'Unplugged' Live Music in Beijing

By Alistair Baker-Brian, June 4, 2021

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As in many parts of the world, the past year has not been great for live music in Beijing. In addition to the coming and going of COVID-19 restrictions, Temple Bar, a favorite among Beijing gig-goers, closed earlier in the year. 

However, there is reason to believe that the live music scene in the capital is in good hands. On Sunday, May 30, Music Dish held an event entitled ‘Get Unplugged’ at Aotu Space in Beixinqiao. 

The evening began with a songwriting workshop from singer-songwriter Da Gun, a talent Music Dish’s Eric de Fontenay discovered at the Sofar Sounds event. De Fontenay said he was impressed by her “wonderfully textured voice and delivery of her original songs.”

During the workshop, Da Gun introduced one of her songs which told the touching story of her college graduation. She had students split into three groups to work on their own stories. Students then added chords to go with their lyrics.


Singer-songwriter Da Gun delivers a songwriting workshop

Later in the evening, the three acts of the night took center stage. In front of the audience was a simple set-up – a stool, a microphone and a guitar; truly bringing to life the unplugged spirit.  

De Fontenay explained the unplugged concept to That’s

“‘Great music starts with a song’ is a mantra from the music industry back in the US, and I am a firm believer in it. But in a live-house setting, this can somewhat be lost with the full band, effects, pogoing, etc. So, that raised a question: What would some of these bands and songs sound like if we stripped away the amps, pedals and effects, drums, etc.? Well, you would be left with the song and melody.”


Music Dish's Eric de Fontenay introduces the evening’s performances

Up first was the aforementioned Da Gun, someone de Fontenay describes as the “quintessential singer-songwriter.” Her vocal delivery is certainly something to aspire to. It’s perhaps no wonder that Da Gun was hired by a major music company as a songwriter while still a college student. 

Next came a different style of music with Qian Zi, lead singer of rock band Auburn (赤褐色乐队). There were no drums or bass, but Qian Zi had an electric guitar in hand to create the reverb effect, a distinctive part of Auburn’s sound. 

Finally, American singer-songwriter Eric Allen took to the stage. De Fontenay stressed that his music has “the roots of what underpins much of Americana music – folk and blues.” 

This is indeed reflected in tracks on Allen’s debut LP self-titled Eric Allen. His southern ancestral roots form the inspiration for his blend of blues, folk and outlaw country. 

Album Review: Beijing-based Eric Allen's Self-Titled Debut Album


American singer-songwriter Eric Allen performs

This was the debut Get Unplugged show. However, de Fontenay stressed that throughout the summer, there will be more to come, with many acts and artists already intrigued by the concept. 

It seems that in the near future, Beijingers will have more opportunities to experience this purer and more simple form of music. 

To learn more about Music Dish, scan the QR code below to follow their official WeChat account:


[Cover image via Pixabay. In-text images via Music Dish]

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