Sober Sound City: can our hedonistic heroes perform dry in Dubai?

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Daniel Fahey | 05 November 2009

Sex and drugs and rock and roll – the mantra all young bands are made to adhere to when they sign up for the job. Swearing upon an original Les Paul guitar, the latest rock stars promise to follow the code of conduct with Sid Vicious as a witness and Kurt Cobain fitting them for tight jeans and dodgy hairstyles following the ceremony. But for new festival, Dubai Sound City, the sex and the drugs are forbidden, which leaves just good ol’ rock and roll. And that’s what makes it so intriguing.

Sure, there are many festivals that encourage fans to have a great time without the need of four litres of Cider and Dr Robert’s medicine cabinet, but that’s more for the fans – I’m thinking about the bands here. Hedonistic headliners, the Happy Mondays, for instance – a group whose only memories of the 90s consist of some fireworks for something called the Millennium – are making their way out here in a couple of days. How are they going to fare? Will they be sober? Is Bez only a “five pints or more” dancer? Let’s hope not.

The United Arab Emirates has very strict laws surrounding sex out of marriage, drink and drugs and it could look like the Mondays are using the trip for a winter drying out session with plenty of sunshine and seven star hotels. But, arriving onsite early, with plenty of sweaty men putting the finishing touches to the main stage, one thing strikes me as odd: I see bars and beers. And lots of them.

When researching my trip to Dubai, most websites said that drinking was only allowed in hotels or certain areas (with a special permit) but here - and it may still be desert mirage, it's too early to drink - it looks like there is going to be booze aplenty. Though, that said, I don’t think drunken behaviour is permitted or really advised in this heat. So it will be interesting to see Shaun Ryder and Co, a band with some great tunes, playing their best tracks in possibly the most coherent concert state they’ve been in for years.

They are just one of a number of northwest stalwarts being showcased to the Middle East though, in a sort of Friends Reunited festival that includes Echo And The Bunnymen and The Farm. The Human League, De La Soul, Foreign Beggars and plenty of local acts will also be in their flip flops for the next few days and I’ll be taking it all in and blogging over the weekend. I won’t be on the beach. Promise.

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