Festival shizzle has been getting pretty out of hand in China in recent years. Up from a single genuine contender in 2005, we estimated between 70 and 100 in 2010. 2011 promises to be another exponential step on this vertiginous musical roller-coaster.
Midi are looking at 4 national festivals, Modern Sky want to do 20-odd this year through their eponymous brand and also their Strawberry one. Hangzhou will have lots, Zebra will go national and it seems that cities all over China are racing to have their own festival treasure.
The big curve ball that we picked up today is that LiveNation’s JV partner Gehua have partnered with the Pinggu Village near Beijing to produce the biggest and baddest music festival that China has ever seen. The kicker? They are going head to head with both Strawberry and Midi Festivals. All 3 will be in the same locale on exactly the same dates. The difference is that this festival promises the wonderful pop punk princess Avril Lavigne as a headliner.
Apart from the crazy Avril Lavigne show back in October 2008 (check out the hilarious video HERE), Wukesong Arena (the Olympic basketball arena in Beijing) has been closed for reconstruction for over a year. Facilities giant Anschultz Entertainment Group (AEG) had signed a contract to take over management of Wukesong post Olympics. The venue was supposed to have been ready for use, but the Chinese contractors must have “scrimped” somewhat as Wukesong has been mostly ripped down and rebuilt since then.
And so now it is properly open. AEG have a good team in place, led by John Cappo, a 20 year China veteran who until recently ran the sports marketing group IMG here. Beyonce brought the biggest LED screen that we’ve ever seen, apparently all 10k tickets were sold, and Ford and Budweiser got involved from a sponsorship perspective. Whether or not the show made money is another matter, but now Beijing has China’s first truly multi-purpose arena. How far ahead of the audiences is anyone’s guess. It will be interesting to see what happens.
And, for a final pre-weekend flourish, some video of the event.
Lately we’ve been observing the rapidly evolving Chinese music market with a tabloid-like fascination at the intensity of change in the industry here, so we thought it was high-time to take a step back and expound on the host of positives that are emerging post-Olympics. There are no less than seven music festivals taking place in China over this busy autumn period, including the oft-discussed Beijing double-header of Midi and Modern Sky; Shanghai’s surprisingly diverse and excellent offerings; and the Snow Mountain Festival in Lijiang, which has grown to accommodate arena sized international artists (and arena sized pricing, which will be interesting).
And let’s not forget the incredible art festivals descending upon Shanghai this month, particularly the Shanghai EArts festival featuring dance music extremists Autechre. Throw in the Taiwanese invasion across alternative genres, including the possible return of MC Hotdog for Shanghai’s Iron Mic competition and a Chaoyang Gymnasium show from the hotly tipped Sodagreen, plus the multiple arena tours for Linkin Park and Avril Lavigne (the former in support of the Sichuan earthquake), and it’s plain to see: the music scene is blowing up in 2008.
This weekend brought the China Now Festival, two days of free music loveliness in Huaihai Park, organised by the hugely influential local Shanghai band hangout 288 on Taikang Rd. Follow that with the most ambitious iteration of the JZ jazz festival next weekend in a centrally located park. The following weekend, we can look forward to the Midi-Modern Sky extravaganza in Beijing, and manage to get back down to Shanghai for the intriguing Notch festival, which promises to be held in a massive greenhouse that’s been donated to the cause by the increasingly supportive local government, and featuring the excellent Efterklang and the remixer-du-jour, Disjokke.
Chatting with a representative of Emma, the foremost China-based promoter, last month at Fuji Rock, we learned that the company’s Director of Live Events – Marketing, A. Robb Spitzer, was leaving the company. Less than a month later, Emma’s Director of Live Events – Operations, Adam Wilkes, tells us that he is also leaving the company.