PLEASE NOTE: Since this posting, the Zebra Music Festival organizers have made some changes to the festival lineup. Please see this more recent post for the current schedule, as well as the DJ schedule.
This year, the successful strategy behind the event receives a handful of tweaks, including fewer bands in general, and noticeably fewer Beijing bands since most will be playing at the coinciding and Beijing-based Modern Sky event, the Strawberry Festival, and/or the mother of them all, the MIDI Festival.
To compensate for that loss, this year's lineup is heavier on the pop, ticket prices are slightly higher than last year's, and more activity areas are promised, including an extreme-sports area, a football area, a dress-up/cosplay area, a craft and flea market, an outdoor-movie area, and, most importantly, dining and camping areas.
But the main setup remains unchanged from last year's, with three stages, now each with its own name: The "Earth Stage" for the big guys, and the "Sky Stage" for the smaller acts, and Panda Club has been confirmed at the final hour to host a stage in between the two again.
Main Stage | Day 1
Opening the festival before it even begins is the Beijing-based, seven-piece reggae, ska, and dub outfit The Way of the Dragon God (龙神道) aka Long Shen Dao, aka LSD. The band will play Hemp House on the night of April 30 and then open the show the next day on the main stage at Tulip Park. Next up are hometown heroes and highly acclaimed dance rockers Mosaic (马赛克). Israeli country-ish folk-rock quartet Asaf Avidan & The Mojos are one of this year's few invited foreign bands. Beijingers and frequent Chengdu visitors Pet Conspiracy (宠物同谋) caused an online-media stir with naked photos of their foreign and Chinese band members. This versatile electro-rock band includes TV personality, Hit-FM host, DJ, and producer Helen, who was awarded Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at last year's MIDI Awards. Their album Gemini Trip still ranks as one of Modern Sky's best-selling Chinese electronica albums to date, and they're one of few Chinese non-pop bands to see some international success, with a tour through Europe and the inclusion of one of their songs as the title track for Mummy 3.
On a total tangent: Helen beat out SUBS front woman and China's punk-rock queen Kang Mao for the MIDI award; and while SUBS won't follow up last year's top-notch ZMF performance at this year's festival, you can still catch them in Chengdu at the Little Bar the weekend after the festival.
Retro rockers Monkey pilot (猴子飞行员) are one of several Taiwanese acts invited to Chengdu. This list also includes MC Hot Dog (姚中仁), sure to be a crowd pleaser for the young'uns. A graduate of a Taiwanese Catholic college, MC Hot Dog is currently banned from broadcast on the mainland due to his excessive use of foul language, but nonetheless he was awarded the 18th Golden Melody Award for Best Chinese/Mandarin album. The 'Dog will be performing alongside the many-named Zhang Zhenyue, aka Chang Chen-yue (张震岳), aka A-Yue, a member of the celebrated Mandopop-rock band Free Night, aka (Free9), who also performs as DJ Orange. Is your head spinning yet?
Caffe-In opens Day 2 on the main stage.
Main Stage | Day 2
Caffe-In (咖啡因) is a Beijing-based ska-pop-rock band with three Japanese members and one Chinese. Little Nurse (小护士), not to be confused with the Chinese cosmetics brand, seems to be the only Chinese band in the lineup who has managed to stay completely incognito on the Internet. It seems you can't say the words "Chengdu" and "rock" in the same sentence without mentioning Ashura (阿修罗), the first band that Little Bar's pushed beyond the city limits. While the band's original lineup has totally changed apart from its charismatic frontman and driving force, the band nonetheless enjoys perennial popularity thanks to its soft mix of nu-metal and pop-rock. Another award-winning singer, Sitar Tan (谭维维/Tan Weiwei), is a graduate of the Sichuan Conservatory of Music who starred in the Jinsha Musical. Jason Zhang (张杰/Zhang Jie), another test-tube baby of the Chinese music industry, made it to fourth place in the 2007 season of the make-a-male-pop-star reality-TV show Super Boys. Does It Offend You, Yeah is not a commentary on Day 2's commercial lineup but the name of the closing act of the day. The quintet, who was noted as having "the Worst Band Name" by watchdogs of all things cool the Guardian, will most likely be the highlight of the festival. One of the most listened-to bands on Last.fm, the electronic-rock band from Reading was named breakout artist in 2008 by Rolling Stone Magazine, an honor shared with the likes of Daft Punk, Justice, and Digitalism. Lead singer James Rushent co-produced The Prodigy's top-five hit "Omen" and "Invaders Must Die," and the band has opened tours for The Prodigy as well as Nine Inch Nails. Finally, their "We Are Rockstars" single was chosen as the title track for the fourth part of "The Fast and the Furious.
