I had been warned that Greece would not be the same as my last visit in 2009 when my Dad died. I was told about the closed shops in Athens, abandoned streets and warehouses, and of course the unrest. I was definitely facing a different Greece when we arrived, but I was surprised, based on the media coverage, how *normal* Greece seemed. People were out drinking coffee or booze, out and about in the public squares, shopping, and all of the usual things. Of course, I don’t know exactly what I expected – public sobbing? Also realize that those who are worse off *aren’t* the people I saw on the rooftop bar in Athens or the Rembetika cafe in Karditsa.
After spending a month in Greece, we decided at some point in the future to move to Athens for an experiment. We’ll make sure we have an extra bed for your visit.
In any case — I present your our adventures in Greece, which included recording our (not-yet-released) EP!
Our trip via ship/train/bus to Greece was primarily to see my family in Karditsa. For the first few days, we were joined by our aforementioned good friend Doug (see last post). I had never brought a friend to meet/stay with the family before, but Doug fit right in (I think he’s now part of the family, like a cousin).
He even went to see my aunt Katie and uncle Takis’ choir. Here, Takis conducts/instructs:
We took a trip to the island of Hydra with Doug. The island is car-free and only accessible by a very particular fast ferry, the Flying Dolphin. Which stank like gasoline the entire way (the boat).
After Hydra, we spent more time in Karditsa with family before the show, including at my late father’s property. I love that the trees he planted are still producing fruit.
I miss my family so much when I’m across the Atlantic. Here are a few of them gathered for my aunt Patra’s birthday, plus her friend from Bulgaria (holding the flowers).
Then we were off to Athens to record our forthcoming EP (Never, the End) and play a show at this awesome community DIY space in the Pakistani section of Athens:
We were fortunate to play with two awesome bands. Before the show, they walked us to a veg-friendly place and then proceeded to buy us dinner! The Greeks are so kind. Many of them were vegetarian.
Before the show, a hundred or so people crowded out into the street in front of the venue, dancing, as part of an organized class. Romantso serves a lot of community needs, including dance, music, workshops, etc.
First up was Angelos Kiriou – he was a mixture of spoken word (some of which I caught/understood), political/social commentary, and art songs. We loved him.
Then we played (here, the end of our new song Stranger):
It may be a cliche, but a hellava true one. When a country is going through hard times, they produce some amazing art. Rita Mosss, a powerful crazy drum-driven duo is no exception.
The drummer insisted on driving us to our AirBnb — very good people.
We also met one of their friends and collaborators, who lives in a cheap flat up the street and walks around with his cat on his shoulder. Since cats, traditionally, are considered only a notch or so above rats in Greece, you might imagine the looks he gets from some passerby. Athens, being a city of 5+ million, is overall pretty nonplussed by his walking around, though. He was super nice and had an interesting back story that I’ll keep on the DL. That is, not post publicly. Real “L.”
The audience was kind of the audience want as a band but rarely achieve unless you are well known … singing along somehow and dancing, clapping, yelling. Best people ever. I can only describe it as ready to accept what you’re giving, and appreciative.
During this time, we also spent two days at the Art Tracks recording studio in Athens, with these awesome fellas:
They were recommended to us by another Athens band, and we were happy to have found them. When we told them about our show at Romantso, the gentleman on the left said, “How did you manage to fall right into the hipster scene of Athens? It’s a perfect show.” (Unlike days of late, he didn’t mean “hipster” as an insult!)
I really admired how quickly they both could zoom in on an area we needed to improve and/or fix it using typical Greek know-how and propensity to repair things quickly and easily!
The 2004-installed new version of the Athens Metro is one of the best I’ve used. Very clear maps, easy to get around town, and can even take it all the way to the port city Piraeus.
Also in Athens we were happy to visit my cousins and their families — we had never met my nieces and nephew and it was fun to meet/play. I wish I was closer geographically so that we could see them more often.
On the way back, we made an exception and took a 1.5 hour planeride to London rather than 40+ hours of trains/buses back to catch our ship. Accordingly, to calm my nerves, I ate almost all of these vegan chocolate alcohol bottles. It wasn’t easy.
And, after a sleepless night in a gambling hall in Southampton, our ship had arrived. We embarked and 7 days later were back in NYC.
Taking a few months off has been nice — but we miss playing shows so it won’t be long until we’re back at it. Plus, we have an EP to release – Never, the End.
Thank you to all my friends/family in Greece and across the entire tour for your warmth and hospitality! It was amazing to sail to Europe (and back) and meet so many interesting people from other planets/countries.