Category Archives: Finland

Coming Out Into The Cold…

Heading back out into touring in late January is one of my favourite times to get back out there…

It was quite a laid-back flight to Nürnberg in terms of the flight schedule time around the 5pm mark (17 Euro time) on another Ryanair flight. I do my best to try not to fly with this company, not just for their exploitative attitudes to staff but also their unprofessionalism during the flight. My last flight from Nürnberg to Manchester started with an announcement from one of the staff (before the safety demonstration) talking about his mother selling some meat on the plane as she is a pig farmer and if you don’t buy it ”she will be very upset’…but when the alternative is 6x the amount of Ryanair, (excluding instrument) there isn’t much choice in arriving in relative comfort.

I meet my tour buddy Jan (The Black Elephant Band) and we’re going to be on the road for around two weeks across Germany, Czech and Austria across places old and new. I’ve not toured with him before, merely spent a drunken night together in Nürnberg where from then we solidified the tour details.

On this tour I am performing 18 shows, not all with BEB as I head to Finland two weeks later. For me, one of the highlights of the German part of the tour was Leipzig as we meet up with Thomas who is organising a house show for us. Thomas brought us together as when I was at his last time where he played some BEB to which I had to ask ”Who is this?” and checked him out when I got home. In many ways it was the perfect house show, and why I like doing them. All the people there because they WANTED to be there and quiet in the right moments and raucous in others. If you’ve not been to one, go. And then start your own.

But instead of me writing why the tour was so cool (which is pretty fucking boring) and tour life isn’t ALL sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, I wanted to mention why I like touring at this time of year.

czech brno

Reading a satirical cartoon in Czech. The humour was lost on me. 

By late January, we’re all quite sick of the cold and the constant drip-feed of tabloids claiming an ice age will wipe out Britain. The slushy snow and misery. For me, I might as well be out there gigging so it takes my mind off the weather. But I was really interested to see Finland in February. Known as one of the most miserable and gloomy folk, (stereotype…perhaps) with a high proportion of dark and disturbing metal bands, I last toured Finland in June 2016. The weather was breaking records in the high 30s. This time they were having snowfall like they knew when they were kids.

I got off the plane and waited for the bus at Helsinki airport. I remembered it vividly from the previous time….there was a playback of birds tweeting in the toilets at the airport…

This false sense of security of some deafening Dawn Chorus outside with the sun blazing quickly became a childish notion as the biting wind seized my hands up as I brushed off the fresh snow from the faded timetable. I stared and peeked in a confused fashion at the Finnish timetable, almost like looking at the can at the percentage of a cheap Polish lager after the seven pint mark. It was needlessly complicated and I asked the person waiting for the bus when it was due to arrive. Finns can typically give a little bit of time before answering a question (if they want to answer) and I got a sufficient reply. The culture here of those little bits cultural differences and manners is different to the UK. Whilst we are polite in an obvious and sometimes over-bearing way, you may have to look in a different way for obvious politeness here.

The shows in Helsinki, Turku and Jyväskylä were all different but typically Finnish. Folk up for good craic but not the most forthcoming. Slack Bird and Lifelong Hangover who were my tour buddies for the shows pointed out how folk aren’t the best at instant responses or jokes, but perhaps at the end they might give you something. Being an isolated country in the depths of Winter most of the year influences your attitudes.

finnish forest

Afternoon yomp before the final show in Tampere.

What I love about touring around this time is the adversity of gig goers, and especially in Finland, where obvious weather can impede the day. But more than that, I find that it lends a certain atmosphere to the music. I noticed watching Slack Bird perform (who if you’ve not heard them, check it out) the droney, long, dark songs seem fitting to the background and lend themselves well to each other.

As I leave Helsinki after spending a couple of days filming a video with friend and fellow musician Onni, part of what I like about touring around this time is seeing places when they are the most ‘real’. When the cities aren’t putting on a show for the Summer tourists and the lack of tacky tourist nonsense festooned across busy high streets with holidaymakers all searching for the real experience. The REAL experience is off-season where you hit the towns off the beaten track and the folks there ask ”Why are you here?”

Sometimes I ask myself the same question.

Johnny x

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The Year’s Round-up: 93 Shows / 30,000 Miles / 1 Blog

Perhaps of my reserved English-ness, my artistic self-confidence or otherwise, I’ve found the process of blogging sometimes quite self-congratulatory, tedious and a bit pretentious…

I do my best not to talk about myself but instead about experiences, the culture of places, amusing accounts and so forth. Here is a round-up for 2016; UK, Ireland, United States, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Germany and Iceland condensed into this blog. Stories, the people encountered, tour buddies and more…

UK, Ireland Tour / Tim Holehouse:

I started off the year with a few UK shows before the tour with Tim, supporting performers like David Rovics, Attila the Stockbroker with a few sporadic local shows. Tim is one of the hardest working people I know on the scene knocking out near enough 300 shows a year across the world. We decided to hit a few UK shows in England and Northern Ireland plus three Irish shows. Landing in Dublin’s fair city and doing an impromptu show in a popular Dublin bar was great craic. What was prevalent was the fact it was 100 years to the month of Irish independence of 1916. I’ve always admired the Irish spirit, generosity and welcoming attitude these folks have and it was no different in Northern Ireland.


