Ever since they first took to the stage more than 13 years ago, Terrace has been an essential part of the live music scene in Shenzhen. Over the years, they have had future pop stars perform, won countless awards, and had some legendary nights along the way. Shenzhen Party sat down with founders Jon and Leon to discuss how Terrace came to be, how it has grown over the years, and what the future holds.
Shenzhen Party: So, how did Terrace begin? How did it all come together?
Leon: It had its genesis in 1999 when I met Jon in Qingdao. At that time I was doing a solo gig doing lots of Chinese material and he had a job that took him to Qingdao quite often. You know, I don’t think we said anything about opening a bar at the time, but later when I moved to another bar to help a guy get the band and sound system together, Jon said to me, “Why don’t you just do this yourself?”
Jon: So that’s sort of where the idea started. It took us maybe three or four years to find this location. While we were focused on doing live-music, the location came with a kitchen, so we decided to offer authentic Thai cuisine with the help of some Thai chefs we knew who were working in Hong Kong.
Shenzhen Party: Can you remember the opening night? What was it like?
Leon: I can remember the first night. It was very, very interesting. I was on vocals and keyboard. We had a female vocalist, then guitar, bass, and drums. So it was a much different set up then we have now.
Jon: I remember you did King of Pain by The Police.
Leon:King of Pain, yeah.
Leon: We did some Chinese songs. We did some Wu Suo Wei, and we were still doing Yue Liang Day Biao Wo De Xin at that time, and Ai Bu Ai Wo. You know, all the classics. Funny thing was, at that time, we weren’t doing as much hard music.
Jon: Yeah, more ballads. Because we were trying for that transition from the meal to the party. So now we kind of kick in right away. We started the live-music a lot earlier at that time.
Leon: I think we actually had our floor punctured that first night.
Jon: Yeah, we had some soft pine floors at the time, so the ladies were dancing so hard that they put their heels right through the floor.
Leon: That’s the way you’ve got to paint that story!
Shenzhen Party: What has been your proudest moment over the years?
Leon: For me personally, it’s to have lasted this long and to be good at it. I can’t say that I had a timeline when I first got involved here. But if you had said that in 2019, you’re still going to be doing this, I think I would have been unlikely to believe that.
Jon: I would say that it’s a proud moment on a big night, whether it be a weekend night or a holiday or a big show or New Year’s Eve – the place is packed and you look around and people are enjoying the food, they are enjoying the drink, the fantastic live entertainment. You sort of have a chance to take it in and say, ‘Huh, it’s really cool that people are really enjoying this.” That’s what it’s all about.
Shenzhen Party: What has been the toughest challenge?
Jon: I think just personalities and learning how to get along with each other. How to be managers, how to be owners, how to be bosses. It’s usually the hardest thing. I think we’ve matured a lot in that regard.
Leon: The biggest challenge for me is to be able to close my mouth and open my ears, and have a listen to what everyone else is saying before I make my mind up. In this kind of business, you either learn to work with different kinds of personalities and points of views, or you die. It’s kind of as simple as that.
Jon: We were like newlyweds. We went through the honeymoon period, and then you face challenges and you have different opinions, so you have to figure out how to work together with everyone. Once you figure out how to work with everyone, it’s a lot easier.
Shenzhen Party: I’m sure you are spoilt for choice, but what has been your favorite night at Terrace?
Jon: I think one of my favorite nights was one of our anniversary parties. Eumme had an especially great show. We had the three piece brass section. They are not normally part of our show. That really popped out. The show was great, the lights were great, the band were great, the audience was happy.
Leon: I mean, most memorable night…I would say in the last seven or eight years, the New Year’s Eve ones have been really memorable. In 2016, we had a DJ named Mark Ursa. We did big numbers. A lot of champagne was going out. But there was a vibe that night that was crazy. I don’t know how to describe it. It was like the room was moving, the foundation of the place was shaking, and the people were just so into it.
Shenzhen Party: Who has been your favorite performer to take to the Terrace stage?
Leon: Oh, our top is Eumme.
Jon: Yeah, it’s Eumme. She’s quite famous now in the Philippines. She left us and joined a TV competition in the Philippines. She didn’t win it, but I think she was top two or three.
Leon: It was one of those things where she didn’t win it-
Jon:But maybe she should have won it.
Leon: Maybe she should have won it, but it’s like Adam Lambert didn’t win either.
Jon: Her career really took off and now she’s a household name in the Philippines, and we had the privilege of working with her here for a couple of years.
