LOS ANGELES, CA – Los Angeles is home to the Greek Theater. A premiere outdoor theater modeled after the amphitheaters in Greece. This beautiful, 5,900 seat venue is nestled in the picturesque tree-enclosed setting of Griffith Park. Just this year the Greek Theater has hosted performances by a wide variety of artists such as The Who, Sting, Alicia Keys, Pearl Jam, the Dave Matthews Band, Tina Turner, Elton John, Santana, The White Stripes, the Gipsy Kings, Jack Johnson, the Russian National Ballet, Paul Simon and Paul McCarthy. There really is no better place to in Los Angeles to see a show than under the stars on a warm Southern California night at this venue.
Griffith J. Griffith, who was inspired by the natural acoustics of the Park’s canyon set out to build an amphitheater like the ones he saw in the history books. The Greek Theater’s doors opened in 1929 and the first performance that was put on was an excerpt from Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Unfortunately, this was the last Greek performance to play at the theater. When I spoke to the booking manager of this famous venue, he said that it would be an honor to host a Greek artist one day. The Greek theater prides itself on booking international artists from all over the world.
So where does one see Greek music in the city of Los Angeles?
Most Greeks who live in Los Angeles have to wait for the much anticipated annual LA Greek Fest that happens in the Fall. The event is hosted by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson and Greeks from all over Southern California spill onto St. Sophia’s Cathedral’s courtyard to enjoy a weekend full of Greek music. In its 16 years the event has welcomed many music stars from Greece including Anna Vissi and Thanos Petrelis.
The rest of the year Greeks in Los Angeles rely on a church gathering or wedding to hear the strumming of a bouzouki. This month Greeks will follow that sound to the Annual Greek Orthodox Community Easter Picnic held in Brookside Park Pasadena, where local Greek musicians and dancers will preform.
Since Greeks here have very few opportunities to enjoy Greek music, I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to see an emerging Greek-Cypriot band preform. Los Angeles was one of 3 stops on Marianne’s Wish US tour. The alternative rock band played songs from their new album Mind Your Head at the world famous Whiskey a Go Go.
Although the band is made up of Greek Cypriots Francois Micheletto (Vocals), Chris J. (Drums) and George Solonos (Guitarist/Producer) their music is far from the traditional folk songs heard at the odd local festival. It was a very vibrant, energetic show that had the audience jumping. Marianne’s Wish puts a Greek twist on 90’s classic American rock. Most Greeks living outside of Greece do not have the opportunity to discover new Greek music. Very few emerging bands tour outside of Greece and Cyprus. I spoke to George Solonos the band’s guitarist and producer about his experience playing outside of Cyprus and he was humbled by the tour. The band is very popular in Cyprus and they perform every Saturday on the island to sold-out venues. He was excited to preform in front of people who had never heard their music before. It was at times challenging but a real learning experience.
Los Angeles has one of the countries top music scenes with wonderful venues like the Greek Theater and Whisky a Go Go. I hope it continues to attract emerging Greek musicians like Marianne’s Wish. Until then I’ll be dancing kalamatiano at the next church festival.