Shijiazhuang, a city located near China's capital, Beijing, has announced a plan to create China's "City of Rock." From subway and buses to lawns, shopping streets, and tourist attractions, rock music is becoming ubiquitous in every corner of the city.
Authorities in Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of North China's Hebei Province, are hoping this long stretch of large-scale musical performances and festivals - part of the "Rock Home Town" event - will boost consumption and revitalize the region's economy.
A rock band has already made a surprise appearance on Sunday morning in the subway of Shijiazhuang, performing songs that captivated many passengers who joined in to revel in the joyful atmosphere with the musicians, according to local media reports, adding that the slate could last until October.
Many local residents have expressed curiosity and welcomed such novelty. They enthusiastically raise their phones to capture the moment and join in singing along with the music.
The three-month-long rock music performance season, featuring the "Rock Bus" and "Rock Subway" as carriers, will randomly arrange rock musicians to take public transports, innovatively holding impromptu "flash mob" performances to enhance the participation and interaction of local people into rock music.
In addition to that, there will be two rock music performances in Shijiazhuang on Sunday evening, namely the "Weekend Lawn" and "Passionate Summer Night." The "Weekend Lawn" will take place in open green spaces, lawns, and parks, providing free gentle-style rock music performances for the citizens, aiming to introduce more people to rock music and make them fall in love with it.
This ambitious undertaking comes after the third-tier Chinese city of Zibo in East China's Shandong Province made international headlines earlier this year for a massive barbecue festival that brought massive crowds of tourists to the city which generated millions in local revenue, according to media reports.
Shijiazhuang authorities expect that the city's long history of rock 'n' roll makes the music festivals even more of a draw, and they are hoping to feature prominent domestic bands and rock stars.
The second-tier city plans to set up multiple rock venues on its shopping streets, along with tourist attractions, while making performances more common and fostering local bands, the report said.
The city also plans to invite experts, music festival organizers and heads of related enterprises to convene a rock 'n' roll summit to discuss the establishment of the city's local brand.
Music festivals attract mainly the younger generation, and they can be a strong pull for a range of consumption, such as hotels and shopping malls, the South China Morning Post quoted Lin Huanjie, a tutor with the School of Tourism Management at Sun Yat-sen University, as saying.
With the spending heat quickly fading in Zibo, Lin said local governments should opt for a longer-term, healthier development model for tourism activities, such as all kinds of music events.
Revenue from large-scale concerts and music festivals exceeded 1.2 billion yuan ($160 million) in the first five months this year, compared with 1.66 billion yuan for all of 2022, according to data from the China Association of Performing Arts.
Despite some confusion and even skepticism regarding Shijiazhuang's new plan, a majority of people, especially the local residents, maintain an appreciative and supportive attitude towards it.
"I have been eagerly anticipating encountering a band performing on the subway, hoping that my hometown can enrich its urban characteristics and culture, providing people with diverse cultural and life experiences in the exploration of its unique identity," said a netizen from Shijiazhuang.