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Lead singer Ian McCulloch performs with Echo & the Bunnymen at the Liberty State Park in Jersey City in August.
Jason DeCrow
Lead singer Ian McCulloch performs with Echo & the Bunnymen at the Liberty State Park in Jersey City in August.

Festival rocks on despite absent acts

Dubai Sound City criticised as being poorly organised after several top acts failed to appear.

DUBAI // Disappointment that a number of high-profile acts pulled out of Dubai Sound City was not enough to keep thousands of music lovers from turning out for the three-day concert festival. There were several highlights, including the well-received appearance late on the second day of Happy Mondays; the band's frontman, Shaun Ryder, wearing dark glasses, went on stage at 1am yesterday morning.

But the music-industry showcase, originally scheduled to feature 78 artists at seven venues across the city, was also criticised as being poorly organised after several top acts failed to appear. Some fans complained yesterday of not being informed in time by the organisers, New Dawn, about the absence of the headline group, Echo and the Bunnymen. The band pulled out after frontman Ian McCulloch failed to board his flight in Britain, organisers said. McCulloch's manager could not be reached for comment.

"It's a shame Echo and the Bunnymen didn't decide a few days ago that they weren't going to play because I came up today to see them, and I probably wouldn't have come otherwise," said Brian Thomas, 39, an American who lives in Dubai. At least four other acts failed to appear: the American hip-hop group De La Soul, the South African band The Dirty Skirts, the Danish hip-hop group Outlandish and the English DJ Kissy Sell Out.

And just hours before a scheduled performance yesterday, South African members of the band The Parlotones were reported to be experiencing immigration problems at Dubai International Airport. Some of the confusion and unhappiness among fans may have stemmed from the Dubai Sound City website; some of the cancelled acts remained on its line-up. David Pichilingi, the co-founder of Dubai Sound City, said organisers experienced problems involving visas, licences and booking flights. "But," he said, "look at other festivals around the world; these things happen when you're flying in that many bands."

Alex Bracken, the chief executive of New Dawn, said: "We understand that people will obviously be disappointed, but we have had a fantastic response to the bands that have played on site and are expecting our biggest crowd yet tonight". Many fans were in a forgiving mood, including Sean Casey, 26, an Irishman living in Abu Dhabi who attended all three days of the event. "It's been class," he said "Echo and the Bunnymen have pulled out, but it happens. What can you do? I'm just delighted."

* The National

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