Fear and Loathing in Athens: A Gonzo Account of Four Days and Five Nights at We’re Loud Fest

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Fear and Loathing in Athens. Illustration by Ika Lesniak

I love when it rains in Amsterdam. That is, if I’m about to jump on a plane towards the Mediterranean Sea. My excuse for travel this time was that Slovenly Records organized a rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza: We’re Loud Festival in Athens, Greece.

The only other time I visited Athens was almost ten years ago when on my way to the Island of Ios. I got stuck there and ended up seeing Iggy and the Stooges, but that’s a whole different story. This time around, my Amsterdam bro, Noel, and I took a plane from Eindhoven with our buddies from the band Anomalys, for five days of debauchery in the ancient city.

Day One 16 September 2015

We arrived in Athens around 7.30 PM – Greek time. The Anomalys were picked up with a car that took them to their apartment and we, the moron brothers, took the bus to our hotel. To our surprise, we realised that we had booked different hotels and had to plan our public transport accordingly. After discovering our mishap, the plan was to first go to Noel’s hotel and then proceed to mine to avoid wasting precious time that could be spent drinking and hanging out together.

We took the bus from the airport to Syntagma station. A little travel tip is to act like a stupid tourist and don’t buy a ticket. It seems nobody checks it. The driver simply screamed something in Greek to all the foreigners on the bus and then just kept driving. Man, I love southern Europe!

Once at Syntagma station, we planned to take the metro to Omonia just a few blocks away. Except, the metro never showed and we took a cab instead. Turns out, there was a massive demonstration in town because of the upcoming elections. We eventually found the hotel for homeboy to drop his stuff off and then we miraculously found my hotel and were ready to hit the streets! By the time I buzz the Anomalys to meet for a drink and dinner, they’re done eating and are at the Boiler Club—our soon-to-be after party place for the next four days.

The Boiler Club is a small-sized cool rock ‘n’ roll bar where most of the punters hang outside. The music is blasting full volume the whole night in what appears to be a deserted street- a scene that would resemble many more nights to come over the next few days. We love it there but are told that the crowd is moving to another bar. We are assured not to worry, however, as everybody will be back to Boiler the coming nights.

The next place rocks too! Tsin Tsin Bar’s got more of a cozy atmosphere and some cool 1970s chic design and the DJ’s blasting sixties soul, boogaloo and garage. What more do you want?

Well, how about meeting with some of the main characters in this crazy adventure? First, we have our friends from Istanbul. That includes: Goksu, his wife and two female buddies. Goksu is an alumnus of The Raws (garage pioneers of the Turkish scene) and a great hardcore fun lovin’ dude. On the street outside the club, we meet our own Dr. Gonzo. He’s real name Danny and is an imposing-looking surf/stoner Latino dude from San Francisco. He just arrived in town but seems to already know everybody and anybody. We make fast friends and agree to party hard together the next day. Then it’s off to our respective hotels at the reasonable hour of 4 AM.

Day Two 17 September 2015

It’s the first day of the festival. Noel and I hit the town for some more sights. I decide to hangover-hike the highest hill in town, Mount Lycabettus. Although only about 277 meters high, it’s still higher than the Acropolis and sports absolutely stunning views of the city towards the Aegean sea on one side and the sprawling mountains to the other. Coming back down, however, I do an incredibly stupid thing. I decide to pick one of the prickly pears (a cactus fruit I once had in Sicily) without realising that is full of spikes. In a matter of seconds, my hands are full of the little fuckers and it hurts like hell. Just pulling my phone out of my pocket is a biblical achievement. Welcome to my world.

At the first venue of the night, An Club, our Amsterdam homeboys The Anomalys play at 10pm, and this is only their 3rd show with their new French drummer Serge (or is it Remi?). Also in attendance are friends from my hometown of Belgrade, Serbia, my cousin Draza of the DJ duo, Cheap Souls, (if in Belgrade look ’em up!) and Milos, a guitar player of SUS (if in Belgrade… well, you know). We hug the hell out of each other and hit the bar before the gig. Four beers and four tequilas sound easy, right? Well, not really. The crazy-ass bartender pours the tequilas straight into our beers! Moron! Do we look like 16-year old German tourists? Hardly. Anyway, it’s all the same as the drinking orgy begins.

