Inside Soundstorm: Creative director on Mideast's biggest rave ahead of F1 festival

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Saudi entertainment company MDLBeast is putting on one of its signature shows for the Formula One in Jeddah this weekend, with names such as Travis Scott, Calvin Harris and Afrojack set to perform.

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Ahead of the event, designer Alex Reardon spoke to Al Arabiya English about the inspiration for the stage in Jeddah and gave insight about how he was drafted to work as creative director for MDLBeast’s flagship event Soundstorm.

When a dune meets a wave

For the Formula One festival, Reardon took inspiration from the natural landscape of Saudi Arabia’s west coast.

“The design basis is the language of what happens when a dune meets a wave,” he explained.

He went on to say: “The Formula One thing is about the place that it is in, so you’ll see a sail motif, you’ll see a lot of curved, organic form,” contrasting with the angular designs of the Soundstorm stages.

A rave out in the desert

Reardon, who is president of the California-based design agency Silent House, was brought in to work on the second edition of the Soundstorm festival in 2021.

The event made history in 2019 as the first ever electronic music festival to be held in the conservative Kingdom.

He worked on designing the iconic ‘Big Beast’ – the gargantuan 41-meter main stage – as well as some of the smaller stages, the MDL Town park in the center of the site, and the elevated walkway.

It was a holistic design process, with consideration being given to the entire experience that attendees have at the festival, rather than just focusing on individual design elements.

The team posed the question: “How do we address the fact that we are not just designing stages,” Reardon said.

“It’s not just about the stages, it’s about the whole experience from the minute someone gets out of their car to when they leave at the end of the night.”

“…we looked at the entire slate, looked at the flow of the people – how we could work this enormous site.”

A permanent fixture

Over the years working on the Soundstorm festival, the team is gradually building up the infrastructure at the site that spans more than 5.5 million square meters.

At first, stages and tents were temporary structures, set up just for the festival. But over time, the site is evolving into a permanent fixture.

“What we’ve done over the last few years is to work out how to turn this vast open space into a proper venue.”

“So the dance tent is now a permanent structure. MDL Town is now a permanent structure.”

“And I think what that gives MDLBeast is an ability to host other shows during the year because there’s a level of infrastructure required to get that show off the ground so people aren’t starting from scratch every single year.”

The ‘little one’

Compared to the immense scale of Soundstorm, the Jeddah Formula One festival was considered by organizers as the ‘little one.’

“And yet it’s still enormous,” Reardon said. “Compared to Soundstorm, everything lacks scale, but it’s still a very substantial event and very well run, and very well put together by MDLBeast.”

The Formula One in Jeddah runs from March 17 to 19.

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