Ten years ago we embarked on our first tour overseas with three different groups. To say this was a daunting task is an extreme understatement and to say it went smoothly would be a huge exaggeration.
We took nine musicians that made up The Olympic Symphonium, Share, and Grand Theft Bus to London for a week of shows before the first two headed to Northern England, then Share continued on to Scotland as a band, then Berlin as a trio.
The timing of the trip couldn’t have been worse as the day after we arrived, when the first shows for GTB and OS were scheduled, there was a massive (for England) snowstorm that basically shut down the country for three days. Here are some of the headlines and quotes from the UK media in February 2009:
“heaviest snowfall for 18 years paralysed swaths of the country” – The Guardian
“London has seen the heaviest snowfall in 18 years” – BBC
As Canadians, this was depressingly hilarious. There was maybe 10cm of snow. Shopkeepers were using brooms to sweep up after the “storm” and kids were trying their hardest to make snowballs out of the little accumulation. I have an amazing memory of James Boyle walking around defiantly in shorts yelling “What’s up London? You call THIS a storm?!”
To pass the time in our rental flat, we invented a songwriting game. To play, everyone wrote a word/phrase on a piece of paper, then each participant picks one of these at random and has 15 minutes to write a song about that subject. Once the time is up, the writer must perform and record their composition for the group on the spot. This led to songs on the subjects of Murder She Wrote, Julia Roberts, WW2, wig fetishes, and many, many more.
– Listen –
Over the course of the following two weeks we took public transit to gigs all across London, hopped a train up to the midlands to perform in York, played with an Elvis impersonator in Leeds, had an amazing time in Newcastle, drove to Scotland for a show with Women in Glasgow and then a church basement in Edinburgh, flew to Berlin for two gigs without any plans on a place to stay, and somehow managed to make it all work.
For all the mishaps, we learned a lot on this tour and made connections that would set us up for steady returns over the next decade. And all in the age without smartphones. Endless thanks to Jess Roberts at CODA Agency for bringing us over, Richard Reed Parry and Miles Perkin for the upright basses, Peter Broderick for the inspiration in York, Nils Frahm for letting us crash with you for days on zero notice in Berlin, and everyone else who put us up, put us on, or came to shows.