We weren’t expecting much — just maybe to hear these guys play their dueling guitars, spy on some hipster chicks and down a few Xinjiang Black Beers. What we got was one of the worst cover bands we have seen in China (that is saying a lot) and a crowd that looked like we had perhaps happened upon the 25-year reunion of the Shanghai International School. (There actually was a party there, we think. We saw a sign that said “Belgium, Second Floor.”)
Fine. Cover bands have their place. And so do drunk middle-aged people — give us another decade and we’ll be one. But we just didn’t think that place would be Tang Hui, especially on a Saturday night. Aren’t there already enough places in town for fans of cover bands (much better cover bands, in fact, with lead singers who don’t need to read lyrics out of a book)? Isn’t that why we have hotel bars and Tongren Lu? Maybe it’s time we stop trying to force Tang Hui into being the bar that we hoped it would be and realize what it is. It is not the hipster haven that the old Tanghui was — it is just a cool venue with what must be very high rent and owners who are trying to pay their bills. If it takes hiring tired acts and renting it out to parties on a Saturday night to do that, so be it.
Tang Hui will still have its moments — we’ve had some great times there, and this was the first time we were truly embarrassed by the place — but perhaps the bar’s status will be day-to-day, and largely dictated by the bands that are booked to play. We still like the space. Granted, the area near the stage is tiny and there is a big concrete support blocking a good portion of the view from the second floor, but it is still a nice bar, and on Saturday night they played good music in between sets. When Tang Hui is good, it’s good. But maybe Tang Hui can’t be relied upon to deliver a consistent vibe on a nightly basis the same way the old one did. It’s a shame. But it seems that’s just might be the way it is. And we need to deal with it. Or maybe Tang Hui will prove us wrong?
We stayed longer than we should have on Saturday night. A bar staffer had promised what we were experiencing was the cover band’s last set. So we bought drinks and decided to soldier on — we were told the guitar guys we liked would be coming on next. We had just ordered our second drinks (they were out of Xinjiang Black Beer, by the way … again) when we found out that wasn’t true and we got another dose of out-of-tune “party anthems.”
It should be noted that there were some people at Tang Hui on Saturday night who appeared to have a great time (see video above). People were drunk and dancing. It felt like Malone’s.
And that is fine. But the question remains: Where is that progressive bar we are looking for? The one with the laid back vibe, decent drinks and good music. Where should we have taken our friend on Saturday night? Beijing?
Also on Shanghaiist:
Tang Hui Pub getting shut down!
Say goodbye to Tang Hui
Tang Hui to reopen in April, party this Saturday
A sneak peak at the new Tang Hui
A night out on the town: Pecha Kucha and Tang Hui
GigShanghai: Dance rock, a smashed bass, a Tang Hui challenge
GigShanghai: Northern grunge, Tang Hui strikes back and Akufen