Onlookers in front of the main stage. Photo by Leo Chen.
Chengdu's long-awaited first full-blown music festival kicked off yesterday.
Although the park was far from packed, by nightfall, turnout in front of the main stage looked decent.
Photo by Dan Sandoval.
While the lineups for days 2 and 3 feature more big names, when the first night's last act, popstar Wang Xiaokun ("Essay Wang"), took to the stage, the audience was all ears and cheers. Earlier in the day, main-stage performances by bands well known in the Chinese underground rock-music scene such as Brain Failure, Soundtoy, and Muma&Third Party received lukewarm receptions.
Clearly quite a bit of money has been invested into the lighting, sound system, and general setup of the main stage, footage of which is reportedly being televised live on CDTV. Particularly after the sun went down, this stage's lighting and multiple large screens made an impact, signifying a major milestone in Chengdu's contemporary cultural development. The organization of the rest of the festival, however, including the two smaller stages, was far less spectacular.
Live graffiti near the Lotto stage. Photo by Leo Chen.
Trouble with the generator plagued the Xiongmao stage, and its sound failed several times; the Lotto stage was so far from the main stage and entrance to the festival that it seemed few were willing to make the trek there. Those who did, however, could view live graffiti being sprayed onto the wall off to the side of the stage.
As rain had fallen heavily the night before, the grounds were slightly muddy, and plenty of attendees were sporting galoshes. Serious festival-goers rented tents on-site or had brought camping gear with them, and by early afternoon both the grounds in front of the main stage as well as the designated camping grounds were dotted with nylon huts.
On the plus side, rubbish bins with separate containers for plastic, paper, food waste, and non-recyclables were placed every few hundred meters and manned with volunteers to ensure that trash was placed into the appropriate container. The temporary toilets that were set up didn't see long queues; running water was available at several rickety looking stations constructed out of plastic piping.
Aibai representatives dressed as giant condoms hand out the real thing. Photo by Leo Chen.
In addition to the three stages, the festival organizers have lined up a temporary food court with a decent variety of food choices as well as a children's tent with playthings for the young ones; a small flea market at which vendors are selling stationery, trinkets, and handmade items; and various information tents for sponsors and local organizations such as the Aibai Community Center.
On top of that, industrious freelance vendors set up shop on their own to sell everything from miniature hot-air balloons to snacks and bottled drinks to light-up badges. In front of the Xiongmao stage, there is a bar set up that serves cocktails and canned beers; beer is available by the pitcher as well.
Photo by Leo Chen.
Most essential items can be purchased at the festival for a relatively small markup, although those who plan to attend the festival in the coming days would be well-advised to bring something to sit on so as to avoid soiling their clothing. Alternatively, heavy, army-style blankets are sold on-site for RMB40 for a double size; large tents run RMB80 per day of rental. Foldable stools are also being sold at the venue.
City buses run until night; taxi fare from the south Second Ring Road to the festival will run around RMB40.
Chengdu rockers Soundtoy on the main stage. Photo by Leo Chen.
We asked a few of the concertgoers about their first impressions of the festival. Here's what they had to say:
"My first impression is average, there aren't that many people. My favorite band today has been Soundtoy."
Leo Chen, photographer (China)
Photo by Dan Sandoval.
"The vibe is very open and very congenial. Everyone seems to be really willing to cross whatever class, ethnic, or whatever [barriers] and just communicate. There are a lot of different people talking to each other ... . It just shows that Sichuan people love to get down, they love to party. They love the "renao," baby! This is mainstream, but this is good. If you get good music to the mainstream in China, there is hope for everyone, baby."
Sascha Matuszak, visitor (U.S.)
Photo by Leo Chen.
"The festival is great, almost the same as MIDI—but maybe not as good because MIDI has five stages. The main stage here is awesome, I think better than MIDI's. I guess this is probably the first time for a lot of people to come to a music festival. The performances I'm looking forward to are Proximity Butterfly and DJ Just Charlie."
Jody Huang, dancer (China)
Beijing punks Brain Failure. Photo by Dan Sandoval.
"The festival is something you wouldn't expect in Chengdu. It's very modern, it's very hip. The music is very good. It's going extremely well; I'm looking forward to the next few days. Brain Failure has been my favorite band so far. I'm looking forward to the Proximity Butterfly show."
Dan Sandoval, photographer (U.S.)
"Good. Different from what I expected. It sounds really good. There are all sorts of people here. I'm looking forward to the DJs over there."
Matthew Ripley (U.S.)
Muma&Third Party on the main stage. Photo by Leo Chen.
"Best bands so far Brain Failure and Muma. I want to see more foreign bands."
Xi Guanya, student (China)
"It's more professional than any thing I've seen so far in China, sound-wise. I think there could be more people, but the people here are pretty chill. Maybe they are not involved as much in the music, but I think so far the music hasn't peaked yet."
Heather Judson, bassist, Proximity Butterfly (Canada)
More photos and reportage on the festival in Chinese are available on contributor Annie's blog.