick around in Shanghai basically every band that I liked 20 years ago that are on the wrong end of a career and thus cheap enough to stage in China will come to play here and it will be righteous.
I’m talking about Iron Maiden of course. Who are nine thousand years old and BACK with an album about Mayans or Incas or some shit — a double album no less. Queen. Brian May soloing on a raised platform raised 20 feet into the air like Gandalf the Wack. Incredible. WWE wrestling. Guitar Wolf. All that great shit.
As far as slightly left field stuff, the few that stand out were the Brew & Blend festival, which I really enjoyed, and that Sleep No More thing, which I’m going back for, and the last Voltage Divider at The Shelter. Icenine of course. Same venue of course. Basement6 — only got to three or four of their events but they’re always angling to provoke, and thus, wonderful.
Local band. Duck Fight Goose’s CLVB ZVKVNFT release show was astounding. So many bands have like 2-3 good productive years in China and then sort of fizzle. Seeing Duck Fight Goose continue to trenchantly push themselves forward in weird directions… is a great thing.
Steve Malkmus doing “Summer Babe” at the Concrete & Grass festival. The end.
Andy Best — Guitarist, Ugly Girls
Andy Best reporting in:
The best show that I saw in 2016 was Little Monster's 'last' show at Harley's Bar. The duo had recently fallen out hard, no one knew if F would show and the audience had a fair amount of bro types and casuals. Then they took the stage angry and gave a raw, painful, super charged no-wave show for the ages that left no mouth closed. They played on a new level, one we'll literally never see again.
Another best/worst is Harley's Bar. Having done nothing with their re-launch, they brought in Stella Zhang to put on bands and build its reputation as a livehouse again. Across a couple of short months she did exactly that, recently getting to the point where it was a scene fixture again with a good rep and people starting to come in, that was the best. Then, just last week the owners changed their minds and decided to go a different style. The worst. I hate to see that still happening, an owner fails so brings someone in, then the moment things pick up again they take it back and say, hey we don't need you. Then it fails again.
Jasmine Li — DJ, Empress of Celia
The best music, DJs, events in 2016 — I think that it was much better than the last year ... Matthias Meyer, Nakadia, Pezzer, Eddie Rochards and their own concept Back or Rave at Celia. Also Solomun in Fusion. That was the best so far in Shanghai nightlife. Shanalaya and Midi were the best festivals in 2016.
All the big clubs still playing EDM. Most Chinese people don't really care about the music — even in they are seeing the best electronic underground music. You often see the best DJs playing for 20 people.
China still needs some time to get techno music but its not hopeless. Before it was a few cities and clubs you could listen to it but nowadays its getting bigger. Not only in Shanghai but also Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Qingdao, Chengdu, Ningbo, There are many techno music listeners. Good quality music always find its own way.
Michael Ohlsson — Antidote promoter, Scowling Face of Dada Bar
Haven't been to many music things in Shanghai this year, but I can vouch for the year's line-up at The Shelter (we had many of the same acts up at Dada Beijing, on tours). Shelter had an incredible parade of some of the world's most interesting electronic / DJ acts coming thru in what turns out to be their final year. I've spent the greater part of the last decade in that dark dirty basement.
Other best -- Concrete & Grass festival. Bam! That was awesome, a real magical moment.
Worst? Anything that's EDM / commercial trap, and all these new festivals trying to make bank in Shanghai, bringing shallow, soulless music, and the young local DJs like Tsunami who want so bad to be famous EDM guys, but are more focused on waving their hands around on stage and (trying to) look cool than just playing good music.
Thomas Paninaro — Tommy P, The Man, DJ, Architectural Enthusiast, Fountain of ‘80s music Knowledge
I spent quite some time at M1NT of all places this year and witnessed some amazing DJ sets there. DJ Deville, Casio, Tom William, Michelle Grant, Niko Wild, James Lealand, Tiger, Scotty B…. The list is indeed long. Many of those guys do they own edits and remixes and really play their heart out.
Ha! The worst acoustical experience this year on a reoccurring basis was “Ned Kelly’s Musical Medley” at the weekly Camel trivia night on Tuesdays. I’m not complaining about his tunes. It’s the sound quality – on par with NYC subway announcements. Hardly audible. I still haven’t figured out if it’s the bar’s problem or faulty cabling or I don’t know what… It got actually worse after their renovation.
