Charity, Wicker And Cheers

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This month started off with a charity event, Foot 4 a Cause: it was mainly the first time I stepped out and let the 4 a Cause volunteers choose the cause, come up with the event, contact the suppliers and make it happen. Of course, I had to tweak and push a few things, but the result was fine. I felt proud seeing that young team finally taking matters in their own hands and make things happen. I wish more people showed up and supported to their first independent event, but there’s always next time.

At the same time, I also took a job in a bar I love: Kissproof. I can’t stand being at home between projects, as a freelancer you sometimes get off seasons. And sitting at home doing nothing wasn’t an option. The team there is wonderful and different from any other team I’ve met or worked with in Nightlife. There’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes, that give you a rush I look for on the ground in events.

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IMG_8187Mid-September got me busy with Wickerpark. I first went to this festival about 5 years ago for their first edition, and I fell in love. This year, I got closer to the family behind it, and I fell deeper. They asked me to come and help, and so I did, along many other volunteers. I can safely say it was one of the most, if not the most, enjoyable projects I’ve ever worked on.

On another hand, we’ve continued the advance on Beauty and the Beast, and this will be grand: a Disney broadway production coming to Beirut for the first time. It also will be the first project that is officially under Black Howl’s name. Black Howl being the company I recently opened to gather all projects under a same portfolio.

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August Breathers

IMG_6827 (1)IMG_6816August kicked in with two concerts working in parallel. It allowed me to test my team, without me being on ground or even available to solve or help around:
Luana (my right hand) and the “minions” took care of Hiba Tawaji’s rehearsals and concert at Byblos International Festival, while I was working in Beirut with Mashrou’ Leila for this gig at Beirut Holidays in Biel.
I also got to initiate a friend in production on the Beirut concert. The result on both concerts was satisfying on our side, even though we hit a few bumps with the teams we’ve worked with.

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Most of the festival team was waiting for the final band to arrive, as they were all big fans.

IMG_7211 (1) IMG_7251I was highly grateful to discover that this amazing band was humble and down to earth, and so respectful and nice to the people working around and with them: Alt-J.
Some were disappointed by the live performance and their presence on stage, but I don’t know what people expect in the indie rock scene. The lights were stunning, the drummer’s performance was breath taking, and the whole band’s live music was really nice!
Sitting down before and after the show and talking about music, art and life with the band and the crew was a great finale to this August month.
I was really glad the team got to enjoy that, it was a small reward to all our interns and young stagehands after 2 months of hard work.
Plus, I got to introduce Melow to Joe, while talking about lyrics and pain and dealing with the pain this past year.

IMG_6971This month gave a bit more breathers than the last, and I got to witness a big bro, Rabih Salloum, getting married to the wonderful Sarah Hermez.
It was heartwarming and so unique, especially when everyone respected the “sneakers” dress code and grandmas showed up in dresses and adidas.

At the same time, I’m really proud to say that Diane, a young 4 a Cause volunteer, is managing our next event, which is a bit different from the rest, and supporting an awesome cause about cardiac arrest with young athletes: Foot 4 a Cause, supporting Remy Rebeiz Young Heart Foundation.
If you’re in Beirut and play soccer, join us on September 6th and support the cause.

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On a small note, I started working at a bar, just for the fun of it, and to have a bit more on my hands when I get breathers. Because in the end, we’re not young to have breathers.

Lebanon’s Festivals, Sunny July

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July started out with Liban Jazz’s gig for Bombino. I had to work in the Music Hall Waterfront for the first time, which is maybe the most beautiful venue I’ve seen in a long time. This was also a test for me on Liban Jazz, as it is usually run by one person. The band was nice and fun to be with, and the music was different from what I usually work with. All in all, it was a good show.

IMG_6606IMG_6486 As the festival got closer, I met up more and more at the Buzz Productions’ office: this year, my job was different on Byblos International Festival. I had to take care of operations rather than production. Wether it was transportation schedules, routing for bands, airport paperwork or even the streets’ marketing spread.
Although, I deployed my young production team at Byblos, under a different production manager’s name, at the last minute. So, I’m working even more backstage on backstage preparations. This is a test to what I can handle on a bigger plate, as it is the biggest project I have ever worked on these past three years. It’s also about me testing a young team of production assistant, site manager, runners, stagehands and interns, that I have no doubt will prevail to what is expected of them.

