Words by Bin Yang (Vicky)
In a new series of posts, we take to the road to explore and report on the thriving subculture scenes around the world. Keeping it authentic we link up with a champion, supporter or acitivist in the scene so that we get a “down on the ground” underground report
We visit Beijing for a look at the School Bar, an iconic music venue that has put itself at the centre of the independent music scene in Beijing. We get a guided tour from Vicky, a music lover and longtime supporter of the School Bar.
School Bar, Dongcheng District, Beijing
School Bar was established in 2010 In Beijing as a club with a small stage which could hold gigs, located in the Dongcheng District’s Wudaoying Hutong. During these ten years, many similar rock live bars around that block disappeared. However, today, School Bar still insists on doing what it did thirteen years ago.
School Bar has been deeply localized, propagating rock music in Beijing (especially for punk music) , as well as exploring high-quality bands which had potential creativity to become a famous band. Many bands that gradually became famous are more or less related to the stage of School.
How did the School Bar appear？
When it comes to School, then first of all we need to give a mention to one of the “presidents”, Liu Fei. Before opening School Bar, Liu Fei was the manager of the leading Chinese Punk bands, Joyside band. In 2009, Joyside disbanded, and their frequently performed venue D-22 also came to an end. Indeed, Liu Fei and his brother Liu Hao immediately decided to open their own bar to overcome their temporary setback. However, due to their struggling with the sadness of band disbanding, Liu Fei and Liu Hao focused this bar’s style on electronic music that they were not familiar with, and the bar opened its doors in 2010.
However, the School Bar V 1.0 did not run for long time as Liu Fei and Liu Hao had gradually tired of electronic music and ultimately were unable to let go of rock music. With the advice of many friends, Liu Fei made the first renovation to the School Bar and as a result, by the end of 2012, the more familiar appearance of School Bar began to gradually appear, with the familiar stage and the second floor rest area.
School Bar 2.0 gradually establishing its own style, which was not only reflected in the organization of performances and supporting new bands, but also in the social attributes of School Bar. More and more bands and musicians gathered at School Bar for performances, and to make like-minded friends. Therefore, many successful bands began to graduate from this “School”, such as Penicillin, Big Wave, Rustic, and Summer Invasion Project.
Penicillin play on school stage, 2020
School Bar V3.0
In 2016, School Bar expanded when it merged with a nearby restaurant adding a new dimension to the venue
These two areas of the venue are divided into two parts by a middle corridor, the new bar counter provided the intimate surrounding for chatting, drinking, and gathering for friends and special mention should be made of the School Bar traditional game: ringing the bell; Anyone could find the staff and let them know that they would like to ring the bell and for a fee, the bell is tolled and everyone in the room must drink a shot of liquor with no exit for those that intend to run away!
What specific ways did School support local rock music and rock bands over the past 13 years?
Firstly, for start-up bands, school bar has a fixed performance section: Super School Fighter. This section holds a 4-5 hour mixed performance every Thursday, preferring to invite school bands or new bands that are without any performance experience. From this section school bar not only provides opportunities for these new bands to practice, but it is also a continuous attraction for School and the regular crowd.
The band XIAHUO play Super School Fighter
Secondly, School also maintains good relationships with many independent music brands and labels. These brands and labels act as organizers of performances, constantly inviting and hosting different styles of band gigs.
Great White Planet play School Bar
More possibilities for School Bars
Over the past thirteen years, School Bar has maintained a tenacious vitality, which is closely related to its over 300 performances in one year by different young talents. Even during the epidemic period, School conducted live streaming performances on social media in China. In addition, School also strived to maintain co-branding with different brands and internet TV platforms as much as possible, in order to promote school’s values in diverse way. For example, in 2018 School Bar and Let’s School ( the music education branch brand of School) together with ESP Guitar offered the service for School’s members that they could obtain free maintenance of musical instruments and in 2013, the School Bar held the 3rd anniversary party for the Gcores(a Chinese internet game website).
School Bar also participated in the filming and premiere of the TV series “Rock and Roll Flower”
Rock and Roll Flower” premiere， @姚晨, 2022)
Underground supports independence and diversity in music in the UK and around the world. School Bar is one of those venues that resonate with us as it helps to propagate the sounds of lyrics of new bands and artists, helping them to establish and grow long before any label would take them up. School Bar is an essential venue “must do “for any subculture music fan living in the city or visiting.
Vicky rounds off the tour of the venue , quoting the words of Liu Fei to finish this article.
“when you’re watching a concert, you’re sitting there and watching them make history, but when you’re in school,you are creating history and creating every moment with bands!”
Brought to you by Underground – the brand of the Original Allgender Creeper and other British Subculture styles