Shanghai Part II/II.
The second part of the holiday was quite a contrast to the first in terms of music and setting, but nevertheless, strange encounters remained close at hand.
A good friend bought tickets for us to go to a music festival on the outskirts of Shanghai. We had to cross town on the subway, before getting on a bus. On route to the subway I spotted something on the ground at my feet. A closer look revealed two tiny puppies. Naturally, I crouched down to fawn over them and noticed one of the puppies was sporting zebra stripes. Having had a heavy one the night previously, I blinked to clear my vision, but the striped puppy still stood before me.
The possibility of this being a natural occurrence was discussed, but after much deliberation we decided the puppy must have been painted. Soon the painted canine tired of having his photo taken and curled up to sleep, bringing us back to the task at hand; getting across the city.
The bus brought us right outside the entrance but before entering we were ambushed by men selling windscreen covers (the ones that stop your car overheating). I told one man that I had no car, to which he retorted that they would make a splendid floor cover for sitting. I laughed telling him all I wanted to do was dance, to which he assured me “You could surely dance on it!”.
Our arrival brought mixed feelings, as we marveled at how, for a Chinese Festival, it was surprisingly well set up, but in comparison to festivals at home, it had a long way to go. Each of the stages (in total I think about 7 or 8） were named after a Chinese Dynasty and scattered at random across a large open space next to Shanghai Pudong Airport. There was a severe absence of colour, aside from garish advertisements for cars and cigarettes. Other items, such as headgear, were more subtly advertised.
This man wasn’t the only one making a fashion statement. We spotted an elderly gentleman wearing some bold sunglasses which we repeatedly tried to capture on camera, making several failed attempts to take the photo over my shoulder.
Finally, I gave in and asked the man could I photograph him directly, informing him with a smile that I thought his choice of eye gear was terribly cool. The man, seeming quite flattered, happily obliged.
Following this picture he swiftly asked us for ours, showing no qualms about inviting his grandchild to come and sit on my knee for the photograph.
We met this man while watching a traditional Chinese performance at the Han Stage.
While each stage claimed to have their own musical theme, the majority were heavy rock and heavy metal. Not being fully aware of what was in store when we decided to go, heavy metal was an unusual surprise, although Chinese metal was certainly something to behold. At home this could have been a potentially intimidating crowd, but this crowd had swapped Angsty looks for expressions of enjoyment and body alterations like piercings or tattoos came in the form of clips-on and sleeves that you buy for 5 yuan in a piece to wear on your arm, providing an extra layer of warmth after dark. I even saw one particularly well dressed gentleman, wearing a Rolling Stones dressing gown with pride. I think he thought of it as some kind of a boxing robe, judging by the way he was parading himself through the crowds. Nevertheless, they moshed like pros, and wielded a larger volume of props than I’ve seen at other festivals (in real life and/or on the internet). Flags and flame torches were the most common; producing large amounts of billowing smoke, which paired with the red and green stage lighting, created an ominous tone in surrounding areas.
*Who can spot Mao?!*
I also saw one very excited chap dancing with bamboo sticks.
Despite the initial lack of colour, after dark the lights brought a new (and dare I say magical) vibe.
The other thing I was of course keeping an eye out for (as always) was food and drink. Sadly, the festival food was fairly run of the mill for China, which for us Westerners is still usually worthy of a photo. When there’s tentacles on a stick what else is there to do but photograph it?
As far as alcohol, I hardly saw anyone drinking. It’s a common misconception that Chinese people don’t drink, cos they sure do. But the queue for 15 yuan (about two euro) shots of Jaeger left me speechless. I couldn’t help but picture this wee stand in the middle of an Irish festival, ” two euro shots, are yiz maaad?!”
Finally, what really captured the essence of China about this festival was, for me, the prevalence of activities outside the music listening genre. While there are often sidelined activities at such events, when the music is in it’s full throws of passion during peak festival time, people are rarely far from the it. But at Midi Festival there were several ridiculous competitions taking place around the site.
We took part in one which was being promoted by Marlboro cigarettes. You need a wristband and a game face to enter the competition area, but despite only having one of the two, they let us past the barrier and into the pit of desperate hopefuls. Upon arrival I was offered a cigarette from the promoter who, after I politely refused said “Go on, you can have a try.” After swiftly ignoring her second attempt to push addictive habits on me, we did a quick lap of the area to see which games we might like to play. Winning a game earned a stamp , and collecting enough stamps would win you a much coveted prize. The games included building a tower of beer mats higher than three tiers, catching three blue ping pong balls in what I can only describe as a glass wind box, and something to do with karaoke, which naturally in China, we couldn’t get anywhere near with the crowds.
We opted for a game which required us to find five fake ice cubes in a bucket of real ice in under a minute. After a minute had clearly passed and my hands were numb, wet and very red, we gave up. It seemed slightly coincidental that only children are known for getting everything they want, and in a country full of only children, we were conveniently allowed to play until we won…or gave up, in our case.
The lack of blood in our fingers quickly killed the desire to play any more games in this particular tournament, so we left the area in search of something else. We quickly stumbled upon a giant glass room- a lone bed in the middle, the floor covered in feathers.
At first glance it looked like a piece of art of some sort, however we learned that a pillow fight would be taking place momentarily, with very strict rules which stated:
- You must be a natural person with full capacity for civil conduct.
- You must have made sufficient physical and mental preparation for this activity.
- Not suitable for anyone who cannot take strenuous activity or contact with feathers.
We decided, based on the grounds that neither of us were mentally prepared, we’d watch the fight on this particular occasion, which quickly regressed to feather-tossing and selfie-taking.
Finally, I think Midi Festival’s tedious efforts at being Green must be acknowledged. China is renowned for it’s pollution; smog, litter and general lack of sufficient waste management. This large gathering of people was a great opportunity to promote Eco-Friendliness. So at a music festival, a place where there were no cars allowed, with many stages bursting with cheering crowds and blaring music, they decided to tackle…. Noise pollution.
Well done China, this blog practically writes itself.