Strawberry Day 1: How Music Saved the Day When the Organizers did Their Best to Ruin it

I’m generally a nice guy…most of the time and i takes a lot to get me all wound up and angry! It’s takes even more to keep me fuming for 3 days in a row after the fact! Well, my little trip to Day 1 of Strawberry music festival in Tongzhou managed to just do that! Why I hear you ask? Let’s bullet point this sucker:

1- Underwhelming, irresponsible and hazardous procedures to get in:

There were 2 ticket booths only to access the festival area and these 2 ticket booths were also leading the the security check point causing even further wait and delay problem. I got there with my crew at 1:00 p.m., we managed to get in around 4:00 pm! At that time, I would estimate that there were a good 4000 to 6000 people still waiting in line; This was the the first of many logistical fuck ups!
First, there is the safety aspect of things where you had 1000s of people lined up under a heavy sun with no easy access to liquids so that they could hydrate themselves because in their infinite wisdom, Modern Sky made no provision for a crowds and lines. The small shops in the vicinity were caught by surprise and ran out of a whole bunch of things by 3:00 pm.
Secondly, as they saw the lines getting increasingly bigger, the staff and management made NO ATTEMPT to rectify the situation as far as I was aware! There was another queue for ticket holders that was almost empty but most people refused to use it an leave their ticketless friends in line which resulted in longer lines than needed! How difficult could it have been to have a few of the many staff members go around selling tickets at different spots to facilitate and speed up the process? Utter and complete clusterfuck if you ask me! A few people just decided to leave in my group after waiting forever and a day!

2- Complete Lack of adequate supplies and logistics inside the festival:

There were 3 or 4 mini official Strawberry Bar tents where one could buy refreshments on the grounds! That was it!!! 3 or 4 small tents in total for a crowd that I estimate at over 10000 persons. When we got in finally after 4:00 pm, all the tents were out of beer! That sent one of my companions out in a rage frenzy as he was thirsty, pissed off and iritated by then. I’m suprised I didn’t see his face on the papers with a headline: “Laowai Hulks out of Strawberry leaving a path of destruction”.
Somehow, by 6:00 pm, they found beer again but had run out of everything else: No water, No Coke, No Ice Tea, nothing, nada, niet.. not a single option for non-alcoholic beverages was available on the “official” premisces! The only other option for cocktails was the Absolute Vodka tent which was mugged and saw waiting times in excess of 30mn to get a cocktail.
Again, the safety aspect of this logistical breakdown is flabbergasting: After waiting forever in the sun and spending the majority of the day walking around, wouldn’t you expect people to be thirsty? it’s begging for Sun strokes and dehydration! You cannot forbid people from bringing in drinks and they not even provide an adequate supply! WTF? no really, WTF? You should have seen the number of people walking around desperately trying to find water!


3- Sound quality and stages:

The sound quality sucked and that is being nice! The main stage, Strawberry, which was home to the biggest audience in the festival specially suffered from this. The breakdown reached its pinnacle during Tang Dynasty’s set where it was just fading in and out.
Also, the overdrive and love stages were within screaming distance of each other and the cacophony of sounds wasn’t always pleasing to the ears. If you stood on the right hand side of the love stage or the left side of the overdrive stage, you would inevitably run hear whatever was playing on the other side!

4- extreme commercialism:

This point doesn’t affect the audience directly but the organizers also completely dropped the ball when it came to the bands:
The love stage, home to the indie bands performances was marred with the presence of two cars on there! The bands were not happy about that and i ran into plenty of industry pundits that were less than pleased. They felt the organizers were all about the sponsors and didn’t do anything to help or accommodate the bands. They went as far as trying to force them to use different brands of equipment since a famous electronics company was amongst the sponsors. Unhappy bands leads to below par performances in my opinion.

rant over.. unto the positives:

