Sunday, November 20, 2011

EMA, Monovine, live @ Bios (Athens, November 19, 2011)

Charmed beyond words but, hell, I’ll give it a try anyway.

Let’s take things from the beginning. I am sure glad that the time machine has not been invented yet. Just imagine how many millions of rock fans would love to take a trip to Seattle circa 1989 - 1990 to be at one of Nirvana’s early gigs. And imagine what that would have done to the brilliant but fragile mind of Kurt Cobain. The guy would have probably thrown it all away before he even got the chance to write “Nevermind”. What a catastrophic disruption to the time - music continuum would that be?

So, I guess, whenever we feel a little bit nostalgic about the grunge years, the only alternative we have nowadays to satisfy our desire to be deafened by the big and loud guitar noise is to catch a show by a band that shares a similar craving. And that band, if you live in Greece right now, is Monovine from Patras, the power trio that had the honor of opening for EMA  in her first ever Athens show, an historic event even if the attendance was not all that great. Yet again, I bet those early Nirvana gigs were not that crowded either.

Monovine, live @ Bios (Nov. 19, 2011)
Monovine, who recently made their debut with the album “Cliché”, are not trying to get any marks for originality (despite doing a quite mean live rendition of Madonna’s “Secret”) but they certainly make a loud noise. The grunge force is strong in them and tracks like “Odd” or “Come Out” are just perfect for anyone who longs for that early '90s Seattle sound but is not able to book that time trip just yet. And did I mention that they also do a fine job with that timeless Wipers’ anthem “Return of the Rat”, too? I think Greg Sage would approve - a fine racket indeed.

EMA, live @ Bios (Nov. 19, 2011)
But if time travel does become a possibility at some point in our lifetime, I do believe that there is going to be a time when many of my fellow Athenians, especially those that chose to spend this particular Saturday night elsewhere, who will be willing to pay dearly for a chance to go back in time and be at Bios for Erika M. Anderson’s first visit to our city.

I agree, it is a bit premature to label a show as historic only hours after it took place, but judging from EMA’s astonishing debut “Past Life Martyred Saints” and the absolutely captivating live performance we witnessed last night, my gut feeling is that Erika has what it takes to become an artist just as important as, say, Polly Jean Harvey. Imagine if Harvey had played Athens just a few months after “Dry”. Wouldn’t that be an unmissable show in our city’s (admittedly not that rich) rock history, worth travelling back in time to witness? This is exactly the kind of show that we had the rare opportunity to experience firsthand last night.

What if there were a few technical glitches that disrupted the flow of the show a couple of times? This wasn’t the Muses attempt to sabotage EMA’s performance, as she jokingly implied; it was just their way of demanding another solo number in her set. A set that started strongly with the brief “Dog” and a storming take of “Milkman”, one of my favorite tracks of the year, and went from strength to strength presenting all the highlights from her stellar debut in amazing renditions that surpassed their recorded versions.

Best among the best? The heartbreakingly beautiful “Anteroom”, “California”, a true tour de force that brought Erika in the audience, getting intimate with her fans, the shockingly raw “Butterfly Knife” and the startling declaration of devotion of “Marked”.  A brand new track (video below) gave us a first glimpse of things to come, while the cover of Violent Femmes’ “Add it Up” was also a welcome addition to the set (this track is an alternative classic for Greek rock fans, still getting airplay in local radio). The only thing that was missing for a perfect ten of an evening was her cover of “Endless Nameless”, but EMA is well on her way of building a set with nothing but her own classics. No covers are really necessary.

EMA’s set list for a night certain to be featured in future time-travel brochures:

Grey Ship 
Add It Up (Violent Femmes cover)
Butterfly Knife 
Solo (new track)
Encore: Breakfast, Red Star.

EMA - Anteroom, live @ Bios (Athens, Nov. 19, 2011)

EMA - New song, live @ Bios (Athens, Nov. 19, 2011)

 EMA - Add it Up, live @ Bios (Athens, Nov. 19, 2011)

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