March 7 - Yung Bae @ Arkham
It was a chilly Thursday night in Shanghai and as I made my way down the stairs to the infamous Found158, half full bars hosted people that were there to pregame the weekend.
I met my fabulous friend at one of the restaurants for dinner before we headed over to Arkham. I fessed up I wasn’t truly knowledgeable of who Yung Bae was other than the fact that he’s this young dude from Oregon that likes funky throwbacks and his songs have quirky titles…yea, this is your cue to look up the repertoire of peculiar things he’s named his mixes.
Of course my friend said great things and that he had been trying to see him - how of all places, he’d see this low key guy spin in China (he’s from New York). So I just took that with a grain of salt because from the one song I had heard, I sensed a really groovy vibe.
A long line trailed from the unopened doors of Arkham all the way around the corner past the bathrooms towards the neighboring club. Swaggy people were dressed to impress yet looked comfortable enough to sway about on the dance floor.
We went inside and people lingered on the outskirts of the dance floor as if no one dared to break that unspoken rule of dancing ~in the middle~. The vast space, however, begged to be filled and slowly as more young peeps trickled in, a crowd began to form.
A good portion of the people had savory cocktails in one hand and their phone on the other, ready to take video of what was about to be a really funky night.
For a couple hours, DJ Weeky and another DJ who’s name I unfortunately did not get, were holding down the fort and setting the tone for Yung Bae. The crowd continued to double and the energy was rapidly growing and growing. You could sense people’s eagerness and readiness to dance - these opening acts were definitely doing it right.
Around 12:30am Yung Bae pulls up to the stage and the transition of DJs is respectful and gracious - he was impressed with the crowd, the mood, and the welcoming cheer.
We were ready.
He started us on this vaporwave funk journey on a smooth note that gave off feelsy old school Japanese pop vibes. Yung Bae had the crowd hooked and he had just started. With anime visuals projected onto him and behind him as he bopped his head to the beat, you knew this guy was using the crowd’s energy properly.
Then he proceeded to build up the tempo to more classic thumps - saxophone infused 808 beats accompanied by old school song lyrics you most likely didn’t grow up with.
Personally, I was right in the front and next to a speaker - it was bumpin’! But I would constantly turn around and wonder if I should make my way to the center or back. People were having such a grand time dancing and smiling that I didn’t know what was better!
Though, Yung Bae didn’t play for as long as we all would have wanted, being there and riding this wave of future funk bops in such a personal space with such a positive crowd made it a great experience for sure. So if he comes back to SH again, make sure to catch him!
March 8 - Black Coffee @ Fusion
Yes, I went to a concert the night before and danced a lot…so I thought until South African beat-master Black Coffee proved me completely wrong. Y’all must know that I was. not. ready.
Living in Shanghai one quickly learns that it’s a super diverse city and that you’re bound to meet people from all over the planet and all walks of life - it’s beautiful! You get to learn about people’s culture, language, food, customs and of course: MUSIC!
Before I made my move to this city I had not met a single South African, let alone African people. I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic bubble my entire life so meeting people from there was new and so great!
Now that I have several friends from that side of the world, I have learned a variety of things and one very important fact is that Black Coffee is an absolute icon - revered and respected. If you had already witnessed him live you were considered so lucky.
So naturally I got on this hype train to see what the rave was all about. People were coming from neighboring cities like Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Ningbo to name a few, to see this man in all his musical glory.
If you didn’t know, this DJ spins live with just one hand and let me tell ya, he didn’t play for 1 or 2 hours. He went on around 1am and finished around 4am - nonstop drops with hypnotizing visuals and chill mist blasting onto the crowd as they bounced. We were thriving.
In my entire concert-going career (which is like A LOT), I had never witnessed a community mob so deep, so loud, and so proud. One felt the welcoming vibes and see the incredible unity. I kept meeting people left and right from South Africa (obviously) and other parts of Africa that were so glad to be with each other in the same space for the same reason: to dance and be happy.
The crowd swayed in all directions and the cheers were nonstop. You would see people dancing with their friends, with their partners, or alone. At one point I separated from my group and grooved solo for a good 30 minutes and it was grand! It was a show where it didn’t matter who you were or who you came with because you would end up bopping with a stranger soon-to become-friend anyway!
Black Coffee never once spoke and we understood as an audience - he didn’t have to. His eyes and body language communicated it all. We were all mobbing deep as one until the crack of dawn.
