We’ve been clocking up the hours on the autobahn this tour, and, apart from the seemingly large number of accidents, full credit to the Europeans for the speed, efficiency and quality of their roads.
That was until we hit Poland. With our SatNav still working from a map database circa 1993, we spent seven long hours following it’s instructions to “take a left at the swimming pool”, “take the second right after the library” and “at the rotary, take the the third exit, the one by the public convenience”. Without doubt it was one of the most profoundly circuitous journeys I have ever experienced, much to the surprise of the farm hands of rural poland who looked on in astonishment at the futuristic and modern design of our state-of-the-art 2002 Mercedes E-Class, the likes of which they had probably never seen before…
But after a bumpy and restless - though nevertheless insightful - 7 hours skidding about atop the dust tracks and being unable to overtake anything (right hand drive…) we eventually arrived in beautiful Warsaw at the impressive modern venue Skwer, an art-gallery-come-venue type place with fantastic cuisine!
We played in Warsaw a couple of February’s back and while the gig was just as fantastic and the fans (notably Anna and Sheryl) just as keen, I’m glad it wasn’t quite as cold: -20c last time! Ouch.
Great to see our ol’ buddy Matt tonight too! He works in showbiz and it was fortunate that our schedules fell into place nicely. So we obliged him with a few beers after (including the obligatory round in the Irish pub) along with the promoter Tomak who told us all about his band Muchy (very popular in Poland) and their van, which won the Polish version of Pimp My Ride!
Next day we were due west of Warsaw in a smaller city called Poznan. I arose bright and early and had a quick wander around the city centre where I bumped into this chap! Dig the style!
We grabbed a little breakfast in the Old Town Market Place - it was sunny, a soldier played the bugle from a window high above, and I made friends with these two fellows!
It was a nice moment.
Alas yonder to Poznan! The drive wasn’t so bad as the route prescribed by our SatNav accidentally coincided with Polands’ new motorway, thus shortening the journey by several hours, and we promptly arrived in the charming little city called Poznan where we were greeted not just with open arms but a golf buggy to help with the load-in. Appreciated!
The venue, Meskalina, was slightly unusual for us being more cafe than techno-club but the massive selection of tea’s and Poland’s skinniest longest backstage sausage (below) more than made up for it - even if the crowd did remain seated throughout the entire show…?!
But the bar was free and as usual we were well looked after! Actually it’s worth making the point about just how consistently well we’ve been looked after on this tour - it’s such a different story from gigging in the UK. At the very least a rider will feature beer, waters, apples & bananas, cucumbers & tomatoes, a huge selection of cheeses & breads … and more often celery and salamis and peppers and tatziki and baguettes and Haribo and vodka, wine, whiskey and rum too!! Back home you’d be lucky with a warm pot of humous… so our thanks to the people and promoters of mainland Europe. Captured here; the appreciative traveling party:
Onwards again to Grøningen in the Netherlands for the final show of the tour, this time supporting A Place to Bury Strangers and the last of our long drives! Only 7 hours today, practically a doddle by our standards! And what a delight to arrive only to find a joyous and tasty selection of currys put on by catering! Our collective favourite cuisine - just watch out for their special in-house chilli sauce…
Sadly we couldn’t hang around and hang out, as our bed for the night was back in our buddy Matts flat in Amsterdam. Another 2 hours at the wheel, and we’re at the jazz bar opposite his pad just in time for last orders.
And so another tour flys by, another fun few weeks on the road, another new set of friends to look forward to seeing in the future. Thanks as ever to my three traveling compadres Ryan, Tom and Jambo, and thanks also to you, the reader, for taking the time to delve into the world of MWC.
I love writing these blogs (book deal anyone?) but inevitably a few stories never quite make it in. So I guess that if you want to hear about the incident with car door and the female cyclist in Hamburg, or the answer to the Tour Programme competition, or perhaps you know what this sign really means…
…well then you must just come say hello in person at a show.
Until the next one,
Rome was a great experience, though not quite the gig we were expecting! It turned out we were playing late night at a pumping outdoor laddy night-club situated on a boardwalk down the back of a football pitch… load-in was fun!
Check out these brilliant pictures of Jambo in desperation, taken by Ryan and I, merely a second apart as the lighting rig collapsed!
Given that we weren’t playing until after midnight, the promoter kindly took us on a sightseeing tour of Rome. It was incredible to see the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain in person - it never fails to amaze me the number of cool places that music has taken me…!
Talking of which, does anyone remember THIS from our last jaunt to the land of pasta & pizza?!
