CULTURE

A surge of concert activity nears

This period promises to be busier than usual, with diverse and, in many cases, worthwhile concert activity from Greek and foreign contemporary acts in the coming days and weeks. That is as long as performers and event promoters remain true to the announced schedules, given the increased uncertainty in the live circuit sector and the subsequent postponements or cancellations of recent times. Touring acts on their way here include English neo-folk act Beth Orton for her first visit; Tex-Mex act Calexico, a steady visitor in recent years; veteran incognito experimentalists the Residents; indie-rock favorite and regular Steve Wynn; the Flaming Lips; 21st Century Schizoid Band, featuring ex-members of progressive 1970s act King Crimson; and, also from yesteryear, Arthur Lee with Love, who will be returning for a second successive year. Some of the country’s more interesting contemporary acts have also lined up performances over the next few weeks, including Savina Yiannatou, Mode Plagal, and Kristi Stassinopoulou. With anonymity and musical bizarreness as their trademarks, American oddball act the Residents, who still wear masks after emerging in the early 1970s, return to Greece for two shows in Athens this week, on Friday and Saturday, at the Gagarin 205 club (205 Liosion, tel 210.854.7600). The act, which has released countless albums since emerging in 1972, many of them daringly audacious, such as a deconstruct-and-reconstruct take on Elvis Presley songs with «The King and Eye» album, have played here several times before, always with the audiovisual dimension as an intricate part of their shows. The Flaming Lips, an indie rock favorite over recent years with roots that date back to 1983 in Oklahoma City, have been booked for a single show this Sunday, also at the Gagarin 205 venue. They will be touring backed by a recent album release, «Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots,» one of the group’s more ambitious studio ventures. Neo-folk singer Beth Orton, the tall, almost lanky girl with the charming voice and strong songwriting ideas as a vehicle for it, will play two highly anticipated shows in Greece after rumors ran riot of a visit in the past. Orton, whose work has been guided by the singer-songwriting tradition of previous decades and electronica’s newer music-making ways for an alluring result, will play her first show on March 21 at the Gagarin 205 club before heading to Thessaloniki the following night for a second performance at the Mylos Club (56 Andreou Georgiou, tel 2310.551.838). Orton has just released a new album, «Daybreaker,» her third, which includes contributions from the Chemical Brothers, Emyllou Harris, Ryan Adams and Johnny Marr, the ex-Smiths guitarist and songwriter. Late in the month, on March 29, a veteran act made up of ex-King Crimson members calling itself 21st Century Schizoid Band will present material from progressive-rock band King Crimson’s early period at the Rodon Club in Athens (24 Marni, 210.524.7427). Though the veteran act’s leader Robert Fripp is not part of this revivalist project, he has given his consent to his former bandmates – Pete Giles, Ian Wallace, Ian McDonald, and Mel Collins – as a well as a fifth member, guitarist Jakko Jaksyz, formerly of Level 42, to deliver the work of old. Speaking of old, Arthur Lee, of the 1960s band Love, will return to Greece after performing a well-received show here last year, to present his old band’s classic album «Forever Changes,» one of rock’n’roll’s most widely celebrated, with the backing of a full orchestra. Lee, a notorious figure with a controversial, self-destructive past marked by a lengthy prison sentence that only ended recently, who nowadays appears to be seeking lusher ways, will present the orchestral vision of his work at the Rodon Club on April 4. On the same night, veteran garage-rock band the Fuzztones have been booked for a show at the Gagarin 205. According to the concert agendas provided by promoters, the following evening, April 5, will also feature two visiting acts, Blixa Bargeld and Madrugada. Bargeld, a member of Nick Cave’s backing band, the Bad Seeds, whose eerie, unorthodox guitar sounds were trademark features of Cave’s harsher earlier albums, has been booked for the Gagarin 205 venue together with his own outfit, the Berlin-based Einsturzende Neubauten. The younger Madrugada, a rock act from Norway whose nocturnal musical textures have been influenced by acts like Bargeld, Cave and Co, will be on at the Rodon Club. The Norwegian act will play a second show there the following night. Not long after, the extremely popular Tex-Mex duo Calexico, whose alternative country-tinged sounds fused with Mexican mariachi horns have crossed over to the mainstream, will be back here for shows in Athens, Thessaloniki and Larissa after several visits over the past four years. Calexico, who have just put out a new album, «Feast of Wire,» parts of which were presented by the act’s core duo of Joey Burns and John Convertino in a sparse guitar-and-drums show in Athens as part of a promotional tour of Europe just weeks ago, will be returning backed by a full band. The act has been booked for an Athens show on April 10 at Ark Nr.6 (18 Themidos, tel 210.338.8400). A show in Larissa has been planned for the following evening at the provincial city’s Mylos venue, while the band’s Greek leg of its European tour ends in Thessaloniki on April 12 at the Mylos Club. Possibly, or rather, most likely, the recordholder for the greatest number of performing visits to Greece, American rocker Steve Wynn, the ex-frontman of 1980s post-punk band the Dream Syndicate who has pursued a worthy solo career for over a decade now, will be at the Gagarin in Athens on April 12 with Swedish garage-rock veterans the Nomads as his support group. Wynn, who like Calexico was here for a promotional visit that included an acoustic guitar-vocals solo gig at a small and packed bar in Athens, has also been booked for a Thessaloniki show at the Mylos Club, without the Nomads. Colombian singer Susana Baca, who first performed here last summer at the Womad Festival in Athens, has been booked for two shows at the Ark Nr.6 club in Athens on April 12 and 13. Greek acts worth considering for good musical nights out include: Greek folk-jazz fusion group Mode Plagal, who return to the stage as a band in their own right after a lengthy residency as part of a bigger band backing Dionysis Savvopoulos and Nikos Papazoglou for over two months. The sextet, which fuses folk music, mostly from the country’s north with urban American sounds, will play at the An Club (13-15 Solomou, 210.330.5057) in Athens on March 28. Also at the same venue, on March 14 and 15, electro-folk fringe artist Kristi Stassinopoulou will play her first shows in Athens since the release of her fourth album «The Secrets of the Rocks» late last year. It hit the top of the influential World Music Charts Europe (WMCE) in January, a position based on votes by respected European radio producers, not sales. Savina Yiannatou, whose career abroad has grown in recent years, as confirmed by regular concert tours and a recent record deal with the high-caliber ECM label, will play a series of dates at the Zoom club in Plaka, Athens, (37 Kydathineon, tel 210.322.5920) on March 22-23 and 27-30, performing songs by the late Manos Hadjidakis.