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French Version

Tumult but no terror as Tiesto turns up in Byblos

Chaos reigns among crowd as renowned DJ makes second appearance in Lebanon

About 50 kilometers to the north, the fighting near Tripoli had mellowed to periodic but minor clashes between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam hold-outs.

Sure, the militant group had reportedly threatened to assassinate world-famous Dutch DJ Tiesto at the very concert he was about to perform. But that was months ago, and had been fodder for online dance-music discussion forums and the social networking site Facebook to begin with. Fatah al-Islam is otherwise occupied, people told themselves. (Most of the Web sites that carried stories on the threat against Tiesto have since conceded that it was at best a specious rumor, at worst a calculated hoax).

It was calm and peaceful at 11 p.m. on Monday night as thousands threaded their way through the dark side streets of Byblos. They passed bemused families smoking narguileh, who watched as their children chased each other through the passing crowds. They continued past security guards in navy vests and beige combat-style boots, who silently kept watch from rooftops and hotel entrances, and toward the source of a solitary beam of serene white light, which roved in lazy circles, painting the cloudless night sky and beckoning the party-goers to revelry ... a tranquil respite of electronica ... Tiesto.

For weeks some had speculated that the DJ could not - should not, even - show up to perform. Or that the crowd would not - should not, even - show up to enjoy. Instead, they turned out in droves, coalescing in the main thoroughfare in front of the Edde Sands beach resort, where assault-rifle-toting soldiers in red berets directed traffic with a vigilant eye, shepherded pedestrians down the steep slope toward the flashing green spectral glow of laser lights.

For a moment, the music and lasers paused. From the hillside entrance overlooking the softly lit pools and bungalow bars of Edde Sands, all was quiet. Then, the standard electronica prelude - an up-tempo alien crescendo - launched into an explosion of light and sound as heads began bobbing sideways to the music.

An hour earlier, a diminutive female bartender with dark brown ringlets and a shirt announcing "same sh**, different day," was drinking Kalashnikov shots with her customers. She had heard threats were made against Tiesto after he came to Lebanon two years ago, drawing a crowd of 16,000.

"Last year he didn't come back, so everybody said, 'He must be dead,'" she said with a laugh and poured another shot.

Back at Edde Sands, 21-year-old Roudy Awwad wasn't worried about violence, he explained while leaning on a friend's shoulder and smoking a cigarette. "It's a normal thing here," he said, wearing ripped jeans and a black T-shirt with a mess of long hair piled on top of his head. "It's Lebanon." But certainly your parents must have been worried? "F*** my parents," he said. So ... they were concerned? "F*** my parents," he repeated.

In what could only theoretically be considered "the line" to get into the show, herd behavior reigned. The threat of terrorist activity seemed less of a concern than getting trampled. One man wore a T-shirt with " Bomb Technician: If you see me running, try to keep up," emblazoned across the back. Once past the melee, the mood lightened.

"It makes me happy to see all the people at the concert," said Ahef Abouzeid, a heavily muscled 26-year-old with a shaved head and a tight, white Emporio Armani tank top. A bodyguard from Beirut, he decided to attend the concert even though he had been concerned about the security situation. "We are at war in the north, but we are happy here. I like to enjoy my life, to be myself. And we have a great country, a great place." His parents told him "to go and have fun - and to be careful," he added with emphasis.

A voice over the loudspeaker announced that Tiesto had arrived. He's not taking the stage yet. But he's in the building. The voice asked the audience to " make some noise" for warm-up DJ Caesar K. Some began dancing small gyrations - the best they could manage in tight quarters - like water molecules heating up and trying to escape as steam. Finally, the crowd spilled forward past some invisible border and onto the sand.

Some spread out along a roped-off section of beach - where one could barely see the stage or hear more than the whoomp-bash bass rhythm. A handful of boats ringed the venue's perimeter. Most people, it seemed, went straight for the bar to trade in their two free-drink tickets.

The bar was a Darwinian free-for-all, a nearly all-male crowd within a 3-meter radius of the counter. Men jostled for drinks while the women sought higher ground. One guy in a green polo shirt was doing pull-ups (for no apparent reason) from a beam in the thatched-roof of the bungalow-style bar. Another, with a flashing disco-light pacifier in his mouth, clamored for a drink. A bartender with ripped jeans and an open-collared blue button-down shirt perched on the bar, squatting stylishly on one knee and urging his patrons to be calm. One of the few women in the crowd slipped away from her boyfriend, seeking shelter near a post as the crowd began to surge, growing ever-more restless. Men called out to catch the bartenders' eyes, reached over each other trying to order drinks from the back of the line. The bartender in the blue shirt began yelling back. "Please, man, please," pleaded a youth sandwiched near the front as he kept his drink ticket aloft while burying his head in his arm to wipe sweat from his eyes. The young bartender began to scream.

Back in the sand, reactions to the evening were mixed. Lyne Itani was frustrated by the long lines and poor crowd control. Still, to hear Tiesto, the wait was worth it. "I'm in love with him, said the 18-year-old, who saw Tiesto perform in 2005. "I knew I had to come back."

Laura Horzath, a 21-year-old Australian who works in Tyre as a nanny, said she wasn't too worried about threats. "I'm more worried about the toilet situation," she remarked.

Finally, volleys of fireworks erupted in the sky - exploding in red, then green, then orange and white, trailing down toward the dark water for several minutes to the crowd's applause. Across the beach, outstretched arms raised cameras to try and capture the moment. Two men hugged and spun around in a circle, laughing as the smell of burned powder wafted across the shore.

Tiesto took the stage. In a white and black striped shirt, he perched behind his table, nodding his head and, occasionally, breaking into a reserved dance. The seamless segues and tranquil beats mollified the audience, entranced even among the soldiers and barbed wire and echoes of war.

The green laser lights morphed. At one moment, the effect painted the dancing throngs with undulating waves of light. The next minute, it was staccato bursts, like gunfire, that lingered across their faces a moment ... and then disappeared.

Marseille,09 04 2007
Redaction
The Daily Star
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