China is not known for its music festivals. While the English have Glastonbury, the Americans have Lollapalooza and the Japanese have Fuji Rocks, music fans would be hard pressed to think of a China music festival of particular merit. In recent years, however, things have started to change, and now there are some pretty decent music festivals in China. Here we take a look at some of the most established dates in the Chinese live music events calendar.
Location: Hong Kong
Time Of Year: End Of November / Start Of December
Duration: 3 Days
Cost: Around RMB 1,800
Clockenflap is a strong contender for the best music festival in China. Yes, it can be argued that Hong Kong doesn't count, being the Special Administrative Region that it is, but try telling that to the Communist Party!
Clockenflap combines bonafide international headliners, a cool setup, a convenient location and, hands down, one of the best backdrops of all Chinese music festivals. Past headliners have included The Chemical Brothers, Sigur Rus, The Prodigy, Franz Ferdinand, and Feist, to name just a few. The lineup always offers good depth and a diverse mix of genres and nationalities, so even if you come not knowing many artists, you’ll be sure to leave with some new favorites.
The three-day party takes place at the Harbourfront Event Space, conveniently located in Hong Kong’s Central district, right next to the MTR station. The entrance fee is almost worth it for the view of the harbor and skyscrapers alone, but when you’re done soaking up that and the music it’s just a short skip up the hill to Hong Kong’s famous Lan Kwai Fong party area.
Time Of Year: May
Duration: 1 Day
Cost: RMB 300
Not to be outdone by Hong Kong, Beijing has its very own premier music event in the shape of INTRO, the mainland’s largest outdoor electronic festival. The name of the festival is actually intended to spell out Ideas Need To Reach Out, which is a philosophy the organizers have been promoting ever since the first festival back in 2009.
INTRO is held against the idyllic backdrop of the Grand Epoch City, a huge landscaped convention and events center in the far southeast of the city. INTRO has played host to a number of top quality acts from the electronic music scene. Last year’s edition included the likes of UVB, DJ Paypal, Zadig, Virginia, and Wax-J. Keep an eye out for announcements in early 2018 for the next edition.
Concrete & Grass
Time Of Year: September
Duration: 2 Days
Cost: Around RMB 500
Concrete & Grass styles itself as “a place less ordinary”; and for a long weekend in September, Shanghai certainly feels like somewhere altogether groovier. The organizers scour the region for the best bands in the local alternative rock scene and combine them with an exciting lineup of international talent. Past events have included The Cribs, The Go! Team, HEALTH, and DIIV.
Those in charge of this emerging China music festival seem to have a clear idea of the kind of brand they want to build, having made some very astute additions to lineups, such as Thurston Moore of the legendary Sonic Youth in 2017 and Stephen Malkmus from alt-rock royalty Pavement in 2016. All things considered, it looks like there’s a bright future ahead for Concrete & Grass.
Time Of Year: September
Duration: 2 Days
Cost: Around RMB 1,300
More than any other city in Mainland China, Shanghai is a magnet for music festivals. Originating in Miami in 1999, Ultra is a premium electronic music festival that's gained worldwide recognition over the years. The format has since been taken and expanded by over 20 countries, with Shanghai hosting the inaugural Chinese edition in 2017.
While the franchising of events like Ultra could be seen as corporatization and against the very spirit of music festivals, in countries like China, one could argue it’s a necessary evil if you want to establish and maintain such large-scale events. With brand recognition and financial backing, music festivals in China have a much better chance of attracting the kind of acts we all crave.
The first Shanghai edition of Ultra certainly lived up to expectations, with the lineup boasting the likes of The Chainsmokers, Armin Van Buuren, Carl Cox, and Dubfire. Next year’s event should arrive around the same time in September, hopefully with an expanded line up to rival even the original Miami edition.
Time Of Year: Middle of December
Duration: 2 Days
Cost: Around RMB 700
Storm festival in Shenzhen is sponsored by Budweiser, but don’t let the terrible beer put you off what is one of the biggest and best music festivals in mainland China. It’s one of the highlights of the live music calendar when it comes to the southern Chinese city in December.
Past headliners have included David Guetta and Tiesto, while 2017 saw a stellar lineup topped by Alan Walker and Far East Movement. As well as some of the world’s biggest acts in electronic music, Storm promotes local artists by including the best upcoming Chinese acts further down the festival bill.
Storm also tours around China throughout the year, visiting Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one in the hope it expands into even more Chinese cities in the future.
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Keywords: music festivals in China China music festival
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