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2015: Best & Worst Shows

Music and nightlife scene-types sound off on the year that was. Shanghai picks the best and worst shows, concerts, nights, and parties of 2015.
2015-12-23 18:12:23
SmarShanghai: Going hard in the paint with these damn year-end articles. Goddamn you, 2015! Never want to see you again! So sick of u!

So... here we are with the yearly Best (and Worst) Shows articles. For this, SmSh 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 rules were simple. Tell us about the best show, concert, event, party, or whatever of the year of our lord 2015 and why it was thus. And then tell us which was the worst and why, because that's way, way more interesting.

...And, hey, try not to flog your own stuff. Quit being so damn shameless all the time, jeez!

A big HEY THANKS, YOU'RE THE BEST to all the people who took time to respond. May your events always be sold out, your cash registers at the bar overflowing with RMB, and your performance visas processed in a timely manner and without issue.

Cameron Wilson (Techno Agitator/Football Enthusiast)

Best: Shanghai Derby Chinese Cup edition, August, Shenhua won 8-7 over anagram FC aka Shanghai SIPG on penalties. Gio Moreno's overhead kick opener probably the best goal scored in world football this year.

Worst: STORM Festival - a celebration of capitalism, brands, image over talent, "DJ" worship, fakeness, extreme predictability, selfishness, commercialism, narcissism, pop stars, bottle service, exclusivity, selfies, ego tripping, and being told what to believe. In other words, everything electronic music is not about. EDM - a cancer in the scene.

DJ Samu (a.k.a Sam Li)

Best: T-Pain live performance @ Mook on a Thursday. Really brought me back and was the perfect mix of expats and local ballers, who had no idea what was going

Worst: All Big EDM Clubs that don't have a vision and palette for newer sounds and non-top 100 artists. Because 2016 is coming and differentiation will be key.

Conrank (Producer/DJ)

Best: I got to see fuck all shows this year to be honest, but I would have to say Squarepusher with STD at Arkham was the best show for me, the lights, the energy, the crowd, it was intense.... in a good way, really dope.

Worst: I hate shitting on other peoples hard work, but the biggest disappointments this year were 2 names I respect coming here and basically playing shit hard EDM instead of what they are known for. First up, Jackal at Storm, he's done some sick stuff, worked with some producers I highly respect, and yet, he basically played hard 4x4 EDM for an hour, then there was Chase & Status, I wasn't even there, but was really disappointed to hear that they did the same, shit EDM, I don't get it... would still check em both out again if they came, just hoping for a different outcome.

Laura Ingalls (Co:motion resident pisser)

That night when Void did a Jeff Mills party without Jeff Mills playing all Jeff Mills tracks all Jeff Mills night long. Jeff Mills. Still can't decide if that was the worst or best party of the year, if you consider, like I do, that Techno should be a celebration of monotony, then best, by very very far.

Worst night ever? I dunno but going to Le Baron this one time really reminded me of why I left Paris in the first place. Coming from where I'm from, shitting all over anything that André and his clique do is kind of a religion, but I'm sure it works if you either miss it or think that French people are exotic. Me, I'm like, "nice shirt douchebag."

Yan (PR Manager of MAO Livehouse Shanghai, completely ignoring The Golden Rule)

Best: There were so many amazing gigs in 2015. MAGMA, DJ Krush, BRANDT BRAUER FRICK, Battles, Moon Duo, STRFKR etc. Special thanks to New Noise. They brought Mew, múm and other awesome bands to our venue.

I am fond of folk songs, so I am happy to see Lizhi and Wild Child play at Shanghai Grand Stage so successfully.Looking forward a Shanghai band to make it, a big concert!

Worst: Sometimes I am disappointed. The bands are really good, but few audience come to enjoy. People should pay more attention to local bands, they are really hard working and will be happy to have a drink and nice chat with you after the performance.

Nat Alexander (Void founder)

Best: Dam Funk (again). Last time he played, Dam Funk was my favorite act of the year (way back in 2009), and I went to this year's gig with high expectations. To be honest, I spent the first 20-30 minutes worrying whether I had overhyped it in my mind as he seemed a little sluggish and tired (not surprisingly, given the tour schedule he has had over the last few months), but then he got on the mike and had obviously warmed up. Part of what made the gig so good is that the people who went there on Sunday night had all come to see him and meant that there was a great party atmosphere, rather than stumbling into Shelter to carry on drinking with no regard to what music is playing. As his set went on he surprised everyone by playing house and techno, including the long-lamented AWOL Chicago producer Gemini. Killer performance, killer crowd, best night of the year.

