I’ve just about burnt out on festivals at this point. It’s just not in me. Between the predictably stale lineups, the hassle of transportation, and just good old fashion mismanagement, I simply don’t have the stamina. With one exception – this year’s Concrete & Grass Festival, which went down during the Mid Autumn Festival in Shanghai. A festival that aims to break out of the mold of every other festival and give audiences something unique, accessible, and conscious of the your needs, it was a breathe of fresh air to say the least. Read a day by day breakdown below as well as look at an array of photos from the festival.
Staying with two old Beijing pals just one subway stop away from the Shanghai Rugby Club facilities, I arrived nice and early on day one. The storm from the night before had pretty much soaked the premises, creating puddles of mud at various locations (my favorite being right in front of the portable restrooms). Nevertheless, the sun fought through the clouds and scattered light showers and the music went off without a hitch. And what a day it was for music – the highlights for me were moseying around the Wooozy Stage and The Yurt, the two enclosed stages were hip hop and electronic were a constant. In particular the atmosphere at Wooozy was overwhelmingly positive and was downright bonkers by the time A$AP Ferg took over. Meanwhile, The Yurt became a safe haven of sorts, especially when the rain eventually did come down a pouring during Ben UFO\’s set. Serious hippie vibes in there, I spent most of my time there lounging on the haystacks with a shit-eating grin on my face. The other two main stages, the Echo Stage and the Left Stage, got plenty of love too. It was pleasure to catch local Chinese acts Chinese Football and Chui Wan garner large local crowds – they’ve have certainly earned it. However, the true highlight of the evening, right before the rain came down fast and furious, was the Korean instrumental act Jambinai. Playing in strong winds on the Left Stage, their set left me and countless others awestruck – the only time I was there for a band’s set start to finish.
Day two was graced with just about the best weather you could ask for – warm temperatures, a strong sun, and lush cloudscapes that never overtook. Joined by my two new flatmates, we were in full attack mode with a bag full of cans, pockets full of smokes, and childish glee. A early start with a faux Pairs reunion (of sorts) as Australian noise rock outfit Thug Mills kicked off the day’s festivities loud and crass. From there it only got looser and goosier, with familiar faces showing themselves, both on stage and off. Birdstriking wailed through their set and New Zealand trio Die!Die!Die! ignited crowds with their whirlwind emo rock and their lead singer’s very mobile performance. My high school dreams of seeing Pavement were answered with a surreal Stephen Malkmus set over on the Echo Stage – seriously, no better joy than hearing the artist pause over the words ‘plastic china’ with inquisitive astonishment during ‘Stick Figures In Love’. Once again though, it was the instrumentals who brought the evening’s best moment – Dalian’s Wang Wen who by some act of the weather gods, played just as the sun set and a light shower coated the stage. Their rendition of ‘Lost in the 21st Century’ included a breakdown straight out of Third Encounters of the Third Kind that left me giddy. Re-TROS played a new song (Gasp!) and it all came to a beautiful end with HEALTH’s manic longhaired set. Despite a 15 second encore from the band and someone climbing up the stage\’s side (there were chants for him to \’jump\’ which in retrospect may have not been the most appropriate thing to say) the security forces came in in droves and led us away. And like that, Concrete & Grass came to an end.