Twenty Tens

2014: A Chinese venue becomes an international cultural melting pot



Black and white image of a guitarist sat on a stool with a pedal board at his feet

Voice of youth and Vox Livehouse.

Beijing has long been a breeding ground for punk, but the establishment arguably shaping China’s wider underground music scene lies deep in the heart of Hubei. A stone’s throw from the banks of the Yangtze River, a live venue described by The Guardian in 2014 as “the epicentre of the alternative scene” lurks within a vast urban jungle. It’s called Vox Livehouse – named after the Latin word for voice – and it’s become an essential stopover for international touring acts, as well as a hotbed for emerging Chinese talent.

Founder Zhu Ning – originally the drummer of Chinese punk band SMZB – was inspired to open the performance space after touring Europe with fellow punks SDL in the early ‘00s.

Fueled by the motto ‘Voice of Youth, Voice of Freedom’, his venue aims to give young people a space to make their voices heard through music – no matter what the genre.

Image collage of performers at Vox Livehouse. Chinese Football bassist performs a trust fall during a concert at Vox Livehouse. (Photo: Fujing, MiaoChao)

Performers at Vox Livehouse. Chinese Football bassist performs a trust fall during a concert at Vox Livehouse. (Photo: Fujing, MiaoChao)

Marshall-powered shows are held regularly in the main gig space, but elsewhere, the Vox Classroom nurtures the city’s musicians, giving them support and guidance. Local stars like Chinese Football and Ghosh are among the many who have benefited. The scene around them, meanwhile, is spurred on by Livehouse's yearly compilation albums. Through recordings of local artists, these collections offer snapshots of Hubei's creativity – it’s an important documentation process for emerging bands in the area.

Chinese Football performing. (Photo: Fujing)

Chinese Football performing. (Photo: Fujing)

It’s not only the locals that benefit from the ongoing support. In the past, acts as diverse as The Cribs, Owl City, Bill Callahan, and Frank Turner have headed to the Livehouse to perform. Such events shine a light on the venue’s status as a conduit for uniting cultures – and the exchange of musical ideas and kinship. So legendary has the space now become that it even featured on the front page of the New York Times in 2021. The venue’s in-house Marshall amps didn’t quite make the photo of Beijing punks Brain Failure performing – but judging by the visible audience reaction, the crowd could hear them just fine.


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