You could be forgiven for thinking that Nanjing lacks a live music scene. Publicity for gigs and concerts is sparse, particularly in English, and if you're looking for big names and popular Western musicians, you're out of luck. Nanjing is sadly bypassed by many bigger names on their route between Beijing and Shanghai, despite the size of the city and the untapped student market that resides here. However, there is a smattering of venues across the city that reliably offer live music and the occasional open mic opportunity for those who strive to find it. Whether you yearn for the simple strumming of a solo singer songwriter or the raucous rhythms of rock and roll, this article will be music to your ears. What follows is a selection of live music venues in Nanjing that will keep those toes tapping seven days a week.
1) C-Lounge 古堡酒吧 玺酒廊View In Map
Following the closure of Castle Bar, the regular live music events that cemented Castle as a popular student hangout can now be found at C-Lounge. Several nights a week (most regularly at the weekends), touring bands encompassing rock, metal and punk commandeer the small stage to the delight of the young crowd. The stylish new C-lounge ordinarily invites a relaxed atmosphere, but the spirited bands and energetic student clientele who frequent the early evening gigs breathe life into the venue.
Usually starting their sets around 7 or 8pm, C-Lounge hosts both Chinese and foreign musicians ranging from singer songwriters to hardcore Emo, metal or grunge bands. Entry price varies from gig to gig, wavering between 30 – 150 RMB, drinks are relatively cheap (Tsingtao bottle 20 RMB), and the night doesn't have to end when the band finishes their set. DJ's lean towards a more relaxed lounge vibe to wind down into the early hours of the morning.
Add: 1st floor, Central Hotel (Zhongyang Fandian), 237 Zhongshan Dong Lu, Baixia District, Nanjing.
Price: 30-150 RMB, Tsingtao 20 RMB
2) 61 House 陆拾壹号餐厅View In Map
The cavernous underground bar, 61 House, is at its busiest come Friday and Saturday night when it opens its stage to local, national and international talent. The small stage and bar area provides an intimate gig atmosphere for an array of musical genres. Drinks are cheap (Tsingtao bottles 15 RMB), entry is often free, and the separate lounge area and pool table provides an escape space, assuming the music is not quite to your taste. The staff could do with drastically reducing the number of tables and bar stools on what could otherwise be a good dance floor, but there's just enough room to make some shapes, ogle the talent, or start a small mosh pit if the mood takes you. The crowd dwindles once the bands have finished, but the night continues with resident House DJ's set to a projected video loop of a Victoria Secret catwalk show. The friendly atmosphere, varied music and cheap drinks make 61 House a worthy live venue.
Add: 61 Hankou Xi Lu, Gulou District, Nanjing.
Tel: 1391 3923 848
Opening hours: 22:00 till late
Price: Free entry, Tsingtao 15 RMB
3) Sancho PanzaView In Map
In addition to the free nightly line-up of local musicians strumming out a steady stream of popular Western and Chinese covers, Sancho Panza frequently hosts touring bands playing their own riffs and melodies. The bar's biggest attribute is its laidback atmosphere and easy-going attitude to open mic, allowing the odd (over) enthusiastic punter the chance to stand in the spotlight. Spread over two floors, the upstairs provides a quieter chill-out area, where the music lingers unobtrusively. Downstairs, the bar and stage area buzzes with activity with ample seating stretching towards the back pool room and foosball table. Although the covers can wear thin if you overindulge, the event nights are worth seeking out for a bit of musical variation. Music starts around 8 or 9pm on most nights.
Add: 173 Guangzhou Lu, Wutaishan Sports Stadium North Gate (take the steps to the right), Nanjing
Tel: 025 5188 8096
4) Myth and Blue MarlinView In Map
These two bars, both heavily laden with memorabilia of the Western persuasion, are home to two separate, but surprisingly similar Filipino bands. The endless rehashing of predictable Western covers night after night wears thin quickly, especially if you're anticipating something a little more original. Expect Oasis' Wonderwall, a Bob Marley number and other overplayed covers that force flashbacks to those teenage evenings spent huddled around a campfire, armed with an acoustic guitar and a bottle of cheap cider. While Blue Marlin is surrounded by the glitz and faux gold lacquer of the 1912 district, Myth is a more obscure choice situated amongst banks and office buildings on Jiangsu Lu. They both seem to aspire towards the American model of a bar, with a pool table, abundant flatscreen TVs, booths and bar stools, and similarly adopt American prices. Reasonable options for an occasional visit if you're looking for live music purely as background noise, and if you're craving foreign beers in a comfortable setting. Not a great choice if you're seeking quality or original live music.
Add: Myth Pub, Jiangsu Lu, Nanjing.
Add: Blue Marlin, No. 8 Changjiang Hou Jie, 1912 District
Tel: 025 84537376
For up-to-date information on events in any of the above venues, it's best to check them out in person, ask bar staff and pick up flyers for upcoming events.
5) Olympic Stadium & Wutaishan Stadium
As well as hosting sporting and cultural events, these two stadiums present large-scale Chinese and foreign music concerts. Tickets and upcoming events information can be found and purchased through the events webpage www.17u.cn. (Be warned, the site requires some knowledge of Chinese characters, a bit of patience, and/or an extremely nice Chinese speaking friend.) Prices vary around 40-100 RMB, but if you want to catch some big names, particularly if you're interested in China's blossoming music scene, these two stadiums are your best bet in Nanjing.
Olympic Stadium 奥体中心 View In Map
Add: Aoti Dajie, Jianye District, Nanjing
Opening hours: 09:00-21:00
Getting there: Metro Line 1 or 2
Wutaishan Stadium五台山体育场 View In Map
Add: 173 Guangzhou Lu, Gulou District, Nanjing
Opening hours: 09:00-22:00
Getting there: Bus 109, 132, 152, 302, 303, 318, 3, 6, 78, 806, 91 to Guangzhou Lu Stop
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Keywords: live music Nanjing rock shows Nanjing best bars in Nanjing bands and music in Nanjing
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