Experience Chengdu’s Zebra Music Festival Through These Photos

Chengdu’s Zebra Music Festival reached its conclusion last Monday evening as Edison Chen (of sex photo scandal fame) took the stage for his comeback tour. As with the previous two years, I attended all three days (performing on the last day) and came back with photos to share.

This post is for those who couldn’t be at Chengdu Zebra Music Festival and want to get a feel for what it was like. If this sounds like you, here are some quick notes about Zebra before you jump straight into the photos:

  • Started in 2009, this year was the third annual Zebra Music Festival in Chengdu
  • Festival organizers claim that attendance this year was 150,000. I and others are skeptical of this figure but regardless, it was a very well-attended event
  • The vast majority of performers were domestic bands and pop artists, although the lineup was punctuated by the occasional foreign act. Local bands The Trouble, Mr Turtle, Proximity Butterfly and Mosaic were all main stage performers this year
  • Xiong Mao (Chengdu’s now-defunct home of electronic music) didn’t host their own stage at the festival this year. Rather, DJ’s were slotted to perform for the final few hours on the second (Sky) stage
  • To see a full lineup from the festival, check our post in the Chengdu Forum about Zebra Music Festival

Photos from Zebra Music Festival

As in previous years, I brought along a frisbee to the festival. It was a huge hit and in the afternoon between bands we’d have a circle of 15 people playing together. Many at Zebra told me that the festival atmosphere and outdoor setting was what brought them there more than anything else.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Myself (and my good friend Kafe, pictured below) caught a ride up to the festival grounds at 198 Poly Park near the Panda Base outside of Chengdu. Taxi fare from Chengdu to the festival grounds was about 50 yuan.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Outside of the entrance gates, an enormous banner listed performance times. As always, it was ridden with mistakes. Here you can see me as “Justchaile” and Cvalda (a local drum & bass DJ) is listed as being American.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Vendors were scattered around the park selling t-shirts, stickers, and post cards. This particular group (“F.E.S.”) brought stickers and tie-dye t-shirts.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Nearby the Sky Stage was a small half pipe which skaters and BMX riders performed on during the day.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Frisbee action in the afternoon. This frisbee got used so much it crack and then nearly split in half after being tossed thousands of times. Before this I’d never seen a frisbee break like that before.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Between the main stage and Sky stage were Jagermeister and Budweiser tents. Drinks are cheap at Zebra! 10 yuan for a Budweiser can and 10 yuan for an ice-cold shot of Jagermeister. It was much, much easier to obtain alcohol than bottled water at the festival.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Local band Proximity Butterfly opens up the main stage on the afternoon of the first day.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

This array of hotdogs served as bait to get festival attendees to signup for a cell phone music service. Upon signup, you’d be given two tickets which you can exchange for hotdogs. No one signed up or ate them and these guys seemed to be just standing around in front of hotdogs all day.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Our friend and esteemed Chengdu graffiti artist Gas was in attendance.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

This banner didn’t last long before being defaced by pranksters.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

The food area included this guy grinning and offering what looks like 50 pounds of chicken feet and assorted organs.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

And coconuts! 15 yuan included a hole poked in the coconut with a colorful straw.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Festival security guards were laid back and pleasant as always. Here they sat in a grassy field and chatted.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

 

A sign indicating the Xiong Mao electronic stage from last year. There was no such stage this year, but the sign has persisted in this location for one year.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

One vendor sold do it yourself t-shirts, painted on site with whatever message or imagery you like.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Cotton candy cost 5 yuan, or about $0.80.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Although vendors were informally scattered around the festival grounds, there was a designated vendor area. Clothing, shoes, and various trinkets were for sale here.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Local band The Trouble opened the festival on the second day. Seen here on the large screen (and below playing guitar) is the bands lead singer and guitarist, Gao Xin.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Local music producer and friend Jovian performed on the third day. An experimental set of live bass and performing all original production.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

 

 

I performed just after sunset on the third day, playing a multi-genre medley set featuring Metallica, James Brown, Guns ‘n Roses, and Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

The Jagermeister tent went for broke on the last evening of the festival, selling double shots for 10 yuan.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Edison Chen stepped on stage saying “I am Edison Chen!” to the enthusiastic cheers of the massive crowd.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

On the last evening we had fun playing leap frog and taking photos.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

A large helicopter paid a visit to the main stage on the afternoon of the third day. It descended to a very low altitude and circled around the stage for about 10 minutes. In between songs, the lead singer of the local band performing said “Whoa! That’s a huge helicopter!” and everyone laughed together.

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Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Performing with Kafe on the second stage.

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Zebra Music Festival 2011

Conclusion

Even with its difficulties (technical problems and mediocre programming being foremost), it was still a blast enjoying the good weather in Chengdu with friends. And in a sense, we’re lucky that Zebra Music Festival didn’t befall the tragic fate of Suzhou’s Strawberry festival which was abruptly cancelled.

