MRR #395

Let’s Dance for Fear Tonight Is All

I’ve just boarded a delayed flight to Athens, Greece. I spent the last six days in London. Though technically my second home, I still feel like a bit of a tourist there: navigating (and getting lost on) the chaotic transit system, getting excited with squirrels, eating hot cross buns and crumpets. What a cliché, I know. I landed early in the morning, got to my cousin’s, had some tea and caught up. That same evening I went to the South London Gallery to see Luke Younger aka Helm perform a wall-shuddering live set, in tandem with expressive improve dance performances by Alice Mackenzie and Fernanda Munoz-Newsome. It was a great night. Luke’s a highly active sound artist (among other things), always doing some interesting collaboration or project, ALTER label release (alterstock.blogspot.com), show, Yelp! review, you name it. He’s touring right now with Drew McDowall of Coil and I’m excited to see him in a few weeks in London, where he will be doing a set at the release event of the revised and expanded edition of the seminal book on the English experimental / esoteric underground by David Keenan, England’s Hidden Reverse. Coil, Current 93, Nurse with Wound fans, check it out!

My time in London went by so fast, I can’t believe I’m still standing from all the wine and late nights—though to be fair, I’m sprawled out on the couch right now. I went to All Ages Records in Camden town (thanks for distro-ing MRR!), LVEUM HQ in Hackney (loads of good releases on the way!) and Power Lunches showspace for its last show! I’m glad I got to witness the happy mayhem of that “lovable shithole,” as someone put it. I met thee Bryony Beynon in person after four years of long-distance communication, got to hang out with the peña again (hola Nuria, Paco, Paula, Guillem, Tom :), met up with more fantastic people (cheers Simon, Frank, Joseph, Louis, Lauren, #chrissbresswickedreggae) and also met the man behind the hashtag, and occasional MRR contributor, #joebriggs. He does a zine called Brutalist Shimmy (back page reads in huge letters STAY PUNK OR DON’T) with reviews, interviews and punk banter, and also co-hosts a bizarrely fun punk podcast called Full Throttle Lazy, and you can check it out at mixcloud.com/fullthrottlelazy. I got food high with Indian, Ethiopian, Italian and Turkish food, drunk on conversation and molecular cocktails in underground speakeasy bars that looked like war bunkers, almost burned down Rochester Castle after hella cheap V&Ts, found the most delicious samosas in Brick Lane. I wiggled in my seat with happiness at the new Star Wars movie (at Rio Cinema in Hackney, one of the oldest cinemas in London!) and, in between all that, spent some much needed time with my family!

I’ve been on the road for about 18 days now and even though I am looking forward to a few days of rest at home, I couldn’t help myself and decided to go to Barcelona for New Year’s Eve! Everything is so close in Europe and flights are cheap—it’s mental, ugh, I love it! “Here are we, one magical moment, such is the stuff from where dreams are woven.” On the 30th of December is the show of the season: Una Bèstia Incontrolable, Barcelona, Piñen, Chroma, Maquina Muerta, Vértigo, Arrest, Nueva Fuerza, in solidarity with the Transformadors squat (csoatransformadors.wordpress.com). Now if only Ciudad Lineal would could get added to that show, I could truly die a happy woman before the year is out. I’ve not yet been to BCN but the prospect of spending NYE with a bunch of mates in a new city I’ve been dying to go to for years is heavenly. But first, gotta surprise my parents for the holidays. Maybe even get some sleep? … Nah, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

***

OK, the show was just fantastic! It started early, and between the two “stages” that had been set up, the bands rotated with but a few minutes break between them! Somehow that made drinking go faster too? There was a crew from London attending the show and I already had a good number of friends there whom I hadn’t seen in ages, so it really felt like the best kind of reunion! Not to mention all the rad people I met there—really some of the nicest punks! My friend Laura from Rakta has been living there for a couple years now and plays bass in a new post-punk band called Chroma, with Rebe from Las Otras on guitar and vocals, and Amy from Siega on drums. Their new LP has just dropped from Hysteria Records and, by the time you read this, some of you will have seen them live at the MRR festival or one of their other US tour shows! Máquina Muerta from Mallorca also just dropped a split LP with D.H.K. from Peru, and it’s so bloody killer—I got it fresh off the silk-screen press and have been jamming it every other day since! I’ve liked both bands from their beginnings and so I’m thrilled they’re on the same piece of wax. I got to hang out and chat with all of them and damn if they’re not just the nicest chaps—and their set was just flooring of course! It was great to catch up with and sing along to UBI, always a good time, and seeing Arrest for the first time was great! I reviewed their EP and liked every song, and they’re just as fun live! Piñen are a two-piece powerhouse, gutsy and primitive, and Barcelona set the place on fire, everyone singing along, fists in the air! Every band delivered a great set, the energy in the room was festive and the party continued for hours afterwards! “It’s not the side-effects of the cocaine, I’m thinking that it must be love.”

