The May Holiday weekend marks - hopefully - the proper beginning of summer in Beijing. And it is also the beginning of the outdoor music festival season. Over the next few days we have the MIDI Festival, the China Music Valley Festival, the Strawberry Festival, and the Chaoyang International Pop Music Festival (not sure whether that last one is really 'outdoors'; as far as I know, the 'Chaoyang Sports Center' hosting it is just an indoor gymnasium).
I won't be going to any of them. Here's why....
Top Five Reasons NOT To Go To Any Of The Music Festivals This Weekend
We just had too goddamn many festivals last year. Maybe I haven't quite got my appetite back yet.
4) Thin line-ups
As I noted in my complaint about the festival overload last year, there still really aren't that many good bands in China. And it's inevitable that with so many events going on at the same time, the talent is going to be spread rather thin. (I did hear that Modern Sky had been trying to to tie the bands at its Strawberry event to "exclusive" contracts this year - a selfish innovation, and probably unenforceable. However, I note that some bands - Brain Failure, Nanwu - are slated to appear elsewhere as well; so, maybe this was just an empty rumour.) As I survey the schedules, I usually find only one or two bands I want to see on any given day. And of the foreign acts supposed to be coming here, only KT Tunstall (at China Music Valley) arouses my interest. I'm afraid we're not passing the necessary excitement threshold to make such a large investment of time, money, and effort to get out to these remote venues.
3) Too far away
Actually, I don't think the critical excitement threshold even exists for these events. They are all just too damned difficult to get to. I wouldn't travel that far out of town even for Iggy Pop or The Pogues, so I'm certainly not going to attempt it for the likes of Miserable Faith and Brain Failure. Even Haidian Park, traditional home of the MIDI event, way out in the north-west of the city, is a bit of a hike (well over an hour's journey for me to get there - even with the opening of the new Line 4 Subway last year). Going outside the 5th Ringroad just isn't an option.
2) There'll be another one along in a minute...
There'll be another round of festivals for the National Holiday at the start of October. There will probably be a fair few scattered through the summer as well. Maybe, just maybe one or two of them will get permission from our paranoid government to go ahead within the city limits - in Haidian Park or Chaoyang Park... or Ditan Park? I'm hopeful we might see a repeat of last year's promising newcomer, the Max Star Festival in Ditan in July or August. And we have the Ditan Folk Festival next weekend - that will give me my outdoor music fix for the next month or two.
1) A pleasant alternative
Some friends have invited me to spend a weekend in the country. Sunshine and fresh air - without crowds and queueing and mostly rather average bands? Yes, please!!
[After much snuffling around on the Net, I finally managed to dig up comprehensive listings - in English - for the three out-of-town festivals at City Weekend's site (whose own search engine is unbelievably crap; you have to leave the site and use Google to find anything on it). The Chaoyang Pop site is in Chinese only, and a hopeless muddle; the China Music Valley site appears to be only a blank page; Modern Sky Records' page for their Strawberry event was in Chinese only, and appears to have now crashed. These guys really aren't making it easy - or attractive - for anyone to go!!]