A Beijing Rock Festival Gets the Blues

Bang! Just like that, my National Day holiday was ruined. RUINED, I TELL YOU!

Without warning, China took time out from its busy flag-waving schedule to cancel every foreign band due to play at the Modern Sky Festival ’09 in Chaoyang Park (Oct 4-7).

Why, you may ask? Well, as I have been told by people in the know, simply because they were “unsuitable” for the nation’s 60th anniversary year.

Look, the standard of bands in Beijing is good, I have nothing to grumble about usually, but when you are given a flier advertising a bill topped by Buzzcocks, it’s the mental equivalent of jizzing your pants.

It’s like a homeless guy surviving for six months on porridge before he finds a deliciously unsoiled slice of pepperoni pizza.

For me, bank holidays (it’s what us Brits call it when a country shuts shop for the day) mean music festivals. Frankly, watching some fuck-off tanks tootle down a big road just does not suffice. I need music, beer and fresh air – in that order.

What is truly galling, however, is the way this whole thing has been done.

Again, like when the Oasis gigs in Beijing and Shanghai were cancelled in April (this time allegedly due to Noel Gallagher’s performance once at a Free Sensitive Word concert), it was done at the 11th hour. Tickets had been sold, T-shirts had been printed and schedules had been cleared.

Is there not a point during the early stages of these things when an official can tilt his head, feign sympathy and say “no” in a condescending voice? Does it really have to come just FOUR DAYS before the fucking event?

According to the forums, the initial post on the Modern Sky website to inform fans of the cancellations apparently said the Chinese government had been the one to pull the plug on the laowai lot. However, it was then hastily changed to a simple apology, making no mention of the authorities. I presume it was preceded by a short phone call.

It is estimated organizers took a hit of around $700,000 due to the late decision, mainly because they had paid most half of their fees up front.

I think it was the lovely Japanese ladies in Shonen Knife who summed it up best. “Our Beijing show at Modern Sky Festival was cancelled,” wrote singer Naoko on the band’s Myspace blog “It’s Chinese government matter [sic] and no one can help. I just want to say sorry for [sic] our fans.”

Swedish rockers The (International) Noise Conspiracy also posted an apology on their website, under the obvious title ‘Big trouble in little China’ (I hope their live performances are a bit more original than their humor), and said the shows had been cancelled by “the Chinese authorities”.

They did, however, add: “The local bands will still play the clubs and the festival, so please go out and support them.”

Damn right, lads. I could not agree more. Consider yourselves excused for the ‘big trouble in little China’ cliché.

The same thing that happened this month in Beijing, also happened in Shanghai last year, I was told by several seasoned Midi Festival (not Modern Sky) and Strawberry Festival-goers, so Shen Lihui, the founder of Modern Sky, must be nuts to keep trying.

But it only makes me love the lunatic even more.

Following the bad news, I texted every poor soul in my address book and tried to get them out to the festival. This man is making a difference and embodies the true spirit of rock and roll.

If we don’t all support these festivals, I’m never going to get to see Buzzcocks again. Think on!

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  1. Jake

    Right on and all that, but what about the festival itself in the end? How was it?


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