Cult acts unite for worthy fiesta

There has been no shortage of concerts in and around the capital during the past few weeks. So far this summer, Athens has seen several internationally celebrated acts, including Moby, Sonic Youth, Marilyn Manson, Duran Duran, Mory Kante and Black Sabbath – with original frontman Ozzy Osbourne. A festival lined up tomorrow evening may seem less striking – on paper, at least – but it seems to have all the necessary ingredients to go down as one of the Greek capital’s great summer concert events. Tomorrow’s G-Fest event, at the Beach Volleyball Olympic facility in Faliron in southern Athens, is the latest in a series. It brings together a seemingly incongruent bunch of acts, domestic and imported. But a closer look reveals common traits, the most obvious being the fervent cult followings the acts draw. Their work has attracted fans with strong musical convictions far from the industry’s hype. On the bill is the historic Jamaican ska band, the Skatalites, as well as the commendable local acts Thanassis Papaconstantinou, Heimerini Kolymvites, and Earthbound. Cult Mediterranean figure Tonino Carotone is scheduled to perform. Papaconstantinou epitomizes the artist who gained acceptance entirely through enthusiastic word-of-mouth advertising. Papaconstantinou had released several inspired albums throughout the 1990s that drew only a modest following. His more recent efforts, crossover albums that mixed traditional Greek elements with rock to admirable effect, attracted many more fans. Despite his recent commercial success, Papaconstantinou has refrained from trading his provincial hometown of Larissa for the big city lights. Also on tomorrow night’s G-Fest bill are Heimerini Kolymvites, Greece’s ultimate cult band. Much like Papaconstantinou, the band’s ingenuity lies in its ability to mix disparate styles. The act’s fusion of free jazz with various older Greek styles, including rebetika and cantathes (Ionian Island serenades), distinguishes it as one of the country’s most intriguing bands. The band’s musicians are split into old-Greek traditionalists and risque improvisers – three on one side and three on the other. They are fronted by a charismatic band leader, Argyris Bakirtzis, whose croaky, slightly off-pitch vocal delivery couldn’t sound worse, but couldn’t sound better, either. Heimerini Kolymvites, who are mostly 50-ish practicing and non-practicing professionals, would not be in their own league without their leader. Obviously delighted to occasionally escape from his more serious vocational side as a Culture Ministry-employed architect specializing in monument restoration, Bakirtzis can be a hilarious riot on stage with plenty to say. Part of this act’s magic lies in its casual approach, which has produced just a handful of albums in 25 years – the most recent, a live album, arriving nearly a decade ago. The band apparently rarely rehearses nowadays, leaving all their energy for the stage. But a good mix of conviction, innovative quaintness, maturity, musical flair and deep communication based on long friendships inherent in the music overcomes any shortcomings here. It should noted that two of the act’s three jazz players, Michalis Siganidis and Kostas Vomvolos, are also members of singer Savina Yannatou’s wonderful backing band, Primavera en Salonico. The group’s other jazzman, reeds player Floros Floridis, has been a member of Papaconstantinou’s band in more recent years, so he’ll be doing a double shift tomorrow night. Guaranteed to ignite the evening into a fiesta, the Skatalites are renowned as the world’s greatest ska act. The historic band, whose roots date back to the early 1960s, first performed here at the Gagarin club last year. The turnout was overwhelming, with an equal number of fans inside and outside the venue for the sold-out show. The evening’s two other acts, Tonino Carotone – a Basque cult artist who fuses punk energy with Spanish, French and Italian styles – and local «surf rock-Latino» band Earthbound, should get the evening’s momentum rolling early on. Tomorrow, Beach Volleyball Courts, Faliron. Advance tickets: 25 euros, at Ticket House (42 Panepistimiou) and PMW music store (Panepistimiou & Patission). On the door: 30 euros (subject to availability).

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