Comfortable black velvet lounge couches, tastefully dim lighting, hip urban graffiti photography on the walls, a sleek bar surface imported from LA, and a selection of individual cocktails, I Love Shanghai is a welcome addition to Bund Life clubbing, and a great spot for a relaxing candle-lit cocktail before heading off to the main event at Attica or Bar Rouge...
...or so you would think before some giant drunk asshole in a purple afro wig slams into you, spilling beer all down the front of your shirt, offering to buy you three more in compensation. Right about this time is when you'd notice the five drunk university girls laboriously throwing themselves around a stripper pole, a drunk German tourist screaming out an order for another Shanghai Slut, a group of drunk Filipinos in total bliss dancing to Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy Wit' It," a group of pre-drunk American teachers pulling out their 100rmbs for the all-you-can-drink deal, and a crazed looking bar manager--dressed up like a tweaked-out Jesus Christ--chalking another absinthe shot up for Washington state, increasing his own lead on the rest of the city by 55.
Intentional or not, I Love Shanghai is a finely executed parody of all the swanky bars on the Bund, and one need only consider the view to make the argument. Probably the least accessible bar in town, I Love Shanghai is situated right across the ongoing construction on Zhongshan Lu, right where city planners are, in fact, trying to dig all the way to Hell, possibly to open up a fusion restaurant or lifestyle hub. While all the other bars and clubs on the Bund crane their necks to the Pudong skyline, I Love Shanghai squats in the fetid Bund walkway, in danger of toppling over into a bottomless pit. It's a bar with a unique and schizophrenic personality -- one that can satisfy the superficial wants of Shanghai's tourists in it's "cocktail lounge" capacity, but it also serves as the much-adored safe haven behind enemy lines for the myriad of uh... "individual" personalities in the Shanghai community. It's been called a "dive bar" but its not. It's sometimes derided as a "frat bar" but its not. The heterogeneity of the regulars and one-timers at ILS, hailing as they do from all age groups, nationalities, and backgrounds ensures that it's unclassifiable and totally unique in the city.
A beautiful thing happens around 3am at a good night at ILS, when you stagger passed Australian English teachers doing Absinthe shots with American high school students and Chinese businessmen, and you catch yourself in the mirror at the sinks but don't recognize yourself because you've got on a flowing blond wig and marker all over your face. It would be a fitting moment for some kind of interstellar comet to slam into the earth and wipe us all out completely -- that's the mark of a great party.