Worst: I don't get out enough to take risks on bad nights, only went to good stuff.

Rhiannon Florence (Fearless Photographer/People Watcher)

Best: If it wasn’t Flying Lotus showed up at the end of this year, Echo Park was gonna be my 2015 best show pick. That’s what music festival should be like: great music combined with an open nature view -- for those who just want to chill and only enjoy the music while rolling on the grass. The location was a bit far from the city so that filtered out lots of undesirables and drunks.

Worst: Honestly, I don’t really have that in mind. Those "worst shows" didn’t really hit me with a strong feeling that I should say something about it here. Avoided a lot, and I'm like, Meh. Show respect to whoever pushing music to the Hai for whatever reasons. Lots of spamming you know, that’s a lot of work.

Ivan Belcic (Party-Pooper-in-Chief)

Best: Cheers to Jef at New Noise for bringing Mew over here. They gave us a genuine performance filled with loads of old songs that felt passionate and special. Also, fucking Linkin Park -- those guys went way above and beyond what I thought they'd bring out for their Shanghai show. No phoning it in for either of these bands.

Worst: Storm Festival, from half a city away. I don't want to hear that shit, and in perhaps the most literal use of this phrase, fuck that noise. Those guys must have their bribery game on point to be as obnoxious as they are.

MELS (Servant of Leg God)

Best: Leg God was very pleased with the acquisition of Young Fathers at Echo Park. The the tribal drumming and the hypnotic pulsating visuals gripped the minds and bodies of the undulating masses.

Worst: Lucki Eck$, Leg God had high hopes for you, but she has been disappointed. If you place value in sloth and gluttony you will surely never be beamed up to extra-dimensional planes.

Nik (drums and claps; Discosmic Adventure)

Best: Ikonika at Shelter and Yuncai Cafe/Awesome Tapes from Africa at Yuyintang as part of Split Work's Jue Festival / Dam-Funk at Shelter / Santo Chino - I choose them as they're so much fun to watch DJing and for playing the best sets in their (preferred) genre(s) + extra points to Ikonika and Santo Chino for their astonishing EQing. Also Steve Reich.

Worst: Flying Lotus -- not enough grooves for me, and I felt an over-reliance on visual element as "wow" factor rather than the music being the memorable element. But you know, those visuals make for some nice instagrams for his fanbase. I really, really enjoyed Linfeng's live set before Flying Lotus and the warm-up DJ (either R3 or ADO8) at the start was pretty great too.

Mattia Visconti ​(Owner of MVP , Goodefellas and Stazione​)

Best: I'd say the best weekly show is the John Jam session, but I'd be disqualified cause he performs at Stazione, so the obvious answer it's the STORM Festival who gathers the most important DJ's around the globe, even if most of them playing EDM and I'm not a fan of it...

Worst: Lenny Kravitz cancellation, even if always out because of my job, I've got limited time to go for concerts, and this one was the one​. Rumors say that he just had a bigger offer in Japan or so...

Dostav Dixit ("That guy at Split Works")

Best: A close call between Dinosaur Jr and Low. I'm a HUGE fan of 90s American indie/slacker rock and both of these indie giants did not disappoint. Best local set was Snapline at Shelter at Voltage Divider night. Who would've thought Snapline would play Shelter?!

Worst: I do not think I saw anything bad this year. I avoided a lot of stuff though.

fanmu (Another Guy At Split Works; Editor @ Wooozy)

Best: Have to list three shows here. Low was the band I never thought I can see them in China, though my company tried and failed twice. The Taiwanese band Forests gave me a big surprise at Yuyintang with their new kraut rock and experimental sound. Snapline set as part of Voltage Divider was quite fresh and special in a club like Shelter, which brought me back to the old times at D-22.

Worst: Iceage @ Yuyintang in January. So many girlfans stood in front of the stage just screaming and laughing for the good looking frontman, which you might never ever have seen at Yuyintang before. I was trying to talk to one of my friends in the audience right after the show, and she just removed the earplugs asking, "Sorry, what did you just say". Yeah, the vocals were unbearable, but seems that everyone knew it and no one really cared.

Chachy (Hair stylist, wedding planner, Round Eye frontman)

Best: Magma for me was the pinnacle of live music bad assery this year. Those prog gods have such an incredible approach to... weird. Vive le Magma! Such a mind fuck. Best record I think was The Bedstars release. Love those dudes and I think they captured what they’ve been all about this whole time so well with that release. Very, very fun record.

