Sunday, September 20, 2009

Greek Peek

WHAT: Greek Festival
WHEN: (last day) SUNDAY 9/20, 11 am - 7 pm
WHERE: Exposition Building, NC State Fairgrounds, Raleigh


Food for purchase: Full course dinners and a la carte honey-laden desserts, adult beverages from Greek coffee to ouzo.

Vendor Goodies: Lots of evil eye stuff, and bellydance coin hip scarves only $10!

Live Music: 7-piece band Zephyros is from Baltimore.

Song titles: "Kardasia," "Ston Erota Sou Liono," and "Pou Na Nai I Agapi Mou"

I like those killer breaks (around the 1:00 mark) on the middle tune, which I'm told means "I Melt When I Make Love to You."

Backstage with Telly Procopos, the charismatic lead singer of Zephyros

This was from the final set on Saturday night, the so-called "Power Hour," an unstoppable medley of tunes designed to get everybody dancing. If you liked the 3-minute clip, here are the 10 minutes that preceded it:

Song titles: "S agapo ke se hriazome," "Den me niazi pou gyrnas," "Eho Mia kardia pou s agapai," "Eho ponesi gi ayti," "Glossa epikinonias," and "Kardasia" (part 1).

Longer review to follow...

This festival is definitely about the FOOD, so come hungry. Some of the meals looked a little heavy (like I said, come HUNGRY) but I snacked on a gyro sandwich which was delicious, enjoyed retsina, ouzo and Greek coffee. The dessert bar went to baklava and way beyond, with to-go boxes an option. To get the fullest selection, go early to the festival, say Friday or Saturday; on the other hand, Sunday brought some attractive half-price deals as they cleared out the last of the food and drink.

This monumental spread isn't catered, it is hand-prepared by the congregation of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, on Lead Mine Road in Raleigh. 10% of the take goes to a charity, this year it was Habitat for Humanity. One-dollar raffle tickets generated a "Greek Stimulus Package," with half of the cash going to the winner of a nightly drawing. The food service was no-hassle and very orderly, and the atmosphere hospitable, transforming the Fairgrounds Exposition Center into a giant church basement.

Emmanuel "Manoli" Matsos, the bass player of Zephyros, has been leading the band for 23 years, making it the most experienced, and largest, Greek band in Baltimore. They tackle many different regional styles of Greek dances, and the musicianship was top drawer, with hats off to clarinetist Dave Drosini, guitarist Stavros Blicas, keyboardist Peter Bisbikis and bouzouki player Yianni Barlas, who also adds synth tones of soz, qanun and violin. (This reminded me of the way the Mexican tierra caliente bands use synth tuba.) The band's youngest member, 24-year-old Bill Matsos, is Manoli's son and a serious drummer who studied music for 10 years (and played in a few rock bands) before joining his dad's outfit. About a year ago, vocalist Telly Procopos also joined Zephyros full-time.

The band is a mainstay on the East Coast festival circuit, having played Fayetteville last week, and slated for Ocean City, Maryland and Tyson's Corner, Virginia in the coming weeks. Google your Greek festivals, or hopefully, these folks will stay in touch. Opa!

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