The Anomalys rip through a tight-as-hell set. Serge’s got the old drummer Menno’s style to a T and speeds things up just a notch.  Bone and Gilian jump into the crowd and We’re Loud Fest is officially on! There’s even a new song thrown in there. Are they going to surf? Time will tell….

We don’t stick around for the other bands, as there’s a lot of catching up to do, and are off to Boiler for the first full on after party.

Right next to the Boiler, there’s a gig in a living room of one of the deserted apartments! It’s the Berlin garage rockers, Bikes. They got some hooks, and the lead guitar player sure has some nice licks, but they just can’t maintain my attention. I’m straight back down the street outside Boiler. More friends from all over show up; including the founder of this mag and various members of Wau y los Arrghs. It’s on ‘til the break of dawn with Danny leading the way on this psychedelic rock ’n’ roll adventure.

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Illustration by Ika Lesniak

Day Three 18 September 2015

Acropolis here we come! In midday sun, nursing massive hangovers, we meet up and climb the hill towards that amazing ancient site. I’ll leave the descriptions of the place to better writers than myself, but trust me it’s worth the hype. The only mildly annoying thing is that half the temples are still being renovated and the site if full of scaffolding and heavy equipment. But that doesn’t discourage us to make mock-heroic photos galore!

After a quick dinner, featuring many more kebabs, we’re off to the bigger Kyttaro for day two of the fest. Since the weather is perfect, everybody’s hanging outside the club and scoring 1,5 euro beers from the shops nearby. But along with the beers, Milos from Belgrade’s got his own little elixir… homemade hell-proof Serbian Rakia. Not the anise Greek Raki stuff, but the full on plum brandy sort.  In a matter of minutes, people from as far away as Valencia and LA develop a love-hate relationship with the infamous spirit. It can be hard on the throat at first gulp, but the aftertaste and the instant buzz are addictive. But we should head inside the club, as tonight’s headliners are The Kids, the1970s punk legends from Belgium. Milos comes up with the ingenious plan to bury the Rakia under a small bush next to the pub for later consumption.

So, it’s Kids time. Although the original members Luc and Ludo are in their sixties, they give an amazing show every single time. I’ve had a privilege of being on the same bill with them a couple of times and seeing them quite regularly over the past ten years, but the atmosphere on this given day was something else. A near sell-out crowd of more than 500 was slamming, singing along and stage diving on every single song. Our Turkish homeboy Goksu even managed to fly over the first few dense rows and fall hard on his arm and face. Here comes Danny, a registered nurse back in San Francisco, to save the day and check up on Goksu. Although dazed and a little confused, he was fine. He and the girls stuck around for the rest of the night and went to hospital the next day.

Before we knew it, we were back at Boiler minus the Rakia casualties who fell by the way side. It was nice to catch up with the guys from The Kids later on at the after party because when they play Holland they always drive right back to Belgium after the gig.

More moronic inferno followed as my new favorite DJ Oihane Follones from the Basque Country played some of the best high energy rock ‘n’ roll, punk and power pop tunes ever.

I was back at my hotel at 8 AM in the morning. Then disaster struck, the cleaning lady got rid of my sleeping pills. Fuck! Admittedly, it was a bit stupid on my part to leave them in a plastic bag under the sink, but c’mon. So hammered as I was, I stumbled back to the reception where they apologised a thousand times and gave me the strongest painkiller they had on their hands.

Three hours later, I was up and feeling like shit. Calling everybody to hook up and hang, and trying to hassle somebody for some downers.  Everybody was still in a coma.