Leon: Musicians of this level don’t just drop out of trees. Jon has always been heavily involved in helping recruit the talent. He and I know what we want. We just think the same way, we like the same types of music, mostly, and we know what we want as far as the vibe for the place. And so when he goes to the Philippines, I trust him completely to find the right people.
Jon: That’s the thing. We don’t have an agency. We’ll hold auditions in the Philippines and we will use all of our contacts. So, all the people we get, are specifically auditioned, and put through their paces. Many are TV singing competition participants, like The Voice, Philppines Got Talent, etc.
Jon: Sometimes we need to fly their parents out with them. Because it’s one thing if they are going with an existing band and there are five people they’ve known for a long time. But we replace people individually. When somebody leaves, we don’t want to replace the band. For example, with Eumme, we had to a sign contract, get the work visa, fly her and her mother out here, and we put them up for two weeks. And if at the end of that they didn’t like it, we would have paid for them to fly home. And that would have been that. Fortunately, Eumme ended up staying for two years.
Shenzhen Party: Some new performers recently joined Terrace’s lineup. Who are they and what can our readers look forward to?
Jon: We’ve got two new vocalists – Jonathan and Rhyzza. As far as Jonathan goes, in this case, we’d been without a full-time male vocalist for a few months. Because we were looking for the right fit. Sometimes for certain positions, particularly for vocalists, it takes a little time.
Leon: Well, you know, there are great singers who aren’t a great fit. You know what I mean?
Jon: Right, and there’s some singers that are great vocalists but they just don’t have the stage presence. Maybe they don’t move on stage or connect with the audience.
Jon: So Jonathan was introduced by one of our female vocalists, Kris, who had worked with him in Hong Kong. So we initially watched YouTube videos and things were looking really good.
Leon: He was really kicking it on the Queen.
Jon: Yeah he was doing some Queen songs that were very impressive.
Leon: You know, he turned out for me, to be a lot more unique than I thought he was going to be. You know, you pigeonhole a guy and say he’s going to sound like that guy. But when he’s going through the night and he’s doing different songs, it’s still him. So, even when he’s doing a Queen song, it’s still him. He does Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, which is kind of a standard bar song. And he pulls it off great.
Jon: And then the other person we brought on was Rhyzza. We initially saw Rhyzza when I was looking through videos on YouTube of live shows from a particular bar in Manila. And I saw Rhyzza performing there, and I wondered if anyone in our network knows her. And we just started asking around, and luckily enough somebody knew her. So I contacted her.
Leon: We both flew down and we saw her at a casino there in Manila. I sat down and I ordered a drink, and I don’t think she knew that I was there. But when she sang her songs, she sang very well. And she performed very well, and when the guy sang, she was still the same. You know, a lot of the time you see these performers and it goes from one to the next and the one that’s not performing suddenly becomes lifeless or starts fiddling with this thing or that thing. And the thing that I admired about her the most was that she was on 100% of the time. From the start of the set to when the set ended, she was on.
Shenzhen Party: Terrace has already had such a fantastic and long history, but what can our readers look forward to in the future?
Leon: People ask us about expansion all the time and why there isn’t Terrace 2 and Terrace 3. And I think there are various reasons why. You know, some opportunities have come and gone. But I think personally, I’m happy it worked out this way. If we had opened a second place before we were ready, it could have killed both places. You know, when you make a product you need to ship. So if you are going to do a franchise or another Terrace, you got to be ready to ship.
Jon:Yeah we are sort of on our own journey. We often talk about Kaizen, the Japanese term for constant incremental improvement. There will still be constant improvements in every regard from bartending, kitchen, to sound system, and decoration. We are pretty confident when it comes to live music. But in some other areas, we are still learning. And we are still getting the right people involved with us. So part of it is getting the right team.
Leon: What is it that book said?
Jon: Getting the right people on the bus, getting the wrong people off the bus.
Leon: Yeah, exactly.
Leon: I just realize that we sound way too humble and that we actually really rock at what we do! It’s good to be confident, but it’s also good to be realistic.
Jon: We think we’re now ready to execute on another live music venue. We’re not sure whether that will be in China or elsewhere in Asia, whether it will be live party music or a different musical concept, but with our 14 years of experience, track record of success and passion for live music, we’re confident we can create more amazing live music venues for our customers.
Place Name: Terrace
Place Phone: (0755) 2682-9105
Official WeChat Account: Terrace Shenzhen
Place Address: Seaworld Square, Shekou (above Starbucks) 深圳市南山区蛇口海上世界广场(星巴克二楼)