No actual concert-going occurred on that night, but some other interesting stuff did.
-Backstory: I heard about this event around the time school was starting, but I was lucky that the very day this was going on was a Saturday, and it was the Saturday before a big vacation for Eid, so it was all free for the next couple of days! The main reason I wanted to attend this was because one of the pioneering artists of Lebanese rap, Rayess Bek, would be performing, and he hasn’t been here in a while, spending his days in Paris now. Plus, there would be Zeid Hamdan’s group, Hiba and The Baalbek Project (Mashrou3 Baalbak), which consists of himself, the vocalist Hiba El Mansouri, Arabic rapper RGB (who has taken the place of the vocalist Doshka), and the double bass player Miles Jay. Their performances are rare occurrences, so this would be well worth it. Other acts included Katibe 5, the three DJ team known as The Underdolls, Trash Inc., and the Basement nightclub DJ and founder, Jade. Tickets were 20 dollars which I thought was quite fair seeing as the proceeds would be going to the Offre Joie charity. Around this time, a film crew that were working on a documentary called “Yallah Underground”, about the steadily evolving contemporary Middle Eastern culture, mainly its music, were in Beirut for two weeks shooting footage. I had talked to the main man behind the project, Farid Eslam, earlier online, giving him a tip on this how, but to my surprise he already knew about it. They were quite prepared and had things all planned out, which was impressive. I was hoping to meet them that night.
-The Unfolding: When it was announced that there would be a tent in case of the rain, I laughed and said “what rain?” I guess I should watch the news more often, because it did rain indeed. Saturday, September 19th, I showed up at Sporting Club, and found that there were not that many people, or actually no people, except for some of the musicians. Do I need a better reason to hang around? Even when they’re not performing, you can still have a good time with all of these people. And performing or not, Rayess Bek was there, and I had yet to meet him. So I decided on staying. I greeted those present: Rayess Bek, RGB, Zeid Hamdan, and Miles Jay. Katibe 5 were there too, though I did not pay them that much attention.
Some casual small talk followed, with the occasional joke or two. I ate sheesh tawouk; the caterers they had hired were still there and the food was on the grill and they did not want it to go to waste, so all was invited to chow down. I talked to Rayess Bek for a while, but he was kind enough to sign my copies of both of his CDs first I had some things that I’d really liked to know more about, like: what happened to the old Aks’ser albums? His answer: out of print, unfortunately. Lebanese music history, lost forever. Some copies could still be collecting dust somewhere out there. Also, whatever happened to the product of his work with RZA for the PBS documentary “Dissonance and Harmony”? His answer: Financial issues. RZA’s producer wanted a lot of dough for them to be able to release this one song. Finally, when is his album with the Rayess Bek Orchestra due? His answer: It’s being mixed. I saw a cameraman shooting video. He could only be shooting for one documentary on alternative music in the Middle East. I asked about “Yallah Underground” and he pointed me to Farid. I greeted him and exchanged the same comment as I did with everyone else I had encountered: “Sucks huh? What luck!”, but as Zeid said later on: “No, we suck!”
So after a while, the Yallah Underground crew which consisted of Farid and three other people wanted to conduct an interview with Rayess Bek, so they did it right then and there, with him standing in front of the Raouche rock with the occasional lightning adding a special touch to the shot.
In the meantime I continued socializing, and Sporting Club’s bamboo ceiling did not hold that well, as mini waterfalls were gushing down, onto the floor, onto unsuspecting victims, such as my shoulder, one even onto the grill that the food was being cooked on. It was raining hard for a while, but then simmered down. Zeid said that everybody had to leave now, so we had to get out of the tent, but assured me that the event would take place once again when they could arrange for it, so I kept the ticket. The guys continued their interview with Rayess Bek and it was very nice seeing an interview with someone like that done live, right in front of you.
After the interview, I was invited by the guys back to their hotel for coffee, which coincidentally was just a short distance away on foot. While we were heading out, I started doing one of the things that helped shape the identity of this very blog, and that was: yammering on and adding unnecessary details concerning a simple straightforward subject. This time it was on the fact that for me, even though there was no concert, I still had a great time hanging around with the artists, because they’re not just good musicians, they’re good people. Then Farid had an idea, and that was to interview me. Why? He’s nuts, the weather got to him… no seriously, as he said, it would represent the view of the young fans. I’m pretty young, and I’m a big fan!
So we headed over to the hotel, settled down for a while, some of us dried off a little, had coffee, but I had a soda, and chatted about the scene in general and stuff.
Laterish, I was outfitted with a wireless mic, and we headed out to a nearby street and started the impromptu interview. Questions and answers were made on the spot. There were some annoyances like one truck that we just couldn’t get out of our hair. It kept going up and down that street, God knows why, maybe it was transporting cargo from one end of the street to the other… After finishing up, I said my goodbyes, and we were schedueled to meet again that Monday in Ashrafieh for the International Day of Peace event that Fareeq el Atrash will play in.
-Wrapping Up: With that ended an amazing night that could have been all the more amazing if the concert had taken place and Rayess Bek graced us with a long-anticipated performance. But it just goes to show that you can salvage any night if you have the right people around.
-Video promoting the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13HxwelzaNE