Monday, June 20, 2016

Live: Release Athens Festival 2016 - Highlights from June 7th and 13th

PJ Harvey, live @ Release Athens Festival
The first edition of Release Athens Festival offered 4 days of live music at Plateia Nerou by the seaside, between June 1st and June 13th, 2016, with an eclectic line up of artists led by PJ Harvey, Sigur Ros, Beirut and Parov Stelar.

We have already presented the highlights from the opening night with Beirut, Daughter and Cass McCombs; let’s have a look now at what happened on June 7th, the climax of the festival with the highly anticipated return of PJ Harvey to Athens after 8 years, and June 13th, the closing night of the event headlined by Sigur Ros:

June 7th, 2016: PJ Harvey, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Slowdive

PJ Harvey’s performance was the absolute highlight of the festival. Her live show transcends the confines of a typical rock performance and becomes a cathartic ritual, exposing the madness and exorcising the ills of today’s world.

The 90-minute set was based on the material from her latest album "The Hope Six Demolition Project", with its songs becoming more haunting and intense in their live incarnation, and it’s bolstered by some of the highlights from "Let England Shake" and a handful of '90s classics including "50ft Queenie", "Down by the Water", "To Bring You My Love", "Working for the Man" and "A Perfect Day Elise". Undoubtedly an unforgettable performance, not only the best of this festival, but one of the live highlights of the year!

PJ Harvey and her exceptional band (including John Parish, Mick Harvey, James Johnston, Terry Edwards and Alain Johannes among others) played the following: Chain of Keys, The Ministry of Defence, The Community of Hope, A Line in the Sand, The Orange Monkey, Let England Shake, The Words That Maketh Murder, The Glorious Land, Medicinals, When Under Ether, Dollar, Dollar, The Wheel, The Ministry of Social Affairs, 50ft Queenie, Down by the Water, To Bring You My Love, River Anacostia. Encore: Working for the Man, A Perfect Day Elise.

PJ Harvey - 50ft Queenie, live @ Release Athens Festival (June 7, 2016)

The Brian Jonestown Massacre, live @ Release Athens Festival
Earlier in the day, The Brian Jonestown Massacre added their delightful psychedelic colors to the sunset and Slowdive made their long overdue live debut in Athens channeling the breezy shoegaze guitar sound of the early '90s.

Slowdive, live @ Release Athens Festival
Anton Newcombe

For Anton Newcombe’s gang, this was their second gig in Athens after their successful (and also long overdue) live debut in the summer of 2014. This time they had to play for an audience that in its majority was not there for them, but the band put in an outstanding performance and I think by the time they left the stage (and came back to take photos of the crowd) they must have earned at least a few hundred new fans.

Slowdive never had the same level of recognition that other bands in their genre enjoyed in the early '90s, but as their recent reformation proves their material is strong enough to withstand the test of time. The crowd that had gathered early in the afternoon to see their first ever Athens show may not have been big, but included both older fans who knew them from back in the day, as well as a younger generation who is now starting to discover the joys of the fuzzed out, dreamy guitar sound that ruled the underground sometime between the late '80s and early '90s.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Nevertheless, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

Slowdive - Alison, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

June 13th, 2016: Sigur Ros, The Black Angels, Diiv

Sigur Ros, live @ Release Athens Festival
The impressive light show that complements the unique post-rock sound of Sigur Ros found an unlikely ally in the rainy weather of the closing night of the festival, as distant lightning added to the otherworldly listening experience that the Icelanders can create.

Admittedly the sound of Sigur Ros is an acquired taste, but the majority of fans in attendance on this night were there for them and they would not let a little rain ruin their fun. The band’s climactic 90-minute set received a warm welcome by the audience and despite not being a big post-rock fan myself, I have to admit that Sigur Ros' performance was certainly among the highlights of Release Festival.

The Black Angels, live @ Release Athens Festival
Different kinds of kicks were in offer earlier in the afternoon. The psychedelic freak flag flew proudly once more during the festival and this time it was the turn of The Black Angels to be the bearers.

The Texas band, which was playing for the third time in Athens in as many years (check out here what happened the first time), also boasts an awesome light show that contributes to the whole psychedelic experience and although some Sigur Ros fans were getting a bit anxious to see their favorite band, I think the rest of us enjoyed The Black Angels set enormously. As an added bonus, we also got a first live taste of some new material that sneaked in their 70-minute set next to the many old favorites and you can check out at the end of this post one of their new tracks titled "Hunt Me Down".

Alex Maas of The Black Angels

Diiv, live @ Release Athens Festival
Among the highlights of the festival was also Diiv’s very first performance in Athens. The Brooklyn quintet led by Zachary Cole Smith is responsible for one of the best rock records of the year and those who arrived early were treated to an energetic 60-minute set bursting with some fine guitar rock action.

Although rather few knew the band’s songs, there is plenty of excellent material on "Is The Is Are" to put a smile on the face of the discerning rock fan and hopefully after this performance the band with the strangely typed name will enjoy a greater recognition in Athens as well.

For the finale of our report, here's some more live music from the last day of the festival - check out below "Ný Batterí" by Sigur Ros, "Hunt Me Down" by The Black Angels and Diiv's "Dopamine": 

Sigur Rós - Ný Batterí, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

The Black Angels - Hunt Me Down, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

DIIV - Dopamine, live @ Release Athens Festival 2016

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