长江国际音乐节 The Changjiang International Music Festival

As I mentioned in the previous post, this past weekend was a holiday in China and so Alana and I went to a music festival up near Shanghai. We were both very excited for the trip. Alana because her favorite band, the Backstreet Boys, were performing, and myself because I can count the live music concerts I’ve been to in my life on one hand, and so going to a music festival sounded like a cool new experience.

The festival took place on an island on the Yangtze River in the town of Zhenjiang. We took a train out from Shanghai to Zhenjiang and there were conveniently labeled buses from the train station to the festival.

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Some tents and one of the stages

The festival area had two big stages on opposite ends of a large field. The sides of the field were lined with food vendors and merchants. There was also a camping area where you could stay overnight for free. Alana and I had decided to take advantage of this and brought our camping stuff along with us. We got in before the first performances started so we had time to set up our tent and wander around.

The first group we saw was 11乐队 (11 band). They were a Chinese jazz group. They were the first group performing on the first day (and I can’t find much info about them online), so I think they’re probably newer/not well known. Though in spite of this they were one of my favorite groups. It was really refreshing to hear Chinese music that wasn’t bubblegum pop or 80s rock ballads.

11乐队 has two songs on this site

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11乐队

Each group would play for around half an hour and then there was a half hour break before the next act came on. The two stages alternated performances and rests, so after this first performance we wandered over to the other stage and caught the end of 大包子 (big bun). They were a really mellow, low key rap duo. While it was cool to hear another really diverse style of Chinese music, this group didn’t have much stage presence, so the performance fell a little flat with me.

The first few songs are 大包子

After this I was feeling a little tired so we headed back to the tent and I had my siesta. I was awoken by the sound of 核聚变-G (nuclear fusion-G) performing. The sound of their screams carried all the way to our tent so Alana and I decided we should go check them out.

核聚变-G on Baidu music

They had a big circle of fans running in a circle with their hands on each other’s  shoulders in front of the stage. In retrospect I should have taken a video of it. Again, this was a style of music I don’t usually listen to but it was cool to see anyway, and they gave such a high energy performance.

Alana wanted to get good seats (stands?) for the Backstreet Boys, so we decided to grab an early dinner and head over to the stage where they would be performing.

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Meat on a stick, fried chicken, and fried rice – dinner of music festival champions

We got there just as 牛奶咖啡 (milk coffee) was finishing up. They were more the kind of music I’m used to hearing in my day to day life around China. There was already a pretty big crowd but we nudged our way close to the front.

牛奶咖啡 on Baidu music

After they finished we heard 梁晓雪. He was a Chinese singer and guitarist, but a lot of his songs were English. Though at this point we were standing in front of a row of sub woofers that were taller than I was. Every time the bass played a note I could feel my entire body vibrate, so it was a little difficult to hear the lyrics. Alana found it pretty amusing but my ears are still ringing a week and a half later. An exaggeration, but man those sub woofers about blew people off their feet!

梁晓雪 on Baidu music

Next up was 孙燕姿, a pop singer from Singapore. The crowd was getting pretty hyped for this performance. She came out late though. Then she did three quick songs and rushed off the stage. It seemed like a bit of a letdown. The songs she performed were all really good, and given how the Chinese people around us seemed to be really anticipating her performance I was expecting a little more.

孙燕姿 on Baidu music

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Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for

Now it was time for the main event, the Backstreet Boys (后街男孩 hòujiē nánhái, literally backstreet boys). Now the Backstreet Boys may have been relegated to the realm of late 90’s early 00’s preteen girl nostalgia in the US, but let me assure you that they are still very much in demand in Asia. In fact it was exactly one year earlier, Labor Day holiday 2015, that Alana and some friends saw the Backstreet Boys in Taipei.

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The crowd behind me just before the Backstreet Boys came on

I’ve never been a huge Backstreet Boys fan myself, but they really gave a high energy performance. They sang and danced for a full 90 minutes and the crowd loved every second of it. Though afterwards Alana told me that they’ve been performing the same show for a couple years now. But I figured it’s like when I’m teaching. If I have a good lesson plan from the past that I can use with a new class, then why bother making a new one.

I’m not putting a link to the Backstreet Boys here. I trust you can find their music on your own.

After they finished we made our way back to the tent, though the sounds of music went on to the wee hours of the morning. The festival was two days but we left after the first day to spend some time in Shanghai. All in all, the performances we saw were really good, and I had a great time at my first music festival.

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