Located atop a skyscraper in Chengdu, the regional hub of Southwest China’s Sichuan province,
TAG is likely the highest underground club in the world.
Aptly shorthand for “To Another Galaxy”, the club has made its way into the global consciousness
through its signature sunrises, sound artistic philosophy, and story that epitomises China’s recent
exponential growth into an electronic music power.
When the club was founded seven years ago, there was little to no underground scene to speak of outside
of the sprawling metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai.
“We did not have enough electronic music artists to support our local scene 6 years ago”,
explains Ellen Zhang, one of the club’s co-founders, “we counted solely on the importing of artists
from outside China.” Since then, a plethora of underground clubs have emerged across the nation’s major
cities: Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Xiamen, Xi’an, Dali, and Nanjing to name just a few.
“I think it’s been more of a united force than a single person’s efforts”, Ellen continued,
“many artists have contributed tremendously to the development of our scene. Steve Bicknell,
Nick Hoeppner, giegling, Dj Masda and a variety of young, local talents as well.” With international DJs
unable to travel amid the pandemic, artists in TAG’s Chengdu orbit became a vital source of support to
the scene across China. “People find a sense of home in electronic music. First and foremost,
the music brings happiness on a spiritual level, and helps people with shared interests get to
know each other in this homelike atmosphere. We build together and stay together.”
Unity and cooperation across the Chinese scene are especially important given the unique challenges
posed by the lack of blueprints for underground music expansion in the country’s past, or present.
“With a completely different backdrop to our Western counterparts, we don’t have any successful cases
to refer to. It feels like we have been pushing forward in the dark. Since the beginning, we have been
trying to strike a delicate balance between cultural development and our political environment.
This, certainly, will always be with us.”
Despite these growing pains, the consistent support TAG has received from artists and ravers
alike have allowed it to remain on solid ground despite the global crisis.
“Good experiences of the ravers determine whether the club can survive or not”,
Ellen concludes. “As a club owner, I cannot stress enough that a robust sound system is a prerequisite.
The space layout, lighting, sound field, material and many on-site details are in direct relation to ravers’
overall experience that complement the music itself.”
With such a sound philosophy underpinning the early years of China’s electronic music culture,
it seems the skies, or perhaps the reaches of another galaxy, are the limit for the Chinese scene.