It was never going to go according to plan. There was just no way. There were just too many people who cared about this place. Really, really cared about it. The month-long farewell nights had already shown how deeply affecting the closure of The Shelter was to Shanghai and even to greater China — to kids even in other cities and their own scenes. All December, it was several weeks already of hugging, tears, photos, and goodbyes. For the last night, their last night ever, basically the whole world had to be there.
Anticipating the massive turnout, The Shelter management sent out a WeChat post a few days before the event, trying to outline some rules for their last night. On top of announcing the DJ lineup, entry fee (100rmb), and door time (8pm), the basic gist of the WeChat post was “don’t be dicks to the bouncers” and “we’re going to go as long we can; we’ll stay open until we’ve run out of booze; but be warned — it’s going to get rammed.”
The WeChat post is currently sitting at 19,050 views.
It was going to get super real. They hired extra security.
On December 31, people showed up at 6pm. Lining up at 6.30pm. For the doors to open at 8pm. For a club that people usually turn up to at 2am in the morning. At 6.30pm the line to get in was out to Wuyuan Lu, down the block. People kept turning up and getting into line.
Doors open at 8pm. Club is sold out completely at 8.30pm. The line is still stretching down the block to Wuyuan Lu. And more people keep showing up.
Credit to the staff, after a long, long month of last shows, they were holding it together in the face of this giant onslaught of people. And mostly the people were nice too. Some mulled wine was being sold in the line, good vibes, mostly non-dicks turning out. It was just a bunch of people who wanted to be there. Some historic shit.
Inside, playing to the already sold out club, the Come Correct Crew were holding it down, scheduled from 8pm to 10pm. They cycled through their classic hip hop, spit-shined from 6 years of Wednesday night residencies. 2 Live Crew, Wu-Tang, et al. — like their “Best Of”. Crowd was loving it. Spirits were high. It was packed out so early in the night.
Police show up at 10.30pm or so.
They corralled outside the venue, with several cruisers on the street. At that point, there was maybe 350 people inside the club and another 400 people waiting outside to get in. From that point, the police were not letting anyone else in at all, including the DJs that were scheduled to perform. There was back and forth with Shelter management and the police, trying to sort out just what should be done.
The last DJ to play was local DJ Sleepless who got about 20 seconds into his first track: “Reach Out” by George Duke. That would prove to be the last song to be played at The Shelter.
Club management cut the music and said on the mic: “This is going to get really interesting. The police are going to come in and have a look around. Everyone stay calm and don’t worry. And also don’t be dicks to the police. Please.”
Inside the club, we waited to see what was going to happen. At 11.15pm or so the lights came on and the police came in. They told everyone to go home. They were nice enough cops. Your faithful SmSh correspondent and your faithful SmSh Music Monday correspondent PEACED OUT.
Out on the street, the people leaving the club and the people waiting to get in colluded into this massive throng of bodies. It looked like this. Photo is from Tzusing, another DJ scheduled to play but wasn’t able to.
More tears. More hugs. People were distraught. People were relieved. People didn't know what to do with themselves. And people waited to see if it would reopen again. It wasn’t going to. By 11.40pm it was done. This is the sign currently on the door. Photo from Andrew Rochfort.
Inside the club when the lights came on, I was standing next to DJ Swimful who said: “It’s like it’s too good to continue. There’s just too many people who want to be a part of it. It’s weird being a part of something that is just too too good to keep going and so it can't go on.”
That’s very true.
And that's basically what happened.