BUY TICKETS FOR MIDI FESTIVAL 2013 HERE! - http://247ticketschina.com
Despite the cloudy sky and unpredictable April weather, hundreds of fans lined up behind the arched gate leading to the Midi Festival on Saturday afternoon. This year’s event focussed on the effects of PM2.5, the hazardous particles that are released by burning fossil fuels; many in the crowd, in recognition of the festival’s theme, donned fashionable facemasks. Century Park was a beautiful setting for Midi Festival’s second edition in Shanghai, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. Trees lined the field surrounding the Yuan Electronic Stage; rowboats floated down the river next to the stage as DJs spun beats throughout the day and night. Vendors selling incense, mouse ears and pin-on tiger tails separated the Yuan and Tang stages. The revellers walking the field grounds seemed dressed for an outrageous fashion show, in a style similar to the Harajuku girls.
When I arrived at the event at 2 p.m. my ears directed me straight to the Yuan Electronic stage to find out what Empfab was stirring up. The heavy bass reverberated throughout my body. Needless to say it was too early for electronic music. Despite the lack of an audience to speak of, Empfab still put on a good show, bopping his head up and down to the beat and sporting a look of determination with the turn of every knob.
To take a break from the vibrations I headed to the Tang Stage for the Beijing band Twisted Machine, the five-member act that incorporates nuances of rapcore and metal. In the first song the lead singer Liang Liang released tribal sounding wails into the microphone; his deep, emotive and raspy voice sounded similar to Mongolian throat singing. Eventually the vocals and instrumentals erupted into heavy metal. Mini dance circles emerged in the center of the crowd as the band members swung their dreads to the beat of the music. After only two songs the band mysteriously left the stage for 20 minutes but the devoted audience remained. Despite the lack of organization, Twisted Machine’s unique sound and command over the crowd made them one of my favorite bands of the day.
In the late afternoon the sun finally made an appearance, just in time for Mia’s performance on the Yuan Stage. This chick rocked. An unassuming performer, she calmly worked the decks briefly taking breaks to flash a smile at the audience. It was apparent that she was more concerned about her music making an impression than using her presence to pump up the audience. Her interlacing of beats created a trance-like effect. Distorted images of mundane life, which were being shown on the screen behind her, perfectly complimented the hypnotic sounds.
A person putting a hamburger on a bun was sped up, overlapped and eventually merged into a visual of someone doing the moonwalk. The crowd reacted by spinning their bodies and churning their feet into the ground. An elderly man, who seemed prepared for an afternoon of leisurely exercising in the park, rolled up his shirt sleeves and hopped around the field to the sound of the music. Her charming and impressive performance was hands down my favorite act at the Midi Festival.
Thoma Cher took the stage soon after Mia. The audience responded to his dance-demanding electronica immediately by forming a dance train that picked up more and more passengers with every turn. The leader of the train held a broom in the air, swinging it around like a conductor’s baton as he directed his followers throughout the crowd. Although Thoma Cher effectively hyped up the crowd into a state of insane dancing, the music lacked direction; the crescendo and sudden drop of the beat into oblivion was unfulfilling. The music was fun to dance to but the poor segues were disappointing.
Shanghai’s Ben Huang, the fifth performer on the Yuan Electronic Stage, put on an excellent performance with his refined, chilled house music. His control over the decks was smooth and precise. The strobe lights flashed green, purple, yellow and red in alignment with the mesmerizing euphony. He teased the audience by slowly building up to the climax, lingering on a melody finally releasing the the beat.
The sixth act on the electronic stage, Conrank, began with a clip of the old Chinese song ‘Wo Yao Ni De Ai’. Conrank entered the stage determined to get the audience moving. However, his persistent urging of the crowd to get louder or asking if they were ready for him to drop the bass was like a magician revealing his tricks to the audience. The intenseness reminded me of a cheerleader trying to raise moral during a pep rally. Although his contagious energy and the crowd’s positive reaction made his performance outrageously fun, the hype could have been toned down several notches.
After blowing out my eardrums with electronic music and undulating my limbs for several hours, I returned to the Tang stage for the last two sets. Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg put on a great show. The drummer of the Ramone’s, Marky Ramone and the singer of The Misfits, Mickey Graves, joined together to sing classic Ramone’s songs. Marky Ramone rocked it on the drums as Mickey Graves banged his head in true classic rock fashion. They put on a great performance, ending the show with ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’. The audience bounced along to the music or swayed arm in arm as they sang along to the words.
The final band, Miserable Faith, ended the festival on a positive note with a solid and original performance. Varied styles ranging from traditional Chinese to heavy metal were seamlessly interwoven throughout the songs. Slow and deep vocals incrementally built up to screaming and heavy drumming. An accordion solo appeared in one of the songs, adding a quirky twist to the music.
As the first outdoor music event of the spring, Shanghai’s Midi Festival was a successful welcoming of the festival season. The display of talented underground DJs and rock musicians from China and abroad brought people together for a day of dance and environmental awareness. Here’s to a spring and summer filled with good music, decent weather and endless dancing!
WORDS: MELISSA HELLMANN
PICTURES: CAMILLE GAZEAU