The main event on our trip presents another stunning space: a huge hangar of raw and pockmarked concrete, modernised only by a few screens and lighting fixtures brought in specifically for the show. It’s the perfect setting for international headliner Miss Kittin to unleash a torrent of ear-battering techno and eclectic electronics, like I-F’s twisted ‘I DO Because I Couldn’t Care Less’ and Truncate’s remix of her own ‘1993 EACID’. “I always wanted to go,” Kittin tells us afterwards, “mainly because the impact of culture and subculture in places with such a chaotic background is major, it gives a bigger sense to what we are doing, and makes us grow in return. I strongly felt that depth when I first came, I was eager to know more, and as always, I was touched by the energy of its people, who value life and live intensely. You can only learn from that.”
So if not lacking in places to party, what are the challenges the Beirut club scene faces? Jad Taleb, another local DJ, who also focuses on sound design, believes diversity and openness are the key sticking points at the moment, both musically and socially.
“In some cases, [the scene] lacks uniqueness and diversity in the programming, but it shouldn’t be an issue, knowing that a couple of emerging promoters are bringing new ideas and figures to the scene,” he says. “We should also work on improving the social values in some places, as well as the sexual openness, in order for us to ultimately create a safer atmosphere, and magical nightlife spaces for clubbers to lose themselves in.”
He continues: “The scene is reaching its peak at the moment, and it’s growing insanely, now that progressive clubbing is taking over a big part of the nightlife sector, and the consumer’s demand is increasing… so the future is promising.”
3LIAS, meanwhile, is more wary of the increasing popularity of clubbing in the Middle East. “Dubai fucked us with the prices, so you get a DJ for 50k who is not worth 50k, but just because it’s [the] same region, they think Lebanon is the same. It’s not,” he says. “Everybody is bidding, but at some point, are you making money? So it’s gonna crash.”
He’s positive overall, however, naming a long list of local acts to look out for, including Nesta (who runs the Fantôme de Nuit label), The Grand Factory promoter Jade, and Rolbac, a young producer who’s released on Einmusika and is helping others in the area to learn the craft.
And what of the war in Syria, and the unrest across the region? 3LIAS is unphased. “We had 40 years of war, and we still partied, still had clubs doing whatever the fuck they want,” he retorts. “Now, all around Lebanon, it’s war, and still no one gives a fuck. In 2006, when we were bombed by Israeli airplanes, I used to play 17 hours in a club, 500 people in the club never gave a fuck. Beirut was bombed constantly, constantly! And we got used to it.”
Jad has a similar take, explaining how Beirut’s turbulent past and “post-war deliverance” has and will be “a key element in shaping the current and future situation”.
“We’re not gonna wait. We’re gonna do, and enjoy meanwhile,” says 3LIAS. “I lived through the civil war; for 10 years I heard people screaming in the streets, snipers killing people, bombs dropping — three on my apartment, three! You would never really imagine it because you have to live it, but for me, it’s like there are other things that are way worse than just getting bombed, like losing someone from your family, or someone getting sick that’s close.
“So for us, it doesn’t matter. We are still doing what we like to do, and as long as we keep doing it, it’s OK, I’m happy. I don’t want anything more, just to be able to throw a party, provide people with satisfaction and that’s it.”