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Chinese "Glastonbury" rocks grassland, brings fame to host county

08-04-2010 09:17 BJT

"If you don't rock, just roll away!" says a flag waved by Ai who, at the same time, moved his body to the heavy beats and rhythms of rock music, along with thousands of other rock fanatics in the grasslands of Zhangbei, a small and underdeveloped county in north China's Hebei Province.

Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to Zhangbei's grassy fields over the weekend
Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to Zhangbei's
grassy fields over the weekend.(File photo)

Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to Zhangbei's grassy fields over the weekend, just two-hours drive outside Beijing, to enjoy music and release their energy and passion at the 2nd InMusic Festival, which is also known as China's "Glastonbury."

The 20-year-old Ai, who is a confessed rock-and-roll addict, purchased the tickets a month ahead of the three-day festival, which opened on July 30. He came from Beijing with a dozen friends.

"We are here just to let off steam, which the big cities have no room for," he said.

"With teachers and parents not being around, it will be so much fun," he said, smiling.

Pitched tents, smoking barbeques and small markets selling T-shirts, CDs, and other souvenirs, were scattered throughout the 100-hectare grassy festival site.

Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to Zhangbei's grassy fields over the weekend
Famed Chinese singers Xu is performing during the fest.

Apart from the music, the big open skies and overnight camping on the vast fields offered visitors a chance to spend the weekend outside big cities like Beijing, said Liu Yifan, producer of InMusic magazine, which co-sponsored the music fest with Zhangjiakou Tongtai Transportation Corp., Beijing-based Pilot Records and the Zhangbei government.

This year, organizers are expecting 200,000 attendees, as more than 150,000 people were here last August to enjoy a getaway weekend in music when the annual festival rocked Zhangbei's grasslands for the first time.

To satisfy the fevered rock fans, the InMusic Festival, which features more than 50 Chinese and foreign bands and singers spanning metal, punk, folk, electronic and hip hop, ended very late, at 2 a.m., each night.

Famed Chinese singers Zheng Jun and Lao Lang performed during the fest. Foreign acts include U.S. pop-rockers Panic! At The Disco, Paris-based American duo CocoRosie and British post-punks Killing Joke.

Nearly 1,000 security workers, including police officers, firefighters and civil servants, kept a watchful eye on the excited crowds.

"It's quite amazing if you imagine that some 200,000 people suddenly show up on a grassland that rarely has people around and then they disappear three days later," said Zhang Heng, a twenty-something woman who came to the festival to - in her words - "go crazy." The county only has 130,000 permanent residents.

Despite all the excitement, some attendees complained about the unpredictable weather and traffic jams on roads leading to the site.

Rain hit the county Saturday, which made the grassland very muddy and ruined many attendee's shoes and clothing.

Meanwhile, nighttime on the grassland was cold for many campers. Besides, roads leading to the site were very narrow, therefore extremely crowded as many drove their cars to enjoy the festival.

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