music

J Mascis, AN Club, Athens 21/06/19

Ελληνικά πιο κάτω

There is nothing ‘Rockstar’ about J Mascis. Everything, from his appearance to his guitar playing to his interview technique, is rough around the edges and this, you soon realise, is exactly how he likes it.

Better known for producing 30 years of “Ear Splitting Country” (his words) with his band Dinosaur Jnr, he is here in Athens for a solo acoustic gig at the AN club. Of course what you consider to be an acoustic gig is not necessarily the same as what a man who started out as a hardcore drummer thinks is an acoustic gig. Thus a pedal board filled with distortions and fuzz pedals lurks ominously beside the mic stand.

Ambling, almost apologetically, onto the stage he picks up his guitar, plugs into an electric guitar amp, thus giving it an immediate overdriven crunch, and launches into ‘Lung’, a Dinosaur Jnr favourite. And thus it begins, the loudest acoustic gig you will ever hear. There are no dynamics here, no intrinsic fingerpicking for the purists. Its an electric guitar player, playing the acoustic guitar as if its an electric. You have 2 sounds, overdriven acoustic or fuzzed up acoustic, and both settings are turned to loud. Songs stretched out with the aid of a looper and lengthy guitar solos, not something you associate with an acoustic gig. Sure the sound was crappy, the looper being inaudible thanks to layers of distortion but nobody cared, The fragility of his voice carried, the strength of the songs was evident and the spirit shown through.

Classics such as Little Fury Things, Repulsion and The Wagon from the bands original incarnation mixed with the second generation Dinosaur Jnr tracks such as get me and Alone, and they sat comfortably with his more recent solo offerings such as drifter, Meet me at the movies and Electric Days. A encore of covers in the shape of the Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’ and Mazzy Stars ‘Fade Into You’ and he was off. The crowd had other ideas however and roared their approval meaning a forced return for a surprising run through of ‘Out There’. ‘Thanks for coming’ he mumbled to no one in particular and with that, he really is gone. A triumph.

Earlier we were treated to a more traditional acoustic show by Jef Maarawi. Despite admitting to nerves he kept it together to showcase a really strong set of songs about various topics such as supermarkets and something else that was clearly, “None of my Fucking Business’. A great set that gave us all a glimpse of an incredibly powerful voice that at times filled the venue in a way that the guitars of J Mascis would later on.

Θα μπορούσαμε να πούμε πως δεν υπάρχει κανένα στοιχείο «Rockstar» πάνω στον J Μascis. Τα πάντα, από την εμφάνισή που παίζει κιθάρα και την τεχνική που ακολουθεί στις συνεντεύξεις του, φέρουν μία αγριότητα και ανεπιτήδευτη ομορφιά που όμως σύντομα συνειδητοποιείς πως είναι αυτά ακριβώς τα στοιχεία που σου αρέσουν σ’ αυτόν.

Κυρίως γνωστός για την παραγωγή των 30 χρόνων του "Ear Splitting Country" (τα λόγια του) με το συγκρότημά του Dinosaur Jnr, είναι εδώ στην Αθήνα για μία σόλο ακουστική συναυλία στο AN Club. Φυσικά αυτό που εσύ θεωρείς ακουστική συναυλία δεν σημαίνει κατ 'ανάγκη το ίδιο και γι’ αυτόν τον άνθρωπο που ξεκίνησε ως σκληροτράχηλος ντράμερ. Έτσι, μια πλακέτα γεμάτη με distortion και fuzz πεντάλ παραμονεύει δίπλα στην βάση του μικροφώνου.

Περπαντώντας αργά , ανεβαίνει στη σκηνή, παίρνει την κιθάρα του, την συνδέει σε έναν ηλεκτρικό ενισχυτή , δίνοντάς του έτσι μια άμεση overdriven χροιά και ξεκινάει το "Lung" - ένα αγαπημένο τραγούδι των Dinosaur Jnr. Και έτσι αρχίζει η πιο δυνατή ακουστική συναυλία που θα ακούσετε ποτέ. Δεν υπάρχει δυναμική εδώ, τίποτα για τους πουριτανούς. Είναι ένας ηλεκτρικός κιθαρίστας, που παίζει την ακουστική κιθάρα σαν να ήταν ηλεκτρική. Υπάρχουν 2 ήχοι: overdriven ή fuzz up ακουστικός - και τα δύο στοιχεία ακούγονται δυνατά. Τα τραγούδια απλώνονται με τη βοήθεια ενός looper και μίας μακρόχρονης σόλο κιθάρας, γεγογός που δεν συνδέεται με μια ακουστική συναυλία. Σίγουρα ο ήχος μπορεί να μην ήταν ο καλύτερος, το looper δεν ακουγόταν εξαιτίας των στρωμάτων παραμόρφωσης αλλά κανείς δεν νοιάστηκε. Η ευαισθησία της φωνής του, η δύναμη των τραγουδιών και το πνεύμα του ήταν εμφανή.