Thanks to local photographer Xixi who contributed the last ten photos featured above. You can follow him on Sina Weibo (the Chinese twitter) right here.

If you attended Zebra in Chengdu, I’d love to hear what your experience at the festival was like in the comments below.

24 thoughts on “Experience Chengdu’s Zebra Music Festival Through These Photos”

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  2. Hey Charlie, Thanks for the great review & photos of the festival. Playing there for the 1st time I have to say our experience was awesome & too brief (we flew in from Midi late on Sunday so only experienced Monday).

    Really loved the attitude of the crowd; met loads of great people wandering around. It was a really fun vibe!

    • Hi Max, thanks for visiting and playing at Zebra!

      How was your experience at Zebra compared to Midi in Beijing? Was performing at the two very similar?

  3. Killer photos, Charlie. I was at Zebra also and had a great time. I’ll send the link to this to friends who couldn’t make it.

    I think I saw you and your friends playing frisbee, actually. It was a huge circle of people and there were people around you taking photos?

    • Hi Trevor,

      Yes, that sounds pretty accurate. I remember frisbees being around last year but there were a really small amount of them this year. What tended to happen was when you break one out a flood of people come out of nowhere to join in on the fun. Which is great except few people seem to know how to throw a frisbee correctly, which results in us spending a lot of time chasing the frisbee down. I saw a few photographers taking photos of us also but haven’t seen those photos, let me know if you see them anywhere and I’ll add them to the post.

  4. Awesome pictures! I cant believe I have never gone. Im jealous. Cool to see you and Coffee rocking the crowd. Next year I am going, I swear!

    • I can’t believe you haven’t gone either. It’s definitely the music event of the year in Chengdu. Despite the inkling problems, the weather was fantastic this year (rain late in the evening on the second day, same as last year) and it was great to be outside with friends.

      Drinks are really cheap, hundreds of people were camping, and the frisbee was a big hit. Good times.

  5. seems like it was fun this year. I went to Midi music festival this year, it was a lot fun, so many people. obviously Midi is not as commercial as zebra, most people went to midi because they love rock n roll. I think next year I will go to Midi again instead of Zebra.

    • The interesting part, to me, is that it’s clearly commercial in certain aspects but not in others. The lineup is dominated by pop acts which attract the waving-glowsticks mainstream Chinese audience, but cotton candy is 5 yuan and beer is 10 yuan. I’m used to getting price gouged at music festivals in the US, where beers cost $10 (70 yuan) and the price of everything is drastically inflated.

      So I feel appreciation at the fact that vendors can set up and operate with a low enough overhead to be able to sell things cheap. The F.E.S. t-shirts that you see in one of the photos above were selling for 50 yuan (less than $8). Very reasonable.

  6. haha~~ “Outside of the entrance gates, an enormous banner listed performance times. As always, it was ridden with mistakes. Here you can see me as “Justchaile” and Cvalda (a local drum & bass DJ) is listed as being American.”

    finally see your show in Zebra Music Festival !
    and see a big helicopter:)

    the 2011 Zebra Music Festival attracted 25 million people took part
    XiongMao will be back in 2011, and XiongMao was indeed the birthplace of electronic music in Chengdu.

    Hope that next year’s Zebra music festival is more exciting

    • Me too. Hopefully next year will be better. The way things are going though, there might not be any DJ’s at Zebra next year at all though. We’ll see what happens.

      Either way, good seeing you at Zebra this year Shinichi!

    • The festival season this year (May 1st-3rd) wasn’t mangled as much as it seemed it would be, actually. Early reports said that Suzhou Strawberry (the first annual one) would be canceled this year but it ended up taking place anyway. And Midi has moved to a new (and inferior, from what I hear) venue this year but is still going strong and attracting a huge audience. I get most of my info from http://www.chinamusicradar.com which I recommend, also.

  7. i was at the second one, had a great time bouncing from tent to tent, trying hard to get hammered (drinks were harder to get) and having fun watching the peasants who were walking around in groups of twenty with giant GAWKS painted on their faces.

    • There seemed to be less of that this year (gawking peasants). And I didn’t hear from anyone this year that they got their phone stolen. That’s down from like 4-5 people telling me they got their phone jacked, not including myself.

      You should try to make it out next year and bring Dorian with you. Atheria was there and looked to be having a great time this year, rocking a baby-sized Doors shirt.

  8. Thank you DJ and MC who were wonderful performances

    If Zebra don’t have electronic music , would be very unfortunate. But I am sure, Electronic Music will be more influence in Chengdu .
    Presumably Zebra Music Festival organizers will also attention that point.

    • It already happened, it was at the beginning of May this year. I was out of the country and didn’t get a chance to go there or perform this year. Everyone I spoke to said that last year was better though, and that it might not happen again in Chengdu due to poor attendance.

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