|DJs test equipment before the Midi Electronic Festival starts in Pudong. (Shanghai Daily/Brian Offenther)|
Midi Electronic Festival came into Shanghai last weekend, in like a lion and out like a lamb, a contented and thoroughly exhausted lamb.
The event last Saturday night was the noted Chinese festival brand's first event dedicated exclusively to electronic music, meaning the usual gaggle of metal-core bands that Midi usually features were left to be angry elsewhere.
Instead, in the shadow of the Shanghai World Financial Center where the festival took place, DJs of all sorts took their slots on three stages. I had the honor of being the stage manager at the hip-hop stage. It was an honor but not honorific, as I was not paid to do it. Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience. And, having the best spot at the stage to check out the action doesn't hurt.
The stage manager's job is like that of any true manager, which is to say, be invisible if things go right, and take all the blame if things go wrong. There are a lot of elements to a festival stage: crowd control, scheduling acts, managing music equipment resources, and more. If any one of those things goes horribly wrong, the show cannot go on, and as we know, it must.
Add that many people are inexperienced at doing their jobs in a festival and (or) are volunteers, and you have a situation where things very well might not go smoothly.
I stood arms-crossed with a scowl as the opening act, who had showed up late, vainly tried to connect his DJ equipment on the sound stage less than an hour before the festival. It was raining. He was late and unprepared. I was angry.
Alas, we had to move around the lineup, having the third act, local dance hall DJ Laobang of the Fusion Crew, go on first; the original Mfirst and second acts combine their set into one hour.
Otherwise things went fairly smoothly. There were problems - sound guys falling asleep, volunteers walking off, drunk guys storming the stage - but nothing too surprising to the world of music festivals in Shanghai, unfortunately.
Still, I maintained my crossed arms and scowl. When everyone is having a fun time, it takes only a few moments for things to slip out of control, turning a hodgepodge of fun into a slop of disappointment. There must always be some looming enforcement, even by a skinny guy who wouldn't hurt anybody. My power came mostly from the basic human impulse not to disappoint, which actually carries a lot of weight.
Behind the scowl though, I had a good time. DJ Mau Mau of local party group TICT was particularly tight.
After about 12 hours of this, It wasn't long after the fest that I fell asleep in my bed. With the fest ending all lamb-like, I had earned my right to count sheep of my own.