A lot of other people will write this but I believe 2016 will not go down as one of the best years for music in the city simply because too many amazing venues had to close down… However I’m always astonished by the number of smaller bars this city has to offer now, it feels like there’s a new one opening every day these days.
Tzu Sing — Producer, Sleeveless
Gqom nite with DJ Lag and Nan Kole. By far the best night, musically speaking, for me all year. Makes all other types of club music look pretty redundant tbh. This is purely music designed for the floor and it does it so well. Made me question the point of my music “career" . I think I danced for 3 hours straight, felt invincible. This shit is so powerful it’s stupid.
The Soft Moon was really good live.
Yen Tech set was sick, so much energy and was really cinematic.
Osheyack’s choker wins club object of the year.
Best thing about this year was to see the rise of Chinese producers/DJs and crews like Genome also the ratio of Chinese people in Shelter. This demographic shift will also mean a cultural shift.
Very interesting timez 4 sure.
Ian L — Transportation Secretary of the Love Bang Universe)
Sometimes you walk into a show with no (or low) expectations, and the act ends up blowing you away. Neon Indian's set at Dada was one of those. Also on the Split-Works tip, I'd never heard of Sunflower Bean but the flyer looked cool and they proved NYC rock is alive and well. The combination of Little Simz followed by A$AP Ferg at Concrete & Grass was so turnt.
Alright, I'm done fondling that Split Works D. Done!
Dirty Fingers slayed every show I caught of theirs this year, and now they're signed to Maybe Mars. The last night at the old JZ Club was pure magic, with boss Ren playing that bass until sunrise like the world was going to end. Four Color Zack's set at Le Baron had the whole room singing along and getting hype to like every mix. Such an inspiration, that dude. Every Yeti Thursday at Le Baron was hype too. I'm really bummed I missed Anderson .Paak. Guess that one is all over this list. Did get to catch Damacha and Conrank & Zean do the city proud at Boiler Room, but fuck BR's double standards and overall wackness that got Cavia cut from the lineup. Two last highlights: Jimmy Edgar's set in the rain for 20 people at MYTH, and Clem's set of Korean disco on vinyl for NTS at Elevator.
Just a couple of these. One was this witch house producer called oOoOO, whose music I love. Unfortunately his "live set" was just him pushing effects buttons on a controller while playing tracks from his EPs that came out in 2010 / 2011. He looked like he was about to nod off during the whole set. Also, Demerit. I saw these dudes back in '08 and they were the coolest. I left after four songs in their mallcore set this year.
Overall though, 2016 was just a great year for music in Shanghai, and everywhere else. Loads of good releases on SVBKVLT and other local labels, more kids getting into production, so many bookings, and tons of kids coming out to shows. Hey thanks, trap music. The streaming wars and festival wars are pretty funny, but hey, there's a market here now.
Christian Lindberg — 12” OF FUN
This year didn’t exactly go off as the best year in music, but I wanna mention Concrete & Grass, Intro, and Daily Vinyl. Not necessarily because of the line-ups, but the organizers who are trying to put on a festival or an event in Shanghai, larger scale or small, that isn’t a farmer’s market. Kornél Kovács, Jozé González and Iron Maiden were also good.
People who just can’t stay away from digging up words like "epic" from the depths of hell. No bro, the “white party” wasn’t #epic, it was #土豪.
Dostav — Split Works Flesh Bot, Gimme Indie Rock
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks.
None. I avoid a lot of shit.
Jin Qian — Editor, SmartShanghai.com
The best shows/events I've experienced in Shanghai this year are Soft Moon and Sleep No More. The former took place at Arkham, a venue I am not very fond of (mostly because of the crowd).
The show totally exceeded my expectations by: 1. it didn't start too late; 2. the atmosphere really fit the music; and 3. a fairly priced entry fee. The energy that the band had created on stage was outstanding. So good that I almost managed to ignore the girls standing closely by me who kept scrolling their WeChat feed. As for Sleep No More, this is the first time I'd seen the show, and my colleague described it pretty well in here, the level of craftsmanship that went into the production is ridiculous. Great visual and music, too.
I'll have to say, Devin Townsend @ The Warwick. Don't get me wrong I am a massive fan of him and forever will be, but the event was so poorly organized that I feel embarrassed for the promoter. Seriously, it was sooooo awkward. Mr.Townsend basically had to be both the performer and the host of the event, improvising and dealing with the staff who clearly had not idea what's going on. Fortunately, he is not only a musical genius but also an incredibly witty and amiable person. Very down to earth. And I think it's one of those events that's so bad it ended up to be really unique and intimate.
