Rockwave Festival begins Friday

Back after a two-year absence, the Rockwave Festival, whose roots date back to the mid-’90s, is set to return as an extended five-day event on the outskirts of Athens Friday through Tuesday with reformed indie-rock legends the Pixies and veteran Peter Gabriel as the major highlights. Other acts on the festival’s agenda, one dominated by hard-rock acts, include Judas Priest and WASP, as well as Mogwai, Placebo and Him. The event, which since its launch has failed to find a steady home, is being held at a 3-hectare expanse dubbed Terra Vibe in Malakasa, approximately 48 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Athens. The festival’s organizer, Didi Music, has arranged for camping facilities on the premises. Rumors had run rife last year about a reunion by the Pixies, the Boston-based quartet whose legend just kept growing following the band’s breakup under bitter circumstances in 1993, seven wonderfully creative years down the track. The band’s frontman Black Francis, who switched to Frank Black for his ensuing solo career, had publicly announced the band’s end before informing his fellow members. The trouble within the innovative band’s ranks began to brew when bassist Kim Deal suggested introducing some of her own songs to the group’s repertoire. As a band leader who felt that the entire project was based on his songwriting ideas, Black Francis rejected Deal’s idea, which is, more or less, how the trouble started. Deal’s decision to form a parallel side project, the highly successful Breeders, as a vehicle for her own songs, probably infuriated Black Francis further. Considering the circumstances, the band’s reunion, announced officially in February, came as a major surprise. «They’re talking, they’re rehearsing, and they’re going to perform together for the first time in more than a decade,» noted the band’s official reunion announcement. Among the wave of rock-band reunions, that of the Pixies ranks as one of the more interesting. The band’s odd and innovative approach to rock music, which combined roaring guitars and stop-start dynamics with catchy pop hooks, male-female harmonies and cryptic lyrics, quickly distinguished the Pixies as an authentic force amid the indie-rock scene of the time. Despite not being accomplished musicians, the Pixies were inventive, a value which generated growing popularity for the band after its demise. Besides growing from a cult band to one with widespread appeal, the band has also attracted celebrated colleagues. U2’s Bono has gone on record for describing the Pixies as «one of America’s greatest bands ever.» David Bowie, who has covered material by the Pixies, called their work «just about the most compelling music of the entire ’80s.» And Kurt Cobain, who ranked the Pixies’ second album release «Surfer Rosa» as his favorite album of that entire decade, confessed that «basically, I was ripping off the Pixies» while writing one of Nirvana’s biggest hits, «Smells Like Teen Spirit.» After performing last in 1992, the band’s original lineup of Francis, Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering embarked on an 11-city «warmup» tour of North America in April. The European leg of the band’s world tour began on May 28 and ends July 10. At the Rockwave Festival, the band has been booked to perform as the headline act next Monday. Despite the band’s full-scale tour, it remains uncertain whether they also intend to record new material for release. They have performed in Athens once before, in 1988, to a crowded Rodon Club audience, just after the release of their «Doolittle» album, which gave the band a wider audience. Back then, the Pixies were a budding indie-scene band. Now, after their lengthy absence and lasting legacy, they will be returning to Greece as one of the biggest bands in the business. Gabriel, another major act who launches the Rockwave Festival this Friday, will be returning to Greece as a rock-icon-turned-world-music-instigator following a show at the capital’s Olympic Stadium in 1988 alongside Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Youssou N’Dour and Tracy Chapman as part of a mammoth world tour for the human rights group Amnesty International. At the time, Gabriel was enjoying immense commercial success with his multi-platinum pop «So» album. It took the veteran several years to return with his follow-up «Us,» in 1992. A darker, tenser album, it was influenced by a number of personal upheavals, including a painful divorce. Besides the songwriting, much of Gabriel’s activity has been focused on running his WOMAD music festival and Real World record label, both prime instigators of the blossoming world music scene. The festival’s full lineup: Friday (18/6) – Peter Gabriel; Saturday (19/6) – WASP, Running Wild, Dark Tranquility, Firewind, Soulfly; Sunday (20/6) – Judas Priest, Nightwish, Queensryche, Nightfall; Monday (21/6) – the Pixies, Mogwai, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Ill Nino, Raining Pleasure; Tuesday (22/6) – Placebo, Him, Starsailor, The soundtrack of our Lives, Film. At Terra Vibe (37th kilometer on the Athens-Lamia national highway). Bus service (KTEL) will be provided from central Athens (Plateia Aigyptou). Venue is located 2.3 kilometers from a train station. For further information see