Thursday, 29 June 2017

Ejekt Festival 2017 - Day 1 - The Killers & The Kills

Finally, The Killers have made it to Greece. They had made it before, back in 2009 but they never got to perform, as that gig, at Terra Vibe, was cancelled due to "thunderstorms" as Brandon Flowers acknowledged from the stage of this year's Ejekt Festival. As far as I was concerned, it didn't matter as I was already in London to see them (along with Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen) at that year's Hard Rock Calling festival in Hyde Park. When it was announced that they would play in Athens this year it was a long time coming for their Greek fans ("it took us 14 years to get here" said Brandon) and an added bonus for me because I would get to see them for a second time.
We arrived at the venue just before The Kills were due to go onstage, so we had time to wander around Water Square and sample the freebies handed to us by the sponsors. This time they included both food and drink in the form of a new "ready in 5 minutes" noodle product (we went for the curry flavour) and free cokes on entering, but also on leaving the venue.

As we were finishing our noodles The Kills started their set. That was a brilliant idea from the organizers, having The Kills support The Killers! Their stage presence is not surprisingly dominated by their singer, Alison Mosshart. They are primarily a rock band and therefore their set must have hopefully satisfied the traditional Greek rock fans. They were very good on stage, the sound was good and they were the perfect support for that night's headliners. Thouroughly enjoyed it.

And now, it was of course time for The Killers. They came onstage and started playing hit after hit. This time "Human" (my favourite) was not at the beginning of the set as it was back in 2009, thus creating some anticipation. And I got to hear their new song "The Man". Wasn't very excited by it, but it started to grow on me. We'll see how it fares after repeated listens. But the fact that suddenly we heard "All These Things That I've Done" made us realize that the end must have come! Already! Well, the band never played lengthy sets (they only played for 90 minutes at the 2009 Hard Rock Calling Festival compared with Neil Young's 2 hours and Bruce Springsteen's 3 hours) but still, we were enjoying ourselves so much that we didn't realize where the time had gone. I happen to think that they haven't released anything worthwhile since 2009, but I even managed to enjoy "Runaways" this time.

Thankfully they came back for an encore with their drummer Ronnie Vannucci dressed in a toga. Brandon promised us that it will not be 14 more years till they come back. It's not up to you Brandon, it's up to the organizers, but still, we appreciate the gesture.

And so The Killers were off (we didn't know it then but they were headed straight to Glastonbury where they performed the following day) and we were also off with the memories of this summer's first great festival. The 2nd day of Ejekt Festival is on July 14 with Kasabian and The Jesus And Mary Chain. But that's another story...
01. Mr. Brightside
02. Spaceman
03. Somebody Told Me
04. The Way It Was
05. Smile Like You Mean It
06. The Man
07. Human
08. Shadowplay (Joy Division cover)
09. Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll
10. For Reasons Unknown
11. A Dustland Fairytale
12. Read My Mind
13. Runaways
14. All These Things That I've Done
15. Shot At the Night
16. When You Were Young

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...