[This entry was written by my student Nate Pattee for the course I'm now teaching on the comparative history of Beijing and Shanghai. The course covers politics, culture, society in the Republican Era, focusing mainly on the 1920s and '30s, along with comparisons to both cities today. There is one section in the course on nightlife and entertainment so the subject is very apropos. I find Nate's observations interesting because they reflect upon how the design of a club channels social interactions, a subject that I write about in an upcoming article and book on nightlife in 20th century Shanghai--AF]
Of the nightclubs I've been to, which is not fair to Shanghai, I've liked the ones in Beijing better. The social atmosphere seemed better in Beijing for college students. In Shanghai we went to two clubs, one was a rock concert type of place [see my earlier blog on our Shanghai fieldtrip] and the other was called Muse. The rock place was in a basement that had a pretty loud sound system and an awesome band. The bar was alright but not really my type. People mainly just sat around listening rather than socializing, except for 3 people trying to start a mosh at the front. It failed miserably. The band was really interesting though, it didn't use any vocals, just relied on a drummer and 3 guitars. The only problem with it was that they would always wait too long before busting out the awesome parts of the song. Other than that this club was pretty cool.
We went to Muse next and were stunned to see 3 Ferraris and 2 Porsches parked out front. That basically describes the club right there. Unless you had a table you were basically screwed. Luckily, [Andrew] knew some people and we were able to have a home base. The dance floor was really lame, but the bar was awesome, both upstairs and downstairs. The main floor was mainly techno and dancers, while the top was Hip Hop and live music. I'll compare the Hip Hop section of Muse to VICS and the techno portion to The Bank.
Granted The Bank focuses on techno, but it completely blows Muse out of the water. The Bank was awesome, set up like an underground gothic dining hall/dungeon. It really gave the feel of a fantasy world that was perfect to get down in while fulfilling social needs of dancing and people going crazy. In Muse, no one really danced, the dance floor was too small for it, but people socialized in the groups they came with. The club was a pretty high class joint and mainly kept to people who came in groups. At The Bank, people also came in groups, but were much more social. They would dance with random people and confront total strangers just to talk. At Muse, it was the opposite, if you came with a group, you ended up staying with it.
The Hip Hop section of Muse was awesome. The bar was loaded and the people were much more social than on the main floor. It was comparable to VICS but not nearly as big. The social atmosphere was better at VICS too, but on the whole, the environment was the same. I noticed the security at VICS and The Bank much more that at the clubs in Shanghai, but again, I?ve not been to many clubs.
In conclusion, Beijing seems like a much more social clubbing atmosphere and Shanghai is more cliquey. I've been to many more clubs and bars in Beijing, so my analysis is pretty incomplete.