Two weeks in the end of June brought a change in the normal Ningbo day-to-day. Two weekends in a row sections of the city were filled with the sound of music drifting through the indecisive summer air. Whether rain or shine, people from all over the city flocked to the weekend events, eager to hear tunes from around the country and the world.
Le Fête de La Musique
The first festival was the Fête de la Musique, which was in town for its second year from June 20th to 21st. The Fête de la Musique was first held in Paris in 1982 as a musical celebration of summer and the summer solstice. Since then, it has spread to over 120 countries around the world who all celebrate it during the same time.
Although it has been in Shanghai for nearly 10 years, the Fête is a new addition to Ningbo’s summer festival scene. Organized by the French Consulate General and Ningbo Cultural Plaza and sponsored by the Institut Français and Le Coq Sportif, this second showing brought out unique groups from around Ningbo and all the way from France.
This didn’t make the occasion any less awesome. Not wanting to miss a second of the show, we arrived a little before starting time after 4:30 PM on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Disembarking the bus we heard the sound of rock echoing through the chasms of the Cultural Plaza. As we made our way into the place, we passed a Le Coq Sportif tent and were from there able to enter the show.
It was a sight to behold: multitudes of people sitting and standing everywhere one looked, all waiting for the big tunes to begin. Following a special opening ceremony at 5:00 PM, the first bands entered the fray. Starting off slow, just bands playing Chinese pop songs, it got real when Velvet Road came on. “Are you ready to f–ing rock!?” asked the lead singer, sporting aviators and an army officer’s hat. That’s when the real rock started. Heavy metal was the name of the game and it kept getting better from there.
Due to rainy weather, the second day of the festival was cleared out. We arrived just as the opening group, CMCB, a Chinese hip-hop group, were finishing their gig. Next it was the French psychedelic rock group I Me Mine, aptly named after the Beatles song of the same name. This was what I had been waiting for: solid numbers with no one song sounding the same. This was something we could jam to. I Me Mine ended just as the rain started pouring down. Heeding their word, I headed backstage and picked up a t-shirt clad with what looked like Alex from A Clockwork Orange and the phrase “Nobody’s Hotter than Mad Sam”. A weird and satisfying end to an awesome festival.
Lighthouse at 1844
Next week the music kept on coming with the First Lighthouse concert at 1844. The first of its kind, the concert was organized by Time Beacon, a local arts and music group.
The concert itself was awesome. Taking place in the 1844 Museum of Contemporary Art, a former girl’s academy turned art center and shopping area, the late night music fest bought five groups from Ningbo and China’s big cities to perform for the evening. Even though it was all Chinese groups, these guys were good, and they brought out a huge crowd to the place.
We danced and jammed while sipping on some highly overpriced beer (20 RMB for a can of Harbin, which usually runs for 2.90), taking some breaks to check out the surrounding area. It was a crisp summer evening, and since it was the first time in the area it was quite the treat. 1844 is split into the girl’s school (now a museum) and a chic glass covered shopping complex with top international brands, a Starbucks, and fancy Chinese eateries. After tooling around a bit we returned again and again for round after round of stellar tunes.
They certainly saved the best for last with Far East Lion Underground, two DJs from Shanghai who primarily performed dance hall and reggae jungle. Having not heard anything out of Jamaica for months, this was the best that could happen.
After their gig, I sat down with the two DJs to talk about their music. Far East Lion Underground have been doing underground shows in Shanghai since 2009. The duo consists of DJ Jado, from China, who provides the lyrics, and DJ Shohei, of Japan, who provides the mixology. When discussing their music, Jado explained to me they want people to come away with good vibes, “one love” he says. Far East Lion bought the love that night with an awesome show, one that keeps me thinking back to the night and the music that was everywhere.