A lot of the time in China, things just sort of happen unto you. Oh, you want me to judge this speech contest? And attend a banquet? And give a speech? And you’re picking me up in five minutes? Oh, OK. But sometimes, we make our own ridiculous things happen in China.
Last week we got an email that there would be a concert in one of the stadiums at our university by a couple of British bands. No further info about said bands or why this was happening other than a link to a myspace page (which is, of course, blocked). So on Sunday at 7:30 I arrived at the stadium with my friend Brittany to the magic of a couple thousand students armed with glowsticks. Two groups of strapping young British boys were stupposed to be performing, as part of a tour for the anniversary of some British Culture group in Chongqing. However, one of the bands never made it due to a car accident en route to Heathrow, so we were left with just The Famous Class, a “post-80s pop-punk band.” (What does that mean? we asked ourselves. That they were born after the 1980s?, surmised a student.)
The concert was meh—not particularly my kind of music–but the kids had energy and wowed the crowd with their punky, rockstar demeanor and jumping around the stage antics. A few times there were calls for audience participation—clapping along with a song, or singing part of the chorus, or the like. Even when the band members were clapping out the rhythm onstage, was the crowd ever on the beat? No, no they were not. No dancing, either, but plenty of beglowstick’d arm flailing.
Before the band even came on, Brittany and I had decided we needed to make it our mission to get backstage. Just for the sake of it. So when the band took a break, we skulked around the outside of the stadium to the wings, where a few security guards were monitoring entry and an assortment of official or unofficial Chinese students were waiting. How are we going to do this, we asked ourselves, scoping the guarded gate for a minute. Finally, I marched up to the guard.
“我们 是 他们的 朋友。我们 是 英国人。” (Look how fancy I am, I have enough character-knowledge now to type rudimentary stuff in them!) “Women shi tamende pengyou. Women shi yingguoren.” Translation: “We are their friends. We are English people.” Aaaaaand….that’s all it takes. With that we were let in. Hah. Only in China does being white get you such special treatment sometimes.
We watched from the wings for the second half, and at one point, in the final number, when all the other people in our area were cleared out, we were politely ushered to the side to get even closer. When the show closed, a few girls ran onstage with bouquets, and then they tried to follow the band backstage to the dressing room. We followed too, as we intended to ask the youngsters if they cared to see all that Beibei nightlife has to offer, but we were all turned away with news that they were headed immediately back to Chongqing, possibly to do another show at the punk bar in Shapingba that we sometimes visit. Oh well. We got close enough.
In the last few minutes, it began to drizzle, and by the penultimate number it was raining in earnest. Oh wait, but there had been no contingency for rain, even though it rains several times a week. Not only was the audience getting wet on the open field, but there wasn’t even a cover for the stage area. A couple of earnest stagehands ran onstage to put a little plastic wrap on top of the speakers, ineffectively. And of course, members of the audience simply pulled out their umbrellas…..