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Spring 2015 Music Festival Guide

At least eight music festivals happening in and around Shanghai this spring -- here's all the crucial details, lineups, ticket info, and more. SCORPIONS!
2015-04-15 16:57:40
Music festival season is imminent. This year looks a bit different -- no Shanghai MIDI, and no MIDI or Strawberry in Beijing, but we do get...The Scorpions, and Carly Rae Jespen. Here's what we know about the big eight music festivals this spring. Bookmark this page and stay tuned for updates.


JZ Spring Festival

Dates: April 30–May 2 @ Jing'an Park

What It Is: Jazz in the park. Everybody loves the sunshine…This is the little brother of JZ's massive festival that happens in Expo Park every October. This one is more locally focused, with mostly JZ artists on the lineup. Most of this is free, and happens in Jing'an Park and out in the streets, with a few performances at Shanghai Centre.

Noteworthy Acts: Lawrence Ku, The Asian Jazz All-Stars Power Octet, led by Jeremy Monteiro, Tina May, and a bunch of real musicians.

Highlights: Mostly free, and mostly outside. Family friendly.

Lowlights: Really hard to find anything wrong with free jazz in the park in the springtime...

Location/Transport: Line 2 to Jing'an Temple station, exit 5, walk upstairs and into the park. That's it. More music in streets around Jing'an, too.

Times: April 30–May 2, 10.30am–7pm, followed by extra performances at the Shanghai Centre Theatre that start at 8pm each night.

Tickets: No tickets needed for daytime activities. Tickets for the nightly shows are 80rmb each on SmartTicket.

After-Party: No details yet, but can pretty much guarantee this will happen at a JZ venue.


MIDI Taihu Festival

Dates: May 1–3 @ Camp Midi Taihu, Suzhou

What It Is: MIDI is China's oldest, rawest rock music festival. Perhaps too raw -- their annual spring festivals in Shanghai and Beijing got cancelled this year, so they just have this one in a village / lake area outside of Suzhou, followed by an electronic festival a few weeks later. This one is strictly rock / live music.

Noteworthy Acts: Nova Heart, Killswitch Engage, Subs, Brain Failure, Dreamshade.

Highlights: MIDI always feels like the realest music festival -- real music fans who live and die for this shit, and little corporate branding. Some really good Chinese bands, plus Killswitch Engage should be a highlight, and the festival location looks rad.

Lowlights: This all seems a bit last minute. Details just got released a few weeks before the show. No electronic stage, but that could be a plus, depending on how you look at it.

Location/Transport: This happens near Suzhou, about 1.5 hours from the city. MIDI hasn't provided any English info about this, so we dug around a bit. You've got a few options. One is taking a high-speed train to Suzhou Railway station and then taking either a cab (~100rmb) or one of the official MIDI buses for 17rmb. Those are at the North Square, but you're best off looking for this:

苏州站北广场汽车客运站 (地址:苏州市苏站路27号)

According to this Douban page, they have buses leaving regularly between 10am–4pm, and returning between 9-11pm. On May 3, the return buses will come back between 6–11pm. Also a few buses returning to the railway station on May 4 between 10am–noon. Basically, all these buses leave when they are full. There's no set schedule.

Another option would be taking a cab from Shanghai. Guessing that's gonna cost between 300–500rmb. Not so bad if you split with some friends.

Times: May 1–3, 1pm-10pm.

Tickets: 150rmb a day or 350rmb for three days at the door, or 120rmb/day and 300rmb/three days pre-sale.

After-Party: Nothing yet. Possibly some tent love.


Modern Sky Strawberry Festival

Dates: May 1–3 @ Expo Park

What It Is: An annual festival by China's biggest independent music label, Modern Sky, who have recently expanded to doing festivals in America and Europe. They do this in like twenty cities around China. The Shanghai version always happens in the Expo Park during Golden Week, drawing huge crowds. Attendees almost caused a riot last year when they tried to topple the barricades to see HK pop star Maggi Cheung. They've always got a few big -- but never too big -- international acts, mixed in with bigger domestic bands (generally from the Modern Sky label) and a few crossover acts / pop shit to get more people through the gates. Generally a good, if not sterile, time.