Worst: Haha the biggest disappointment for me this year? Well The Boys being cancelled sucked a tiny bit for obvious reasons. Other than that, Star Wars not getting a Chinese December release was the biggest kick in the balls for me hands down. Fuck. That.

Alta (DJ, co-runs Push and Pull, rewind enthusiast)

Best: To be honest I went through a lot of the year thinking there wasn't much in the way of standout sets and 2015 was becoming a bit unremarkable. That all changed though with the start of the 'grime wave' (sorry) from about September onwards with loads of good sets from local DJs and also that big run of grime or grime-related international bookings we had. Of those my pick would be Mumdance and Elf Kid at Arkham on Halloween. The crowd was really flat, and I honestly think a load of those kids had probably never set foot in a club before, but Mumdance and Elf brought a set of big tunes and real energy. Can't argue with hearing up and coming talent spitting on a classic tune like Xtra, basically.

You asked for shows but I'm going to give you a music pick as well: Swimful's 青浦 remake of Shanghai by Wiley was easily my favourite track to come out of the city this. Basically everyone loves this tune. Can we make it into a Shanghai anthem please?

Worst: Lucki Eck$ by a mile. The definitive example of an MC not giving a fuck and just phoning it in. The complete opposite of the aforementioned Elf Kid. So bad that I left after less than 10 minutes. Runner up: Cavia at the Anti-EDM 'festival' - I suppose you have to sort of respect how successfully he trolled the event with his mix of the commercial, inappropriate and painfully obvious, but clearing out the Mansion before 2am isn't a strong look for a DJ, let's be honest. Maybe booking a Storm DJ competition winner for an anti-edm event wasn't such a good idea.

Nathan Jubb (aka Naaah, journalist, DJ, co-founder of Push and Pull)

Best: Although November was a massive month for grime music arriving in Shanghai proper (despite the fact we've been pushing it for years), it's still a toss up between the Future Brown show and late-entrants Elijah and Skilliam who played at the weekend. The Future Brown show was a lot of fun, but Elijah and Skilliam get this one for playing two hours of unpretentiousness, dancefloor-slaying music that literally compelled the crowd to dance the entire time. It was a busy night and the crowd was on a madness, vibing the entire time. They are also technically the best DJs I saw all year.

Worst: The first half of 2015 wasn't inspiring, but that's a general gripe. Lucki Eck$ was shockingly bad. I got through maybe 8 minutes before having to walk out. Kid needs to put in the effort and learn the art of live performance. He's young and the tunes are good though, so i'm sure he'll get there. Finally, any time a warm up DJ played an inappropriately banging set of music in the first couple of hours of a night - they're called warm up sets for a reason people ffs, sort it out.

Jin (Chinese Editor @ SmartShanghai)

Best: I will have a hard time deciding which one is the best: either Flying Lotus or Young Fathers. As a metalhead, I felt a bit reluctant to choose hip hop acts over metal ones (WSS is the third on my list), but I have to admit both of these shows are the heaviest I've seen this year in Shanghai. As for visual and delivery they were like the complete opposite: one was trippy and chill, another was simply b&w and supercilious in a good way.

Worst: Twenty One Pilots. They were not bad at all but the other shows I've seen this year all have been great so I have to sacrifice them. I wasn't enjoying 50% of their setlist, it's mainly about their songs not the performance though.

[Late Addition] Ian L: Editor @ SmartShanghai, Youngest Grandpa @ Love Bang

Best: What a year for music in Shanghai. Best DJ set was easily DJ Paypal @ Shelter. Unreal productions AND next-level DJ skills. Still remember a loop of that "Uh-huh honey…" from Kanye's "Bound 2" over "Face down ass up!…" and the whole room screaming.

For bands, a young Shanghai punk outfit called Dirty Fingers. Shanghai needs more bands with that mad, drunken energy. Runner up: Lacrimosa @ Mao Livehouse, who got a way louder encore scream than Flying Lotus.

Events goes to Dragon Burn. Almost didn't go. Basically didn't sleep. Beautiful scenery (turns out some parts of Anji are really nice), nice people, heavy vibes, so many stories. Runner ups: wandering around the 3rd & 4th floor at the A021 KTV Takeover, and Victor Wooten blowing my mind at JZ Festival.

Worst: That Nexxus "Indoor EDM Extravaganza" was basically Terminator Genisys -- expensive, poorly attended, illogical, and unnecessary. The place smelled like fast food, the sound was big but muddy, and I missed the one act I came to see -- Sa Ding DIng & Conrank -- because some fuckboy DJ called Norman Doray threw a fit that a "local" act was playing after him on the roster. So I walked in expecting to finally see Sa Ding Ding and Conrank, and instead it's this wasteman playing a house remix of "Next Episode." Please don't ever come back to Shanghai you fucking hack.

