Sunday, June 05, 2016

Live: Release Athens Festival 2016 - Beirut, Daughter, Cass McCombs (June 1st, 2016)

After a slow period for live music in Athens, June promises to be a month of plentiful action. The beginning was certainly exciting with the launch of Release Athens Festival, a brand new event which started with what you might call a 4AD night, as the main protagonists of its inaugural day were two bands on the eclectic roster of the legendary indie label, Beirut and Daughter. The lineup also included California folk rocker Cass McCombs, while local acts Irene Skylakaki and Moa Bones kicked off proceeding early in the afternoon.

Beirut, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016
For Beirut this was their second visit to Athens, having made their live debut here in the summer of 2007! Back then they had opened for Calexico (a fitting pairing indeed), but this time the headlining spot belonged to them. The Balkan music influences of Zach Condon’s band have created a healthy fan base for Beirut in Greece, so it is rather strange that it took them so long to return here.

Beirut’s 80-minute set included, as expected, quite a few songs from their recent fourth album "No No No", with the title track being my favorite among them, while several of the bands older gems, including "Postcards From Italy", "Elephant Gun", "Santa Fe" and "Nantes" were among the standouts. In the encore they also covered "Serbian Cocek", a song written by their Albuquerque buddies A Hawk And A Hacksaw (the third band in the lineup of their 2007 gig). A good performance which closed the first day of the festival on a high note.

Beirut, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

Daughter, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

Earlier in the evening, the crowd's spirits were high but the tone of the music was certainly a lot darker. If Smashing Pumpkins hadn’t beaten them to it, I’m sure that at some point in their career Daughter would certainly make a record called "Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness" or something along these lines. You see Elena Tonra, the London band’s singer and lyricist, has the tendency to write some of the saddest lyrics you’ll ever hear in a pop song. The melancholic nature of Daughter’s music would have you believe it would work better in a club setting, preferably in the heart of winter, but as it turns out the combination of Tonra’s affecting voice and the sad but sweet melodies of her band can work wonders also in a summer festival!

The crowd’s warm reception of Daughter’s music put a smile on Tonra’s face on several occasions and the band seemed to enjoy themselves as they presented a set balancing material from their two albums, 2013’s "If You Leave" and this year’s "Not to Disappear", certainly one of the best records we’ve listened to in the first half of 2016. "Numbers", "Alone / With You", "Doing the Right Thing" and "No Care" were among the best of their new songs, while "Youth", a track which had most of the audience singing along with Tonra, and closing number "Fossa" stood out from their older material.

Cass McCombs, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016
Cass McCombs has a longer history than the two bands topping the day's bill but his music is lesser known to Greek music fans, so his early afternoon slot did not gather a large crowd. He presented a laid back folk rock set including a few songs from his yet to be released new album "Mangy Love" and selections from his older records. It was certainly a good effort but in his case the more intimate surroundings of a club would have been a more fitting environment for his music.

We'll have more from Release Athens Festival next week, as on Tuesday we're expecting the much anticipated return of PJ Harvey, along with The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Slowdive, while on June 13th the lineup includes Sigur Ros, The Black Angels and DIIV. Meanwhile, enjoy a taster from the performances we've witnessed on Wednesday, June 1st:

 Beirut - Postcards From Italy (live @ Release Athens Festival 2016)

Daughter - Doing the Right Thing (live @ Release Athens Festival 2016)

Cass McCombs, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

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