Guest Post: 2015 Chengjiang Lakeside Music Festival

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This post comes from our friend Hugh Bohane, our correspondent from the deep South! 

Yuxi, in Yunnan Province, presented the third installment of the Chengjiang Lakeside Music Festival over the weekend of the 21/22nd of August. Held inside the Luchong Scenic Area, this two-day event was positioned next to one of China’s deepest and most pristine lakes. In terms of festival locations in Yunnan, we think this one definitely takes the cake.

The organizers of the festival cooperated with the local government in providing accommodation, campsites, eating facilities and so forth. Hotel prices in proximity to the lake started at around 100 RMB for a single room, while tent rentals were priced at 80 RMB. If you happened to bring your own, no camping fee was charged. The festival organisers arranged buses going to the lake from Kunming on the 21st and also buses going back on the 23rd. We gladly noticed a huge improvement in transport services this time, compared with that of previous festivals.

The weather gods were kind and both days provided an abundance of sunshine which drew people out. Attendance stood at about a couple of thousand people over the duration of the festival. Tickets were priced at 150 RMB for both days or 120 RMB for presale bookings. Fans were largely made up of curious locals from the nearby area, along with a number of Kunming’s music-loving community.

In total, 13 bands and 13 DJs played on either of the two main stages, which were located not far from each other. Thanks to some better sound engineering this year, there wasn’t too much noise bleed between the stages. The festival’s lineup consisted of funk, tech house, electro, hip-hop, rock, reggae and metal.

Ma Tu from John Nevada and The Explosions

A schedule of the festival line-up is available over at GoKunming. On the main stage, DJ Xiao Kris got the party started at around 10pm on the first night with his deep-tech house set. DJ DSK continued the grooves with his brand of futuristic funk, until the wee hours of the morning.

On Saturday, Yang Meng, one of Yunnan’s foremost names, got the day off to a flying start with the assistance of his cooking slap bassist. Later, Kawa (featuring Lao Han) brought some chilled reggae to the crowd, who were grooving along and at the same time were looking for shade from the heat of the Yunnan sun. Next up was John Nevada and The Explosions who were in fine form, unleashing plenty of new material from Nevada’s current record, which was released earlier in the year via Sodanger Records.

One of this year’s surprise acts was electro group South Acid Mimi Dance. These three young women are definitely worth keeping an eye on for future shows around the country. Think Grimes but with a more ethnic sentiment [note: they subsequently hit up Echo Park festival in Shanghai, similarly wowing the local crowd].

South Acid Mimi Dance .

Rock bands: Strange Day, Large Forehead and Magic Pony all gave solid performances on the centre stage – a decent pull saw the festival crowd swell mightily. Meanwhile, on the smaller stage DJs Xiao Kris and DSK accompanied by rapper M.D.A. were pumping out house, funk and hip-hop to a hardcore gathering of enthusiastic kids. Emerging from the crowd was a local dance crew, who busted out their moves and proved they could boogie to anything.

On the festival’s site there was a line of stalls between the two stages selling food, alcohol, fake tattoos and merchandise. This year saw a few welcome western food options, including a Chin Taco stand, selling spicy tacos. Not far away was also a fairly decent hotdog stand. A hotdog eating contest took place on the 22nd, which was oddly enough won by one of the skinniest people at the event. It’s all in the technique! One of Kunming’s favourite night bars, The Mask had their own stall, making sure that everyone was properly hydrated with, well, booze.

When we talked with one of the band members from the festival, he said that the organizers had treated the bands really well and made sure that all of their transport and accommodation needs were met. In terms of improvements, while this year was markedly better-organised than the previous years, for the next round, it would be nice to see a wider variety of food options and more seating around the festival site. A bit more promotion in the build up for the next fiesta would ensure that the crowd is diverse and perhaps extra focused on coming for the musical aspect of the event. The location definitely offers a lot of promise for future events.

DJ playing on the small stage

We chewed the festival fat with one of the organizers Zhu Zhu, who had this to say…

We sold about 2000 tickets this time. We think the festival was very successful and we would give it a score of 7 out of 10. The festival’s philosophy could be summed up as being built on natural theory and environmental protection. We think this is the first time we have managed to get a lot of Yunnan’s best rock bands together and they all played really well. This was also the first time we used a lot of electronic music, it’s a bit different from other festivals in Yunnan and so this was kind of an experiment. Thankfully, the weather was on our side and we were able to manage the festival properly. We’d like to feature even more independent musicians next time and we hope that our music festival can become more international and attract more global musicians. Additionally, we want to exhibit more contemporary art and performance art exhibitions, as well as screen outdoor movies and invite more artists to cooperate in advocating environmental protection. Moreover, we would like to get more investors to expand our list of sponsorships (Sprite and Smart supported this year).”

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