My Turn – Balkan Blues Tourreport

Apostolis singt bei My Turn aus Griechenland und hat für uns seine Erfahrungen der letzten Balkantour festgehalten.

Overview
Playing Balkans is always different than playing mainland or west Europe. Different in various aspects. For example, the highways in Germany can’t be compared to the shitty roads in the most of the Balkan countries. On the contrary, the warmness & the hospitality that people offer to you in the Balkans is something that I can’t describe with words. With My Turn we enjoy playing literally everywhere, so it’s always a pleasure to tour in any place of the world. I’ve been touring with bands (either driving / tour managing or playing) in countries like Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria & Macedonia since the winter of 2009 when my first trip with the greek hardcore band I Want You Dead took place. We’ve also played the area with My Turn a bunch of times, too, but we had never played in Romania before, and in addition to this we got an offer for a very cool festival called To Be Punk, so this week-long adventure seemed fascinating. We had just returned from a 2 week tour in Europe and we were about to enter the studio for the recordings of our 2nd full length album exactly the day after the Balkan Blues tour, so this trip seemed a nice chance to play shows, have fun and meet old friends.
My Turn in the car

Tuesday 2nd June | Sofia (BG)
The tour started in Thessaloniki where we all met (2 of us live in Volos, 1 in Larissa & 1 in Thessaloniki) a couple of days before in order to rehearse for the aforementioned upcoming record. No fancy van or back line this time, we just used the My Turn – mobile, my father’s car that has travelled too many kilometers in the whole Europe all these years. So, the 4 of us squeezed with instruments, cymbals, merchandise & our own baggage.
The trip to Sofia was smooth, 4 hours more or less, without any problems in the Greek / Bulgarian borders. We always pass easily those ones. We arrived at Mixtape 5, met with our man Georgi (of the great band Expectations, definitely check them out) and the rest of his crew. After unloading the van, me & our drummer (Jim) went to Tangra radio station where our friend Alex (of Last Hope) was having his weekly radio show. We listened to some rad music, we did a mini interview on air and then we returned to Mixtape 5. Dinner time! We had some amazing vegan food & fruits; I always love it when the food on tour is delicious, two important things while on tour is the food & the accommodation, you can imagine why. So, we set up our merchandise, met old friends and the show started with the young band Kick Your Punches playing first (something between A Day To Remember & New Found Glory, not bad but not my cup of tea). We were second on the row, delivering a cool set, we had lots of energy and a nice feedback from the audience (more than 100 people, so good for a Tuesday night).
Expectations “headlined” the show. I am into this band since the beginning, amazing post-ridden melodic hardcore in the vein of Bane, Defeater and the likes. Go check ’em out! It was maybe our 6th time in Sofia and we’ll be back for sure in the near future. Packed our stuff, got some take away food & crashed at Georgi’s place a couple of hours after midnight.

Wednesday 3rd June | Bucharest (RO)
We woke up early because today’s trip was around 5-6 hours long.
Had some nice breakfast & coffee, saluted Georgi and hit the road for Bucharest, Romania. We had never played Romania before (even though 3/4 of us have been there with other bands) so it was a challenge for us. We arrived in Bucharest early in the afternoon after a long (sometimes dangerous) drive and without any problems in the borders. The center of Bucharest is very nice, with great architecture and a cosmopolitan & fashionable downtown, with lots of cafeterias, restaurants, shops etc. On the other side, the suburbs are poor and it seems that the IMF (International Monetary Fund) has affected so much the whole country.
So, we went for a walk, ate some nice food and went to Question Mark (the venue) which is a basement located in the heart of the city. I really liked the whole atmosphere of the venue, with a nice stage with PA & lights, cool sound and great set up. The show started around 22.30, when the local band Ropeburn went on stage delivering a mixture of sludge with hardcore & punk elements. If you like Eyehategod, you have to definitely check them out. We played next (only 2 bands in the bill of tonight’s show), did well, played even an encore and succeeded in “moving” the 40 people that paid to see us. After the show we drove to Sorin’s (the promoter) house, where we met his lovely cats, listened to hip hop music (Stelios, our guitarist, was the DJ), took a shower and crashed in the couches late at night.
My Turn