Κλασικά τραγούδια της μπαντας όπως το “Little Fury Things, Repulsion” και “The Wagon” μιξαρισμένα με τα δεύτερης γενιάς κομμάτια των Dinosaur Jnr όπως το “Get me” και “Alone”, εναρμονίστηκαν πλήρως με τις πιο πρόσφατες σόλο εκτελέσεις του όπως το “Drifter”, “Meet me at the movies” και “Electric Days”. Με ένα άνκορ υπό τη μορφή του "Just Like Heaven" των Cure και του “Fade Into You” των “Mazzy Stars “ φεύγει από την σκηνή. Όμως το κοινό είχε άλλη άποψη και φωνάζοντας, κατάφεραν την επιστροφή του για μια απρόσμενη διαδρομή μέσα από το “Out There”. “Σας ευχαριστώ που ήρθατε” είπε και με αυτό τελικά κατέβηκε από την σκηνή. Ένας θρίαμβος

Νωρίτερα ακούσαμε μια πιο παραδοσιακή ακουστική επίδειξη από τον Jef Maarawi. Παρά το άγχος του κατάφερε να παρουσιάσει ένα πολύ δυνατό σετ τραγουδιών για διάφορα θέματα όπως το “ Supermarket” και κάτι άλλο που ήταν σαφώς “None of my Fucking Business”. Ένα υπέροχο σετ που μας έδωσε μια γεύση από μια απίστευτα ισχυρή φωνή που γέμισε τον τόπο με τρόπο που κάναν αργότερα οι κιθάρες του J Mascis

New Model Army, Gagarin 205, Athens 31/08/18

“This is the most honest song we have ever written, and you guys must understand it more than most", related New model Army’s mainstay Justin Sullivan before launching into Purity. "You have seen it all”, The Greek capital roared in agreement. They knew.

Although New model Army are a quintessentially English Band it does seem that if anyone would get them other than the English it would be the Greeks. Songs of social injustice and small town violence rising up against the system have been written about here since the days of Homer. Turning such brutality into poetic verse was once, and in some quarters still is, a national pastime, It was with this in mind that the anticipation in the air was palpable as we waited in line.

‘The family’, as the New Model Army fans have become known, had come from far flung corners of the globe and dialects and languages from far and wide were heard around the venue. Fans greeted each other as old friends as they recognised each other from concerts past and tales were shared over drinks. The ultimate t shirt band, the merchandise seemed to go pretty quickly (no vinyl? Really?) And inside, a wide array of both vintage and modern logos and designs were on show. This is not a band where you hang around for a couple of records, the majority of this crowd have been there for the majority of their adult life and they ain’t going nowhere.

 

Opening with a 1-2-3 of Stormclouds, March In September and Winter it became clear that the concert would be split into two, with the first half relying heavily on more recent tracks from the excellent albums Winter and Between Dog and Wolf. Also noticeable was the lack of violinist which suggested (correctly as it happens) that fan favourites such as Vagabonds, wouldn’t be played. Still, it wasn’t missed as the four piece band provided a muscular and frenetic backdrop to leader Justin Sullivan’s vocals with his innate ability to swap between empathy and anger seemingly at will. The tribal beats of Michael Dean introducing songs such as Devils Bargain and guessing while Marshall Gill swapped between his chunky Les Paul and the thinner, but no less brutal, telecaster cutting an imposing figure stage left. Looming tall and menacing while the more active Ceri Monger swung headfirst into the music.

A ferocious, and set highlight, Born Feral set the scene for a change in feel as it was followed by the classic No Rest For The Wicked which signaled the band beginning to delve into their rich back catalogue. Purity, Wonderful Way to Go, Poison Street, I love the World, and, for this ex pat, a poignant Green and the Grey. A selection of songs most bands would sell out their politics for but New model Army can knock them out with ease. 51st State (“it’s relevant again, and thats all I’ll say about fucking Brexit”) was delivered with its usual disdain and the crowd lapped it up. A quick return for a short blast through 1990’s Get me out and then, they did just that. Both the band and fans may be older, they may be wiser and more of a well oil machine than the young punks they once were but they remain beautifully melodic, and really fucking angry. Wonderful.

Preceding them we had an energetic and entertaining set from local band Coyote’s Arrow (The name, I have no idea) whose singer entertained us with his antics as an excellent backing band gelled behind him. At times it just seemed like a flurry of action as dreadlocks, drumsticks and shapes were being thrown into the air. Lots of melodies above the noise and a funky backline meant that this is definitely a band worth checking out. They have a record called 'Desert' out.

Kill Rockstars (Let it Beer Edition)

Kill Rockstars is my live photography exhibition that frequently pops up around the city. It is currently residing in Galatiko Xorio in Halkida, showcasing their most recent Let it Beer festival featuring bands such as Scythe, Black Hat Bones, Lyrical Development, Vodka Juniors, Thrax Punks and Sober on tuxedos. Check it out, great music, great beer and for a limited time, great photos.

For a selection of photos available at this exhibition please visit my music portfolio here