A complete bluffer's guide to the 2011 Shanghai MIDI Festival

A complete bluffer's guide to the 2011 Shanghai MIDI Festival

The inaugural Shanghai MIDI Festival features everyone from multi-platinum artists to unsigned indie groups. Here's how to convince people you’re actually there for the music

The 2011 Shanghai MIDI Festival means punk, metal, hard rock and cheap beer -- not necessarily in that order. And that's exactly how the event’s first foray into the city’s live music scene should be.

In between trips to the cocktail bar and the Antidote electronic stage, you may notice that there are actually 25 bands lined up to perform on the festival’s main stage, but with so much going on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by options.

So which are worth a bit of your aural attention? Here’s a little cheat sheet that might just help you score some festival lovin’…

Mr. Big- Shanghai MIDI Festival Mr. Big: Remember the one who got away by yelling "I'm the one who waaannts to beeee with you."

Shanghai MIDI Festival genre no. 1: Fading glory back for more

Best example at MIDI: Festival headliners Mr. Big (Tang Stage, May 6, 7:30 p.m.) achieved platinum sales and worldwide fame for their 1991 hit “To Be With You,” and now, after reuniting in 2009 and releasing “What If…”, their first album in 11 years, are playing their debut shows in China.

You know you’re watching one when … Mr. Big virtuoso guitarist Paul Gilbert busts out his drill for a gnarly guitar solo and bassist extraordinaire Billy Sheehan starts tapping away on his fretboard during extended instrumental passages.

Esoteric fact to show everyone you know what you’re talking about: Most people already know about Gilbert’s place atop the Guitarist Institute of Technology food chain, and Sheehan’s historic career as the four-stringer for both David Lee Roth and Steve Vai, so drop some knowledge about Finnish pop metal king Kärtsy (Tang Stage, May 7, 1:50 p.m.), who wrote the soundtrack for the Max Payne video game, and you’re sure to impress.

Shanghai MIDI Festival genre no. 2: Metal to the max

HibriaHibiria: Finding it hard to sing along? Just drink Red Bull and yell the alphabet really fast.

Best example at MIDI: Brazilian power metal quintet Hibiria (Tang Stage, May 7, 6:50 p.m.), who have opened for Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, take the melodic twin leads of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and throw in a modern thrash twist. They manage to sound contemporary without all the cookie monster vocals that have plagued heavy metal for the last decade.

You know you’re watching one when … The drummer has more tom-toms and cymbals than anyone will ever need and the vocalist does his best Bruce Dickinson impersonation. The unnecessary prevalence of the double-kick drum is another dead giveaway.

Esoteric fact to show everyone you know what you’re talking about: Metalcore kings Yaksa (Tang Stage, May 7, 5:50 p.m.), who just celebrated their 15th anniversary, are one of the most prolific independent bands in China and will be making their 10th MIDI festival appearance.

Shanghai MIDI Festival genre no. 3: The Shanghainese contingent

Top floor circusTop Floor Circus: Better brush up on your Shanghainese before this show.

Best example at MIDI: Top Floor Circus (Tang Stage, May 6, 4 p.m.) are regularly touted as the most influential and unpredictable band to ever come out of Shanghai. Regularly changing their musical genre, switching from punk to folk to experimental and instrumental, TFC is finally allowed back on stage after a year-long ban for some controversial lyrics in a song that has long-since been “harmonized.”

You know you’re watching one when … Even the Chinese don’t understand the lyrics. While Top Floor Circus are applauded for their ingenuity, their use of the Shanghainese dialect leaves even the most fluent Mandarin speakers confused.

Esoteric fact to show everyone you know what you’re talking about: Shanghai rap/rock quintet The Mushrooms (Tang Stage, May 8, 3:50 p.m.) remain active despite a recent break from live performances. They are currently in the studio under the helm of Taiwanese pop/rock sensation David Tao.

Shanghai MIDI Festival genre no 4: Beijing bands masquerading as locals to give the line-up a much-needed push

Yuyintang"Party time! Wait, has anyone seen my wallet?"

Best example at MIDI: Pop punk trio Reflector (Tang Stage, May 8, 8:50 p.m.) not only boast a larger local following than most Shanghai-based bands, but just played a packed-out show at Yuyintang in April. Considered Beijing’s answer to Green Day and Blink-182, Reflector are graduates of the MIDI School of Music and have played regularly in Shanghai for the past decade.

You know you’re watching one when … The crowd is singing along to every song. In addition to Reflector, Beijing bands like TooKoo and Miserable Faith have dedicated local fans who faithfully buy every album, T-shirt, and extraneous piece of merchandise, in addition to learning the vast majority of the lyrics.

Esoteric fact to show everyone you know what you’re talking about: Free the Birds (Tang Stage, May, 8th, 6:50pm) front woman Helen Feng recently left her spot as the lead vocalist for another highly-regarded Beijing band, Pet Conspiracy, to concentrate on FTB and her label and promotional company Fake Music Media.

2011 Shanghai MIDI Music Festival, May 6 to 8, Century Park, 1001 Jinxiu Lu, near Fangdian Lu and Huamu Lu 2011上海迷笛音乐节, 世纪公园, 锦绣路1001号, 近芳甸路和花木路, RMB 80-200, pricing and ticket pick-up through +86 400 610 3721, www.midifestival.com

Writer, front man, promoter and visionary, Dan Shapiro's a Renaissance man who's been covering Shanghai's music and nightlife scenes since 2007.

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