Report: How Did ATHENS OPEN AIR Turn Into One Of The Worst Festival Experiences Ever?

July 7, 2004

Orpheus Spiliotopoulos, Chief Editor of the popular Greek webzine, has submitted the following report on the disastrous events that led to a partial cancellation of the Athens Open Air festival in Athens, Greece this past weekend:

"The Athens Open Air 'I wannabe a' festival was supposed to take place on the 5th and 6th of July at Alimos beach (after it had already changed venues a couple of times, confusing all the people who were going to attend the festival) in Athens, Greece. The promoters, Omicron Music, got a 150-meter-long area of the beach (and about 30 meters wide) and set a pretty lame stage at the end of it. The stage was practically next to the sea but not in the sea (as the owner of the promotion company had told that it would be — a great stage with a great show…my ass). It was also too damn small and too damn low. You had to be really tall, or really close to see what was going on and the bands had little space to perform, let alone move with ease.

"On the 5th of July (Monday) the gates were supposed to open at 16:15 [4:15 p.m.] and finally opened 1.5 hours later with some thousands of people already suffering under the burning sun. Why? Because (now here's something people don't know) the bands were supposed to start their sound checks at 11:30 and they started at 15:30! Are the bands the ones to blame for this delay? Of course not. The 'smart' promoters had assigned 'friends' and people working for them at the cafeteria (the owner of Omicron Music also owns a cafeteria in the center of Athens) to go pick up the bands from the airport and be with them all the time… Pretty professional, don't you think? Yes, it's unbelievable, girlies, DJs and 'neighbors' all in charge of the bands! How can one expect everything NOT to go wrong when this guy (the owner) used young people with a love for these bands (and metal in general) instead of employing professionals to do the job?

"So thousands of people gathered on the beach and waited 'till 19:15…when THE HAUNTED finally came on stage (defying millions of problems caused by the lousy equipment provided by the promoters) and played for three quarters of an hour. I must add that THE HAUNTED were pretty pissed off with the promoter before their appearance because he hadn't given them all the money they had agreed for and they wouldn't start. Huge dust clouds started rising in front of the stage as people were headbanging, filling everyone's clothes and bodies with sand, making it quite difficult to breathe. When asked, the promoters said that they didn't expect the sand clouds from the thousands of people gathered there (!!!). The fun part was that they were also looking for a working microphone. The result was a soundcheck while the band was playing to find a working one. I repeat, while the band was playing! In the meantime, I had noticed that the security was really bad (we all guess that the promoter paid for less security than he should have paid for) and there was only one security guy separating the crowd from backstage (well I wouldn't call it 'backstage,' but anyway) where most of the bands were sitting together with the press. Please note that there was no ambulance present, no doctor around, no first aid kit or whatever…nothing!

"CIRCLE II CIRCLE were up next (I remember poor CIIC singer Zachary Stevens brushing his hair next to the chemical toilets…There were only a few by the way, and only backstage. The chances of someone amongst a few thousand people having the need to use a toilet are minimal, right?) and when they got up on stage for 5-6 songs, their sound was terrible; I bet even the best sound engineer in the world couldn't put up with such a lousy equipment. Stevens seemed pretty pissed off and troubled after their appearance — no wonder. In the meantime, the bands were pretty much confused since the lineup had changed (CIRCLE II CIRCLE were supposed to come out first). SENTENCED followed up with an even worse sound (always because of the cheap, lousy equipment brought in by the promoters). In the meantime, I learnt that DIMMU BORGIR had cancelled their appearance (because there were no dressing rooms for them backstage to put on properly their make up and the fact that the stage was next to the sea pissed them off) and as SENTENCED stepped off the stage rumor had it that MOTÖRHEAD were also about to cancel their appearance. The crowd was now exhausted and pretty angry. As time went by (almost 23:00) the crowd started singing 'You're assholes' (in Greek) and 'Give us our money back.' Things started flying in (rocks, plastic bottles filled with sand and water, sometimes hitting the drums with the crowd cheering at the rock 'n' bottle drum solos!) and when the promoter made the mistake and went on stage to announce that MOTÖRHEAD would be here in like 10 minutes…the crowd started launching even more things at the stage forcing all the roadies to get off and run behind for cover (a bandmember was seen hiding behind his guitar). I can assure you that all of us were pretty sure the crowd would break in and unleash hell upon anything they found in front of them (gear, roadies, promoters, the press) and for the first time in my life I was horrified at the idea that everyone was in danger. I could hear people scream out loud threats against the promoter like, 'We're going to kick the shit out of you if we find you,' etc and we (as a magazine) were heading towards the back exit of the beach together with roadies and frightened band members. If it weren't for MOTÖRHEAD, who arrived at the last moment (at about 23:30),I guess the disaster would be inevitable. The festival ended after an hour of MOTÖRHEAD struggling with the worst sound ever (in their career),being showered by tons of sand; I remember Lemmy's expression every now and then like, 'What a fuckin' awful sound' — and all the people there leaving the grounds frustrated and exhausted.

"We talked to IN FLAMES, we talked to CIRCLE II CIRCLE, band managers, roadies during the 'festival' and they all went like, 'What is this place man?' and 'It's so weird here, how are we gonna play?' Doro was supposed to come out on stage as a special guest together with MOTÖRHEAD but when she found out what was going on there she changed her mind (and so would anyone else). HATEBREED, who had cancelled their appearance several days ago, were supposed to be replaced by HEAVEN SHALL BURN, but that proved to be just a rumor… started by the promoter himself. Throughout the entire day the promoter showed up (backstage) 2 or 3 times but was quite 'invisible' during the whole disaster. He won't answer his cell phone ever since and won't show up anywhere . The second day was cancelled and we found out about it by coincidence. A lot of people (probably some thousands of people) went all the way down there to find out about it and they were also told that they'll get their money back on the 19th of July (!). I guess that's how long it gets to acquire a traveling visa to Brazil!

"Some other BAD news I found out about are the facts that: ANTHRAX went to their hotel by taxi (and were pissed off for not having a tour bus waiting for them) and earlier tonight they showed up at a rock radio show in Athens and they were completely angry. A band member of DIMMU BORGIR had to leave the hotel to catch his flight but the hotel management wouldn't let him go since the promoter had not paid for their hotel yet (I was told about this by people who were there, at the hotel). He finally left but missed his scheduled flight. A friend of mine also told me Lemmy told her they were pretty annoyed by all the sand going in their face during their live performance. In conclusion, everyone got ripped off by Omicron Music, bands, fans… everyone in one way or another. This is by far the worst festival experience I've ever had to report on."

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