MUSIC FROM ELSEWHERE: RISING FROM THE UNDERGROUND
Beaches bustling with people by day, clubs and bars buzzing with activity by night; summer in Malta offers up endless opportunities for those who like one or the other, or both. On Wednesday, July 9, one particular event will combine the two thanks to an innovative idea that has, literally, been making its way down to Malta for the past couple of months. A joint project between Fondazzjoni Ċelebrazzjonijiet Nazzjonali (FĊN) and Hard Rock Rising On The Road 2014, the Music from Elsewhere festival taking place in St. George’s Bay, St. Julian’s will surely appeal to all those with a taste for non-mainstream music.
Possibly the most unusual we’ve had on the island to date, the stage for this event is actually a massive 31-foot customized transport truck. The converted vehicle has provided a mobile stage which, over a span of 8 weeks, will have visited 15 European cities, with the Malta date being the second to last destination ahead of the tour’s grand finale in Rome’sPiazza del Popolo. The Malta line-up will feature some of the leading names from the alternative side of the local music spectrum, namely prog-metal band Different Strings, rock band Frenzy Mono, indie acts The Areola Treat, Bark Bark Disco, Jane Doe, Fastidju and Skimmed and last but not least, Maltese hiphop heavyweights Sempliċiment tat-Triq.
The promotion of local talent is important to all parties involved in the organization of this event, and the opportunity to work closely together on this event is something that both Hard Rock Café Malta’s marketing man Adolf Vella and FĊN’s Lou Bondi agree was too good to pass up. “Our combined aims to give a platform to different musical genres fit together hand in glove”, Bondi commented. “Rock platforms don’t get any bigger or better than Hard Rock Café and I’m glad we did our bit to give Maltese bands this opportunity”. Equally important is the fact that this tour puts Malta on the map alongside 24 other European cities. “Hard Rock Rising On the Road isn’t only about showcasing the brand’s strong musical connection”, said Vella of the ongoing tour. “It also reflects our commitment to help upcoming bands, and giving them this concert experience is one way of showing our support”.
It all looks pretty straightforward when one looks at the entire tour schedule, but getting Malta included on this tour was no easy task. “It certainly wasn’t”, Bondi confirms. “Our combined effort in pulling the same rope was essential in making it happen, but sorting out the arrangements to get the truck over by sea was a nightmare”. He adds that this was an opportunity he simply didn’t want Maltese bands to miss, “so we did everything possible to get it for them, and besides, the event is also being heavily promoted on the social media in Europe, which also helps put our bands’ names out there”. Vella also recalls that finding a convenient date was a headache. “Apart from trying to find a slot that didn’t clash with World Cup matches, we also needed to find an opening close to the Italian dates to make it easier in getting the truck over, but in the end, it all fell into place”.
Talking of the truck, I suggest that perhaps having a converted 31-foot truck as the stage is probably an attraction in itself. “Well, it’s certainly a unique setting for a concert experience”, Vella agrees. “It really is an amazing set-up that comes with a built-in stage, Sennheiser sound system, stage lighting and a top-notch backline boasting a full drum-kit, Marshall amplifiers and Fender guitars; what more could one want to rock the place out?” The answer to this is of course, bands to take the stage, plug in and let their music do the talking. As mentioned earlier, the concert will feature eight bands yet, despite all coming from the non-mainstream end of the local scene, their music is rather diverse. “The festival will be around five hours long and it wasn’t easy to fit in a line-up that is as representative as possible of what our non-mainstream scene has to offer”, Bondi admits. “Our guiding principle was to go for bands that are creative and have a vision of some sort”.
Since this festival is all about local bands, I couldn’t help but ask for a comment about their view of the music scene in Malta to which Vella replies that his role at Hard Rock Café Malta has put him in close contact with various bands. “We’ve worked with all kinds of bands and artists over the years, and I’m sure most people will agree when I say that we have a good number of great bands here”. Over the years, Hard Rock Café Malta has also hosted a variety of live events featuring local bands. “We’ve had Xirka Rock, alternative nights, acoustic nights and I have to mention Winter Moods’ induction into Hard Rock Café’s memorabilia collection”. On a similar note, Bondi feels that in the last 5 to 10 years, Maltese bands and live music have experienced a revitalization. “I'm delighted with the musical diversity of the local music scene today, with the quality of the musicianship and the creativity in songwriting”.
Last but not least, I’m curious to know what inspired the Music from Elsewhere name for the festival? “The title just came to me one morning as I was looking out from my office window overlooking the Għargħur valley”, Bondi explains. “Most popular music today is driven by the commercial motive and so much talent remains underground simply because it does not fit into strict and often asphyxiating marketing categories. This festival is our attempt to celebrate music which is not mainstream, which goes against the grain, which, well, comes from elsewhere”. As the day draws nearer and the finishing touches are applied, all that remains is for the audience to turn up and be part of this beach concert experience, and if you’re a football fan too, you’ll be pleased to know the music ends just before the 10pm match, which will be shown on a massive big screen on the premises so you don’t even to go anywhere else!
The Music from Elsewhere festival kicks off at 5pm. Entrance is free.
For more information, go to the event page on Facebook.
An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta (29 June, 2014)