No. 88

28 Nov

or Bābā (literally eight eight in Mandarin) is a well-established club and one especially known amongst foreigners to be one of the places where young Shanghainese party. We went there ten days ago, on a Saturday, after pseudo artsy drinks with friends on the top of a building housing design firms, and got our first experience of Chinese clubbing.

Bābā is located in the French Concession and immediately appeared to be a popular place given the number of people around it on the street. After a five-minute queue at the cloakroom, we had to pass through a magnetic door as if we were at an airport. The security checked each girl’s bag but even though every single person beeped, they let everyone in. As if this didn’t already defeat the purpose of having security, inside was the most claustrophobic and visually and physically busy club one could ever imagine.

The overall theme was let’s say something like Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousands Leagues under the Sea”… The walls were filled with fake copper propellers, pistons, valves and other types of machinery. Most of the tables were laid out in elevated types of booths and the place was absolutely packed! I could only catch a glimpse of the furniture and chandeliers but enough to appreciate how kitsch they were. To add to the clutter, the people and the cigarettes (something I’m not used to anymore), extra smoke was continuously being added to the air. It took a little while to adjust to the atmosphere and until we found a good spot, near the DJ, there was a lot bumping and pushing going on. In Shanghai, people do not really physically give way, be it on the roads, on the pavements or in clubs…

The party was interesting in many respects. First, when music was playing, the DJ enjoyed changing songs about every 20 seconds. It was unusual to get more than one minute of a single track. Second, Chinese people do love drinking and in order to encourage one another, they like playing rock-paper-scissors (or roshambo, which I am told by Wikipedia is a Chinese game, dating back to the Han Dynasty, 220-206 BC) and the losers (or winners?) get to do “gambei”, i.e. bottoms up! Third and most exciting was by far the live performance. We had just missed a female performer as we arrived, but then we had the privilege to get up close and personal with the very androgynous male performer dressed with a mini-cape. The security, strategically posted within the club, prepared his appearance by forbidding anyone from standing on the tiny stages. I can’t remember the song he started with, but shortly after he suddenly disappeared only to reappear virtually immediately a meter away from us. Overall, his accent was quite good until he started singing Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” and making a lasting (laughing) impression with a relentless and persistent “zee edge, zee egde, zzeeeee eeeedge, zzzeeeeeee eeeeeeedge”! At that critical point, the smoke had become so thick and sulphurous that my eyes started crying as relentlessly as the singing, which was terribly embarrassing as I felt like a Beatles’ groupie in one of their first appearances in the 1960s…

The evening didn’t end that well. J. realised that his brand new Iphone 4S went missing from his front pocket. We did our best to find it in the mess around us or by the bar where we were earlier. A very compassionate Chinese guy lent us his own Iphone 4 to light up around us and look for it. To no avail… After about 20 minutes of desperate searching, we gave up and left thinking Bābā Iphone…

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