Jim Beam Rocks! The Music Festival
Band: Jim Beam Rocks
Author: Carmina Khairallah - 2014-08-08
On Friday, June 27th 2014, Jim Beam and Radio One crafted their own names deeply into the history of the Lebanese Rock scene with their sizeable contribution to its making: Jim Beam Rocks! The Music Festival. The event took place at La Marina Dbaye, a beachside venue long ago favored for a non-negligible number of local Rock and Metal gigs. The bar for this concert was set pretty high, as the organizers stated that its goal was to “show the world what Lebanon is really about: peace, love and music”, inciting possible attendees to join them in order to “make history together”. To reach said goals, nine local Rock acts as well as Finnish band THE RASMUS were sent on stage, all in one night. To top it all off, local artists and craftsmen were allowed to showcase their work at the venue during the event, including decorations, accessories, and even tattoos. We cannot start off this review without applauding the sentiment behind this project, before moving on to an overview of how it all actually turned out.
The doors to the venue were said to open at 7 pm, which was subject to about a quarter of an hour of expected delay. One note of criticism has to be directed at this point towards the 5 minutes walking distance between the (not very obvious) ticket booth and the venue entrance, which caused a certain number of confused concert-goers to rush back and forth before being able to enter. Attendees were scarce at that time and they started arriving gradually so as to fill about half of the available space by the beginning of the event at 8:30 (the entirety of the crowd only seemed to arrive a few hours later). Now would be a good time to point out that each band had lovely personalized visuals screening behind them during their performances, which added a great visual touch to an amazing auditory experience.
The band who was tasked with the inauguration of the gig was THE COOLCUMBERS, an Alternative/Rock band with a number of decently sized events behind them. The band’s fully original playlist went as follows:
- Chasing Nightmares
- My Girl
- Go Ahead
- Red Skirt
They seemed to have a few troubles with starting off, which was a shame as vocalist Enzo Sabbagha seemed to have planned a “grand entrance”, but apart from that it all went uphill from there, starting with a shaky sound with low vocals and gradually evolving towards a good performance with great energy and crowd interaction.
Next up was BANDAGE, a Rock band dating all the way back to 2003 and having gifted the scene anything between small jams and greatly impactful events such as the “Christmas Mission”. Their playlist was:
- We All Die Young (Steelheart cover)
- Twisted Road
- Different Devil (Chickenfoot cover)
- No Answers
- Killing in the Name Of (Rage Against the Machine cover)
The technicalities all went smoothly. The band’s playlist offered some interesting variety, proving that one band can make the crowd both sway and headbang in one performance. It was all laced with the band’s signature contagious smiles.
Then the stage was granted to MEEN, a band famous for their less conventional (and much funnier) approach to Lebanese Rock, with their mix of good music and odd, seemingly nonsensical lyrics. Their all original playlist was made of fan-approved classics such as “Wel Khasr Yhez”, “Soeur Marie-Celestine” and “Afifeh Lifeh”, as well as a new song involving love and a Kalashnikov. As always, the band delivered an explosive performance that got a huge part of the audience to sing along and jump around (even causing a few young men to be intercepted by security for allegedly touching a girl by accident while jumping… but I digress). A real burst of adrenaline.
The next band was SANDMOON, an Indie Pop/Indie Folk band (with a cellist), who’ve not just graced Lebanon, but also Belgium, with their uniquely soothing music. The band played the following originals:
- Anything Wrong
The band’s genre was a real breath of fresh air in between bouts of pure, fully loaded Rock, and as the band’s vocalist Sandra Arslanian put it: “It was a bit of a challenge to face an 'all rock' public, but we were glad to be able to hit a string with them, get them acquainted to our genre and "communiate" with them”. It was definitely a great ride, and although the interaction with the crowd wasn’t as strong as it was with other bands, hearts were definitely touched.
