January 24, 2014




in love,





December 5, 2013

Alan's Trio | Our experience at The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing competition is a local band competition organized by Harmony Music Production (HMP) in Lebanon. 2013 was the first installment of the competition, and 25 bands were competing for a grand prize of 1 free full-length album, band promotion, identity development and several hours a week of free practice sessions for 6 months at the HMP studio (https://www.facebook.com/HMPbeirut).

Alan's Trio is a band started by Alan Abi Sleiman (https://www.facebook.com/Alan.as11) and myself (www.last.fm/user/PatrickSaad) out of the need of jamming. As aspiring musicians, we reached the point where we no longer had any interest in cover bands, and we needed more time to figure our spirit to be able to compose our own material. Jamming allows that space to find yourself, musically speaking.

After a year of local gigs at pubs (Mojo, Radio Beirut) and a major festival appearance (AUB Outdoors), we found our permanent drummer who shared our energy and love for various music genres (reggae, rock, blues, metal, experimental). And before you know it, we found ourselves enrolled in the competition like we had nothing to lose. We had an instrumental jam which we got used to play live, Alan took it and transformed it into a listenable radio friendly Blues song with memorable vocal lines and solid rhythm flow. It seemed to be a good start for the band, since it got us through to the semifinals with 11 other bands. Here's how The Tune sounded like as an instrumental a year ago (and here's the actual audition we had for the competition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0g59R4-llA)!

However, we were still taking the competition lightly with little preparation and no clear plan of how to win. We decided to play our original "The Tune" along with two Jimi Hendrix covers "Fire" and "Voodoo Child" at the semifinals. The competition jury gave us positive feedback, but they did warn us not to get stuck in the Jimi Hendrix vibe, and we already were growing out of that style as a band: our pub jams got heavier each time, adding styles like experimental, drum and bass and some uncontrolled hints of Jazz (isn't Jazz free after all?). At this point, we knew that bands who make it to the finals have to play an original song, different from the one played in the semifinals. We waited for the results to come out, figuring that if we make it to the finals, we probably have 1-2 weeks to prepare something.

On a Wednesday night, the results came out and we made it to the finals. The pressure was on because the Finals were 3 days later on Sunday. We couldn't meet up on Thursday but we agreed to meet on Friday night.

Friday | Amchit - 8 PM: we went up to Alan's place and we just sat and discussed the idea of the song we're supposed to play in 2 days. Our drummer was drumming on pillows.

Saturday | Adonis - 11 AM: We met at the drummer's place, setup our gear in his room and kept playing the song, adding bits and pieces, what we felt was right! We decided not to play it safe anymore, we were going to show everyone who we are as a band, what we feel comfortable playing. Alan wasn't singing that day. We agreed on the final instrumental version of the song and left the vocal parts in Alan's hands that day.

Sunday | Amchit - 11:30 AM: I wake up to Alan's phone call around noon, I grab all my gear and head to his place. He shows me the lyrics he wrote for the song and he sings the vocal lines along an iPhone recording of our practice from the day before. I thought the vocal melody was damn good. We modified some parts here and there, we fought and we laughed, all for the sake of the song. We felt we had something brilliant in our hands, something unique that will set up apart from the other bands. Perhaps that's why we were nervous, Alain felt we could win it. I felt we should.

Sunday | Beirut - 5 PM: the soundcheck was delayed, and since our drummer had previously informed us that he could not attend the soundcheck as he was playing a charity gig in the afternoon, I figured we were gonna mess it up because we needed to rehearse the song onstage to make sure everything sounds great. I told the organizers we need to be the last band to do soundcheck, thinking that I might buy some time so that the drummer might make it at 8. That turned out to be the right move, because as the soundcheck dragged on and on, it was suddenly 8:30, our drummer arrived, and we're up on soundcheck. We rehearse 2 minutes of the song, but we were pressured by the organizing team because of the time, people were starting to enter the venue. We stopped.

Sunday | Backstage - 9 PM: I told myself it's either gonna be epic, or it's gonna suck, all depending on the sound. We sat there nervously, we were the last band to play that evening, and as each band went out and played, I thought to myself that we're gonna win this. We knew all the bands, we hung out backstage more than once and we had so much fun, but I thought that they all played it safe in the finals. However solid their songs were, they just didn't impress. You can't be "good" in the finals, you have to outdo yourself and step outside the box.

