A Greek-Aussie: love writing, love the outdoors, love my 2 kids, love heavy metal and love life (usually!).
Published March 7th 2013
Within the centre of Athens in the suburb of Exarhia (referred to in travel guides as the 'bohemian' and/or student district) is the Underground Metal Café. In need of some hard rock and heavy metal to get me through the rest of the working week, after knocking off from work I trudged towards Exarhia on this Wednesday eve at around 7pm, knowing I would soon be re-energized. Heavy Metal music does that … too.
The café's name, 'The Underground' seems to have a kind of dual edge meaning. Being a predominantly heavy metal café, the name Underground is suitable in a dark, metaphorical way. But on its outside hangs a sign similar to the London underground symbol. (see below). Homage perhaps, to the Anglospheric side of metal?
Notwithstanding names and signs, the Underground café plays pure, power heavy metal (ok and some sludge, stoner, thrash, death, black, etc) and even the debated is- it- metal- or- hard rock such as Motley Crue. Technicalities of the genre aside, it's a comfortable place with slightly muted lighting which gradually mutes further as the night progresses.
Mainly patronized by metal fans in gear, the Underground cafe also attracts casually attired students and people from all walks of life. The odd business jacketed person can be seen seated here nodding to the tunes, as can an Exarhia street person and/or junkie strolling or half stumbling in, looking for some warmth and loose change. But even they are discrete, as is the whole place really.
No, discrete and heavy metal is not an anomaly! Sometimes I ponder on the nice, quiet, sensitive head bangers I've met in the course of my life and the irony of our music tastes. Heavy Metal is an outlet for discreet, intelligent people I've concluded, who find the hypocrisies in society maddening. Enough of my philosophising though, as in the Underground you will unwind, perhaps ponder, gaze (at the many pictures of bands and legends on the surrounding walls), and you will drink! Coffee and hot chocolate for me and my friend, and alcohol if you wish, to your hearts desire –as this is after all a bar and café.
When you comfortably seat yourself, a waiter will set down a glass of water in front of you before asking if you're ready to order; a considerate practice of most Greek café establishments. But lo and behold, a tall Viking-like patron was not one for appreciating the water ritual on this fair night. I observed (I'll call him) 'Varnes' walk in with a darker, stockier friend. On sitting down,Varnes placed his feet on the stool opposite him (of course the giant thought it to be a foot stool), and upon seeing the waitress bearing water, pronounced 'Not water. Beer please!'. His friend who donned a similar heavy metal t-shirt claimed … 'Yes'.
The two gentlemen spoke a foreign tongue to each other. English! Thus I strained to pick up whether they were from my other fair homeland, but unable to detect a soothing Ocker twang, thought they to be American or Canadian. Beginning to feel very unmetal (indiscrete) for trying to eavesdrop upon this fine pair, I leaned over and semi bellowed – 'Are you American?' to which Varnes rose in all his 6ft 3' glory and stood above me at my table and thundered: 'Noooo! I yam frum Olland! End my vriend iz from Germany.' Then we discussed the music and bands for a while as Varnes told me they were in Athens for a few days for the 'Up The Hammers' annual festival. See www.up-the-hammers.gr
The Underground is a wonderful, discreet place that is open night and day to embrace, serenade and re-energize you before you face life in the Upper Ground again.