500KM City Music Festival – Kunming Rocks

Howdy folks… been a while.

After weeks of going back and forth with a gaggle of different editors about which images to include in an upcoming photo essay, I’m finally able to post some shots from the 500KM City Music Festival. The two-day event took place September 10 and 11 in Kunming with Sunday’s headliner being none other than China’s father of rock music, Cui Jian. It was an interesting festival, fraught with every bit of the typical frustrating madness that is China. In the end… it was still rock and roll. These are all shots that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another. I’ve heard that some editors have a clue but that could be a vicious rumor. Yes Paul, that, was a joke. A little bit of it was anyway.

Tribal Trip

杨霁渝 (Yu Ji Yang) –  墨风 (Ink Wind)

甘润南 (Gan Runnan) – 墨风 (Ink Wind)

This little girl, er, Little Devil (below) 小鬼 (Xiǎoguǐ), had a voice I can not easily describe. Think guttural, death metal – from the balls screaming… on key… and with no balls. That whiskey-soaked voice coming from this imp of a girl an octave below where it should have been, was startling. 小鬼 and her band Kaoxian really got the audience worked up and made security nervous.

小鬼 (Little Devil) – 扣弦 (Kaoxian) 

What the…

普通 – 扣弦 (Kaoxian)

My friends The Great Apes ripped through their 30 minute set on the main stage Saturday night and were the first band to really get the crowd involved. They were also the only all-Laowai band to play the festival main stage and may have been the tightest band to perform all weekend. The guys had a blast on the big stage but a great night of music was dampened when, after returning to the secured area at the end of the night, it was discovered that Dave’s guitar had been stolen. Stolen. From the secured area. The area designated. by the promoter, where musicians were directed to store their gear. The organizers took no responsibility for the loss. Being China, that’s not really so surprising, still, disappointing and frustrating. To his credit Dave took it all in stride. Nothing wrong with new guitars. Buy a Gibson you cheap bas… I mean to say, “Good luck with your new EP LP David!” 

The Great Apes – Philippe, David & Jan

Jan Hassmann – The Great Apes

Charlie Heath – The Great Apes

谭维维  (Tan Weiwei) was the runner up during the 2006 Super Voice Girl Competition (think American Idol) and performed on Saturday night of the festival. She indeed has a great voice and her pop-rock performance moved the young girls in attendance. It was very vanilla and, at least to me, she seemed a bit out of place with the rest of the lineup. Not bad mind you, just somehow out of place. 

谭维维  (Tan Weiwei) 

XTX was the Sautrday headliner. Performing with his band Cold Blooded Animals, they let loose with a grunge rock performance infused with traditional Chinese instrumentation. XTX has been called the heir apparent to Cui Jian. Based on crowd response, many clearly think he’s already succeeded to the throne.

XTX –  谢天笑 (Xie Tianxiao)

XTX –  谢天笑 (Xie Tianxiao) 

麻园诗人 (The Mayuan Poets) (below) performed a rousing set the first night of the festival, apparently they were in a terrible accident on the way to the show… meh.

麻园诗人 (Mayuan Poets)

麻园诗人 (Mayuan Poets)

The award for best rock poser goes to Cynicism, (below) with 赵亚旭 (Zhao Yaxu). After sorting through some computer issues they performed a nice set. The musicians were tight but young Cynicism does not possess the best voice I’ve ever heard. He has, however, clearly spent a lot of time watching music videos… and a lot of time in front of a mirror.

玩世不恭 (Cynicism) – 赵亚旭 

玩世不恭 (Cynicism)

阿妹 (A Mei) – 司岗里 (Sigangli)

Hands down, I thought the best band of the weekend was Kunming’s own Shanren. Shanren offer up an amazing conglomeration of folk, rock, world, and traditional Chinese ethnic music that, despite a sound debacle that included two dead mics, feedback issues and a poor mix in general, kicked ass. Even with the poor sound, the band completely owned the crowd. Unfortunately, they were forced to cut their set because of the delays incurred when attempting to balance out the sound issues.

小不点 (Xioa Budian) – Shanren 

Yang Yang Rides 

瞿子寒 (Qu  Zihan) – Shanren

A Little Yunann Sole Music

 小不点 (Xioa Budian) 

Covert Rock

Charlie Heath and Philippe Semanaz did double duty during the festival. After their gig Saturday night with The Great Apes, the rhythm section joined front-man Eddy Kneefel to form Sea Loving Mammals. They closed down the show both nights with a couple of frenetic, hi-octane performances. Dave Tedeschi joined in for a few tunes on Sunday. Good stuff.

Eddy & Charlie – Sea Loving Mammals

David Tedeschi

Security was tight both nights. It seemed at the time to be a bit over the top. They called in the military about an hour before Cui Jin took the stage Sunday night. It didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm.


 Eddie Randriamampionona with Cui Jian

Rock Icon Cui Jian

The Party’s Over

So yeah… not bad. I got to listen to a lot of live music, see old friends and make new ones and as I said before, I really liked the Kunming vibe. I’ll be back.  

As for where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to for the last month… it’s the house. Three deadlines have come and gone and it looks like we are still a couple of weeks away at best. October 25th was the contract date and when it was clear we were gonna’ miss that date we settled for October 1st. The 1st came and went so we  reluctantly agreed to give the builder until October 10. Yes it’s the 12th. Like I said, two weeks probably. I’ve been to the house every day, cajoling, screaming, begging, ranting, pleading. Nothing has worked so far. In the end I think the house will be OK but man, the process. I’m thinking of doing a small series on the house experience.

7 Responses to “500KM City Music Festival – Kunming Rocks”

  1. Evan says:

    Hey Michael, what a great series of photos. That must of been an experience for sure. Regards, Evan

  2. Fiona says:


    I could not join it when I saw a place which had a concert in Douban every time, unlucky me:(

  3. Fiona says:

    Hey dear Michael! Happy Thanksgiving Day:), and thanks for you:)

  4. Geraldine says:

    Great live photos, Michael. Hope you didn’t break your back from carrying too many and too heavy gear? :)

  5. Joshua says:

    Excellent shots. The imagery reminds me of the show Metallica put on in 1991 in the Soviet Union.

  6. Sue Anne says:

    Glad to see coverage of music festivals further inland!

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