Mashrou3 Leila have been working on their album for a long time now, but after many hours of labor, they were ready to release their debut album on the long awaited date of December the 19th.
The venue was an odd one; typical Leila. Naturally, they were expecting quite the turnout, as it has been steadily rising from one show to another. So where is an insanely popular Arabic-pop-rock band supposed to fit 1000+ fans; Demco Steel, an industrial warehouse in the nether-regions of the city of course!
The event was being sponsored by several companies such as 961 Beer and DHL among others, and Ziad Nawfal was to DJ before and after the concert.
I was accompanied by a friend, whom I owe the entire night to, for if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have found the elusive location and gotten there and back. So thank you for the swell time, Sisi.
This is my first time ever seeing them live.
-Before the Show: As previously mentioned, the show was being held at the Demco Steel warehouse located in Bourj Hammoud. Upon arrival (8:45-ish), we were met with a fairly long line. At that moment I knew that this was a big deal. After paying the very reasonable entrance fee of 20,000 L.L, which includes a CD, I was stamped with a lovely owl design and headed straight ahead.
The warehouse was not as I expected it to be. I was expecting a tin can, while in reality it was quite the spacious setting. Noteworthy is how it wasn’t decorated and propped up (except for some colored lights), but left as is, delivering a raw sense of grittiness and… “undergroundiness”. Early arrivals were scattered here and there, chatting, mingling, and drinking. Ziad had started DJing a couple of minutes prior. 9:00 PM, the DJ set was expected to last about an hour, so we had time to kill.
Familiar faces were present, some I hadn’t seen in months, such as Joumana Medlej, creator (writer-artist) of “Malaak”, a local graphic novel/ comic book that I highly recommend, Nando Borges, photographer and main character of the internet-video series “Flying Kebab”, which features Mashrou3 Leila in several episodes, and Bane Fakih, one half of the still-in-progress Arabic-pop-rock group, ShaBa, and ardent Leila-devotee. Not to mention Hamed Sinno and Haig Papazian themselves, both of whom were sporting some very fancy traditional attire.
It must have been about an hour, and still no Leila. Ziad was playing some pretty good tunes, but it was stuff I wasn’t THAT into. I did particularly feel overjoyed when he played “What’s the Altitude” by Cut Chemist and “Sure Shot” by Beastie Boys, but what the entire crowd really wanted was the band to go on.
10:15 PM, after anxiety had reached critical mass, my lower back had atrophied into a fine dust, and my friend lost the feeling in her feet, the band went on!
-The Show: So this is it, my first time seeing this band that has more buzz around it than a beehive. The crowd had really gotten big. They opened with a piece I was familiar with that features a tape recorder playing some speech which is sped up by Hamed into the microphone. Turns out it’s called “Min Al 6aboor”, but it might have been a different version than the one on the CD, because I recall some parts in my head that I can’t find in the album track (I know I didn’t imagine that jazzy-rockabilly climax). Each member was very good at whatever he/she was doing, no fumbles I could pick up on.
After that I believe they played “3al 7jiz”, one of the songs that I was very looking forward to hearing in full as I was only partially familiar with it from snippets of online video. It was different than I imagined it in my head, but still rocked! Firas, being a percussionist as well, played a large drum for a while in the song.
Now, I don’t really remember the correct order, but here are the events that followed: They played “Fasateen” and Haig dedicated it to someone who knows who she is… They played “Im Billila7” with a homosexual fellow by the name of Alex bellydancing to the music. I certainly wasn’t expecting that. Carl performed some electronic music, on what exactly? I couldn’t really see. Synthesizer or a sampler perhaps? They played “Arous” and “Zotrine”, which featured Hamed singing through a megaphone and playing little… uh… finger-cymbals? Both of these songs were not featured on the album, so I’m glad I heard them live at least. They played “Shim El Yasmine”, a new version actually. It’s more ambient and moody and has Firas playing acoustic guitar. They played something here I can’t quite recall, then after it came “3ubwa”.
Unfortunately, due to certain circumstances (having to be out of there by a certain agreed-upon time, and my respect for that decision), me and my friend had to leave just as “3ubwa” was playing. I reckoned they would have been done after just two or three more songs, including the crowd-pleasing “Raksit Leila”, so I found satisfaction in being there for the majority of the songs. So for the first time in the history of this blog, there will be no “After the Show” segment *gasp!*.
But here’s the after-thoughts thing I usually wrap up with:
Did they live up to all the buzz and hype? Yes, indeed they did! They were all very skilled and very energetic, but much noteworthy is Carl Gerges’ drumming, which is some of the best I’ve ever heard live. The location was great aesthetically and functionally. Sound and lights were very good. It was all very well organized, except for the devastating incident of the band’s tardiness which is actually the main reason why we had to leave early (reasoning that if they started on time, they would have finished on time). The turnout was insane. People are claiming this is the largest audience an underground act has ever gathered. They actually ran out of CDs (they sold every single one), so for all of you who didn’t get one, look for it on record store shelves December 23rd (do me a favor: buy it from La CD-Theque. JUST. DO. IT). Oh and, they announced that a video for “Raksit Leila” will be released soon and that they had fun making it with Yelostudio.
-Mashrou3 Leila artist analysis for all you need to know: https://feelnotes.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/artist-analysis-mashrou3-leila/
*Courtesy of Tanya Traboulsi: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=131133&id=131783523805&ref=mf