“I think it’s likely our first album will be titled ‘Maistrato Live in Australia’, band leader Elias Dendias tells Neos Kosmos with a laugh.
He’s not entirely joking. The ‘mysterious Grecian acoustic four-piece’ band (as dubbed by mainstream music press) opening the Crowded House concerts in their 2022 national tour, hasn’t released any albums and it acquired a name only before leaving Greece for the tour.
“Maistrato, as a name, came up for the sake of this collaboration with Crowded House. It’s literally a place at Paxi island, where I come from, where we jammed for the first time,” Dendias explains.
The loosely formed group has had many members passing over the years including two current ones who were not able to join them Down Under: accordion player Spiros Anemoyiannis and vocalist Dimitra Karafousia.
With fellow bouzouki player Antonis Moraitis and guitarist Nasos Vlachos Dendias has been playing music together for decades. Guitarist and vocalist Tryfon Baitsis met the trio about ten years ago on the Ionian island.
“Tryfon was visiting Paxi that summer and we ended up playing music – it’s like a common language, music, so it’s easy making friends this way.”
A similar encounter in rural Greece was destined to kickstart the years-long friendship and jamming experiences with Crowded House frontman, Neil Finn, culminating in inviting the Greek rebetiko band to join the ‘Dreamers are waiting’ Australian tour.
“The four good men of Maistrato. We befriended them in a small fishing village in Northern Greece and played music together till dawn. Everything from Rebetiko (the Greek blues), Laiko, Led Zeppelin to Radiohead. Joyous, bittersweet songs through the ages, ” Finn says of the fateful meeting.
Finn along with Paul Hester and Nick Seymour formed Crowded House in 1985 in Melbourne with the Aussie rock band topping global charts with hits like Don’t Dream It’s Over and Something So Strong.
“Many in Greece know their songs but they don’t know it’s them behind,” Dendias replies when asked about the band’s reputation back home.
“My generation grew up listening to their songs, like Four Seasons in One Day and Weather With You are classics. Maybe due to the band breaking up later and Neil pursuing a solo career, people in Greece don’t always realise these are Crowded House songs, although you would often hear them in bars.”
Not the case in Australia, where Crowded House (with the current-lineup featuring founding members Neil Finn, Nick Seymour, along with US producer and keyboardist Mitchell Froom, and Finn’s sons, guitarist and singer Liam and drummer Elroy), are met with sold-out performances ahead of their North America tour in 2023.
For the Maistrato team, performing in sold-out concerts at venues with capacity of thousands was “something beyond imagination, up to six months ago”, Dendias admits.
What does their half-hour opening act include?
“It’s mostly rebetiko, covering post-war artists the likes of Tsitsanis, Vamvakaris, Kaldaras, and a bit of a blend leaning more towards laiko.”
What not to expect?
Zorba. “People have had enough of this, we didn’t feel the need of including something Pedia tou Pirea.”
“Tryfon is also singing a Beatles’ cover and during the main act we’re going up on stage and playing a few songs along with Crowded House.”
Greek tunes on their own are not unexpected for the crowd during the opening act, Dendias says when asked how they manage to marry Greek bouzouki with Aussie rock.
“We tell them that we come from Greece, so they sort of anticipate the sound of bouzouki. During the main act with Crowded House it’s a different story. The audience is a bit taken by surprise. You can see some uncertainty in their face but it only lasts till we start playing. People love it.”
It’s not just Dendias saying it.
The band members were spotted at the airport the day after a sold-out show in Queensland with concert-goers recognising them and approaching them to say how much they enjoyed it.
“It’s funny and we are not used to this, because we are not a known band. But people started recognising us, in Darwin during the day after the gig, the same happened in Cairns, or we had people approach us after the gig asking about our discography and we’re like ‘we don’t have an album’.”
Dendias says the band is overwhelmed with the crowd response, “the amazing support from the production team” and the experience of performing with Crowded House.
“Neil is not just a really good friend and person, he’s also an amazing musician. He could tell we communicate as bands and he managed to set up this collab we have on stage in no time.”
Maistrato will appear next with Crowded House at A Day On the Green’s 500th show on Saturday at Mt Duneed Estate, Geelong.
But they are most looking forward to their Melbourne Rod Laver Arena appearance on Tuesday.
“We’re hoping there will be Greeks in the audience.
“Whenever realising there are Greeks in the audience, we get a boost, it lifts us up. Can’t wait to perform in Melbourne,” Maistrato say.
Catch Maistrato in upcoming Victorian shows:
Saturday November 19 – Mt Duneed Estate, Geelong
- A Day On The Green with Crowded House (and Angus & Julia Stone, The Waifs and Maistrato)
Tuesday November 22 – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
- Crowded House with Cat Power and Maistrato