"It's like they took Found 158 and put it into a building."
That's how INS was described to us and yeah.... pretty accurate! That's exactly what it is!
Clubbers of a certain vintage will remember Fuxing Park's history as a nightlife destination, with brand names of yore like Muse Park 97, Guandii, and... Rich Baby... or Richie Baby or Baby Richy or whatever the fuck that place was called. Now, like four generations later, the area is drawing fresh breath as a nightlife hot spot once again with the opening of INS — "into nothing serious" — a six-story building full of nothing but places to drink and dance at. It's a new era. Huzzah!
Four nightclubs are open right now — Playground, La Fin, Hush, and Radi — with two more clubs, a few restaurants, a KTV, and revered cocktail lounge Sober Company on the way in the next few months to complete the look. It's crazy. It's excessive. We went on a Wednesday and it was packed. We were just dancing with the kids like it was 2012, without a care in the world. Woke up with a full sleeve of wristbands to prove it.
The whole building is owned by a gaming company and they're renting out spots to separate groups who are opening bar and club venues. So, it's a bunch of different things all in one place like Found 158, and a night out entails going up and down a bunch of elevators on a whim. It's classic cha bu duo not quite finished and if you go down the wrong corridor or up the wrong escalator you'll find yourself in a construction site, partying with a bunch of sleepy construction workers who are NOT INTO IT.
Here's what's open now arranged in descending order of understandable-ness.
Coming from maybe Dada bar terrain but headed in a Celia-type direction, Playground has an "underground" kind of feel to it but is also mindful that a certain breed of melodic techno is popular right now and clubs make money by selling tables. There are nine here that you can book in advance. It's split into two rooms, a main room with a bar and nice, wooden dancefloor (points for that) and a second chill-out room, replete with funky chairs, vinyl records-as-decoration (Snoop Dogg, Kraftwerk), and a secret "you have to know about it" sort of vibe. Resident DJs Mansun Lui and Doggy keep it locked on techno, tech house, and a bit of hip hop, and they're regularly hosting guests from abroad. They've already had some big weekends hosting the likes of Shinichi Osawa, Glowal, Mickey Zhang, and Yang Bing.
It's a nice club. It's a cool venue. They have some cool things going on. One is the soundsystem, which is decent. Two is the view from the back room, which overlooks Fuxing Park. This is also the after-hours destination for all the other clubs in the building, and where you're watching the sun come up through their windows. At around 8am it's bright enough for you to take accurate stock of your life and the mistakes you've made.
Drinks are fine too. We tried this one: "Chiptune". 98rmb. Rum base. Kind of a tiki thing. Spicy!
Some nice details as well. The menus are printed on records, and they've got requisite club bathroom zaniness going on (funny, concave mirrors and a one-way mirror in the men's loo so you can look at people while you peeeee). Misfits and Slipknot stickers are on the wall too. (!) It's the little things that impart a place with personality.
Playground has good personality so we'd recommend it as one to watch. We're anticipating opportunities to see bigger international DJ names from the tech house world in a smaller clubbing environment. Right on.
From the makers of Long in Found 158 (the PH crew straight outta Sanlitun Beijing), comes the new school hip hop venue in INS, replete with the hooded installation statues, graffiti on the walls, and super young DJ in a ballcap nodding along to the music he is playing -- which is hip hop that came out like a week ago. It's checking off all the boxes for a type of nightclub that is really popular right now. Perhaps Ninja would be a reference point. This one is for the headz.
And I gotta say, it's alright. Particularly for the drinks menu, which is DIRT CHEAP. Cocktails don't even have names, they're just numbered 1 to 8 and are 40-50rmb. And they're super decent. Just straight-up mixes with different liquor bases and juices. No frilly bullshit. Served in solo cups no less. To order you just raise the amount of fingers of your drink to the bartender without even speaking. Super smart. Because you can't hear shit because it's too loud anyways.
And beer — one variety, Hieneken — is 40rmb. Respect to this drinks menu. Love it.
We went on a Wednesday so it was pretty laidback but apparently, the place gets rammed on the weekends, and our WeChat moments attest to this.
One to check out if you're looking for a new hip hop club in your life.
La Fin is directly trying to replicate Le Baron and it's... well, it's right there in the name with the Frenchiness.
So, it's basically Le Baron, which is to say red everything, carpets in da club, bouncers everywhere, pattern-y wallpaper, neon squiggles on the walls, tables, tables, tables, and even more tables with huge buckets of ice and 20 champagne glasses on them. Music is celebrity approved hip hop / R n B / Top 40s. And it better be. This is where the celebs come to hang with their fans, separated by velvet ropes and a few tax brackets. Drinks are standards, well-made to be sure, and priced at around 100rmb. But if you're buying a la carte and not a table package, you are probably not the audience.
Speaking of celebs, rapper, singer, dancer, record producer, fashion designer, director, fencer, 29-year-old Jackson Wang was in the crowd last week, creating buzzy moments on social media, and making lifelong friends with all in attendance, no doubt. That's how these things usually go when a celeb is in the club. Basically, you can expect to just rock up to their table and hang all night. And then stay in contact over the years, sharing trials and tribulations, as your relationship blossoms into something like family. That's how that works.
Next Thursday, they're bringing in frequent Kanye West collaborator, Ty Dolla $ign. A huge booking from the hip hop world with a door fee to attest to that fact: 388rmb pre-sales; 488rmb at the door.
This is a conversation we had at the door to get in:
"Are you a guest tonight?"
"No. Just want to come in and have a few drinks."
"Cover charge is 128rmb? On a Wednesday?"
"That gets you free open bar."
"What? It's open bar? As in, all-you-can-drink?"
"Yes, you can choose from six cocktails but you better keep your cup or you'll have to buy the ticket again."
"Is it always like this?"
"It's always like this. And tonight we have guest DJ."
HOT DAMN, an OPEN BAR bar! Radi is on some serious Shanghai 2012 shit with this scheme and it gets even crazier when you get in the place. They've got all these people dressed like Mortal Kombat characters going RAAARRRR at you when you're walking into the club, so already we're tripping balls.
And then it's kinda like someone at Perry's shoved a fork into an electrical socket and blew up the place into this. We could never figure out the seating, which is long chrome subway benches, separated by weird podium things, I don't know. The guest DJ was just dancing to her phone the whole time, I think live streaming.
Headphones? Optional. Nice.
The open bar menu might have at one point offered six cocktails but three of the options had been blacked out so we had to choose: Highball, Gin and Tonic, Long Island Ice Tea. Good thing those are exactly my three favorite drinks but all of them tasted like gin and grape drink. I wasn't even mad at it. I've been to this high school party before and I loved it.
At around 11, the kids packed the place out and it was bonkers. The costumed performers from the front all came in and did a lil' dance and I recognized one of them as a drag queen I know. She sheepishly glanced away like I had caught her doing something illicit.
And I had.
Thumbs way up on this Radi place! Bringing some crazy 2012 open bar, throw-everything-at-the-wall energy to this city! We need this right now, we deserve this! We demand this!
Oh yeah, they also have a popcorn and gelato room.