Baby Boom Beijing, or simply BBB, evolved from a small tattoo shop in the heart of Gulou Dajie into a collaborative club space housing tattoo (stating the obvious here) artists, hairstylists, mixologists, graphic designers, record collection curators and hosting DJs from all over the capital as well as China by large. Time to get Bigger, Bolder and Better, baby!
Let’s start with the obvious question. What inspired you to open Baby Boom Beijing?
Baby Boom Beijing was initially a small tattoo shop in the heart of Gulou Dajie. It wasn’t long until that became a spot between friends and peers to hangout, and as our “family” got bigger and more versatile, BBB started to become more than a tattoo parlor, it was our living room.
In less than a year, parties were being held weekly (and subsequently shut down by neighbors and police authorities), piercings, hairstyling services started being offered. In no time we had to look for something Bigger, Better and Bolder.
As COVID-19 hit, we thought it was our chance to bring BBB to the next level. We never thought BBB would take off like it did, all we were really looking for was a bigger living room to keep pursuing our passions and hang out.
Current address: No.46 Fangjia Hutong
Tell us something about the different personalities of the founders and how they are reflected in the club.
What’s great about Baby Boom Beijing is that, as a collaborative space, our founders don’t have to express themselves through the club, some have followed their passion as tattoo artists, hairstylists, mixologists, graphic designers, DJs or record collection curators. We feel that this diversity of talent and passion is a huge part of what gives BBB its unique feel.
BBB’s programming is quite different from what one might find at other clubs… You guys seem to like to veer from the standard and take a risk. How do you approach programming a night? What are the factors/characteristics in the acts/DJs that you book?
We are glad to hear that. As much as we want and try to do something new, promoters and DJs from all over Beijing and China contact us to book their events at BBB. We are all new to the scene so we try to learn from the local artists to discover the perfect formulas for the club and new sounds ourselves. In general, we try to keep our events groovy: whether it is Disco, House, Techno or Hip Hop. There are many shapes of electronic sounds that aren’t very common to Beijing’s nightlife, our next step will be to bring all of those to the capital. Even as club owners, we try to keep in mind what should be a DJ’s priority: the crowd. We see, listen and feel what our crowds like and try to give them what they want.
Elaborating on the previous question, what’s a typical night at BBB look like? What feeling/emotion do you want to leave with the audience at the end of the night?
We want people to feel… as we said before, not at home but in a friend’s living room in a warehouse in Europe, where each room represents the different tenants bedrooms, the tattoo artists, the music lover, the hairstylists and the passionate bartender.
We do our best to greet every single partygoer that comes to BBB, not just clubbers. We have a very diverse clientele and we don’t want them to feel any distance between the staff and the customers. We try our best to act like hosts towards our audience.
Of course, BBB must be your favorite venue. But what are the other venues (livehouses, clubs,…) that are your go-to places?
Some of us are new to clubbing, others have been clubbing almost their entire lives. For us it not really a matter of the club, we choose our nights out according to the music and line-up. Dada was always a go-to destination after work in the first BBB, Wigwam is where we started discussing opening BBB Bar and MCLAB makes us feel like traveling to a warehouse party in Europe. We don’t have favorite spots, we go to different clubs for different occasions, but those are probably the ones that hold a special place in our hearts.
Are there clubs outside Beijing that influenced how you designed and run BBB? What are your favorites?
From the beginning, we tried not to get inspiration from other venues, especially other venues in Beijing or China. We did not have specific venues in mind, at BBB there is a bit of everything from everywhere. The sense of a living room like Farbfernseher (Berlin), the friendly environment of Zhu Bar (Tokyo), the funky grooves of Dalston Super Store (London) and House of Yes (NYC), the retro TVs like Killer Kitchen (Milan), the record store like Fred, Ral 8022 and Santeria (Milan).
The outside patio space seems be an important extension of the club (rather than separate) and designed as such. What this a conscious decision when you renovated the venue?
