Lijiang Snow Mountain Festival – a review

A review of the Lijiang Snow Mountain Festival

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We think that Lijiang Snow Mountain is China’s second oldest existing festival. It was founded in 2002 by local groups plus Chinese rock legend Jian Cui. This year, intrepid Radar friend Hugh Bohane made the journey down to be faced by torrential rains and . He tells it better himself:

2010 Lijiang Snow Mountain Music Festival.

Mountains, Music, and er.. Rain (not to be confused with the Korean singer, the other rain.)

Words and Pictures Hugh Bohane

In the charming old town of awesome Shuhe, (6km from the centre of scenic Lijiang) Yunnan’s biggest multi-staged, out-door music festival – The Snow Mountain Music Festival – was held between October 1st and October 3rd of 2010, the year many insiders have dubbed ‘China’s year of the music festival.’ In front of a lush horizon of epic mountains, there lies a festival which has been going since 2002. China’s answer to Woodstock? Perhaps…

Lijiang Snow Mountain Music Festival 2010

This year the festival was organised by Xiulong Pan. Tickets were 150 Rmb for a day ticket or 300 Rmb for a three day pass; not a bad asking price, considering the seven or more hours of metaphorical musical gold belted out each day for lucky festival-goers. In order to get to the festival, a few thousand or more Chinese and a hundred or so expats came in from Kunming or other major cities in China, taking train, bus or plane directly to Lijiang. Hotels in both Shuhe and Lijiang were booked out in the lead up to the festival. Four unlucky expats realized this the hard way when I spoke with one of them during the festival. A young woman from Australia said stoically, “We were left with only one option – sleep in a small bus for the three nights. We had to do it. We didn’t really mind, it could have been worse…it was worth it.”

Despite bursts of bucketing precipitation and the baltic cold that came with it, the masses of die-hard punters, armed with rain-coats, umbrellas, flags, panda costumes and other festival paraphernalia, turned out to see a diverse line-up of electro/ rock/ pop/ traditional/ folk/ minority music from a variety of bands, both local and international. The line up consisted of Day one: Ma Guo Guo, Strange Days, Li Zhi, Shan Ren. Day two: Ma Ya, Ding Lou De Ma Xi Tuan, Quebec Redneck Bluegrass Project , Kink Gong, Iowa Super Soccer, Lao Lang, DJ’s Xiao Kris, Liman, Sulumi. Day three: Nevada Lundemo, Haya, ESRG, Su Yang, Second-Hand Rose. Here is the official festival website in Chinese; and the list of the bands;

The diabolical weather couldn’t prevent the hordes from cutting loose in what could be described as a kind of mass -musical-exorcism. There was moshing, mud-sliding, and of course (no rock festival is complete without it): masochistic-crowd-surfing. Security personnel did a sterling job keeping the scores from going completely nuts, using a balance of firm and soft power where necessary. In terms of the music, it’s always difficult to criticise a band who is going to perform for you and give their absolute all, whether agreeable or not? However, one of the main international acts; Iowa Super Soccer, failed to kick many goals, according to some at the festival. In their defence, I am certain we just caught them on a bad day and that maybe they were jet-lagged, or would fare better in more intimate venues such as; art galleries or wine bars, rather than a colossal out-door rock festival like the SMMF? It was hard not to feel that the acts from the host provence-Yunnan, particularly the minority bands; Ma Guo Guo and Shan Ren, (Kunming stalwarts) The Quebec Redneck Bluegrass Project, John aka ‘Nevada Lundemo’ and DJ Xiao Kris all brought forward strong performances. They did, dare I say it, at times even threaten to out-shine some of the major headliners on the bill.

Having said all that, the final acts of the last day; Haya, ESRG, Su Yang and Second-Hand Rose also cooked up a delicious, spicy, musical feast, bringing the festival to a sound close. I spoke to the festival organiser Xiulong Pan, from the lobby of the hotel where the bands were staying about the success of this year’s festival and he had this to say, “The festival was very financially successful and even though it rained, the audience and the artist’s brought a unique feeling.” “The main sponsors; Red Bull and German beer ‘Oettinger,’ both benefited a lot from some effective brand-imaging, even if they didn’t sell lots of drinks,” said Mr Pan.

All in all, this year’s festival brought many curious and exciting performances. Despite the brutal weather leaving much of the rabble decidedly soaked and muddied, by the end many folks seemed to be sporting a satisfied, festive, rainbow-smile.

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