We're live backstage at the second annual Zebra Music Festival, and we have to say, Chengdu's "little" festival is growing! The first thing we noticed at this year's Zebra Music Festival is how much stuff festival-goers are dragging to the festival this year. While last year it seemed most audience members walked in empty-handed, this year they know how it works: Bring your own blanket, tent, drinks, picnic, and whatever else you might want. There also seems to be a noticeable increase in attendance compared to Day 1 last year, evidenced by the pedestrian gridlock on the footpaths between stages.
Photo courtesy Zebra Music Festival
While the festival hasn't yet fully succeeded in becoming the entirely commercial venture it's destined to become., commercial-sponsor presence (hello, Converse!) is much more noticeable than it was last year, and with that, far more activity tents and centers have been set up, including a flea market, body painting, public art, and extreme sports (Roller blading, rock climbing, and skateboarding). For the kids, there's a trampoline and drawing station. Also, small flying insects have taken over the grounds. They don't seem to bite, but you might want to arm yourself with a fan to keep them at bay.
All bags must be opened at the entrance. No glass bottles are allowed (and, obviously, no weapons, the security guard informed us). So far nobody has reported problems bringing cameras in, and plenty of non-media festival-goers are walking around with professional camera equipment.
Food and Beverage
In sum, you won't go hungry, but you might not be terribly excited by the food selection. It's probably more fun and appealing to bring your own picnic. We give a thumbs up, however, to the drinks situation. There is no shortage of bottled-drinks vendors all around the grounds, and numerous Carlsberg beer tents have been set up. Waitresses with pitchers and cups are walking around ready to serve guests as well. Beer goes for RMB10 per 300mL plastic cup or RMB60 per 6-cup pitcher. At the Panda Stage, Jaegermeister is going for RMB10 per shot. Fast-food restaurants Dicos and Country Style Cooking are selling food, as are one-off vendors.
Little Bar Stage
Compared to last year's, this year's stage is bigger, and its sound system packs more volume. Its location is also more central. We're looking forward to watching Proximity Butterfly there later tonight.
Off at the way end of the festival grounds is the Panda Stage. The sound system doesn't live up to last year's, and it's also far smaller; and given that it's butted up against villas that have apparently been constructed within the past year, late-night noise might be an issue.
Tents are set up to the left of the main stage. Guests are free to bring their own or rent on-site.
Road signage is not totally clear; look for large blue signs with a small (barely visible) green "ZMF" logo in the upper left-hand corner. Taxi drivers don't necessarily know the route from the Panda Base. If you're parking, be prepared to walk up to 15 minutes.
When asked what the unique points of the festival are, Beijing reggae band Longshengdao says, "Well, the toilets here are cleaner than at other festivals." (But as usual, you probably want your own toilet paper, and hand sanitizer or wet wipes probably wouldn't hurt, either.)
We're expecting, as per last year, a much larger turnout and hyped-up vibe as the night draws on and into tomorrow.
For those of you who can't make it, you can view live streaming video of the main-stage performances, here.
UPDATE Some final thoughts at the end of Day 1: Definitely bring your own food and hand sanitizer and/or bottled water. There appears to be no running water for hand-washing or anything else, and the toilets were already a stench-fest by mid-day today. The food situation is equally dismal: CSC shut down earlyish; Dicos ran out of most items; and nearly all that was left were small paper bowls of noodles or small cups of popcorn, RMB10 each. If desperate times call for desperate measures, you can always duck out the main entrance and dash across the street where free-market rules apply, and a row of entrepreneurial street caterers have set up. A cab from the gate to the south of the city proper will run about RMB60; insist on using the meter. Two-person tents are available for rent for RMB120 per night.
And what of the music? None of it was terribly exciting. Pet Conspiracy's female singers tantalized the crowd with their kittenish sexuality; but in our opinion, many of the local bands confined to the second stage give just as good a show as the out-of-towners booked for the main stage. Unfortunately, the increasing interest (both commercial and popular) in Zebra virtually ensures that the money and the crowds will be thrown at the main stage, while the other two stages are all but ignored by the audience as well as the organizers. Sound cut out regularly at the Panda Stage all throughout the day while the second stage saw a half-hour unscheduled pause in the middle of Tang Dong's set.