Midi’s next move

By Jack Aldane Source:Global Times Published: 2013-4-16 20:03:00


Midi Music Festival always seems to be migrating
Midi Music Festival always seems to be migrating


as it did last year from the planned spot at Haidian Park to the Shunyi Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Park, pictured here. Photos: CFP
as it did last year from the planned spot at Haidian Park to the Shunyi Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Park, pictured here. Photos: CFP


How might a road-hardened devotee of Midi Music Festival be expected to react when told this year's event is relocating from the Shunyi Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Park (a last-minute relocation in itself from Haidian Park) to one of the furthest outer-regions of Beijing? Probably not with shock, disappointment or even mild aversion because since 2000, Midi Music Festival has changed locations seven times. And so far, nothing has kept fans from going with the flow for the sake of the show.

Midi Music Festival 2013 will be held (we think) in the China Music Valley in Pinggu district, April 29 to May 1.

Midi fans insist that far from inconsistent, Midi's organizers remain loyal to the interest of its fans. Each year, Midi campers and day-trippers arrive in droves, eager to enjoy a cold beer and wander amid live music in the heat of early summer.

Midi continues to pride itself on non-corporate funding and receives much of its support from regional governments in Beijing. It's still one of the only major music festivals in Beijing to serve alcohol, as opposed to the dry Strawberry Music Festival, taking place on the same weekend as Midi this year at its usual spot in Tongzhou Canal Park. But despite years of negotiation, Midi's organizers still struggle with finding a yearly location for the event. China Music Valley, currently the base of the annual China Music Festival, is thought to give both Midi and its fans a better place to rock in the future.

Wang Man, 31, media operations director of the festival, said this year's relocation will have little effect on the festival's appeal.

"The location is a totally new project promoted by the Pinggu government," she said. "I think it's an ideal place to hold the festival in the future. Midi's success has always depended on the fans anyway, not on its logistics or famous music artists."

Apart from its location, said Wang, Midi's only other alterable feature has been its theme. In 2012, Midi organizers chose PM2.5 as Midi's theme to raise awareness about the hazards of pollution in Beijing. This year, Midi will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Midi Music School, and has invited its more than 4,000 alumni to camp out for the weekend.

Wang said the size of the festival won't likely be affected by the change of location.

"There will be five stages and over 100 artists in total. Campers needn't worry either. The new location is already big enough to warrant a tent-renting service for people who turn up unequipped to stay for the weekend. We'll also provide sleeping bags and water," Wang said.

Bands expected to play at this year's festival include The Ghost Inside, Cold Cove, Amoral and Emergency Gate. Midi 2013 will also include Stage Qing, a tent designed to expose and promote young bands.

Badr Benjelloun, owner of Beijing bar Cuju and blogger on Beijing Daze, said the change "was to be expected."

"Midi has had problems deciding on locations for a while," he said. "It's now an unwritten rule that [Beijing] music festivals be based outside the Fourth Ring Road."

Having attended every Midi since 2005, Benjelloun recounted experiences at various locations, though he said this never caused the fans to suffer.

"People will go to Midi no matter what. The organizers have always done right by their fans," he said. "There is always readily available food and alcohol there, which is something Midi definitely has over dry festivals in Beijing."

Since moving from Haidian Park, Midi's home in 2010, locations for the festival have become increasingly obscure, said Benjelloun. But China Music Valley isn't without its positives. The venue has a reputation for hosting major international acts such as Avril Lavigne and Joss Stone at events like the China Music Festival.

Benjelloun said his experience of Midi supports its tradition of "going the extra mile for people."

"The best Midi I can remember ended with a thunderstorm that took out the power of every stage," he said. "People still hung around, even after hours of rain and uncertainty. Bands packed up and left, but then Miserable Faith, a Beijing metal band, came onto the main stage with an acoustic guitar and a megaphone and consoled the crowd with music. It was magical."

Beijing musician Helen Feng, frontwoman of indie-electro project Nova Heart, will perform at this year's Midi, as she has at every Midi since its inception. She said that though music festivals in Beijing appear to be going through "a period of flux in terms of regulatory and departmental changes," Midi's relocation signals a long-term strategy. Feng believes the new location will make Midi a better competitor with other more corporate, profit-driven festivals in Beijing.

"Every location has a local government, then regional government to go through as well. There is no such thing as acquiring permission to use a location 'in Beijing,'" she said.

The challenges facing organizers each year over how to deal with the logistics of the festival has not stopped Midi from being "the everyman's festival," said Feng. The relocation has not caused frustration for musicians this year either, she said.

"I get to do a lot of shows these days because now there are so many festivals each year in Beijing," she said. "The relocation is more a frustration for the organizers, but I know they'll stick to their guns about what they want Midi to be about. No matter how much they bend, they won't break."

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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