Concrete & Grass is still the best music festival I've experienced in Shanghai — the lineup, f&b, atmosphere, aesthetics, people. And this year also happened to be Split Works' 10th anniversary. These guys are doing amazing things to this city and I'm looking forward to seeing more.
Dylan — Owner Brash, Doc Guthries, Source of Bad Ideas Re: Beards
As I go into my 40th year on this earth and 11th in Shanghai, I’m not sure how relevant my opinion on music is anymore. So, emmmm… I went to some shows that were way too loud but also good. For local stuff, Spill Your Guts were standouts and METZ finally showed that Split Works don't always put on wussy (do the kids still say that?) music.
The worst show was definitely Beardageddon because I shaved my beard off. Sorry to everyone who participated in that…
Any other things worth mentioning about Shanghai or Chinese music in 2016?
Get off my lawn.
Jef Vrys — Promoter, New Noise
The best show of the year was Hi Person playing the Punk Festival in the outskirts of Chengdu. The band had just returned from their first successful European tour and came back with an attitude. Where as they previously were looking up too much to their peers in PK14, they right now stood on stage with their own new songs, playing super tight and with a stage presence that I've never seen before. The band will record the follow up to their first album "No Need for Another History" next year and this will be one of the most anticipated records for 2017. Also worth mentioning were these shows: Jahwahzoo @ Sanshengxiang /Chengdu; MONO@Yugongyishan; Wednesday’s Trip @ Nu Space; Mutiny on the Bounty @ Mao Hangzhou; Caspian @ B10 Shenzhen.
Li Zhi @ Nanjing Senlin Festival. I respect the man a lot for the team that he is building around him and for the ways that he is changing China's music scene by staying independent, but I just really don't get his music, I went with a very open mind, but I think Chinese folk is just something I will never understand.
Probably a nightmare as well was taking Team Ghost to the Dream Sonic Music Festival in Beijing (理想音乐节). It was raining like crazy and there was no roof over the stage, so the full stage was completely turned into a pool and the people at the stage where drunk and put garbage bags over the amps to protect them from the water.
There are a few things I hope that can be different next year. I hope festivals start not to copy each other, festivals don't have their own identity, they choose the same bands and don't really mind about the overall experience. Probably the best event of the whole year is the Nu Art Festival in Chengdu. There is nothing like that in the rest of China. A small community festival where everything just comes together.
Tobias Patrick — DJ, Pretty Face
Guess it makes me look old to give my #1 2016 to a concert at Shanghai Symphonic Hall, but the Split Works-organized José González show was an absolute killer, kudos guys! Great sound, lighting and the right amount of cover versions and own songs.
Second one, Kurt Vile at QSW, another Split Works show and another killer musician showing his ability live on stage. Notably, I can't remember any show of an international DJ that blew me away in Shanghai in 2016...
DJ (insert random name) x Brand (insert random name) collaborations. I know we're in the age of social media KOLs, but sometimes I am annoyed how my WeChat moments turned into a never-ending advertising break.
Can we start posting cool shit again and not about brand XYZ that gave you money and goodies to play at their party?Xie xie.
Other things… Absolutely digging the skills and music taste of Shanghai selectors. The Discosmic and Co:motion Crew DJs, Lindberg, Santo Chino, PCJ and Frau, Miki Discosnot, Allan Marshall, so much talent here! I love that the Asia scene is developing fast and that there is a real desire to work together…
Rob Jameson — DJ, Your Man at Maya
Save the best to last... The Shelter's last of the last were all the best: Soul Crates with Shortkut, Jane's set w/ Stamina MC and one of my favorite crowds for her last sweaty sweater Sweatshop. Cammy's live set at the last VOID residents night and Push & Pull's final push with a great multi-line up of local talent and producers was bass line brilliant.
Listening to Santo Chino rock his vinyl collection at Dada was also good for my health. My worst experience was turning up to Split Works's 10 year anniversary to catch the last minute of the last band. Then some long-haired lanky fella came on as a DJ, clutching a bottle of Glenfiddich. It reminded me of Dan Akroyd's misery in Trading Places stashing his side of salmon.
I hope he gets passed the new visa regulations next year. Thank God for the free Goose Island pijou & free ride home.