Sunday | On Stage 10:30 PM: We went out on stage and challenged ourselves with this song, we took the biggest risk of all the bands and it paid out! Most importantly, we enjoyed what we play, we felt and lived it. We took our time to prepare on stage, we wanted everything to be great, no technical issues, no unexpected problems. As the curtains slowly opened up, we announced our arrival, and the rest is history.

Monday | On Stage 12 AM: We won The Next Big Thing that night, and we might just surprise everyone with our debut album. It's definitely gonna be wild.

Here's our performance at the finalshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9r-uLZxXT0

Music as an Infinite Energy Source

The following is a modest English Writing homework I wrote for a friend in 2011.

Tell me what you listen to, and I’ll tell you who you are. Music is found in each and every one of us, in the way we’re attracted to one another, in the manner in which we think and act, in virtue and vice, patience and determination, love and hate; there’s music in everything.

Tribal music came with instinct and an ear that’s sensitive to everyday sounds. Folk music poured out from the poor man’s lifestyle, traditions and beliefs while Classical music was the thinking man interpreting sound on paper, writing rules for perfection through endless practice and a scientific mentality. On the other hand, Jazz bent the rules and represented a need to go beyond the confinement of organized music and into true art, improvisation – freedom. Considered as one of the last true expression of strength in the modern world, Metal music is the corkscrew of the bottled up anger, repression and stress, the harmless aggressiveness and intensity of Man. Simple and straightforward, Punk is chaos with a purpose, rebellious yet knowledgeable, political yet socially oriented. Which music genres draw you will definitely signal the kind of person that attracts you: you’re into Reggae, you like positive individuals, a person who wouldn't get mad over silly things, a person attached to their roots. True in all folk music, a well rooted person who loves his country, follows tradition and respects honor will be appalled by that Jazz fanatic who thinks ‘tradition’ is way too monotone, a product of someone else’s creativity, something that ‘you must follow but you don’t really understand why’. A Progressive Metal fan is easily attracted to smart individuals, to people who want to make their own mark in this world, for those who are willing to create and invent, to lead and innovate, not to follow and recreate. If you’re a World music fan, you like to travel and meet people who speak several languages, those who know their history as well as yours. You’re most certainly drawn to those who play traditional folk instruments and those who’re open minded to other civilizations and their music/traditions/lifestyle. You’re feeling bluesy, you crave the Blues as you grab that whiskey bottle and take shots at the woman who left you. You had a rough day at work, your boss is terrible and you end up doing work which you didn't apply for nor even like; you’ll surely find solace in your aggressive extreme Metal, as you blow some steam and wake up the next day in a tie, with a smile on your face. A girl approaches you, she talks about the universe and shares her vast imagination, and you just know that she’s a Psychedelic Rock fan, she must be, look closely at her eyes … she’s not even there. A guy comes up to you and all he talks about is the daily TV news, you can see that he’s always concerned and bumped by the World’s never-ending issues – this guy needs to lighten up and get into Reggae.

Spare me your name, location, age, job position and degrees, and just tell me what you listen to. I’ll tell you who I am; I’m a music fan, my life strongly based on sound waves smashing into a human’s eardrum, frequencies of everyday sounds and the idea that someday I’ll obtain the experience to create music as fluently as I’m creating this text right now: freedom of expression that goes beyond words and actions, feelings that lay above flesh and bone. There’s a certain amount of class in music, when you know you've listened to something that’s mind boggling, a feeling you’d get after watching a Discovery Channel report on quantum physics. You run into an aboriginal, a man who hasn't seen beyond his own surrounding, and you’re thinking ‘oh boy, is he missing out on something spectacular!’ A feeling of leverage overwhelms you, you need to share this source of pleasure, just to watch his eyes widen up as he listens to this Godly song, this album, this band, this part of the song. 

There’s plenty of music out there: more than 24 hours of music being released worldwide on a daily basis. Is this the infinite energy source which Man’s still looking for? That might just be the case, laid down right on front of our ears.