End of the Road, Heading Home

fullsizerender-3The last shows I can talk about for April were extraordinary.
One was in Lebanon, on which my Black Howl team hopped: the Beirut Madinati fundraising concert. That group was different, fighting for what was right, gave a lot of hope for Lebanese people, inspired change. So you could imagine how honored I was when they called me to get Black Howl on board. I wish I had been in Beirut for that, but this was the first project where I tested my team. Let’s say I was proud all the way from the US.
The second was in NY, and I got to be on board of the production team, with Boschi Events, delivering the We Are Family Foundation‘s gala dinner, honoring U2’s Bono and President Jimmy Carter.

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I also had the chance to gather a few bands for a private dinner. Make sure you check out A Case For Brooklyn.

May was about relaxing, saying goodbye to NC, FL and NY, having a pit stop in London, embracing friends that live around the world…

I was fortunate enough to join Jason to learn how to prepare the gear for a tour. Jason is Two Door Cinema Club‘s current stage and backline manager, and when I’m around, he always has me on board, teaching me a lot of things we don’t have the chance to learn in Lebanon.

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The last night to my long trip was more than perfect: a friend I met on Byblos, another roadie, called up and told me he had an extra ticket to Radiohead’s sold out show and the after party. So I tagged along Robbie Williams’ and Muse’s roadies and went to see one of the best concerts I’ve seen. Maybe Radiohead being my favorite band had a lot to play in that.

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The summer in Lebanon was near, and that meant tackling our festive seasons with the numerous concerts coming up and being fully active again.

The first 4 months of 2016 were about travel, but it also was about therapy, getting lost in order to find myself, discover and learn new things. As I was settling back in Beirut, I noticed I didn’t like sticking to my old routine of going out to the same places every day and night. Beirut could have that toll on you, as it’s small and you all know the same people, who eventually hang out in the same places. Waiting for big work to kick in, I tried to embrace daylight rather than nightlife, I met new people, I put a stop to daily bars and dinners… I visited places in Lebanon I hadn’t been to in a long time, I camped more, giving nature the time I always thought it deserved. More importantly, I crossed off a bucket list point, and a fear I wanted to get over: Climbing.

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And as I can never stay away from work, I had been preparing a concert in Lebanon with my team, while I was abroad: Adonis at the Beirut Spring Festival. It was sort of relaxing to have a team I could count on, and just land in and see them set up and get things done to deliver a good show.

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A Road Semester

IMG_2705 (1)IMG_2842Lebanon is a small cozy beautiful country. It’s also very corrupt and chaotic unfortunately.

So I packed a bag and booked a ticket for about a month, to go help out at Zuhair Murad’s Paris Fashion Show in January, pass by London a bit to see friends, and end up in NY for two weeks.

It’s now been three months that I left my small room (and my guitar, mind you), and I changed my ticket back about two times maybe. I’ve also not been staying put in the same place for more than 10 days. My friends have been more than helpful and welcoming, as some of you know, Lebanese people are known for their hospitality, refusing I’d take a place of my own.

I’m waiting for my flight out to North Carolina to visit my cousin. And I thought I hadn’t written here in a while and my freelance illustrations can wait a good 20 min, while I give this an update, just to not forget the beginning of my 2016.

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I’ve learned a bit more about lights in NY at le Poisson Rouge, allowing me to know what the next step would be on this particular road. I’ve been learning about music production too, giving me more insight on what I use in my daily work on stage, whether it’s about mics and cables or amplitude and frequency (and all those fancy technical words). I’ve been also working on my graphic skills, landing some clients here in NY, remembering my student years with branding and layouts…

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IMG_4930Thanks to Amy from the alt-J crew, I was able to join Boschi events as a production assistant and work on Three Dot Dash’s Just Peace Summit, a wonderful initiative by Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Foundation. They basically round up 30 teenagers from around the world who have initiated projects that help bring peace to their communities.
We’ve also launched the Black Howl website. Black Howl is a community of freelancers, whose goal is to round up our clients under the same hub and keep the freelancers free. Make sure to check it out, and if you’d be so kind to show your support on all our social media platforms.

 

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It hasn’t been all work and no play though. We’ve seen Coeur de Pirate, and she’s even more mesmerizing live than on her records. My good friend Jason, and Jack even got me backstage at the Foals and Cage the Elephant concert in Rochester in March. It’s been so long since I’ve seen great rock, and a crowd that is that crazy. I’ve passed by Miami, saw the amazing Wynwood walls. If you ever go to that side of the world, make sure you try the alligator bites at Kush, and go to Space on saturday nights.

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2015 going on 2016

My absence on here has been long, and I’ll try not to forget anything that happened during these past two months.

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After we launched our company Black Howl, we focused on 4 a Cause again and threw that Smile 4 a Cause party to help out Global Smile Foundation. Our friends and other new friends showed up to that cool party, the music made sure of it anyways, and Romax, MAK and Padawan made them dance all night!

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We even launched our website before the end of the 2015 year. It was the first website I designed and I think it holds everything we do as a team and an organization. Make sure to check it out here.

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As those charitable work came to an end, I had been cooking a small plan to learn more about live production and live sound. That small plan worked and I got to join alt-J on their last leg of the tour. I wish I had planned sooner and got more time with them, but touring the UK with them has been a practical lesson and an eye-opener to my work.

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AWGComing back to Beirut, I had to check on a project I delegated to my team; Aziza‘s show. This was a very pleasant surprise, on both sides: discovering a new local talent and knowing that my team pulled it off while I was in a different country.
We also teamed up with Jim Beam for Brit Floyd’s show in Biel. That show has been coming to Beirut every year, and selling out every year. Some locals complain that they want new names and that recurrence is ridiculous… but, let’s face it. If it works for a promoter every year, why not? I can personally say, the lights on that show are breath taking.

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IMG_1833We finished up the month with helping around a TV show production for New Year’s. It was two hectic tiring days. Let’s say I still prefer the live music production over a TV production, but it was good checking out how other genres or teams work.

As I handed an illustration job that I can’t unfortunately show you, my focus shifts to more personal goals and some free time. I can’t reveal much, other that I’ve been talking about this personal project on the blog for more than a year, and I’m getting tired of it being just talk, but I think once it’s out, the satisfaction of crossing that finish line will be fulfilling.

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We Howled

12191244_10153700606524441_3270678984639402925_o12184115_10153711101029441_1532758742879931641_oOctober and November mainly focused on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the original Broadway musical show.

I couldn’t unfortunately take a single picture of Disney’s Magic, but here are some I could show you.

I could have never imagined dealing with so many problems on a daily basis. At the same time, it makes me so proud of having a team of people working as hard as myself.
We met some great people on this project: the difference between working a concert and a musical is the amount of time you spend with the same team. We’ve hung out and worked with this group for 3 weeks, give or take.

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In addition to that, I launched my company (at last) at the end of the show: make sure you visit Black Howl.

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It’s a hub of freelancers, mainly working in the creative and production departments.

Another good news about these 2 months I could share today is my certificate of Music Business, passed after taking online courses with Berklee.

As for 4 a Cause, we party this Friday for Global Smile Foundation at Behind the Green Door. You can donate to this cleft lip palate cause through ihjoz.

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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.

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.