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We greeted and produced various artists this July:
John Legend and his extraordinary team of musicians and technicians,
The Script’s mind blowing show and charisma, they knew how to make a crowd road,
Rodrigo Y Gabriela which were one my greatest discoveries this year, but who also discovered our local Safar band, and falling in love with Mayssa’s beautiful voice, calling her up on stage to join (sadly, she wasn’t present at the concert),
Gregory Porter who were just so funny to meet and work with, apart from having this huge amazing voice,
Mireille Mathieu who still kicks it at this age, and who went back for a second encore to a loud crowd, in her night gown and barefoot,
Hiba Tawaji and the Rahbani brothers, who enchanted as a local pride,
And Sacré Profane which was an interesting challenge for us to set up in a small church and garden for an opera show.

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IMG_6310Right in the middle of Byblos’ Festival, we also had to work on Jim Beam’s Rock Festival. There was a stressful challenge for me to pull on this one with my team, because of last year’s problems: the schedule had to be respected with the local line up for the international band to play right on schedule and for the public to enjoy as many bands as they could. Although I am proud to be Lebanese, we all know most of us are always late, never respect timings and have a tendency to take details lightly in this industry. We had 7 bands on stage, and I am very proud to say that the first band delayed us by 10 min, which we made up for in 5 min changeovers, and were even early to greet Meen on stage. In the end, Glenn Hughes was on stage right on time, and rocked the hell out of it!

Another festival I got to work on, even if for a very brief and small touch, was Jounieh’s: a friend and artist, Poly, asked me to help her out at her opening for Jessie J’s concert. The cool thing about this, was discovering that her performance is not only musical, but also visual and very detail oriented. Keep an eye out for her, her videos are amazing to watch blasted behind her while she sings.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.19.24 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.52.06 PMOn another side of my motors, I got to work on design and illustration projects:
I helped out a friend with a Volvo pitch for the launching of a new car. Drawing boats and cars was a small change from what I did for the past months.
Added to that, one of my old girl scouts, who happens to be a chief now is taking her whole unit to camp in England. She called me up, asking for a logo for the voyage. The result is maybe one of the coolest logos I ever did, and had to finish in one day.

“February Made Me Shiver” – Part 2

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 5.10.14 PMApart from all the production I had going on since February, which you can read about in part 1, I worked on some illustration again.
It was nice to take some projects that weren’t that corporate and where I could draw the way I liked something the clients would also appreciate.

Nineteen 84 called up, and we worked together on an illustration for a new Cadillac model they were bringing in.
I had to do it in a day or so, and draw the car as a quick model sketch.

On another hand, I was asked by a friend to draw something about a book she’s been writing which is very personal.
I won’t reveal the meaning behind it all, but I can say it’s about struggle.
This illustration only took 30 minutes to do, but I had to sit down in front of the paper for at least an hour or two before knowing how I’ll throw the ink on the canvas to do justice to what she asked of me. I wanted to do justice to the emotions she had for this.

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I also worked after that on something a bit less artistic, although it is a challenge in itself to find the right minimal images to suit big corporate business ideas: Visualizing.
I have been introduced to this technique by Carl from Coach Inc. Carl is a group coach and a consultant, who asks me to illustrate his meetings and corporate focus groups.
I unfortunately have nothing to show you on this one as the projects are confidential to respect the clients’ privacy, but on the next one, I’ll make sure to take a few snaps.

CAiro MLAnd one of my favorite jobs is touring with Mashrou’ Leila.
We went to Cairo again to play in the music tent.
This time was a bit different, as it was my second time in Cairo with them: I noticed some things about the egyptians I didn’t realize before: Cairo people, you know every word to every song, even the “3 minutes” that was released one week before the concert! You even sang louder than Hamed.
And egyptian teenage girls, I can’t even get over the fact of how high over a fence you can jump!

Dubai came next. The good thing about Dubai was reconnecting with friends. I got to see Rob from Delta Sound, crazy Isha, my lovely Sherine and many others. We got to meet some pretty cool ones too, including Steph, who took care of us royally!

The nice thing about having friends in a country where you tour, is that they make it feel like a vacation. Between the parties, the big group lunches, and the fact that we were walking around as a big pack, Dubai was amazing with the band.
To be a bit more serious and stick to the work: We opened the Dubai Design District, with John Newman in the line up too. The stage was huge, the sound was wicked, the VJs did an amazing job on the screens, I even saw Hamed turning around at some points to just watch the visuals flying behind him. But the most fun part of it all was the soundcheck in the sandstorm.

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The tricky thing about these 2 weeks with Leila was prepping for Beirut at the beginning of the week, flying to Dubai, then getting back to play in our home country, where things weren’t as ready as we had hoped and prayed for.
But in the end, the concert and the crowd’s energy was wonderful! The animations on the 360 degrees’ venue was something very trippy to experience to the sounds of Leila.
There’s also the factor of watching the band’s vibe before and after the concert when they play in the town they started in.

