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Rock isn’t fun

From far away, the giant red plastic structure resembles the architecture of classic fast food joint. But the place, formerly known as Hollywood, is not about eating. After reopening its doors in 2010, the status of a dynamic downtown Algiers cultural hub has been regained.

The Rock Isn’t Fun festival takes place just next to the Ferhat Boussad Street, a crowded market full of shops. Hundreds of young people in Converse shoes have gathered to see their favourite local bands perform live. On this Saturday, September 11, the cinema has been turned into a concert hall. One by one, restless kids try to bypass the bouncer to join their older friends who are waiting, smoking cigarettes, behind the windows. The heavy-weight brutal security guard doesn’t hesitate to fight off the disturbing attempts with his legs.

In the lobby, clouds of cigarette smoke poison the air. A crowd of teenagers are waiting in front of a closed door — the gig was due to start at 2.30 but is already one hour delayed. The concert resembles a high-school party, but attending teenagers seem excited and proud to be there. Finally, the 500 people concert room opens its doors. Small groups of teenagers suddenly appear from the nearby public garden wearing printed T-shirts dedicated to the masters of metal: Slipknot, Metallica, or Korn.

The quartet Hathor opens the festival. In the audience, some are glued to the stage, dancing madly — some even pull down their T-shirts, proudly exhibiting their hairless chests — while others remain seated far away in the back rows, where they easily travel from one group of friends to another. Boys and girls mingle in mixed groups, assessing each other, occasionally whispering fresh gossip in some friend’s receptive ear.

For about half an hour, Hathor plays pop-rock standards, hastily performed. During songs like The Cranberries’ Zombie, Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, and The Runaways’ Cherry Bomb, the enthusiasm grows around the stage. The crowd quivers and shouts, without the slightest help from any expedient; alcohol, drug or even energy drink. One young man, in tight jeans and a fashionable Iroquois-looking haircut, shouts in broken English during the Cranberries’ song: “What’s that shit about? I want my mummy!”. Later, The White Stripes covers and I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll trigger the excitement of the entire audience who cheers the lead singer as if she was a rock-star — notwithstanding her wrong notes.

The second band is Vintage, who play with the instruments left on stage by Hathor. The shift is fast. Despite a punk start, the band plays rock classics and some of their own compositions. Added to the mix are lyrics of Metallica or Offspring songs, screamed by the audience. Alternative rockers Gremos Theory end the afternoon. They are fresh performers, having played live for only three months, and about to record their first album soon. The band is the first to play only their own songs.

Rock Isn’t Fun? A misleading title for this concert afternoon where a young public, looking financially comfortable, greeted a mix of 80s and 90s classics and homegrown creations, all with a light-hearted frenzy. The motto of the event? “To share rock, pure punk, and not least alternative rock — a big passion in Europe and the beginning of a new world in Algeria!”

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