March 15 - JMSN @ Yuyintang
I have been a fan of Christian Berishaj and the band for a couple years now and finding out they were coming to SH, meant experiencing his classic R&B soul from his music videos and streams in real life!!
He would be playing in a pretty intimate yet approachable venue, Yuyingtang. If you have not been yet you should definitely cruise on by one of these days - it has a rebellious yet homey vibe when you enter. People there are super chill, though the red lighting against all the black may seem angsty.
The show would start at 8pm but like many of us concert aficionados know, artists don’t go on stage exactly on time…and this is where I made my very regrettable mistake. Because I assumed JMSN would just go on whenever they wanted as the crowd waited on them, I thought I’d show up around 10:30pm - “hmm that’s a decent time to start playing if the site said 8pm right? It’s usually a 2 hour grace period to pregame, it’s fine.”
I arrived to the venue super pumped and ready to record it all and possibly shed a couple tears, don’t judge (:
People were outside hanging out and some others by the door. The place was empty as if people had not arrived yet but the first flag was definitely when our names weren’t asked for at the entrance.
As I proceeded to the stage ready to be in the front, I saw some guys wrapping up cords and zipping up instrument cases. My fear was confirmed: he went on at about 8:45 and had just finished his show a couple minutes after I had just gotten there. I MISSED THE ENTIRE SHOW.
I was shook, shocked, and triggered because I had already missed half of another concert a while back (Billy flippin’ Idol…I know.) and swore this could never happen again.
If it counts for anything, I wasn’t the only person to arrive late aaaand I got to meet Christian Berishaj in the flesh and take a picture! He was incredibly down to earth (as I had seen online) and pretty sorry my late-self had missed the show. Of course he suggested to be on time next time and I’m not taking it lightly.
People who had actually been there for JMSN live were nice enough to Air Drop me the videos, so I said thank you with a weak smile to keep from crying and it seemed like it was an amazing show. He is simply effortlessly cool and hip when he sings and performs as you’ll see below!
Don’t know when I’ll live this down, it was such an unfortunate miss. Let this experience teach you to be on time even if your artist seems like they’re gonna show up 300 hours later. Pregame at the venue or very close to it, this is proof that some artists still respect a schedule and follow it!
March 23 - Dragon Burn JAMboree @ Yuyintang
T’was the second to last Saturday of the month which meant a week closer to slightly higher temperatures and longer lasting sunshine. It wasn’t raining that evening so that was already a win.
I joined my friends and colleagues at Yuyintang (despite my fail the previous weekend) and it was full and loud. People occupying high tables and chairs, people standing around with a beer, people watching other people, and so forth - you get the picture.
Because time is a lot more important to me now when going to an event, I made sure to show up before 9pm when the music would start. I thought I was just showing up to the Dragon Burn JAMboree sesh where bands would play a couple songs and would move on to the next.
Before any of the live music, we were in for a sweet treat as guests. Viola, founder of Life Improviser, greeted us all and quickly had the room’s attention. We were about to partake in a workshop no one had signed up for.
We gathered around on the dance floor: friends and strangers next to each other about to do whatever was asked of us and to simply trust the process. We did some quirky ice breakers that probably made some of us uncomfortable but in the end worked out because we all got weird doing strange sounds in a circle and partnered up with people we didn’t know, to do a half blind dance where one partner was blindfolded and the other led them based on the music’s tempo. It was wild!
After getting the juices flowing and the blood pumping, the first band of the night, Parachutes on Fire, came out to open. They did classic rock covers and had the crowd swaying! The energy just kept escalating and the crowd seemed to continue to multiply - it was great.
The second band of the night was DaHaHa, who performed their very own pieces. Their songs ranged from post rock ballads, to punch pop beats and psychedelic work outs. The vibe flowed like a roller coaster but in a good wave. We were good with moving side to side, head banging sporadically, and even moshing. As a crowd we were ok with it all!
In between acts, Sven, a super cool hip man who happens to be the founder of Dragon Burn - an extension of Burning Man in China - came onto the stage to meet the crowd. He briefly explained how Dragon Burn came about in the Middle Kingdom and how it gains popularity every year with more and more attendees from all over the world.
Following these bands, Extinct Squid & The Megalodons took over the stage and continued raising the energy bar!
Most of the people there looked like seasoned music festival campers and the rest of us definitely looked like we could aspire to be like them in that sense. Because Dragon Burn is a full campout, this JAMboree sesh was like a pregame to the real festival - a sans fire, campfire.