Krish Raghav — Split Works, Beijing, Comic Book Scribe
De La Soul at House of Vans was a fantastic surprise and De La really made the best of their 72-hour transit visas. J-Fever x Soulspeak on support duty were perfect, drinks were cheap and plentiful, and the absurdly remote venue brought out only the most energetic punters.
DOC at D-Force’s Limbic Man show were jaw-dropping good. I loved how elaborate the production was: the eerie serenity of their drone footage of the seaside city of Dalian, projected behind a silk-screen of abstract imagery, with the band silhouetted in between. “Sinofuturism” was the snooty word I used to describe it.
The GQOM OH! bros at The Shelter. Inspired booking. I flailed spasmodically like I’ve never flailed spasmodically before.
Toro y Moi was the dullest show I saw all year. The 20-minute “mini live sets” by Stefanie Sun and Chris Lee at the Echo Festival (barely 3 songs each) felt like a scam. Dream Sonic Festival’s claim to have booked rapper DMX, and their subsequent quiet airbrushing of the fact, was hilarious and sad.
Sal — AKA Skinny Brown, Popasuda, Deadbeat Dad
I missed a lot of good shows this year, on account of my baby recklessly destroying the remaining shreds of my freedom. So as far as "Best Shows" go, I'm not actually sure. But I can tell you I sincerely regret missing Moritz Van Oswald at Shelter, I love that dub tech stuff. I'm also sad about missing High Tone, and I really wish I had been there for the Stone's Throw party (all of them at Shelter btw).
That said, I do always try to make it to Lacy Chu's night "Nature Feels" at Arcade. I would go as far as saying it's my favorite night in Shanghai (next to Popasuda, of course). I get to play Street Fighter, listen to decent music, and I'm surrounded by friends and fam. What more could I really ask for. Plus, no one takes it too seriously, I like that. It's an all around chill night full of love, music, and booze.
Worst party, I'm gonna say one of the random EDM festivals I went to at the Expo Park. I wish I could remember the name, but they've all jumbled into one Akira-type mass of blood and veins, and I'm really starting to have a tough time distinguishing where one ends and the other begins. But that one where the Prodigy cancelled was especially disappointing. Honestly I don't even know anymore, that entire venue has turned into one giant trip into The Matrix.
Shanghai in general. We took a hit this year. While some of our cherished venues have been snuffed out, mega clubs are on the rise, generic EDM festival are redefining our scene, and people who took time to set the foundations are being marginalized. It's getting increasingly difficult to find spaces for mid-level events, like if you can't fill Arkham, you don't got the style for Le Baron, and your headliner's too expensive for Dada, where do you go? That's definitely gonna hurt the growth of our scene.
RIP Shelter (a profoundly sad loss for Shanghai and China's creative scene in general) WTF!!!!!!
Frau — DJ, China Social Club, How Was the Shoot?
Bambounou at Elevator. I was realizing weeks after that I’d missed great bookings at Elevator so made sure I went to this one. The club was packed out and it was enviable how Bambounou mixed techno and classic house so smoothly. Elevator is the success story club of 2016.
No, shit, Shelter is finishing on a high and I’m looking forward to spending the last few days of 2016 down there.
There’s a lot of vapid club nights where the music doesn’t seem to matter, just the ‘scene’. Also, Reel to Reel is a really uncomfortable club space and a shame cause Shanghai needs another good club space for rhythm, house and techno bookings.
Any other things worth mentioning about Shanghai or Chinese music in 2016?
More Chinese music. More Chinese sounds in club music. More gems for diggers in 30 years time to discover experimental Chinese club music and share on whatever weird social media people are using in 2036.
Steve Dowler — DianYinTai, A2LiVE
Richie Hawtin at Mao Livehouse was a packed out great show and just goes to show how viable it is to bring these kinds of shows to the next level. Its encouraging to see, and shows promise for more shows with good music outside of the mainstream taking on larger venues as we move forward
I also really had a great time at the dome through the night and Shanghai Restoration Project at electronic Midi this year. The magic was in full effect. Very tribal, very cool. Also much love to Luce and the impact he's making with SHFT.
God bless the Shelter and all the good it has done here in the community throughout the years. Its one of the best clubs in China and that claim could be bigger if I wanted it to be I'm sure. There was this one night in the Shelter that this guy was playing top 40 stuff down there though that just made no sense at all. It was just confusing and made the vibe really unsettling. I hold to my creed that there's good and bad music in all genres and in the right setting the music might have even been enjoyable on some levels, but it has to fit the context of the crowd and this guy was just so far off base. Thank god Gaz cut him off early and took the decks back into his own hands after a while.
