Monday, 19 June 2017

Ejekt Festival 2007

As we are getting ready for the 2017 Ejekt Festival in a few days, let's go back in time to 2007 to see what happened at that same festival 10 years ago.
The reason I decided to go that year was to see Madness. i had been a fan since 1979, not only of them, but of the whole ska revival / 2 Tone movement which also featured The Specials, Selecter, The Beat and Bad Manners. In 2008 The Specials reformed and I would get to them as well in 2010 but that's another story...

What I hadn't realized up to the day of the festival was that Madness were not the headliners. They were the opening act, to be followed by The Beastie Boys and finally Underworld. When I realized that Madness were due to appear at 7 o' clock I had to hurry from home to the other edge of the city towards the Baseball training ground left over from the 2004 Olympic Games where the festival was taking place.
I got there on time and the only strange thing I noticed at the entrance was that the security people were using dogs (German sheperds in fact). What for? Intimidation? Who knows, the dogs looked lovable, though. As I got inside, I saw that the Ejekt Festival t-shirts were free! Yes, free! So, I grabbed one. (It was a good thing that I did, as we will see later)
Finally, Madness came up on stage. I am hardly exaggerating when I say that I was waiting 27 years for that moment. They played all the songs we wanted to hear and their energy was tremendous despite all the years that had gone by. (They're still at it nowadays, 10 years later, and that's no surprise). The audience participated in that party (for that was what it was, a big party), and the biggest proof of this was the cloud of dust that rose among the audience in front of the stage and didn't settle down until the end of the set. It was of course caused by the continuous and endless dancing. After all, the motto of the band when they started out was "F**k art, let's dance!" and both audience and band stayed true to that.

Hey you, don't watch that
Watch this!
This is the heavy heavy monster sound
The nuttiest sound around
So if you've come in off the street
And you're beginning to feel the heat
Well listen buster
You better start to move your feet
To the rockinest, rock-steady beat
Of madness
One step beyond!
(I had memorized this while I was still in secondary school, you know!)

After Madness I had a walk around the festival grounds where everything still looked normal, while waiting for The Beastie Boys.

Indeed, the Beasties came on stage a few minutes later, telling us how much they enjoyed being on the same bill with Madness which was one of their favourite bands and they used to listen to them when they were in their teens. Among well-known songs like "No Sleep Til' Brooklyn" they also played some wonderful instrumentals from their current album at that time "The Mix Up"

At some point, during their set a huge black smoke column was noticed, coming from the back of the venue. What we learnt afterwards was that some people invaded the venue throwing petrol bombs setting on fire several cars in the parking lot in the process. The Beastie Boys had to leave the stage mid-set (thankfully they had been playing for quite some time), Madness managed to hide in their dressing room, while a member of Underworld was injured by a brick thrown at him.

This is what Madness reported on their MySpace (remember it?) blog a few days later:
Official Statement:
Madness were caught in the middle of a riot backstage at a gig in Athens on Saturday.

As part of the summer prep for their forthcoming 'lucky 7' album, Madness alongside the Beastie Boys and Underworld played the Athens Ejekt festival.

Following their performance, the band were decompressing in the dressing rooms reflecting on another storming gig.
However, their high spirits were soon extinguished as raised voices, followed by angry shouting, crashing windows, maced security guards and violent explosions signaled total mayhem in the backstage compound. The Beastie Boys, who were half way through their set were forced to abandon their performance amid genuine fears for their safety.

Absolute chaos ensued, as 30-40 masked, baton wielding assailants carrying CS gas canisters labeled as 'anarchists' by the authorities, vandalized and robbed bars, attacked festival security workers, destroyed portacabins and petrol bombed vehicles.

Fortunately the bands very experienced crew kept the band barricaded in their dressing room whilst the attack went on. After 30 terrifying minutes, the group made a dash for it, stopping passing traffic to escape the scene.

Others were not so lucky, Rick Smith from pioneering British electronic out-fit Underworld was hospitalized after being allegedly hit with a brick! Thankfully he is now safe in the UK receiving treatment. Several other people including security guards were also injured, however, it's not clear at this stage how many or just how badly.

Guitarist, Chrissy Boy Foreman said: "i knew something was up when i got on the plane at gate 13 and on seat 13 on the way there."

With nothing left for us to do, we headed towards the exit. Before leaving however, I headed towards the bar. I walk up to the barman and I say "One Coke please". The barman takes out a box full of cokes from the fridge, lays it on top of the bar and says: "Take as many as you want. We also have Fanta". As it turned out this guy wasn't the barman but one of the people who were looting the bars. All, the organizers, staff AND the security guards (including the dogs) had left.

