For three years, the Wicker Park Music Festival, with the NGO Lebanon Green Again, has offered a platform for to promote local talent, while working to awaken residents to the importance of respecting the environment.
The two previous editions of WPMF hosted some 15 musical ensembles and drew up to 2,000 people to Batroun. Situated in a 3,000-square-meter open-air field, the venue offers audiences an airy spot to absorb the sounds and, between sets, a magnificent view of the nearby Mediterranean.
For one day only, indie sweethearts The Wanton Bishops, Near Surface, Charlie Rayne, The Incompetents, The DnB Project, Segundo Bloco, Postcards, Jammit the Band and, visiting from Montreal, Wake Island will gather to groove and get down in the beautiful setting.
The Wanton Bishops are among one of the more prominent up-and-coming bands on the Lebanese scene nowadays, having quickly gained local and international attention in the wake of their first record “Sleep with the Lights on.”
The Bishops’ local and international shows have attracted enthusiastic audiences. Comprised of Nader Mansour and Eddy Ghossein, the Bishops’ sound mingles solid delta-blues rhythms with a dynamic rock’n’roll sensibility. It’s a one-of-a-kind musical blend.
Mark Najjar, Cyril Yabroudi, Elie Zarka and Carlos Abboud come together to form Near Surface, a band that shot to local heroism when they opened for hard rock superstars Guns N’ Roses back in March. Like the Wanton Bishops, Near Surface has enjoyed a busy schedule of Beirut-area gigs since they formed in 2011. Perhaps the most high profile of these was their record-launch gig at Momo’s in 2012, for their first album “Crooked Landings.”
The eccentrically named Jammit the Band is also well-known for an intriguing sound, one that combines reggae, ska (the little brother of reggae that blends Caribbean vibes with jazz and pop) and other world music influences. With its African-Jamaican groove, Jammit promises to transport its Batroun audience to an altogether different sonic reality.
One of WPMF’s younger Lebanese ensembles this year is Postcards. Combining Julia Sabra on ukulele, guitar (and accordion) hero Marwan Tohme, percussionist/harmonica-player Pascal Semerdjian and bassist Rany Bechara, this acoustic indie band has been steadily accumulating attention since they were formed in 2010/11.
Those interested in original, innovative and concept-driven music will no doubt enjoy the promised set of the DnB Project. Comprised of Fouad Afra (a rocker at heart, though he’s best known as a session musician with several Beirut-area jazz ensembles), electronics acolyte Liliane Chlela (who is carving a unique niche for herself on the local electronic improv scene) and bassist Bashar Farran, the band generates an original combination of electro-acoustic, improvisation and hardcore tunes.
Segundo Bloco, a 15-member Latin-inflected band – melding Afro-Brazilian rhythms, samba and Carnival music – was founded in 2011 by students of Filhos de Bimba Escola de Capoeira in Lebanon. In the past couple of years they have has any number of gigs around Beirut – and have become a regular fixture at Solidere’s Fete de la Musique – the summer solstice’s yearly festival of light. With Latin American music enjoying so many devotees in this country, the band should have a warm reception.
Charlie Rayne specializes in American folk music. The artist’s name isn’t really “Charlie Rayne,” as he told The Daily Star in a February interview, but he “wanted a name that kind of fitted that kind of music.”
Released a few months ago, the singer-songwriter’s EP “Thirty Sunsets” has proven successful among those who enjoy that sort of thing, and it’s hoped his WPMF show will bring more exposure to his music.
Contrary to what you might be led to expect from their name, The Incompetents are actually a highly skilled ensemble of players.
Comprised of Maya Aghniadis, Paed Conca, Stephane Rives, Fadi Tabbal and Serge Yared, this band embodies the Lebanese spirit of experimental psychedelic rock. Considered as one of Beirut’s musical “UFOs” – as they point out on their official Web page – The Incompetents promise to introduce neophytes to the sound of Tom Waits meets Captain Beefheart.
Last but not the least, WPMF will introduce Batroun to Montreal-born Wake Island. This newcomer on Lebanon’s indie musical scene was born of an interesting blend of Lebanese, Canadian and U.S. musicians.
So far the band has released the EP “Use It as a Weapon // Uncomfortable B-sides” and the LP “It Takes Time to be Uncomfortable.” Wicker Park will mark their first Lebanon performance.
The wide range of (mostly local) musical flavors at this year’s Wicker Park Music Festival affords a perfect opportunity to enjoy Lebanon’s lingering, and carefree, summer.
The 2013 Wicker Park Music Festival will take place in Batroun on Sept. 15. For more information, please visit www.wickerparkfestival.com .