It was the biggest music event in the UAE’s history – but how good was it, really?
As excited as we’ve been for SoundCity over the last few months, we’ve also had grave doubts. It’s a natural reaction for anyone who’s lived here for any length of time.
After all, any Dubai event is subject not only to cancellations by temperamental artists but may also be shut down without notice (remember the partial cancellation of New Year’s Eve 2008?). And with 78 acts playing across seven venues, the scale and complexity of the operation made some kind of problem pretty much inevitable.
So when the cancellations began to trickle through – no Bloc Party, no De La Soul, Dirty Skirts’ visas declined – it wasn’t too much of a surprise. What was a shock was that, aside from them and Saturday headliners Echo & The Bunnymen, the rest of the show went smoothly.
Well, kind of. The schedule went by the wayside, of course, but after a muted beginning – Thursday’s openers (Evergreen and Sho?) found themselves playing to an audience of about three – things started to take off. Our highlights were Doves, who battled a bass-heavy speaker system to deliver their best tunes; Nitin Sawhney, whose nuanced, expansive music translated brilliantly to the live stage; and Super Furry Animals, who clocked in all their hits and handily prompted the audience with ‘APPLAUSE’ and ‘WOAH!’ signs. The was just The Irish Village, of course – the other venues had their own attractions, with gruff folkster Dan Mangan on the Festival Centre stage and party animals Foreign Beggars setting Alpha on fire being our two faves.
There were negatives, too. Happy Mondays looked like they were going through the motions, and The Farm’s first sober performance in their career (or so they said) also seemed to be their worst. And yes, stretching the whole thing out over three days was a bit of a mistake; Thursday was dead at first because – of course – everyone was still in work, and goodness knows what the bands made of the meagre few hundred people that turned up on Saturday. UK and US festivals can get away with going on for days because much of their audience is camping on-site. But here, with cosy beds to return to each night, attrition soon takes its toll. Couple that with extortionate drinks prices (Dhs35 for a coke? No thanks) and a hefty price tag for the three-day ticket, and taking a night off probably seemed like a good idea to many.
The locations, too, were a bit odd; we’d rather have multiple stages in one place than multiple venues across the city, though that is, perhaps, prohibitively expensive.
But it’s hard to fault someone for aiming too high, and the sheer scale and ambition of SoundCity has to be admired. We certainly hope that it comes back next year, with all the kinks ironed out.
Expert comment on how VAT fees coming in 2018 will affect cost of living in Dubai
Watch – Dubai’s self-flying taxis take to the skies
Early footage shows remarkable progress being made already
US laptop ban lifted for Abu Dhabi flights, Dubai soon to follow
Passengers flying to the US can now carry electronic devices on board
Dubai Police remind residents about home security service
Don’t forget they can keep an eye on your home while you’re away
Cami Nov 22, 2009 06:48 pm
I really wanted to go to the event finale in Irish Village because I wanted to see the Wombats.. I was not able to go because the ticket were too damn expensive for me.. It made me feel a lot better seeing the comments.. I hope there will be a next time with a better line up.. I will go for sure if bloc party is in the list..
Piers Nov 19, 2009 01:22 pm
Posted by: Be honest on 10 Nov ' 09 at 08:35
"...you really can't call Doves, Ocean Colour Scene or Super Furry Animals legends. (Maybe De La Soul in the hip hop world and Happy Mondays are certainly legendary - but not these also-rans)"
Maybe not Led Zepplin-legendary but the aforementioned bands, in my eyes, are amazing. And just to see them in Dubai was more amazing.
I find some peoples criticisms of the UK-centric acts somewhat baffling - it's almost as though they bought the tickets without actually checking the line-up...
Phil H Nov 14, 2009 03:18 pm
I thought it was a great first attempt and the review is unfair especially with the organisation and logistics involved. There were some great moments. The Farm, the Doves and The Human League were awesome on the first night. I was a bit dissappointed with The Monday ie Shaun on the second night but the Wombats and Super Furry Animals on the last night were superb. We also saw a load of great bands including The Bicycle Theives, The Courteeners,Wave Machines and Post War Years. Overall an enjoyable few days!
Scot Nov 13, 2009 08:27 pm
James has certainly tried to highlight the positive with his review. Good job James but Dubai Sound City was a major let down. Sorry to say, the bands were totally centered towards the UK audience and even so I managed to get a fair few involved to come and hear the sounds of the UK. I was dissapointed to say the least, with the major band cancellations (Outlandish didn't have a problem performing earlier in Dubai?) and over the top food & drink prices. The least the organisers could have done is to offer some sort of reprive or even simple communication would have gone a long way. Apoorly organised event and what me & my mates want to know is how do we get our money back?
Karien Nov 12, 2009 06:58 am
The event was a shambles! I paid Dh295 just to hear the Parletones, who went on stage about five hours later than advertised with only two band members (because organisers hadn't got the others visas) and they were then only given the chance to sing four songs! Absolute rip-off!