Strawberry Bitch Slap: Shou Wang & Helen Feng Speak Out

The irrepressible Helen Feng before she lept off the stage and hurt her leg at Strawberry Festival last Sunday. Image Xie Nana.

It seems audiences weren’t the only ones suffering from some of the Strawberry Festival’s shortcomings last weekend. Earlier this week we did a post on the relative merits of Strawberry versus Midi, and the consensus seemed to be that while both rocked, Midi was a much more pleasant experience for spectators, with massive queues to get in and a severe water shortage marring Strawberry for many. Over the past few days some of the artists have had their say, and it seems things weren’t much better behind the scenes down at Tongzhou Canal Park.

Guitar maestro and Carsick Cars frontman Shou Wang posted this story on his blog after the band’s performance at Strawberry (apologies for any shortcomings in the translation):

Don’t Tell Other People
"Joke 1: Yesterday, before performing at Strawberry I was dying of thirst, so I went to the VIP area and asked for a cup of water to drink. A staffer took a look at the list and said: "Your band is not a VIP!" I said, “So who is a VIP?” She said the sponsors. I again begged her to give me a glass of water, she thought about it and said, “OK, but please do not tell other people.” I said I promise not to tell others you gave me a drink!

In fact, the bands had no special requirements, just please treat us as human beings. Yesterday, the staff acted if we owed them money, and then we had to sign a provisional contract before the festival, promising we wouldn’t ruin their equipment. The most shabi thing was there were two cars on stage, so that meant we were the sick part! I wanted to jump on the cars while playing but my guitar cord wasn’t long enough.

Yesterday AV Okubo were supposed to have a sound check at 8.30, but they weren’t allowed to until 11 because some Super Pop Idol winner was on the console. So AV Okubo only got about 15 minutes.

In short, we will not participate in the Strawberry Music Festival again.”

Then Helen Feng of Pet Conspiracy and Free the Birds posted this comment about Strawberry on her Facebook page:

“The backstage was Painful! The space for the artists was a dirty dusty pit, no privacy and no bathrooms backstage which gave you the feeling of being more mingong than artist. Not that I’m a pussy, but it’s really hard change into a cat suit with 20 people walking in and out, some asking for autographs and all your clothes completely covered with loose dirt from the uncovered dirt floor. The ticketing was incredibly chaotic – in fact everything seemed incredibly chaotic. Location was far from town, and nothing had been worked out to manage traffic and transport. Our people couldn’t get in because the staff pass situation was a mess, and later we couldn’t get out because of the lack of cabs. The ticketing situation from what I heard was really bad. 40 minutes to 1 1/2 hours to buy tickets into the festival [actually many had to queue for several hours – ED].

After I hurt my leg, the organizer couldn’t provide transport for me back to the road. I had to catch another artist’s car as a ride to the road where I hailed a black cab to get to the hospital but luckily a fan offered me a ride. I ended up depending on the generosity of a fan to get to the hospital and not the organizers. That wouldn’t happen at any other festival in the world… being an artist here you feel a bit abused. But this seems generally the case at Modern Sky events…”

As well as Strawberry, Feng wrote at length about Midi and Chengdu’s Zebra FestivalChina Music Radar has her complete post here. While she identified some problems with all three events, only Strawberry came in for really harsh criticism for treating both artists and audiences with contempt.

Modern Sky might want to do some damage control if they want anyone to play their festival in October.


perhaps these spoiled brat rockers would like to return to an era where no commercial concern gives two flying fucks about rock and roll in China, and they can play to audiences of 10 at shitty dive clubs and get paid 20 kuai per and member for their gigs

organizational snafus aside, these people don't appear to understand how well they have it compared to less than a decade ago

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Admin has a point - people have to accept that putting on massive events like this isn't easy, mistakes are inevitable, and each event is a learning experience. It took Midi 11 years to get to where it's at now.

But both singers' complaints - particularly Helen Feng's comments about "ticketing chaos" - reflect the problems encountered by the average punters, who let's not forget were paying RMB 80 per day to get in.

