- As any short stroll through the raki-crazed streets of student districts like Exarchia or Metaxourgeio will reveal, Athens tends to be a little rough around the edges, with DIY venues and pay-what-you-want gigs making up a considerable share of the underground nightlife. It came as a surprise, then, to find heavy branding laid out across the grounds of Piraeus Academy, the multi-venue complex used by Plisskën Festival for its seventh winter edition. In their defence, though, the team's explicit intention from day one has been to encourage creative development in the face of sustained national austerity, which would have been impossible without corporate sponsors and the odd pop-leaning booking (Mac DeMarco, Liars), even if that did affect the coherency of the programming at times.
Demdike Stare's icy breakbeats were a definite highlight, but giving them the opening Main Stage slot at 8 PM felt like an odd move. Warming up with rattling cuts of live dub and bass, they slowly raised the energy and intensity through a crafty blend of post-punk and rave tropes that sounded remarkably good on the crisp soundsystem. Andy Stott's masterclass in experimental bass music was just as good, though there was an awkward lull as he built his complex grooves from scratch in the aftermath of Demdike Stare's frantic finale.
Fortunately, it was easy to navigate from Main Stage to any of the three smaller venues nearby. The extremely loose door security helped, meaning that even at full capacity the queues between the rooms moved quickly. Because the four venues—Main Stage, Aquarium, Tunnel and the outdoor Republic—were all located on a 100-metre stretch of a lively boulevard, you could also always nip out for a quick €1 feta pie or a glass of warm raki at the nearest counter.
Plisskën's lineup leaned heavily on the more radical currents of UK underground music. Many of these artists performed in Tunnel, a small and smokey venue that hosted an NTS Radio takeover on Saturday. Coby Sey's experimental meanderings turned out to be a perfect fit for this dark and confined space. Leading with beatless drones and bassy melodies, his set grew slowly more rhythmic, climaxing with haunting vocal cuts such as "All Change," a gem from his April EP on Whities. LOFT presented a vivid collage of deconstructed R&B, breakcore and live readings of angsty poetry from his phone screen. This was challenging music that demanded more from the audience than passive listening. That said, despite moments of sparse attendance, the other experimental acts, including GAIKA and Bill Kouligas, were treated warmly by the curious and passionate local crowd.
Lena Platonos, a totemic figure of Greek counter-culture and a pioneer of the local electronic music scene, played to a packed and sweaty Tunnel on Saturday, before handing over to the most surprising and refreshing act I'd see all weekend: LAPS. The duo, comprising Golden Teacher vocalist Cassie Ojay and fellow Glaswegian Sue Zuki, stole the show with their catchy and original take on dub, pop and acid, delivered with brash attitude and impeccable dance moves. They were immediately followed by an explosive performance from Birmingham grime MC Lady Leshurr, whose energetic charisma and jaw-dropping flow were quick to get the room rowdy. She seemed galvanized by the warmth of the audience's response, pausing on more than one occasion to insist that the sound be raised to the max for her final tracks. It's fair to say that Plisskën succeeded in its primary mission: to curate a bill of uncompromising talent, and bring it to Athens at an affordable price.
Photo credits /
Pinelopis - Lead, Lady Leshurr
Pinelopi Gerasimou - Demdike Stare