For older generations, the mountainous area of Grammos on the Greek-Albanian border is associated with dark memories from the four-year civil war of 1946-49. But for the past few decades, the region has attracted hundreds of young people who yearn to explore the battlefields in which their relatives fought and died, and to appreciate the area’s beauty and its vibrant natural environment. At many of its small cafes you will invariably come across an elderly woman ready to tell her war stories during the day, whereas at night, the same cafes are filled with young people eager to share their experiences from the Nestorio River Party.
About 25 kilometers from the city of Kastoria, it’s not just the sounds of the famous brass bands that attract visitors, but also the hoards of young people enjoying themselves. The festival has been around for 35 years, and it is no longer attracting just locals; rather, visitors travel to this area from all over the country, including from Crete and the Peloponnese. The festival is an environmentally- and pocket-friendly way to tour this part of Greece.
The Nestorio River Party is considered Greece’s oldest and most popular camping festival – last year it drew 50,000 campers.
It began in 1978, growing into a festival from an end-of-summer party organized by a group of 18-year-olds.
In 2012, it was dubbed one of Europe’s 12 most important festivals by the Europe Festival Awards.
This year, the festival, which will mark its 35th anniversary, will run from July 31 to August 4. Some of the performers include popular acts such as Giannis Aggelakas, Socrates Malamas, Tzimis Panousis, Imam Baildi and Kostis Maraveyas.
According to Dionysis Potsolakis, one of the country’s oldest and most experienced concert organizers, the Greek live music landscape is changing drastically.
“There used to be a category of event that was first held in Attica and then traveled to remote villages and were supported by municipal authorities. It would present two to three singers, a couple of theatrical shows and a dance performance or two, and all of this would be molded together into a week of festivities. These events were paid for by the municipality, which rarely made profit,” said Potsolakis. “The market essentially collapsed with the merger of municipalities in 2010. Concerts are still held today, but purely because of private initiatives.”
With the cash all but dried up, most acts and producers are looking for alternative ways to get their music out there, with the artists especially becoming more willing to adopt concepts they may have snubbed a few years ago, as well as significant reductions to their pay checks. Potsolakis added that another consequence of the crisis is that the public has become more selective about where it will spend its hard-earned euros.
“The public no longer has the money it once had. So now people think more about how much they have to spend – which is rarely much. If, say, back in the day someone would put aside 100 euros to spend on concerts over the course of a year, now they would probably have no more than 30 euros. This means that someone will choose to splurge on three concerts – each costing 10 euro. Back in the day, you would pay for five concerts – each costing 20 euros. Sometimes you can find tickets for 8 euros, but you can’t expect much in terms of quality,” Potsolakis added.
According to the organizer, camping festivals like that at Nestrio and Fokida have come to be considered the most pocket-friendly way to enjoy good music, combined with a brief nature break.
“With five days of musical events that include 30 concerts and camping accommodation, all for 50 euros, a festival like the Nestorio River Party, is a bargain. Interest in attending such events has increased over the last few years,” Potsolakis said. “The crisis has surely helped the popularity of such festivals. If back in the day a group of friends had 800 euros to spend on a vacation, now they have 200 – which is just enough for five days at the River Party.”
However, the Nestorio River Party is not the only camping music festival to take place in Greece.
The Sounds of the Forest
Two-and-half hours from Athens, on the outskirts of the village of Kaloskopi in Fokida, central Greece, the Sounds of the Forest Festival, running through July 21, celebrates 12 years marked by alternating locations – four in all to date – allowing the public to become better acquainted with the mountains of Fokida.
“With the passage of time, we realized that moving the festival would prove difficult for its success, mainly because of financial reasons. During the festival’s first few years, it did not have the necessary support, but it managed to become a hit with time,” said Panagiotis Koniakos of Elia, an association that deals with regional development and is also the festival’s main organizer, working together with the Fokida Regional Authority, the Municipality of Gravia and the Community of Kaloskopi.
“Now we are now almost able to self-finance everything, though we do receive some limited support from the regional authority. We hope to do better; all of our revenues are reinvested in the event,” Koniakos added.
Last year, the festival had 4,500 visitors and even more are expected to attend this year to enjoy acts such as Mode Plagal and Orpheas Peridis.
“With three-day passes priced at 20 euros and four concerts per day, we can’t hide the fact that financially we are struggling,” Koniakos admitted, adding the festival was started by a group of friends.
“They had an ecological and social conscience, and created an association in the hopes of improving the region through the implementation of alternative actions,” Koniakos, who joined the association in 2008 after leaving Athens, explained.
“We’re all volunteers here. This is a powerful form of entertainment and it shows that gradual changes are taking place in us Greeks, who are starting to ask for more out of life,” Koniakos said.
Also in northern Greece, in Elatohori in the region of Pieria, the Mouson Festival runs through July 22 in what is only its second year of operation. It is named after the nine muses of Greek mythology.
The event features acts such as Lakis Papadopoulos, Ble and Thanasis Papaconstantinou, while parallel activities include a bazaar, a photography exhibition, environmental awareness campaigns and a music seminar, among others.
Ticket prices range from 5-30 euros, and camping accommodation is free.
For more information contact 23510.52217 & 23510.52218 or e-mail [email protected]