Of all the cities in China, Beijing probably has the best of the live music scenes with a rapidly increasing alternative music scene that encompasses everything from Jazz and Swing to Punk and Metal. With such an explosion of sound has come a variety of venues where you can hear both local and international acts. Here’s the lowdown on the best live music venues in Beijing and the sort of acts you can expect to see there.
For international acts and a quality sound system, the Star Live House is the place to go. It is far smaller than the sort of venues you might go to in the West to see big acts, which means you can get up close and personal with your favourite bands. Specialising in alternative bands, metal and rock, ticket prices are generally not cheap for the Western acts but it is well worth it for the great acoustics and intimate atmosphere. Bands such as Sonic Youth, The Roots, Symphony X and Lamb of God have played there in recent years, and it is by far the most professional and well-run venue in Beijing.
Although Star Live is great for the larger acts, if you want to get closer to the heart of the local music scene you need to go to venues like Mao Livehouse or Yugong Yishan. Far smaller in size than Star Live and mostly showing smaller international acts and local acts, these venues offer an eclectic mix of musical genres. One night you could be listening to a local rap artist, then the next day you might see a jazz band followed by some death metal. The quality of acts can be hit and miss, but that is part of the appeal in this fairly new music scene where any sound is possible. Ticket prices are a lot less and drinks are cheap, although both venues can get quite smoky and crowded at times when popular local acts like Reflector or Carsick Cars are playing.
For those who prefer to rock in their chair rather than rock, the coolest and most intimate of local venues is the CD Blues Cafe. Formerly known as the CD Jazz Cafe, this little Chaoyang venue showcases some of the best local blues and jazz music for a mixed crowd of Chinese and foreigners. This is a venue that shows Beijing’s music scene is not just rock n’ roll, but is now emerging as a sophisticated and diverse network of musical genres. Whatever your specific musical tastes, these venues can satisfy your aural cravings every night of the week.