50 things to do in Shanghai: Music & Nightlife

Local gigs, Shanghai jazz, KTV, clubbing like a local and stand up comedy

The Peace Hotel Jazz Band
Experimental music, Shanghai gigs, KTV, clubbing like a local and more. The best music, gigs, nightlife, stand up comedy and jazz in Shanghai

"KTV"Sing your heart out at an all-night KTV session

'Living on a Prayer’, 'Empire State of Mind’, 'Like a Virgin’ – we’ve all got our KTV favourites and there’s nothing quite like belting them out late at night in a darkened room with a group of drunken friends. There are KTVs all over town, but our pick for the best song selection, service and reasonably priced drinks is the Taiwanese K Party chain (台北纯K), which has branches at the SML Centre above Dapuqiao metro station, in the Kaidi Financial Tower at Wujiaochang and on Tianshan, Zhejiang and Wuzhong Lus.

Phebe 3DClub it like a local

Euro-chic Bund bar Bar Rouge may have the beautiful people and Bund views and underground club The Shelter may have the big alternative bookings, but both are a far cry from the classic Shanghainese clubbing experience. For that (now that we’ve lost the dearly departed No. 88) there are few more memorable venues than Phebe 3D Club on Hengshan Lu. Giant knight statues, gaudy baroque-style furniture and Russian dancers abound as punters hunched over tables gleefully rattle dice to a soundtrack of cheesy house. Maybe you won’t spend a night here, but you won’t forget Phebe in a hurry.

Kung Fu comedySee a stand-up comedy show

Shanghai standup troupe Kung Fu Komedy (KFK) has come a long way from its founding back when the original members performed among themselves in a corner of a bar, too embarrassed to invite a real audience. Now there’s rarely a night on which they don’t have something amusing organised. The addition of former Comedy Central star Butch Bradley, who emigrated to Shanghai in 2014, to their crew has only seen Shanghai’s comedy scene thrive further. 

If you want to have a go yourself, a fun, nerve-wracking activity that'll always make a good story for whoever does it, there are a number of opportunities for you to try stand-up in Shanghai. Kung Fu Komedy and Shanghai Tickler host regular open mic nights, with largely sympathetic crowds for you to try out your material on. Both organisations’ small shows provide a less intimidating atmosphere than at most comedy clubs, making for an encouraging environment for beginners.

Torturing Nurse

Experience a Torturing Nurse show…

Maybe you won’t ever put one of their records on at home and listen to screech-filled waves of static and noise as you do the dishes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience a Torturing Nurse live show. Don’t be put off by their self-professed ‘harsh as fuck’ sound, the shows are as much about performance art as they are sonic assaults (though you should still bring some earplugs). Previous years have seen protagonist Junky smash up contact mics and computer chipboards with a baseball bat, play an ‘unplugged’ show by chopping up raw pork and throwing it at the audience and have a girl dressed in an S&M nurse outfit drip hot wax onto the naked body of another woman. The shows aren’t always as outlandish as all that, but they’re often memorable nonetheless.

LIve Bar

…or catch a local gig

If Torturing Nurse sounds too extreme for you, there are still plenty of other live music shows going on around the city that you can catch, the vast majority of which are far more tuneful. Yuyintang still remains one of our favourite venues in the city to see a gig and we recommend checking out some of city’s best local bands including Naohai and Duck Fight Goose rocking the intimate livehouse’s stage. 

peace hotel jazz band

Watch the old Peace Hotel jazz band

One of those tourist-in-your-own-city experiences that just has to be done, watching the old Peace Hotel jazz band of 80-something year-olds amble their way through a series of jazz classics while seemingly about to fall asleep at any moment is an evening that will have you grinning from ear to ear. The band play The Peace Hotel’s Jazz Bar every night at 7.30pm.