JEDDAH: With international flights still out for the foreseeable future, and borders around the world closed until further notice, two of the things that people miss the most are travel and live music. MDL Beast, the team behind last December’s Soundstorm festival, combined the two in a way that kept people safe but entertained at home.
It launched a virtual concert for “passengers” and DJs acting as “captains” during a free 12-hour music livestream.
“Freqways” took place from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on the eve of World Music Day, June 21, with more than half a million “flyers” tuning in to the event. And, as the videos continued to loop on the site, the numbers continued to climb.
The event featured local and international DJs streaming on three different channels, dubbed “gates” on the stream’s website. Registered streamers received personalized boarding passes allowing them to attend the event, and the website’s FAQ featured suggestions on how to enjoy the event at home in the form of an in-flight instruction card.
The stream marked the return of several artists to the platform, while also introducing the crowd to new ones. Saudi artists featured in the stream included CosmiCat, who streamed her set from a boat out on the Red Sea, Baloo, who streamed his performance from the Ain Village, Vinyl Mode, who streamed from Al Baha, and Spceboi, who performed from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Al-Qarah Mountains in Al-Ahsa.
DJ Steve Aoki, who wowed at the inaugural Soundstorm event, made a triumphant return to MDL Beast with a mix of international favorites and popular Saudi songs.
Other international artists included Afrojack, streaming from Rotterdam, Benny Benassi, streaming from Vernazza, and Claptone, streaming from Berlin.
Fans were elated and bombarded social media with posts.
EDM fan and music enthusiast Ohoud Al-Sadoun, who was enjoying the virtual concert from Riyadh, said the event was an exciting step in the current circumstances.
“I only heard about the MDLBeast Virtual festival on the day when my brother sent me the link,” she told Arab News. “I was so thrilled and immediately signed up and got my ‘boarding pass,’ which I think was an exciting step regarding the current circumstances and reminded me when I actually purchased my own tickets back in December for the actual festival.”
She was in the car on her way back home from work when the Freqways festival started with local artists Kled & Majid performing on a Riyadh rooftop. “I actually passed by that street which was kind of crazy and fun,” she said. “It was a proud moment to see professional Saudi DJs starting such a huge event like this. I’m enjoying the music from my own room and while moving around the house in comfort, this has been a completely unexpected and thrilling event that I enjoyed and probably will remember for a very long time.”
HR manager Lama Aldel-khaleg, 32, watched the concert from her bedroom while she was working.
“It was cool having the music play in the background as I focused on my work,” she told Arab News. “I’d take a break every now and then and move from one gate to the next, kind of like how it is in a real concert but without the long walk, I can move from one area to the next with a simple click.”
She described the experience as fun because it showed her how music could be enjoyed in different ways. “The livestream from different areas in Saudi Arabia really got me wondering and appreciating the little things a bit more,” she said.
The website also addressed the big question of whether or not Soundstorm would be returning to Saudi Arabia this December in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The health and safety of our people is our main concept for all upcoming projects at MDL Beast,” said a statement. “With that, the team is working remotely on multiple projects – including our annual December event – while closely monitoring COVID-19 developments.”
MDL Beast is a global creative platform that seeks to shift the “epicenter” of underground music. It works to showcase local, regional and international talent through events and immersive experiences, online and offline. Its aim is to create space for music, art and culture and to spread these through all aspects of everyday life, starting with Saudi Arabia.