Foreign acts canceled at Beijing fest

Beyonce, Skid Row shows still going ahead

BEIJING -- On Thursday morning as China celebrated the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic, one of the country's top independent labels announced the cancellation of all foreign acts at its music festival.

The Modern Sky Festival was to feature acts including the Buzzcocks, British Sea Power, Shonen Knife and Swedish punk outfit International Noise Conspiracy.

However, two weeks after the Modern Sky Festival, Beyonce will be able to bring her "I Am ... Sasha Fierce" tour to the Chinese capital for a single show on Oct. 23. Ticket prices for the concert at Wukesong Gymnasium in western Beijing range from $45-$260.

It is her first show in Beijing and second trip to China, having appeared in Shanghai and in the Macau Special Administrative Region in 2007. That same year husband Jay-Z was denied a performance permit because of his controversial lyrics.

Skid Row is set to break the silence in Beijing on Friday after a four-month absence of major foreign acts. One day after tanks again roll through Beijing's main thoroughfare as part of the national celebrations, Skid Row will appear at Star Live, a midsize venue that played host to Ghostface Killah in mid-June.

A representative from Star Live, Skid Row's Beijing venue, confirmed that the show is going ahead.

However, thousands of fans expected at the Modern Sky festival will no longer be able to see any of the foreign acts due to appear.

"The 14 overseas acts previously announced for the 2009 festival are unable to participate due to unforeseen circumstances," Modern Sky said in a statement Thursday.

Set for Oct. 4-7 in Chaoyang Park, Beijing's largest nonpolitical public space, foreign acts comprised more than a quarter of the festival's performers. In light of the cancellations, Modern Sky's two stages will be combined into one by the festival, but will otherwise go ahead as planned with schedule adjustments, the label said.

Other planned gigs by the International Noise Conspiracy in Shanghai and Chengdu have also been canceled, according to an announcement by Yuyintang, the band's intended venue in Shanghai.

The festival may have fallen victim to a Beijing Municipal Cultural Bureau "risk mitigation" campaign at cultural and entertainment venues. According to an announcement on China's Ministry of Culture Web site (in Chinese) posted Wednesday, "the city's cultural administration authorities and the cultural and entertainment businesses will redouble their efforts to 'focus on enforcement, to ensure safety' in order to eliminate all kinds of security order to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding (of the People's Republic) in a safe, cultural atmosphere."

This year's edition of the annual MIDI Music Festival, normally held in Beijing, was moved to coastal Jiangsu province in May after being denied a performance permit at Beijing's Haidian Park.

As with last year's Beijing Olympics, foreign acts were kept out of venues in China until the festivities were over -- which should have meant that after Thursday night's fireworks over Tiananmen Square, performances would have returned as usual.

However, the cancellations suggest that the unspoken ban on non-Chinese concerts will continue -- with Skid Row a notable exception -- at least during the week-long national holiday, which ends Wednesday.

Concerts by domestic and Hong Kong and Taiwan artists went ahead as normal this summer, with only foreign acts seemingly singled out for proscription.

The Aug. 5 stadium show in Shanghai from Linkin Park was the last concert by a significant foreign artist.