DUSK DAWN CLUB, KNOWN SIMPLY AS DDC TO ITS REGULARS, IS THE MOST MUSICALLY ECLECTIC LIVE HOUSE IN BEIJING. CUI JIAN, PROBABLY CHINA’S MOST HIGH-PROFILE ROCK STAR, HAS BEEN KNOWN TO TURN UP TO PERFORM AT THE VENUE’S FREE-FOR-ALL COLLABORATION NIGHTS, AND HEADLINERS ARE JUST AS LIKELY TO BE HEAVY ROCKERS AS THEY ARE ACOUSTIC GUITAR STRUMMERS, RAPPERS OR JAZZ HEADS.
Despite the sprawling nature of its musical bookings, as a venue DDC has one of the most distinctive atmospheres in the capital. Found deep in the hutong lanes in Gulou, it taps a sweet spot between traditional Chinese architecture and modern boho chic. The main courtyard area is classic Beijing: ornate red doors; Ming-style metalwork and an upstairs zone allowing alfresco sipping. The trendy bar area, complete with a large skylight, finishes the distinctive look.
The venue was launched in summer 2014 by a local man who only gives his name publicly as 69. The name Dusk Dawn Club came from 69’s obsession with Quentin Tarantino films, being derived from his 1996 schlock vampire movie From Dusk Till Dawn. 69 even reportedly named his son Quentin after his Hollywood hero. This love of film is often expressed during screening nights at the venue, where action films noisily blast through the live house’s heavy-stacked speaker system.
Like many rock venues in Beijing, DDC has not been shielded from controversy. In April 2016, the frequently topless experimental artist Lin Ce got corners of the Chinese internet in a tizz when she invited crowd members at her poetry show at DDC to queue up and touch her breasts through her clothes, as some kind of artistic statement. Pressure against the venue from Beijing city authorities soon followed, along with DDC’s brief closure, but 69 managed to swing the doors open after a short break in service. In many countries, Lin’s performance wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, let alone anything else, but it is another example of the constant challenges faced by venue owners in the Chinese capital. DDC lives on despite these niggles, a physical testament to the fiery rock spirit that burns through this city.