Northern Irish sunset

There was a fair bit of ‘action’ going on in Belfast due to this anniversary and being driven round the Shankill estate and Falls Road was really some place. Murals adorn the sides of properties showing the tensions but also the creativity these people can express in hard times. I heartily recommend visiting Belfast and Northern Ireland for hospitality…and good banter.

Now entering the Republic passing through Derry, Donegal and through to Sligo on the west coast treated us to a picturesque bus ride with wild mountains, green fields and the ever dwindling reception on our mobiles. Ireland is still a wild place and to tour a place with so much of a musical history is a privelge. The UK / Ireland tour was only a week and a half but a great little experience to tour N.I. and the Republic.


United States Tour / James Bar Bowen:

A short gap of a week before hitting the United States. ‘Bar’ had already toured the country a couple of years previous, this would be my first time touring it with a guitar performing in NYC, Pittsburgh, Newark, Wilmington, New Brunswick with brief stopovers in Boston and Philadelphia. Kicking off in NYC we met a number of people who we would come across again on the tour, this was the perfect start to the tour, a Saturday Matinee show in downtown Brooklyn. For those who haven’t been to New York, not to play it down, it’s like a bigger London in my eyes…and the scale is immense. Every street is either a film set, a historical account of a music scene with so many familiar places you have seen on the telly box. The fast paced life of Manhattan was a bit much for me.


Madison Square Garden

All along this tour we came across great American hospitality in places like Boston with Jason Bennett and Wilmington DE. Jeremy and Gayle in Wilmington from Gable Music Ventures sorted us out a couple of shows, a committed music-loving group of people committing to putting on many events in Wilmington and beyond…this is what American hospitality was about, taking chances and putting your heart and soul into them which they did!

In Pittsburgh the hospitality was equally welcoming meeting up with Bryan McQuaid, country-punk musician and all-round dude showed us round the best eateries and dive-bars.

Overall, performing the USA is quite an experience and although only travelling along the East Coast, the scale of the whole country is equally as generous as the hospitality and dare I say it, the portions in some bars!

Finland, Sweden, Norway Tour / Efa Supertramp:

I left Manchester Airport to Helsinki 7 degrees Celsius arriving into Helsinki around 35 degrees. This continued heat wave for about a week or two was breaking Finnish records. On this tour I was touring with  Efa Supertramp and a number of others along the Finnish dates like Slack Bird, Lifelong Hangover and Ozzmond. Efa arrived a few days later than planned because of a throat infection but me and Ozzmond met her at the second Helsinki show. Finland is vast swathes of trees and water and in certain places the midges were as bad (if not worse) than the Scottish ones.


Efa in Sweden

A loooong 12 hour boat trip from Turku to Stockholm for the next leg of the tour to do five Swedish shows was great to see across the farms, lakes and forests of this country. Sweden felt very futuristic with barely anybody using cash, only Swish, a mobile banking service where you exchange currency. This became a small hindrance selling merch.

Leaving the EU to Norway we were treated to Norwegian squat life in Oslo, under eviction, these squats seemed barricaded, on guard, but defiant. After the show in the bar linked to many of these squats, we head on an 8 hour journey through the mountains to Trondheim. A beautiful city on the coast with mountains beyond. The quaint brightly coloured wooden houses form part of the backdrop of this city. Two excellent shows in Trondheim with the midnight sun disorienting our heavy drinking.


UK, Netherlands, Germany / Fabian Maddison

A couple of shows in Bristol and Lewes and we head into continental Europe on a 12 hour journey to Hengelo. Massive shout-out to Fabian who put in a slog on this driving for this particular journey! The Dutch shows were a mix of new ones and ones I’d performed before and meeting up with Jan, Eva from the band ‘Shoe Eating Rabbits’ was a great pleasure in Groningen, as was meeting Shireen in Amsterdam.


Amsterdam at night


We had a collection of great shows in Germany and it was also my first time going to the eastern bit of the country like Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin. It did feel different but the hospitality was still of the high standard! Meeting up with an old friend Robin from UK (claiming asylum from Brexit Britain) it was great to see multicultural Berlin and what an inspiring city it is. Uboquitous art, music, activist projects spread across the city. It would be very hard to miss something creative in many streets.

The final show in Hamburg and Vita who plays Accordion joined us in Dresden for the remaining shows in Berlin and Hamburg. This was the end of a 7 week tour of UK, Netherlands and Germany for myself and I am now very much looking forward to bed. Not before our host Snel created his home-made Sauren (a strong but sweet alcoholic blue beverage) and sent me off into the morning light to catch a flight home.


MASSIVE thank you to all the tour buddies, those who put us up, put up with us, fed, watered and even carried us to our shows. You know who you are.

Johnny x