Small Chanter, Grey River & The Smoky Mountain @Ilion Plus 4/3/2023


“through the eyes of braveness the freedom celebrates…”

One year after the magical release show Small Chanter returned on the same venue for one last show before a what it seems to be a long break. This time the gig carried a different emotional tension since back in february 2022 we were still talking about the measures about the pandemic while now it was the tragedy of the train crash in Tempe, Greece that froze everyone. Along with them as special guests were Grey River & The Smoky Mountain. Both bands had the proper respect to the victims and dignity considering the tragic news.

“live to tell the tale, tell the tale…”

Doors opened at 21:00 when only a few fans were there, checking the merch corner and ordering the first drinks. Hopefully the main area wasn’t occupied by tables like last time leaving space in front of the stage for those who want to experience the show in the first row. There gas until 22:00 was unnecessary though since the fans had already packed the venue and Grey River & The Smoky Mountain were ready to hit the stage.

“my dear grief lay beside me…”

The first time I’ve heard these guys was back in early 2020 when they had just released their second full length “Live To Tell The Tale” and I was really impressed by their style, a folk blending that combines the American tradition with the Irish one. They use music patterns that make you dance although the lyrics are often on the dark side so there’s a weird but nice balance there. The same kind of balance we experienced on this gig as their setlist was based on two styles, some slow melancholic tunes from one side and some groovy ones with faster tempo. Banjo (Meletis Pogkas), violin (Tasos Goysetis), acoustic guitar (Sarantos Gkoumakos), mandolin (Rena Papageorgiou) and contrabass (Giannis Voutsinas) were the necessary elements and they were more than enough to set a party. All the musicians were great which is important as they are not a rock band that can hide some mistakes behind the guitar distortion. Rena was also on the lead vocals, on most songs as she has the help of Sarantos and Meletis in some of the songs.

They played many songs from their albums but also some covers (goose bumps during “Death Have No Mercy”) with all of them matching nicely. Somewhere in the middle of their set they played three new compositions from their upcoming album and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised for one more time, especially with Rena’s vocals which leveled up from that point.

live video Grey River & The Smoky Mountain

Grey River & The Smoky Mountain setlist:

The king and the crow / devil’s reef / shallow grave / ballad for Beelzebub / when everybody’s gone / death don’t have no mercy / old maui / wake me when I’m drunk / zombie / alive / lucky bastard / marked by misfortune / rosemary jones / captain death / let the river flow / red dog in the morning / live to tell the tale

“in the frozen steppes of absence…”

The passing of the torch found Small Chanter on stage a few minutes after 23:00. This is the solo project of Greg Psaltakos that the last four years I have seen live on stage more often than his regular band (he is the singer of Mr. Highway Band). This project works different for him as he had the chance to show a different face (this is what solo projects are about, right?), a darker more esoteric one and definitely more painful since pain, loss and death runs through it for many reasons although love and positiveness are also there. I guess it must be hard but also kind of liberating for him perform these songs live but the same applies for those who have experienced a loss and now the story behind them. So, it’s the same for me every time I listen Small Chanter’s work and this time it was even harder due to the tragic events in Tempe.

“Until we burn / until the road collapse…”

Due to the tragic events the official narrative suggesting people to turn off the lights and mourn in silence, away from the streets. But Small Chanter never   ήθελε τον κόσμο να κλείνει τα φώτα και να σωπάσει, να αποφύγει το δρόμο βασικά. Αλλά ο Small Chanter never lowered his punch and he was always there supporting the common struggle of those in need. The last days many suggested that having fun in a concert is not proper since it was declared a national three days of mourning with flags flown at half mast but Greg made a good point when he said it’s not fair the authorities to ask from the artists to stay completely cut off from their places where the express themselves and that’s the point in a live event like a concert, people to get together, people that are different but share common problems, that have different dreams but they are troubled by similar agonies. That’s why we attend art events, it is a need to express ourselves too, express things we carry inside and in some cases they match with the artist on stage, with the joy and bitterness of their work. For the same reason we raise our glasses, we laugh and dance together, we cry and shout out loud the lyrics like it’s the end of the world every time.

When it comes to music there’s no much to add actually, the band was great as always, we already love these songs and there was that nice warm feeling of something you are familiar with which makes the listening even better. They are all great players so there was no surprise there too but I must highlight the performance of Rindra Rado on bass. We had the chance to listen almost every single track from the album “Chronicle Zer0” along with the cover of “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”. Dark folk is a strange genre anyway and it always leaves with that bittersweet taste as you get into the strange mind trip of these songs, songs that are about death, fighting and love. And yes, that love will light the dark around this period…

live video Small Chanter:

Small Chanter setlist:

Sacred place / guns n wars / baby astronaut / fields / countryside / carefully / gorilla / space elephants / beat the devils tattoo / pouring rain / lion / streets of fire / green marbles

® text/photos/video: Konstantinos Mindcrimek Vlachos