Oh ya and STORM festival, just the worst. I mean the nerve of those guys introducing dance music in a palatable form to so many people across China who have never come across it. It’s like they think they are growing new dance music fans by giving people who would never come across dance music something catchy or poppier so they can relate to it, internalize it, start to explore the subgenres of the music and find what gels with them with within that so they too can possibly even recreate and perpetuate the cycle of growth in the scene. Super whack they brought out Dennis Ferrer, Wankelmut, RL Grime, Conrank, Leo Chiodori, A-Trak, Chris Lake, Pete Tong etc.. all in one go so people could be exposed to and get to know their music. Like get off it.
MELS — Basement6, Servant of Leg God
During these phases of the moon, Leg God took a liking to Grebnellaw, visitors from far off lands of ice and snow. Demonstrating electric zeal they pierced the concrete lump inside the brains of the peons with visions of ceremony and harsh alternate realities. Deeds such as this will surely win you Her favor.
Worst… Ah yes, the dwarf from the western lands came to attempt to compete for Leg God's affection during a warming lodge. To his disgrace he fumbled in the presence of the local artisans already in Leg God's favor.Yet many of the masses chose willing to abandon their decency and worship this false idol.
Ivan Belcic — No Longer Relevant but Still Chiming In
Best: SMZB tore the house down, as they always do, at YYT for their 20th Anniversary tour. For international touring acts, I have to go with Toe and Anderson .Paak, both at Mao Livehouse.
Worst: I'd like to nominate Mao's sound system and audio engineers for worst show(ing) of 2016 and every other year both past and future in perpetuity. Thank the lord that there was money in the budget for some bitchin' new stage lights though.
Comments: Best of luck to Shanghai's electronic musicians in finding a new home. This was a huge year for local producers — great albums from Swimful, Downstate and more —- and I hope things continue to blossom as the Shelter closes its doors.
Han Han AKA Goooooose, Duck Fight Goose
Automat, invited by Vice China for their end of the year free party. We played with them in Guangzhou, and I was thinking they are gonna play some typical krautrock songs like Michael Rother did, but no, they completely surprised me with 90 mins of very exciting live dub music. Mind blowing. And then, after them, a new audio-visual team called OSC(Open Super Control) played some straight forward glitchy idm. I had great fun that night.
2nd best is the last Voltage Divider in Shelter. Every act that night is brilliant. 33's new tracks destroyed Shelter that night too.
The multimedia concert in Qian Shui Wan, Dec 7th? Many of my friends are playing there, and it should be a nice concert. But the sound level is just too low and I can't hear enough sub-bass. For most of the music that night, I can only imagine what it should be like. It's a shame with such a good lineup.
Dirty fingers. I think they are the best act in Split Works anniversary party. I think their music and style is very authentic and bold, and that's super precious in a WeChat dominated world today.
Laura Ingalls — Absentee Ballot at Co:Motion
Best music in Shanghai this year was Iron Fucking Maiden because Eddie, because plane, because MAIDEN!
Also that Gqom night at shelter, possibly the best night at Shelter or in any club in Shanghai ever, because off-beat African techno that sounded fresh, challenging and very very danceable.
Shanghai Ultra — VOID chief propagandist
Easily Shenhua's 2-1 victory over SIPG in the Shanghai derby last July - two goals in injury time was an absolutely epic way to win any match never mind the biggest and most important game of the season for both clubs. The derby never fails to disappoint, absolutely mental scenes before, during and after. Truth be told I can't remember much about I was doing after the 2nd goal went in only that I was hugging and dancing with a stranger. Music events? Any party from Boombap hip hop at Cs with DJ Loke, Minimalist at Dada, and everything Space Debris Committee did.
Boiler Room. Right from the start the concept is deeply flawed because it literally puts the DJ in front of the music when he/she is just one cog in the party machine and not to be worshiped. Boiler Room brings out the worst in scenes — egomania, fame-seeking, back-biting, narcissism, money-grabbing, formulaic sets, and bandwagon jumping. In other words, the music is just a background soundtrack to a giant circle wank. That's not to say some talented artists were not featured, they definitely were, but what benefit did Boiler Room bring? Some higher fees for certain DJs on the back of their association with the brand? Some exposure? Didn't see the underground clubs in Shanghai benefit from it in terms of bigger turnouts in the following months.
