Athens, Greece | 6-7 June
Its not often that you have something akin to an epiphany in an Athenian car park, but on a balmy Greek night, the sun having just set over the ever present Parthenon – and, as is imaginable, Athens is a city in which the spectre of ancient history seeps into every street, every crevice a literal and metaphorical reminder of the weight of history – stood with my new friends George and Giannias, the three of us clutching quadruple vodka lemonades, chests puffed with bass from the nearby club room, it happened.
Athens, they were telling me, as we navigated ourselves over to the pirate ship that acted as Plisskën’s primary meeting/boozing spot, is going through a moment of complete upheaval, a moment unlike any other in any city in any time period since the dawn of man. For the duration of that drink, I was in full agreement with them.
In some ways Plisskën is a perfect festival: the site is easily traversable after your fifth shot of dirt-track-distributed ouzo, the predominately local crowd are happy to dole out high fives, handshakes, hugs and cigarettes in equal amounts, there’s foosball, air hockey and portions of the robustly named Meat And Bread (three pink skewers of pork stuffed in a paper bag with a hunk of mighty white). You get to watch the sunset over the Acropolis while you hang about between bands. It’s a self-contained centre of pleasure.
Of course, festivals – well, some festivals – need more than cheap beer and easily available pig product to attain that aforementioned near-perfect status. There’s that thing called music – the thing that occasionally gets in the way of your cold can of Mythos. Happily for us, Plisskën had booked a solid bill over the two days. Nadia Ksabia kicked things off in the sadly empty club room with a set of Dancemania heaviness – peak time bangers at 7pm that drove the non-dancing Athenians away. Athenians, as a general rule, don’t dance. Swapping the pitch black of the club for the dusky outdoors, A Victim of Society (no, me either) peddled some miserablist gloomrock, failing to convey what they were actually sad about. A brief taste of Djuma Soundsystem’s big-room-tech-house woke us up before No Age drew us back out into the night. No Age, in case you’re wondering, still sound like No Age, so three songs was enough.
Our first foray into the cavernous main arena was a frustrating glimpse of things to come. The usually pristine, sumptuous and layered Wild Beasts were reduced to an incoherent slab of nothing due to an underpowered soundsystem. Ducking back into the club was a wise choice as recent Crack cover star Fatima Al Qadiri absolutely smashed it with a headphoneless blend of dancehall, UKG, bashment, techno, house and hip-hop. The British contingent may have found themselves unironically throwing gun fingers at the hordes of bemused, unmoving Greeks, but the less said about that the better. Stage delays led to us catching a slice of Deadboy before, sadly, departing before the long overdue Fuck Buttons made it on stage.
Refreshed and rejuvenated after a pleasant stroll through outer Athens, Saturday started with Dirty Beaches’ snarling Suicide howl: the fuzz and roughness of their material was a good partner for that knackered PA. Several beers later saw us smirking at Seams’ delirious filter-house run-throughs before catching a few minutes of the incredibly tedious sadboy warblings of Son Lux. As the majority of the crowd shoved their way into Wooden Shjips we decamped back to that glorious pitch black sweatbox and found Cooly G spinning minimal techno, UK Funky, house and footwork. Easily the highlight of the weekend and a prime reminder that, actually, DJs are usually more entertaining than bands when you’ve had a few and you’re in a foreign country. She was followed immediately by Shackleton who played a far harder, far more direct set than any of us would have predicted. I heard reports that Black Lips were Black Lips and that Mount Kimbie eventually came on, but by that point I’d slipped over to the Red Bull tent to watch DJs I didn’t know play records I’d never heard. With a heavy heart I left just before 6am hoping I might return to both Athens and Plisskën, this time next year.
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With thanks to The Greek National Tourism Organisation. Check out Visit Greece for information.
Words: Josh Baines
Photography: Thanasis Karatzas