From classic jazz to a trap rave, this month brings an avalanche of music festivals big and small. Here's our round-up of the highlights.
1. Dian Mi Electronic Music Festival
Also known as Midi Electronic, this offshoot of China’s OG rock festival Midi claims in its promo material to “bring electronic and rock music together as one,” and with a strong line-up of electronic rock bands and DJs curated by a Beijing-based team alongside the Midi festival brand, it may do just that.
It’s located at the atmospheric and somewhat surreal Taihu Midi Camp in Suzhou, with camping available and buses running regularly out of Shanghai to the festival site.
'Zig Zag Nation' - Asian Dub Foundation
Headliners include long-running UK-based hip-hop/dancehall/ragga group Asian Dub Foundation and 2manydjs, the side project of popular Belgian electronic rock duo Soulwax.
Several notable electronic rock bands, including Beijing scene veterans Nova Heart and German cerebral dance-punk band Lali Puna also feature on the roster.
Rounding things out are a slew of solid China-based electronic acts, including Shanghai techno DJs MHP and MIIIA, and a few rock acts thrown in for good measure, including Beijing punk band SUBS.
2. Shalanaya Festival
One for the hippies and the psytrance fans, Shalanaya Festival returns for its fifth year with three days of non-stop music, camping facilities onsite, a ‘pillow-covered chill-out area,’ and thematic overlap with Burning Man.
It’s located a ways out of Shanghai proper in Qingpu District, and there will be a free shuttle bus from the Sheshan metro station to the festival grounds. The theme this year is ‘Return to the Source,’ so expect the scheduled art, yoga and spirituality workshops to tackle that.
Price: RMB480 for festival pass presale, RMB580 at the festival gates.
Dates: October 3-5, 11am-late.
Location: Dianshan Lake Resort, 728 Jinshang Road, near Jinze Town, see event listing.
The main international headliner is Serbian psychedelic DJ duo Middle Mode, who specialize in these types of sustainable lifestyle festivals. They are joined by a long roster of many of Shanghai’s tried-and-true DJs, like Lina K, Deep 19, Javi Kalero and Yoshinaga.
This is one where the vibes are as much of a draw as the DJs, so note also that there will be creative workshops like acroyoga and mandala painting, a Shamanic sound journey class, a DIY flower crown class, an art market, fire dancing, hula hooping and the aforementioned pillow-covered chill space.
3. Simple Life Festival
This Taiwan import has a reputation for showcasing sunny mainstream pop artists, and this year’s line-up falls under that category in many respects, though the addition of several notable Chinese hip-hop acts keeps things a bit more eclectic. The Taiwanese version of the festival was free of charge this year to commemorate its 10th anniversary, but unfortunately Shanghai has no such luck.
Pop-rock singer-songwriter Pu Shu will headline, alongside nostalgic Wuhan math rockers Chinese Football, psych-rockers Sound Toy and folk troupe Wild Children.
In the hip-hop department, seminal Taiwanese rapper MC Hotdog will perform, while Chengdu up-and-comers Higher Brothers will return to Shanghai off the back of their debut album tour, and underground Beijing rapper J-Fever will collaborate onstage with the frontwoman of Taiwanese pop-rock band F.I.R.
4. Innersect Festival
Hong Kong's man of many talents Edison Chen
curates this new major music and lifestyle festival, which is basically a bonanza of all things hip and relevant in order to promote the app Innersect.
A slew of fashion brands will be represented, including Converse, beats by Dre and Rocawear, and the 3-day fest will be punctuated with high profile appearances from the likes of BMX biker Nigel Sylvester and tatoooist Dr. Woo. The main draw, however, is that A$AP Rocky will headline on Oct 5.
Price: RMB180 per day for exhibition only, RMB680 for back concert area per day, RMB880 for front concert area per day.
Dates: October 5-7, 10am-late.
Location: Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Centre, 111 Shiboguan Lu, by Changqing Nan Lu, see event listing.
'L$D' - A$AP Rocky
Despite being a brand new festival that seemingly appeared out of nowhere, Innersect has one of the best line-ups of the season, with A$AP Rocky performing on the first night of the festival.
Other exciting acts to catch include producer and former Daft Punk manager Busy P, LA experimental hip-hop producer Nosaj Thing, Indonesian viral rap sensation Rich Chigga and lots more.
5. JZ Festival
Founded back in 2005 by Ren Yuqing, the garrulous owner of JZ Club and former bassist for Cui Jian’s band, JZ Festival is a classic annual event that’s become in some ways an essential component of Shanghai’s identity. Spread out over two days, it makes for a relaxing and memorable weekend.
Kool & the Gang
The heavy hitters of this year’s line-up are a bit more throwback than in previous years: seminal 80s funk troupe Kool & the Gang will headline, along with former Police guitarist Andy Summers and Chucho Valdes, the veteran Cuban pianist and bandleader who’s got five Grammys to his name.
Fresher blood includes acclaimed Danish vocalist Sinne Eeg, who’ll perform with jazz pianist and fellow Dane Jacob Christoffersen, and Tia Ray, a Hunan-born vocalist who found fame after competing on The Voice of China and Singer.
JZ’s main strength has always been its lovingly curated local line-up – don’t miss performances by lynchpins of the Shanghai jazz scene like soaring vocalist Coco Zhao, the quintet led by jazz trumpeter Li Xiaochuan, veteran Shanghai-based electronic jazz fusion band Ttechmak, and lots more.
6. Freak Out Rave
Hip-hop and trap promoters SHFT continue their quest for world domination with the third installment of their annual Freak Out rave on Halloween weekend, which this year goes down in six cities throughout the mainland.
Shanghai’s is set to be the biggest and most bombastic, in a warehouse in Changning District with a 4,000-person capacity. The theme this year is ‘cyborg horror’ and they’ll go all out with the décor and atmospherics.
Dates: October 28, 7pm-late
Location: 269 Tongxie Lu, Jiantao Shopping Center, see event listing.
'WeChat' - Higher Brothers
Higher Brothers have been blowing up worldwide since dropping their debut album earlier this summer, and Freak Out marks the second Shanghai festival in the same month that they’ll be headlining.
Joining them on the bill are dubstep DJ Hydraulix, future bass producer Y2K, trap DJ Bailo and more. There will also potentially be hypemen and others onstage dressed as cyborgs.