JZ Festival is Shanghai’s music event of the year, every year. It takes place during an autumn weekend at Expo Park and manages to snag some big international names. In the past, this festival has seen the likes of Earth, Wind, and Fire, Joss Stone, Bootsy Collins, Dee Dee Bridgewater and more. Jazz is the focus,, but even if you don’t like jazz, this is still a solid way to spend a weekend. Expect a good helping of rock, folk, blues, and electronica as well. This festival is an institution in Shanghai, putting on consistently good shows since 2005.
If the name reminds you of Burning Man, it isn’t an accident. Dragon Burn is based on the same principles of anti-commercialism and footprint free living and was founded by Burning Man veterans who saw a niche in China. It takes place in Anji Forest, a four hour bus ride away from Shanghai. Once you have a ticket everything within the festival is free (save for tent rental), and the organizers only release 300 tickets, so get them as soon as they go on sale. All the DJs are Shanghai based or from the greater China area (probably because they aren’t paid to perform; they’re just doing it for the love of the music). Expect less nudity and more workshops than the original Burning Man.
Backed by Budweiser, Storm is China’s biggest Electronic Dance Music (EDM) Festival and one of the most popular each year. Last year, the Shanghai line up consisted of Skrillex, Alesso, Hardwell, Afrojack, Duke Dumont, RL Grime, and other big names in the EDM scene. This is the one all your friends will be posting about on their Wechat moments, so you don’t want to miss out.
Donghi Music Festival
Despite being next to the sea, Shanghai residents rarely have a chance to go to the beach. That’s what makes Donghi Music Festival so worth it. Three days of nothing but sand between your toes and the sound of ocean waves mixing fluidly with modern rock, folk, and dance music. The setting is the Zhoushan Islands, a four hour bus ride from Shanghai. Single day tickets are available, but seriously, you’re going to want to spend the full three days there. Tents are rentable onsite. The headliners are all big names from Shanghai and Beijing, like Xiao He, Muma, Soul Speak, and Streets Kill Strange Animals.
Concrete and Grass
Concrete and Grass really knows its audience: literally anyone. While hip hop acts have historically been the most represented, expect a fair mix of pop, emo, folk, metal, and shoegaze. The organizers, who liken their festival to the UK’s Glastonbury, are somehow able to attract big names who have never performed in China before, bringing something fresh to the sometimes outdated world of music festivals. Last year, some of the big names included A$AP Ferg, Iron Mic, Miyavi, and Jambinai. And it’s not just about the music, either. There are also art, food, sports, and games, making this an event appropriate for the whole family.
MIDI puts on several music festivals throughout China every year, but their best is MIDI Taihu, which focuses on homegrown hard rock and metal acts. It is also China’s oldest music festival. Last year saw acts such as The Verse, Lyon Apprentice, The Hutong Yellow Weasels, Nomad’s Land, and more Chinese character only name bands than can be listed. This festival is one of the cheapest too. Historically, visiting bands tend to play a few local shows in addition to the main stage.