Thursday 4th June | Sibiu (RO)
We slept a lot the previous night, since Sibiu was only 200km from Bucharest. We woke up, had a coffee and visited a local supermarket right in the corner of the house. Got some nice breakfast and hit the road once again. I must say that even thought me & Jim are the only drivers in the band, Jim does almost all the driving for the last 2 tours, which is very convenient for me, because I have time to focus on other things, like read a book or do the tour financial stuff or just enjoy the window view.
Anyway! We arrived in Sibiu around 17.00, even earlier than the load in time that the rider stated, but sometimes we want to check out the city and the place and avoid the usual show routine (arrive, load in, set up merch, eat, play, load out, sleep, wake up, depart). Sibiu is a very small city, so there’s not so much we could check, thus we went straight to the venue in order to meet Ivan, our host for tonight’s show.
The venue was called “Underground Society Pub” and it was actually one of the bars we are not used in playing in, hehe. Weird but cosy, so why not?! We met the nice guy called Ivan and we actually learned that friends from Cluj Napoca have travelled in Sibiu for our show. What a nice surprise! We met Alec & the rest of the crew, had a conversation about the current situation in the country & the scene in Romania, and then we ate the delicious food Andrei has prepared for us. Andrei also designed one of the 2 tour posters we had for this tour, and the Sibiu’s gig poster, too.
We were the only band to play that night, so we had a proper soundcheck and got ready to get on stage around 23.30 or midnight. It seems that shows in Sibiu start the same time as the DIY shows in Greece, which is very cool if there’s one band in the line up but totally uncool when there are 3, 4 or 5, 6 bands waiting to play. So the show was FUN, with moshing, 2-step, stage-dives, whatever. We had a blast and even though not many people attended it, our friends were there and that’s what really matters in the end. After the show there was a punk rock DJ set so we had some more drinks (amazing virgin cocktails for me, beers for the rest) and decided to go to sleep around 3 or 4 in the morning. This time was Andrei’s couches & floor that we used, good sleep after all!

 Friday 5th June | Novi Sad (RS)
Breakfast & coffee in Andrei’s backyard. Ready for the 7-hour trip to Novi Sad, Serbia. To be honest, we initially were about to play only To Be Punk Festival as an one-off show, but it turned out that a mini Balkan tour is better, so we did it that way.
Serbia is one of my favorite countries not only in Balkans but in the whole Europe. I definitely enjoy the vibes there maybe because the mentality of the Serbians are similar to the Greek one. Serbia is also the most beautiful of the Balkan countries, in my humble opinion, and it is amazing how they made progress so fast after the bombings of the late 90s and the destruction of vital parts of some cities. Well, no problems in the Romanian – Serbian borders (it seems that crossing the border is a piece of cake when you travel with a car instead of a van), easy drive via dangerous roads & highways, and arrival at Fabrica (the venue that the fest was taking place) around 18.30. We checked in the fest, left our stuff backstage, had the best food of the tour (thanks to Igor and the rest of To Be Punk Festival organization), set up our merchandise and met so many good friends from all over Serbia, including Rajko from The Bridge, Milorad from Belgrade, Milos & Boyan Rebuild Collective, also Goran Gloves Off from Bosnia (the guy responsible for most of our merchandise the last year), Doghouse from Belgrade (one of the best Balkan punk rock / melodic hardcore bands ever) and of course the No Turning Back guys, a band we’ve shared the stage many times in the past. There were many more friends that I can’t remember right now, so my apologies.
The show started around 20.30, and the line up featured many cool local bands, Gloves Off from Bosnia, My Turn, The Stupids from UK and No Turning Back from Holland. We played 5th, around 23.00 or something and I think we were very lucky because it was the best time for a band to play a show in this festival. Too many people attended the show, I can’t count, but for sure 300-400, and we had a great performance, definitely the best of the whole tour. The Stupids, Doghouse & No Turning Back were next. I enjoyed all the bands & had a great time.
After the show, we got some burritos and drove to one of the best and weirdest places I’ve ever slept. The place was a huge building, a villa, that a drug dealer used to own. The drug dealer was imprisoned and the state confiscated the house that is now a private hotel or something. There was a full basket court in the yard, just to get an idea, haha. We showered & slept tight, even though it was already 5-6 in the morning… I felt so tired but so accomplished from tonight’s show, too.
To Be Punk Festival

