Cult of The Amps, Volume 1 took place at Gagarin 205 in Athens on a cold and wet Athenian night. Not to be deterred, the crowd arrived to celebrate noisy post metal outfit Allochiria celebrating 5 years of their album ‘Omonoia’, post rock band Afformance, metal band Amniac, and 3 piece instrumental rock band Caldera. A successful night of noisy, sludgy, visual music. Roll on Volume 2.
The first thing you notice when Mogwai hit the stage is how fucking enormous the stage at the Piraeus Academy is and how small Mogwai look when placed up on it. Everything has been pushed right back leaving a chasm of space at the front, filled with various pedal boards that band members, multi instrumentalist Barry Burns, guitarist Stuart Braithwaite, Dominic Aitchison on bass, and the recently returned from illness Martin Bulloch on drums, occasionally stepped forward to play. And this is when it hits you, despite being placed very firmly into the effects laden post rock genre, live they are miles away from bands such as the gadget ridden ‘God Is An Astronaut’, or the visually dominant Sigur Ros. No big screens here, no massive light show (although what they had worked wonderfully well), just 5 Scotsmen under a moody light playing a fucking awesome show.
Opening with the beautiful, ‘I Heard About You last Night’ from the fantastic ‘Rave Tapes’ album, the band were nestled tightly at the back, hunched over pianos. The glorious melody washing over the empty, deep blue stage. Every Country’s Sun’s ‘Crossing The Road Material’ and ‘We are not done’ from Kin, brought the band members to the front, with the latter seeing Stuart Braithwaite step up to the mic for the first time in the evening. Every Country’s Sun is, as expected, heavily featured here with ‘Coolverine’, ‘Don’t Believe The Fife’, ‘Old Poisons’ and the title track being added to the Before mentioned, ‘Crossing The Road’ Don’t let this fool you though, the set list ranged from the very beginning with ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ from 1997’s Young Team and spanned their entire career. I’m not sure that Mogwai could ever be called a greatest hits band but ‘Hunted By A Freak with that glorious anthemic vocoder, and ‘I’m Jim Morrison’ with the piano introduction that belongs in a cathedral, are certainly fan favourites and they received the appropriate response.
It seems that Mogwai are a band currently at the top of their game as they move from guitars to synths and back again, giving each band member a chance to shine. It all seemed so effortless as they swoop from the quiets and build into the raging torrents of noise. These dynamics, that it should be noted, were dealt with remarkably well from the venues acoustics, allowing the silence to breathe and the noise to crush. Epic is frequently a word banded about at these gigs but it is done so for a reason, epic it was.
Earlier on, Greek band Afformance had showcased their brand of Post Rock in style. Cut down to a four piece from their regular six on this particular night they continue to excel and their sound filled this cavernous room quite beautifully. Taken from albums such as ‘Music for Imaginary Film #1’ and ‘Pop Nihilism’, the set list stood up well to what was to follow.
The Callas are not your ordinary band. Consisting of the brothers Aris and Lakis Ionas, on guitar and bass respectively, Chrysanthi Tsoukala on drums, Marilena Petridou on percussion and Chris Bekiris on guitar. they are more of an art collective whose music output is only part of a larger body of work that encompasses mediums such as art, film and magazines to name a few. As a result they attract a different type of crowd and play different type of gigs to your regular musical tastemakers.
Tonight’s gig sees the band crammed onto a tiny stage in front of a fabulously kitsch curtain. Taking place in the rather lovely Xorostasio bar in an aptly bohemian part of Athens, the gig was to celebrate the release of their new album, ‘Trouble and Desire’, a collaberation with Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo no less. Indeed, the last time I saw this band they were opening for the aforementioned band’s Thurston Moore at the much more standard Fuzz Club so you can begin to see what kind of scene they have created.
