Returning for a third year on September 17, the third day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Modern Sky Festival should already be a familiar name for music lovers in New York. Modern Sky Entertainment, the parent company of the festival and a record label that scouts and promotes the best Chinese indie music to international audiences, has given those of us in New York the chance to see many great Chinese bands live.
Moving from Central Park to Governor’s Island this year , the festival, which was first produced in Beijing in 2007 and now is one of the largest music festivals in China, hosts an eclectic Chinese lineup and offers its stage to up and coming American bands to introduce new sounds to Chinese audiences with an ear for eclectic indie bands.
This year’s lineup is a refreshing blend of established Chinese musicians and features “made in NYC” indie music that may be great discoveries for both Chinese and American audiences. From China, we have hip hop/electronic/funk DJ Wordy, singer-songwriter Ma Di (马頔), Su Yang (苏阳), and Chinese nu metal band Yaksa (夜叉). From the five boroughs, NYC-based garage-psych band The Mystery Lights, singer-songwriter Breanna Barbara, punk rockers Navy Gangs, and rock band CHAOS.
The festival goes from 4 PM to past midnight. You’ll probably get hungry. Thankfully, there will food and drink. New York favorites Xi’an Famous Foods will be onsite with flavors from Northwest China. Additionally, the festival introduces two Chinese brands entering the US market. First from Beijing is TubeStation, which has served New York-style pizza in the Chinese capital since 2000. With 13 locations in Beijing, it has been popular at music festivals across the country. For the thirsty, Mix Sense 意会 will offer sleekly packaged pre-mixed baijiu cocktails that are a favorite of China’s fashion set, found at clubs and karaoke parlors around the country.
Get tickets and information on getting to Governor’s Island from the official website. Don’t forget to use code BC get 10% off for your general admission or VIP ticket! Stay updated through the festival Facebook page.
Here’s more about the line-up with each act’s set time:
A Hong Kong-born New Yorker, Reonda is a folk singer-songwriter whose music captures the transitory eternities in life draw influence from Nick Drake, Elliot Smith, Vashti Bunyan, Johnny Cash and Keren Ann. She is also the designer behind the New York City based design studio Bowoo.
Set time: 4 PM
CHAOS is a post punk/rock band from New York. Guitarist Steven and bass player T.D met at a church in Chinatown and started the band in 2008. They have been performed at CMJ, Echo Music Festival, Rock4Hope and other festivals and live houses in NYC.
Set time: 4:30 PM
Navy Gangs is a Brooklyn-based pop rock band whose songs effortlessly and precisely capture the essence of young-adult sorrow with dark humor. “When I see your face, I just want to die, but I ran away, now I’m drunk at home.”
Set time: 5:15 PM
Breanna Barbara is a blues singer/songwriter and guitarist currently living in NYC. Inspired by everything from howling at the moon to heat strokes in New York City summers to the paradigm shift after a loved one passes away, her fuzzed-out riffs and emotive, soulful voice gets right to your core.
Set time: 6 PM
Founded in 1995, Yaksa was among the first metal bands in Beijing’s underground rock scene in the 90s. During the past 20 years, the band has evolved from heavy metal to post-garage to punk and to nu metal today. Yaksa is the Sanskrit name of Wisdom King in Vajrayana Buddhism.
Set time: 6:45 PM
The Mystery Lights
California-formed, Brooklyn-based Mystery Lights successfully captures the spirit of classic lo-fi psychedelic, garage music. The band says of themselves, “We like it rough and raw, nasty, messed up.”
Set time: 8 PM
Su Yang (苏阳)
Singing in Ningxia dialect and with special voice techniques, Su Yang’s music is greatly influenced by traditional Northwestern Chinese folk music hua’er (花儿). The songs are mostly about old legends, love stories, and scenes from daily life. The traditional music form attracts a lot of young Chinese audiences today, as Su Yang describes his music: “These songs belong to the local people.”
Set time: 9 PM
Ma Di (马頔)
Singer-songwriter Ma Di created the indie record label Ma You Ye (麻油叶) in 2011 with several Chinese folk singer-song writers including Song Dong Ye (宋冬野), who performed at last year’s Modern Sky Festival. The label is known for its unique style of music and lyrics about young people’s sorrow and happiness in China’s big cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
Set time: 10:15 PM
DJ Wordy is the only three-year China DMC DJ champion, coming out on top from 2005-2007. As China’s first international DJ superstar, Wordy is loved by audiences and festivals across the continents for creating extraordinary sets that encompass hip hop, electronica, bass, house, and funk At home, he’s a “seminal force” in today’s Chinese youth culture and a role model for upcoming Chinese DJs.
Set time: 11:30 PM