Aimee Groom and Sascha Matuszak on one of Shanghai's biggest annual musical events, where bands from around China and the world join for a weekend of full jazz, rock, blues, reggae, Guinness and onion rings.... Aimee leads off with a report on the afternoon and evening, while Sascha takes us deeper into the night. >>>
What better to way to while away a Sunday afternoon than chilling in the park in the balmy autumn sun with your buddies, a few beers and a picnic? Just throw in some quality live music and a few thousand fans and you've got yourself one fun Sunday.
In all my five years in Shanghai, I'm ashamed to say this was the first time I'd made it to the city's premier live music jamboree. I won't be making the same mistake again. Sunshine aside (festivals in the rain aren't nearly as fun; just ask Stephan Larose about Yunnan's Snow Mountain Music Festival earlier this month), book me up for the advance two-day pass because this is a rockin' weekend.
Now in its sixth year, the Fuxing Park for an audience of 5,000 to pulling in 30,000 in the southwest corner of Shanghai's largest green space, Century Park. The numbers for this year's festival aren't out yet, but the 50,000-capacity festival definitely saw large crowds.
It's not just the numbers that have grown over the years. The festival itself has morphed from its original jazz focus (it started life as a labor of love by JZ Club founder Ren Yuqing--known affectionately as "Lao Ren" by the local jazz community) to bringing in acts that encompass rock, reggae and R&B to Latino and electronica. Still, as Ren says here:
"Jazz incorporates everything. The heart of the festival is to make people party, make people dance.”
Amen to that!
Rolling into the park around 3:00 p.m., I joined the laid-back crowd who'd set up camp in front of the Melody Stage and caught the tail end of the Swing Dynasty getting down with their blend of groovy Gypsy Jazz. Next up was the Tectonic Quartet. In between, a troupe of wandering drummers paused nearby, drawing a crowd with infectious tribal beats.
Next stop was the biggest of the three stages, the Harmony Stage, where Beijing-born punk rocker He Yong belted it out as a crowd of hip young Chinese pogo-ed up and down in sync in front of the stage. Further from the pounding bass lines, families relaxed, parents danced and kids ran riot around them, many soaking up their first taste of open-air concert fun and games.
The Liverpool-based seven-piece funk outfit 6ix Toys took to the stage as dusk fell and the lights shone bright against the darkening sky. Energetic to the core, they leapt like madmen around the stage, their DJ keeping things moving throughout the lively set.
It was time for me to bust a move after that, catching just the first few riffs from the JZ Latin Band who'd taken to the Melody Stage.
My fellow China Travel blogger, Sascha Matuszak, arrived around this time, and he takes the torch from here:
As the day wore on and night fell, the youngsters slowly faded out, replaced by older kids in their 20s and 30s who danced to the beats of the JZ Latin Big Band, Ben Huang and Theo Croker, the funky badness of local icon Sugar Mama and the international love vibe of Mauritian band Noukilla later on.
Then, around 8 p.m., the beer tents ran out of Carlsberg and had to serve Guiness all night and the Blue Marlin food tent, dead for much of the day, brought hungry and thirsty festival-goers together to nosh on sausages and onion rings and chug Ireland's best-known export to keep their energy levels up for the dance.
The owners of the Bad Monkey in Dali were in town for a couple days, and even though Dali has a steady stream of international visitors, one of the owners, Scott commented:
"I have never seen so many foreigners at one time, in place since I've been in China."
The crowd really was very international, very mixed and very peaceful. The only time a discernible shift happened was when the JZ Latin Big Band took the Melody Stage and Chang Chen Yueh took the Harmony Stage; as locals flocked to hear the harmonies of the Taiwanese star, the international crowd made their way to the smaller Melody Stage to get their salsa on.
I was part of the family-oriented crowd so around 9:00 p.m., just before the big kids took over the party, I had to skedaddle, but not before I put back three or four beers and a plate of sausages for old time's sake.
All photos by Aimee Groom