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Clubbing In China: Beijing, Shanghai & Gangzhou: Xmas/NYE/07/08 ::

Reported by Tristan Ingram on January 9, 2008

That China is opening up is immediately apparent the moment you approach Beijing Airport’s Immigration desk, where a smiling official says ‘good morning’ and happily flicks through your passport. Beneath his Perspex screen there’s an ‘Am-I-hot-or-not? type electronic box marked ‘Rate our service, how have you been treated? with 4 buttons marked ‘extremely well, well, poorly and extremely poorly’ and, with admission granted in seconds, it’s a pleasure to click ‘extremely well’.
Arch economic rival America routinely grills tourists for hours at airport Immigration lines and the contrast is both striking and significant: As America locks down its borders ever tighter, China simultaneously opens her doors and your immediate feeling on arriving is of being welcome. Underscoring everything is the fast approaching Olympic Games, kicking off precisely at 8 minutes past 8 o’clock on the 8th of the 8th.. 8 in Chinese equates with money and though the country remains extremely cheap, Beijing’s wealth is immediately apparent in the short ride to the centre. Neon bathed densely packed pristine apartment blocks jostle with Dubai style skeletal soon to be finished skyscrapers, alongside intricately decorated Pagoda designs adorning everything from toll booths to worker’s stadiums.
That China is booming is further confirmed by that vast convoys of cars ducking and weaving precariously for micro-fares one twentieth of London’s rates. Less contemporary is the locals’ obvious disdain for seatbelts (some cabs even remove belt sockets, such is the apparent pussy-ness attributed to the western safety devices.) Being a Westerner is no disadvantage, however, with virtually everybody seemingly curious and friendly, even if authorities do continue to ban the BBC and wikipedia websites, from the increasingly ubiquitous free wireless net connections available even in some taxis. Hi tech is very definitely China’s future and with an affluent middle class estimated to already number over 100 million people, the country’s power seems certain to only grow.
Song, The Place, Beijing
Ipswich born/ Hong Kong raised promoter Paul Wong and legendary Asian promoter Neebing are the principals behind Beijing’s newest venue Song, an ultra luxurious bar/ bistro/ club that’s luxuriously comfortable though most distinguished by its state of the art custom made sound system. With Paul learned his clubbing trade kicking starting Hong Kong’s early 90s club scene and Neebing bringing the likes of Richie Hawtin, Morcheeba, Mr C and Adam Freeland to China, both understand electronic dance music intimately and Song is intended to look far beyond China’s otherwise staple diet of tired top 100 jocks. Launching with Coldcut mid December, Neebing’s bringing Arthur Baker (plus DJ Marky for a parallel gig) though covering Christmas for the first year is Swedish nu jazz wunderkid Nils Krough and me.
Xmas Eve.
Song tonight is busy with a friendly bunch of champagne quaffing  tastemaker type high-end locals and far from home entrepreneurial expats like Time Out Editor Tom Pattinson and his wife Sarah, who all end up mixing and matching it on Song’s relatively expansive floor, though rival listings hack Rachel is convinced M.A.N.D.Y are tonight’s hot ticket. The German duo are spinning for one night only at Bank a dark, cavernous Beijing superclub, which in common with all Chinese clubs has a relatively small dance floor. Despite this, Bank is far from full upon arrival, with many of the drunken revellers seemingly more intent on trying to pull than the music, though the German duo are clearly up for it. So up for it that they finish their 4 hour set with Human League’s Xmas classic Don’t You Want Me, followed by all 5 minutes of an excruciatingly cheesy ballad before heading off into the night to Beijing’s newest after-hours spot White Rabbit, a dark and dirty basement dive perfect for illicit frolics.
Reportedly busy the night before, White Rabbit tonight is somewhat dismal, with just 20 or so punters shuffling to minimal techno provided by local jocks and the occasional mix from M.A.N.D.Y’s Philipp. Visibly up for it, Philipp (or it might have been Patrick) bounces round the club energetically, one by one inviting everyone to accompany him to the Forbidden City on Xmas Day but whether anyone eventually goes (including him) remains unclear.
G Plus: Shanghai (Boxing Day)
Shanghai is known as China’s most Westernised city and its prices certainly are closer to Europes. G Plus is the city’s currently number one superclub, regularly hosting the likes of Armin Van Buuren, Judge Jules and John 00 Fleming, though like Beijing’s Bank is radically different from Western superclubs. Chinese clubbing appears to be principally about drinking, showing off and sex (not necessarily in that order) and dance floors are correspondingly tiny compared to booth space. 900 people drinking to 100 dancing means more profits as well as a decidedly more difficult dance floor building a vibe and it takes me 90 minutes before a rocking sequence of Soulwax, Meka and Goose finally lights the fuse. Finishing with Smack My Bitch Up, the night ends with delirium as a phalanx of very hot (though very young) Chinese girls demand autographs and photos though a swift exit is required as I make my first serious faux pas.
Pressed by a guy in a booth to share a huge tumbler of whisky I foolishly accept a sip, only to find my new best friend slugging shots and demanding I match him shot for shot. Neebing grabs me with  a ‘it’s time to go’ and we’re out of there instantly, jumping into a taxi. Chinese culture he explains, is all about face, and refusing someone’s offer after accepting, means they lose face. And losing face can be dangerous.
G Plus, Hangzhou (December 27)
Hangzhou is a beautifully chilled city centred around an exquisitely ordered lake, though fully alerted by the Shanghai crowd’s reticence, I’m planning a far more accessible crowd-pleasing set that’s several bpms lower. Mixing in Tiefschwarz’s Spektrum mix from a Madonna hit I’m expecting another tough two hours though from the start the (still small) dance floor is absolutely packed, with hordes of super-sexy Chinese girls grooving and slinking alongside equally up for it expat guys. Clearly as sophisticated as an any European crowd, G Plus in Hangzhou has a audience that’s relatively easy to play for, and with the club’s state of the art light show, excellent sound system and slinky go go dancers, the night well and truly rocks.
Song, The Place, Beijing (New Year’s Eve).
Song is located in a brand new uber-luxurious shopping mall and proceedings start tonight with a massive mega-televised New Year’s Eve party outside the mall. The Coca Cola sponsored event featured Chinese popstars, BMX/ skateboard artists and one western performer- me- and so it is that I find myself spinning outside for 90 minutes in minus 10ºC temperatures before a crowd of several thousand impassive onlookers. Surreal to the max, the pleasure of dropping Meka’s High Heel Shoes more than compensated for my freezing toes, and by midnight I’m tucked up inside Song, dropping Auld Lang Syne, followed by Dave Gahan’s Deeper & Deeper (the brilliant Sebastien Leger mix).
Out on the dance floor, Song’s packed and everybody’s happily letting their hair down with impressive abandon. Big tunes from Kelis, Karoshi Bros and Play Paul keeps the vibe up consistently after which Neebing rounds things off with a seamlessly mixed vinyl set of classics and tech/ house anthems.

China’s dance scene remains in its infancy though the determination and enthusiasm of promoters like Neebing and Paul combined with the armies of international DJs keen to tour mean that sooner or later the country will surely catch up. And with local hero DJs like G Plus’ Calvin Z, Jacky Bad Ten and expat Teng Boon embracing the internet in all its potential, the rise of globally recognised Chinese star DJs is surely only a matter of time. China rocks and could soon rule.
Special thanks to Neebing and Paul, Yao Yao, Nils, Guan, Aaron Lee, Calvin Z & Jacky, Teenie, Tom and Sarah, Scarlett and Ivy and Clifford Nathan. (Song, Beijing) (Hangzhou G Plus)

Jonty Skrufff (