After the first China Boiler Room, few agreed with me when I said Boiler Room was having a laugh when it described itself as an underground music platform. But just look at what they did in their next parties — EDM king Skrillex and then a corporate love-in party with Audi. It's just absurd to see them kick Cavia off the bill for rather tenuous sexism allegation because he features sexy chicks in his promo, at the same time as getting into bed with one of the biggest destroyers of the Earth's environment — the automotive industry. China can do so much better by following its own path instead of fawning over whatever is hot and popular in Europe.
Marc GaldonFerrer — The Man at Unico
Even if it is never recommended to talk about oneself, but certainly the best Live Music Show I have been to this year was Joe Bataan Live Music Set in UNÏCO on occasion of our IVth anniversary, why? Basically 3 reasons:
Joe Bataan, a 74 year-old gentleman, the King of Latin Soul, a legend in the New York scene of Boogaloo, Latin Jazz, Latin Funk genres. He was in Shanghai for the very first time (hopefully not the last one) and in his own words – Shanghai made him feel like 22.
The great lineup of Shanghai-based musicians accompanying him, an 8 pieces band including: drums, keyboard, congas, bass, guitar, saxophone, trombone, trumpet and even flute led by Maestro Tinho Pereira; all topped up with the unique voice of Joe Bataan and the harmonized arrangements of his wife on the vocals.
The amazing vibes of all the guests who joined the party. 4 years in Shanghai is not easy to do, and the act was the big celebration for that IVth anniversary of UNÏCO, we celebrated it greatly!
Also I need to mention: the JZ Park I think to remember it was in April or May and there were already rumors of the imminent closing of the old JZ Club, and specially the version of Purple Rain by Redic and by Mixx Company (with Denise Mininfield, Kevin Maxim and Smokey on the vocals) shortly after the death of Prince, simply amazing. And I take the occasion to mention the opening of the new JZ Club, bigger and better, certainly one of my favorite spots in town.
And I cannot finish this without mentioning the Big Opening of Shake a great night with excellent food, great cocktails and incredible music: Cherry, Nom, Hazel, Denise…what else can we ask for in Shanghai?
THE WORST: The coming of Daybreaker for the first time in Shanghai, highly disappointing. Perhaps because they created too high expectations…? After watching the videos of those morning, alcohol-free parties in New York, LA, Chicago, San Francisco…I thought, wow man, I certainly need to check it out. So I woke up very early in the morning to join a Yoga session that I could not finally do (not enough space), well maybe if the Event had not been kidnapped by a Series B Cosmetic Brand as a Main Sponsor, using ¼ of the venue to put their make-up booth…(just saying)
At least something good was to see the live jam of saxophone, djembe and drums over the DJ beat, that’s a cool thing to start the day
Thomas Bray — Co-founder YETI OUT
Anderson Paak & The Free Nationals at Mao Livehouse was an awesome live performance, great energy! Chrome Sparks at YYT was a highlight too...need to do more live shows next year!
Uzi at Arkham was kinda brutal — really bad feedback on the mic and sound, was hard to watch people get into it even though it was a packed out show.
Any other things worth mentioning about Shanghai or Chinese music in 2016?
Keep Shelter open! Shanghai needs it.
Leah — Filmmaker, Floating City
PK14 @ Splitworks Anniversary
Finally, getting to see PK14 was life affirming. Good vibes and nostalgia all around. Cheers to Split Works — these people have built something special.
Meat and Bone @ Records n Beer (Live Stream)
Broadcasting and celebrating locally based talent in Shanghai. This is awesome and crucial to developing our sweet little scene.
Foster Parents @ Basement6
Melodic math rock in an intimate basement setting. Pure magic.
Erica Martin, Former Nightlife Editor at City Weekend
Best DJ set: Ikonika for Sub-Culture’s 9th Anniversary at The Shelter. She spanned about a million genres and blew my mind. Loved the Britney Spears sample. Amazing.
Also: VOID at The Shelter on July 22, 2016 – VOID is always great, but on this particular night I brought my best friend, who was visiting Shanghai for the first time, and it was the perfect way for her to experience The Shelter in all its glory. The crowd was freaking out, Shanghai Ultra was in rare form, and I was proud to show her a bit of what’s so special about the local music /club scene here in Shanghai.
Best live show: Health. So much energy and a killer end to Concrete & Grass.
