For the past 5 years - well, 4 of the past 5 years, anyway (last year was a bit of a misfire) - the end-of-May 'birthday' celebration for divey little music bar Dos Kolegas has been one of the best party events of the year, and I've always eagerly looked forward to them.
This year, though, I found that the anticipation, the excitement had dwindled. All but disappeared, to be honest.
Amongst the reasons:
Love is a habit; and I've broken the habit. I got fed up with the new sound system they introduced there early last year (which was painfully over-LOUD, and almost entirely obscured the view of the stage), and started going less and less often. There have been spells in my gig-going career where I was notching up more visits there in 6 or 8 weeks than I have in the last 18 months.
I feared a repeat of last year's, er, disappointment. They got too ambitious - or too greedy - trying to spread the celebrations over a whole weekend rather than having just one BIG NIGHT (as they had done, with enormous success, in each of the previous 4 years), with the result that the staff/owners - and most of the musicians who regularly hang out there, and a fair few of the punters - were completely exhausted by the Friday night revels, and hence the Saturday ended up being a bit of a damp squib.
The lack of variety there is becoming a problem. The advertised line-up for the two nights of music this year was almost exactly the same as it has been for all of the previous birthday bashes (The Amazing Insurance Salesmen being the only new entry on the roster). Indeed, it was almost identical to the Friday and Saturday line-ups there last week!!
The door fees are starting to bite. I can't remember how much they were charging last year, but I think it was at least 80rmb, if not 100rmb. This year, I fear, it might even be over 100rmb. The last time I went there, they were charging 60 or 70rmb for one band. And, in a city where there were seldom any door fees at all 4 or 5 years ago, and they were never more than 50rmb until a year or two ago, this is psychologically a heavy blow. Hell, it is financially a heavy blow! I just can't afford to go out to gigs 3 or 4 nights a week as I used to; I'm starting to wonder if I can even go gigging as much as 3 or 4 times a month. This month, at any rate, I can't; I'm trying to survive on a very thin budget, and 100-kuai door fees are a no-no.
The place is becoming too incestuous. Well, it always was pretty incestuous - but perhaps I didn't mind so much when I felt like part of the family. I no longer do. And I fret that the Ningxia coterie - and their groupies - have increased their domination of the place ('Ningxia Night' started off as a once-a-month event there.... but now it seems every night is bleedin' Ningxia night!!) to the point where it is becoming a bit exclusionary to the more occasional visitors.
The place is becoming too goddamned trendy. I adored it in its early days - when its being so small and so off-the-beaten-track (and so chaotically managed!) ensured that it remained for quite some time a 'hidden gem', rarely crowded, and sought out only by earnest music enthusiasts, those 'in the know'. Now, its notoriety has spread to Shunyi and Wudaokou, and it is overrun by laowai of every stripe imaginable - from villa-dwelling soccer moms to Eurotrash poseurs to grating Young Americans with their infuriatingly like-heavy vocabulary.
And oh, yeah, UEFA has decided to move the Champions League Final to Saturday. And sport is - narrowly - more important to me than music. I could try and stay up all night - but I know I'd regret that for days to come, perhaps the whole of next week. I'm completely worn out - physically and emotionally - by what I've had to go through over the last few weeks; and I think my only chance of being able to watch the game tonight (ahem, early tomorrow morning) is to get trashed during the day, and go to bed at around 8pm or 9pm. So, here goes...
I hope the 2 Kolegas bash passes off well. I look forward to hearing reports of it from friends who did go. Perhaps giving it a miss for one year will enable me to renew my enthusiasm for the event next year....