Festival face-off: all you need to know about this autumn's music fests

How to choose between Ultra, Concrete & Grass, Storm and the rest

Shanghai is set to be inundated with music festivals this autumn, so where should you be spending your hard-earned Renminbi? Here’s what you need to know to make your choices.

Ultra China


What is it? The latest international festival outfit to make a move on the China market, Ultra was founded in Miami in 1999 and has quickly become one of the biggest EDM festival brands in the game.

Who’s playing? Ultra aren’t messing around for their debut on Shanghai soil. Their line-up is a who’s who of upper echelon EDM stars: Armin Van Buuren (that's him above), Dubfire, Martin Garrix, The Chainsmokers, Zedd and Nicky Romero are all on the bill, and they’ve even found room to add on a few big-name old-school acts too with Carl Cox plus Sasha and John Digweed joining.

When and where is it? Saturday 9-Sunday 10 September at Expo Garden Park.

How much are tickets? 780RMB per day (only Sunday available). Book now at Time Out Tickets.

So should I go? Chances are you’ve already made your mind up on this one (we hope so anyway, tickets are selling fast). It’s by no means cheap, but this is a serious operation – a real behemoth of an international festival brand who seem to be looking to do things properly in China, not just slap their name on something for exposure. They’ve got a big-name line-up, a good location and we expect a quality stage production to match.

Concrete & Grass


What is it? An attempt to introduce a less-commercialised, eclectically-programmed but still relatively mainstream music festival to China from Shanghai and Beijing-based promoters Split Works – ‘A Place Less Ordinary’ as the festival tagline has it.

Who’s playing? Sonic Youth founder Thurston Moore, Nuyorican rapper, singer and all-round force of nature Princess Nokia (pictured), British psych-tinged rockers TOY, Japanese pop-with-guitars act Radwimps, DIIV, Ringo Deathstarr, Boys Climbing Ropes and more. There’s also a smattering of Chinese acts: exciting post-punk talents Hiperson, an extremely rare outing for seminal folk outfit Glamourous Pharmacy, and Beijing noise-rockers Carsick Cars’ original line-up doing their debut album.

When and where is it? Saturday 16-Sunday 17 September at Shanghai Rugby Football Club.

How much are tickets? 280RMB per day or 460RMB for a two-day pass (presale). Book now at Time Out Tickets.

So should I go? Kind of depends on what you want from a music festival – big names and hits you know, or stumbling into some pleasant surprises. Maybe you don’t recognise too many names on the line-up, but as in previous years 2017’s Concrete & Grass offers an interesting mix of genres, and an entire weekend of music for around the same price as a cheap seat at a pop arena concert is no bad thing.


What is it? A Budweiser-backed, Shanghai-born and raised EDM event with a penchant for extra-terrestrial narratives. Founded in 2013, Storm has since taken its brand to cities across China (11 this year) and is due to debut in Australia with an event in Sydney in December.

Who’s playing? With just three weeks to go, the line-up is yet to be officially announced, but rumour has it they're basically putting on any big name EDM star who hasn’t already been hoovered up by Ultra; KYGO, Marshmello, UZ, Axwell Ingresso, Mija and Laidback Luke are all tipped to be on the line-up. Interestingly though, they’ve also apparently got The Chemical Brothers making their Mainland China debut.

When and where is it? Saturday 23-Sunday 24 September at Shanghai International Music Village.

How much are tickets? 780RMB per day on the door; 680-1,080RMB for two days (presale). Book now at Time Out Tickets.

So should I go? Weirdly, for all its bombast in the past few years, Storm is a bit of an underdog in Shanghai this autumn. Coming two weeks after the headline-grabbing Ultra and in a less convenient location for most partygoers, their claim to be ‘the most anticipated electronic music festival in China’ might ring a little hollow and it could be an interesting test of how much brand loyalty they’ve built up in the last four years. Then again there’s The Chemical Brothers; the British duo may hail from an era before anyone really talked about ‘EDM’, but if you caught them at last year’s Clockenflap you’ll know they still impress live and ought to be a big draw.

What is it? A hippy-friendly retreat with three days of music, art and sustainability. Expect workshops, live art performances, talks, yoga sessions and more, with a psy-trance stage, techno stage and 'a pillow covered chill out area'.

Who’s playing? Serbian Middle Mode will be joining China-based DJs such as Fugui, Bodysnatcher and Elfamy on the psy-trance side of things, Romania's Fane, South Africa's Mantis and Japan's Yoshinaga head up the techno offerings and Skinny Brown, Sarah Mou and Bone Lhamo Kyap are among those providing world music for the chill out section.