The fifth band on stage was LAZZY LUNG, an Indie-Rock band notorious for standing out among bands performing the same genre in the region and attracting business deals like a jar of honey in a swarm of flies. Their playlist was also all-original and was comprised of the songs:
- 21 Below
- Whine and Dine
- Smokes and Guns
- Turkish Soap
- Come on Now (a new song)
The band placement was a good choice here as LAZZY LUNG helped the adrenaline slowly rise again among the crowd. When asked about his opinion regarding the concert, vocalist Allan Chaaraoui made a very good point, noting that an event of such a scale “really helped shine a light on the local scene with radio spots and interviews billboards and tons of promotion”, which are things that many well-deserving bands in our scene are still in dire need of.
It was then time for PINDOLL, a band whose music “bears traces of such diverse elements as Ska, Classic Rock’n’Roll, Punk, Grunge, Jazz, Metal, Cabaret and Oriental melodies”, according to The Daily Star newspaper. The bands performed a few originals such as their now famous “Keep Walking”, as well as some twisted covers of classics that you’ll never hear the same way again, such as the iconic “Tainted Love”. The crowd’s energy was back to the heavens with this colorful act whose performance was perky as ever. (And a shout out goes to their vocalist Erin Mikaelian for the most interesting outfit of the evening).
The next act to climb on stage was JAY WUD, an eponymous act based in Dubai and led by a Lebanese singer, guitarist and song writer whose music has stretched far beyond the confines of our country but whose heart stays firmly anchored in its homeland. His all original playlist consisted from three songs from his album "False Utopia" as well as a new, never before heard song that even caused a mosh pit:
- Kings and Beggars
- Incomplete Heart
- Killing My Own
As always, the crowd was over enthused by music both prone to touching the crowds’ hearts and lighting them up profusely.
Up till this point, there had been an impressively low preparation time of between 5 and 10 minutes between each act, but now the whole stage was being rearranged. It could only mean one thing: it was time for the Finnish Rock band whose songs we’ve all at least heard on the radio: THE RASMUS. The first track was started off as playback, which was immediately followed by the band appearing to deliver the following playlist:
- No Fear
- First Day of My Life
- I’m a Mess
- Living in a World Without You
- In My Life
- The melody of “Nassam Alayna Al Hawa” by Fairuz
- In the Shadows
There was nothing to say about the technicalities except that the volume of the vocals was tuned notably too low throughout most of the performance, which resulted in it turning into mumbling at some points. Apart from that, the band’s performance was very good, as they offered their mostly hit songs almost exactly as they were recorded, with the exception of a few alterations that kept the crowd excited. The band members were very friendly and vocalist Lauri Ylonen’s interaction with the audience was just enough. Overall, it was a treat.
At this point things went a little downhill. One band that definitely did not profit from their placement in the show was WHO KILLED BRUCE LEE, a local Indie/Electro-Rock/Dance-Rock act who few have not at least heard of in this country. It took them a pretty long time to set up due to the changes that had to be made prior to THE RASMUS’ performance, and the sound was pretty weak throughout their performance. Also, at that point, it was already past 1:30 Am and many people started to leave. But the band’s energy managed to keep many attendees in front of the stage, and most of those still present maintained the strength to jump around and cheer their beloved band.
Last, but not least, it was time for THE WANTON BISHOPS, a Blues/Rock/Americana band who’ve made themselves quite a name in the scene, and whose video for the song “Sleep With the Lights On” you might even stumble upon if you tune in to some local TV. Their almost all-original playlist was:
- Going down
- Freddie King
- Bad liver and a broken heart
- Bad rhyme
- My kinda lovin'
- Oh wee
- Sleep with the lights on
At that point, the sound got a bit better, and although not many people remained, those who did got to enjoy the band’s unique, upbeat vibe as a much enjoyed ending to a definitely unique show. It all came to an end at 3 AM.
Some might argue that there was no need for the organizers to bring a Finnish band in what was intended to be a tribute to our local scene, and that their presence negatively altered the performance of a few of the local acts of the night. But personally, I think that overall, it was a very good experience, and that apart from the fact that THE RASMUS’ performance was just as enjoyable as the rest, getting them got people who didn’t know much about the local scene to show up and ultimately discover our amazing bands, and all the setbacks that occurred were only minor compared to what can be expected from the first edition of such a big event. Jim Beam Rocks, we hope you keep your promise of making this a yearly thing, because we at JorZine really had a blast, and are looking forward for what’s to come.