Panda Fest

3 Oct

October 1st is an important day in modern Chinese history. In 1949. Mao Zedong and his Communist buddies finally kicked Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists off the mainland, leaving all of China united under the Communist banner. It’s kind of like Independence Day in the States, complete with time off, fireworks displays, family get-togethers with lots of food, and giant parades in the capital with tanks and missiles rolling down the street. Well, not so much the last bit. In keeping with the old school Soviet tradition of ginormous military parades, the CPC has a big shindig with choreographed dancers, smiling local beauties on floats, what appears to be enough missiles to start a nuclear winter, and the aforementioned tanks and goose-stepping troops from every military branch. The head of the CPC, currently Hu Jintao, gives a speech. It’s all very patriotic.

We did not have one of these shindigs this past week. The military parade was very popular back in the day, but was discontinued in 1960 thanks to the excesses of the Great Leap Forward. Twenty to thirty million dead farmers from bad public planning tends to disrupt things, I suppose. So, it was made known that they would only hold small celebrations every five years and big ones every ten. I was in Beijing for the 60th anniversary, which was really quite impressive. One million citizens came together in a highly orchestrated parade. You gotta hand it to the organizers.

Since it’s not a banner year, everything was way more low-key than in 2009. Most people were just excited about the fact that National Day kicks off a Golden Week, when practically everyone gets time off and travels. Tickets for every mode of transportation double and hotels sell out. It’s a good time to go on tours and see a bit of the country before winter sets in.

I have a pathological hatred for tour groups, so I am staying in China this week. I mean, yes, they are convenient and you do see all the landmarks without getting lost, but I’m not a fan of traveling in a pack of 40, following after some poor guide with a brightly colored flag in hand to herd us from one photo opportunity to the next.

Instead, I went to the Panda Music Fest, which was kickass. (I wanted to go to China Big Love, but it was canceled due to unfortunate weather/stage circumstances.) Panda Club (XIONG MAO) is a mainstay here in Chengdu, and this was the big opening weekend of its third incarnation. No, I don’t know what happened to the other two. Anyways, the big name of this three day music fest was DJ Shadow. I didn’t know who he was either, but apparently he’s a big enough name in the genre. NPR had a write-up of his newest album here. It’s pretty good.

The new Panda Club is located about 5km east from where I live, a quick taxi ride over to the East Chengdu Music Garden. (Shut up. The name makes sense in Chinese.) It’s basically an old industrial area that’s been partially refurbished into a club/art/music/food district. It’s really cool looking. Think 798 Art District if you’ve been to Beijing. I instantly regressed to age 8 and wanted to climb on everything. I’m sure there are some parkour/freestylers who are going to enjoy this playground, but I restrained myself.

The music itself was fun. I drank at the free bar, danced poorly, listened to a lot of dubstep, inhaled an insane amount of secondhand smoke, got drenched with free drinks by overzealous dancers, amassed an impressive number of bruises, danced even more, drank some more, saw DJ Shadow, watched as my shoes got grosser as time went on by, danced some more, bitched about the women’s bathrooms (look, you JUST redid the place from an empty warehouse, you had the option to put in more toilets, WHY DIDN’T YOU? [kind of a pet peeve]), and danced some more. I emerged from the club sometime after three with my compatriots into a driving rain which was rather nice, as the concrete-enclosed dance floor was not really air conditioned at all.

All in all, it was a positive experience, although I’m not sure my red converse will ever forgive me.

I plan on laying low for the rest of the week. My normal death-rattle cough, which rather sounds like consumption but isn’t has turned into something not unlike the cough of the raptors in Jurassic Park. It’s kind of alarming, but I figure it’s just the cigarette smoke irritating my delicate lungs. If it doesn’t go away soon, I’ll visit the doctor’s office.

And now, I’ll leave you with an example of what I was blasting my eardrums with. Enjoy!

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One Response to “Panda Fest”

  1. Dani October 5, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    I love that you had a Jurassic Park plug.

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