Show Review: The Crate Sessions: Youmna Saba and Fadi Tabbal – Live @ Walimat Wardeh (September 1, 2009)

-Before the Show:  This was my second “Crate Session”, and set to perform that night were Youmna Saba and her partner in crime Fadi Tabbal. I was a bit reluctant about this one. I am not a big fan of Youmna’s. I haven’t listened to her debut album “Min Aafsh El Beit”, but from what I’ve found here and there on the web, I didn’t fall in love with her songs the minute I heard them, but I’m planning to take a closer look at her album in the future. Although, I am very attracted to the fact that Fadi Tabbal of The Incompetents plays a big part in her sound. There’s variety in instrumentation, which I like very much. The man is truly talented, full-stop. Nonetheless, I decided that going would be fun, so I did.

I intended on bringing the same three friends I had brought along the week before. However, we did not plan it as thoroughly as the previous time, so I just very hastily specified some details and I was off. But before I left, while I was on the net, the hip hop band Fareeq el Utrush announced that they had a show at a place called Zico House coming up that Saturday. Keep that in mind for later on.

 So I met up with one of my friends in front of his house, in Hamra, all three of them live near that area, but I don’t. We go over to Walimat Wardeh where outside I see Ziad Nawfal. The reason I need to talk to him is because I was hoping for somekind of meeting similar to the one I had with his brother, Jawad (Munma). That notion would be obsolete in the near future. So I told him about it and he said we could arrange it someday. Also hanging out with him was Serge Yared’s sister, Nathalie, who actually recognized me as “The One and Only Incompetents Fan”. Upon ending that brief chat, we entered the building. Once again greeted by Serge, we had no reservations this time, so we just snagged a table, but things would not be that easy.

 On that night, I was introduced to Walimat’s seating policy, which is actually quite fair and logical, I’m not complaining at all. If there is an empty table, one with reservations has more right to sit at it than one who doesn’t. If one who doesn’t wishes to sit at it, one must order some food. I won’t lie, but the food is pretty expensive. A can of coke costs four-times what it costs in most of the Hamra area. But I have my own strategy. One plate of tabbouleh is enough to qualify me as a “diner”. I would have not even bothered sitting if it wasn’t for my friend, but this is beside the point. So we each order a plat of tabbouleh and we’re good.

 Some time passes, and Youmna shows up. We are informed that Fadi will not be playing with her due to technical difficulties. Youmna was still performing though, so it was alright. She grabbed her acoustic guitar and kicked off the performance.

 -The Show: If I may divert from the topic, since a crucial event occurred mid-show. The performance had started and I was standing around the corner where Youmna was performing, while my friend was still determined on staying seated at the table. He wasn’t that eager to check her out, as I basically dragged him there, and myself I wasn’t even a huge fan of Youmna’s but still I was curious to see what she was all about. Then my other two friends arrive and they join my friend at the table as well. Our reluctantly ordered two plates of tabbouleh had still not arrived. After being asked to order, they decided to leave, and they had all the right to do so, after all, I didn’t tell them about this policy (which I didn’t really know about myself), and the artist was one they didn’t care about, and this whole night was poorly planned. If they were a bit more open-minded, they would have given the artist a chance, thus not needed to sit, since you don’t sit at a table in the back when you go for the show, and all of this could have been avoided. Don’t worry, we didn’t fight or anything, it’s just a social experience that occurred with me on that night that I thought was worth mentioning.

Now for the actual show, Fadi, who as I had stated earlier, was unable to perform due to technical difficulties, placed a recorder I think in front of the Crate amp, so you might hear clips from that night some day, or maybe he’ll just keep them for himself and Youmna, or maybe that wasn’t a recorder, it looked like one though. Recalling the set-list is tough, one because, I am not too familiar with her songs to begin with, two because, there were songs from her debut album, songs from her upcoming album, and a Sabah cover I think, but I remember there was “Fa La Tehremni” which I recall from her myspace because the instrument it’s played with sounded nice. There was one song called “Lal Heetan” I believe. Other than that, it’s all a blur…

 -After the Show: So that was it. I had attended the second ever Crate Session. It wasn’t as impressive as the first, but that’s mainly due to two things. One, I didn’t really see the whole “forcing artists to perform out of their usual comfort zone” thing in this now that I had attended more than one show. It was basically just acoustic performances, nothing too radical. Two, because I wasn’t a fan of Youmna’s going with a certain purpose in mind. I was a neutral audience member who had even probabilities of liking or disliking the performance, and though there were several points that made me like it, and several that made me dislike it, in the end I was not getting the tunes stuck in my head like when I saw Zeid the prior week.

 I got the chance to speak to Fadi for a while. I asked about Mix Up Beyrouth which is a live project that consists of French musicians Rudolphe Burger (vocals, guitar), Julien Perraudeau (bass), and Frederic Nevchehirlian (vocals, guitar) teaming up with some of Beirut’s best, Fadi himself, Youmna, Abed Kobeissy (on the buzuk, also plays with Fadi in The Incompetents), Rayess Bek (previously of Aks’Ser), and Ziad Saad (Pop Will Save Us). He briefly explained it.

 Then I spotted Zeid. That made my night. I greeted him and his friend, who I later found out, was Ian Jay, brother of the double bass player, Miles Jay. So I asked what’s new if I recall correctly, and he said that he, Ian, and Miles would be playing three shows as a band called “Three Little Pigs”. I asked when and where, and he listed the venues, and one of them was Zico House, and the date of that gig was that Monday. This was incredible; two great shows in the same place. This would save me the trouble of scouting out the location twice. I intended on locating Zico House. I said my goodbyes, and was off…

 Listen to Youmna Saba yourself here:

If you like her music, become a fan here:

Find out more about The Crate Sessions here:

Find out more about Walimat Wardeh here:


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