But the show was cool it was great to see my friend Chiara. Straight afterwards we drove back up to Florence before heading on north to Prague the following day. The views we took in as we sliced our way through the Alps in Northern Italy were delightful…
…though I couldn’t say the same about the wacky shots we took in as we closed in on Prague…
We were playing at an amazing venue called Lucerna Music Bar situated in an old art-deco arcade near the centre of the city (although this picture doesn’t fully do it justice it was a very inspiring and stylish place).
Needless to say Ryan and I headed out before the gig for our ritual pre-show pint: today’s destination - Rocky O’Reilly’s Irish bar where we met a great British ex-army lad called Gary (who drinks occasionally at my local The Beehive back in Oxfordshire)!
And what a pleasure when we returned to the venue before our set to find such an enormous and excitable crowd! It’s always great to play to a decent crowd and big thanks to the promoter Lucas who was obviously doing his job well! And though the show finished, the crowd didn’t stop cheering and we eagerly hopped back on for another couple chunes - great times!
In true Prague tradition (at least for us Brits) there was an inevitable stag-do-spirit to our time in the city and the alcohol-tester machine proved worthy judge of our competitive drinking tendency. Inter-band results follow:
Tom (best man) = 0.00 (designated driver)
Ryan (bride of honour) = 0.96 (impressive)
Mike (stag) = 5.05 (winner)
And the following (to)day we were off and on the road again - our destination this time: Warsaw!
And so we bid a fond farewell in Hamburg to our traveling companion, saleswoman and lighting maestress Sara who had to fly yonder to a very different gig. We drove late-night down to Kassel in traditional four-man formation to ‘Das Formula1 Hotel’! Excited though I may have been by the name, I’m sorry to report that it lacked any of the glamour, beauty or luxury associated with the great sport. Quite frankly the only parallel I could see between the two was the a likening of the odour of my bedsheets to how I imagined the inside of Mark Webber’s helmet smelt after the infamous 2007 Japanese GP food poisoning incident…
A little trick we realised some time back was that when in Europe, rather than eating in a slightly more pricey - but nevertheless good quality - motorway service station, just head a minute or two off road into a random town. The results are oft sensational and this day was no different.
I couldn’t tell you where we were but the enormous schnitzel with kartoffeln we all had along with coffees, cokes and ice cream (with heiße erdbeer - hot raspberry sauce) for €15 was just the ticket!
As a sidenote, some of you may have already noticed we’re rolling out the first official Man Without Country Tour Programme on this jaunt! Written by some fellow called StickeyMickey and designed by Jonny Payne, don’t forget to pick one up if you’re coming to any of the upcoming shows!
Onwards then to Munich and the memorable ‘Hotel Pensions Siddiqi’ populated almost entirely by builders. The confusion here originated with the questionable decision at some point by the management to implement a system whereby every door was numbered twice with no obvious logic. For example room 216 was ALSO room 239, and 221 is ALSO room 207. Thus you can imagine the hilarity that ensued as we walked into our room only to find it already occupied by an Italian family - asleep… not quite on a par with the hotel in Paris where Ryan had a very aggressive altercation with the furious receptionist, but certainly up there.
Although the Munich gig was cancelled, some friends of mine from Oxford are in Frank Turners’ backing band ‘The Sleeping Souls’ so they kindly arranged tickets for the four of us and we went along. It was nice to see some familiar faces - they put on a great show and are certainly worth a look if they happen to be near you in the coming months … (more-than-likely considering their unrelenting schedule!)
The following day we had a show in Vienna so clocked up a few more hours in the Merc across the border to Austria. We weren’t indulged with the free time of the previous day so had to resort to the service station lunch. Enthusiastically we all plunged into the too-good-to-be-true all-you-can-eat €2 salad only to realise to our peril at the checkout that it was actually €2 per 100g! €18 total for soup salad and a coffee. Ouch.
The venue in Vienna, Arena Dreiraum, is unlike any I’ve ever played before - basically an enormous squat in the middle of the city (again I was hoping for more glamour…) and though fairly clean and welcoming, it is absolutely covered - every surface - in graffiti! Quite a sight.
But the show was possibly the best yet on the tour (look out for the tour documentary we’re shooting, guitar POV tonight!) and the crowd were so friendly (and merch-happy! Takings were great!). To tour is such a joy and it’s a real pleasure to take the music to the people, and make new friends and meet old fans and hear their stories.
And that was yesterday and today we undertake the long journey (11 hours) down to Rome for the show tonight. I clocked up the first few hundred miles with Patrick O’Brian and a My Vitriol modern-classic to keep me company while the laddies slept and the journey passed quickly (though we’re used to long drives - ref. US tour blog for evidence).
We stopped only for an opportune photo shoot - sure, the scenic beauty of northern Italy is nice n’ all but I thought this yellow wall on the side of a petrol station had more potential.
Rome looms heavy on the horizon.
Until next time,