I just took one Coke (which I had paid for anyway by means of the drinlk tokens I had purchased or "Festival Currency" as it was christened by Ekekt) and turned towards the exit.

What I saw there were cars burning, the kiosks (including the one with the free t-shirts) also burning, no security guards, firemen or police to be seen.
And just as I thought that it could not get any worse, it did. Like this:

I took the night tram to start my return journey home and a car got in its way,  the driver obviously thinking (as Greek drivers usually do) that it could cross the tram lines before the tram itself could reach him. Wrong!
I finally took a taxi home since I had to catch a flight to France the following day to see The Rolling Stones in Lyon (but that's another story which you can read about here). 
I never claimed compensation for my ticket. None was given anyway. I saw the band that I wanted to see, Madness, with The Beastie Boys as an added bonus. I didn't go to the festival to see Underworld. However, if I do decide to see them in the future I will have to travel abroad since they announced that they (understandably) would not perform in Greece in the future. Ever. I suspect that even Madness won't be coming back in a hurry.
I thought this was going to be my last Ejekt Festival, but it wasn't. I went back in 2013 to see the Pet Shop Boys (and in the process met my girlfriend) and last year to see Muse. This year, if all goes well, I'm going again, to see The Killers this time. It will be the first time The Killers play in Greece. They were due to play back in 2009, but the organizers decided to cancel the gig because... wait for it... it was raining!!! Thankfully, I was in London at the time and saw them a couple of days later at that year's Hard Rock Calling Festival in Hyde Park. (It did rain during that festival, but it wasn't cancelled). Thankfully the Ejekt Festival organizers are a different company from the one which cancelled their gig back in 2009...

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A gig that changed my life - Marsheaux & OMD in Athens, 2007

It was 10 years ago today, when Marsheaux went on stage (June 1 2007 to be precise), at the Lycabettus Theatre in Athens. And within a few minutes my life was changed forever...
I had started my walk from Syntagma Square in the city centre all the way up to the top of Lycabettus hill. (There is a cable car there somewhere, but that day I didn't find it).

I arrived at the Lycabettus Theatre very early and the doors were still closed. As I was waiting outside I could hear the soundcheck. It was "Empire State Human",  originally by Human League with female vocals. "Who is singing Empire State Human now?" I thought. "In fact, Who remembers "Empire State Human" in the year 2007?" I wondered. "Marsheaux? Is that possible? We'll see"
I got inside when the doors opened and I went and sat at the back. I was not in a very good mood anyway. At some point Marsheaux came up on stage. They started with some downtempo songs of their own. (In fact it was "Hanging On" as I can now see from the video I dug out from my hard drive)

And suddenly, when the next song started, I heard a synth riff that reminded me of something. What did it remind me of? "The Promise" by When In Rome. And Marsheaux have covered that? Now? So did that mean that there were other people in Greece who remembered it? That helped my mood to start picking up, but still I could not imagine what would happen next. I heard another synth riff that reminded me of something. What? "Pure" by The Lightning Seeds! At that point I could not hold myself any longer, I got up from my seat, ran down the theatre stairs and went and stood at the first row to enjoy the rest of the concert from there.

And of course I heard "Empire State Human" and "Pop Corn" (an instrumental you must all have heard somewhere) and I started to notice their own tracks that I liked such as "I Dream Of A Disco". So, I finally found out what kind of music Marsheaux played: synth-pop. By that time I had forgotten that the reason I had gone to the Lycabettus Theatre that day was to see OMD. IInstead I discovered Marsheaux! (More on Marsheaux on that day and some of their later gigs on this post : Marsheaux Live In Athens 2007-2014).
"Thank you and have fun with OMD next" is what they told us as they came off stage. I was already at the front of the stage and I wasn't about to relinquish my position there. I noticed behind me a 44 year old guy with a 22 year old girlfriend who was telling her all about the music from the era of OMD. It already looked like it was going to be an emotional time and indeed it was as OMD came on stage. "We are old" said Andy McCluskey at some point. "We are old, too!" shouted the woman next to me. And some people were crying as they were singing along with the band.

In fact, as you will notice, most of the videos are unwatchable. Not only because of my 2007 digital camera being constantly shaken, but mainly because of audience participation. Yes, in several parts of the videos, instead of Andy's (or Paul's) vocals you will hear the words sung by the audience. "Out of tune" is too kind a phrase to describe them, but still, it shows you how enjoyable the whole experience was. (It's fun to see Andy do "the dance" on "Maid Of Orleans" though.)
As Andy said on the night, this was supposed to be the "Architecture & Morality" tour, but since it had taken them such a long time to come to Greece, they opted for a "Greatest Hits" set. And indeed all the hits were there. The title track from "Architecture & Morality" may have been playing while they came on stage, but then they launched straight into "Messages" and this was followed by "Joan Of Arc", "Maid Of Orleans", "(Forever) Live And Die", "If You Leave", "Electricity", "Sailing On The Seven Seas", even "Walking On The Milky Way". And of course "Enola Gay".

