Egon is on tour in Europe with Madlib & J.Rocc and will be updating us through the end of the month.

8: Athens

From five until around eight in the morning, Basel was pummeled by thunderstorms. Waking up groggily after three hours of fitful sleep, and after attempting to walk the hotel staff through a decent cappucino, we piled into the car to make our way to the Zurich airport. For some reason, though we’re all traveling with large suitcases and hand luggage (gotta put those records somewhere), we’re all too often met by drivers with those tiny European cars that Americans scoff at when they watch Pink Panther movies. This morning was no exception. After ramming all of our luggage into the car’s small trunk, and squeezing one large bag between Madlib and J.Rocc in the backseat, our driver started the car. And out poured the drum n’ bass soundtrack that would provide for our journey’s musical accompaniment. Homey was so into it – and it so obviously influenced his driving – that I hadn’t the heart to ask to turn it down. Though when he got to the bad German rapping over a poorly constructed beat that sampled Serge Gainsbourg’s “Initials BB,” I came close.

We made it to the airport with minutes to spare, and departed a damp Zurich for what we knew would be warm, dry Greece. Our moods changed slightly; only J.Rocc had ever been to Greece and I’d hooked up what I thought was a pretty fool proof itinerary with the help of our promoter, Stav, and an old connection for Ethiopian 7s, Adamantios. Upon arriving in Greece, though, I came to realize that there was no way we’d be able to do half of what we’d planned. Firstly, the riots that began in December hadn’t stopped (though most American news programs have stopped showcasing them), and, upon our arrival, Adamantios announced that the anarchists were rioting in the area that contained the best stores. Great.

Madlib decided to stay at the hotel, and we made our way through some of the most congested streets I’ve ever witnessed in a European capital to a dealer-friend of Adamantios who supposedly specialized in Turkish and Mediterranean psychedelia. The architecture of Athens surprised me – very utlitarian, in a 50s or 60s modernist sense. “Like it was all designed by a civil engineer,” is how Stav put it, as our driver explained that Athens was basically a village of around 20,000 inhabitants in the early 20th century. The city reminded me of Sao Paulo in many ways, and the bushy palm trees drove the comparison home to J.Rocc and Madlib, who both mentioned the same insight later that evening.

We skipped dinner and made our way to the venue, where Stav and crew had outdone every promoter on the tour. We walked in to find two bottles of well aged white Burgundy (a Mersault from 1999 and a 1998 Pusligny Montrachet) alongside one of my favorite Pomerols, Chateau Plince. But forget the good wine: the clincher was a big bag of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups for J.Rocc. “How did you find these,” I questioned Stav, relaying what our Swiss promoter had told us. “Oh man, there’s only one store that carries these things in the city, way out in the suburbs. But I had to go there to get Ghostface his Pop Tarts anyway so it wasn’t a big deal.” We all stared, incredulously, until J.Rocc started eating.

I was a bit nervous for my first set of the tour. Not that I get butterflies about Djing anymore, but I planned to play nothing but music I’d bought from Greek dealers – specifically Greek psychedelia, Lebanese pop and Ethiopian 45s. But after the first song, I realized I could play almost exclusively Greek songs – it really seemed like this crowd had never heard anyone playing their country’s best 70s recordings. And, considering the quality of the Greek psych-pop tunes (check Oh No’s “Oxperiments” for examples), it surprised me.

J and Madlib did their thing, though we were in a venue known for live music and the crowd started thinning out after a couple hours. But there was no shortage of love for our first, collective Greek appearance and a bit too much of the local greenery and that good wine called for a (rather) early night anyway.

For my part, I wanted to see the damn Acropolis – the closest I’d come was a view obscured by hundreds of antennae on a nearby rooftop earlier in the evening. Our previous driver obliged, after a quick stop at the after party in one of Athen’s newly gentrified areas, around an old power plant. On the way there he showed me what happened when gentrification stops cold – rather posh “boutique” hotels surrounded by hundreds of Nigerian hookers and the Iranian men who would woo them on their 700 euro a month salaries. We never made it to the Acropolis – after miles of circuitous driving (homey had smoked the same stuff the boys did) I had to call it a night – and I arrived at the hotel at dawn wondering if I should knock on J.Rocc’s door to ask for some of those Reeses.

Rome | Milan | Belgium | London | Basel | Athens | Paris | Marseille

related artists J Rocc, Madlib