In true Greek style they took the stage over an hour later than originally advertised and proceeded to bang out their fuzzy, loud jagged post punk tunes in front of a very receptive and tightly packed audience. The stage is dominated by the two brothers, Lakis on bass, moodily peering from under his flat Peaky Blinders cap (let the records show he was wearing this long before that dreadful monstrosity began) and singer and guitarist Aris Ioanas. However the real star of this live set up is the furious force of nature that sits behind the drums, named Chrysanthi Tsoukala. A huge sound emitting from this highly animated drummer as she combined singing, both leads and melodies, while thrashing out tribal beats. Pure entertainment. Abley backed up by Marilena Petridou on percussion and vocals and once you add in guitarist Chris Bekiris, quietly being stage left, and quite a noise and image is made by this 5 piece.
The set list, as you would expect, leaned heavily on the new record with opener Mirroir starting proceedings with Chrysanthi taking the main French spoken vocals with a heavy Velvet Underground feel. The gloriously fuzzy pop of Trouble and Desire showcased the band’s Beatlesque pendant for trading vocal lines and the shouty Acid Books kept the gig speeding along. The Callas seem to specialise in ‘chanty’ songs as the older ‘Lipstick’, proves.
‘Its Sunday Im Bleeding,’ from their album ‘Half Kiss Half Pain’ returns to their Velvet Underground leanings with a Nico style vocal and Sonic Youth guitars. I look behind me into the crowd and they are all loving it, and why not, its all rather glorious.
Other older songs such as ‘East Beast’ and ‘Am I vertical?’ follow and new track ‘Melania’ closes the gig prompting me to wander off to try and find a copy of the new record to buy. I couldn’t, a record promotional gig with no record. OK. Still, what a fucking gig.
The Gathering are in town, heading south from their Northern Orange base for the first time in, well, a long time, and for the concert goers of Athens this poses a quite literal large problem. An international band invariably brings a number of fellow countrymen along in the form of crew, family and well, i guess, fans, but coming from Holland, tonight sees the general size of the audience grow half a foot. The perils of supporting a band from the tallest Nation in the world i guess. Nevermind, the concert, criminally undersold, was made up in vertical size and impeccable English. Still, for those who stayed away it was their loss as, for those peering around their Northern Brethren, the band delivered a beautiful dreamlike mix of new and fan favorites.
Opening with the moody ‘Black Light District’ with singer Silje Wergeland playing the opening stark piano melody silhouetted against a sole back light, set the evening for an atmospheric evening of gorgeous melodies and textures. The rest of the band joined her to kick the song in before ‘Paralyzed’ followed with its slow marching drum beat. Next saw ‘Meltdown’ arriving and the distortion pedals were kicked in and the gig took off. Led by guitarist and co founder Rene Rutten (along with drummer Hans Rutten), the band led the audience through their ethereal sound of dreamy layered backings of strings and arpeggiated guitars that allowed singer Silje Wergeland’s vocals to soar and cascade.
A minimal light set up and no backing screens meant the music was the sole focus and songs like ‘Maroon’, ‘Paper Leaves’ and ‘Saturnine’ were beautifully performed and warmly received by a dedicated following. By the time they closed with the building ‘Heroes for Ghosts’ the band had the crowd exactly where they wanted.
Returning for a brutal ‘Nighttime Birds’ from 1997 that bordered on industrial and even featured a crowd sing along they then closed the set with an incredible ‘I can see four Miles’. A fitting end with an extended instrumental outro featuring a fabulous guitar solo using a theremin that raised the noise threshold considerably, the way every gig should end. And with that, they were gone, amongst the thank yous there were plenty of smiles and thumbs up that showed the band were enjoying it just as much as the audience. Hup Hup! Welcome back.
Earlier in the evening local band Fragile Vastness had entertained us with a high tempo and uplifting brand of rock. Lead singer Elena Stratigopoulou showcasing her impressive vocal talents with a powerful performance of songs such as ‘Face in the mirror’, ‘Wall of Glass’ and ‘From East to West’, backed by a very tight band.
Crow Club 20/10/2018
Supporting Treat, Crow Club, Athens 20/10/18