As I was slowly walking down Lycabettus Hill after the gig, I knew that I would remember this as one of the best gigs I have ever attended. And certainly one of the most emotional...

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Mr. Highway Band and The Big Nose Attack together at the 6th Music Highway Festival

I first went to the Music Highway Festival two years ago to see Dustbowl play their own stuff (instead of The Johnny Cash Tribute) and Penny Dreadful who had played after The Western Ramblers back in 2013. That's when I was introduced to the music of the headliners Mr. Highway Band and got hooked ever since. I went again this year because I always wanted to see them at the same festival with The Big Nose Attack. (I had seen both bands on the same night before at The Big Nose Attack gig at Gagarin last year).
The opening band was Drunken Gramophone which was a new discovery for me. Two years ago I had been introduced to 4LT. whose members (well, at least a couple of them) I spotted in the audience this year.

Then it was the turn of The Big Nose Attack launching directly into Yeah! (That Girl) and playing songs from all three of their albums including the obligatory "Foxy Lady" and "Wild Cherry"

Finally, Mr. Highway Band came on. On the first part of their set they presented their new, third album "The Rebel Artist" for the first time in Athens (I distinctly remember "At The End Day" from the 2015 festival). This presentation featured many special guests the most impressive of which had to be singer Georgia Poutous. 

Then it was on to the second part featuring songs from their previous albums including "Story Of My Life" and "Revolution". The highlight of the night had to be the moment when the singer picked up a girl to dance with him on stage so that her boyfriend could come up and propose to her!

It was over by 1:30 am but I had time to stock up on CD's and badges from the merchandise stand...

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

''The more you drink, the better we sound'' (The Big Nose Attack @ Gazarte Roof Stage)

This is what Boogie Man told the audience on Thursday, the 9th of March at Gazarte Roof Stage. And we didn't need to drink to appreciate The Big Nose Attack. I know I've already seen them many times but it sounded like a good idea to see them once again at this particular venue which gives you a magnificent view of Athens.
Another reason for going to this gig was that I wanted to get my hands on one of those pizza shaped USB sticks the band have released that features their complete discography for only 10 euros (a snip!).
As you can see they're awesome, and I must admit I do get confused sometimes...
Anyway, I went there straight after work so I missed the first 10 minutes. Because of this, as I was approaching Gazarte I could hear the sound of The Big Nose Attack coming from inside!

Once inside, however, it was once again magnificent. They played songs from all their 3 albums and the obligatory "Foxy Lady"

I had to leave during the very last song because of a strike on the metro, so I had to walk to catch another line that was operating normally.
All in all, I had a great time, and for once more my first gig of the year was by The Big Nose Attack.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Santorini 1991 - You never forget your first time!

When there are no concerts to report from, I like to post reports from my travels, as I did last month with Antiparos. Of course usually my travels coincide with my concerts, but I intend to keep the travel posts separate from the concert ones. Anyway, before I discovered Antiparos I used to go to Santorini every summer. I went there every summer for 14 years, from 1991 to 2004, sometimes going twice a year. In the very last year I even found a job there and stayed for the winter.
In 1997 I got my first internet subscription. One of the first things I did was to create my own webpage. My site has not progressed much since then as I tend to post on this very blog instead, but one of its first features was a page dedicated to Santorini. I used the map you can see at the top of this post as background image (which I had scanned from a tourist guide book) and this still captured (using my TV & Video capture card - a very advanced gadget for computers back then!) from a VHS tape which was released back in the 90's.
The rest of the page was filled with my own photos taken using my film camera during my first few summers there from 1991 to 1996,  which were then scanned using a hand-held scanner. On top of that, the sizes of the photos were small in order to comply with the strict bandwidth requirements of that era where the fastest connections were those of 33.6kbps dial-up modems. As a result, don't expect them to be of good quality!

Santorini is at the south of the Cyclades group of islands in the Aegean sea in Greece. Its spreading is 76 and has a population of 7000. One of its attractions is the volcano, situated opposite the west side of the island.

Sunset at Ia

Perissa beach

Red Beach

White Beach
Vlyhada beach

The volcano
The volcano's crater

Excavations at Akrotiri
Nightlife at Enigma Club
I hope that soon I will be able to add pictures from later years, properly scanned of course. Meanwhile you can still see the original page here, while we're still waiting for the summer...