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Emergency Notice: All live rock performances after Sept. 1 are canceled
Author: Tang Hui
Source: Tang Hui
Performances on Sept. 8, Sept. 15, Sept. 22 (Queensea Big Shark, Glamorous Pharmacy, New Pants) are canceled due to unsurmountable forces and difficulties. Please tell your friends. We are very sorry about this. We let those who love the performances down. Once the problems get solved, we will organize other performances. We hope you continue to support us! Thank you!
Tang Hui Bar (Phone: 021-54034408)
While we had been told that Rockself is usually a trustworthy local music site, we thought it would be best to check with Tang Hui itself before posting about it. So we called the bar’s general manager Morry Morgan and he confirmed that Tang Hui is victim to a “crackdown on live rock ‘n roll music by the Culture Bureau.” Morgan said that other live music venues like Yuyintang are also feeling the heat. He said all September shows had been canceled and he did not know when, if ever, Tang Hui would be able to resume playing host to live music acts.
So what of the much-hyped Battle of the Bands event scheduled this month at Tang Hui — the one that was featured on the cover of the current issue of City Weekend? Yep, that’s not happening, either … at least not in the same format or venue as before. Morgan was holding meetings today regarding a change of location. He’s leaning toward a big place near Moganshan Lu with government connections — if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em … or at least shove it in their face, seems to be the motivation. It will likely just be a one day event if it happens. Stay tuned for further updates.
Interestingly, DJed music doesn’t seem to be covered by the current crackdown. So, Tang Hui will continue to operate as a primarily DJ-oriented music bar for the time being — which is great news, because Shanghai doesn’t already have 1,659,374 DJs playing on any given night. But it’s not as though Tang Hui has much choice in the matter: “We’re restructuring our format,” Morgan said. “I’m now more of a caretaker, trying to keep Tang Hui running until something changes — and in Shanghai, something usually does change. We’re not giving up.”
Things have never been very smooth for Tang Hui since reopening in May at its current location, 85 Huating Lu. (The old Tang Hui, on Xingfu Lu, was shut down about a year ago due to similar problems with authorities.) At Huating Lu, after opening to much fanfare, there were almost immediate noise disputes with the neighbors and an ongoing hate-hate relationship with the Culture Bureau. This perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise — Tang Hui has never had a performance license (but, then, neither do most venues). “A performance license is very difficult to obtain,” Morgan said. “We opened without a performance license and that grated on people at the Culture Bureau who thought they weren’t being taken seriously.”
Morgan said Tang Hui has paid RMB 60,000 in fines since opening, 20,000 alone for the Akufen gig in July that ended with a neighbor entering the bar in pajamas and unplugging all the electrical equipment. He said the Culture Bureau is “corrupt” (no surprise, there) and claims to have recorded proof that a group of neighbors were bent on blackmailing the bar for cash. Owning a bar in Shanghai sounds like fun.
And what of Zooma (pictured), the man who started Tang Hui in the first place? A fixture at the old Tang Hui, either on stage or mingling in the crowd, he seemed to have gotten lost in the intricate woodwork of the new venue. “Zooma basically was so frustrated with what was going on at the Culture Bureau that he stepped down,” Morgan said.
But Zooma himself tells a different story. He said he’s still a shareholder in Tang Hui, but basically no longer has anything to do with the place. He said it wasn’t his choice, either. “One of the partners didn’t want me to stay,” Zooma said. “They told me they wouldn’t be able to get a license if I stayed, so I left. I’m not sure why. Tang Hui is different than it was before. Now it is very big. Business is good. It’s all about the money.”
Zooma said he’s approaching this as “a new start.” Today, he said he is heading to look at a new bar a friend is opening to see if he can hold live music parties there. He’s also looking at opportunities to open a new place of his own. But he realizes it won’t be easy in Shanghai. “There is a lack of interest in live music here,” he said. “We don’t have very good rock bands. Most are so-so, a few very good. Also most of the best rock bands aren’t based in Shanghai. They are in Beijing, Guangzhou or Xian. If you want them to come to Shanghai, it can be very expensive.”
And if you do manage to find success, as Zooma did with the old Tang Hui, others — local authorities and landlords — will no doubt try to cash in on it. “In Shanghai, we do music but we don’t have political power,” he said. “We put our interest in music and bars and making people happy. Before, we didnt think it would be such a success. But when it starts looking like a business, someone will take it.
“If you are famous, everybody will attack you because you are successful. We do rock music but we are not protecting ourselves. We can’t protect ourselves. If we want to do better in rock music, I think maybe we need more guanxi. Before, I didn’t think about this.”
As Morgan said earlier today: “At the end of the day, you can’t fight the man.” That’s about as un-rock-‘n-roll a statement as you can make. But in 2006, it seems to be the sad reality of live music in Shanghai.