6 acts you can't afford to miss at this year's JUE Festival
With over 70 events in Beijing and Shanghai going on at theJUE Festival(starting this Friday, March 12), it would take a punter with a seriously developed Santa-Claus like ability to be in many places at once to see them all. So it makes sense to pick out a few favorites before you go, and being the generous people we are, we've done the hard work for you. Here are three acts you absolutely should not miss, followed by three more you should definitely try to see.
JUE Festival top picks
Why they’re on this list: Because this Beijing-based band make music like no one you’ve ever heard before, combining the sounds of the grassland with noise from the underground, in songs that speak of displacement, diluted identity, and, in crossover hit "Jiu Ge," serious drinking.
Expert opinion: Jake Newby, associate editor of Time Out Shanghai and Kungfuology blogger: “Last time Hanggai were in town, they drew a big Mongolian crowd who indulged in traditional dancing, draped scarves over the band members, and proffered them baijiu. Lots and lots of baijiu. They had to play about four encores because the crowd wouldn't let them leave the stage and, at one point, they were physically barred from leaving by a group of fans.”
Why it’s on this list: Because both NeochaEDGE and Nini Sum, artist and founder of IDLE BEATS, are doing a good thing in giving China’s young creative community more opportunities to showcase their work. And because Nini Sum herself, who will be on hand to show budding artists how it’s done, designs the coolest, creepiest prints and t-shirts in town.
Expert opinion: Adam Schokora, founder and chief editor of NeochaEDGE: “This is a unique event. Screen printing like this is new to China and the interactive nature of the workshop will give everyone a chance to learn all about the process, and experience first-hand Nini Sums creative spirit.”
Why he’s on this list: Because young Icelandic composer and multi-instrumentalist Arnalds beat out 772 other musicians to win an all-expenses paid, six-city China tour, through a competition co-run by JUE organizers Split Works to find someone they thought could really make it big here. Also, because he makes the kind of slow-build, suddenly-soaring music that could make you quite overlook the fact that the world was coming to an end.
Expert opinion: Nathaniel Davis, operations director of Split Works: “Olafur Arnald’s music is quite simply beautiful. Perhaps sublime. As a dear friend said, ‘It makes me hopeful and sad and feel bittersweet good things all at once.’”
JUE Festival honorary mentions
Why they’re on this list: Because even the event organizers don’t quite know what’s in store. A friend of Split Works’ director Archie Hamilton recommended the act after seeing them play in Tokyo. Says Split’s Abby Lavin: “This friend rang up Archie as soon as she got back to Shanghai and told him we absolutely had to get Trippple Nippples over to China, so we did. They're musicians, but they're also proper performance artists with crazy costumes, makeup and props, so I’m really not sure what to expect from their China shows.”
What: Shanghai Photographer Night
Details: Tuesday 24 March, 8pm-late, Dada (115 Xingfu Lu, between Fahuazhen and Pingwu Lu 幸福路115号, 近华山和法华镇路),free
Why it’s on this list: Because the highlight of the show, Matthew Niederhauser’s "Sound Kapital," a compilation of images of rockers taken at Beijing’s D22 Club, manages that rare trick of saying something new about one art form in another. Given that the night’s host, Shanghai-based photographer Tim Franco, requires participants to set their work to music, it’s also likely to be lively, to say the least.
What: The Mushrooms
Details: Friday March 26, MAO Livehouse (Beijing, 111 Gulou Dongdajie, just east of Nanluoguxiang 鼓楼东大街111号), 8.30pm, RMB 50
Why they’re on this list: Okay, so this is part of the Beijing JUE Festival but we couldn't help ourselves. This gig is on there because this little punk band is the biggest thing to come out of Shanghai since the Shanghai World Financial Center, and yet this is the very first time they’re playing in Beijing. Last year, lead singer Pupu decided that he didn’t like the meddling of new record label overlords Soma and took the band back to basics. Their gigs now regularly attract 500 or more people, and this year they’re tipped to go supernova: get yourself up to Beijing and see history in the making.