China’s Modern Sky Festival Comes to NYC


We’ve talked about China’s vibrant rock scene before and are now excited that a few Chinese bands are part of the Modern Sky Festival ( 摩登天空音乐节 / 摩登天空音樂節) in Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on October 4 – 5, just about 7 years to the day of the first festival in Beijing’s Haidan Park in 2007.

Chinese rock bands have made appearances at SXSW, the CMJ Music Marathon, and mini-tours around the US, but this two-day event is probably the most prominent introduction of Chinese rock music in the United States.  The festival presents an incredible line-up of Western, Chinese, and Taiwanese bands without any qualifiers.  No special showcase for the bands from Asia.  No specific Chinese theme to the festival.   Just a weekend of great bands.

It’s more likely that Chinese attendees are familiar with the Western bands than non-Chinese are with the Chinese bands, all of whom have been around for a while.  Anybody who says “I knew Re-TROS before they were in Pitchfork.” (how do you say this in Mandarin?) are outing themselves as the ones catching up to Chinese rock.

The line-up includes:

Saturday, October 4 (5 – 10 PM)

  • Atomic Bomb! The Music of William Onyeabor (a tribute to the Nigerian funk musician featuring Jamie Lidell, Alexis Taylor (of Hot Chip), Dead Prez, Peaking Lights, Sinkane, Money Mark, Mahotella Queens, and more)
  • Liars
  • Re-TROS (Rebuilding The Rights of Statues) ((重塑雕像的权利 / 重塑雕像的權利)
  • The Blood Brothers
  • Deserts Zhang Xuan  (张悬 / 張懸)

Sunday, October 5 (2 – 8:30 PM)

Saturday, October 4 (5 – 10 PM)
Sunday, October 5 (2 – 8:30 PM)
Rumsey Playfield, Central Park (located right off the 5th Ave and 69th Street entrance)
Tickets: $48 – $150

Zhang Xuan will also perform at Spike Hill in Brooklyn on Wednesday, October 8.  Tickets are sold out, but that really doesn’t mean anything for shows in the city, as we probably know.

On Thursday, October 9, Liang Long and Dr. Jeroen Groenewegen-Lau, the singer and percussionist for Second Hand Rose, respectively, will be at China Institute for a discussion moderated by Eric de Fontenay, founder of MusicDish and MusicDish*China.  “Useless Rock: Youth Culture in the PRC” will explore the history, growth, and significance of the rock scene in China.  At Ran Tea House Second Hand Rose will also unveil their own fashion line and premiere the concert video of their performance, the first for any rock band, at Beijing’s Worker’s Gymnasium (北京工人体育馆 / 北京工人體育館).   The band concludes their quartet of New York events with a concert with Taiwan’s 88 Balaz at Webster Hall on Sunday, October 19.

Here’s a sampling of the bands from China and Taiwan:

Re-TROS (Rebuilding The Rights of Statues) ((重塑雕像的权利 / 重塑雕像的權利)

Deserts Zhang Xuan  (张悬 / 張懸)

Second Hand Rose  (二手玫瑰)

Queen Sea Big Shark (后海大鲨鱼 / 后海大鯊魚)

Omnipotent Youth Society (万能青年旅店 / 萬能青年旅店)

88 Balaz

Image from Modern Sky Festival NYC