I want to thank Ιφιμέδεια for commenting on my last post Pink Floyd and Pompeii and bringing to my attention a recent controversy involving archaeology and rock. On July 4, 2009, the German heavy metal band Scorpions performed in the medieval castle of Mytilene. See the promotion for the event here. The castle has been used for cultural events, but a rock concert proved to be controversial. The concert was initially canceled by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) on the ground that it would threaten the archaeological site. After great pressure from the Prefecture of Lesvos and the local community, KAS overturned its decision.
When I started visiting Greece in college, at the height of my punk rock phase, I was struck by the sheer absence of punks. For some interesting sociological reasons, the rock underground of the 1980s was monopolized by hard rock and heavy metal. Bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Scorpions are a huge deal in Greece (and also Turkey). A quick walk through Exarcheia makes this clear even today. My friend Yorgos happened to be flying into Istanbul a few years ago with Iron Maiden on the plane. The fans had taken over the entire Istanbul airport; it was quite a scene. The simple explanation for the traction between Eastern Mediterranean youth and heavy metal has to do with the ornamental language of heavy metal guitar and its similarities to traditional Eastern music (rembetiko, etc.) The gendered roles of heavy metal, I think, also relate to the scene’s appeal with Greek/Turkish men. The long hair and distinctively male bonds raise some additional issues of a distinct homoeroticism.
For whatever reason, Scorpions are national heroes for a large section of Greece’s underground. The concert promotion in Mytilene makes a strong visual juxtaposition between the historicity of rock and medieval architecture: “two grand legends of music and history meet this summer in a concert that will leave an epoch.” The legendary rock band performs in a monument of equal age and cultural gravity. Another clip on YouTube (here) fascinated me further and made me laugh (I wondered if it might be a joke). It raises an interesting question, namely what happens to local society when a legendary merchandise giant comes into your small town.