Noteworthy Acts: Dinosaur Jr. The Hives, Carly Rae Jespen, The Big Wave.

Highlights: The Expo Park is of the nicest places in Shanghai, with gorgeous scenery and easy access by metro. Also, Dinosaur Jr., a bit of an odd booking but rad nonetheless. Carly Rae Jaspen just dropped a surprisingly good single that sounds more like a Prince track than it does "Call Me Maybe", so maybe she'll surprise the skeptics. Some good Chinese bands too, like Second Hand Rose and The Big Wave.

Lowlights: Not the freshest lineup. Queen Sea Big Shark, New Pants, Da Bang…hey these guys are still kickin'. Tricky played one of the worst sets ever in Shanghai a few years ago. DJ lineup is about 90% irrelevant. Fans of boring techno and tech-house from Beijing might dig this though. Year after year, Strawberry show they don't really know what's going on in Shanghai. They even put three of the best Shanghai acts -- Donn, Ben Huang, and Will A -- on early in the day. Nice work. Also, beer options here are historically weak.

Location/Transport: Easy to reach. Just take Line 8 to the China Art Center station and walk like ten minutes. A cab from downtown should cost around 50rmb.

Times: May 1–3, 1pm-10pm.

Tickets: Tickets for this are 240rmb per day pre-sale or 300rmb at the door.

After-Party: One after-party happens at Arkham on May 1. More info as we get it.


Shanghai International Beer Festival

Dates: May 7–10 @ Wharf 1846

What It Is: Four days of beer, food, and music, put on by Bevex, a partnership between DXCEL, one of Shanghai's biggest alcohol distributors, and Wharf 1846. Not a bad time, though it does have that big-money/little-soul feel. And this one goes pretty late, because there are no residences nearby, which is always a nice plus. Stella used to be the title sponsor, now it's Corona.

Noteworthy Acts: A lot of IPAs, some Belgians; a ton of craft beer on tap for affordable prices. Also, some music by Denise, Skinny Brown (Popasuda), Rocky Ross with a sax player, and a bunch of DJs.

Highlights: Beer and food, much of it quite good. Cheap or free to get in. A touch of live music.

Lowlights: Pretty corporate feel. Playing it safer as far as music goes, with '80s and '90s hits.

Location/Transport: This happens down on the South Bund, near The Cool Docks. It's not super close to any metro station, but you could take Line 10 to Yu Garden then walk about 15–20 minutes. If you live in Pudong, you have the luxury of taking the Shanghai Ferry from Lujiazui pretty much right to the festival site, for 2rmb.

Times: May 7 & 8, 6pm–1am; May 9 & 10, 2pm–1am.

Tickets: Admission is 50rmb per person, and that usually comes with a free beer upon entry. But only suckers pay that. Mark our words: free passes will circulate heavily around town. Just hit up your local watering hole as the date approaches. There will likely be a stack of them at the door or some dude passing them out.

After-Party Generally, this tends to be a go-home-and-pass-out affair, but this year they have an after-party at The Pearl. More details coming.


MIDI Electronic Festival

Dates: May 15–17 @ Camp Midi Taihu, Suzhou

What It Is: Those Mansion kids done made themselves a music festival. This one has three days of non-stop music on a lake location in Suzhou, about 1.5 hours from Shanghai by bus. They've got three outdoor stages, swimming, go-karting, live art, and more activities.

Noteworthy Acts: Brandt Brauer Frick, 8-bit wizard Sulumi playing live, ummmm…Conrank?? Duck Fight Goose?? Mumbai Science??

Highlights: From the pictures we've seen, the location looks quite nice. Should be a fun, cheap escape from reality.

