Rock in China – A visit to the “Midi-Festival”

The Midi-Festival is the biggest festival for rock music in China. For four days all kinds of people gather at Haidian Park just one block off of Beijing University and listen to rock, hip hop or techno. Up to 80000 fans were populating the park, chatting with friends, playing card games or were throwing Frisbees, camping with their tents, drinking beer (quite cheap, only 5 yuan or 0,5 Euro of a large cup), or strolling the small streets in the park where CDs, T-shirts and other more or less useful items were sold.
This year the festival was co-sponsored by Greenpeace China, an organization which still is quite unknown here and were accepted as an environment organization in China not to long ago. One of the last acts we saw was to record the new greenpeace anthem, it was fun to be in the big crowd, everybody was singing “Go Green, Greenpeace!

Fans at the Midi Festival
Camping at the festival.

The most exciting thing in my eyes was not exactly listening to the music, but to watch the people attending the festival. There were young Chinese punks (碰克 peng-ke in Chinese) wearing clothes that usually can not been seen in the streets of Beijing and some extravagant Mohawk hair styles. But on the other hand there were couples who were not looking as if they are attending a rock festival. Some of the people valued the “peng” (碰) in the Chinese punk to much, it means something like “bump into”. I was surprised how crazy some Chinese were into pogo, and it sometimes really looked a little dangerous.

Fans at Midi festival
Enthusiastic fans during a rock performance.

The bands playing were very different in the style of music. There where foreign bands with putting more weight in their show than in their music, Chinese bands and individual musicians performing at the small stage for alternative music. At each stage the spirit was a different one: People were sitting in the grass in front of the experimental stage and relaxed while others were doing pogo at the heavy metal stage.

Band playing at Midi Festival
Chinese band with an exceptional clothing style.

One of my favorites were the Tookoos, unfortunately they were only playing for some twenty minutes. But at there homepage one can download some of their songs. Some of the other bands were not that well, but there was always time to skip a band and wander around the park area and watch people…
Another thing that caught my attention is the topics that the bands are mentioning in the songs. Some foreign bands were using some critical views of society while most Chinese bands were singing about love or their everyday live (at least from what I could tell by the announcements they made before playing a song), so the rock movement is very apolitical in China. However, a friend told me that at a break between two acts, some video clips were shown, one of them was “Pushed Again” by the German band “Die Toten Hosen”, the video includes some footage from the 1989 incident on Tian’anmen and I’m sure it usually would not been shown in China.

At the end two links: The first one is a news report about the festival, including some interesting facts about its history, the second one is a blog post by a Canadian who describes the atmosphere quite well.


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