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.

Later May Posting

IMG_3322Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 10.43.17 AMAfter Mashrou’ Leila’s April tour and Sound of Music, we ended April with a DJ gig with Poliakov.
I’m not particulary a fan of DJs and electronic music, but James Zabiela was a bit different I guess. He creates everything on the spot, and seeing him play was like watching a kid plays with his legos and games. His energy was superb, and he was adorable with the public, taking the time to go around and take pictures with almost everyone.
Working as a freelancer in Beirut, you get a little time off from time to time. May was pleasant and slow, after a rush of two months, with gigs back to back and so little sleep. Took part in a charity event, a rallye paper with my former university ALBA, followed up on my music lessons before going back to small work.
May started with an event done in memory of Melanie, a young “sister” we all lost in February. She was an outstanding athlete and music was a big part of her life, so her friends put together a rugby tournament in her name and ended it with a concert with Loopstache, Adonis and the Coolcumbers, who in my opinion aren’t known enough. Melow, you were missed.

The road called again at the end of May, and I joined Mashrou’ Leila on a small tour again: Montpelier was quiet and cozy; the concert at Festival Arabesques was not as quiet though. We then boarded for the World Village Festival in Helsinki, Finland. We were surprised by how calm the city and the people were there. The biggest surprise was watching the crowd gather from all over the festival area and reaching around 10,000 people dancing to Leila’s tunes, pulling out their umbrellas and jumping under the rain to the same rhythm as Hamed. We sold out the CDs there. Helsinki was an awesome surprise!

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Paris was kind of like a pit stop in that small tour. We all know this city well and have family and friends all around, it didn’t seem like a hassle. The Institut des Cultures Islam is a small venue, it sold out fast to 180 people. The concert felt like a private jam session with friends. The tour ended with Bern in Switzerland, playing at Bee-flat Turnhalle. We didn’t have much time there, but we made an effort to finish soundcheck fast and walk around. I personally liked it. Clean and tidy city with an awesome view after the town’s square.

IMG_4360The concert was pretty fun there, especially after we were treated to an awesome dinner backstage with the crew, and a race between Firas and Bob to see who would hit Snapchat first. I was reminded of my mom asking me what facebook was when I had to explain to the guys what Snaps were and how it worked.
Between the gigs, hotels, quick meals on trains and planes, Firas and Carl playing on my Trivia Crack, I value the time I spend with these guys and having this job that allows to see much more than you expect.
Went back to Beirut, leaving the band to record their fourth album, which by the way, will blow your mind.

Oh, and my brother graduated from Med School.

“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.

 

“February Made Me Shiver” – Part 1

I have been sitting for at least 30 min at Kissproof playing with a puppy instead of getting myself to write this post, since I don’t even know how to begin anymore, having been absent for at least three months.

So maybe I start gradually.

February fell hard on all of us, with the loss of a close friend/sister/little apprentice/champion. And I don’t know if it was that or other painful experiences that gave me the drive to distract my mind with work, but I guess it has been working well for most of the time.
Little one, I was sitting with your godmother at your house. We had a song together a few years back. Don McLean’s American Pie. She was in Dubai when you left us, and she sent me the song. But on that night, two weeks later, in your house, she said to me: Look at the lyrics. “February made me shiver”.
That simple coincidence pinched our heart and made us smile at the same time.

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A colleague of mine got me in a production team for a future show called RKOD produced by Iron Heyoka. I got to taste the difference between what you can call film production and show production. It’s safe to say I prefer concerts and music. The rush is just bigger.
Not to be unfair or mean, the work was interesting, the team was fun to work with but… there’s just that running-around-not-sitting-still-for-even-a-second that you don’t get in concerts that I’m just addicted to.
However, brace yourselves for RKOD which will be out when the time is right.

rtrippingThe reason why I had to work on RKOD was for me to understand how a TV show works, since the surprise I have been teasing about on this blog is another TV show I have been dying to reveal. But in order to deliver a good product, good work should be done in the right time.

However the picture can maybe make you guess a bit, since I document most of what I do for this blog. So, that was another project I worked on for the past three months in collaboration with Iron Heyoka.
This one is also going to honor you Melow.

IMG_1689Speaking of Melow, February made us shiver, but also woke us up in many ways. Melanie was a volunteer at 4 a Cause in its early beginning. Her sister and some of her friends joined the team recently, and the old ones all agreed that our next project will go to fund a charity organization her family is trying to open in her name. She believed in helping the less fortunate, she worked with charities organizations and always fought for what was right. We don’t have more information on what is coming up next, but we thought we could star
t by raising funds for the upcoming project, which we trust will reflect the same guidelines we go by. She went by the same.

10995704_929496773757156_3705217952851407934_oSo we threw a party at Behind the Green Door, and we marked our t-shirts with her name on it.

I taught Melanie back in scouts, that in the indian tribes, the right arm was believed to be the strong arm because it was located on the heart’s side.
So we put her name on the right sleeve.

Another good news related to 4 a Cause is Sara Khatib’s dream coming true.
Sara Khatib was an inspirational young woman who left us too early last summer. 4 a Cause threw a concert in her name if you remember Music 4 Sara. You can actually check out a quick sum up of the event on this video produced by Hadrien Bechara.
One of her goals was to open a support group for amputees in Lebanon, since she couldn’t find one herself.
With our help and yours, the funds raised during that concert went straight to her family who worked hard on opening: Look Forward, Sara Khatib’s cancer and amputee association for the youth. Make sure to check it out, and like the page to support this incredible initiative.

On another production side, I have been hired to take over a job I can’t find a right title to with Buzz Productions, for the Byblos International Festival.
I was usually outsourced on this festival as a freelance production assistant these past two years.
This summer, I’ll be working with the routings, schedules and the care of the artists and their teams.
Buzz Productions already announced their first two acts: John Legend and The Script.
The rest of the line up will be revealed soon.

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This post has been going for too long now, and I should cut it in half, in order not to bore the life out of you.
The other half will be following this upcoming week.