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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.