We sat down with Theodora Karakassi of Plisskën Festival
Welcome to Festivals Insider's Organizer Q&A series. Here, we have intimate conversations with some of the festival market's most exciting and influential innovators.
Plisskën Festival, a multi-genre festival set in stunning locations around Athens City Centre. Boasting a Summer, and Winter Edition, both held over two days, this is one that we urge you to read more about below, and get it on your list of festivals! We had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Theodora Karakassi...
What is your name and what is the name of your festival?
Hi, my name is Theodora Karakassi, and we organise a music festival called Plisskën Festival in the centre of Athens, Greece.
When did the festival start and what inspired it?
Plisskën started on the 4th December in 2010, and the idea behind it was to create a new festival amidst the financial crisis, and see how far we could go with it.
Apart from that, I think that the main influence was that we were a team that we had been lucky enough to go to a lot of festivals worldwide, and we just really wanted to create something new, fresh with the atmosphere and the ethos that we felt that represented us and our musical taste in the city that we so much love.
When and where does it happen?
It has two versions, it has the summer and the winter version. The summer version takes place in the middle of June, across the two days with 50 plus artists and three stages, and the music goes on till the early morning hours.
The winter version takes place at the beginning of December, either across one day or two days, 20 plus artists and in three different venues that are close to each other, always in the centre of Athens.
Tell us about the site and how it influences the festival?
In relation to the site, I mean, we haven't always used the same sites, you could call us nomads, even though that's not 100% true. The first five years, we, the summer Plisskën was taking place in Italy in the Cosmos, which was a big industrial space. It was like a massive outdoor, we have like three stages there, chillout areas, comedy stages, you know, all sorts of, you know, other activities, and then the club stage, which was a big industrial kind of warehouse. The great thing is that was at the centre of the city and yet far away so that we could do whatever we wanted, and the music didn't stop till after 8 am.
In 2019, we moved to the Monopolies of Athens, which is this beautiful gas factory right in the centre of the old town. So the space just kind of really speaks for itself, you don't even need to do that much and it just has this incredible festival vibe.
The winter version is in three different sites, a metal factory, a gig space and a club all situated next to each other. So the idea is for people to kind of like pop in and out of each venue just a couple of minutes away and it creates this street urban feel.
What I think joins everything together is that urban and industrial feel that has definitely transcended into the musical DNA which is basically about us experimenting all the time with new sounds for our markets, be it drill, ambient, techno, dark, pop.
What kind of musical artists play at your festival?
We've really had so many different types of music and artists performing a Plisskën, I would say that it's really like a multi-genre and varied lineup.
We've had from the Doom of Electric Wizard to Floating Points, Cumbia with Quantic, Dub with Lee Scratch Perry, Jazz Funk with Mulatu Astatke, the legendary Tony Allen that unfortunately left us this year, Dark Pop with Boy Harsher, Techno with Amelie lens, Black Metal of Liturgy. I mean, the list kind of you know goes on, sorry, it's really there's something for everyone.
Who was the first act you ever booked?
Our first acts would have been These New Puritans in 2010.
What’s the most memorable set or sets for you?
Favourite acts on a personal level, I guess I would say Mount Kimbie, Summer Plisskën, 2014 - I just remember dropping everything and going straight to the front and really dancing my socks off.
On another note, Baby Father, Winter Plisskën, 2017. That was just like an, he was incredible live. It was in the old metal factory and there was so much smoke that you couldn't even see the artist or anybody and it was just so electrifying that it was amazing.
I would definitely need to put to the mix, Giorgio Moroder who played Summer Plisskën 2019 because of his restless energy and he's just such a legend off and onstage.
My final one would be, well, we call them friends by now, Optimo, the duo from Glasgow. We always give them the last slot of the second day. Exactly, because we know that we've kind of like finished with most of the stuff that we need to do. So we all join as a team, and it's all very emotional, and we just like dance till the end - we consider that our own little after party.
Who is the target audience for your festival?
Exactly, because it has so many different genres of music and kind of like every year, it might change a little bit. It could be from, you know, from 18 to 40 plus, and anybody that has, that wants to explore new music, or listen to, you know, great legends, and just basically wants to let loose, party hard and come back the next day for more.
What is unique about your festival? What sets it apart?
We've always wanted to create kind of like a safe space for people to come and express themselves and be themselves and just, you know, let go. And mainly have fun and meet their friends and dance around. You know, just kind of like spend the whole day is a present that they've done to themselves. So, you know, I think that that's what festivals are all about - I think that kind of transcends from the crowd, to the artists and even the working crew.
Another beautiful thing that I have always found is that a lot of artists and even tour managers have always said how we kind of seem like a very tight-knit team, and that we act as a family, and it's very true. I mean, we're there, we're tired, but we're there to have a great time, and it's amazing to see that other people get to see that. And I think that that kind of transcends and the whole vibe of Plisskën.
What are some of the challenges you've faced in organizing your festival?
Challenges. God, they've been so many. I mean, as I said, we started in 2010 - financial crisis, 2015 - financial political crisis and Greece with capital controls. 2020 global pandemic, I mean, it's like as if it's like a five-year thing, but we've learned to persevere. We do what we love. We always strive to get better to grow organically, and hopefully, we're gonna be here for many, many years to come.