The return of the annual Mandria Music Festival last month after covid was much heralded and lived up to all expectations last month. Roads through the village square were closed, two stages built, the surrounding bars and restaurants filled the remaining space with extra tables and chairs and the crowds flocked in. Entrance was €5 a head, raising funds for the Dancing Queen Foundation, a local non-profit organisation created to positively impact the lives of children and teenagers.
The line-up was impressive: ten bands, two duos, two solo singer-musicians and two dance schools entertained from 1pm to 10pm.
Why Mandria? The fact that the town boasts several drummers may well have something to do with it – especially Welshman Bryan Barber who introduced the concert, hung his symbolic Sean The Sheep toy in such a way that it’ll feature in every photo and video taken of the bands, and played drums in the penultimate set with his band, The Elderly Brothers. Bryan Burrell plays with Too Hot; and Chas Sainsbury, drummer from many bands, was in the audience.
Bands are struggling currently with the lack of venues able to admit enough customers to justify paying more than two musicians, especially with the sad demise of Darcy’s venue, so it was great to see so many live bands in action. The audience too was full of musicians as well as locals, expats and tourists.
The music was primarily rock but also included ska, rock & roll, folk, punk, blues and pop, with nan acoustic act going on between each band, allowing for a smooth transition between acts on the bigger stage.
There were comical moments: Too Hot For Red frontman Poach, like all the band members, performs with full-on-energy in his performance and leapt on and off stage several times, dancing with the crowd. At one point, leaping back on, he burst into a chorus and realised he’d switched his own microphone off mid-leap. This relatively new band were somewhat of a game changer with their high-octane set of in-your-face, full power rock and were responsible for getting the previously chilled crowd out of their seats and onto the floor, tables and walls, dancing and headbanging for joy. I rather felt for whoever had to follow them, but acoustic duo Paul Hennessey & Indigo (two thirds of Paphos band The Kards) were a beautiful contrast – they even sang their own version of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ which Too Hot For Red had blasted out minutes earlier – but with such a different take, it worked.
Another highlight was Chicago blues trio The Real Thing, who nonchalantly breezed onto the stage and blew everyone away with their professionalism. Whilst Too Hot threw everything they had at their set, these guys made it look entirely effortless – yet sounded magnificent. Adding Pink Floyd and Dire Straits numbers to please the crowd, which still worked with Andrey’s definitive gravel voice.
Whilst all the songs were English language, musicians and sound technicians heralded from Cyprus, Israel, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy and the UK. Introductions at the start were given in English and Greek and the whole atmosphere was multicultural and cosmopolitan – as well as community minded, and very, very happy – many commenting on the joy of being covid-restriction free, maskless and dancing – and above all, part of a huge, happy crowd.
Those with the festival bug might enjoy the Afrobanana Festival at Val’s Place in Gialia from 13th to 17th July which promises diverse acoustic collaborations, eclectic DJs and local music heroes. Meanwhile, live music can be found at O’Neill’s, The Rose Pub, Sapphire Diner and Queen Vic in Pafos, and The Local and the Railway Inn in Xlorakas . Hopefully this list will increase as venues become allowed to admit more people. The local music scene is definitely starting to look up.