Organizers of China's biggest pop music festival wowed local fans last year with big international names, such as Placebo and Supergrass. This year's event to be held in Beijing's Chaoyang Park on Saturday and Sunday has gone one better and features the biggest set of international headlines China has ever seen, including Nine Inch Nails, Public Enemy, The Ramones, New York Dolls, Suede and China's own rock legend Cui Jian.
New York Dolls, an iconic punk band from the United States
Each act has had a huge historic impact on the direction of modern music, and these iconic bands have a large and dedicated Chinese following.
Organizer Jason Magnus, managing director of Rock For China Entertainment, says a diverse and legendary lineup at any music festival around the world is rare.
Headlining act Nine Inch Nails (NIN) is regarded one of the most innovative and influential bands of the past two decades. The band is essentially the one-man project of Trent Reznor, who will bring about 15 tonnes of equipment to the Beijing show.
NIN views China as a key market for the future.
"Basically, it was pressure from me saying 'let's get out to China and blow some people's minds'," says Reznor, who writes, plays and produces all of NIN's material.
"I'm so proud of what's going to happen, and I just get so excited, and I'm thinking that I cannot wait for people to experience this.
"And it may sound arrogant but I really believe in what I'm doing and I really believe in the effort and attention to detail that we've put into the show.
"We want the experience to be like a movie where you can have bombastic moments intertwined with delicate and intimate moments."
Public Enemy (PE) is one of the world's most important rap groups and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. PE will close on Saturday night with a career spanning set.
PE's musical style and delivery have earned it millions of fans. Throughout its career, PE keeps blazing musical and technological trails with new songs and new media, pulling rap music into the future, all the while keeping its musical roots firmly intact.
The one-two punch of Chuck D and Flavor Flav has rocked the world. "They are one of the African-American community's most influential messengers, one of digital music's greatest champions and a rare group whose lyrics are dedicated to analyzing, uplifting and empowering humanity," says Magnus.
The festival will also include two iconic punk artists. Marky Ramone is the longest serving drummer playing with the legendary group The Ramones and the only surviving member. He still tours the world to keep their legacy alive.
The other punk act is the New York Dolls, one of the very few punk acts to actually precede the Ramones.
As the only UK artist this year, Brett Anderson, the founder and voice of Suede, is back to Beijing.
The main stage will also feature Rize, who headlined the Japan portion of the Live Aid gig a few years ago.
Mumiy Troll, one of Russia's most popular acts, is also sure to be a highlight for Beijing's enormous Russian contingent.
In addition to the Western headliners, Cui Jian will lead the Chinese lineup.
It will be Cui's very first outdoor gig in Beijing.
"We've wanted him to play this festival since the beginning and, for whatever reasons, this year we finally have our wish," says Magnus.
Cui expressed his wish in playing a full outdoor gig in a low key manner.
"Some things I dare dream of, some things I dare not. I never thought a festival with such a strong lineup will be held in Beijing and let alone I could share the stage with those big stars," says Cui.
"I have planned to give a full outdoor gig in Beijing for 20 years. Magnus invited me in 2005, and finally, it comes true."
Cui says the festival will be an opportunity for those who know little about Chinese rock 'n' roll to experience the high atmosphere of live gig from a very short distance.
"At the festival, you will find what a huge fan base Chinese rock 'n' roll has," he says.
Other Chinese bands include Xie Tian Xiao, Muma & Third Party, Brain Failure, Thin Man, The Honeys and Joyside.
It is the second year that Xie plays at the Beijing Pop Festival. Last year, he was so hyped up he smashed his guitar on stage.
"I smashed the guitar when music can not express my mood," he says. "The good music echoes from your heart. It has nothing to do with whether the performer is famous or nobody."
Acclaimed as "an amazing beautiful flower blooming in China's rock soil", Xie and his Cold Blooded Animals are considered a symbol of China's alternative rock.
Their music characterizes China's rock by fusing the energy of grunge, acid-rock and punk. The unique style and the violent voice that has become the band's signiture, has won praise from the Chinese music industry.
Between 2000 and 2002, the band played in many different countries. As a representative of Chinese rock, they took part in a series of international music festivals in Japan and the United States. The band has also been featured in Rolling Stone.
Muma is one of the most influential rock bands in China, and frontman Muma studied in art school for many years. He says painting polished his creative energy.
The debut album Muma was released in December 1998 under Modern Sky. It soon won great popularity all across the country. The keyboard player brought more colorful elements to their music. The third album Pudding Empire has become their most distinguished one.
"In the past two years, the Beijing Pop Festival has brought me great surprise," says Muma. "This year, all the artists to come are the artists I admire personally. And I feel honored to share the stage with them."
Other local artists worth mentioning are a couple of D-22 bands, Joyside and The Scoff, two examples of China's rise in rock 'n' roll.
Addicted to New York Dolls and the Stooges, four guys formed the band Joyside in Beijing in March of 2001.
Three years later, they released the debut album Drunk is Beautiful. Then, Joyside took off on their first China tour. American director Kevin Fritz later made them subjects of the documentary Wasted Orient.
According to Shan Wei, from Rock For China Entertainment Ltd, more than 120 bands have applied to be part of the Beijing Pop Festival.
To provide stage space for more bands and to add more variety to the event, this year, they set up the Hit FM side stage beside the lake in Chaoyang Park, which will be headlined by the Swedish band Mando Diao.
The eccentric Japanese garage rock outfit Doc Holiday & Apache Train will also perform. "The main stage will feature those legendary artists, while the side stage will present some young bands with different styles," says Shan.
(China Daily September 4, 2007)