Worst show: The hive behavior surrounding Boiler Room-gate, October 2016. Sexism is not cool, funny or defensible, even if the person behind it is your friend. It’s so rare that anybody stands up for issues like this, so I was sad to see that instead of sparking any kind of larger conversation, the music community just responded with aggressive alliance-forming and shutting out anyone who disagreed with them. This kind of small-town mentality keeps Shanghai’s music scene insular and stunts its growth, so I wish we’d see less of it in 2017.
Zaruf Ezhan — Spill Your Guts / City Weekend / "Need more ska bands!”
Iron Maiden was the best show of 2016, hands down. Talk about epic. Talk about professional experience. Talk about grandpas in better shape than I am. I used to dream of seeing Maiden before they get Alzheimers but now I've seen them twice. How does a band keep it together for decades and still make kick-ass music and not look like today's Axl Rose? And to think they 'toned down' their China concerts to abide to the state regulations which meant no swearing or pyrotechnics, but still they managed to blow minds and melt faces. My guess? They made a deal with Satan so they can rock for all eternity.
It's probably wasn't that bad a show, but I had serious buyers remorse after seeing Sum 41. I mean those guys probably had no idea where they were cos they didn't mention China or Shanghai, and just played their songs like programmed robots. In between the main guy Deryck whatever shouted some cliche crowd pleasing stuff like "you're the craziest we've ever played for!" Pfftt, sure. Oh yeah, and no Stevo 32 on drums which meant no Pain for Pleasure encore. That's 500 kuai I'll never see again.
Josh G. — Local Troubadour, Band of Bros.
Best show for me was this no name rapper opening up for us at MAO. There was all of three people watching his spit fly, but since he was wearing his sunnies, he couldn't tell. His heart was into it, yo! Crotch grabbing, stomping around the huge stage, etc that all wrappers do. He even tried getting the crowd of three peepz involved. "Shout with me!" Some lackluster shouts from the trio of people didn't stop Mix Master Rap from doing his whole dramatic set. Respek yo. Respek.
Sorry HanHan, but Gggggggoooooooooooooooooose was probably my least favorite show this year. I'm not a big elektro music fan anyway, but I was going to meet my buddy at some beer/music/pretentious artist festival at M50 and saw Grey Goose was going to play. Made a note to myself to stop by when the time arrived. Had a couple beers, watched an awesome performance by Little Monster and walked by HanHan sitting on a stool watching his McMacBook Pro play some beatzzz. Noped outta there pretty quickly. Love DFG, but dude, don't kick out the Duck Fight from your shows bro...
2016 was a quiet year for me in general, show-wise. But we got to see the reemergence of Harley's. Lots of cool shows there. And almost always free! Big ups to Stella on that. Craft beer everywhere (more venues) which isn't helping me attain my goal of getting my 12 year old girlish figure back. DDC and Temple up in Smogland reaffirmed in my mind how awesome the music scene still is up there. We played with a few amazing bands and had great supportive crowds. Shanghai is still a blast ass swell.
Yvonne Chen — Mama of Say Yes Asia and More to Be Continued
I believe we're getting much, more than last year, but unfortunately, I've been busy touring artists around Asia this year. So most of times, I was out of town and missed lots of good shows on weekends (mostly only had time to go to my own bookings on Thursdays — sorry to say this ). Plus, I'm getting too old — much easier to be dead from going out. I was struggling, a lot of times.
Shackleton at Shelter was the pain. I was touring HVOB in Hangzhou that night, so bad that I missed the booking that I was so looking forward to.
Luckily, there was one, Kai Luen ( aka Soulspeak) playing live at Shelter for his album release party. I decided to take a cab at 1: 30 am. It took me 1 hour from where I live to Shelter ( I live far, cab fee is more than 100 RMB one way). I arrived late, but I was very glad, at least I caught the last 30 mins, super soulful and dreamy. His live set with trumpeter Toby Mark and bassist Daniel at JZ festival was also very impressive. I hope I can have more amazing live performances in China, I'm also enjoyed so much when I tour live acts, like HVOB at On Stage, it's probably the best live show that I've done so far. I'm always surprised and inspired by those live acts.
I can't think of any worst show/ biggest disappointment as I don't even go out that much. You know, it's never easy to do events, I'd rather to show my love. If I really have to mention something, maybe Boiler Room Shanghai? I had a bad experience as I was squeezed/ pressed/ crushed tightly while Disclosure boys were playing in front. I appreciated the hard work from the team behind, but honestly, that venue was too small for a big event like Boiler Room, too small for a big name like Black Coffee or Disclosure, too small to handle a huge crazy crowd like that, and without air con, it was a nightmare, much more than just uncomfortable, it could be very dangerous actually, so I hope next time, it could be a bit bigger + air con, please and thanks.
