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Festival Season!

We Spoke to the Family Behind Odyssia, the Summer's Most Idyllic Festival

The family run club in paradise is about to play host to the likes of DJ Harvey and Midland.

by Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
13 July 2016, 10:50am

It feels like just yesterday that it was yesterday that we found Schnios, an idyllic fishing village an hour and a half west of Athens. Unusually for a small fishing village on the Greek coast, Schinos is home to a nightclub. Amongst the pines, nestling next to the bluer than blue waters that lap against the shore, you'll find a wooden construction, laboriously maintained by the same family who built it by hand. This isn't just a rustic chic bar that blares out the local 80s station—there's a a bespoke system installed inside, delivering proper house for real heads.

The day we stumbled across Schnios was followed by a night of cocktails, barefoot dancing, sunsets, tanned and toned bodies, veterans, a pair of dogs, and some prime Brexit chat on a sun lounger. This was the Cariocas beach bar, an intimate venue steeped in both history and community. The bar's Sunday party—House on the Beach—has become stuff of legend, with the likes of David Morales and Onsulade playing. Even Frankie Knuckles made it down. This September Cariocas will play host to the inaugural edition of Odyssia, a brand new festival that's a million miles away from braving the mud, rain, and five quid pints of your average event here in the UK.

Stretching languorously over seven days, Odyssia is set to be a cross between sweat-soaked hedonism and a Proper Holiday. You could go fishing, take a nap board a boat, stuff yourself at a local taverna, or nosey around the ancient ruined temple of Zeus' wife Hera. There are DJs playing too, obviously, if that's how you want to occupy yourself. DJ Harvey, Gilles Peterson, Body & Soul. Benji B, Jeremy Underground, Midland, Boo Williams, Detroit Swindle, Kyle Hall, Delano Smith and Mike Huckaby and about 50 other selectors are locked in.

Like elrow, Cariocas and Odyssia is a family affair. I recently caught up with Pedro and Panos Papaeleftheriou, the two-headed fraternal mastermind behind the enterprise. We were sat close to the beach on the terrace of Papa George's, a quaint eatery a minute away from their venue. The fish, by the way, is excellent. Their sister from another bloodline, DJ-cum-third captain, Anna Komninou, is here too. The conversational menu features musical legacies, Greek economics, and festivals. But first, building a hedonistic paradise, 18 years ago.

THUMP: How did all this begin?
Pedro Papaeleftheriou: Our father had always been in the bar and club business, since back in the day. I worked with him since I was 14. At the time electronic music started getting going in Athens, the parties and the culture, clubs used to buy the records and the DJ would come and play them. I became one of the kids going to the record shops to buy those records. We had a summer house out here when I was younger, since 1982 and we were raised here as children. Cariocas was the mini-market of the area and became available. So we took it, and that was the beginning.

The first season, what was the venue like?
Pedro: The set up of the place was different back then, but from day one we had the basics in terms of music and soundsystem. From there we started building the idea of the parties, which was risking a lot. People have to travel from Athens to get here, and we bring in local and international DJs. We succeeded with the risk we took. I think.

It's a brave move.
Panos Papaeleftheriou: And it was difficult to start out. It's such a small place—even to Greece, even from Athens it's difficult to find. But we spent one more summer stuck out here, nothing to do, just fishing, sunbathing, playing on the beach, then we said we must do something like a club out here, it's so beautiful. We worked before in a nightclub that had 2,000 people every weekend back in Athens. So we were worried—it won't work if we're just getting 50, 150 people in. Then we decided to do the Sunday party—there was nothing going on in Greece like this. So we made the first Sunday afternoon party. The rest you now know.

Over the years there must have been some incredible moments?
Panos: Many, with so many DJs. The first gig with David Morales was amazing. Imagine all the roads around here full of parked cars, the whole beach was part of the bar, dancing, drinking. I went to the hospital after, I couldn't walk because of dancing.
Pedro: And the first time Kerri Chandler played here. The power in the whole area went down because of a storm. So we had to bring this jeep onto the beach which had a soundsystem that was used as we fixed the power. It was a customer that saved us, that was something.

Greece's economy hasn't had an easy ride. Has that impacted on the club?
Pedro: We've seen a change year after year. Certainly the last four years the crisis, which has been going on seven, is making things difficult. Our parties are completely free entry, which adds to the risk. But it makes it. So the last years we've been all about breaking even, and making people happy. The crowd has to count everything now—they have to think about everything. The money they need to put gas in the car to get here. What they can spend when here. But we can't stop doing it, we've built it for so many years.

The venue is in a village. How are you allowed to party?
Pedro: Basically the law is you can't have speakers outside the building. But there are many loopholes too. But the best soundproof for us, in terms of the neighbours, is to have good relations with them. As far as House On The Beach goes we do it in hours that don't bother people- 3PM until 1AM or something. Odyssia will be longer.

The club is part of the community? That's unusual.
Pedro: Yes. Even giving the parents somewhere they can leave their children to be safe. We are an umbrella. The older kids—18 or 20 years old—it's also better for them here. We see them grow up, which is funny. I like this situation a lot, you see the kids every year, growing every summer, and try to give them the best parties and educate them musically. It's amazing to have the opportunity to do that.

And Panos runs the taverna we're in?
Panos: It was always a taverna, very old school. It's our dream to stay out here all year, and not go back to Athens. So we need something more. And we have grown up, so we need somewhere to sit, eat with friends, after clubbing or whatever. This is a new project for me, only the second season, so we will see how it goes. I'm a clubber really, so last night when the party was on I didn't like being here. It's the first one I've ever missed—I wanted to be at Cariocas. I'm not going to be in the kitchen for the festival. Or maybe it will be like Star Trek: here, then there, fast.

So Odyssia is quite a step up, no?
Anna Komninou
: Every single party here is a journey. And a different journey every time. Partly because of the DJs, obviously—different sets, different styles. But the experience too. Calling it an odyssey—Odyssia—I think they chose the most appropriate name for the festival. It means you experience a journey. And that's been the way of putting it together too. But bring it on. There's no doubt we're doing this. One of the things I'm proud of is that this is a festival where the Greeks are properly involved—rather than say the Brits doing a festival overseas. This is a collaboration, with partners in Italy and England. We don't need someone else to take over. These guys have been doing this for 18 years, through thick and thin.

It's certainly the perfect place for a Greek odyssey.
Pedro:I think people who come feel the unique vibe of the area, of the club, and understand that this is a real family. But we have room for all the good people in our family, that's how we've always been. You come here and feel at home but also unique, it's an experience of an area, we build memories with our parties, year after year. This isn't just another festival with a nice line up. We want to set up a community, the Odyssia community, with all kinds of artists, open participation, performers and these things. Also activities like fishing, bring your fish back and BBQ at the club. Go for a walk in the mountains, snorkel, scuba. This is about the whole area we are in, the people here, Greek and international visitors coming together.

Odyssia begins on Tuesday 29th August, closing on Monday 5th September. Head here for tickets and further information.

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