TRYING TO NAIL DOWN THE PRECISE NATURE OF FRUITYSPACE IS ABOUT AS EASY AS CHASING CHEETAHS. FOUND IN SOUTH GULOU, NOT FAR FROM BEIJING’S FORBIDDEN CITY, IT’S A BASEMENT VENUE ACCESSED VIA A SET OF INCONSPICUOUS-LOOKING STAIRS.
Shielded from natural light, its entrance is barely noticeable among the neighbouring dumpling restaurants. Almost mysterious. Bands such as formerly Beijing-based drone-rock duo Alpine Decline, now working from Los Angeles, chose Fruityspace for their new album launch shows. Being a functioning live house is at the spine of this place but it also hosts screenings of cult films and documentaries, such as enjoyably esoteric DIY docs about Cambodia’s underground hardcore rock scene.
It has a tiny record store, where you can pick up vinyl releases from local acts and fanzines, and there’s a makeshift bar by the grimy stairs. You wouldn’t order a cocktail here, but for a venue not much bigger than the average teenager’s bedroom, it packs a lot in. With so much creative stuff going on at Fruityspace, from gigs to screenings, it's little surprise that it has become a strong focal point of the city’s music and arts scene. A sister venue to the Beijing record store Fruityshop, it was opened in 2016 by Beijing music scene lynchpin Zhai Ruixin, who makes his own music under the name ME:MO.
After opening Fruityspace, Zhai quickly stocked up the record section of the venue with lo-fi releases from local labels such as Nasty Wizard Recordings and Zoomin’ Night. Then he decided that the venue should be getting more directly involved in pushing new music into the world. He launched a Fruityspace record label, pumping out vinyl releases by wonderfully named local rockers Boiled Hippo and The Molds, both of whom regularly take to the venue’s stage.
Fruityspace feels different to many of Gulou’s spit ’n’ sawdust live music venues. It’s the kind of place where, once the band stops, taxis home remain far from minds as quick-fire conversations and record browsing begins. With the outside world hidden from sight, all sense of time is lost to the fully immersed crowd within.