Last month German pop punk rockers Smile and Burn joined up with Man Overboard, Moose Blood and Roam for one of the most exciting UK tours of the year so far.
The Berlin-based band were making their first return in 3 years, and to mark their return to these shores we asked the quintet to document the tour for our “Tour Tales” feature.
In the first of this two part series, Smile and Burn arrive in the UK after a 20 hour road trip from their hometown before opening shows to packed out crowds, adjusting to life in a van and seeing the sights and sounds of the UK.
The Fighting Cocks, Kingston
To ease you in to a tour, a live rehearsal to start with makes sure the machine is well oiled. No matter how often you play shows or how experienced you are you will always have to ease into the work flow – load in, load out, the daily sound checking and your new gear. So after a 20 hour drive from Berlin, we arrived at the venue, The Fighting Cocks in Kingston.
It’s a tiny pub venue. No backstage, no chairs, small stage. Very punk rock. The guitars, cases and bags of all four bands stuffed into this sort of garage-style space, make the room feel even more crowded than it already is. We are the new members in class, with all the other bands already knowing each others names and faces, carrying around that familiar air of tour life. So, it was kind of bound to be a bit of a messed up set for us yet the usual way to start a tour like this. We recently purchased ourselves a brand new wireless monitoring system to really help us on the big stages on this tour. Everything went well during sound check, but it was not until the first chord of the first song that everything collapsed and we all had to grab our regular cables as fast as possible. A great start!
The one striking difference between shows in the UK and back in Germany is the levels of hospitality. We knew that already from our previous two ventures to the UK, but were not mentally prepared for it! After a good night’s rest, we all got up insanely hungry and rushed to the nearest Tesco. Most of the band are vegan, so the cheapest and heartiest breakfast we could find was bagels and hummus.
As a band, we are really keen to take in local culture and do as much sight seeing as possible. We are finding this quite difficult on this tour as, compared to back home in Germany, load in, soundcheck and stage times are really early! We really can’t complain though, as each time we have taken to the stage, with the sun still shining outside, the rooms have been packed, with kids hanging over the barrier at the front, all welcoming us on stage and listening intently.
Islington Academy, London
The second day of tour, we managed to route a particularly tourist route through the centre of London, taking in Piccadilly, Hyde Park, Pall Mall and Marble Arch. It was great to see these places in person.
When we arrived at the Islington O2 Academy, we couldn’t believe how huge this place actually was. Our stage time was 6:30pm on a Friday. We were mightily concerned about playing to such a huge room with nobody in it. Consequently, we were all stunned to see how crowded the place already was, how the first few rows were clapping along to our songs and how everybody gave us a warm welcome, we’d never expected to be welcomed so warmly.
Logistically, touring the UK is completely different to the mainland. Usually, on the continent a promoter provides sleeping places to all of the bands on the tour package. This tour, and touring for us in England in general, results in us sleeping in the van. On this tour, we came prepared and are renting a really nice sleeper van from a friend from Dresden, back in Germany. The van is super comfy and feels like a home from home. It’s great! Much showering at service stations too!
One huge difference that we have noticed is the lack of after show parties. In Germany it’s really common and they happen almost every night after tour. I guess it means we have a good nights sleep every night though!
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
Day two, we woke up, clean, showered and emails updated and hit the road to Wales. We arrived in Cardiff in an interesting situation. I don’t know whether it was due to the rugby game or another special occasion but the city was packed with weird and wacky people. Some were dressed as vikings, some had their wedding dresses on and despite the fact that it was cold and rainy, the women wore ridiculously short skirts, whilst we wandered around with scarves and winter jackets!
We spent the night at our good friends, Ed and Ben’s mansion in South Wales. We know Ed and Ben from Germany and it’s an old joke between us that Ben always said he was living in an actual mansion. Well… We finally saw that after all of this time that he was not lying to us! The living room with a grand fire place is bigger than my flat!
Ed and Ben were amazing hosts, providing beer, some interesting stories on football, Shaun The Sheep and the welsh language, as well as a tour to a Welsh castle and the coast line the following day.
Bristol was up next. We had already played The Exchange two years ago, so we knew what to expect. Back then, we played the cellar as part of a show with A Wilhelm Scream and The Flatliners, who played upstairs. This time, we were opening up on the big stage, upstairs. You find yourself getting in to the touring routine really fast and perform almost as if you’d never done anything different. There’s only a few moments in which you start thinking about where you actually are and what you are doing and achieving. The first of these moments struck us in Bristol, when we saw the line of people standing around the venue. Certainly, they weren’t here to specifically see us, but, nonetheless we are part of this amazing journey. Secondly, we spent our off-day in Bristol, sight seeing at the port and on the lookout for all those Banksy’s.
We had an evening off the touring schedule that evening, so we headed back to The Exchange to watch Frenzal Rhomb play. Kids were tearing the place apart, and it felt like being 17 again. We tried – more or less successful – to stage dive, at the same time knowing that only 24 hours before, we were stood on that same stage, with as many people watching us. Of course, we must be humble about our musical achievements, but at the end of the day, those moments are one of the many reasons you play in a band.