Greek rock? Maybe this was it

For doubters, it remains a persisting question whether this country has ever had, has, or stands to have a worthy rock music circuit of its own – one comprising acts of genuine merit, conviction and personal sound rather than an imitation of what goes on elsewhere. They never seemed to create much more than a ripple in the mainstream here, but four veteran acts booked on one bill at the Gagarin 205 club in Athens this Friday night are all top contenders for their contributions to what this country has had to offer in the past. And they still occasionally resurface, mostly for performances. Dimitris Poulikakos, Georges Pilali, Spyridoula and Lakis Papadopoulos all figured in rock’n’roll with a «Made in Greece» tag on it around the time this musical form was acutely capable of shocking some and delighting others, no matter where. They remain a bunch of real characters with genuine drive and, moreover, are still capable of delighting, and, perhaps, shocking, too, which makes Friday’s four-act bill potentially interesting. Poulikakos, an infamous figure here who, besides his music, has also entertained through hilariously outrageous acting, first emerged in the 1960s as singer-bassist of MGC, a covers band performing imported classics that were still hard to acquire in a developing rock music market of limited distribution and conservative-driven limits. By the late ’60s, Poulikakos had formed Exadaktylos, a blues-jazz-rock band that delivered the frontman’s original material. With Exadaktylos, Poulikakos was one of the first to apply Greek lyrics to this foreign, riotous-sounding type of music – quite a risque initiative for the time. He went on to release several solo albums in the ’70s, formed an aptly titled band called Adespota Skylia (Stray Dogs), and collaborated with several other leading figures, including late rocker Pavlos Sidiropoulos and two of Friday’s other performers, Papadopoulos and Pilali. Nowadays fronting a band called the Karate Aces No. 2, Poulikakos is getting old, but still hits hard. Pilali’s inclusion on the bill will certainly add spice to the night. Besides being a worthy blues guitarist, this musician tends to be an outrageous storyteller fueled by fact, fiction, a vivid imagination, and, by the sound of it all, tons of God knows what. Whether it’s a case of stories between songs, or songs between stories, is often hard to tell at this loud-mouthed entertainer’s shows. Pilali’s tales tend to focus on subjects such as the joys and travails of outlaws, sidekick-versus-rich-man stories, and, of course, courting women. Should he get started, Greek speakers are likely to appreciate. Others may pick up the odd line or two, too, considering Pilali’s habit of throwing in English-language one-liners, presumably the result of time spent in the USA. Pilali has released three albums, including a live release back in 1986 which showcases the man’s riotous storytelling ability. Also on Friday’s bill, Spyridoula was formed back in 1977. After a series of performances, they joined forces with the aforementioned late Sidiropoulos as the rocker’s backing band. Together, they released the album «Flou» in 1979, which ranks as a domestic rock classic. The act disintegrated in 1984 but re-emerged about a decade later for a further five years. With new members on board, Spyridoula reunited about a year ago for another round of activity. Papadopoulos, the bill’s other act, began his rock’n’roll tenure – a relatively hesitant one – back in the ’60s as the singer-guitarist of a group called the Dragons. They managed to release some material, including «The First Gun,» one of the first songs to be banned by the country’s seven-year military dictatorship (1967-74). Later on, Papadopoulos gained distinction at a song contest organized by the late composer Manos Hadjidakis on the island of Corfu in 1981, an event which, in retrospect, stands as a fruitful occasion that provided a platform for abundant young talent that remains active – and creative – today. Papadopoulos has since scored quite a few hits, both for himself and other performers, including Arletta. Friday, Dec. 23. Doors open at 8.30 p.m. Tickets, 15 euros, on sale at Ticket House, Metropolis music stores, and For telephone orders: 210.678.6000 & 801.11.6000.