Still, big-up to everyone. :) 2017 — good luck to everyone!
James Lealand — DJ, Pretty Much Everywhere
I feel like with the impending closure of The Shelter my thoughts recently have been very much focused on my time there this year. A couple of nights that really stand out for me would be Dbridge and his masterclass is DnB at Jane Siestas Sweatshop. From the beginning each mix on point and deliberate that went beyond mixing to composing live. I kept looking to see what VIP or edit he was playing and each time seeing he was doing it all live, sublime.
The second event of the night was the G-qom night with Subkult with sounds hypnotic and rudimentary, somehow familiar yet all at once something fresh and new. A real embodiment of what the shelter has been about all these years.
On the negative side, the only thing that I've hated this year is the rise of the big clubs playing an EDM/mashup variant of trap and referring to it as hip hop — a bit misleading to those who know no better but not especially surprising.
Big shouts to everyone in town pushing quality music hard week in and week out (you know who you are) it's nice to see things continually progressing and even with he loss of the shelter, I think it will be a catalyst for change and that's always a good thing. I look forward to witnessing the next evolution of Shanghai in 2017.
Cassandra — Matriarch of Inferno
1. THY BLOOD: They're considered the oldest Shanghainese thrash metal band and as a result, have recruited some new members since starting their revival. Vocalist Demian brings a groovier and more powerful vocal style compared to the past vocalist. Guitarist Danny use fiercer riffs with a more impacting rhythm making their sound more compacted and brutal.
2. THE MACHINERY OF OTHER SKELETONS is Shanghai's most brutal current band. Their technical prowess and originality of the music and their on-stage presence makes these guys one of my favorite bands here.
1. Iron Maiden: Bruce must have been running around on the stage non-stop for a solid two hours. It was my first time seeing Iron Maiden live but the show exceeded my expectations. Absolute legends! Just few members of the old guard giving everything they could, fan-bleeding-tastic!
2. Finntroll: They played at Mao livehouse. They are one of the most famous folk metal bands on an international scale. Powerful, brutal but beautiful.
3. Hatesphere: They changed their scheduled performance to INFERNO at the last minute. A sea of headbangers! The place was packed to the rafters, that pretty much says it all.
There are a lot of events I personally don't go to but we are not going to hate on them, life's too short for that nonsense. Dig what you dig and rock on.
Reggie AKA R3 — Sitting on the couch in the corner at Arcade
Best show : Final Karmacoma at Shelter
Much like everyone else in Shanghai, I'm completely gutted one of my favourite clubs is winding down to it's final days. Cha Cha recently hosted a reunion of Karmacoma, easily one of Shanghai's best ever regular nights. There's just something wonderful about lounging on couches and hearing Massive Attack, Aphex Twin, Radiohead, Bjork etc. in an old Chinese bunker. Sigh. Anyways, the old gang got together, and it really felt like time traveling with great friends and playing music that brought us all together 8 years ago. Perfect night. Thanks for the memories Karmacoma + Shelter. Big love <3
Honorable Mention : Iron Maiden. Wow. I'm STILL grinning about that show.
Worst Show: Has there been one? Can't really think of any. Guess there's a few days left...
Gaz — UNEMPLOYED
TBH the best night has been every night since the beginning of the month. I feel really lucky we were able to close down Shelter the way we have, every promoter and DJ have had their 'last gig', everyone bringing their A game and the energy and love in the club has been really quite a special experience. I’m writing this hungover from a ridiculous Bassment last night but am really excited for the rest of the weekends proceedings. Saying that though, the anniversary night with Blaise, Icenine, Hamacide and the rest of the crew was something I will never forget. The whole weekend almost killed me and my body is still pissed off with what i put it through, but it was worth it 100%
My worst night was the Kai Luen album launch party in Beijing. Nothing to do with the actual party but due to me going head first down a flight of concrete stairs and slitting my throat open. It all worked out well in the end cos i now look hard as fuck, but it got very scary for a minute. Maximum love and respect to Michael for nursing me back to health, cooking me soup and buying me fresh underwear.
Thanks to everyone who responded! Be safe for the holidays!