Day Four 19 September 2015

After zombie walking the streets for a few hours, I hooked up with some friends from Amsterdam and London who were enjoying the sunny afternoon and having some preliminary beers as I was sleepwalking through the day. The shittiest thing was that Danny invited all of us to a pool party at his fancy ass hotel with views of the Acropolis later that afternoon. So when everybody left for the penthouse party, I headed back to my shitty 30 euro a night hotel to gather myself, take a shower and call up my girlfriend back in Amsterdam to moan about what a moron I was.

After dozing off a bit, listening to my favourite boxing podcast, I was back at the Kyttaro club for the last day of the festival with Wau y los Arrrghs and New Bomb Turks headlining.

Then Belinda from the Valencian garageros saved my ass and gave me two sleeping pills. I was a happy homeboy again and ready to party another night. After a few sips of Rakia, I was back to my boisterous moronic self. Gosku showed up sporting a heavily bandaged right hand and swollen face with good spirits. After a few shots of Rakia, he was too full on!  As my Serbian grandfather use to say, “Nothing a little slivovitz can’t cure.”

After the Hide-the-Rakia routine, we piled back into the club for the Wau’s set. Cool as always and sporting one of the most eccentric frontmen, Juanito, they banged their brand of demented sixties garage to the adulation of the wild crowd.

Well after midnight, it was time for the grand finale of the festival with the New Bomb Turks. On account of being a punk rock snob back in the 1990s, I never went to see them. Epitaph sucks and all that…  Always dug some of their songs, but never really got into them. I sure as hell didn’t expect to see one of the best live gigs of my life… and I’ve seen a few over the last twenty plus years.

A perfect blend of hardcore-punk energy, rock ‘n’ roll riffing and catchy as hell songs, and featuring one of the craziest, energetic, chaotic frontman of them all, the supersized chinned Eric Davidson!

They blew me and everybody else away.

Energised by what we witnessed, we were back for the last of the after parties at the Boiler. And tonight, it was about to get properly wild! The tiredness was catching up with me but just when I thought that I was totally spent and ready to crawl back to my hotel, more familiar faces would show up and more drinks and war stories were shared. At about six in the morning, I was on my last legs and decided to call it a night before Gilian reminded me that the Basque chick was about to start her DJ set. Then all bets were off to a non-stop barrage of the best of the Groovies, Real Kids, MC5 and Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. We started to cheerfully wreck the whole place. At one point, we noticed a piano across from the bar. Then the next thing I remember is three of us were playing it at the same time while doing push-ups and lifting chairs with our teeth.

It was a good one.

Day Five 20 September 2015

During the aftermath and a little bit of an after party, we met at a Greek tavern for a hangover lunch and some traditional music. It was cool to see everybody in daylight once more and chat to friends and bands from all over the place. But we weren’t all finished with our debauchery in Athens.

DJ Profundo P aka Gilian was booked for a set at a Tiki Bar. We showed up at the place early and it was a very cool looking bar with plenty of atmosphere, but the general Sunday hangover lull hung over the place until Gilian took to the turntables and more festival casualties piled into the place. To make a long story short, the night ended in more chairs and table swinging and 4 in the morning souvlaki.

We took the cab after the late night dinner, as we were gonna be up at 8 AM to catch the flight back. But the moronic adventure had to have a fitting punch line. As Noel, homeboy Francisco and I got into the cab, the driver immediately stepped on the gas before Noel even got the chance to properly close the door. While the driver and I were chatting up front, the door slammed into a light post and was half hanging out of the car. Dude didn’t even notice.

Back to Holland

Fittingly, after five days of beautiful sunshine it was rainy as hell and, as I said to the cabdriver who took us to the airport, Athens was crying because of us leaving. Properly fucked, but also rejuvenated from this Mediterranean rock ’n’ roll adventure, we flew off back north. The plan for next year is a 10-day We’re Loud Fest starting in Istanbul, crossing the Sea of Marmara to Ayvalik before sailing to Lesbos and ending in Athens. Save the date kids.

By Marko Petrovic

Edited by Amanda Ashley

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