'Remember when you were a kid and you just wanted to break everything, but your mum always told you no?', Michael Tsai, the brains behind brawny new 798 activity Smash
, tells us. 'Well now you can just go ahead and do it.'
Yes, Beijing, now you really can satisfy your appetite for destruction, let off some steam or even strengthen friendships through the majesty of smashing shit, all at the city's first-ever dedicated shit-smashing space. Ever wanted to chuck a whiskey bottle at a wall? You can do that. Needed to pound the hell out of a TV with a baseball bat? You bet, rockstar. Felt the urge to take a sledgehammer to a pane of glass? Let the rage flow through you...
Opened just last week in the 798 Art District, Smash is the latest venture from the team who brought you delicious Korean-Mexican fusion at Palms LA
– a slight change of direction from tacos, indeed, but probably the most unique (and fun) one we've seen here in a while.
'My husband and I were watching some travel show, and it had this bit on a place in the US that was letting people smash stuff to release their anger,' Tsai tells us of the venue's inspiration. 'We thought, "you know where could really do with that? Beijing!"' Us calm folks at Time Out don't necessarily need it – or at least, that's what we thought – but we stopped by to give it a go.
Michael welcomes us Smash-style.
We're first taken through the ground rules – mainly just be careful, don't be an asshat, or throw things at each other – and sign our waivers before getting our kit on and tooling up. Dress code is full face mask, overalls and gloves (all provided, plus optional earplugs), with a team baseball bat as standard. Each smasher is given a box of assorted plates and glasses, but before entering your dungeon you can also prep some extras; from a selection that also features old printers, fans and VCR players, we pick a pane of glass (65RMB), an old TV (75-600RMB) and upgrade to a sledgehammer (35RMB). A crowbar and studded baseball bat are also on offer (both 35RMB), and you’re welcome to BYO junk to bash too.
Our chamber of destruction is essentially just a concrete cube, complete with two barrels that will serve as our sacrificial altars, and the floor strewn with the smithereens of smash-ups past. We knock back a few energy drinks to get real jacked, choose our preferred playlist – classical, naturally – and our half-hour sesh begins (158RMB (solo); 296RMB (two people); 414RMB (three people); 512RMB (four people)).
Our (shr)editors ready to teach that TV a lesson.
Backed by Beethoven's rousing fifth, we begin by hurling our assorted glassware and crockery at the floors and walls – it's like a brutalist Greek wedding in here – before cranking things up a notch with a baseball bat straight to the TV. Over and over again. We were skeptics of the stress release aspect ('I thought I was better than this,' one editor remarks), but it's an absolute riot, with the sledgehammer to the glass pane a 10/10-would-recommend highlight. We are also assured that everything smashed is eventually recycled.
By the time we reach our half-hour limit, we've worked up a fair sweat and have to question, is this just a game, a genuine stress-management technique or even Beijing's hottest new fitness regime? 'Destructotherapy,' Michael calls it. 'We even managed to find a psychologist who approves it. But it's whatever you want it to be.'
Whatever your reasons, Smash is undoubtedly a fun alternative activity. It's at its core a simple concept, but Tsai has nailed it, and thought of it all: stylish digs, the range of additional upgrades, the commemorative CCTV video of your beautiful time in the cell, a GoPro-mounted helmet (120RMB), Slow Boat
beer on tap (35RMB), and the 'Corporate Smash' option that allows for big group bashes with some seriously bespoke requests: 'If you really, really
hate your office, we can recreate that and then you can just go to town on it.' Well that's this year's Christmas party sorted, then.