It took long enough but the new and officially branded Mao Livehouse in Wukesong is up and running. The 800 seat capacity venue, part of Shijilemeng company who have already opened up five different Mao branches across the country, including in Chongqing, Shanghai, and Kunming, quietly started operating earlier this month before throwing an opening party last week to celebrate.
Located in the up and coming mall complex Hi-Up, right outside the subway station (direct access from Exit B) which is essentially a subterranean open faced version of The Village in Sanlitun, the venue impressed. It’s really the perfect sized place – in many ways closer to the size of the original (and now deserted) Mao Livehouse with the layout of the third floor of Tango. Everything is allocated to the one 700 square metter space, with a bar hidden to the right of the stage along with the bathrooms, and a row of lockers (and a vending machine strangely) in the back corner. Stairs to the left of the stage lead to a VIP section, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that space will open to the public during smaller events. The real meat of the place though is its simple effective stage – not too deep, not too high – and it’s sound system. For their opening gig, the venue hosted heavyweight Ningxia northwest folk rockers Buyi and Yunnan southwest reggae outfit Kawa and everything felt right from the solid sound, to the flow of the space. And boy, how I’d missed Buyi. Some much of their music is engrained in my time here in Beijiong and though Wu Ning Yue was really the only core member present (though drummer Funky has been with the band on and off for some time) it was a treat to hear those sweet sweet tunes again. Kawa didn’t quite enthrall me as much but that’s probably due more to how hard it is too make southern Chinese reggae sound authentic and not clichéd but they know certainly knew how to work a crowd.
While Wukesong isn’t exactly a prime location for rockers, the fact of the matter is, there’s a large number of patrons and music goers in Haidian that will surely welcome having a place to call their own, especially if you include the university crowds up north. Their bookings thus far indicates the venue will have no problem showcasing touring bands from both here and aboard (up and coming Beijing melodic hardcore band Life Awaits played there over the weekend while Thailand post rockers Inspirative will perform this upcoming weekend) and well as hosting more seasoned mainstream headliners like Mr. Honey and Brozzers (something that the old Mao Livehouse was known for too) and world music tropes (the Russian Mongolain trope Namgar get in their licks this later this month). And with the idea to have earlier shows that end by ten thirty to order to get folks back to the subway on time (hot tip: the night bus I took back from there might have actually been quicker than the subway), Mao Livehouse might just be the perfect weekday main course or better yet, a satisfying appetizer on the weekend.