Mr. Turtle kicks off Day 3 on the main stage
Main Stage | Day 3
Indy-rock trio Future Bicycle (未来脚踏车), founded in 2001, is comprised of three of the main producers behind today's generation of Chinese pop stars such as Li Yuchun. Mr.Turtle, aka Mr. Chelonian (海龟先生) originally formed in Zhuangxiang, Guangxi Province, but now consider themselves a Chengdu band. The laid-back ska and reggae quartet has seen considerable success with earworms such as "男孩别哭" ("Boys Don't Cry"—no, not the Cure's). While the Danish duo Reptile and Retard humbly describes their music as "techno soul," Shanghaiist calls it the "best electro-grunge nu-rave balls-out key-tar'deness we've seen this year." Last year, Miserable Faith (痛苦的信仰) swept the MIDI Festival Awards, winning Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Rock Band of the Year. Crienglish took a closer look at the eight-piece metal band. Exile Parade from Warrington, UK, is said to be discovered by former Oasis guitarist Paul Arthurs and shortly after invited to be produced at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios, birthplace to tracks by Kylie Minogue, Tom Jones, Sade, and New Order. Expect nothing less but a genuine performance of pure British indy rock. Haven't got enough of the Tawainese pop yet? Indy folk rockers Soda Green (苏打绿) are the last band on the main stage, and alongside the aforementioned Zhang Zhenyu, constitute the festival's headliners.
Veteran Chengdu rockers Proximity Butterfly (变色蝴蝶) get dissed by ZMF again this year, overlooked for a spot on the glorious main stage in favor of greener acts, but despite being on the second stage, their energetic performance will no doubt move the crowd as it does every time and every place they play. Complementing the band's only two remaining founding members Joshua and Heather Love are drummer Wang Yong (王咏), formerly of Wushilaile, and guitarist Cong Pai (丛湃), formerly of Beijing band The Scoff. Another local act on the Sky Stage that deserves special mention is the seven-piece ska and big band The Trouble (热超波), one of Chengdu's most fun live bands.
Saturday, May 1
Main (Earth) Stage
15:40 Longshendao (龙神道) (Beijing, reggae, ska, dub)
17:00 Mosaic (马赛克) (Chengdu, dance rock)
18:20 Asaf Avidan & The Mojos (Israel, folk rock)
19:40 Pet Conspiracy (宠物同谋) (Beijing, electro rock)
21:00 Monkey pilot (猴子飞行员) (Taiwan, retro rock)
21:30 MC Hot Dog (姚中仁) (Taiwan, rap)
22:00 Zhang Zhenyue (张震岳) (Taiwan, pop rock)
15:00 Foundling (育婴堂) (Chengdu, metal, deathcore)
16:20 Falling Cookies (Chengdu, Brit pop, indy rock)
17:40 Boss Ma Band (马老板) (Chengdu, jazz)
19:00 Tongdang (童党) (Chengdu, melodic emo rock)
Sunday, May 2
Main (Earth) Stage
15:40 Caffe-In (咖啡因) (Beijing, ska, pop-rock)
17:00 Little Nurse (小护士) (Taiwan, indy rock)
18:20 Ashura (阿修罗) (Chengdu, nu-metal, pop-rock)
19:40 Sitar Tan (谭维维) (Chengdu, pop)
21:00 Zhang Jie (张杰) (Chinese pop)
22:00 Does It Offend You, Yeah (UK, electronic rock)
Monday, May 3
15:40 Future Bicycle (未来脚踏车) (Beijing, indy rock)
17:00 Mr. Turtle (海龟先生) (Chengdu, ska, reggae)
18:20 Reptile and Retard (Denmark, electro-rock)
19:40 Misearble Faith (痛苦的信仰) (Beijing, metal)
21:00 Exile Parade (UK, indy rock)
22:00 Soda Green (苏打绿) (Taiwan, pop)
15:00 Elephant Fan (大象迷) (Chengdu, folk)
15:40 Wu Zhuoling (吴卓玲) (Chengdu, acoustic, ambient folk)
16:20 Tree (树子) (Chengdu, folk)
17:40 Zhao Muyang (赵牧阳) (Ningxia, folk rock)
19:00 2 pistols (两只手枪) (Chengdu, acoustic folk)
20:20 Xiao He (小河) (Beijing, experimental folk, jazz improvisation)
21:30 Zhou Yunpeng (周云蓬) (folk)
The lineup has not been released as of this posting, but you can expect the standard lineup of local DJs plus a few special guests from Beijing and Shanghai.
UPDATE: Click here for the DJ schedule.
Tickets are RMB198 for a three-day pass or RMB80 for a single-day pass
National ticket hotline 400-810-1887 | Chengdu booking hotline: 028-65920088 or 99-028-12580 | Internet booking
Poly 198 Tulip Park 保利198郁金香花卉公园 (Baoli 198 Yujinxiang Huahui Gongyuan) on Shulong Lu near the Third Ring Road northeast section, Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, and Chengdu Zoo.
A taxi from the city proper costs RMB40 to 60 and can take 40 to 60 minutes depending on traffic, or you can take bus line 107 or 902 (get off at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base Stop - 大熊猫基地站)
Click here for a map showing the venue's location.
Finally, click here for videos of last year's festiva.