Big Gigs in Chengdu

Is Chengdu finally ready to step up and become a city capable of hosting the biggest bands in the business?

The past month has certainly given us reasons to think so. Hot on the heels of the Mono gig last month and a new venue popping up from out of nowhere that easily holds 1000+ people, we've just been treated to LiZhi's sell out gig last week and have another to look forward to this coming Friday. But, before we get carried away, let's examine the current state of the Chengdu scene

Last year the great new hope was the East Chengdu Music Park with Xiong Mao opening amid tremendous fanfare and an opening 2 days the likes of which we are not likely to see again for some time. Berlin's Efdemin and Lawrence on the first day and DJ Shadow on the second was a clear statement of intent. But, for the majority of venues in the East Music park, these are hard times. A quick look at the line up of the new Xiong Mao festival, Panda Attack, will tell you that. The world renowned headline acts have been replaced by local DJs, bands and MCs. Thats not a slight on those acts, many of them are very talented and indeed it still should be a great festival, but the general tone of all the venues in the East Music Park is one of pessimism rather than the optimism that we were all filled with this time last year. One venue however, is bucking the trend: Someone's Soil (拾得雨林).

While electronic music lovers might be despairing, rock music fans in Chengdu have never had it so good.Someone's Soil serves as a Western Restaurant in the daytime but with a stage, lights and a capacity of 1200 it's a venue that makes hosting larger bands possible at last. We were present at the Japanese post-rock band Mono's gig in August. Despite terrible weather and the unwillingness of some people to travel out to the East Music Park the event was a success with more than 400 tickets sold. Tickets were priced at 150 rmb presale and 180  rmb on the door, a small fortune in Chengdu. Now, I know that 150 isn't a lot of money to see a band of Mono's reputation but lots of people here are tighter than two coats of paint. Considering their reluctance to part with 20-30 to see good musicians, more than 400 people through the door for this gig was an excellent result. The event was first of its kind in Chengdu ever. Big band, big venue, big ticket price. The Little Bar, Xiong Mao and New Noise worked together on promotion which again, was another milestone for Chengdu, with 3 hugely respected promoters working together for the benefit of the scene.

Following on from the Mono gig, last Saturday saw one of the biggest crowds for a live show ever witnessed in the East Music park with a packed full capacity crowd of more than 1000 rocking the Li Zhi show. Hundreds of punters could be seen queuing for tickets pre gig from around 7pm onwards for a scheduled 9pm start time. The show was a massive step forward for the Chengdu music scene with a great crowd and Li Zhi’s team bringing in trucks of equipment to guarantee high quality sound. This coming Friday promises to be just as impressive with over 800 presale tickets already sold it's Miserable Faith's (痛仰)turn to take their rightful place in the spotlight. Miserable Faith are a name synonymous with the history China's burgeoning underground music scene. Established in 1999 to critical acclaim the band quickly developed their own loyal fan-base playing a number of high profile music festivals prior to the release of their first album "This's a problem" back in September 2001. Have a look at the video below recorded at Midi in 2009, and you'll have a better understanding as to why the band is considered to be one of the pioneers of China's hardcore rock music scene.

The Little Bar have been involved in these gigs and, if rumours are to believed, they are now looking at building their own large scale venue somewhere in the West of the city. Its certainly an exciting time to be a rock music lover in Chengdu and it should be a wake up call to those that moan about the lack of a music scene in our city. There is a budding scene here and its ready to take the step from obscurity into a well known stop for big bands. All you have to decide is whether or not to support it.