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May 10, 2011

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Music fans rock out at Midi Festival

THE Midi Festival came to Shanghai last weekend, the first rock music event in the city in years, featuring everyone from anti-heroes Top Floor Circus to head-banging Brazilians Hibria, whose thrashing beats pulverized the air of Century Park in Pudong.

And the crowd's reaction? Mayhem? Violence in the streets?

"It's just a nice day in the park," says Nick Taylor, a magazine editor who covers local nightlife and DJs local Void parties under the moniker Zammo.

"It doesn't have to be like a crazy party where everyone goes mental," Taylor continues while leaning down on the grass. "Everyone's sitting down talking to their friends ... come 10 o'clock, we're all going to go home."

Taylor's attitude was the norm at the three-day event: young people lazing the time on a blanket while the bands and DJs, mostly imported from Beijing, played away.

The Midi Festival began in Beijing, where it has been held annually since 1997. Widely popular, it has since expanded to include Midi festivals in Shandong and Jiangsu provinces.

The last rock music festival in Shanghai was the Yue Festival, held in 2007 at Zhongshan Park. The event featured mostly foreign acts with only three Chinese bands on the bill.

One of those bands, Banana Monkey, featured guitarist Misuzu, who now plays in local surf/garage band The Beat Bandits. He recalls that the audience was made up of "mainly foreign guys" while the local population mostly stayed away.

That wasn't the case over this past weekend, with the Shanghai Midi attracting a very mixed crowd of locals and foreigners. For some of the acts that was a highlight.

DJ Heatwolves, who produces regular local events under the Beat Buffet banner, was most enthusiastic about the turnout by locals.

Under the afternoon sun on Saturday he mixed a combination of dub-step club music and rock classics at the DJ stage. Bouncing around the stage in a white tank top that was almost reflective in the sun, he was effusive, thanking the crowd and punctuating his set with a giggling rap.

After his set, he grabbed a cocktail from one of the booths that lined across from the DJ stage. Despite the unusually bright setting to hear electronic music, he says he still much prefers to play outside, away from the clubs.

This isn't his first Midi Festival - he previously DJed at the Midi in Jiangsu Province - but he preferred this one. "There's more Chinese people out at the electronic stage and that's really who I'm trying to play music for," he said.

Opposite the DJ stage - past the inflatable castles, then the food booths, the blankets with people selling artwork and CDs and finally more food stalls - sat Ding Qing. He posited himself with some friends near the rock music stage on Saturday afternoon, at about the same time as DJ Heatwolves was on the other stage.

Citing himself a fan of groups like the Backstreet Boys and Westlife, this was Ding's first rock concert. He cited his reason for coming as wanting "to try something new" and to be with his friends.

When asked if he would be more likely to explore Shanghai's local music scene he replied "certainly." His favorite act of the day was Finnish heavy metal act K?rtsy.

Despite the aggressive nature of the music blasting from the speakers, he seemed extraordinarily carefree, biting into a churro in-between his words.

The sun spotlighting the crowd as much as the performers, this event belonged to the city's young people, happy for a new diversion.


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