Getting Indie in Beijing
Spend some time in China and you will soon come to know the excruciating feeling of being imprisoned in a small room listening to drunken businessmen bellow Bon Jovi’s “Have a Nice Day.” Yes, KTV (Karaoke Television) appears to be the unsanctioned national sport. But have heart, there’s a growing music scene in the nation’s capital that can be the auditory poultice to your KTV wounds. With the rising acclaim of Beijing's annual spring Midi Music Festival, Pinggu Valley Music Festival and Strawberry Festival (organized by Modern Sky Records, a giant in the Chinese independent music industry), there's plenty to get excited about in the Northern Capital. Read on for Beijing's best spots to enjoy independent music year-round.
For local sounds, your first stop is in Beijing's northwestern university district of Wudaokou. Paradoxically located between supermarkets and apartment complexes, D22 is a small, humid punk club that allows a glimpse into one of the city's youth subcultures. Here you will find the cheap beer and rowdy student crowd that define Wudaokou pogo-ing to the sounds of rising local acts like Carsick Cars. With some sort of show or DJ set nearly every weekend, D22 is an inexpensive place to headbang and go home with a few Chinese friends. Just be advised you will likely leave drenched in other people’s sweat.
Moving west toward the vibrant hutongs of Houhai you will come across Yugong Yishan. Tucked away against a nondescript wall, the name literally translates to “Yugong moves the mountain,” a nod to an ancient Chinese idiom- appropriate for arguably the most popular place to see live music in Beijing. This mid-sized location has hosted major international acts like Peaches as well as budding Beijing bands Rustic and Re-Tros. Expect to pay foreign drink prices and entry fees (re: expensive ones), so choose your show carefully.
Follow Guloudong road from Yugong Yishan and you will happen across what appears from the outside to be a meat locker. Behind the somewhat ominous doors is Mao Livehouse, a venue popular with the teenage crowd that has boasted the likes of Ratatat as well as local and expat groups. The bar section is divorced from the stage, for better or for worse, and take note- shows begin and end promptly on time. It is typical for Mao to be emptying out by 10pm.Continued on the next page