Strawberry Music Festival 2011

Last weekend I found out that there was going to be a music festival in Tongzhou. A festival! Even the idea that there would be a gig in Tongzhou seemed fairly unlikely. I remember being quite excited when a western-style cafe opened near the house. That’s our usual kind of cultural highlight.
Somehow I persuaded V to come along with me. We had a look around the periphery on Sunday, when there were way too many people there, then we came back on (May Day Bank Holiday) Monday afternoon, bought tickets and got in – the whole process taking around five minutes (+1 to Chinese festivals).
The first stage we saw was the metal stage, altogether too shouty for V and, yes, not actually very good anyway. The underground metal scene around here is notorious, but not in an interesting way.
We wandered around for an hour or so, lying around on the grass, eating the usual terrible, expensive food and checking out the stalls, which weren’t bad overall – a mixture of the crafty Nanluoguxiang-style mini-boutique items and some secondhand clothes, which I’ve never seen sold in China before. Then we climbed up a hill to a little valley which housed the main stage. A Japanese post-rock band were playing, and they sounded pretty good, though the sound system couldn’t take the loud bits and one speaker kept cutting out. Just hearing post-rock played in Tongzhou is amazing enough, so it was quite enjoyable anyway.

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The sun was setting and it all looked very pretty.

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The next thing we heard was a traditional Mongolian rock fusion band on one of the smaller stages. They were ok. We mainly enjoyed their dancing.

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The sun was going down by this point, and V was getting cold, so we went to buy a jumper for her to wear. On the way we found a “Tongzhou Tourism” stall, utterly deserted.

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The last band we saw a whole set from were 二手玫瑰 – Second Hand Rose. They were four middle-aged transvestites from Dongbei, their music sounded a bit like the Cardiacs crossed with Mr Bungle, and generally they sounded and looked far more left-field and interesting than anything I’ve heard before in China.

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It was a surprisingly well-organised festival. There were bins, everything was easily accessible, the toilets were even fairly clean.

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It was getting on for 10pm and I had work the next day, so we made our way to the exit, stopping only when we found a small stage with a dj playing seriously hard & fast drum & bass. The small crowd were going crazy – slam-dancing, spinning and throwing each-other, crowdsurfing – while four policemen stood back wondering if this was a riot, and whether they should intervene.
This was the closest I dared get the camera (though I did nip in for a dance too):

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The bus home was horrific, substantially worse than the usual Beijing standards. Even V looked scared she was going to be crushed in the stampede. We got home within the half-hour. V’s parents were still up and we had a go at explaining where we’d been, but it wasn’t really for them.
A good day off from the routine, then, and something we have to do properly next year, if it goes ahead.

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