Last month, I saw Mashrou Leila and Who Killed Bruce Lee posters on the walls of Mar Mikhael. I then noticed that some of them overlapped, creating a hilariously combined heading of “Who Killed Mashrou’ Leila?” At first I thought it was a coincidence, and then I found out that they’re both playing a show together. I was pretty ecstatic; I haven’t seen Mashrou Leila live yet, and I’ve heard so many good things about Who Killed Bruce Lee. I knew this was going to be a huge show.
A month later, and I’m standing outside Forum De Beyrouth. It was packed. After about 30 minutes waiting in line and getting through a crowd of some ridiculous obnoxious people, we finally made our way into the venue. Red Bull had an incredible setup. The space had one standing section, so the space was massive. There was also a VIP section overlooking the space for “Friends of Red Bull”, with famous Lebanese DJ Jade doing his thing. Right below him was a catwalk that seemed out of place at first. What most blew me away was the two-stage setup. On one end of the venue was a stage for Mashrou Leila, and the other side had a stage for Who Killed For Bruce Lee. People stood by the stage of their preferred band, anxiously waiting for the Sound Clash competition to start.
While we got into the venue at around 8 PM, the show didn’t start till around 9:45. At that point, the place was packed; you had to get violent to get from one place to another. It puts some metal shows to shame, really. We were all anxiously waiting when, lo and behold, Nemr Abou Nassar gets on the catwalk and introduces himself as host of the first Red Bull Sound Clash. Whether you like his comedy or not, you can’t help but notice how he’s been more visible than ever in the Lebanese media lately. After talking a little about both bands and the 4 rounds of Sound Clash, as well as making some strange references to transvestites in Malaysia (I shit you not), the show finally started!
Each band first played a few songs as an intro segment. Who Killed Bruce Lee started, and got the crowd dancing to their nice brand of indie rock. Mashrou Leila followed, playing a medley of some of their songs. The different rounds were all interesting. The bands had to cover each other’s songs, rearrange their own songs to different genres (including rap), as well as takeover each other’s songs halfway through. The audience was really into it and remained engaged, despite the tediousness of having to turn around every few minutes to see the other stage.
Both bands performed exceptionally well! I really enjoyed Mashrou’ Leila’s electro-indie rearrangement of Shim El Yasmine, and I thought Who Killed Bruce Lee did an amazing hip-hop rendition of their music. I also thought that both bands sounded really interesting when they covered each other’s music. My favorite round was Round 4, which had both bands bring in a special guest for a performance. Mashrou Leila flew in a singer from Morocco whose name I’ve totally forgotten. She did a brilliant job collaborating with Hamed Sinno and co. Who Killed Bruce Lee brought in the conductor of the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra and 5 of their flute players. They added an edge to the song and would throw in a famous melody from Bach at several points in the song. Overall, it was a really unique experience. It also really showed the versatility of both bands, which made me respect both bands even more.
Perhaps the only downside of the night was that neither band won. The winner would be determined based on how loud the audience cheered for them. Unfortunately, there was a single microphone hanging down from the ceiling picking up the screams of 3000 people. The poor little fucker couldn’t handle it, and Nemr wasn’t able to figure out which cheer was louder because they both exceeded the maximum level in the meter. However, everything came to an end when both bands got on the Mashrou Leila stage and played one last song together! Another downside was that there was no beer. No. Beer.
I knew Mashrou Leila were going to kill it, but I was super impressed by Who Killed Bruce Lee, and can’t wait to see them perform live again. It was amazing seeing 3000 people packed in one venue, and I hope we can see more of that in the near future. There is tons of talent that doesn’t get the right attention here, and I think Red Bull Sound Clash made things a bit more interesting to say the least. Here’s hoping for a second Sound Clash, perhaps in the spring in an outdoor venue!