by Nick Muzyczka
Day 3 – Tuesday 12th June
Coffee drinking and waiting around in the sun. We finally sound check and play for 30 minutes in the afternoon. Crowd appears slightly confused by the long-form compositions, but still seem appreciative. More cover music follows. We begin our early evening set and are pulled after two songs. A lot of remonstrating, which includes 15 men – all smoking cigarettes – coming into my hotel room (for some reason) to sort out what happened and why. My very upset band leader eventually calms. There is a lot of explanation and eventually buhao yisi's are universally proffered and accepted. Apparently a high-up official from the city, who shall not be named, took exception to our first song – which has the chorus refrain “hallelujah” and decided we were not the kind of music that needs to be heard by the general public. Whether this is true or not is unclear.
With guanxi back in proper order we all head off to a restaurant and eat delicious food and clean the restaurant out of their supplies of Harbin beer and, yes, more baijiu over the course of the next 8 hours. The author is gently forced to eat the penis of a sheep and departs at 3.30am, leaving a confusing conversation about Marxist philosophy, in order to have some chance of making the 10am flight back to Shanghai.
For me the Harbin experience was yet another terrific opportunity to learn about Chinese culture yet from the perspective of an arts celebration it was severely lacking. No sense of thematic curatorship, a poor selection of music and inept organisation contributed to the feeling that, once again, I was simply part of an underwhelming economic process content to offer cultural platitudes rather than to celebrate diversity, history, contemporaneity, hope, togetherness or any of the wonderful things that can and should be found in modern China.