SUBS in Shanghai : Great band but the venue needs work


On Saturday of last week, I went to see one of my favorite Beijing-based bands, SUBS, play at Windows Tembo in Shanghai.  WT is a bar and dance club run by a stout and jolly Kenyan named George—jolly because he’s raking in the dough.  Windows is a chain club that has been operating in Shanghai for several years now.  It runs on the successful business model of selling cheap drinks to young people at high volume.  With its hip-hop music and 10-kuai beers or whiskey sodas, Windows attracts a steady clientele of teenagers and uni students. 

Cheap drinks mean it’s easy to get drunk, and this leads to occasional fights (back in the old Windows in Jing’an Park I once saw a kid dragged out and beaten pretty badly by some of the security guys, presumably because he was causing trouble). 

I’d never spent much time in Windows Tembo, which is on Shaanxi Road nearYan’an Road.  Recently they’ve decided to turn it, at least part time, into a rock music venue.  We showed up around 9 pm and the crowd was beginning to form.  We grabbed a table near the door.  The club is long and narrow with a bar on one side and tables on the other, leading eventually to the stage in back.  There’s only a small space before the stage for people to stand and watch the show. 

At around 10 pm the SUBS band members showed up.  I hadn’t seen them in a few months, and they’d all changed their style, except Zhang Shun who was his usual shaggy self.  Zhu Lei the bassist had shorn his curly locks, Wu Hao the lead guitarist had a stylish bell haircut.  They were wearing some funky clothing too (see the photos).  It looked like they’ve decided to go style up and maybe commercialize their act—as opposed to the old grunge rocker look. 

By 11 pm when SUBS came on stage the crowd was thick as thieves.  Lots of foreigners, young students but also a few older guys, and a fair number of Chinese were all crowded toward the back of the club.  As soon as the three male members of SUBS hit the stage, they started rocking out and the audience went wild.  The people in front of the stage started slamming and moshing, and there was no escape since the space was so small.  If you were up front, you were caught up in the whirlpool whether you liked it or not. 


Female lead singer Kang Mao then came onstage and started wailing.  She was wearing a transparent miniskirt with black panties fully exposed.  Now, take a few hundred horny guys pumped up on hard-driving rock and throw them in a narrow space where there’s hardly room to move, and add an infinite supply of cheap drinks.  It’s a risky venture, and as much as I appreciate having a new music venue in town, I’m worried that there’s gonna be trouble there in the future.  If I were George I’d work on widening the space so there’s more room to move around—for example, get rid of the pool table in the middle of the room, at least when bands are playing.  Then again, maybe people like being pressed up against each other in one giant sweaty, throat-grabbing mass.