On Wednesday May 1st I went to the 2013 Beijing Midi Festival at YuYang Ski Resort out in Pinggu. The Midi festival is the festival for rock and metal, then when you go to Midi you normally expect a solid lineup of great rock and metal music capped off by a headliner of serious proportions. So what happens when you go to Midi and there is no headliner? Well there is still rock and metal, but the depth of the line up might dissuade people from trekking out an hour and a half to the venue just for a bunch of bands that can be regularly seen around Beijing.
For me the trip out there was pretty easy. I hopped on the shuttle bus from Beitucheng and just over an hour later I was at the venue. I, like many people, saw the venue location and the troubles that one would have to go through to get to the venue and thought why would I travel so far. Well hats off to the Midi crew for setting up a great bus system back and forth as well as the venue being really well laid out. Sure the venue was far but the grass was green and the venue was a big open space with plenty of space for stages, food vendors, and fans. I think I would actually go out there again for another festival.
The bands filling the schedule were mostly bands that are commonly seen at Midi Festivals of past or around Beijing. With their limited budget and lack of headliners it seemed like Midi was just reshuffling the same artists around from festival to festival, but they did a pretty good job of picking a good mix and making sure there was something for everyone who was coming out that far. Most of the local highlights were strong local bands with a solid base. The day started off with a great lively performance by Beijing boys Residence A (A公倌) who were on top of things as usual. Long Shen Dao (龙神道) served up vibrant reggae sounds and built up and a great vibe amongst the crowds that propagated into a drum circle by fans after they even came off stage. Chinese metal masters Yaksa (夜叉) were loud and in charge as usual delivering an amazing show that involved the entire crowd and were clearly the metal highlight of the day, but then again they almost always are.
There were a few foreign bands playing on Wednesday like The Sewer Rats from Germany, Sybreed and Djzoes from Switzerland, The Ordeal from Germany, The Ghost Inside from the USA, and Disney After Dark (D-A-D) from Denmark. Unfortunately, mostly due to drinking, I did not catch all of them, most of them, but not all. The bands that I did have a chance to catch were great. Not particularly always what I had expected or was looking for but pretty darn good. The first foreign band I caught was Djzoes. This is a band that I have seen before in one of their previous trips through China. It is hard to say how good they were or weren’t due to sound mixing issues for the front of house on the staged they played on, but more about that later. As a show it was fun and they definitely got the crowd going. They were joined on stage for a song by the front man for Sybreed as well and if that wasn’t enough their guitarist Fred was down in front of the stage working up the crowd and ladies with his long curly locks and intensely skilled fingering.
The Sewer Rats were an unexpected but very good German surprise. When was the last time you went to a big concert and saw a guy get up on stage and not only play using an upright bass, but dance, move, and steal the show with one? The music was reminiscent of rockabilly, meets swing, and meets German greasers. It was hard to listen to them without moving along. Not only did they sound the party, but they looked it too, which, I guess in China, is a big part of selling a genre that might be lesser known amongst local rock and metal aficionados. Finally, Sybreed was the last band that I saw in a conscientious state, for after the band came off the stage the drinking started really happening. Were they good? Yes. Was the crowd into them? Yes. So what should you take from that simple review? Find them online and give them a listen. We all know that not all metal is created equal. Sybreed has taken metal and given it a twist. It’s still metal, it’s still fast, and it’s still going to kick you in the face, but the addition of synthesizer makes some of their songs feel like a whole orchestra is playing along, not the easiest thing to do with a 4-piece band.
As always there are always the extras at any festival. Midi despite the hike out there still had they myriad of food vendors and people selling shirts, buttons, CD’s, and other nick knacks. There was plenty of beer thanks to sponsors Tiger and even cocktails thanks to School Bar over from YongHeGong. As always there was a Jägermeister tent serving up cold shots. So things were normal as far as that goes. My biggest complaint about the festival was actually the sound mixing on the two smaller stages. While the sound was superb on the Tang stage the Qing and Song stages had sound issues all day with varying degrees of success. It always seemed to be off with either not enough vocals or too much bass or some random interference buzz coming in. The worst I experienced was during the Djzoes set on the Qing stage. The Qing stage front of house sound mixing was consistently off all day, which unfortunately might be because of its close proximity to the Tang stage. It probably made it difficult for the sound technician running the front of house to get the mix right, but it still should have been better than it was.
So was Midi 2013 a success? I would say so. Sure it was far to travel to get to, and there were no big headliners, and the crowds were smaller than normal, but that’s kind of what made Midi 2013 as good as it was. It was more personable. You could actually get close and see each band perform. You were never going to miss a band because the walk was too far from one stage to the next. At the end of the day that’s what we go to festivals for, friends, fun, good music, and it had all of them. Mix in great weather and cold beer and I would say you have the makings of an excellent festival day.
These are the photos by MIDI photographers.