This past weekend, 2 Kolegas – one of Beijing’s oldest, continually operational rock venues – celebrated its seventh anniversary with a two-night blowout featuring such legendary house bands as Buyi, Nucleus, Skarving and Wu and the Side Effects.
There’s a good reason to celebrate. In Beijing, where construction has been known to steamroll entire neighborhoods and fickle landlords are always raising rents, it’s tough for noisy, low-earning establishments (i.e. rock clubs) to stay put for long. But 2K (also known as 两个好朋友) has lasted largely thanks to two factors: 1) location and 2) its owners.
If you’ve never had the fortune of venturing into 2K, now’s the time to do it – 2K is, hands down, the best place to see a show during good weather. The venue is hidden away deep inside the grounds of a drive-in movie theater (汽车电影院) over on Liangmaqiao. You wander through an archway and up a curving road festooned with Christmas lights and flanked by trees until you hit a secret courtyard of restaurants. Back to the left is 2K, which on most summer weekends is overflowing with music and drunken revelers. While it may not be as big as venues like Mao Livehouse or Yugong Yishan, 2K boasts a cozy, intimate interior and (best of all during warm weather) an enclosed courtyard, where music lovers can holler their lungs out without fear of censure from the neighbors.
Just as crucial to the bar’s success are co-owners Liu Miao and Gao Feng, a couple of jolly music-lovers and makers who started the venue together as a means of supporting both the music scene and themselves. I recently talked with Liu Miao, who plays in Nucleus and Lidong, about his early years in Beijing, the Ningxia-based music community that centers around 2K and the genesis of his now seven-year-old bar.
Where are you originally from, and how did you end up in Beijing?
I’m from Ningxia, from Yingchuan [the capital of Ningxia]. I came to Beijing in 2000. I came because of music, to play in a band. I already had a band in Ningxia. We played two or three years and then stopped – just about everyone started working, because I was the youngest, and they were all older than me. So they all started working and I had nothing to do. I wasn’t going to school at the time, so I just came.
At that time, did you know anyone in Beijing?
At that time there was a band from my hometown, Buyi, and also Cold Blooded Animal – their drummer Wu Rui was also from Yingchuan – were all here. So I also wanted to come and find some people to play music with.
How did you start playing music?
I started playing drums around 13, just playing drums at home, because I wasn’t that good in school. At school once I saw some people playing, and I saw this guy playing drums and I was like whoa! So I went to my dad and I said, “I want to play drums” and he said, “Ok, then go ahead.”
Where their any good bands in your hometown back then?
Yeah, at that time we had Buyi, along with Suyang, a metal band, and lots more I can’t remember. They played all different styles. The guys from Buyi went to the Midi School of Music. After graduating, they went back to Yingchuan and formed a band, then they decided to come to Beijing.
When did you open the bar?
We opened 2 Kolegas in 2005 in the beginning of May. I opened it with my friend Gao Feng. He’s from Inner Mongolia but he’s always been together with us Ningxia people. When I came, he was already with Wu Rui and then we all lived together. We rented a big courtyard, and a bunch of us all lived together. Buyi lived there too.
What did you do in the years between the time you came to Beijing and 2005?
[Long pause] Erm, it’s not convenient to say… [laughing] I didn’t do anything. I had a band, but I couldn’t live off it. That was Banshu Shaonian (半熟少年) [the Chinese name for the 1995 Larry Clark movie “Kids”]. Back then we would play at old Get Lucky bar. All of the bands I liked would play at Get Lucky bar, along with Nameless Highland.
Why did you decide to open the bar?
We just wanted a place to play. And then we thought we could also earn money to live. That’s really all we were thinking. I was 23 when I started the bar. I didn’t know anything about it then, I was just like, Ok let’s do this. And then I slowly, slowly figured out how to do it.
Was there already a solid music scene when you started 2K?
Before we started 2K, everyone would go to a Sanlitun bar called River Bar to hang out. Wild Child (野孩子) would always go there to play. So they opened that bar and we’d always go, and we met a lot of friends there. Everyone went there.
How did you first get into rock music?
I sold dakoudie [打口碟, excess stock CDs and tapes from overseas that were notched and sold in China on the black market]. I would go to Xi’an and buy dakou tapes. And I studied a lot of them. I would leave the house around 11 with a big bag, and then head to the school gate because the schools would let out at 12 o’clock and a bunch of the students would come and buy tapes. And after I’d sold them all, I’d go and eat, then I’d go play some games. Then when everyone went back to class I’d go to another school and sell more there. I bought the dakou myself. At that time there wasn’t a lot of great music in China. We all listened to dakou tapes. I specialized in selling tapes from the labels Punk and Epitaph. I had a punk band before. Metal bands, Blade records, I knew them all.
For more iconic features of Chinese rock, check out the troubled genius of He Yong.