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Music scene rocks back to life

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2023-04-20 07:45
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Rock band Great White Plant performs at DDC in Beijing on Dec 31. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Crowds return to live house venues as country casts off COVID-19 shadow

After China lifted its COVID-19 restrictions, live house venues are now back in full swing, hosting bands and large audiences.

"We staged year-end shows annually, but not for the past three years due to the pandemic. When I watched the performances at DDC on Dec 28, when our program began, I spoke to lots of people and we all had a great time," said Dusk Dawn Club owner Zhang Jincan.

On Dec 28, a weeklong program to mark the end of 2022 and the forthcoming new year attracted 18 indie bands and seven disc jockeys to a small live-music venue near Ritan Park in Beijing. Hosted by DDC, the event featured a diverse range of music styles, including rock, punk, electronic and jazz.

Some 800 music lovers flocked to the venue each day from noon to midnight, with Zhang telling them, "The feeling is back."

"For many of us, such experiences had become a distant memory, as live house venues had been closed for about three years. ...Although shows were held occasionally, we had to be prepared to shut our doors at any time," Zhang said.

Zhang, who also owns DDC's venue at Aranya, a popular coastal resort in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, said: "We now have live shows from Tuesday to Sunday every week. Our venues are fully booked.

"We are staging far more performances than before the pandemic. With many shows postponed for the past three years, audience figures at live house venues have rebounded along with consumption in other fields, such as travel, dining and shopping."

A die-hard indie music lover, Zhang, 38, who has a bachelor's in physics and a master's in computer science from the University of Science and Technology of China, moved to Beijing from his hometown in Anxi county, Fujian province, in 2010, and also worked at a bar in the capital for three years.

In July 2014, he opened DDC in Shanlao Hutong, a narrow alleyway in Beijing's Dongcheng district. Attracting hundreds of indie bands from home and abroad, DDC quickly became a popular venue for indie music lovers.

The following year, Zhang launched the record label DDL (Dusk Dawn Label), expanding his reach to fields such as talent management. In addition to bringing international indie bands to Beijing, he organized overseas tours for such bands from China. In 2018, the DDC venue in Aranya — a 500-square-meter space located in soccer field garage — was launched.

However, after the pandemic emerged, Zhang was ordered to close his venue in Beijing in May 2020.

"Bands and the owners of live house venues faced a similar situation during the pandemic. We were not sure when live music would return," he said. "Although I closed the venue, I knew it would reopen at some stage because people need music, and bands need a place to perform."

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