lunedì 14 ottobre 2013


Festival: Changjiang Midi Festival 2013
Date: 2013/10/2-4
Location: Sanjiagang, Shanghai, China
Author: LordPist

The Chinese open air festival season draws to a close with the quantitatively biggest gig, during the holiday week for the foundation of the People's Republic. Changjiang Midi Festival (to know more about this festival, read my report of the Beijing edition) took place in the East side of the Shanghainese megalopolis, a couple of metro stops from the busy Pudong airport and practically on the margin of the Changjiang River, not exactly the cleanest watercourse around. Nine stages spread on a huge and particularly windy area, among them there were spaces dedicated to emerging bands, talks with bands' members, electronic music, folk in its many forms and even a stage where it was possible to see Chinese traditional opera (declined in different styles) and various experimental music projects.

It goes without saying that, at such a huge event, it is very likely that you will miss some performance, but I will try and give the most detailed report I can of what the Midi School of Music arranged this time around. I will stay as close as possible to the interests of our website, because the sheer quantity of music I have listened to in these three days was nothing short of impressive and I reckon it is almost impossible to deliver a thorough report of the whole thing, without having it extremely long and potentially tedious.

October 2 – Things Get Immediately Serious

Song Stage 14:30 - Evocation [招魂] (Hong Kong – Death Metal)
After the unsurprisingly long queue of the first day and the setting up of the tent (during which I missed Ego Fall), I finally managed to get in and go to the Song Stage, one of the main two. The band about to perform was one of the most "aristocratically" relevant of the whole festival: Evocation from Hong Kong. The quintet founded in 2002 wasted no time and destroyed everything in half an hour, in the grey and almost unreal atmosphere of the first day. One of the main features of this band heavily influenced by Behemoth's evilness are the lyrics sung in Cantonese: definitely one of the best metal names of the fest, you can also find them on Soundcloud.

Tang Stage 16:00 – SUBS (China – Indie-punk-noise rock)
Disappointed by their mutilated performance at May's Midi, this time SUBS are the main act of the afternoon and go on enflaming the crowd gathered in front of the stage. With a new drummer, the trio led by Kang Mao delivers forty minutes of intense rock and prepares the audience to the evening, making up for the incomplete show of this Spring with ease.

Song Stage 18:00 – Ordnance [军械所] (China – Thrash Metal-Crossover)
After having changed clothes to face the evening's strong wind, I go back to Song Stage in order to see Ordnance, one of the historic bands in the local thrash metal scene. Started in 1999, the five are not exactly my cup of tea, but I must say that their performance was highly involving and stirred many moshing moments. I also want to add that the audience has always been very participative across the three days: circle pits, walls of death, a lot of crowd surfing moments (which still seems to be in high fashion here), and so on. This is their Myspace.

Ming Stage 19:40 – Nine Treasures [九宝] (China – Folk Metal)
Here we go with one of the bands I was most curious to see (again), after their amazing afternoon performance at the Beijing Midi. Nine Treasures is among the top acts of the new wave on Inner Mongolian bands, they even went as far as to play at this summer's Wacken Open Air. Their new album should be released this October and their personal and engaging style has won them many positive comments. Their show was oddly "confined" to the stage dedicated to folk (not very big) and their balalaika player wasn't there because of some health issues, but the guys haven’t miscued anyway. One of the best shows of the entire festival, during which the Mongols explained how to play folk metal to many bands who have been doing it for years and years. They are very active on international social networks, such as Soundcloud.

20:40 Song Stage – Suffocated [窒息] (China – Death-Thrash metal)
After the historic comeback of the all-female band Cobra [眼镜蛇], avant-garde for the Chinese rock scene in the '90s — though perhaps quite "innocuous" now — it's time for some more violence with Suffocated. Liu Zheng and friends just delivered the usual amount of ferocity as they have been doing for more than fifteen years now: another proof of how death metal — in terms of Chinese festivals — still gets the most visibility when compared to black, although it's probably the latter that has recently been producing the most interesting things around here.

