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The Saga: Shanghai's Favorite Worst Nightmare

On April 23, the [Shanghai fuzz stormed into a sparsely crowded Yuyintang]( http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/articles/blogs-shanghai/shanghais-nightlife/yuyintang-shut-down-by-the-cops/), shut down a performance by folk artist Wu Ji and confiscated the sound and bar equipment, taking with them the hopes and dreams of local rock fans currently caught in the quagmire of this whole better life thing. The [YYT raid](http://www.kungfuology.com/jakenewby/2010/04/yuyintang-shut-down.html) seemed like a cruel joke played on local fans of rock music. [Blogs and bulletin boards](http://www.kungfuology.com/andybest/2010/04/yuyintang-story-makes-it-to-th.html) lit up for the ensuing 72 hours until, all of a sudden, the whole mess went away, and [Yuyintang](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/nightlife/live_music/has/yuyintang/) was able to reclaim its property and re-open shortly after. While we’d like to think that the intense pressure and scrutiny placed on the Ministry of Culture by writers, bar owners and promoters was the cause of the reversal, I propose another theory: the 2010 Shanghai Expo bailed out the local scene this time, allowing independent live music to live yet another day. Although Expo crackdowns are allegedly to blame for the initial YYT closure, it’s no real news that the club has been operating without performance and cabaret permits since its inception. In fact, most live music venues in Shanghai lack proper licenses due to expensive application fees and unrealistic rates of approval. Club owners are well aware of the huge potential for pending closures. So why was the venue allowed to re-open so soon? Could it be that the Changning District police were afraid of losing face just as the eyes of the world were descending upon Shanghai for the [World Expo]( http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/articles/blogs-shanghai/shanghai-the-beat-new/slim-pickens-expo-2010-fails-to-bring-the-noise/)? Between April 27 and publication deadline, 13 international bands, coming from the U.S., UK, France, Norway, Denmark, Japan and Sweden, all took to the Yuyintang stage, drawing increased attention and traffic from casual Expo tourists. If bands like Xiu Xiu, Sahara Hotnights and Exile Parade had been denied the stage during the Expo, would the outside world actually believe that the Chinese were making improvements in the direction of freer minds, freer lives? Probably not. Given the shame associated with cultural institutions like mianzi, authorities dared not risk turning off the musical faucet when the hopes of surpassing the 1970 Osaka Expo’s attendance record is still looming large. Of course, [Haibao]( http://www.chinatravel.net/forum/Shanghai-Like-American-Expo-pavilion-Haibao-suddenly-better-endowed/2724.html) and friends won’t always be there to post bond every time, and it remains to be seen how the summer will unfold, especially with shows like the upcoming [Helfest]( http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/articles/blogs-shanghai/shanghai-the-beat-new/dio-dies-metal-lives-thrash-week-in-shanghai/) and Fresh Blood Returns to my Heart on deck, but, at least this one time, Shanghai Expo 2010 may have given us all a get-out-of-jail-free card.



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andy_best's picture


The history of raids and national events, together with the timing of this latest round (the week before EXPO opening) show clearly that they were instigated because of the EXPO. That later pressure may or may not have forced them to reconsider, or to leave it as a warning, is a moot point. If we look at the scene as it happened between the Olympic shut down and the Expo raids - it is largely left alone and thrives during times where there are no major events for the gov to get all worried about. And where does Top Floor Circus and their song being struck from the net fit into this new theory?
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