Lowlights: Not a super impressive lineup. As usual, quantity over quality -- there's 80 artists here, playing on nine stages. Music at Mansion events tends to focus on tech-house, electro, and trap.

Location/Transport: This happens on an island around Suzhou, about 1.5 hours from the city. There's buses leaving from Shangahi, Suzhou, Nantong, Hangzhou, and other cities. More info on that coming soon. If you want updates every day, you could subscribe to The Mansion's WeChat: the-mansion

Times: Goes from 2pm on Friday, May 15 until 8pm on Sunday, May 17.

Tickets: Yeah this one is cheap. Three day tickets are 300rmb pre-sale or 350rmb at the door; two days is 200rmb pre-sale / 280rmb at the door; just Sunday is 100rmb pre-sale or 150rmb at the door. Pre-sale tickets available via Yoopay.

After-Party After-parties happen on location in some 19th century villas. Expect a lot of debauchery, a la The Mansion.


Changjiang International Music Festival

Dates: May 1–2 @ Zhenjiang Shiyezhou Island

What It Is: So, Zhenjiang is this island about two hours outside of Shanghai that used to host Strawberry and MIDI festivals a few years ago. Nice place, though it's not an island in the sense you might think of. More countryside than ocean vibes, more mud than water. No swimming going on here. This seems like a mostly local affair, with a few random international bookings, like The Scorpions.

Noteworthy Acts: SCORPIONS. Second Hand Rose. Ummm…Demi Lovato? Apparently she came up as a star on the compelling TV drama Barney in the '90s, and is somewhat of a B-level pop-star these days.

Highlights: Listening to "Moment of Glory" and "Rock You Like A Hurricane" in scenic China.

Lowlights: Haven't really heard of any of these other bands.

Location/Transport: This goes down about two hours outside of town. You'll need to take a train then ride a bus about 45 minutes. Might be some buses leaving from Shanghai, too. Details as we get them.

Times: May 1-2 from 1-11pm each day

Tickets: Tickets are 200rmb per day or 300rmb for two days, pre-sale.

After-Party People usually camp on site for this one, so expect some campfire jams and midnight love.


Xihu Music Festival

Dates: May 1–2 @ Taiziwan Park, Hangzhou

What It Is: This used to be a proper Chinese music festival that started in 2008. Not really sure what's going on at this point. They haven't updated their Weibo since last September. This is the news section of their website:

So, yeah. Xihu Music Festival. We'll let you know if we get more details. This is their website. Maybe they'll update it.


Dragon Burn

Dates: Early June @ TBA

What It Is: This is China's Burning Man. Well, kind of. It's not an "official Burn", but the organizers are all Burning Man veterans. Last year's festival was beautiful, with around 300 like-minded people playing music, hosting workshops, and just hanging out in a scenic location on the water. Not a Sodom and Gomorrah sesh like some might associate with Burning Man. Last year they burned a giant wooden dragon egg shaped like a xiao long bao, designed by an architect who's now doing his graduate studies at Harvard.

Noteworthy Acts: No big headliners for this one. Expect a bunch of Shanghai DJ crews running their own sound camps.

Highlights: Nature, community spirit, a strong "leave no trace" policy, zero branding or commercial activity.

Lowlights: You have to bring all your own food and supplies. Perhaps the all-inclusive nature could mean a slight dip in quality. Last year a lot of people brought their kids which was a bit awkward / inappropriate.

Location/Transport: Location is still undecided, but people are working hard to find the right place. Unfortunately, last year's space has already become a resort. The organizers arranged buses last year, which worked out quite well. They'll make sure that happens again this year. These folks are organized.

Times: Early June. More info as we get it. If you want to join their mailing list, you can sign up on their site.

Tickets: Last year the ticket was around 300rmb per person.

After-Party This one goes all night. The party is the after-party


There you go. Bookmark this page and stay tuned for updates.