22:00 Song Stage – Twisted Machine [扭曲机器] (China – Nu Metal)
The usual Miserable Faith [痛仰] gave their umpteenth good show on Tang Stage, playing their classic tunes in front of a crowded plain, preparing the audience to welcome one of the biggest names in the Chinese scene on the Song Stage: Twisted Machine. I couldn't see them in Beijing because I was too tired on the first night, so I really wanted to be there this time. Even though I don't frequently listen to nu metal anymore (it is a genre that in Europe has almost disappeared in the last decade or so), I must admit this band formed in 1998 is still really good live. The nu metal scene is very crowded in China and many bands are quite generic — like Monkey Legion, seen in the afternoon — Twisted Machine, though, explained in forty minutes why they are still the main name in the whole movement and arguably one of the few nu metal acts worth listening to apart from the usual names. Here you can find their Myspace.

October 3 – The New Chinese Rock

13:30 Song Stage – Eternal Wings [永恒之翼] (China – Melodic Black Metal)
After the ever-challenging and complex washing and changing clothes operations at a festival, it is time to start the second day with the good Steely Heart and their electronic rock on Tang Stage. The second band is Eternal Wings, black-oriented band showing up on stage with face-painting, going on to give us many nice moments. They mostly promoted their new EP, released this year; good participation by the audience and a young band to follow in the future.

14:30 Song Stage – Anthelion [幻日] (Taiwan – Symphonic Black Metal)
It takes them quite a while to complete the sound-check, but Anthelion is really into it, they get on stage with an attire somewhere in the middle between black metal and visual kei (honorable mention to the drummer's hairdo), featuring videos with artworks and photos on the screen. I have to admit that I was expecting a somewhat generic performance, since I'm not a big fan of symphonic black metal, but the Taiwanese surprised me and are one of the bands for which I have the best memories from the festival. Also here the fans were really engaged, while the band carefully proposed both faster and more melodic tracks from its repertoire. Here is their Myspace.

16:00 Tang Stage – Carsick Cars (China – Indie-Noise Rock)
The second day seemed to go on with a focus on the new bands in the Chinese scene, and this Beijing-based trio is definitely one of the best-known names in the second half of the '00s. Carsick Cars come from a wide range of influences — especially Sonic Youth — and prove the reason why they're so popular in the local rock scene. Their latest LP "You Can Listen, You Can Talk" is from 2009 and there is much anticipation for their new work "3", which will be released in late October. This show was actually part of the tour that will also take them to perform in Paris.

19:00 Zhanguo Stage – Residence A [A公馆] (China – Indie-Alternative Rock)
After another two big acts of the local nu metal — Yaksa and Tomahawk — it's time to go to one of the smaller stages to see another emerging rock band in China. A curious anecdote about Residence A is that their guitarist Zhao Zhao learned to play left-handed after an accident at his fretting hand prevented him from using it to play. The quartet started in 2008 in Beijing and has a heavily British-influenced style, although "faithful" to the Chinese rock line that generally prefers lyrics to be written in the native languge. They have received some international visibility through social networks as well, such as Bandcamp.

21:20 Tang Stage – Escape Plan [逃跑计划] (China – Indie Pop-Rock)
A quick glance to the breakdown-full deathcore band from Hong Kong Massacre Of Mothman, before walking to Tang Stage. Today's big name is arguably the most popular band in Mainland China: Escape Plan. I couldn't see them properly in Beijing also because of the impressive crowd, and also this time Mao Chuan and the others gathered what looked like the most numerous crowd of the festival, this time in a wider space though. The four musicians go from keyboards to guitars to singing refrains together with the audience, up to what is probably THE romantic ballad par excellence of the last few years in China, "夜空中最亮的星" ("The Brightest Star In The Night Sky"). The line to get an autograph or a picture with them after the show was extremely long and I believe it only finished around one.

