Chinese Language Blog

Yi Xian Camping Music Festival (易县露营音乐节) Part 2 – We are Rockstars (我们是摇滚明星) Posted by on Aug 23, 2010 in Culture, Uncategorized

When we last saw them, our 老外 heroes had finally arrived at their desired destination – the Yi Xian Camping Music Festival.  Despite the fact that they had just endured a lengthy, exhausting, frustrating journey, they were in high spirits and were ready to experience their first ever Chinese music festival.  We now find our heroes standing outside of the festival entrance, camping gear in hand, ready to rock the F out.

Being accustomed to American music festivals, where cars line up to go through extensive security checks, it was nice to casually stroll through the entrance.  Come to think of it, there wasn’t even really a clearly marked entrance (入口 – rù kǒu) to this festival.  There wasn’t any sign of security waiting to check our bags, and there wasn’t anyone telling us where to buy tickets (买票 – mǎi  piào) or where to set up camp.  For a minute there, we wondered if there was a music festival going on at all.

Our luxurious accomodations.

As a result of our nearly day long journey to get there, we were too tired (太累了 – tài lèi le) to worry about the details, and were more concerned with finding a place to set up camp (设立营 – shè lì yíng).  After walking around for a few minutes, we found a dirt lot that already had a few tents set up.  A few people were milling around either setting up or tearing down tents, so we went ahead and put up our tents.  While I would have preferred a grassy area, I was in far too much of a zombie-like state to care.  Luckily, it was very easy (很容易 – hěn róng yì) to get our tents up, and within a matter of minutes, I was sound asleep.

If only they had these at Bonnaroo…

After a well deserved nap, we awoke to explore our surroundings.  Our dirt lot had what looked like some sort of high ropes course straight out of a summer camp.  Up the road a bit, there were some dune-buggie like race cars. Around the corner, there was a little shop selling and renting military apparel and fake guns.  Again, we questioned whether or not we were really at a music festival, even though there were signs everywhere telling us that we were. Finally, we figured out where to buy tickets.  At 80 RMB, or about $12 for the day, the cheap tickets were a reminder that music festivals are still very new to China.

Camp set up and tickets in hand, it was time to eat lunch (吃午饭 – chī wǔ fàn).  As there was so much confusion involved in finding the festival, it was only fitting that there would be confusion in finding a place to eat.  Eventually, we were guided into the cafeteria where a buffet (自助餐 – zì zhù cān) awaited.  The best part about lunch was being able to stock up on drinking water (矿泉水 – kuàng quán shuǐ) and fruit (水果 – shuǐ guǒ), seeing as how we brought nothing to eat or drink with us.

After lunch, we headed into the concert area to scope it out.  On our way in, a small army of volunteers (志愿者 – zhì yuàn zhě) greeted us and equipped us with wristbands.  They were mostly teenagers, and it was quite obvious they were more than excited to be a part of the festival.  Here is one area where Chinese festivals are very similar to American festivals – a large portion of the staff are young workers who are content with a free ticket as payment.

The festival’s logo – a dancing tent.

With only one stage (舞台 – wǔ tái) inside the concert area, there wasn’t a whole lot to see.  While the lack of options was a bit disappointing, I was happy to not have to spend the weekend running back and forth between stages, as is necessary at large American festivals.

Shortly thereafter, the first band of the day hit the stage.  The first band was a Chinese heavy metal (重金属 – zhòng jīn shǔ) band, as were most of the acts for the rest of the weekend.  While the older fans were head-banging along with the rocking guitar solos, the youngsters in attendance could be seen cupping their ears in an attempt to block the excessively loud music.

Enough security?

From the moment we arrived, it was clear we were three of only a selective few 老外 in attendance.  With my silly hat (帽子 – mào zi) and our gaudy behavior, I guess we came across as rock stars (摇滚明星 – yáo gǔn míng xīng), because every other person we met wanted to pose for a photo with us.  At first, it was kind of cute and entertaining, but after about 50 photos, it got to be quite annoying.  Being accustomed to life in Beijing – where foreigners are a common sight – we weren’t so used to being celebrities, but we took it in stride.  Our German friends, however, were not so fond of the local paparazzi, so they wrote up a sign that read, “Want a photo? Give us beer” (要照片,给我们啤酒 – yào zhào piàn, gěi wǒ men pí jiǔ).  The sign actually worked, and the next 1o or 20 photos we had to take came with a handful of free beers.  Needless to say, the mass amounts of free beer helped to make the rest of the day more enjoyable…

I know… our hats are awesome.

For the rest of the festival, we enjoyed the Chinese heavy metal bands mixed in with the handful of foreign bands, and questioned the choice of Norah Jones as the house music.  How her soulful, easy-listening songs accompany satin worshiping death metal is beyond me, but apparently it made sense to someone…

This kid was hilarious.

As the day turned into night, we got more and more used to the attention we were

Future Phishheads.

getting from the locals.  Some young girls even told me it was their first time (第一次 – dì yī cì) seeing foreigners in person, and they spent the remainder of the night following us around, holding Rachel’s hand, and asking us questions while giggling.  While doing my best to play translator between the girls and Rachel, a young boy showed up, obviously anxious to make friends with the 外国人 as well.  Despite the fact that we were all incredibly worn out and ready to fall asleep, we did our best to keep our eyes open for pictures while I did my best to play translator between our young Chinese friends and my newbie American friends.  Even though I was more than ready to fall asleep, I managed to keep my head up in an effort to facilitate the rare multi-cultural exchange that we had going on at the moment.

This sign basically says “Chinese bands and foreign bands make us high today.”

After the music had stopped for the evening, we found ourselves hanging around the campsite of some local Chinese folks.  Instead of pointing at us or staring awkwardly, they kindly invited us over for some late night snacks and drinking.  We had a great time exchanging broken Chinese for broken English, and that night proved that language barriers can’t keep you from making friends.

When the festival came to a close, we were lucky enough to get put on the band bus back to Beijing.  After our incredibly difficult and expensive journey to the festival, it only seemed fitting that we were offered a completely free (of cost and trouble) ride back to the city.  I guess Karma really does exist in China.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


  1. Tim &Sarah:

    My wife Sarah and I are going to China for 3 weeks backpacking in early October. We love music concerts in the US and camping and hope that might be fun to find a similar crowd in China. Could you make any suggestions to us? We would much rather visit countryside Than the cities. Although we will spend some time in Beijing a few days. Any hints?

    Tim and Sarah

    • sasha:

      @Tim &Sarah Hey guys,

      In October, you might not find many festivals going on, as most of those happen in the summer. There is, however, plenty to do in terms of music in places like Beijing and Shanghai. I’m not sure how much live music you’ll find in the smaller cities/countryside. Usually, you just find KTV (karaoke) bars in those places, and maybe some local bands. Definitely spend some time in Beijing, and check out this website to see what shows are going on when you’re in town. Hope that helps!

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