- It's no secret that Thessaloniki is a city in turmoil. Located in the north of Greece, roughly 500 km from Athens, it's home to myriad problems, many of them stemming from the country's economic woes. Some of the most harshly affected are Thessaloniki's young people, who have been coping with high unemployment and the resulting lack of opportunity. Protests happen nearly every week, and the atmosphere during my visit was tense. On the Friday night during Reworks Festival, my dinner ended when a colleague and I were whisked inside a restaurant the moment staff spotted an advancing (albeit peaceful) anti-fascist rally, encircled by dozens of riot police. The waiters' reaction to the protest said a lot—people are on edge.
It's no surprise, then, that Reworks holds a special place in the hearts of many of Thessaloniki's youth. With conservatives and nationalists in the government making the city less than friendly to the arts, Reworks' eight-year run is no small feat. The two-day festival is the region's only big event of its kind, hosting around 5,000 ticket holders across the Vilka Complex, a maze of small bars, stages and rooms that Reworks takes over completely.
On the festival's first night, organisers threw a free street party in the city centre, with local artists Actor One, 9west and Wrong Display dishing out inoffensive tech house to an energetic crowd of several hundred until 11 PM. The mood was jovial, and a good indicator of what was to come. Vilka Complex, a 30-minute walk from where the street party took place, kicked off just before midnight. There, too, tech house was the order of the day: Robert Dietz and tINI were the international guests, backed up by a small cast of locals.
The main event would happen the following night, with over a dozen guests flown in for slots. Paul Kalkbrenner's 10 PM slot meant the party was in full swing by midnight, with the Berlin native dishing out surprisingly tough techno along with his trademark melodies. His set garnered the best reaction of the whole night, evidenced by the many camera phones filming his every move (particularly with the start of "Sky And Sand," his Berlin Calling anthem). Later on, Steve Rachmad and Josh Wink handled things in the Reworks Warehouse stage, supplying loopy, muscular techno to a welcoming crowd. John Talabot brought an upbeat mixture of house and disco, after which Function played for two hours. Unfortunately, the intricacies of the former Sandwell District member's set were occasionally lost through the stage's average soundsystem. He was well-received nonetheless.
With the list of talent on offer, Reworks was never going to let anyone down. The lineup, which also included heavy-hitters like Maceo Plex and Nina Kraviz, was made up of acts very much at home in big rooms, and who knew how to handle the situation accordingly. At times, the crowd's movements were more reminiscent of a rock concert than dance party—most seemed content to film with camera phones while standing still and gawking at the DJ. But this didn't dampen the mood at all. The team behind Reworks are doing a great job with the tools they have, and judging by the success of their eighth edition, their efforts are very much appreciated.