Breaking the winter’s silence with Manu Chao, the Dandy Warhols and The Cure

These are erratic times for activity on the local concert circuit. Hit hard by the repercussions of September 11, and an overall hesitancy by acts to tour – particularly to relatively small music markets such as Greece’s – last winter’s concert activity was unquestionably one of the poorest for years. But a recent surge of bookings by local promoters for the coming months seems to be heading the scene toward its revival. These include the Chemical Brothers, Manu Chao, Lee «Scratch» Perry, Mad Professor, the Dandy Warhols, the Dirty Three, Lambchop, Pulp, and Motorhead. The action gets under way on May 17 at Piraeus’s Freattyda Beach with Perry, the larger-than-life Jamaican’s first-ever appearance here at what is being billed as the Jammin’ Festival. Also on the bill is one of his more astute students, Mad Professor, and local reggae band De Traces. A towering figure of reggae music and one of the form’s offshoots, dub, the influential 65-year-old Perry has produced literally thousands of Jamaican recordings, including works by Bob Marley and the Wailers as well as his own. Much of it was recorded in Perry’s own Black Ark studio, which, according to legend, he eventually torched. Nowadays, the revered figure is based in Switzerland and is enjoying a major career revival as part of a recent reggae renaissance that has shed new light on reggae pioneers. One of the most popular international acts over the past couple of years, the French-Spaniard Manu Chao, who has drawn heavily from reggae music, will also play the Piraeus seaside venue on June 8. Chao, whose alternative latin-reggae sound, on two solo albums to date, has propelled him to superstar status in many parts of the world, spent years honing his craft as the frontman for the less commercial reggae-punk band Mano Negra in the late 1980s, and, prior to that, in his obscure first band, the rockabilly outfit Les Hot Pants. Not long after Chao’s latest performance, another visiting act, the Chemical Brothers, should keep the rhythm flowing at the same Piraeus venue. The act, a top seller in the electronica field that has managed to cross over into mainstream markets, has been booked for one show on June 18. It will be the English duo’s first show in Greece with a new album, «Come With Us,» the act’s fourth, in the bag. A day later, the enduring pop-dance act the Pet Shop Boys will return for their second show in two years, this time at the Technopolis venue in the capital’s Gazi district. They, too, will be touring backed by a new album, «Release,» which, incidentally, features the former Smiths guitarist and songwriter Johnny Marr. The lineup for this summer’s Rockwave Festival, an annual summertime concert highlight since its inception in the mid-1990s, includes the infectious pop-psychelic band Dandy Warhols, Pulp, veteran new-wave act The Cure, the popular Patras-based local band Raining Pleasure, and several hard-rock acts, among them Motorhead, as well as dance acts on a separate stage. They include Nick Warren, Darren Emmerson and local dance guru Floorfiller. Expanded to three stages from the previous one for the first time, the festival, whose introduction of a dance stage by its organizer comes as a wise move aimed at drawing the growing legions of electronica fans, will be held at the Athens Equestrian Center in Goudi, July 1-3. Also at the same venue, the Womad Festival, a premier «ethnic» music event that takes its cast from city to city, will take place between June 14-16. Cape Verde’s most celebrated figure, Cesaria Evora, is on the festival’s bill. Womad’s local promoter is expected to announce details of the lineup within the week. The festival, which has been acquainting Western audiences with exotic sounds for over a decade, was brought to Greece for the first time last summer. Returning to the month of May, several excellent acts have been booked for performances. The «alternative-country» band Lambchop kicked off a European tour in Portugal early last month, which eventually winds up in Athens on May 18 at Club 22. The month’s other worthwhile shows have been booked for the tiny Mikro Mousiko Theatro (33 Veikou Street) in the Koukaki district. Dirty Three, the emotionally charged, melancholy instrumental trio from Melbourne, Australia, will perform two shows there on May 31 and June 1, after one night in Thessaloniki at the Messogeios Club on May 30. Fronted by freak violinist Waren Ellis – who has played with various notable Australian acts, including the late David McComb, formerly of the 1980s band The Triffids, its offshoot, the Blackeyed Susans, and, nowadays, is also a member of compatriot Nick Cave’s backing band, the Bad Seeds – the Dirty Three have recently enjoyed international acclaim in Europe and the US. Ellis, whose wayward violin playing carries a distinctive sound, and his sensitive rhythm section of Mick Turner on guitar and Jim White on drums have produced several albums with captivating material ranging from tranquil to hell-like. The band toured here several years ago, as a support act for one of Cave’s basketball arena-sized shows. Their compatriot Louis Tillett, a frequent visitor to Greece ever since his first visit here over a decade ago, including as a support act for Cave, will be at the Mikro Mousiko Theatro on May 23, for the third time around. The Sydney-based underground artist surfaced as a solo act with 1987’s sensational «Egotripping at the Gates of Hell» album, a potent rock-jazz-blues cocktail. In recent years he has favored more serene, piano-voice material as was beautifully exemplified on 1994’s superb «Letters to a Dream» album. For his show in Athens, Tillett will be accompanied by local cellist Nikos Veliotis. Finally, Thalia Zedek, a prolific artist of America’s contemporary underground scene, will perform at the venue on May 19 and 20.