The previous and only other time I was in Greece was in 2007 with The EBB. It was a great night and one we’ll never forget. We had no idea what to expect when we began the show but what a night! I remember the assembled Greek choir that was our audience, singing it all as we went through the set. I remember it wasn’t the tightest set but it was full of emotion and power. So when I was asked by my new friend Spilios to go back to Athens for a couple of nights at his bar The Drugstore, I was excited and a little nervous. What if they don’t get what I am doing now?
When Spilios drove me out of the airport in Athens into the most almighty thunderstorm I have ever seen I told him hey, don’t blame me. I didn’t bring this with me and we laughed. At least I hoped that this was true and not some negative omen from the ancient deities of Greece. We drove as the lightning crashed all around lighting up buildings on distant mountains. The rain was incessant and heavy with hail. It was extremely exciting if you like that sort of thing and I love it. As we drove deeper into the heart of the city the architectural landscape in the storm reminded me of images from the film Blade Runner. I suppose it started with a question or two and then I was listening as Spilios spoke about the crisis in Greece and some of the ramifications of the situation, who is to blame and what is really going on. I was getting background to where we were in Athens in 2013 and how it came to be.
Time was running so after a quick look at the very cool place that is the Drugstore it was time for dinner and bed. Morning on the balcony of the room came with a view over rooftops. The birds came and went but nothing like in the song.
I spent some time in the immediate area checking out the place. I saw the have nots every where near my hotel, the stragglers and the strugglers. It was clear to see who was managing to get by, who was doing very nicely, thank you and those who were in jeopardy.
It was time to earn my daily bread, for which I am grateful, and time to play. The bar was full by just after ten and I began the first of two sets. The audience was lovely, really lovely as I went through the new songs, explaining as I went. Some translated for others. I felt truly connected. We were all grateful to be there and we expressed it. For most of us it was a coming together and celebration of things we have in common. It made me proud of us. I talked as I always do of the things I care about. I played some old songs but possibly not enough for all assembled. The interval came and I relaxed. The second set was long. I don’t know why though I enjoyed it. I left my little amp and microphone to warm applause and the job was done.
I decided to tighten every thing up for the next evenings show and resolved to put some old stuff back in, but what? I spent the early hours of the next day and some of the afternoon working on new old things. That night I played a very tiny version of the whole Dr Spock piece including the instrumental. I don’t know what on earth made me do this but it worked. By the time the small song “What if the babies go on strike” etc, came at the end people were singing their heads off, especially at the tables reserved for the hardcore followers. I performed an acoustic mash up with Thinking of you and Exhibits from a new museum. Songs such as Red Star and The Christmas song, and The half light were very well received so I decided to put more old stuff in. It seemed only fair really. I finished the first set with Poppy. The Drugstore choir sang it with me and that was special.
Second set. So, a version of the whole of Side by side slipped in and I got lost in a jam version of Hole in it playing some guitar I hadn’t thought of before. The audience drove it and that was so cool. I wanted to give them me, both the old and the new. I talked about the good old days and sang the song of the same name. This is an experiment and I pushed it to the limit from my point of view. The set wound on and it was time to wind it up so after a short story about losing/forgetting the song My Salvation and how I still believe it belongs to some body else and it all got mixed up in the ether and I ended up writing it. Well something like that. I sang it. Evening over rooftops was my last song and again the Drugstore choir gave it maximum attention. A guy near me even sang the sha la la la backing vocals and beautifully. He got his own applause and deservedly.
I had time to hang out with folk after and signed stuff. Every one was so warm to me. I was deeply touched. I didn’t want it to end. I was having a ball with these friendly bright people who speak English easily conversing about the deepest things.
The après gig party was rocking with great sounds and a fitting finale. I must thank all of the staff at the Drugstore for their kindness and support at all times. I was so well looked after. Thanks for the amazing cocktails, the special thing and the attention to detail shown through out my entire visit. The Drugstore is a special place that is a small community. The staff make it what it is – special. The drive with Spilios to the airport was fascinating. I learned some more about what makes his country tick. It is clear that many Greek people are beginning to take care of each other in a new way. There is a new spirit of collective participation to help others less fortunate and working towards small, achievable change. That is exciting and hopeful.
I had a fabulous few days In Athens and I have a growing affection for the place and for the people. The best part is we are going to do it all again next year.