Yesterday, we learned that our friend (and ex-Shanghaiist contributor) Brad Ferguson had been fired from his role as manager of Windows Underground. We asked him some questions about the recent developments and he agreed to let us publish them “as long as it doesn’t make me look like an asshole. I still don’t think I did anything wrong, but maybe it looks different to other people.”
So, what happened last night at Windows Underground?
My boss forbade me from hiring Chinese bands, saying that Chinese people only want to see foreigners, and that rock is a western thing so westerners do it better. She said she herself would rather see a bad foreigner band than a good Chinese one. We argued about it for a while last night, but didn’t make any progress. So, I let Hard Queen, our regular Friday night (Chinese) band, do their final show. The accountant warned me that they wouldn’t pay for Chinese bands, but I agreed to pay out of my own pocket. The band are friends of mine, so I also told them why they were being replaced. At the end of their set they said some stuff about the bar and my boss — all true — then kicked the drum kit over. The crowd cheered and people seemed to be having a good time. I finished out the night, but when I got home my boss called me from downstairs. She yelled at me for a while, then she called the police. I politely explained the events of the night, and the cops agreed that as there were no damages, no one was injured, and no one broke the law, there was nothing they could do. So, I only got fired.
What role had you played at the bar?
I was the manager. I had a good staff of people, and was responsible for basically all operational aspects of the bar — everything from booking the bands to breaking up fights to managing the bar and kitchen staff, etc.
What do you think the future holds for Windows Underground?
I honestly don’t know. They may try to keep the same general style, but without Chinese bands or original music I can’t see it being part of the live music “scene”.
What do you think the future holds for live music in Shanghai?
Why do so many people ask me this? I think live music in Shanghai is going to continue to suck progressively less and less over the next few years, and eventually it won’t suck.
What’s next for you? You have worked for so many Shanghai live music venues — Live Bar, Shuffle, 4Live, Windows — that, for various reasons, fizzled. Is there a common theme regarding these situations? Are you ready to give up on being involved in the scene?
The common theme other than me working there? Live (rock) music is still a really new thing to the vast majority of people in Shanghai. It takes time to build up a decent following and steady business. If you combine Windows Tembo and Underground we’d been building the business for about four months, which is a really short period of time — with another couple of months we might’ve had something special. If it had been about money, I’d have taken a pay cut to keep the bands coming, but the problem was with the creative content, and I don’t want to hire boring cover bands just to satisfy the dice-shaking crowd. I’m not giving up, though — as soon as I figure out how to get another visa I’ll be organizing some shows for September and October.
Picture of Brad Ferguson from his Facebook Profile.