Friday, May 14, 2010

And the winner(s) is/are....

The Beijinger Bar & Club Awards last night were every bit as much of a travesty as I'd expected. Unfortunately, unlike the previous couple of times I've been, it somehow wasn't even much of a party - perhaps largely down to the venue being uncomfortably hot and overcrowded: many people preferred to mill around outside during most of the event, and almost everyone made a bee-line for the exit the second the last result was announced.

Mako Live House was an odd choice of venue: extremely remote for most people, and a little hard to find; and really not quite big enough for an event of that nature. And they have no air-conditioning?? (It showed some foresight on the part of the organisers that fans were being given to everyone upon entrance; without that, things would have been quite insufferable.) The place shows promise as a music venue: a good space, good bar, very good sound system, and none of the lounge seating that ruins Yugong Yishan; though I fear the high ceiling and bare walls will harm the acoustics; and with no air-conditioning it's presumably going to be unusable for at least the next three months. (Mako is, in fact, uncannily like the 'ideal' music bar I had a series of dreams about a year or so ago. Am I developing precognitive powers in my old age??)

In other respects, the organisation of the night was a bit lacking. Some goodie bags were in evidence, but I'd guess that 90% of people left without one, because the collection point wasn't very obvious, and nothing at all was being done to advertise their availability. Security, always a bit lax in previous years, was on this occasion completely non-existent. No-one was checking credentials at the door, you didn't need a pass or a name-badge to help yourself to the freebies on offer inside, and they didn't even seem to have a list of the invitees. If you could find the venue, it seemed, you were welcome to just walk right on in (that may have been one of the reasons for it becoming so overcrowded). The food was shite (and not much of it): tasteless burritos that contained 80% or 90% rice (and were being prepared in a single tiny toaster oven, which necessitated cutting each burrito into four or five pieces - using tiny servings to try to accommodate more hungry punters), and 'tamales' that seemed to contain nothing at all. (The sushi, I'm told, wasn't bad; but fish makes me puke.) The free cocktails seemed mostly pretty nasty too (cinnamon vodka?!); many folks were preferring to pay cash at the bar. (At least there was a plenteous supply of free Stella and Hoegaarden. And I'd taken the precaution of getting well-oiled before I came.)

Worst of all, the PA wasn't loud enough, so the comperes couldn't get much rapport going with the crowd, and it was hard to hear some of the results. I found it a bit irritating and confusing too (although I've seen it in previous years, so really should have sussed things out a bit more quickly) that there were so many 'winners'. I can't recall if this was exactly how they did it in the past, but this year they seem to have given two (or sometimes three?) consolation prizes - termed 'Outstanding' - in each category as well as the top award.... so, nearly everyone's a winner. It was just a bit confusing at first that the hosts were introducing these secondary prizes not as 'Runners-Up' but as 'Winners'; in fact, most of the time they seemed to be saying, "And the winner of [inaudible] is...." followed by two or three bar names; and then the actual WINNER. The business about "Winner of the [runner-up prize] of 'Outstanding Bar' in this category" just wasn't coming across at all. (And the distinction between 'Outstanding Bar' and 'Best Bar' isn't intuitively obvious if you've never been to this ceremony before; they really should have taken more trouble to explain this at the outset.)

As I've bitched before, the categories, nominations, and voting were in many cases quite ludicrous. Karl Long from Paddy O'Shea's was acclaimed as the Bartender Of The Year, despite never having set foot behind the bar (as he observed himself with commendable candour when picking up his award, "I can't even pour a fucken glass of water"). Fubar's Hendricks & Tonic was named Best Cocktail (it is perhaps the best G&T in town, but it's hardly a cocktail). And the utterly wretched O'Shea's took the prize as Best Sports Bar - which, since it was soundly trounced by the (very new, and far from flawless) Fubar in the Best Bar category, can only be taken as evidence of how miserably served our capital is for sports bars.

It was nice to see so many friends from the bar scene there (including the lovely Lixian, last year's Barmaid Of The Year, back in town for a few weeks). I was extremely happy to see my friends Stephen and Stephanie pick up an Outstanding Hidden Gem plaque for Mao Mao Chong (it really should have won something for its cocktails as well, though). And I was pleased too for Chad & Co. of Fubar picking up the Best Bar award, one of the evening's few deserving winners (for me, there are a lot of things about the place that don't quite work; but the idea of founding a bar on the principle of quality-booze-at-reasonable-prices is an almost unique initiative in Beijing, and deserves to be commended). [All the results here.]

Apart from that, though, the evening was a bit of a squib. I was relieved to get back to 12 Square Metres for some more serious drinking - in non-hothouse conditions.

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