It’s been almost a week since Plisskën Festival opened its doors in downtown Athens, but the memories are still quite vivid. Living quite far from Athens it’s a tricky choice to roll down there for a concert (or basically anything) and this festival was the first event that made me do those 500km since 2011. As I’ve written in an older piece here, there were almost no first-class bands, but the line-up was hugely refreshing for Greek standards. So, I booked me a ticket and made it to the door on Friday afternoon, just before Strand Of Oaks took on the main stage.
The site is located quite close to the city center, four metro stops and fifteen minutes walking, and there were four stages, two indoor and two outdoor. The latter were mostly active during the day and the people who wouldn’t leave before around 2:00 would move to Tunnel or Aquarium, as they two indoor were named, to listen mostly to electronic music. There was a food corner based on suvlaki but with good variety, several bars spread around the stages, a few places to chill (or watch Champion’s League final on Saturday evening), lots of sun and even more wind.
For most of the bands it was the first ever in Greece, and very few of them didn’t satisfy the roughly five thousands that spend those two days there. Mudhoney seemed to have the most devoted audience on Friday, with Mark Arm in a great mood causing chaos with songs like ‘Touch Me I’m Sick‘. Earlier that day, Strand Of Oaks opened the Main stage with a quite pleasant set, before Greek-Australian folky-jazz or jazzy-folk duo Xylouris White started playing, or perhaps more accurately, jamming on Cretan lyra and drums. They appear regularly in Greece, but it was the first time I saw them live and Jim White drums great while Giorgos Xylouris floats around Cretan sounds with his traditional lyra.
Moving to the other open stage, The Coathangers were a blast. Three women changing roles in playing bass, electric guitar and drums were the highlight of the afternoon, even though METZ tried really hard to best that a bit later. The Twilight Sad were simply fine, their music not so fitting to Athens’ sunny afternoon. It might have been different had they played by sunset. Iceage from Copenhagen did that and they were pretty enjoyable, despite not interacting a lot with the audience.
Luckily, so far on Friday the schedule was almost ideal for me and I didn’t have to choose between two bands I really wanted to see. Austra on Republic stage came up a few minutes before Mudhoney and I made my choice for the latter. Their show and people’s response by dancing, moshing and singing were so impulsive that I had to miss Pharmakon, an act I was really interested in seeing live. After Mudhoney‘s grunge, time had come for Savages‘ post punk. Jenny Beth is a great frontwoman and she seemed to quite enjoy playing for the Greek audience, doing her – quite regular – stage diving after ‘I Am here‘. They played several new songs from upcoming album, but totally conquered Plisskën with their hits from ‘Silence Yourself‘. It seemed that Savages‘ shoes were too big for The Horrors to fill. Their good set on main stage at midnight didn’t reach as high as it could and same holds for …Trail Of Dead. Most of the people were leaving by then and the rest chose between pretty good Squarepusher or Brodinski that kept people dancing on Aquarium stage.
On Saturday I was expecting fewer people, but weekend combined with Mogwai‘s popularity in Greece proved me wrong. People started coming quite early, enjoying Waxahatchee and strangely good Perfume Genius, who found out surprisingly enough that several of us knew plenty of his songs. Pow! were probably the best band to appear on Republic stage on Saturday, at least until a bit after midnight when Sleaford Mods took on and Mikal Cronin right after them. English punky hip hop duo doesn’t present something significant on stage and Jason Williamson‘s singing isn’t easy for the Greek audience to follow, but their rhythm and passion caused several of us to prefer them to Mogwai that were playing next door. Both Sleaford Mods and Mikal Cronin, who was quite good on stage despite his recent flat album, were influenced by the huge sound of Mogwai coming from the Main stage, that was within small distance from Republic. A bit earlier, Cult Of Youth were pretty good, using cello along with their rock outlet, but I was expecting more from them on a concert since I had quite enjoyed their albums.
Young Swiss going around with the name Verveine playing some kind of EDM-infused pop was the best thing I saw on the small and dark Tunnel stage; not that I spent a lot of time there in general. Thee Oh Sees on the main stage were the act of the day, early in the evening, and they played most of their hits, taking a bit more time than they should. While several people had gathered around a couple of TVs to watch Barcelona beating Juventus, Electric Wizard were killing the main stage with their metal. Acid Baby Jesus is a Greek psychedelic rock band, one of the few native bands to appear in Plisskën. That evening they were much better than the last time I had seen them, obviously inspired by the atmosphere of the festival and the numerous audience in front of them. A bit later, Ariel Pink was the biggest disappointment of the festival, singing poorly and talking a lot between songs.
I started the long walk home just after WhoMadeWho finished their enjoyable set, thinking that it was a great festival. Organizers have mentioned that 20% of the pre-sale was from abroad and I could believe that, having met people from Bulgaria and often overheard people speaking in English. Plisskën should have been a fast sold out though, bringing such names in Athens, but the vast majority of the Greek audience (and media) is still in medieval state as far as music is concerned. As a festival it was fully satisfying, offering almost everything one needs (sadly, no camping or any accommodation deal available) and I hope it gets bigger next year with equally satisfying line up.