RIYADH: Fans flocked to the Saudi capital on Thursday for 10 hours of non-stop electronic music from some of the best musicians and DJs in the world, as the three-day MDL Beast music festival kicked off.
The event is taking place at a massive outdoor venue in Banban, Riyadh, that features five stages, each with a unique design reflecting the type of music and performers it is hosting.
The Saudi Beast stage, which showcases local talent, is decorated with arches that reflect traditional Saudi architecture. UG Beast 1 and 2, which are hosting underground DJs, suggest a funky, cyberpunk environment created from metal shipping containers that have been repainted and artfully arranged.
— Arab News (@arabnews) December 19, 2019
Down Beast, which features local and international artists, radiates a chilled vibe and has a massive sculpture of a tree at its center. Last but not least, the aptly-named Big Beast is a huge stage in a space that can accommodate an audience of up to 45,000. The festival grounds also include an arts zone, a world-class culinary section and a retail area.
Some of the biggest names in electronic dance music will perform in Saudi Arabia this weekend — including David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki and R3hab — alongside many well-known Saudi and regional artists. Egyptian singer Mohammed Hamaki and Saudi performer Rabeh Saqur in particular drew massive crowds on the opening day of the festival.
“Nothing on this scale has ever been done before,” said Naif Alanizi, who had traveled from Alkharj to attend the festival. “Every time you think they can’t do anything bigger or better, they do.”
General Entertainment Authority Chairman Turki Alalshikh had launched a social-media campaign that encouraged festivalgoers to wear a bandana, and fans certainly seemed to have got the message. They adorned heads and wrists throughout the festival, and local vendors were selling them at the entry gates for those who arrived without one.
Lina Al-Dawsari, who wore bandanas on her head and each wrist, said she loved the idea that the festival had a unique symbol to represent it.
“Even if it might not be the coolest thing around, I think having MDL Beast make a thing of it kind of made it cool, in a way,” she said.
Local and international restaurants set up stalls near the center of the site for those looking for a quick bite. For those in need of more fulfilling fare to boost flagging energy reserves, there are also three full-service restaurants where fans could have a seat and grab a bite between shows.
In the retail section there were two official MDL Beast merchandise shops, as well as booths where local shops were selling their wares. Fans could pick up t-shirts, mugs, bags and, of course, branded bandanas.
The arts zone included a circus show, a “light parade” featuring performers wearing illuminated costumes, an inflatable labyrinth, and shows by aerial contortionists.
One of the most popular attractions, given chilly weather that fell as low as 4 degrees Celsius during the night, was a fire garden where visitors could huddle around fantastic metal sculptures that were lit with flames from the inside, creating a toasty haven from the bitter cold.
After just one day, and with two more to come, MDL Beast is already shaping up to be all that the name had promised: a beast of a festival. During the evening’s entertainment, Alalshikh took to Twitter to announce that 92,000 people were inside the venue, with another 42,000 queuing outside to get in.
“This is by far the coolest thing that has ever happened in Saudi Arabia, ever,” said festivalgoer Nujood Almohsen. “I honestly can’t believe this isn’t a dream.”