A nightclub that had come to define alternative music in a city that is not always known for kindness toward off-beat culture, The Shelter’s iconic name came to hold an unusually pervasive literal and virtual meeting by the eve of its closure in 2016. While the literal bomb shelter setting was a happy arrangement for club goers and noise-sensitive neighbors, the winds changed and the venue was unable to renew its license.
The temptation would be to simply start where they left off, hanging onto the name recognition and reputation that begot The Shelter. But with ‘ALL,’ the name suggests inclusiveness and hints to a definition-avoiding future, though Williams tells us the moniker was chosen to be “specifically non-specific” – an ambiguity intended to mean whatever people want it to.
But the fact is that the nature of the physical space, considerably roomier than The Shelter, is more inclusive in that it's opened new avenues of performance mediums and the types of artists they’re able to host. An enormous LCD screen sits behind the DJ deck, allowing for visual elements that accompany the performances of experimental artists and VJ’s. An immersive show for the album release of Moon Mad by Faded Ghost, the alias of Guizhou-born musician ChaCha, was case in point.
Away from the DJ deck, ALL’s main bar strikes a considerably more grown-up, lounge-like demeanor than The Shelter – something Williams sees as an opportunity for mid-week hangouts, movie screenings and possibly even exhibitions in the future.
Whereas the more functional Shelter was somewhere you’d go just for the music, ALL’s comfortable couches, high ball machine and curiously beautiful geometric wall cladding – repurposed from cooling tower insulation – constitute a space that you might want to be in regardless of who’s playing.
Fans may mourn that ALL is not The Shelter 2.0, but we have a feeling that the new types of artists hosted here will prove it was never the setting that made Shelter special to Shanghai.
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