The story appears on

Page A7

March 23, 2019

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Midi tribute to Woodstock’s 50th birthday

WOODSTOCK 50 has just announced its headliners to include big names like Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus as well as legacy bands that performed in the original festival in 1960 like Santana. Many still ponder whether the upcoming festival in upstate New York in August can inherit and recreate the legendary original 50 years ago and reconnect its symbol of love and peace to modern day.

It’s no coincidence that the oldest music festival in China has made its theme this year a tribute to Woodstock, and is also bringing together both the hottest bands from China and abroad as well as veteran Chinese rockers who left the stage for years.

When Midi founder Zhang Fan gathered 30 bands at the auditorium of his music school back in 2000, few expected it would attract nearly 1,000 daily audience numbers and even fewer thought the “graduation act” would become known as “China’s Woodstock” shortly afterwards, and one of the few profitable music festivals nearly 20 years later.

“For me, Midi is a must-go every year, though I’m getting more apparently older than most people there every time,” said Xu Wen.

“On the other hand, there are many more choices today. They are more diversified in terms of the atmosphere, the non-music activities and facilities at the fest, and the places they are held.”

Calling himself a hardcore music fest goer, Xu has been bringing his kids to some of the fests that promote themselves as family-oriented or equipped with entertainment for kids.

Nineteen years after the first Midi, music festivals in China have turned from a cool thing for loyal rock fans to a grand carnival catering to a variety of audiences, with many organizers trying to establish a stable fan base and appeal to a larger crowd outside the usual music fans at the same time.

The number of music festivals has grown steadily over past 10 years or so to sparking around 2013 and 2014, reaching a peak in 2016 with more than 200 across the country after a dip in 2015. While it is still a small number considering the population of China and comparing the number of fests in the US or Europe, the competition has already been fierce.

It was reported in 2016 that only one in every five music festivals actually make profits, while more than half new ones disappear the next year. Very few festivals like Midi or Strawberry get to establish as a brand where loyal fans would simply go for the festival rather than headliners. The situation today isn’t too different, adding an increasing number of international music festival brands to the competition with a local gig.

“Competition is good,” said Dylan Huang, a sound engineer who has worked with many festivals. “It gives people like me more work. Actually, it’s really good for new musicians who can get stages much more easily than before.

“There are only so many top bands and performers in the country, whom every festival tries to book as headliners. Of course you can attract lots of fans with the stars, but you also need to fill the rest of the stage with others. That gives the opportunity for new bands and musicians, as well as a stable income that brings somewhat more freedom and leverage in doing their music.”

Unlike previous decades when bands and musicians become mainstream by releasing records with big labels, very few can make a living by selling CDs now. It blurs the line between mainstream and indie, and enables musicians to be indie but not necessarily underground.

Some festivals have tried to appeal to a niche following by highlighting such indie musicians, while others making an effort to attract young generation by adding more electronic and hip-hop gigs in the festival.

The well-established ones like Midi and Strawberry are also distinctive in their presentation and following. Midi has long worked with local governments to establish permanent camps in addition to a variety of sub-festivals featuring different genres, while Strawberry is often considered hip and trendy for its glamorous stage, topical headliners and colorful non-music activities that come along.

This year’s Midi has announced the first patch of line-ups, with veteran rockers like Pu Shu, Japanese legacy band The Star Club, and topical hip hop band Dungeon Beijing, among others.

Pu, in his late 40s, swept the Chinese music scene in early 2000s when he starred in an indie film “Where have all the Flowers Gone” and sang its theme song in 2003, followed by his second album the year after.

He has since worked on many film scores for best-selling Chinese movies, but remained low-profile as a singer. His third album was not released until 2017, shortly before he made a comeback with more appearances on TV including reality shows.

Taihu Midi Festival

Date: 1pm to 10:30pm, May 3 – 5

Tickets: 80 yuan (single-day) to 550 (three-day)

Venue: Taihu Midi Camp, Qidu Town, Wuzhong District, Suzhou

Tel: 1010-3721

How to get there: It takes 25 minutes from Shanghai to Suzhou by bullet train. From the Suzhou railway station, take Metro Line 4 and then transfer to bus Wujiang Qidu Line.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend