Boîte; a French word, pronounced 'mbooat' or in Greek, μπουάτ, translates to 'nightspot' or 'supper club'.
Boîtes are candle-lit, dark, moody, cosy venues, with simple yet scrumptious food, drinks and a scattering of friends enjoying each other's company while listening to an eclectic, non-pretentious, raw and talented group of musicians, performing songs that are easy to listen to.
This was certainly the scene on Sunday 20 June 2021 at "The Great Club" 160-164 Livingstone Road, Marrickville.
A Night at the Old Mpouat
Previously known as 'Μέγας Αλέξανδρος'/Alexander the Great, and more recently as the Institute of Hellenic Dance and Culture, the iconic venue now known as The Great Club, has been turned into a local watering hole and live music spot, laden with inner-west charm and all its trimmings.
Communal lounging, great food, service, cocktails -the sort of place you would happily frequent to enjoy an intimate piano performance, a cheeky burlesque show, a trivia night, or bands playing music from all over the world.
Now imagine listening to songs that are reminiscent of the old streets of Athens, where you can so easily and gladly become lost, where every note played and every lyric sung wreaks havoc on your already broken heart, making you want to pack your bags and head to Greece immediately.
Well, this is what was served up by Thanasi Pylarinos on guitar, accordion and vocals, George Vavasis on keyboard, Tina Kokkalis vocals, and Perry Tsepetzis on bouzouki, at a gig titled, "A Night at the Old Mpouat." Songs from Savvopoulos, Arleta, Violaris among many others, were played with finesse, grace, character and charm.
The effortless listening was made even more beautiful by the raspy, sweet and sensuous vocal tones of Tina Kokkalis. And listening to Thanasi Pylarinos sing was like taking a trip back in time, with his old-world tone and passion for song.
Of course, the well-seasoned George Vavasis was masterfully magical on the keys and Perry Tsepetzis on bouzouki brought the authenticity of Greece's music to the front with his fluid fingers, as they flowed with ease across the fretboard, adding so much colour and tone to the mix.
The packed house was warm and snug inside, despite the cold outside, literally and metaphorically.
In a time where borders are shut, freedoms suppressed and all contact is traced, there was a real sense of nostalgia in the air. A yearning of what once was and a hope for what will be.
With the New South Wales government announcing further cases and developments around Covid-19, some of the audience was erring on the side of caution and chose to listen to the beautiful melodies with masks on.
And despite the Hellenic flame becoming ignited within, the listeners refrained from breaking out into too many "svoures" on the dance floor and "tsiftos" on the tables, even though there are no restrictions in place for dancing at this stage.
It was yet another show of solidarity and respect for government by all in attendance.
It is great to see the Greek music scene in Sydney slowly coming back, as it should. Live venues are a must. We all need music in our lives, be it for good health, well-being, as well as for our sanity.
As a community we must help and support all artists, who so wilfully give up their time and dedicate countless hours to their craft in order for us to listen and enjoy.
The Arts needs a resurgence and we all need to ensure that this happens. Attend the gigs, eat at the venues, spread the word, spread the love, spread the music, and breather some wholesome and clean life back into our minds, bodies and souls - albeit with masks on.
A 'Night at the Old Boite (μπουάτ)' proved to be joyous and relaxing, allowing us to escape from all the happenings around the world currently. Something we all need right now.
Congratulations to the band. You were nothing short of marvellous. Bravo! Encore!