China never ceases to amaze me.
This past May holiday, my friend Chenguang and I headed to 蓟县 Jixian, a county north of Tianjin and east of Beijing, for a massive musical festival called MIDI.
We made the mistake of placing all of our trust and faith in his GPS, which meant we got hopelessly lost a few miles away from the festival. Instead of taking the main road, we ended up getting a tour of the local village and meandering through the hill country.
But we finally made it to the party! Although we were only going to the last day of the festival, some people had been camping out there for the entire three days.
Three main stages, over thirty bands, sunshine, grass… what wasn’t to like? I saw more tattoos and dreadlocks and generally nonconformist behavior here than my entire time in China. People were dancing, drinking, moshing, and crowd-surfing. It seems that loud music can break through even the legendary Chinese reserve.
A lot of students came from all over northern China to get their crazy on. Each group had huge flags that they waved around in front of the stage, to both represent their homelands and keep track of their posse.
Most of the bands were Chinese, with many a “fighting” band (metal with screamed lyrics and no melody anywhere). I love me some metal, but they were a little too intense even for me. Many bands also incorporated traditional Chinese instruments into their music. Chinese folk metal, yessss!
If you didn’t like one band, all you had to do was wander to another stage and find something else that more suited your tastes. That’s how I ended up listening to The Ordeal, a shamelessly-generic power metal band from Germany. Since power metal was my gateway drug into the metal world, I was quite pleased by their epic choruses and screaming guitar solos.
Another unexpected treat was a Swiss drumming duo called Bubble Beatz (horrible name, entertaining show). They had a whole set-up of unconventional “drums” made from various pieces of metal and wood, and even broke out a didgeridoo at one point. Their dance and dubstep breakdowns, as well as their shirtless man-chests, caused quite the stir.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, with the only drawbacks being a mysterious lack of water anywhere around the festival and some horrendously dirty port-a-potties. Squatting outhouses should never be a thing. Here is a picture to haunt your dreams forever.