The music saved the day and prevented the organizers from shooting themselves in the foot completely! I missed everything before 4:00 pm but managed to get a healthy dose of goodies after that:
AV Okubo, from wuhan, made a believer out of me: I loved their set and their originality! Their bass player was one of the most energetic persons onstage all day! I’m not ready to call the “The future of music” like Spin Magazine did but I’ll give them props for doing really good stuff! I look forward to their other shows!
Carsick Cars is just not working for me! I respect their status in the indie environment but they’re one of the most overrated bands i’ve gotten to see so far! Their lyrics are not all that, the music is not all that and the performance aspect not all that either! Still, I gotta admit they got one of the best drummers in the business!
Queen Sea Big Shark was the revelation of the day and pulled no doubt the biggest audience! They delivered an amazing performance with great sound, theatrics, feelings and had a lot of charisma! I’m pleasantly surprised and found myself dancing and jumping around during their set more than any other act that day.
Miserable Faith also delivered a masterful performance on the day and the crowd listening to them spilled all over the place trying to get a piece of the show. They had tho make a few safety announcements for audience members to be careful with edges and stay safe. These guys know how to work a crowd!
Does it Offend You Yeah, the biggest foreign name on the day rang a bell with the crowd but not as much as Queen Sea Big Shark. Unfortunately, they’re not quite my taste so I won’t comment. my entourage was not impressed either!
Then came the time for Tang Dynasty to take the stage and i must admit i was pleasantly surprised! The band was heavier than I expected and had serious Arena Rock shops… great melodies, good stage presence, working the audience pretty well! They tried their best despite the sound problems that became extremely obvious during their set.

The Audience:

huge props to the festival goers for being one of the best crowds i have witnessed ever. Despite the long wait, the lack of supplies and everything that went wrong, the audience was amazing! everyone was walking around enjoying and generally trying to have a good time. I didn’t witness any fights, grumpiness or whatsoever!

Overall:

A great musical experience! It was cool to walk around in tongzhou park which i might add is absolutely gorgeous! The music and the bands get an A even if some acts were not my cup of tea. The organization and the Moder Sky committee gets a huge capital F for doing everything in their power to fuck up and ruin a beautiful experience.
I’m honestly flabbergasted at that logistical disaster because it’s not like they have not done this before… WTF.. seriously, WTF? If someone from Modern Sky could take the time to explain their side of the story, i’d love to hear it. Until then, you ain’t getting another dime out of me…

Thankfully, their ineptitude and amateurism was such that even as they tried to shoot themselves in the foot, they could do that right either! The Amplitude of the bad experience on saturday was only increased after going to MIDI on sunday and seeing how amazing and beautiful things were over there! As Ruby put it in a tweet: MIDI 1 :: Strawberry -10

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7 Responses

  1. Petri says:

    tag : fuck up….. mdr

    :-)

    I heard the organization was a disaster last year as well….some people just don’t get it..that’s all..

    just like in Europe, China will get its music festival fever…and just like in business, some will win, some will die…

    • Beijing Daze says:

      MIDI on sunday was amazing… comparing the two was like night and day! got a post coming on that !

  2. Newsbabe says:

    Could it simply as simple as the Chinese government doesn’t like rock music festivals and create as many restrictions as possible to discourage organizers and fans?

  3. Newsbabe says:

    Sorry for the “simple” redundancies.

  4. Beijing Daze says:

    Hey Newsbabe,

    I don’t think the Gov’t is to blame on this… Modern Sky, the team behind Strawberry just dropped the ball royally.
    reports from the ground today (day 3) is that things are smoother and they’re letting people bring in their water but they have to pour it in paper cups which is cool!

  5. Anthony says:

    Earlier in the week it was a toss up between my friends whether to go to Midi or Strawberry. The coin landed and we got to Midi on Saturday for the Grand opening. I will give Midi a B.

    For some reason there was a rumor that tickets to Midi were already sold out from ticket vendors. There was also a line stretching out the ass in front of the entrance, but luckily we had a person waiting in line before we arrived. Also there were enough scalpers around to bypass the line. Once in the park, really no complaints. The beer was flowing, the wind was blowing.

    They did run out of 5RMB beer around 4 o’ clock. This might have been a godsend because if I kept at my pace, I would not have been able to leave the grounds under my own power.

    I feared overflowing trash, and unruly crowds. Found neither. Best time was at the Yen tent around sundown.

    Impressed by 山人. Were working the crowd, and playing cool instruments, kazoos, flutes, bells and whistles.

  6. Paul says:

    totally agree on every points. I didn’t even pay, and I was pissed to be there!
    And having been to both, I can say only one thing.. MIDI rocks!