Electrolist, by Shanghai Ultra of the VOID crew, gives the lowdown on the Shanghai electronic music scene each week, with picks, tips, news, and other rumors.
Electrolist is back after a break for the festive period, and before we continue lets have a belated look back at 2009’s electronic music scene in Shanghai.
The year 2009 was a period of polarization in China’s electronic music scene between the overground and the underground. These are cliched terms, but they are still useful in explaining how the scene developed last year, as a greater understanding of the vague concepts behind these words grew. More punters became aware of the difference between going to somewhere like Bar Rogue or M2 to watch a Top-100 DJ list act, and heading to somewhere like The Shelter to catch a talented non-mainstream DJ or producer.
Sadly, the pre-occupation with the flawed and silly Top-100 DJ list continued in 2009, as the more overground aspect of Shanghai’s scene continued on its path towards making the city sound just like anywhere else in the world. The pushing of Top-100 DJ list acts such as Tiesto and Armin Van Burren did not help the development of the local scene. The hierarchical social attitudes found in many modern Chinese meant that clubbers readily accepted the concept of a Top-100 list without question; a very convenient fact fully exploited by sponsors, club owners and other outsiders with no interest in developing electronic music culture.
By the same token, this made it harder to promote international acts not on the list to anything except small dedicated audiences. In turn, none of this helped local crews and acts develop their own sound either.
Progress on the development of a Shanghai sound was achieved however, in spite of the city’s lack of creative spaces.
The Shelter was again the epicentre of the electronic music scene – it had a steady second year, and proof of its permanent impact on the clubbing landscape was borne out by the opening of another music-first venue, Not Me on Dongping Lu. Although not set up as a rival to the Shelter as such, the demographic of the two venues clearly overlapped, which contributed to another problem, that of alternative party overdose – too many parties, too few punters. Whilst it was great to see so many small-scale parties in bars such as Cs, Anar and Logo, the quality of such events varied, and ultimately ended up diluting the already thinly-spread alternative crowd in Shanghai.
Ironically, Antidote, who started off the trend of holding music parties in divebars four years ago at Cs, held their last ever monthly Thursday party at Cs in October – a night which had become something of an institution in the alternative scene. Antidote continue to be active elsewhere in Shanghai and across China.
In a nutshell, 2009 saw some good grass roots development for the electronic music scene, but alternative events struggled to draw adequate support, partly down to the wildly varying quality of such events and the usual difficulties of tempting clubbers away from mainstream parties.
So that was 2009. Frankly speaking, 2010 looks problematic for music in Shanghai.
The arrival of the Expo will bring millions of visitors to the city, and for each one an equivalent mile of red tape. All manner of random rules, bureaucratic hurdles and other pointless window-dressing exercises will materialize, and make it difficult for musicians, artists and their fans to get together and have a good time. This will of course effect everyone, particularly live music fans. In fact, the electronic music scene may manage to fall beneath the Expo radar due to its relatively inconspicuous nature. Electrolist’s wish for 2010 is that all music lovers and makers be given free reign to contribute to making Shanghai a diverse cultural destination full of international character with local flavor.
Moving on to the more immediate future, the outlook for this weekend is tempered by the fact that January is a bit of a quiet month events-wise. In fact, Electrolist can’t find much worth recommending tonight – no point in putting something up just to fill the space. However, you may want to check out Phat Phil Cooper at Shelter on Saturday night, he’s flying in from Wales to head up a posse of local DJs and bring some nu-disco and funk with live sax and trumpet players. Sounds very intriguing. Then on Sunday night, head to Dada for Santo Chino’s weekly offering of disco tunes. Santo, as well as being a very well respected food critic, is a man who knows his music inside out, take the chance to hear a real connoisseur ply his trade.
SATURDAY NIGHT: Sick Trumpet with Phat Phil Cooper @ The Shelter, No. 5 Yongfu Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu 永福路5号，近复兴西路. 50RMB on the door.
SUNDAY NIGHT: Santo’s Sunday Disco @ Dada, 115 Xingfu Lu, near Fahuazhen Lu 请带我去幸福路115号. No cover.