Let's face it — China isn't exactly known for its modern day live music scene.
That's not to say that there isn't an increasing number of quality artists coming to tour in China or that the domestic scene isn't producing artists. In many places in China, it's rare to find a live show of any kind — much less an artist or genre of music you are passionate about.
That being said, things are changing faster than I can write the words on this page. New live-music venues are sprouting up across the nation and giving the up-and-coming domestic artists a place to stake their claim, while also bringing in some international talent when possible — and approved of.
Beijing and Shanghai might be a different story, but in the foreigner-scarce megatropolis of Chongqing, the live music scene is a bit trickier to wrap your ears around. In fact, it's probably best that you check your expectations at the door; there is a lot left to be desired. Of course, here in the "Chinese city for Chinese people," there are likely quite a few other things in your Chongqing life that don't exactly meet Western standards. Like other compromises you've made along the way, add the Chongqing music scene to the list.
When taken with a grain of salt, like many entertainment options in China, things are usually best when not taken too seriously. Here are a few of the spots in Chongqing where you can grab a drink and watch a musician play in real time.
1) Nuts Club 坚果俱乐部 View In Map
This is the only proper modern music venue in Chongqing. It's a cosy spot, situated in the most heavily student-traffic zone of the city, Shapingba. It attracts solo artists, bands and DJs from at home and abroad. Music styles are as diverse as any venue I've been to in the West, with psychedelic trance DJ's from San Francisco one night and homegrown acoustic crooners the next. Their Douban page is the best source for figuring out who's on deck for future performances.
On nights where there is no event scheduled, it doubles as a bar that you can actually buy a drink at without being asked which table you're sitting at. Which is an admittedly pleasant change of pace from the CQ bar scene, especially with beers at 5 RMB a pop and all the Western cocktails your body has room for.
Add: 1F, Technopark of Chongqing University, Shazhong Lu, Shapingba, Chongqing
Tel: 023 6372 1088
2) Greenhouse View In Map
Newly erected in the swankiest area in CQ, Tiandi, Greenhouse actually claimed to have the Black Eyed Peas performing one night, although they were just a look-alike cover band (BEP was scheduled in Europe at the time they were supposedly in CQ). Anyhow, this is a particularly fancy and expensive joint, and their music element exists in true CQ style — an artist will come on and perform (sometimes with instruments, sometimes without) a couple of Western songs and a couple of Chinese songs every couple of hours during a night — a blend of house and pop from the DJ carries the rest of the evening. At Greenhouse, the DJ is aided by visuals, which is neat at best but mostly mistimed and unfit.
Add: 128 Ruitian Lu, Chongqing Tiandi D205, Hualongqiao, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 6360 8877
3) Cotton View In Map
The quintessential expat bar on the fringe of Deyi world in Jiefangbei (a.k.a Yuzhong) does have live music on occasion. With enough stage space to host a full band, those who grace Cotton's stage usually appear to be of the in-house-Western-cover variety. Nevertheless, when they are belting out Journey towards the end of a Friday evening, they can rile up most of the expat community — the population of which could probably easily fit inside the club.
Add: LG Meili Building Jiaochangkou, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 6383 0036
4) The Best of Deyi World: True Color, 88, Soho & TT
You could make the argument that the gauntlet of Chongqing club hysteria could also be considered places to see live music. Although the new kid on the block, True Color (a club chain), is more fresh-to-death than the other places, 88 (another chain) still gets the wildest. Soho (owned by 88, obvious from the decor) and TT lag a bit, especially in the music department and the whole area seems to have another club about to open up all the time.
Still, at any of these bars, on any given night, you can peer through your whiskey and green tea induced goggles and catch a guitar-totting hair-hero paying homage to the rock music of yesteryear or a team of dangly, dancing pop-dolls drilling out a couple of Chinese chart toppers. The club music isn't always "live" in the purest sense of the word, but a performance is definitely going down.
True ColorView In Map
Add: 51 Minquan Lu, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
No. 88 Bar View In Map
Add: 2F, 260 Yintai Square, Jiaochangkou, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 6372 1088
Soho Club View In Map
Add: 88 1st Floor, Deyi World, Jiaochangkou, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 6379 7776
TT Club View In Map
Add: 88 2nd & 3rd Floor, Deyi World, Jiaochangkou, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
地址: 重庆市 渝中区重庆渝中区较场口88号得意世界A裙2-3楼
Tel: 023 6388 8999
5) Mansion Impression (Fudi Yinxiang) 府邸印象 View In Map
Located near TT & Soho, but underground, this brand spanking new bar has live music every night. Jazz and blues seem to be their speciality as their setting is far more lounge-like than the aforementioned mad houses. The artists themselves aren't shabby, but nothing anyone would ever put on a flyer.
Add: 89-90, Underground Floor B1-11, Deyi World, Jiaochangkou Yuzhong District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 8655 5637
6) My Club View In Map
Located on the northern edge of Nanping, right across from the Convention Center, this newly erected nook has live music every night. In a setting that feels slightly like a true Jazz house, if it weren't for the insistence on keeping up with the jarring pop music and videos between (and sometimes during) a saxophone solo performance, this is place to go to if you are looking to take your foot off the club gas pedal a bit. The vibe is a little warmer, a little older, and a little less flaunt-prone than other places in the city. Worth the trip if you're looking to chill and hear some cool brass.
Add: A27, North Avenue, Shanghai City Plaza, Nanan District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 6275 0903
* All venues open by 21:00 and close between 2-5 AM, seven nights per week.
If these venues don't whet your whistle for live tunes, I recommend meandering into any of the thousands of KTV joints in town. You can see some top notch singing and/or have some top notch laughs. After all, live music does exist in Chongqing. You just may have to mold your definition of that at times to see it.
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Keywords: Live music Chongqing live music scene Chongqing concerts and music performances Chongqing
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