22:20 Zhanguo Stage – Spring And Autumn [春秋] (China – Prog-Folk Metal)
I'll close the brief romantic digression and get back to Aristocrazia's target with Spring And Autumn. This band was formed during the '90s by Kaiser Kuo, already historic guitarist for Tang Dynasty, generally mentioned as being the first metal band in China in the late '80s. It is one of the few metal bands here at the festival that use clean vocals (Liu Bin is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist), and among those that feature the most references to Chinese tradition. I am glad I had chance to see this small piece of history, even though I am not a big fan of prog metal, and I reckon this was a good way of closing day two.

October 4 – The Festival Closes

14:00 Tang Stage – King Ly Chee [荔枝王] (Hong Kong – Hardcore Punk)
The last day at the festival begins with an interesting international meal, before going back to the stage area for one of the most intense bands of the whole event. Kyng Ly Chee explicitly state that "in Hong Kong there's hardcore!" and own the Tang Stage for about 30 minutes, between circle pits, hardcore moshing and so on. Honestly, I can’t bear this genre easily for more than twenty-thirty minutes, and fortunately it didn't go over that.

17:20 Zhanguo Stage – The Samans [萨满] (China – Industrial-Gothic Metal)
The afternoon went on smoothly, peaking with reggae-rock band Longshendao [龙神道] performing in front of a huge dancing crowd, until Samans have to cope with the difficult task of welcoming the twilight. The six are unique in this festival, with their industrial background and a clearly European-inspired attitude in visual terms. I get there when they've already started, but I have appreciated their engaging show, unfortunately not much promoted compared to other bands on the bigger stages.

18:00 Song Stage – Nova Heart (China – Electronic)
And here we go with one of the main names of the Friday, already show-stealers in Beijing: Nova Heart. The band led by Helen Feng plays its quickly growing repertoire, going from trip-hop to dancing tunes. An exceptional band to see live, to which the frontwoman adds more personality. A band to be seen again and again, one of the cases where 40 minutes really felt too short. I am currently waiting for their new work, you can also follow them on Bandcamp.

19:00 Zhanguo Stage – 101A (Japan – Indie-Noise-Shoegaze)
It is time for one of the foreign guests at the Midi, 101A is a trio coming from many different influences, like several other of their fellow countrymen, difficult to put under a single area. The band is not particularly memorable, but they deserve to be mentioned for all the troubles they went through during the show, broken cables, unsatisfactory equalizations, bad pedals. However, they were quite devoted to building a good relationship with the fans, and the vocalist and guitarist Noah tried to communicate in Chinese attracting some praise. All in all, the concert has been enjoyable apart from the many technical problems. This is the band's Myspace.

21:00 Han Stage – Cold Fairyland [冷酷仙境] (China – Progressive Folk Rock)
Honestly, I wasn't expecting Dropkick Murphys-influenced punk rock to have arrived to China, but SMZB [生命之饼] proved me wrong. After their show on Tang Stage characterized by bagpipes and fans singing along, it was time to close the experience with a bang. One of the most representative bands of the whole Chinese rock movement walks on the stage dedicated to the opera and the more unusual projects. Cold Fairyland formed in Shanghai and is a sextet comprising many different influences, their frontwoman Lin Di is famous for her singing and pipa [琵琶] playing skills and all members are extremely technical. The concert starts almost quietly, with everyone sitting on their chairs as if in a theatre, but it finished with everybody standing near the stage, screaming for an encore (which the band, of course, happily delivered). In the fifty minutes they played, Cold Fairyland mainly explored their "rock" face and explained music to everybody, representing the ideal closure of the festival, though not being the last band to perform.

During the last hour or so I just tried going from a stage to another looking for something interesting. I managed to see the final couple of songs from Narakam's show [冥界] (historic death metal band formed in the early '90s) and something by the hardcore-thrash band Demerit [过失]: both bands gave good performances, but after what Cold Fairyland had put up pretty much anything would have faded in comparison.

The day after, it was time to go back to the bustling city center, having chats with the other campers on our way back home around China. Another great experience, and so many new bands to follow in this constantly developing and immense scene which is Chinese music.

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