Helen Feng from Pet Conspiracy and Free the Birds fame updated her Facebook with reviews of the 3 festivals that they played over May holiday. She kindly allowed us to use it here. Enjoy! By the way, she hurt herself jumping off the 2m high stage at Strawberry, so send her fuzzy best wishes…
When it was announced that during the “Golden” time of 5-1 Holiday, there would be 3 music festivals in one city, everyone just kind’a sat with mouths agape. The questions in everyone’s mind mainly was “Why?”
But before we ask why 3 festivals would all want to be located at one time in one city, along with a few notable ones in other cities, let’s first think of going to anywhere in China. Guijie is the late night eats place. You have hundreds of restaurants all on one street. You go to Ya Yun Cun if you want electronics. Thousands of stores located in a dozens of buildings all in a few kilometers. So I guess in the same way of thinking
That being said, this year I played 3 of those festivals, 2 of them in the city of Beijing, and now I am about to give my opinion and possibly shoot myself in the foot with too much honesty. From the backstage, here’s the recap.
Zebra Festival (5-1): Mainstage w/ Pet Conspiracy at 7:30 p.m.
Good: This festival ran like a well oiled machine. From a technical perspective, the crew was nearly flawless. Well organized, from the airport pick-up to the soundchecks, to the tough as nails director (which through she scared us was quite appreciated), all the way to the comfy carpeted backstage this was by far one of the best organized productions I had ever seen in China. Very professionally run promotion with an actual press conference and press area. Impressive.
Bad: No drinking backstage. And instead of one barely working LED screen as seen in other rock festivals this was too many LEDs. In fact the style of the lighting was lots of flash typical of China Pop stuff (everything LIT UP), and the acts failed to impress. Despite a few rock acts, most of it was still Pop Idol stuff mixed with a few local bands. The one word that best describes this festival is “Conservative”. No FOH soundcheck at full blast, which meant we really didn’t know how good we actually sounded. But that could be due to not bringing our own sound guy for the gig.
Summary: Very Da Zhong (Mainstream) mixed with rock ambitions. Through it was perfectly organized and had a really talented and good crew, it seemed uptight and a little unfun. The general taste level for the acts performing isn’t awesome, and through there were a few highlights including Taiwan’s MC Hotdog, Reptile Retard, etc. Pop Artists like Soda Green and Zhang Jie created a strange mix of the flashy Pop World versus the Rock World. The crowd was really mixed, from grandmas to hipsters. Perhaps it’s what Chengdu needs, but it definitely wasn’t the greatest place to let your naked hippy come out and play. For the artists, the organizers did a very good job. We were well taken care of.
Strawberry Festival Beijing (5-2): Strawberry Stage w/ Pet Conspiracy 6:15 p.m.
Good: More indie, more young, more fashionable. Lot’s of grassy lawn to wander around on. It also seem to get the right crowd to the festival, less of a mixed crowd but one that at least wasn’t waiting for a super-girl to perform right after you. The Best that Modern Sky has to offer along with some descent sized foreign acts to fill the rooster. General taste level was much better than Zebra. Stage and sound much stronger than the previous Strawberry and not too bad at all for Beijing. Didn’t over do the lighting and the techs were geared toward bands. Lots and lots of options. The people I knew who walked around all day with too much to choose from.
Bad: The backstage was Painful! The space for the artists was a dirty dusty pit, no privacy and no bathrooms backstage which gave you the feeling of being more Min Gong then artist. Not that I’m a pussy, but it’s really hard change into a cat suit with 20 people walking in and out some asking for autographs and all your clothes completely covered with loose dirt from the uncovered dirt floor. The ticketing was incredibly chaotic in fact everything seemed incredibly Chaotic. Location was far from town, and nothing had been worked out to manage traffic and transport. Our People couldn’t get in because the staff pass situation was a mess, and later we couldn’t get out because of the lack of cabs. The Ticketing situation from what I heard was really bad. 40 minutes to 1 1/2 hours to buy tickets into the festival. After I hurt my leg, the organizer couldn’t provide transport for me back to the road out. I had to catch another artists car as a ride to the road where I hailed a black cab to get to the hospital but luckily a fan offered me a ride. I ended up depending on the generosity of a fan to get to the Hospital and not the organizers. That wouldn’t happen at any other festival in the world.
Summary: Strawberry was the hipster festival mixed with a bit of White Collar. Technically, this festival ranked 2nd for good effort and lots of and lots of stages, with not many sound issues coming from the stage. However, being an artist here you feel a bit abused. But this seems generally the case at Modern Sky events. They are also very clique-y so you better look cool. I never feel completely comfortable with these guys or at their events, as if I must be cool at all times. . . very tiring cause I’m really not that cool.
MIDI Festival (5-4): Pilot Stage w/ Free the Birds (Ziyo) 6:30 p.m.
Good: A real sense of community here. Thousands of tents were out in action, and regardless of what bands were on stage the audience was definitely entertaining. The dark and freaky are all out to play. Backstage, the facilities were slightly better than Strawberry, but not by much. Concrete versus loose dirt. More the people were just feeling generally more communal, a lot of drinking and smokes with other bands hanging out backstage like it’s a party. People were really letting loose with less egos and more play.
Bad: Through there was a better crew and generally better sound than any previous Midi Festivals, there were a lot of technical hiccups presumably blameable on trying to save money. A few steps behind Strawberry. We didn’t get to play beyond two songs due to a flash thunderstorm. I was impressed through a bit saddened when as soon as lighting was spotted the technician cut our electricity. There was no cover on the stage, so my synthesizers are currently on the patio awaiting hairdryer therapy. I heard there were a lot of stage and technical problems the days before, including having to replace an entire PA system for one of the stages. Also problems with disorganization. It lasted 4 days and on the 4th day when we played the crowd was quite small, perhaps only a few thousand left in the grounds when reportedly it had 30,000 at one point.
Summary: This is the place to let your naked hippy come out and that hippy will be appreciated. Really Really Rock. Midi is working man’s festival, not so much Fashion as there was grungy happy people. The feeling and atmosphere of the Midi is very communal through it’s not necessarily very fashionable or cool because it caters to an older version of China Rock. Still, there’s something about midi that’s less self-conscious and more wild. Lots of Tattoos. Lots of Piercings but also lots of Chinese students. This festival also seemed to cater more to Chinese Youth than Foreigners. Technically, Midi still needs a lot of help but as an artist I felt fairly taken care of. They have a bit by bands for bands attitude which strawberry lacks. Despite the mess up with the cover, they were quick to protect my equipment when it rained.