So, three days in and I’m loving Barcelona. Es mui bonita! It’s absolutely gorgeous, the architecture is breath-taking, the parks are huge, the people are nice, the wine is divine, the punk scene is booming! There are castles downtown, hidden plaças around cobble-stoned corners and the beach at the end of Les Rambles, the famous street that stretches from Plaça de Catalunya to the Mediterranean Sea. There are hills for panoramic sights and caves for adventurous nights. I saw Gaudi buildings on every other corner, and marveled at the modernist and art deco and nouveau touches that coloured the city’s downtown area. I started to recognize the difference between Castillian and Catalan spelling and used as the little elementary Spanish I’ve picked up from friends and from listening to Spanish punk (Quiero un café con leche por favor, quiero bailar con ti, quiero ser tu perra, etc.) Guess my DIY Spanish classes, i.e. listening to Spanish punk and reading the lyrics, paid off after all. I also discovered the pleasures of carajillo coffee, Moroccan food and Ribera del Duero wine, and had so much fun walking around, drinking on the street (oh happiness!), gushing at how pretty everything was, that I would actually consider moving there one day. A big thank you to Laura, Hector, Ian and Nagore, who showed me around and shared their knowledge of the city with me; Nani and Carlos, Dana and Emmanuel, Paco and Guillem, who fed me delicious olives, clams, paella, tostadas and porro; all the punks who helped and played the show, making it an incredible night to remember; and, last but not least, to Ian for letting me crash on his couch while he was nursing a cold, and an ill partner! Estoy totalmente enamorada!

***

I’ve been home for about a month now. I’ve left the house about half a dozen times, and getting about five hours of sleep a day. It’s 4am right now and I’m listening to a Japanese ambient noise show on NTS Radio. I’ve been listening to a lot of it lately, after getting turned onto it by Luke Younger (Helm, Lowest Form, ALTER Records) and Bill Kouligas (PAN Records), who both have shows there. Radio has actually been a theme as of late. Aside for the show I “cameo-d” on at ShequalizingXDistort in December, I was also interviewed by Steph of EXD. You can hear that two-hour (!) chat we had, where I talked about how I got into punk and the Greek punk scene, my time at MRR, a bit about how the mag operates and more, at obsessionism.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/equalizingxdistort-radio. I also just spent all day recording my second “radio show” podcast (ugh, what a wretched word). I thought fuck it, why not? I love doing the radio and not doing enough of it is something I kinda regret while at MRR, with its vastly fascinating record collection. It’s a way to spread the love! You can hear those at obsessionism.wordpress.com/category/radio. I’ve also been transcribing and sending out questions for half a dozen interviews, working on setting up a new website from scratch as mine was hacked (fuck you very much hugedomains.com) and working on a gazillion job applications—coz yeh, real world! I’ve been to the old Katarameno Syndromo basement, which is now run by a different collective, and it was quite a weird feeling to be there after four years. Being in Athens is surreal, to say the least, and even though it’s nice to be back for a bit, the main reason I am here is to get my mind together and set up my plan for whatever is to come next. I don’t engage much with the outside world, have rung up only the closest of friends, and do little that keeps me too long from my to-do list, that’s so fucking long but exciting. Of course I’ve been listening to the whole Bowie discography and been reading an old copy of Stardust I unearthed from my old flat. When I can, I study the three books I brought with me, on Balkan history (Balkan Ghosts, Robert D. Kaplan), the Greek student movement during the “long 1960s” (Children of the Resistance, Kostis Kornetis) and a new book that came out on the Greek punk scene from 1979-2015 (!), a whopping 600+ pages! (Κοινωνικά Απόβλητα, Yiannis N. Kolovos) Maybe more about that last one at a future date.

Jet lag has put me in a weird night-owl cycle of existence, but I don’t mind working late at night, when it’s quiet and I can hear nothing but my thoughts and the rain outside. “Got to keep searching and searching, oh what will I be believing and who will connect me with love?” You’ll hear from me soon again, “óyeme como quien oye llover.” lydia@maximumrocknroll.com

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