When we think about live music in Beijing, names like Yugong Yishan, D-22, Mao Livehouse are usually the first to pop up, and rightfully so! They’re doing their fair share of keeping music alive in the city and providing us with live shows on a nightly basis.
However, there are also a number of smaller players on the scene that seem to stay under the radar but they still go on providing the Beijingers with an opportunity to catch some shows in a much more intimate setting! Ginkgo (formely known as Room 101) is one of them.
The thing that stands out about Ginkgo (other than me forgetting which order the k and the g come in) is that they seem to pride themselves on doing things differently:
- When all the bars and clubs seem to crowd each other in specific areas ( Sanlitun, nanluoguxiang, houhai, etc..), Ginkgo stands alone and unchallenged in its Andingmen corner. It’s out of the way and can even be a tad difficult to find! They’re the only establishment of that kind within a few blocks radius.
- Their live acts are one hell of an eclectic mix, borderline schizophrenic. There is live jazz, reggaeton, African drums, bossanova and I’m forgetting a few. While quite a few of them are local to the Beijing scene, there are still a substantial number of shows by non-jing bands
- The shows are always free: The same band that you will pay to watch at yugong yishan or mao livehouse might play ginkgo that same week at no cost to you. And the experience at ginkgo might be quite a bit more enjoyable. I’m not sure how the musicians fare out of this but I’m hoping they get their share as some of them travel a long way.
- It is very Euro-centric! The French influence is quite evident from the menus and the customers! It’s not the kind of venue you expect in Beijing but it would definitely fit in Montmartre or East Village. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Looking at their list of shows, one can notice Shanghai’s Lions of Puxi, Frederik, mama funker, Mademoiselle et les Chinois, or the upcoming Amine Kouider (Rai , North African music) show.
I love catching bands over there because somehow, it makes the experience more organic when the main act comes off the stage to grab a beer at the bar and takes the time to chat. It’s comfortable enough for 50 people to be downstairs mingling without running out of breathing room.
Every time I have been there, it felt like a big house party! The music/dance crown will hang downstairs while the conversation crowd is upstairs, neither infringing or getting in the way of the other’s choice!
Their food menu seems balanced from what I understand, featuring set menus with European classics but I can’t say i’ve tried it. The drinks are quite reasonable with even a halfway decent of French Bordeaux UNDER RMB100 per bottle that comes highly recommended from yours truly…
So what I’m saying is: “grab a couple of friends, hop in a cab and make it a night in Andingmen for a change.” It’s worth a try! Even Better, mix it up with dinner over at Hot Beans Cooperative before a show then head over to Ginkgo to finish the night
A particular recommendation will be the upcoming Amine Kouider show on Thursday June 4th. It will be a rare chance to catch North African Rai music in Beijing.
Cheers to the Ginkgo brains and keep up the good work fellas!!