Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The New Kid In Town

Last weekend I was enticed to try out a new-ish bar that's been attracting quite a lot of attention over the past few months, White Rabbit.

It is way over on the wrong side of town for me (actually, all sides of town are wrong for me; I live in the centre), and is really a dance club rather than a bar (albeit a rather low-rent, not to say divey one; it's probably appealing to the same kind of clientele as places like Sanlitun's Kai Bar...... and, apart from a dancefloor area somewhat more expansive than Kai's famous postage stamp, it's really not very much bigger - when you take into account Kai's upstairs lounge, and the capacity for overspill on to the street outside when the weather gets warmer).

I am not one of Nature's dancers, and I HATE the majority of modern dance music; in fact, I pretty much hate all loud music, unless it's being played live (and no, DJs don't count!). I therefore generally avoid such places like the plague. However, I was persuaded to give White Rabbit a look at last because it appears to be trying to establish itself now also as a venue for live music (unless last Saturday's gig was a one-off; it might prove to be so).

This is not a particularly promising development. Nightclubs do not in general make good spaces for live music; the two very different types of entertainment tend to require or to foster a completely different approach to the decor, ambience, layout of the space, the sound system; and they tend to establish very different kinds of clientele.

So, I approached this gig at White Rabbit (their first, as far as I know) with a fair amount of pessimism. And all of my misgivings proved justified. In particular, the sound sucked big time.

That's a problem they could sort out in time. However, the place doesn't have much else to recommend it either - a stark, gloomy, almost undecorated cellar, completely devoid of charm or atmosphere. The space is poorly laid out, too; the bar and sound booth (another unwelcome consequence of the cult of the DJ, I suspect: these people are so important they need a booth the size of a small office) are far bigger than necessary, occupying the whole of the back wall, and consuming probably a good 25% of the available floorspace in the main part of the room. The lounge area and the emergency exit corridor/loos/coatroom area also seem to eat up a lot of space; but there's not really anything else useful that can be done with those isolated wings of the room. I didn't even get a chance to check out the drinks prices because, even with a crowd of just a few dozen, the bar was completely overwhelmed.

White Rabbit appears to be becoming pretty successful as a low-priced dance venue. Good luck to it. That's not my kind of thing. If they can sort out the sound system for live rock music (and improve the bar service), it might make a passable gig venue too. But does Beijing need another live music venue anyway? I think not. We are reaching saturation point now - particularly given that there really aren't that many good bands around.

To my mind, the place is so far utterly lacking in positive qualities - but I can't really assign it to the 'Hate List' on the basis of a 15-minute visit (see following post). It's simply one of those bars that has nothing to appeal to me.

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