Before we have a got at the bands, perhaps Modern Sky would like to return to the days when they couldn't dream of having thousands of people trudge out to Tongzhou over three days, paying RMB 80 per head per day. I don't think they would. And that's why they should pull out all the stops to make sure the same complaints don't arise next time round.

admin wrote:
perhaps these spoiled brat rockers would like to return to an era where no commercial concern gives two flying fucks about rock and roll in China, and they can play to audiences of 10 at shitty dive clubs and get paid 20 kuai per and member for their gigs

organizational snafus aside, these people don't appear to understand how well they have it compared to less than a decade ago

Totally agree...and ...Artists!!...hahahah they sing in front of a group of people...Musical Artists....hahaha...what a joke.
It isnt an "art" being a rock singer...but of course I dont understand art...lolits just that not too many people want to scream and roll around in front of a large crowd and call it "art"..people lack real life entertainment so they settle for a life "rock stars"

You're welcome........

With respect guys, I don't think wanting a glass of water before you perform, or expecting a room where you can get dressed before going on stage makes you a "spoiled brat rocker." Would you guys work in an office where you couldn't even get a glass of water??

And there was no water available for the audience either for much of day 1 at Strawberry - were we all spoiled brats for wanting a drink? Were the thousands left baking in queues hours long to get into the festival spoiled brats for complaining??

I'm the last one to defend whinging stars of any description, but what Shou Wang and Helen Feng had to say was completely legitimate. And the old "Oh it's so much better than it was 10 years ago" is wearing thin as a defense for problems that are easily preventable in the present.

Register and post your own events on the beijinger website.

^ my rant is aimed at the rocker complaining about the indignity of having to perform nearby two cars that were placed there by sponsors, which presumably helped pay for the equipment and the inevitable series of bribes/payoffs organizers have to make to get permission to hold an event like this in the first place

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OK, but again, I think Shou Wang's comments re the cars were more a reaction to the fact that sponsors and the advertising of their products were so clearly prioritized over the provision of basic services for the performers or the audience.

He may have been a tad more understanding about the cars if he'd been able to procure a glass of water - or been given a change room - backstage.

Register and post your own events on the beijinger website.

The issue with the car is secondary IMHO... the water problem and not helping one of your acts to get to a hospital are quite a bit more serious!

I was surprised at how restrained Helen's comments were in light of what took place.. and the event was sponsored by a freaking car company so it's not like they had a shortage of wheels.

At the end of the day, by this time next year, it will all be forgotten and the bands will be happy to grab another paycheck from Modern Sky.

Wow, I'm surprised how little respect you guys have for the artists! Ranting at them, when they were told they were not VIP's, they had no water and they had no changing rooms is pretty ridiculous. To be honest if I was part of a band performing and told I was not VIP I probably would have walked out.

In terms of going to the festival, it wasn't too bad... although there was a ridiculous queue to get in, there was a lack of water, a lack of beer and pretty crazy queues inside the event to buy these things. All these problems are easily rectifiable however, and I was actually a bit surprised they were unable to solve the problems on the spot, simply by opening more ticket booths or importing some more water/beer from outside. I find that with quite a lot with events in China - instead of someone thinking quickly and taking action, everyone just seems to wait around for days until the problem slowly fizzles out or people go home... maybe this will change when organisers/managers become more experienced at holding such events.

Ha ha, cars on sounds very Chinese. The lack of first aid or water is pretty bad, but the changing room situation is what I would have imagined it to be.

I even remember going to TJ's in Newport (The UK's very own D-22 or CBGB depending on how you look at it)and seeing the singer of tsunami bomb changing in the toilets and avoiding dropping her clothes on the suspiciously wet floor. She never ranted about it on her blog.

I just thought bands accepted that they have to slum it out around the gig and festival circuit. Then when they are successful and bling enough to have a perfume named after them, have product placement in their videos or get annoyed by file sharing, they can look back on those days and let out a silent sonic scream, but then conversely lament over the fact that rock is dead.

"Who knows what will be remembered of this century in 5,000 years time. It may be Stalin or Islamic fundamentalism or it may just be the stock cube" - Armando Iannucci

Yeah, what is it with having a go at the performers? That admin comment amazes me. Not getting water or medical help when you are the whole reason anyone even buys tickets to the event- that's pretty harsh treatment. And then saying that these guys- who have been making music and entertaining people because that's what they love to do- should just consider themselves lucky that their treatment isn't worse- if I was in these bands, I'd think hard about having anything to do with this magazine in future.

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