Runner ups: Kelis at Echo Park (just awful), the band that played after Lacrimosa (probably the worst rock band I've ever seen), anyone who played "Mambo No. 5" in their set, and every mystery EDM DJ who flew to Shanghai for one night to do that "put your hands up" pose and smile at the crowd.

And let's not forget that Sisqo played to 60 people at Arkham this year on a Sunday. His performance was alright but everything else about that night was so bunk.

Ned Kelly (General Manager of That’s Shanghai)

Best: I have two new churches this year: Shanghai Stadium watching Shanghai SIPG and Cotton Club watching Nom, Greg, Eddy, Denise, Jorland, Francesco, Nick and co doing their thing. The 5,000th performance back in June was an epic night that didn’t finish until well into the next morning.

Worst: The Horde breaking up. That broke my heart. Loved 'em!

Leo Chiodaroli, DJ

Best: Best gig for me in 2015 was Pennywise at Echo Park Festival. Funny is that by the time I got to the park, the ticket counter was closed and they said the festival was finished... [7:30PM] ...while Pennywise supposed to start at 8PM. Luckily they let me in... However was pretty sad to see such a great band playing for a few dozens of people... Embarrassing, but happy they were there. Ah, and Skrillex at Storm Festival was also great!

Worst: I'm afraid to point the worsts events... The nightlife people here usually get offended so easy or make so much drama with critics that if I point the clubs with the bad gigs I would probably suffer a boycott in 2016. LOL.

I've heard so many times that "Put your hands up" in the same night that looks like I'm in a fitness bootcamp. So yeah, just hoping for less noisy EDM in 2016 or at least listen to the same music less than 5 times per night.

Tyler Bowa: Owner of Factory Five and known to many as the Shanghai Drum King

Best: Killswitch Engage @ Mao Livehouse, April 30 ~ Really the only show worth talking about this year. Completely packed, incredible sound, as catchy as it was heavy and a solid 60+ minute set. For many heavy music lovers this was the only chance to really 'throwdown' in Shanghai this year ~ keep that circle pit spinning!

Worst: Any open mic jam session ever. Shanghai, please stop doing open mic jams - just book bands who know what they're going to play and are making an attempt at doing it well. I avoided Shanghai open mic jams for 7 years, but this year I checked out a few and realized why I never went before - they're horrible. Just stop.

Al Rocco (Hip-Hop Artist / Entrepreneur / former Busy Gang member)

Best: Best show of 2015 was SHFT’s Halloween Freak Out. You just had to be there.

Worst: The end of Busy Gang.

T+ (Come Correct Crew)

Best show ever was ummm, nah smogs got me all fucked up like what? Worst show had to be Dam Funk at Shelter ... Just because I was out of town and missed it. Nocando please. 2016 Nocando. Please.

DJ BO (level-headed DJ, firebrand-peripatetic, and big-booty pleaser)

Best: I shudder to think it so, Shoeless Joe style, but I think this year might have been both bolstered and bested by “the party brand” so-called. What is that? I don't know. It's something like the loose grouping of a logo, Jenny KK, WeChat moments, interns, and ectoplasm that keeps the poppers poppin'. Was any one show more important than just hyper-speed steady “Yeti” gigs? Or the wily veterans of Shanghai house music at Co(ke)-Motion? This year, SHFT's David Luce cemented himself from baked party purveyor to country-wide #hashtag bass unit...and he sold me his CDJs! British Mike's Rock N Roll Vandals... Popasuda... Discosmic Adventures...those stood out more than the Rolling Stones of yesteryear. Art? It's hard. Parties? They're fun.

Also, shout out to the maligned but indefatigable Rocky Ross. As your stankin' ass is waitin' on the Sherpas and I'm rakin' over the coals of some long-dead rockstar, he's probably stakin' a corporate gig, breakin' on cheesy TV show, layin' out some artwork, or playin' the disco breaks at a club. And he's so nice, too. Actually, fuck that guy.

Worst: “Well there's nothing here for me and you/Another year with nothing to do:” I respectively decline to answer this question directly. However, the lack of a viable Shanghai-dedicated underground arts publication a la Shanghai 24/7 is the biggest scene disappointment, and as someone who covers/produces local-ness I feel I shoulder some blame. No disrespect to the Wolves at the door of SmartShanghai (which hasn't been as sharp as it currently stands for a long while), Jake Newby/Fake Boobies at Time Out, and others on their steady grind, but a mobilized, alternative voice is sorely lacking in the 'hai.

