My initial approach for the review of the event was a typical concert highlight with a 1-to-5 rating for each band’s performance and an overall evaluation of the total. However, that would not suffice to express half of the content and appraisal the bands earned. So this is the story of how I got my mind blown by five bands I had never heard perform before the magical night in Garten. *Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” plays in the background*
The last thing I anticipated while I was sinking myself in a bean bag chair near the stage was what that girl had to offer. Starting off the concert with “Just The Two Of Us” with her guitar on hand, her brother Ryan on bass guitar and Wissam on drums, Joy created one hell of a build up . Her strategy was simple, get their attention before showing off what I’m really here to show them. And by the time Joy was singing The Beatles’ “Come Together”, she had the crowd in the palm of her hand. There on, she dropped the first majority of jaws with an amazing pitch-bending shout that said two things very explicitly: first, you better be listening; and second, I’m not done yet. Proceeding with the rest of her playlist, it was with her cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans” that she truly impressed. Not only did she perform the original song perfectly, while incorporating her own style of singing, but she introduced her special modification of the bridge of the song. Joy released the single greatest shout I have seen done live, abusing the pitch up and down, and probably in every direction possible. She later went on to conclude her part of the concert with Stevie Wonders’ “Superstition”, a great choice of songs by my standards, a crowd pleasurer that leaves an impact. Joy proved to had great presence on stage, and a great band to back her up. Wissam demonstrated his skills with a very appropriate solo in which he stuck to the type of music the band had adopted, and still managed to execute some bad-ass rolls. Ryan didn’t deliver any shorter either. His bass acted as a leading instrument several times, a role rarely given to that instrument, and did not under-do that task.
After they were done on stage, I had a simple question to ask, the same question I went on to ask all the other bands: How big is the band going?
Joy’s answer was: “I’m working on my own song writing, planning to release an album and I’m hoping to go as big as it gets.”
So as far as local bands go, Joy Fayad and her crew had set the bar way, way high and though I was familiar with some of the other bands’ reputation in the Lebanese music scene, it was going to be hard to follow-up to the standards they had defined.
It would be a lie to say that I did not expect these guys to amaze. I had already watched both Pascal extort his drums near their full potential and Marwan strum his chords equally well, but never with them performing as Postcards, never with their band mates being vocalist and ukulele player Julia and bass player Rani. It would also be a lie to say that despite that, I underestimated what Postcards had. A set list of great originals built on their targeted genre and their well utilized talent. Their first song “The man with no name”, now somewhat of a personal favorite of mine, leaves you with goosebumps. A mood setter that marks a definition of what the band is really about, and one hell of a campfire song if you ask me. The minor key dominated song is then succeeded by the up-lifting “Lakehouse” and a cover of the Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” in which everything is all over of the place but in a synchronization so perfectly achieved that you’d think the four band members are operating on one brain. With their harmony between Julia’s soft but powerful vocals and Marwan’s rough but precise singing, the guitar and the ukulele, the bass and the drums, the drums and the drums (since Pascal has schyzo moments in which you can’t help but feel sorry for the sticks after he goes all Tasmanian Devil on his cymbals), Postcards make sure that their meaning of the genre folk indie does not go unnoticed. Their originals “Summertime” and “Sleepless Nights” carried on the task of upholding an awesome feel-good atmosphere and promoting their newly released EP “Lakehouse” which started selling like crazy as they played their last song of the night “Oh The Places We Will Go” – I am not ashamed to admit that I fan-girled and got a copy too.
Long story short: for Postcards, it’s all about “OH THE PLACES THEY WILL GO, THE PLACES THEY WILL GO”.
During their post-gig questioning about the future of the band, Julia and Pascal had this to say:
“Our next step is Europe but you just never know. We’re not cocky enough to believe in instant superstardom but naive enough to believe it just might happen.”
A very drunk Marwan carried on to add: ” flumkh”.
