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Photo of the Day: Taihu Midi

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China’s music festival market has exploded in recent years, with events encompassing rock, jazz, EDM, and more being held across the country almost every week of the year. The traditional period for festivals has always been the public holiday to mark International Labor Day however, and so this week’s photo theme is China Music Festivals. We’ll be bringing you shots from some of this season’s major music fests — traversing punk, jazz, pop, and electronic music.

Launched in 2000, Midi is China’s longest-running annual music festival. From day one, its focus has been on creating and sustaining a young crop of new initiates into the culture of rock’n’roll: it grew out of the Midi Music School, which was founded  in 1993 and has graduated scores of musicians making the national festival rounds in 2018.

Though Midi started in Beijing, it’s proven increasingly difficult in recent years for the festival to secure a reliable location in the capital. Since 2015 its main site of operation has been a park called Camp Midi, a sprawling property located next to the massive freshwater Taihu Lake outside of the southeastern city of Suzhou. Camp Midi is open year-round, and with its smattering of amusement park rides and kitschy themed restaurants, is popular among local families. But around May 1, it’s overrun by the longhairs, many of whom travel from nearby cities and sleep in tents on site so as not to miss a moment of the program.

Taihu Midi 2018, which was held from April 30-May 1, drew bigger numbers than recent years, no doubt due in part to a Day 1 headlining performance by Cui Jian, the legendary founding spirit of rock’n’roll in China. Well over 1,000 people turned out to see Cui’s set the other night:

Unlike Midi’s chief competitor, Strawberry Festival (see tomorrow’s photo), Midi is short on branded sponsorships and long on circle pits, huge flags, devil horns, earthy hybrid sounds such as the Mongolian-influenced metal of Beijing band Nine Treasures, and abundant youthful energy.

By “youth” I mean really young — staying true to its roots as a school, Midi every year hosts a Kids Stage for the 10-and-under set, some of whom were spotted in pop-up drum circles throughout this year’s festivities.

Cover photo: Shanghai’s Duck Fight Goose at Taihu Midi 2018

Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a Shanghai-based writer and musician, and RADII's Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, Artsy, LEAP, Tiny Mix Tapes, and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.

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