Hed Kandi in Chengdu, a summer of disappointment

Those of you who stumbled upon this website a couple of weeks ago would have seen a flyer in our events section for Hed Kandi’s Summer of Love -- an event that we at Chengdumusic.com were looking forward to, albeit a little apprehensively. Held in Chengdu’s Lan Kwai Fong on the last Friday in May, it was to be an outdoor dance event promoted by UK house music promoters Hed Kandi. Tickets were sold or given out by invitation in advance of the night and a decent crowd had assembled by the time we had arrived at around 9pm. The entrance to the stage area was uniquely Chinese and we lined up next to hundreds of security guards and scantily clad promotion girls. In all my years of attending different club nights around the world I have never been given an estate agents flyer and asked to place my business card in a bowl upon entry. I was intrigued.

The set up was impressive -- an excellent lighting rig and sound system that would easily be at home in a minor dance stage at a European music festival. There were stands selling a variety of drinks representing each of the clubs that surrounded the square. Podiums at the side and back of the venue were adorned with sexy dancers. There was a large excitable crowd of about 1,000 people drawn by the reputation of the hosts, an international name in house music with their own club on the party island of Ibiza. The scene was set for what could have been an incredible night. Unfortunately it wasn’t.

What the promoters failed to get right was the music. I’m not the biggest fan of the type of commercial house music Hed Kandi promote, however I knew it was their night and with a few beers in me was looking forward to seeing some decent performers and DJs. What we were presented with can only be described as a disgrace. We had one DJ all night who was extremely average, never changing up his set to meet the demands of the mostly bored crowd. His only method of getting the crowd going seemed to be by raising his hands in the air and posing for photographs. Perhaps this is slightly unfair as some fat bloke MC reminded us we were about to see a “live set”. Now I was interested. However, Fat Man’s idea of what constitutes a live set and mine are obviously very different. What we were treated to was a girl playing a saxophone -- yes, a fucking saxophone -- alongside what the DJ was playing. This might have been a nice little novelty if it hadn’t carried on for about an hour, in which time I’d be surprised if she played more than 10 different notes.

I was now very bored and fed up. I thought, this can’t be all that there is? I was awoken from my stupor when the music died down and Fat Man came back on stage. This time it was to big up and introduce a female singer. She was, in a word, awful. She sang three songs loosely in tune with a dodgy backing track, which I can only assume was produced some time in the early 90s --if not God help us all. She would later reappear to sing the same songs again, only this time accompanied by saxadrone girl and her 10 notes. Finally the show ended, much to most people’s relief.

Oh, and by the way Fat Man, just screaming at people telling them to dance will not make them dance. If they’re unimpressed they are unimpressed. I’m sure the Hed Kandi guys will go home telling people that Chengdu is not ready for them yet. This is bollocks. Anyone who has been to other events here know the Chengdu crowds can get really into it if they like what’s on offer. They just weren’t up for the rubbish served by Hed Kandi.

Not much that happens in Lan Kwai Fong is musically credible, so why do I care about this? Well there are two reasons. The first is, the people that took the trouble to attend the event did so because they were expecting something special. This was a night put together by UK promoters so people expected something more than a dodgy standalone DJ playing off his lap top, gimmicky musicians and a white female singer in a skimpy dress. This kind of stuff can be found at any marketing event in Chengdu. After this disaster people are likely to believe this is the norm the world over and continue to carry on regardless.

Second, it was a wasted opportunity to sneak some good music in. The crowds were there and the set up was great. It is notoriously hard to get people to attend this type of show. The hard work was done so why not put a little more work in and get some genuine talent on stage. I do not believe this is the best Hed Kandi has to offer or else they would not have built up such a large following.

Bobby B