Chris & Abe:
Well, I would be full of bullshit if I were to say that I understood these guys from the beginning. At first, all I heard were Kofi and Baboo (what I later figured out to be Chris and Abe’s alter egos) telling stories, quite humorously to add at that. But as they began with their first song, Shawn Elliott’s “Shame and Scandal in the Family”, it was beginning to clear up in front of me. C&A, with two guitars on hand and a cajon for rhythm (which later proved to be a great asset for their genre), were mellow and had very specific vibe they wanted to send out. Furthermore, they send out that vibe using a voice you would never expect coming of Chris, one that is raw and rugged, perfectly suitable for the originals they had. Their own songs popped out a pattern Chris & Abe could call their own. Be it the fan favorite “Freedom”, “Joanna” which I really enjoyed, or the song that they haven’t taken the time to name yet, there is a detectable and very interesting alteration in styles. Abe even provides the humor (and yodeling) that suit their music. I particularly loved their mash-up of “No Diggity” and “Colt 45” in which Chris shows off very strong singing abilities. But it’s no one man show. Abe rocks the stage with his singing in “Matilda” to wrap up their segment; Stage Well Rocked.
Their thoughts on the band?
“Right now we’re doing this mainly for fun and you can tell that from originals like Buckweed and the untitled song we played, let’s call it THE SONG, but the song writing is pushing towards releasing an album and starting with a small tour, kinda like Passenger. We’re now slowly growing in pubs in Hamra, and Radio Beirut and a few festivals but for now all we have are salutations from Baboo and Kofi.”
These guys might be acting all goofy on stage, but they’re a force to reckon with in the music scene in Lebanon, and I can personally confirm that their last performance guaranteed them the applause of at least one more fan.
So as the stakes go higher on the stage in the Garten, who was to follow three solid performances?
In a night where each band was showing off originality and personalization, Slowtrain went the other way around. For them, it was all about authenticity. For the first time throughout the evening, masses of people were dancing (though it’s only fair to give credit when credit is due, and alcohol played its fair share in that occurrence). With the immensely adored classics like the Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing” and “Down the Waterline”, Pinkfloyd’s “Echoes” and Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, Slowtrain won over the public. The instruments kept the essence of each song, the vocals were enjoyably pertinent, and their personal touch was not kept hidden. their original “Fairyqueen” blended awesomely with the set mood and got the dome shaking in authentic rock.
As for their next step, drummer Naim made it short and clear:
“Our next step is the HMP The Next Big Thing Competition, we’re hoping to win it and starting from that record our first album.”
After that, it was up for one last band to put the cherry on top and end the bands’ half of the night with a big finish. Instead of a cherry, Karl and Selim planted a whole damn cherry tree in the cake and gave the crowd an ending of kings.
After a progressive build up with covers of Amy Whinehouse’s “Valerie” and Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t”, things went mental. People were jumping up and down, the hype was incredible. All of that started with Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” and after that things got so hot, it all sums up to a massive blur. A Daft Punk mash-up, Jose killed it with a sick saxophone solo, Karl with an equally killer keyboard solo, Raja bringing in a oud for an oriental influenced version of the #1 summer hit “Wake Me Up”, it was all going by too fast. There was even a cover of “I Want To Be Like You” from the Disney classic Jungle Book at some point. Loopstache got their Lebanese fan base (and a handful of Germans) all set for the remainder of the night, fueled on a hype too high to bring down.
As for their message to the people curious about where the band is heading:
“The next step in a realistic plan is at least Europe but we’re aiming to Loopstache the world. Morale is: grow a mustache.”
Entertainment at its finest.
The evening went on to feature DJs Madjam, Ronin & Nesta, Phil and Romax. I would have gladly taken the time to review their parts of the night too, but as previously mentioned, alcohol progressively contributed to the upholding of the night so it pretty much would have been : “flumkh”.
Five bands, five performances, and one hell of a night.
Photos by Carl Halal.