When and where is it? Tuesday 3-Thursday 5 October beside Dianshan Lake.

How much are tickets? 380RMB.

So should I go? If everything else on this list sounds horribly commercial and you're looking for a break out of the city (while still remaining within the city limits) - and, y'know, if you really like psy-trance - then this could well be for you. This is a festival that's all about peace and love vibes, 24 hour music and getting into things like drum circles and live art shows under a full moon.

"higher brothers"

What is it? A Taiwanese transplant offering Mandopop stars and lots of twee selfie opportunities.

Who’s playing? Rocker Pu Shu is one of the big headliners, along with Taiwanese hip-pop mainstay MC Hotdog, who in addition to a solo set will also perform with the Shanghai Rainbow Singers. Other notable collaborations include rapper J-Fever (Xiao Laohu) teaming up with FIR frontwoman Faye, and Xiao He joining Wang Fang for a folk set. Also on the bill are Chengdu rap collective Higher Brothers (keeping it real above), excellent folk group Wild Children, always likeable math-rockers Chinese Football, psych-tinged pop-rock act Sound Toy and indie-rock outfit Perdel (Escape Plan).

When and where is it? Wednesday 4-Friday 6 October at Expo Garden Park.

How much are tickets? 230RMB per day; 650RMB for a three-day pass.

So should I go? How into Mandopop are you? Whereas previous years have featured some unexpected bookings (Television, UB40, Macy Gray), this year's line-up is much more focused on predictable pop acts. That said, the collaborations initiative is an interesting one. Or at least, it is if you know who those artists are in the first place.

"kool and the gang"

What is it? Shanghai's longest-running annual music festival, brought to you by the JZ empire (you know, JZ Club, Wooden Box, JZ Latino, JZ Spring, JZ School).

Who’s playing? Kool and the Gang (grinning above), who will be imploring audiences to 'Get Down On It' on both the Saturday and Sunday, former Police guitarist Andy Summers, Anderson Paak and J Biebs collaborator Chris Dave, plus noted keys-man Jeff Lorber are the bigger names on the line-up. There's also a solid selection of locally-based jazz talent rounding out the bill along with old JZ favourites such as Theo Croker.

When and where is it? Saturday 14-Sunday 15 October at Expo Garden Park.

How much are tickets? 320RMB per day (on the door); 260RMB per day (presale). Book now at Time Out Tickets.

So should I go? As ever, JZ is offering up a pretty reasonably priced weekend of family-friendly smooth jazz vibes. Even if the line-up doesn't have you doing a little dance on the metro in excitement, you can expect a fun atmosphere and a pleasant couple of days in the park if the sun shines. Nice.

Not convinced by Shanghai's offerings? Try these out of town fests


Inner Ear Festival
A fascinating-looking festival a gaotie ride away, Inner Ear is taking place at Hangzhou’s indoor 9 Club venue and will combine afternoon talks, art and film screenings with three nights of alternative music featuring the brilliant Xiao He, former Top Floor Circus frontman Lu Chen, grunge act JiaJiaTiao (pictured above) and Chinese harsh noise leader Torturing Nurse.
Friday 15-Sunday 17 September. 700RMB.

Water Village Music Festival
Not a festival in the mold of the others on these pages, but this series of live shows that take place around the water town of Zhujiajiao can throw up some interesting performances. The exact schedule is still tba.
Friday 22-Sunday 24 September. Prices vary.


2ManyDJs (pictured in the woods) and Asian Dub Foundation are the big headliners for this year's Midi. Beijing-based electro-tinged rock act Nova Heart, Shanghai techno hero MHP (accompanied by a full live band set) and a host of locally-based DJs and producers such as Cavia and MIIIA will also head to the shores of Tai Lake on the outskirts of Suzhou for the October holiday. Bonus: there’s camping and a swimming pool on site.
October 1-3. Tickets tba.

Looking to cash in on the success of The Rap of China, this three day festival on the man-made beach at Bihai park in the deep south of Fengxian district features Tizzy-T, Bridge, VAVA, Pharaoh, Straight Fire Gang and more.
October 1-3. 318RMB per day, 768RMB for three days (presale)


Located on the Zhoushan Islands, this beach-side fest (you can watch the main stage acts while swimming in the sea) has a fun vibe and a decent line-up of Chinese pop and rock acts: so-hot-right-now hip hop quartet Higher Brothers, folkies Wild Children, and Taiwanese balladeer Cheer Chen among them.
13-15 October. 380RMB (three-day presale pass).

Tickets, line-ups and more info

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