Synch Festival: Greece Hits

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Raving in Greece isn't quite like raving anywhere else. You're less likely to end up at an afterparty than to find yourself at an all-night diner on the outskirts of the city, where vintage jazz and recent R&B take turns on the stereo while you crouch on Turkish cushions, eating salty crepes. The crowds are different, too, there's no jaded "been there, done that" feeling, because many partygoers are doing it all for the first time.

This was the third year of Greece's Synch Festival (July 6-8, 2007), an upstart event modeled in part on Barcelona's Sónar and Montreal's MUTEK, though you wouldn't necessarily have guessed it from the proceedings: Delays were routine and many in the crowd seemed unaware of how lucky they were to see legends like Mark Stewart and the Maffia or Underground Resistance's Galaxy 2 Galaxy. But the public was hardly impassive–Amon Tobin's crowd, packed ass-to-elbows, danced as though their lives depended upon it. (Despite a local explosion of minimally-inclined producers signed to international labels, house and techno didn't fare as well as breaks; even as Chile's Pier and Andrés Bucci improvised their way through one of the festival's best sets, the tent was emptying out.)

Synch opened on a Thursday at Athens' Benaki Museum of contemporary art with performances from K. Bhta, the Vegetable Orchestra, and Biosphere, but most of the action took place Friday and Saturday nights in a renovated industrial complex in Lavrio, some 45 minutes south of the capital. The tightly curated lineup was as good as it gets, expertly balancing rock (The Chap, Animal Collective), dance music (Henrik Schwarz, Argy, A Guy Called Gerald), and experimental sonics (Ralph Steinbrüchel, John Duncan). With local vendors' booths dotting the compound and an exciting array of multimedia, including an immersive laser performance from Edwin van der Heide, the grounds took on almost carnivalesque trappings. Not just a smorgasborg of bands, Synch was a total experience, providing a succinct historical overview of experimental music even as it made history itself.