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Right after rocking it out with the band, partying after these awesome two weeks, I had to jump in directly with 4 hours of sleep to join my team at Sound of Music.
It was the first project I was doing with Clapping Hands and 2U2C, and the first theater/musical show I was producing.
Sound of Music made me realize the difference between a concert production and a theater one.
I always said it’s cool to have people from abroad who are always on the road, doing the same job as you, come in for a couple of days when you’re working on a concert, teach you a few tricks, have a couple of drinks, bond for a day or two and then leave. People you’ll never see again.
However, the first days of April were something different. You get to work with the same people, the same production team for about 10 days. Even more on other projects.

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So cheers to Guy who taught me a lot. To manage a team that big with changes and urges that occur every minute… I gotta hand it to him, he has the patience of a saint.
And to Steve who turned out to be a big brother, one of those decent ones. To Jamie “Thor”, my stage left partner. That left that was always more fun. To the rest of the crew and cast who were funny as hell wherever. And as much as I enjoyed working with this funny english team, I am extremely proud of the team I brought in for this gig. Especially that the previous team bailed out, and I had to get people at the last minute.
Luana, you were a rock. Ranwa and Maggie, I have never had funnier bosses. Chiara, Alex, Souheil, Lary and Gerard, I gotta hand it to you, if it weren’t for the calm ones in the team, this would’ve been crazy over the top!

So this was February, March and a bit of April.
Right before another tour with Mashrou’ Leila.

 

Byblos v. 2.0 – Finalization

Beirut was a great band to end the festival with. The music suited a goodbye, the crew was easy and fun to work with. The band was nice to meet.

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As I dropped Zach back to the hotel, fatigue kicked out of my body and the final adrenaline rush went buzzing in my system. We packed up the office, de-rigged the whole stage, sent the team home and said goodbye to the historical ruins that hosted us this year again for the music. This second year was better for me at the festival than the previous. It taught me a lot more, due to unexpected circumstances and problems, and opened a whole lot of opportunities for me. It was also a therapy against the mishaps of Rubik, which proved to be a very unpleasant experience.

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Family duties called too at the same time, as we have gone through a terrible loss.
But it’s at these times that we realize what it means to have a family we always took for granted. A vacation together was in plans. So, we’re heading for Naxos!

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Final Gigs at Byblos

Hadn’t had the time to get on here and post a few updates, so you’ll be getting pictures and notes about 4 concerts at once and the prep for the last one!

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Stromae was off the hook. One of the greatest performances I’ve seen. It wasn’t just about the music; visuals, animations, costumes, stage presence… everything. The crew and band were even easy and down to earth. We grabbed a few drinks afterwards. Some people keep a warm heart even with a big rise to the top.

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The day after, an old cute guy was walking around the site in the morning: Mulatu. Very happy and modest man. Grabbing me by the arm while I was working, asking me random questions like we’ve known each other for a long time.
Had a great work time with Ibrahim Maalouf’s production manager too. The change-over was a bit complicated but I pulled it off with the team. Ibrahim gave one hell of a show!

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Guy Manoukian’s concert was the last one we just finished. A bit more work on that, having 38 musicians on stage and 5 risers. This band even had two days of rehearsal prior to the concert. So we had longer time to work on the production for that. A special wink to Mehdi who  insisted on having a picture on the blog: Hands off that expensive piano dude!

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Last but not least: Beirut.
Started loading in the backline and risers about two days ago. We also had Postcards, our local opening band for that concert, sound checking yesterday. You will be surprised with some new songs tonight. Always loved that band, they helped out a year ago with a 4 a Cause charity concert.

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From the Netherlands to Belgium

epica 2epica 3During Byblos International Festival, you see a lot of crews and people from different styles and different countries come in. You meet them, work with them and sometimes take a few drinks at the end (when you’re not passed out after work).
What I’ve realized is that all these people are nice. Whether they’re screaming death and scary lyrics into the mic, or just cursing at the public. The act differs but the heart is always there.
Epica’s band and crew were heart-warming people.

 

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I was actually pleasantly suprised at the music the guitarist Isaac was playing during soundcheck and rehearsal: sweet soft beautiful acoustic tunes…
And then, four hours later he was screaming in the mic and banging his head hard with the crowd.

Two days later we’re prepping for Stromae’s concert.
It has just sold out. The show will be huge, but also very hard for us. We have to make sure security measures are studied and respected.

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And the small whisper at the end: illustration surprise coming up. I’m keeping my word to myself.

 

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