In a perfect world, there would never be a need to leave 2 Kolegas. My first night in China’s capital, this is where I began a torrid eight-year affair with Beijing underground music, and I’ve considered it the best live club on the planet ever since.
My Beijing music education kicked off with a spellbinding set by brilliant, forgotten post-rock geniuses Lonely China Day. Soon after, I began writing about Beijing music for the local mags. So, when it came time to write this, my last City Weekend Beat column, I came to the grimiest, most perfect spot in China’s capital.
“Everything can be chaotic and broken as long as the sound is good,” Liu Miao, owner of 2 Kolegas, tells me. “That’s just who I am. Beijing has opened so many upscale places over the past few years, but there I only feel uncomfortable.”
The author with Liu Miao
No one feels uncomfortable at 2 Kolegas—at least no one outside the bathroom. In fact, 2 Kolegas reminds me more of my hometown in Kentucky than anywhere else I’ve been, including other towns in Kentucky.
That’s no easy feat in China’s hyper-populated capital. But walking into the colored lights of the Maple Drive-In Movie Theater tunnel on Liangmaqiao Lu is like bending space-time. On the other side, a winding forested road leads to a backyard filled with inebriated people talking of nothing but underground music.
“The first time I came here, it felt so far away and there was this great intimacy,” says former Beat columnist Liz Tung. “It never had that cool kid culture. I was able to connect with music in a way I hadn’t since high school.”
During a lull in the live rock, local DJ Morgan Short puts on White Riot. Fellow music editor Kipp Whittaker and I start talking about starting a band; a perennial subject of conversation at 2 Kolegas. “Whoa,” Morgan jokes, “I’m witnessing a historic moment.” Then, Residence A kicks off a loud set of post-pop that absolutely kills on 2 Kolegas’ sound system. Dressed in drag by the door, Chronmaster nods his head, mentally preparing for his own set.
2 Kolegas looks the same as it did on my first visit in 2006; I can’t say that for anywhere else in Beijing. 2 Kolegas can remodel and fix its bathroom a million times, but it’s always the same, and the sound system is the best in town.
“When there are more people, there’s a better vibe,” Liu Miao says on my way out. Fortunately, there is a huge crowd tonight. A stranger starts talking to me about how incredible Residence A was as we walk into the colored lights of the tunnel. Outside, black cabs line up to deliver us back to reality.
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