Intercity Festival 2011: Good Times, Dry Times, Fantastic Performances and crapouts

Last week’s Intercity music festival is all forgotten now in the wake of more up to date news and all but I still wanted to chime in with a little review mostly of day 1 with snippets from day 2. Day 1 was undoubtedly highlighted by the performances of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC) and He Yong for most, including yours truly but there was so much more that took place that day and deserves to be recorded.

The location in the heart of Chaoyang Park is dear to my heart for being the place where Chaoyang Pop Festival was held in 2007 and remains the standard I hold others to. This year, it was a bit understated with a few stalls selling random foods, some selling water, juices and vitamin water and alcohol was inconspicuous by its almost non-presence continuing a tradition of semi dry festivals. Only this time, a few stalls set up makeshift cocktail bars with watered down Cuba Libre warm beer in water cooler.

Attendance during day 1 started slow with more people coming later in the day despite it being a beautiful autumn afternoon in Beijing but for the few that were there, we had some decent music. Strangely enough, Pilot Records, the festival organizers, sent most of their bands to the smaller stage in the back where they struggled to get attention and keep the fans sitting. Bands like Liquid Oxygen Can, Suffocated, CMCB and Face, just to mention a few, usually the labels’ heroes, seemed to have been given a gesture. Still, they performed beautifully….

The afternoon on that small stage did however belong to Suffocated who pulled off their usual great show. CMCB frontman Wang Xiao Ou was definitely on the ball too but they had the misfortune of playing at the same time as Biohazard. He did wonder out loud about it and how the crowd seemed more interested in a band they never heard off instead of local heroes… well, it’s not everyday we get Biohazard in Beijing.

Talking about them, they were on fucking fire! I saw Biohazard in 1996 and let me tell you folks, they haven’t lost a step. They were just as intense as before pounding the hell out of those heavy hardcore beats. The crowd responded in kindness with mosh pits and gravity circles. Ultimate mark of respect was how many Beijing band members ( Yaksa, Unregenerate Blood, SUBS…) were out there in the middle of the pit. That was the beginning of the “serious” phase!

Much maligned He Yong came out and delivered what i thought was a respectable performance. He started off with his big hit, Gu Niang, and proceeded to go through a bunch of covers by the likes of Dou Wei that had the crowd in a frenzy. I wish I knew more about those songs as a few of my local musician buddies who were there: Li Dong frontman, Li Xia, was quite impressed and he’s one that often criticizes.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club came on to close the night and made a believer out of me after 3 songs! I’d never heard of these guys before and they were just mindblowing good. Gloomy, dark, heavy and powerful while keeping things very simple. The songs were a mix of blues rock americana that is extremely enjoyable and very much up my alley! I’m definitely gonna give them a few listens over the next weeks/months/years etc.. I really dug “Beat the devil’s Tattoo” and “weapon of choice”

Overall, the music was great! I liked the variety pilot records brought in the mix with some pop, rock, folk, punk and even hardcore. I didn’t care much for the early sets of Da Mai Mai, Caffe-in and reflector but folks ate them up.

-The organization though was fucked up! The stages overlapped too much. The food was nowhere near as good as last year and neither was attendance on day one.
– Whomever was running the sound on the main stage has a bigger Motley Crue addiction than I: They basically went through their whole catalogue between sets including songs from the little known Generation Swine
– I’m still amazed at how many musicians are shared between bands: He Yong used the drummer from Liquid Oxygen Can and the keybordist from Long Shen Dao just to name a few.
– Attendance was low, no doubt due to the increased ticket prices. While RMB220 is reasonable in by book for such an offering, it’s double the usual festival fare and hard to stomach for some of the people. Some lucky ones managed to get tickets for 150 on manzuo but others stayed away and chose day 2

Overall, it was good enough for me to come back for day 2.

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