Forbidden Underground, Rock Incubator: The Old What Bar celebrates 8 years of music in Beijing

Tucked right around the corner from the forbidden city, a stone throw away from that famous square, lies one of Beijing’s most underrated, often forgotten and strangely endearing dive music venues: The Old What? bar (老WHAT酒吧). If you haven’t heard of the place or haven’t been there, no worries, you’re not the only one…. and they’re fine with that!

The place can fit 40 people on a good day, standing room only and that’s already asking a lot. More realistically, the venue holds about 20 to 30 in various degrees of comfort.

Many a Beijing rock band got their start over at the Old What bar, the one venue that allows them to cut their chops, sharpen their teeth and not have to deal with the pressures of playing a D-22, 2 kolegas or Mao Live but still get a feel for a stage. For such a tiny venue that regularly hosts some of Beijing’s best rock, they’re strangely quiet and like to stay below the radar… I guess that’s not a big surprise considering their location!

I love the venue and should try to get there more often… really! There’s music just about any night of the week or musicians hanging out over a few decently priced beers and either playing or chatting away.

In Celebration of their 8 year, they’ve organized a mini festival since August 1 with some notable names gracing the stage. They’re also getting ready to host one of the most buzzed bands of the year next week: Pairs.

Anyways, for now, They’ve got the most interesting night of the week on thursday (tonight) as far as I am concerned with some of Beijing’s better punk band like Sochu Legion, Discord and Transmitter. Definitely a good night to show up and pay tribute to what oughta be considered a rock incubator in this city.

There is something about this place’s style, location and general overall spirit that makes it represent what i like about Beijing. it’s understated yet eccentric. It’s primal yet underground….. it’s got soul when you expect it the least!

4 Responses

  1. b. cheng says:

    Love this place, when I used to live in the hood, would stop by at least once a week. Sometimes you catch a good act here, a lot of the times the music is crap, but it doesn’t really matter as its so small, a lot of the people will be hanging outside anyways, very local and very old school Beijing scene. Haven’t gone much since I moved away, but it seems like this is a great time to make the trip…

  2. THE brick says:

    this is one of my favorite bars to hang out at.. just the simple fact i do not know anyone is just simple pleasure to me.. beer, music, and the atmosphere makes a perfect blend of hanging out in the garage….

  3. Josh Feola says:

    great post! this place is a true gem. i see we already got the pingback there, but i always think it’s better to come from a real person… pangbianr did a video interview with the owner of what bar, you can view it here:

  1. August 9, 2010

    […] Located just west of the Forbidden City, What Bar —  one of the earliest music venues in Beijing — has survived the city’s massive changes. It just had a music festival last week to celebrate its 8th anniversary. […]