Thursday, 3 December 2015

Greeks In Debt Crisis Want To Dance

It was a strange journey we embarked upon on the morning of the 11th of July this year. With Greece technically bankrupt, the banks closed, credit cards blocked abroad, we were at least able to begin our trip because we had already paid for most of it beforehand. We had paid for our plane, train and concert tickets by credit card months before. Our accommodation was booked using credit cards to secure them - some of them with a deposit - but not fully paid. Thankfully there was no attempt from our hotels to withdraw money from our credit cards (which wouldn't have worked) so we were able to pay them cash when we got there. Plus, we had enough cash on us for our expenses.
Now Greece (and to be more precise, the city of Patras) is connected directly to Ancona by ferry. However, our journey as we planned it, (plane to Rome, train to Ancona and then back the same way) was cheaper (Italian Train tickets can be especially cheap if booked in advance). Plus, it made for a more interesting trip because it included two nights stay in Rome. However, our small vacation is going to be discussed in another post, here I am going to concentrate on the Belle And Sebastian concert.
But how were Belle And Sebastian chosen as this year's summer concert abroad? First of all, my usual check of all the summer concerts in Italy did not produce anything interesting (well, interesting enough to make a trip worthwhile anyway). And then I remembered that the best album of the year so far for me was "Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance" (I had actually written a review of it in this very blog here), which I suspected (and now that we are in December I can actually confirm) that it was going to be my choice for best album of 2015. So, if they had an album out they should be going on tour, right? Right, but their European tour was scheduled for November if I am not mistaken. Thankfully, they had planned two outdoor dates in Italy for the summer (presumably because their frontman Stuart Murdoch's wife is Italian and he spends a lot of time in the country?) Anyway, the first one was in Ancona and the second one was the following day in Sesto Al Reghena). We were lucky that we chose to go to Italy because November's European tour was eventually cancelled due to Stuart's illness. We were at first interested in the second date at Sesto Al Reghena for which we were going to fly to Milano instead of Rome, but my research showed that it would be very difficult getting there, especially as there seemed to be no train connection). So, we finally settled for Ancona and we did not regret it. Our hotel was directly opposite the train station and the venue was within walking distance from our hotel. Plus, the venue itself, judging from the first photos of it we found on the internet, seemed quite remarkable. A castle in the water!  And that's indeed what it more or less was.
Mole Vanvitelliana, also called the Lazzaretto Of Ancona, is an 18th century building constructed on an artificial island for the purpose of serving as quarantine station and Leprosarium for the town. Now it is used as a site of the museum Tattile Omero, as well as home for various exhibitions. When we arrived in Ancona we immediately went for a walk to check it out.

It was too early, no preparations were made for the concert on the outside, but we sneaked in and managed to find the exact space in the building where the concert was going to take place. We saw the stage and spotted Stuart Murdoch at the side of it.
We went back to our hotel and returned later at a time which was much closer to the one the concert was about to start. We looked around at an exhibition that was taking place and at some point my girlfriend went in search of the restrooms.

Well, what do you know, a few minutes later, she came back with a photo of her and Stuart Murdoch on her iPad! By that time preparations for the concert had started and we went around the building to the place we would all enter from. Not a lot of people were gathered there at the time so, we thought we had a good chance of a front row seat. And suddenly Stuart appeared again, signing our tickets and our special "Greeks In Debt Crisis Want To Dance" banner that we had prepared beforehand. And he posed for photos with us and the Greek flag! After that Stuart left the venue, presumably to go back to his hotel, on foot!

It wasn't a long time after that that we were allowed in and we rushed and of course got our front row seats. The concert would take place at the building's courtyard, but in a corner of it. On another corner were the merchandise stands and a canteen serving food that was cooked on the spot. Plus there were also tables to sit and eat.

While I was waiting at the food queue for something to eat (and a beer of course), the first act, Italian singer Maria Antonietta with just her guitar came on. A short but very nice acoustic set from a very good singer (since then I have discovered several of her videos on YouTube).

The biggest surprise came up next. Matinée are an Italian indie band based in East London. Chris Geddes from Belle And Sebastian described them as "anthemic indie rock with electronic flourishes". They were named after Franz Ferdinand's hit song. Their set was so good that I rushed back to the merchandise stand and bought their CD "These Days"

After a short break the lights went off and Belle And Sebastian came up on stage starting with "Nobody's Empire". The problem was that the lights stayed off so we were listening to the band in darkness until they finally came on 1 minute and a half into the song. 

Then, after "I'm A Cuckoo", they went back to "Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance" with "The Party Line". 

In fact they played 5 songs off their latest album ("Nobody's Empire", "The Party Line", "Perfect Couples", "The Power Of Three" and "Allie") and I certainly am not going to complain about that since, as I have already mentioned it is my favourite album of the year. 
Needless to say, we soon abandoned our seats and went to stand at the front of the stage! At some point between songs Stuart asked "Where are you people from? Is there anybody here from Ancona? Because I've been meeting people all day, and they're all from different Italian cities...". Some people answered "Milano", others "Rome", "Florence" and so on at which point we raised our flag and shouted loudly "Greece". Suddenly we heard a huge roar of applause behind us. The crowd was cheering at us, aware of the situation back home. 

Later at another break between songs Stuart said "You know what I think we should do now? We should take one of these boats that are out there on the port and go to Greece to play a free concert for the people there" which brought another huge roar of applause not just from us but from everybody. Nice thought Stuart, but I don't think any Greek promoters would be bothered about something like that.

And the concert went on with highlights being the attempt to recreate the video for "Jonathan David" which did not go exactly as planned, inviting people to come up on stage to dance on "The Boy With The Arab Strap" and finally, at the end, "The State I Am In" from their first album.

And that was it for our best concert of the year at a wonderful location. After grabbing a copy of the setlist from the stage, we slowly started walking back with the Italian friends we met there for a bite to eat and a drink before going back to our hotels.

Get well soon, Stuart... 

No comments: