Lavish side of Saudi's Soundstorm: VIP helicopter arrivals and silver service shawarmas

The four-day event was held in the outskirts of Riyadh

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It is often said DJs are night owls, and that adage is proven true when stepping into the artist village of the Soundstorm festival in Riyadh.

The event, which took place across a mammoth site on the outskirts of the Saudi Arabian capital, took over a wing of a nearby hotel and transformed its lobby and adjoining conference rooms into a dimly lit cave dotted with plants and other tropical looking fauna.

With a blue camel as the decorative centre piece, DJs and managers sit on couches working on their laptops and phones. The hushed tapping of keyboards and the odd muffled conversation are the only sounds to be heard.

Artist lounge at 2021 Soundstorm festival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo: MDL Beast

I remark on how eerie it all looks and an official explains this is a normal feature of large-scale dance festivals.

“This is a place for the artists to relax, chill and zone out,” my Soundstorm guide says.

“A lot of them are playing shows in a few hours so it’s a place to help them get into the mind-set. This is why there is no music playing, it is a distraction.”

Curating a playlist for a room full of successful DJs would have been an impossible job. Almost as challenging is the task of creating a menu in-tune with the adrenalin and anxiety some of the artists would feel ahead of playing to a 100,000-strong crowd.

This meant a variety of light bites, such as energy bars, a fridge stocked with several Starbucks drinks and mini cakes.

A bow-tied waiter is also making the rounds offering shawarmas from a silver platter. Seen kindly declining the offer on Sunday evening was American DJ Jeff Mills.

It is an hour before his set at the Underground 1 stage and the techno pioneer prepares by simply staring into space.

I realise that mental preparation is a gradual process.