The dimly-lit awning at the intersection of Shaanxi Bei Lu and Wuding Lu frames a row of taps. There are three mismatched barstools outside of varying heights and sizes and a string of flags overhead. Inside, a small yet powerful orange boom box spits out everything from ’90s trip hop to Shania Twain like some perfectly curated algorithm. Sandwiched between the dartboard and messy collage of Polaroids is a large banner showing a woman in a black mask and deep red bandana, guzzling a beer.
The woman behind the mask is Cora Yuan, the owner and operator of perhaps – we’re calling it – the most underrated neighbourhood bar in the city. Yuan, a native of Hunan Province, has been bartending in China for over ten years now. Her love of punk rock and dives inspired her move to Shanghai; the concept for Nobibi and the hardcore, portrait-style logo that stamps each glass followed suit. When we ask Yuan what Nobibi means, she laughs and says, ‘It means no bullshit! You know, just shut up and drink.’
Nobibi – which celebrated its first anniversary this June – has opened a second flagship location just 100 metres away on Wuding Lu. This new spot is bigger with more diverse seating, tables and a central stage. Its soft opening featured performances by multiple rock outfits, a belly dancer and a gothic vocalist reminiscent of Evanescence. Going forward, the space will hold live music events two to three nights per week, with preference given to folk, rock, punk and electronic genres.
This summer, Nobibi is already planning to bring in bands from Japan, the US and across China. ‘I want foreigners to experience Chinese bar culture and know more about local artists,’ says Yuan. Now they have two more seductive options to choose from.
By Elena Robidoux