Top Five Beijing Bars: Alex Blackie of The Syndicate

The first time I met Alex Blackie involved Dom Perignon, deer petting and a resort on Beijing’s outskirts (see “Surreal Saturday“). While we’ve never been able to recreate that magical atmosphere, we do occasionally run into one another and share memories of the good old days (“Remember that one deer?” “The one with the big ears.” “Yeah.” “Man, those were the good old days.”).

Anyway, I asked Blackie — best known in Beijing for his DJ work with The Syndicate — to list his top five watering holes and, given a rare break in his schedule, he agreed. Here they are along with a photo of him sitting on an (obviously wireless) speaker in the middle of a street. A street, I’m told, with no name.

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“Having met Mr. Boyce at a booze-soaked, overly lavish media ‘unveiling’ of the late (not that) great Klubb Rouge, Beijing — an event marred by the aforementioned blogger consuming enough alcohol to floor a medium-sized panda (see “Surreal Saturday“) — it was clearly my destiny to write a drink-related post for his fine website one day. Now that that day has arrived, I think the reason I was asked was mainly so that I could give Boyce some hot tips of places around town that play loud music that isn’t by ABBA — a strange obsession of his. From reading previous ‘top five’ posts on the website, I’ve realised that it’s important to make it sound like I have an exciting social life that takes me to an eclectic mix of bars about town and not that I just go to Dada every weekend. So with that in mind, here’s my top five current watering holes in Beijing in no particular order:

Dada: Opened about 18 months ago now, this club is a great example of opening a venue in the right place at the right time. In the heart of the Gulou area — the home of an incredible amount of cool bars — Dada serves a great selection of beers and the best music in town. If you want to see where the cool Chinese kids hangout, this is the place to be. It’s an exciting time for electronic music in China and Dada has become the ‘home’ of the nascent development of Chinese bass music culture. As a result it’s the place to catch a large number of good local and international DJs and producers. And a small number of bearded lunatics.

????  (inside the Drum Tower compound): This is a bar / pool house that is found about 20 metres from Gulou itself. It’s an incredible place, a huge converted hutong house with three large pool tables, loads of places to lounge and an incredibly chilled atmosphere. The funny thing is, you’ve probably walked past it countless times without ever realising it is there as there is no sign, logo or visible entrance. It’s down a little hutong at the north-east corner of the tower — hunt it out, it’ll be worth the exploration.

Yugong Yishan: Now in its third incarnation, this place hosts a staggering amount of local and international bands and DJs every year. When a good band is on the vibe in there is amazing — the owners have put an incredibly amount of heart into Yugong, and it shows. Also, the drinks there get you drunk. Fact.

Amilal: This is probably my favourite sit-down bar in the city. Primarily a whiskey bar, with some fantastic single malts in there that are all reasonably priced. I have been involved in a great many lockins here, staggering out as the sun comes up. On entering the bar it feels as if you’re intruding on someone’s house party, but after a couple of whiskeys and a stroke of the cat (not a euphemism) everyone’s your mate.

Lantern: Yep, another club. Not sure what that says about my social habits but there you are. Beijing’s other fantastic electronic music venue, Lantern, is a place you can regularly catch local legends like Mickey Zhang, Weng Weng and Ou Yang thumping out the city’s best house and techno. The decor has changed so often that part of the fun when you walk in is guessing the current layout. Still though, the commitment to doing things the right way remains. This place opens till the very last person leaves.

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