The Midi that wasn't

(cityweekend.com.cn)
Updated: 2008-04-29 08:46

Why the prospect of a Shanghai Midi was exciting?

Add it to the pile of good ideas that never happened. Mini Midi, the bastard cousin of Beijing's most well-known rock festival, the Midi Music Festival, wasn't even able to make it out of the womb. There had been a great deal of talk about Midi coming down to Shanghai this year, but like so many other festivals in Shanghai, everything fell through at the last moment. So what exactly is Midi and why was the prospect of it so exciting?

Midi Music Festival is China's largest and longest annual music festival, and by all logic it shouldn't exist. Midi didn't start with a bang but more of a whimper, originally little more than a showcase of the Midi Music School's alumni. Flash forward nine years to 2008 and a Midi Festival that hosts over 100 musical acts on five stages spread out over a period of days with crowds expected to surpass last year's 12,000 per day. Zhang Fan, Midi organizer, hopes that "within five years, the festival [will see] 100,000 people attending."

What makes Midi so mind blowing to those of us in Shanghai is that its rise has been without the big corporate bucks and big name artists that international festivals rely on to create a buzz. According to one promoter familiar with Midi, "the festival has outgrown its ability to manage itself and sponsorships would only complicate matters." Lacking big name artists hasn't hurt Midi, leaving line-up space for unknown bands that are happy for the chance to play in China--even if it means paying their own way over. For the majority of fans, the quality of the music isn't important. Affordable ticket prices--something we don't always get a lot of in Shanghai--and the atmosphere that keeps them pogo-ing up and down to the beat of an (off key) drum, is. As Fan says, for him, this kind of line-up at Midi represents music's truth: "Midi is not a show. It is a truth about everything."

We were looking forward to Midi because Midi draws fans, real music fans. Getting local music fans to show up has been something that Shanghai festival organizers have been struggling to master. Last year saw a number of festivals like Rock it and Rock-ing and the never-able-to-get-off-the-ground 1234 Beach Rock fade into oblivion. We're looking forward to a bigger Yue Festival in late September of this year, though. It isn't Midi, but maybe Shanghai just isn't ready for that yet.



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