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...

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