An EYE opening experience: Dubai rock band opens for Metallica in Abu Dhabi
The encore was over. Metallica had just wrapped up their final track, Seek & Destroy, at their Abu Dhabi gig on that historic Tuesday night of October 25, 2011, but the metal army of the region was in no mood to leave the arena yet. Many had come from as far away as Jordan, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt.
As James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo stood on the edge of the stage bowing, waving goodbyes, throwing guitar plectrums and drums sticks to the roaring sea of metal-drenched fans, one thing was clear: it was the biggest rock act the Middle East had witnessed.
The crowd chanted for some more, but their wish remained unfulfilled even as Lars promised Metallica will back in the region soon. Then fans reluctantly began filing out of the venue and among them were members of Empty Yard Experiment (EYE) -- a Dubai-based rock band. Imagine their joy when barely 16 months later they were picked to open for Metallica's second gig in Abu Dhabi - at the same venue.
Here the band tells XPRESS about their excitement ahead of the concert, their music and as well the local rock scene:
How did you land the opening slot for Metallica?
Our friends from Red Bull, who have now fully put their weight behind regional talent put us forward and applied for the slot on our behalf. Then we got the call a couple of weeks ago and were told we were selected. The rest, as they say, is history.
Did you see Metallica at their first Abu Dhabi gig?
Absolutely. It was one of the most memorable shows we've ever seen in the Middle East. They treated the fans with a set list that was nothing short of classic.
What was your first reaction when you learnt you were opening for them?
Disbelief, followed by euphoria laced with profanities, followed by more profanities as an expression of joy, of course.
How are you guys preparing for the show?
We've been practising every day of the week after work and all through the weekend. We are doing a six-song 45-minute set.
How would you describe your music in terms of genre and style? What's the stuff you mostly write about?
Our music is basically our own interpretation of our surroundings, experiences and ideas about human existence. True to our cultural roots and influences, the matters addressed in our songs are very much inspired by the history, current affairs and politics in the Middle East, intertwined with a visual approach to experiencing this form of expression. That's why each of our performances features projected visuals. Each of the songs we compose is basically a delicate combination of styles - from post-rock to progressive metal, and touches of general alternative rock.
How well was your debut album  received?
We did pretty well. We track the album's online sales, and while we're obviously not making millions, it's refreshing and encouraging to see that there are people in North America in Europe buying and listening to it.
What's the latest on your second album?
We have already performed some of our new songs live throughout the past two years. Since the release of our debut album though, the songwriting process has been a lot more collaborative, and we've most definitely advanced in the process of cementing our own sound. You can hear that in our new single, â€˜GHHRâ€™, which was our way of reconnecting with the fans of our music ahead of the release of the second LP. We're scheduled to hit the studio shortly after the Metallica show.
Describe the current local rock music scene? Are you happy with it?
The development of the local scene has been very exciting in the past couple of years, and we feel fortunate to be an integral cog in the process. Unfortunately, the overall level of support and resources for local musicians is still unsatisfactory. We have been privileged in being able to establish a relationship with Red Bull, who are committed to backing regional artistic talent. Other local artists are not so fortunate, though, and struggle to produce their own material and gain exposure because of the many constraints they face, both financial and otherwise.
Do you think there's enough audience support for homegrown talent? Can a local gig ever fill up a 5,000-people venue?
Sadly, no. If local rock bands want to make anything of themselves, they have to break out beyond the borders of both the UAE and the Middle East and work on getting international exposure. It's as simple as that. There are only a couple of good venues around town that provide bands with decent equipment to perform with - and they have been doing their best to support local bands - but this is far from enough to sustain a healthy and blossoming scene.
EYE Opener for Metallica
When: April 19
Where: du Arena, Yas Island
By Sarat Singh, Chief Sub Editor