Beirut music venue DRM has been known to host evenings of jazz, Latin, and Oriental music, but on June 28 it played host to something a little less, well, refined. Beirut Scum Society and The Passive Standouts, two acts from one of Lebanon’s scarcer underground music scenes, the punk scene, took over DRM for a night of heavy riffs and fast-paced rhythms.
Though Lebanon’s punk scene is a small one, various acts have been and are currently active within it. Prominent figures include: Benzene, the self-proclaimed first Lebanese punk band, which took a hiatus around 2006 only to get back together two years later under a new name, Detox. There’s also Scrambled Eggs, a staple band from the local scene that leans more towards post-punk and experimental sounds. Pop-punk outfit Lazzy Lung is making a name for itself on the regional map after having won Rolling Stone Middle East’s Battle of the Bands contest last year. Meanwhile, a number of fledgling groups such as Shake Well Before Use, hailing from Adonis (Mount Lebanon), and Toxic Trash, from Tripoli, are making noise and growing a considerable fanbase in their own right.
At the Scum-Standouts gig, the usually diverse set of patrons at DRM was replaced by a predictably punk-inspired audience. Think long hair, worn out t-shirts and scruffy outfits. After a DJ set of punk classics, The Passive Standouts took the stage with Ian Massry on guitar and lead vocals, Karl Soued on bass and backing vocals and Rami Charara on drums and backing vocals. Their music draws influence from 1980s hardcore punk bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat, with the addition of some modern touches. The Standouts employ many of the signature aural elements we’ve come to expect from punk rock: three-chord riffs, up-tempo 4-4 drumbeats, delay effects and deliberate guitar feedback. Their songs cover a range of subjects, from social issues to personal woes and even a bit of politics.
The guys from Beirut Scum Society have been known to incorporate psychobilly music into their sets (a fusion of punk and rockabilly music), but that didn’t show up in their DRM set list. Still, the group’s sound is much closer to pure hardcore punk than the Standouts. The band consists of Khodor Ellaik (vocals), Karim Chams Eddine (guitar), Ghassan Al Salman (bass), and Karam Saad (drums).
Ellaik’s vocal style and stage presence are reminiscent of Dead Kennedys’ frontman Jello Biafra: unrelenting yells, shrieks, and howls, accompanied by vigorous, vibrating dance moves. The crowd loved it. A few die-hards even started moshing. For the uninformed, moshing is a time-honored tradition at live gigs of a more aggressive nature (punk, heavy metal, etc.) where members of the audience slam into one another and knock each other around, all in good spirit of course. However, someone should have informed the venue’s security, as a big scene was made in an attempt to “stop the violence”, mistaking the friendly fracas for something more threatening. Even after the clarification was made, busboys still watched the jostling patrons in awe and confusion, one calling over his coworker and whipping out his cell phone to record a video of this “bizarre ritual”.
After the gig, Beirut.com caught up with Massry of The Passive Standouts for a brief chat. When asked about the state of the local punk scene, he had this to say: “Beirut is currently going through what New York and London were going through 30 years ago. There used to only be only punk cover bands here, but people have been writing their own songs for a while now. Not many people truly understand this culture right now (as demonstrated by the moshing incident), but new venues have been opening up to us, as DRM did tonight.”
The Standouts are currently competing in the Global Battle of the Bands World Finals after qualifying as Lebanese finalists in 2011. Their debut album is expected to be released soon.
Beirut Scum Society performing at DRM on June 28, 2012. (Photo courtesy of Marjan Shatyla)