That patio was and to some extent still is a mess, we had to find a solution to make it pretty, cosy and tropical while hiding stuff that we are not allowed to clear. The patio was a big success, but also the cause of many new issues that we never faced before: neighbors (we kinda face them everyday, through the patio we met some angry new ones), rain, heat, permissions. We have solved most of them and we are planning new events as long as the weather permits us to do so.
Tell us more about Porco Disco vinyl record shop! What are some of your favorite places to shop for music in China?
Beijing has a fantastic, well established and ever-expanding group of record shops. That being said, we have had some less than positive experiences – singles that cost more than a week’s salary, digital rereleases of classic albums (completely pointless to own on vinyl) and even record stores where we weren’t allowed to listen to music. With that in mind, what we try to bring to the table with Porco Disco is a record corner (rather than a proper store) that is unique in it’s experience – it’s cheap, it’s relaxed, DJ friendly (towards professional and fresh DJs), you can listen to whatever you want, hell, you can even sip a cocktail whilst digging through our eclectic collection.
We believe vinyls are meant to be played, shared, sampled and edited, not hung on a wall or left to collect dust.
The slogan of BBB is “to focus on the power of young people in society”? Hence, are young people your targeted audience or are you rather trying to infuse a youthful energy in your audience? And why?
Interesting, we never heard that, and yes overall we are all fairly young, some more than others but none of us has hit thirty yet (we wish we could use the WeChat dog Emoji here). We do not have a target, we welcome anybody regardless of creed, culture or color, anyone who is down for a good time. The clubbing scene and electronic music isn’t really a field that the majority of the young people know a lot about. To fully understand (not that understanding is necessary to enjoy…) a night out in a club, someone must have travelled to diverse clubs across the world, discovered new music genres, witnessed the death and birth of different music genres and understood them. We want to show the younger audiences what is out there aside from techno and EDM. The ones who really appreciate what we are doing are normally “older” folks.
BBB appears to have become one of the go-to afterparty places (particularly after a livehouse show) in Beijing since you’ve opened. What are some of your favorite staple Beijing dishes before hitting an afterparty?
Ahahaha, sometimes we barely have breakfast, during the day we really eat anywhere on the way to BBB or the fastest Meituan delivery. We were blessed with Side Street’s burgers and cheese sandwiches for a while, we tended to have those even twice a day. But we’re more of the staple Beijing dishes after the afterparty.
Of course, you’ve partnered with Side Street to offer a menu of goodies on-site. Tell us more on how that came about!
Side Street [a grownup’s college bar/pub with excellent burgers, beers and cocktails plus DJ sets], since the previous location, have always been good friends and great supporters. When we partnered up together, it was the first time any of us had done something like what we were doing at BBB: the first time we had a kitchen and the first time they worked in a club. We all had the same vision for the future but many things didn’t go as planned. Baby Boom Beijing ended up being a nightclub more than a bar, that means crazy timetables and weekdays without events. We decided we would take a break from that partnership with a view to work together again in the future. Side Street are still beloved friends, they make our favorite burgers and we will all be supporting them at the upcoming Burger Fest.
Since COVID-19, I think that it’s safe to say that the Beijing underground club scene has been in flux. What do you think has distinguished Beijing’s scene from other cities and where do you think it is heading over the next year or two?
Let’s not jinx it, fingers crossed. We believe that China stayed strong and safe throughout the pandemic setting an example for other countries undergoing similar situations — too bad almost no one followed that example. In many countries, there has been the tendency of doing just the opposite whatever the government or health and safety regulations recommend.
We are not too certain about other clubs in China since we have not left the city in a long time and we are desperately waiting for the borders to open to finally invite international guests that have already told us they are eager to come to Baby Boom Beijing.
Finally, what is something about BBB that only very few people know and would be surprised by?
Ah, we will list a few.
Will Smith, Bob Marley and Wu Da Lang are not their real names at BBB.
Hitomi is a Japanese girl’s name, pretty popular between JAV p*rnstars.
Leo and James are not lovers, nor do they live together.
Honestly, we still don’t know if BBB stands for BaBy Boom, or Baby Boom Bar, or Baby Boom Beijing.
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