Tour Diary | Sophie Jamieson in Europe (part 3)

FFS’s favourite alt-folkers Sophie Jamieson are on a European Tour taking in much of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Hotly tipped left right and centre as ‘ones to watch’ in 2014, Sophie, Liam and Alex have recently been joined by ex-Fanfarlo drummer Amos Memon.On this two-week jaunt across the channel, the band’s guitarist Liam Hoflay has been keeping a tour diary, which he’s kindly allowed us to serialise. Here’s your sneak peak into the inner world of a band on the rise.

Day Eleven – Touring Blues

I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been on tour for over ten days now, but today there was a sullen mood in the air. It was probably just me to be fair. For the first time on this tour I found myself needing to take fifteen minutes and go for a walk. Luckily Nuremberg is a very gorgeous town, and finding the local castle was a nice distraction from everything.

When you tour, you don’t realise how much socialising it involves. You hear stories of bands turning up to venues and not wanting to talk to anyone. I now entirely understand why this is; not because they’re antisocial, but because they are knackered. It takes a lot of energy making sure you say hello to everyone, signing CDs, listening to stories and then having to perform on top of that, everyday. I found myself becoming that person; the one who stays at the back and says very little. It’s not that I didn’t want to socialise, I just couldn’t muster the energy.

imageSome wooden cut out birds from the venue

Tonight’s gig was only the second ever Bedroomdisco gig in Nuremberg. I have to say, if they continue as they are, their enthusiasm will translate into some excellent shows. It was great to be involved so early on in their development. Talking to some of the audience, it seems like people had travelled up to 20 kilometres to be there and few of them had experienced a house gig before. From an artist’s point of view, house gigs are amazing. For quieter bands, such as ourselves, it’s a perfect setting. Small, intimate and attentive. For the audience, it isn’t like a normal gig, you are far more involved in the whole experience being so close to the bands. When we have spoken to people after house gigs, the usual response is, “We’ve never experienced anything like that at a gig before” and that’s because you simply can’t recreate the same atmosphere in conventional venues. You should try them out for yourselves, they are something special.

 

Day Twelve – The Kindness of Strangers

Today was an earlier start than usual. Last night we had found out that somebody had invited us out for breakfast. Heinz, a guy we met in Darmstadt, wanted to buy us breakfast in hotel he stays at when he is in Nuremberg. With an act of kindness so amazing, we wholeheartedly obliged. Thank you Heinz. After feeling down yesterday, you most definitely raised my spirits and filled our stomachs. What a great start to the day and impeccable timing.

After stocking up on scrambled eggs, our next stop was Dresden, where we were playing a theatre/cinema. Playing in between films is a novel experience. Can we say Robert Redford has supported us? We weren’t sure what to expect from the place’s clientele; do people watch bands here normally? It turns out they do, in force. It still surprises me that in places where we don’t know a single person, people are still willingly turning out to support us. It’s incredible we’ve not played to a single empty room so far.

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3 left out of 22 ain’t bad

After finishing the set, we did the usual manning of the merch table. On a good day we may sell five or six EPs, but today’s audience seemed to all want to buy a copy (or three!). We sold around twenty. It’s a great opportunity to chat to the audience, but a bit overwhelming when you’re stuck in a corner and can’t get out.

It’s important for bands not to underestimate how much merchandise to bring on tour. In the end we brought every CD we had with us, when we were originally going to bring about fifty; which would have not even lasted us the first half of the tour. It’s always better to have more than you need, just in case.

Sometimes after gigs, you need to let your hair down for a bit too. Amos suggested a karaoke bar across the street from the venue. Let’s just say, apart from Sophie and maybe Amos, the rest of us picked the wrong song to sing. Sophie had ‘Changes’ by David Bowie, Amos did ‘Ghostbusters’, I chose ‘Roxanne’ by The Police, and Alex, ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe. Only a tad out of Alex and I’s vocal ranges. With the locals groaning through disappointment; except one guy at the back, drunkenly loving it, we made a swift escape at the first opportunity. I’m sorry you had to witness that Dresden.

Day Thirteen – Irritable Band Syndrome

There’s only a certain amount of time you can spend with the same people before your politeness threshold lowers. Innocent sentences can be misconstrued and taken the wrong way and repeating something, when you think it wasn’t heard, can be seen as nagging. It happens to the best of us. We’re thirteen days in now and its surprising that its taken us most the tour the get to this stage; it’s a testament to our friendship within the band. I’ve spent more time in close proximity with these three people than anyone else.

Göttingen was today’s destination. It’s the first smaller place we’ve been too. It’s an old town, not too dissimilar to Winchester in my opinion; beautiful architecture. It is also heavily pedestrianised and therefore a complete bitch to navigate in a car. It felt like it took us just as long to find the venue as it did to drive from Dresden, it didn’t help our satnav was insisting on it being in a slightly different place.

Eventually finding the venue, we were a tad rushed for time as we had to squeeze in another video session before we sat down to eat. We could see our host, Friedrich, getting a little nervous that we were going to run over schedule, but we managed to finish up pretty quickly, much to his relief. Friedrich is a softly spoken man with an air of professionalism about him, but was an absolute pleasure to be around. It must have been frustrating for him when we kept going off on tangents to his questions, but he was always patient with us and often cracked a smile; probably thought we were crazy.

imagePhoto by Sophie

Day Fourteen – Bah Hamburg

Sometimes things, out of your control, will mean that you don’t get what you were expecting. Little did we know, that until a few days ago, the Molotow Bar we were meant to be playing in, was to be demolished. This meant a very last minute change of venues. We are ever so grateful that Freudlich and kompetant (Friendly and Competent for those non-German speakers) were so accommodating putting on a last minute show for us.

Just Google ‘Molotow Bar‘ and you will see a fair few famous bands have passed through their doors. The posters on the wall of our accommodation (also HQ for Molotow promoters) showed us that we were in good company; Editors, The Killers, Vampire Weekend, The Horrors…

Even with the last minute venue change, and the slight disheartedness of not being able to play the legendary Molotow, the gig itself was better than expected. It’s very hard to capture a crowd’s attention when a gig is free, on a Friday night and in a bar with regulars; but we found the audience to be quite attentive. Groups of people started to hush, a hat was passed around and we ended up making more money than we thought. Even had the locals strike up a conversation with us and sold a few EPs. What could have been a disastrous gig actually ended up being good.

Our room for the night

Our room for the night

Day Fifteen – Last Show

So here we are, the last gig of the tour, Cologne. It’s quite a big deal the final show. It sets the tone for the whole tour, the last thing that will determine how you remember it. Two weeks of constant gigging boiling down to this moment.

The small theatre we were playing in tonight held around fifty five and we were honoured that every seat was filled. We had some support tonight in the form of The Precious Few, a band that Amos had come across in the past. We actually couldn’t get a seat to sit and watch them; sadly, we sat in the foyer and listened, through the door, to their set.

We certainly weren’t disappointed with tonights crowd, who seemed to echo the best parts of all the audiences on this tour; welcoming, quiet and enthusiastic. Sophie mentioned, during the gig, that we were down to our last twenty EPs out of the original five hundred copies. With the crowd being so generous, we completely sold out! What an incredible achievement for Sophie, one she could not believe as the EP was only released last summer.

After the gig we find out that some of the audience were regular attendees to gigs in the city. Its great to see that this habit is not just confined to London. These people are the best supporters of bands. I saw all of the ones pointed out to us walk away with merchandise.

Tomorrow nobody has to drive early in the day and our accommodation is above to the venue, so, for the first time of the tour, we can all let our hair down and celebrate together. Let’s hope we’re not too tired.

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