my article for the German newspaper Jungle world. You can read the german translation online here
It was almost 17 years ago, when the news for the rave explosion in the UK and elsewhere arrived in Athens. Well nigh from the first moment, the new subculture has spread widely in the city. Many years in a row, “the new genre” and contemporary subculture was shaking the night life of Athens. Someone of that age can easily say that electronic music scene in Athens was as influential as graffiti and hip hop culture. Somehow it is needless to mention that many of us spent their childhood dancing jungle and breakbeat, visiting record stores regularly, discovering new ways of understanding our city. We actually realized very fast that the Athenian urban environment was rather compatible to the new scene.
In Athens there is always a desire for a creative escapism. That probably caused the blast of the early years. A free party culture, with hundreds of people involving to the organization, was a next step concerning the subcultural scene of the city in the 90s.
Since the beginning of the 90s, rave scene seemed to have a large radical potential. In the beginning of the 90s many new people were organizing many free parties near or around Athens. The mountains near the city (Parnitha and Pedeli – the two mountains with which Athens is surrounded) had illegal raves every weekend. Police repression and some arrests were enough to destroy partly the free parties movement in Athens. But just for a while. Universities and empty buildings replaced the nature.
Urban culture was returned to its natural environment. Many people were arrested in connection with drugs. That was also the start of the disaster. Nevertheless many club owners fast realized how much money they can make from the new rave business. New clubs and new drugs was the new “lifestyle revolution” though, high entrance fee and a wasted youth combined with the new genre which was replacing jungle and breakbeat, “not profitable” music, with the new peace and love hippie style commodity known as psychedelic trance.
Somehow all of those things who were happening in the 90s were interrupted. Many clubs that existed in the 90s (such as “Alsos, +soda and many others)have closed, some times after the initiation of the police and other times because the owners decided so. The techno scene stayed “homeless” for a while, or at least was forced to move beyond the clubs once again. A variety of projects were taking place in the universities and sometimes in empty buildings. In that point is good to name some of the Artists who were doing video dance art, combining with experimental electronic music, was a parallel scene to the techno stuff. Artists such as ION, coti K, Stereo Nova-(probably the most famous electronic music project, combining beats with a great urban poetry), and many others of the first generation are some good examples.
Party culture as it happens most of the times was always connected to the music production. A handful of labels appeared as a result of many artists desire to release their music and give some publicity to the local music production. Some of these labels exist since the 90s like n-drop recordings, others just established recently.
In the early 00s as well as afterwards, a diversity of festivals, events, experimental art projects and new spaces such as Bios, and astron bar and later on Six dogs opened a new “chapter” in Athens nightlife history. A huge diversity of artists , musicians and art theorists were occupying the city center by organizing many cool things.
I feel that there is a big gap in the Athenian contemporary music scene story. It seems that the development was somehow interrupted or at least radically changed because of this appaling crisis. We could easily write that this crisis affects the art life of the city as much as other daily activities, certainly because the crisis, rather is a multidimensional new situation.
Austerity and crisis itself, became a counter-hedonistic reality. Only a small minority still follow the club scene. Its obvious that entrance fee, beer price (usually 4 to 5 euro for a small one) is becoming not affordable for many people in precarious Athens.
But However there is still a variety of venues, parties and underground events. Most of them are centralized downtown. Venues such as Astron bar (in psiri area) remains one of the absolutely inspiring references. Even though it is a very tinny bar, just few square meters, became one of the techno familly’s hot spots. Astron hosts every week Techno crews, young or even older djs always in combination with the warmness of the techno community.
Bios multi-space on pireos av, a huge space with a very gorgeous balcony offerning an acropolis view hosting regularly several great events and art performances. Similar things happening with SIX DOGS in avramiotou str.
There is also an existing party reality, out and beyond the commercial places. It is often strong linked with the political radical potentials such as the anarchist scene. Parties in universities like the fine arts uni, underground crossings, by self organized/diy soundsystems usually with a drum n bass, breakcore,dubstep, trance and techno orientation, are a parallel to the expensive club scene.
December 08 uprising seems to be an influence to the Athenian youth concerning that particular sphere. Self organization structures, occupied open spaces like the autonomous parks etc… have facilitated the contemporary electronic music scene and beyond. December among other things was a rising process of a new counter culture who partly replaced the traditional forms of the “insurrectionist” one. Punk and hip hop were not any longer dominating the counter-cultural structures. News about dubstep arrived also after the December. It was kinda spectacular how fast dubstep became a blast.The wobble bass music was extended everywhere in Athens especially the years 2009-11.
There is an uncertain future for Greece. Austerity measures, poverty, repression replaced comforts and a life with dignity. As long as renegotiations of abstract labor and capitalist exploitation are taking place , the situation will remain explosive in any sense. The future of the subcultural scene is also uncertain. Perhaps the people will find new ways of maintain hedonistic zones, building new local alternatives and relations of solidarity. Its a matter of time to see what the future will bring.