Mau Mau (DJ and part of Co:Motion)

Best: Axel Boman at (old) Lola. Had the place going off to further left-field house and disco than it seemed could work in that club. The whole time looking like he was hanging on to the mixer for dear life, while cracking jokes on the mic in an alien-pitched voice. Half the room scratching their heads and the other half cracking up, but everybody moving. Weird dude, great party.

Worst: Mos Def's Echo Park no-show. Really looked forward to seeing him for the first time at a great festival - but big credit for Talib Kweli for stepping up and delivering a solid solo performance.

Yvonne Chen (Mama of SAY YES and more to be continued)

Best: 2015, we're having so much more happening than last year. For the best show I've been this year, I'm kinda halting the vote between Peter Van Hoesen and DMX Krew[ Live]. Peter kept me dancing for the whole night by his wicked set, non-stop, but I also think Shanghai needs more live sets, like what DMX Krew brought us, full of acid which impressed my girls a lot.

I never wanna break the golden rule, so I won't only mention the shows that I was involved in, but I have to say the young pianist and composer Francesco Tristano performed a terrific live set with keyboards at my first SAY YES show. On Stage's very own amazing sound system made everything super (It's definitely a perfect venue for doing a live set). When he mixed the piano with techno sound and other electronic music, the crowd went nuts, specially the moment he played "Strings Of Life", his classical co-production with Techno legend Derrick May.

Worst: I can't think of any worst show/ biggest disappointment for now. As one of organizers, I know it's never easy to do events and it takes a lot, so I'd rather to show my love to you all.

If I really have to mention something, I just felt a bit sorry for King Britt when he played in Shanghai. As I know, he's well know by his good sound. I arrived when he was about to start, but didn't see a crowd, just a few people there. He only played a while since the party didn't last very late, but still solid. This was kinda disappointing.

F (Unskillful guitarist for several shitty bands)

Best: I didn't go to many shows in 2015 as I luckily broke my knee in May. I believe Echo Park will be mentioned a lot here, so my credit goes to Boris@Q-House. I remember people were so excited about the sound at the show, the band brought a fantasy audio and visual feast that night. It is easily one of the most impressive live shows I've been to in 2015.

Worst: I don't live in downtown so I choose night events/shows carefully. I don't recall going to a show that makes me feel really bad about it this year. Lucky me. I hope there can be more shows in 2016, after all, it's a process of learning and making progresses for better shows.

[Late addition] Cavia666 (your mom's favorite doom metal DJ)

Best: My No.1 DJ goes to DJ Paypal at Shelter. I was late and when I arrived he was already pretty wasted, but the set was so trippy and intense, having the 160bpm drum beats changing every 15 secs and the melody kept floating over it constantly. It had that raw energy like The Bug, but definitely weirder. Gilles Peterson at Unico was also really good. And Skrillex & Grandtheft made the greatest party at Arkham when they did a surprise b2b set for SHFT.

Worst: The worst show was me playing at the mall and A-Trak playing a 4/4 set at Storm.. I was expecting him to play more hip hop with scratching and juggling like his Boiler Room set.

Archie Hamilton (Split Works, Promoter)

Best: Best show for me was the Big Wave at Sounds of the Xity in April in Beijing. The much maligned “showcase festival and conference” actually does a pretty good job with the showcasing these days, and there were a lot of great shows across Gulou that long weekend. The best one by far was when I walked into Yugong Yishan at 8pm on a Wednesday to find the whole venue jumping to some tite synth-core.

Honorable mentions to Low at QSW, While She Sleeps at Mao SH and a bunch of great nights in Shelter this year (RIP Let’s Get Naked and Listen to a Bunch of Drones).

Worst: Worst show and disappointment? The Bon Jovi cancellation? Particularly after that amazing rendition of Teresa Tang that he did to try and rescue ticket sales... the thought that China will never get to see "You Give Love a Bad Name" live is a 21st Century tragedy.

Can I say any of the bad EDM “extravaganza’s” that have swept China this year? There were some really ill-thought out EDM moments in 2015, and a lot of money wasted. Let’s hope we get some more EDM megabrands, both home grown and imported, in 2016. Shanghai needs more corporate EDM, particularly more “warehouse raves” in convention centers.


See you next year, kids.


This article is part of our 2015 In Rewind series. Check out the rest:

Shanghai's Favorite Eats & Drinks (Coming Soon)
Best Flyers
Worst Flyers
Best & Worst Shows
Shanghai's Best & Worst Art
China's Best Albums
China's Worst Music