Saturday 6th June | Skopje (MK)
Woke up early once again, roamed around Novi Sad seeking without luck for an exchange office. We decided to try it in Greece, so we left for Skopje. Cool long drive, easy borders, and we made it to Bravo Bar in Skopje on time. We parked the car outside the venue and met the Chubee and the guys of Short Fuse Hero, one of Skopje’s few hardcore bands. We went to a nearby place to get some food and then we returned to the venue. Everyone was watching the Champion’s League final between Barcelona and Juventus, so the show didn’t start before the end of the match. Short Fuse Hero played first in a packed venue and I definitely enjoyed their set. Nice metallic hardcore like First Blood and the likes, you know the deal. We played 2nd and last; nice show with lots of moshing and stage-dives!
Met Blazo afterwards, a decent guy that along with the promoter, Marko and the rest of our friends made our night in Skopje very pleasant. We went to a big park where a Street fest was going on. LTJ Bukem was playing live, tons of people have already gathered, and we enjoyed the night eating food, drinking beers and iced tea, playing 3 on 3 basketball and having long conversations with Blazo and an American guy we met at the show. Marko (Mindless Violence) was our host for the night. We drove to his house in the suburbs of Skopje and had a nice sleep. It was already late, as usual.

Sunday 7th June | Kumanovo (MK)
We woke up in noon, had breakfast and me, Stelios and Bill (our bassist) headed downtown, while Jim was enjoying his sleep. The centre of Skopje is both beautiful and weird with all those huge statues and monuments that are totally irrelevant to the poverty and the unemployment that is widespread in the whole country. We took some pictures, had a coffee, ate ice cream and returned to Marko’s place, where there was a BBQ going on, since his brother had birthday some days ago. Marko, Hristo & their parents were so nice and treated us very good! Unfortunately we had to leave because we had the Kumanovo show waiting for us!
The drive was less than 45′, so we entered Kumanovo before 19.00. Kumanovo is one of the poorest cities I’ve been to; nothing to do with western civilization, but it’s not the people’s faults, since politicians have been fooling them for years. A couple of weeks ago there were shootings between Albanians separatists and police-men in Kumanovo. 8 people were dead while many others were injured. Some claim that this was orchestrated by the government, since the same time of the shootings there were huge demonstrations against the president and the state in the capital. Who knows… So, we met our nice guy and host for the show, Oliver, went for a pizza and then set up the equipment and everything. We were playing alone again, and this is also weird, since we can’t play for more than 35′, haha! The show started around 22.30 and we were glad to see some friends from Skopje that travelled to Kumanovo for the show! We delivered a nice show and definitely had fun!
After the show Oliver showed us the way to a nice bakery where we literally ate everything! But before that, we got stopped by some scary police-men and fortunately Oliver was with us, so nothing bad happened. We went to our sleeping place for tonight, which was a motel, outside the city, near a big commercial club. We talked a little bit, took a shower and slept like there’s no tomorrow.
To Be Punk Festival

Monday 8th June | traveling back to Greece
We woke up early since Jim had things to do in Thessaloniki. We met Oliver, went for a morning coffee at Agora (the venue we played the previous night is actually an all day coffee – bar), got some nice stuff from a bakery and left for Greece. After a really long discussion about everything concerning the band including our future plans, the recordings of our new full length that were about to start the following day, and the 35-day summer tour we have in July / August, we reached the borders. 1 hour later we were in Thessaloniki. The tour was over. Thank you.

Apostolis / My Turn

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