Nestled on the side of the massive Mercedes Benz arena right next to Expo Park is an upscale, mid–sized venue that hosts everyone from pop stars to the occasional Chinese rock bands. Notable acts that have played here include Nile Rogers, Diplo, and Avenged Sevenfold. They've also been known to host tribute acts like the recent Aretha Franklin gig sung by Cherry Brown. Basically, they just host one-off events, so don't make the trip out there unless you know something is on.
Bandai Namco Dream Hall is a huge, government–funded music and cultural center that includes one large performance hall, one mid–size performance hall, dance studios, recording studios, and a courtyard for small outdoor performances. By any standards, it's an impressive complex. Sound quality never disappoints. Music is mostly touring rock, pop, folk, and metal bands along with occasional hip hop, world, or electronic music events, and it's also used for Chinese opera and classical musical performances.
Before it was a livehouse, Inferno on Yongjia Lu was Shanghai's main drinking hole for metalheads and rockers of all types. When Inferno 1.0 was finally ousted by their not-so-friendly neighbors, the natural transition was to add live bands to the equation for the 2.0 version. Don’t let the strip mall setting deter you. Just two doors down from the Dairy Queen lies Shanghai’s evilest peddler of dark rock arts. The staff are music fans themselves and it's mostly friendly except for the odd shirtless, dreadlocked punter looking for sparring partners. Capacity's about 300, ??Inferno's got one of the best beer selections in town, and even does quality mixed drinks.
On Stage is set in the increasingly dilapidated, government–funded sculpture park Red Town (where the original Shanghai Mao Livehouse was). It's for the more refined Chinese music fan with many interests, like post-rock, jazz, folk, world music, and even metal, and consequently, plays a mixture of local and touring rock, folk, metal, jazz, hip hop, and more. Capacity's about 400, and there's a small selection of beers and mixed drinks available. Cocktails not suggested.
Legend has it that Live Bar is older than time itself. For at least 10 years, the Yangpu venue has been the respectable alternative to the bourgeoisie inner-ring establishments. If you are looking to find the building blocks of Shanghai’s rock scene then Live Bar is a great place to see how it all got started. Music is solidly rock and metal; mostly local / domestic, playing to a crowd of locals and students, with a capacity of about 200. Drinks are cheap beers and mixed drinks.
From the makers of erstwhile live music staple On Stage, LOFAS is a livehouse in a mall in the West Bund area. LOFAS stands for "Life of Fun and Sustainability." Yup. It's a single-room venue with a slightly raised stage and a good sound system, dark and industrial looking space. The music program is eclectic. Fair amount of metal, but also DJ shows and out-of-town visitors.
The second venue from Shanghai live-house icon Yuyintang. Built into a basement in the office building across from Zhongshan Park's main entrance, this one's a little bigger. They've poured a lot of effort into getting the space sound-optimized, installing shock-springs on the stage because apparently that helps the acoustics. On the menu; underground sounds, punk bands, hip-hop acts and a fair amount of unbridled revelry in keeping with the original.
The former Shanghai World Expo Cultural Center with seating up to 18,000. It is Shanghai's premier concert venue. Bruno Mars, Queen, Iron Maiden, Troy Sivan, Disney on Ice, WWE... the rule of thumb is if it happens here, it's a big deal, and tickets are going to start at 280rmb and head north real fast. Best way to get there is by taxi or metro line 8 from China Art Museum station, from there it's less than 5 minutes walk.
State of the art, mid-size livehouse run by one of China's biggest indie labels, Modern Sky (the same folks that used to bring you Strawberry Festival every year). Equipped with excellent sound, lighting, and LCD screens, this is a great place to see one of the many touring acts who pass through Shanghai. The venue is upstairs in a futuristic, open-air shopping mall in a cool Hongkou neighborhood. Just next door is their shop selling music memorabilia, books, albums, and some cool original clothing. Bookings range from live rock and hip hop to techno and occasional local shows.
Spawned from the infamous Beijing Mao Livehouse, Shanghai's MAO opened in 2008 and is a go-to venue for medium to large scale shows. Sound quality can vary from show to show, depending on if the promoter put enough money into renting the backline gear. Mostly does touring rock, pop, folk, and metal bands along with occasional hip hop, world, or electronic music events, playing to a crowd of locals and expats (depending on the performance).
One of Shanghai’s oldest and most well–respected live music venues, Yuyintang provides a nice setting for checking out Shanghai’s best local bands along with touring acts. With a capacity of 400, this place primarily plays rock, folk, and metal, but also many domestic and international touring artists representing jazz, electronica, world music, hip hop and more. The crowd is a combination of locals and expats (depending on the performance).