A gritty voice, one guitar, one harmonica, and a stomping boot. Sound familiar? Charlie Rayne, a musician that has seemingly popped out of nowhere, has taken the reins of the indie scene in Beirut. In a movement that seems to be snowballing from its recent beginnings, the genre of indie music has taken a hold of Lebanon and somehow, I’m totally okay with that.
Before beginning his solo career in 2012, Rayne played with various bands during his time in his undergrad at AUB. "We mainly did cover songs," said Rayne, "before I branched out and started my own work."
Beirut Jam Sessions (who seem to have a knack for this sort of thing), brought together Charlie Rayne with English singer and songwriter, Charlie Winston, last October. Singing Rayne’s single, “Subterranean Love”, the music video has well over 2000 views to date on YouTube.
In his biggest concert yet, Rayne stole the stage last Thursday at Metro al Medina. The venue's small space and low stage had mostly everyone sitting cross-legged on the floor. It was also so packed that a trip to the bathroom would leave your footprints on more than a few unfortunate fingers.
When the audience had comfortably splayed out, the lights dimmed and a gangly-looking man with an 80s side sweep hairdo stumbled on stage. With a shy smile and hunched shoulders, Rayne looked every bit the adorably awkward teenager (though he's in his 20's) playing at his first talent show.
Then, he slung his acoustic guitar over his shoulder and started to play. And my, how wrong I was.
Any timidity he may have had melted away, and all that was left was jaw-dropping raw talent. While no one could call Rayne’s voice perfect, it certainly is unique. By no means pitch-perfect, Rayne's voice is characterized by its gritty undertones and harsh bellows which at times even overpowered his playing. Rayne's sound, which can be said to be typically folk, is shuffled into the sandy blues of Bon Iver, Trevor Hall, and a less severe Tom Waits.
Opening with one of the songs on his EP, "Laura's Song", the audience was left speechless for a moment before bursting out into a thrilled, albeit surprised, applause. At least, that’s what I gathered from the “whoa. I was not expecting that!” from the owner of the elbow in my side.
The concert featured all the songs from his EP, released at the show, along with a few of his favorite covers.
"I've wanted to record the songs [on the EP] for a while," said Rayne. "And I finally got around to doing it." Even cooler, and slightly unusual for a musician his age, Rayne first recorded his songs on cassettes in collaboration with Fadi Tabbal, guitarist for the Lebanese band the Incompetence.
"I bought this cassette recorder, and recorded them [about] a month ago. Since then, it's all happened really fast."
Between songs, Rayne would take a moment to tune his guitars and charm the audience with all his endearing shyness. If a member of the audience shouted out (which happened fairly often), he would reply with a low, “See me after the show,” eliciting cheers and more than one “he’s so cute!” from the females in the room.
For starting his solo career only in early 2012, Rayne certainly has figured out the art of performing live. Even during the show, his entire stature screamed nonchalant, and I have more than one picture of him scratching his head while absently strumming one-handed.
But Rayne's modesty kicked in as he insisted that he isn't anything major yet. "I'm still so new! I'm the one that needs advice," he joked. "Not the other way around."
A surprisingly pleasant addition to the indie scene, I expect this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing of Charlie Rayne, if not just for the dichotomy of his persona. Chin up, his 5 o’clock shadow and quiet sort of demeanor seem reserved. Neck down? A musician who whilst playing, has no qualms with flailing about the stage in a frenzy of melody and zeal; his talented fingers—that’s right ladies—madly plucking away at the strings of his guitar while his voice moves the audience with its grittiness and playful lyrics.
Let’s just say soon we’ll all be looking for Charlie Rayne after the show.
(Photo via Facebook)