“Beijing is the best!”
At the first dawn of April, groups of young people walked out of the Candy Club, humming songs, lighting up cigarettes, reminiscing the melodies from the live show that they just got out from. Some of them were taking group pictures for the memory, while one of them, a fan from Tianjin, was standing there, taking in the beauty of a dawn in Beijing — the capital city of China.
On last day of March, also the day before this scene above, was the 17th birthday of The 330 Metal Music Festival. It’s not only the 17th carnival for all the metal fans from all over the country, it’s also the 39th birthday party of Kou Zhengyu, the founder of 330 Metal Music Festival.
Right after 12 pm, thousands of people wearing the signature black shirts, long hair, leather jackets and Dr.Martin boots started to show up, filled up the entire space between The Lama Temple Bridge and Jin Ding Xuan restaurant. The temperature reached 26°C in Beijing, but all the black-short-shorts girls and white-linen-shirt boys became a cool line of beauty in the summer heat.
The first band Xuechen opened the festival right at 2:30 pm. Xuechen is from Taiyuan, Shanxi. Although the band was formed only three years ago, they are really good at lighting up the atmosphere in the club, making the scene a big echo of loud and heavy metal music. After Xuechen, Xuji band, Linyuan band, Mengling band, Heiqi band and Baojiang band showed off their metal power one after the other, making the club a rocking floor of metal music. All the young boys and girls were crashing the dance floor, some even ran up to the stage and trust-fell into the crowd on top of countless of arms and hands, letting these strangers lift them up in the air. People were hugging and huddling friends and strangers in the club, celebrating the magic of metal music together.
Before the death metal band Yu started their songs, the lead vocal Bing Liu said, “Rock music is not a monster. Don’t forget to take care of the girls next to you”. In the screen, a giant monster rushed out of the ocean waves, winking and tumbling with the beats as the music went on. All the fans on the other side of the stage went crazy for this funny monster figure with the music from Yu rocking the floor. After the show, a mid-age female fan took off her glasses, repeating to her daughter next to her, “what a great vision, what a great sound”, while brushing her hair with her hand.
When it’s time for the band Zhixi, the spotlight lit up everyone’s black t-shirt on stage and their printed slogan on the shirt “Our bodies are the hardest metal”, reflecting the backdrop print of the stage. Last September, Zhixi was in this same location hosting a 20 years anniversary concert for over two and a half hours, which made this 40-minute show tonight way too short for their fans. Their lead vocal Zheng Liu’s special declamation before starting each song has become a unique way for him to connect with his fans on the other side of the stage. Before the music starts, all of the fans formed countless unbreakable walls to get ready for their own metal music celebration. Zhixi has also become the synonym of China rock and metal music due to its shared history and intertwined development with China’s metal music.
When the last band Dante finished their performance, it’s already past midnight. All the lights outside of the Candy Club were gone. A couple of young boys and girls asked us to take a picture for them. They traveled far to see the festival. Some of them were from Tianjin, some from Xi’an. One of the girls came all the way from Shenyang for her third 330 Metal Festival experience. She said that her boyfriend at the time brought her into the scene when she was a college freshman. Although she is no longer with that boyfriend, her relationship with metal music ever faded.
“I didn’t use to listen to metal because I thought it was too irritating. But once I went to see Egofall live for the first time, I completely fell for it. And now no matter how loud or irritating or heavy the music is, I can handle them all”. Said the girl. Her friend next to her also said, “There are not that many people who’d listen to heavy metal like we do, and you’d never see anyone dress like us (with leather jackets and long hair). Some of them are ok with metal when we recommend it, but most of them still don’t like it. It depends”. Another guy was holding a dozen physical albums by multiple different bands, “I got all of their autographs on every single album. I am so happy! I’m like the purchasing agent for my classmates”.
In a previous interview with China Music Business, Kou said, “I used to believe that the metal music market would be great in the northeast because people there are honest and very straightforward. The northwest should be good too for the same reason. But the reality proved me wrong. With such a high population mobility nowadays, northeasterners and northwesterners are everywhere. I thought that it would be impossible to do it in the south, but the one we had in Shanghai turned out to be pretty good”.
With a growth in metal music fans, there are more people starting to form and play in a metal band. Kou said that even he didn’t know how many metal bands there are in China, or the number of bands that performed at 330 Metal Festival. “I’d say around 200 bands. I thought about counting it and keep the statistic, but it’s been years for 330 Metal Festival, there were bands from all over the places; some of them might have disbanded already. How can I remember all”, he said.
In 2015, 330 Metal Festival had to stop the concert due to an overflow of fans. Kou said that it was heartbreaking to see the fans leave. He thought about renting another venue so the fans can see shows in two different locations on the day, but then the plan fell through because he didn’t want the fans who came with friends to be separated into two locations if they happened to like different bands. Kou said that he didn’t want to “break the crowd in half”.
On the night of the festival, a young couple was resting on the steps outside a convenience store. The guy was stretching his neck and trying to give himself a massage. His girlfriend was joking, “Mr. Kou should offer us something more than just drinks and hot dogs, maybe some pain-relieve patches!”
Translated by Paris Wu
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