Touring Europe as a musician and the memories that will last forever
Back in 2016 when I was organising The Achievers’ first European tour, my major logistical concerns were:
1) City-centre parking for a long van.
2) How the service stations in other countries worked.
3) Getting from one place to another in a timely manner – and trying to do so after large complimentary riders of strong continental beer.
We got stopped at a border by police just the once – two days in, after leaving Brussels to play a gig in central France. Over the course of a very stilted 3-minute conversation we established we were touring musicians by playing some air guitar, miming drums and showing them a tour poster of all the places we were going. They were surly and intimidating – but to be fair, it was raining. We carried on our way and went completely unchecked through Italy, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and once again France, before returning home.
We made a little money (not much though because those early tours are a money pit) and I had some of the most memorable and meaningful experiences of my entire life; as a musician or otherwise. There was a sweet naivety to that first tour: our convoluted de-tours to avoid scary, wrong-sided traffic intersections and scheduling in extra rest days which somehow guzzle cash and energy much faster than any gigging day could. Also, there was the small matter of Brexit.
Those memories on our first European tour in 2016 will stay with us forever.
Brexit and how it’s changed European tours
The Brexit referendum had happened three months prior to our tour, and while we knew our trip wouldn’t be affected this time, we had a vague suspicion that life might get a little bit more complicated for touring bands further down the line.
To be perfectly honest, we thought it would be fine. Everyone in the band voted to remain in the EU for a variety of reasons that extend beyond our careers as musicians, but there was a sense that the consequences were many years away.
Those once distant consequences are now upon us and I have some new logistical concerns now. ATA Carnets, work permits, EU visas, appropriate health insurances, various tax considerations, driving licenses. How difficult are these things going to be for UK musicians to sort out?
We're looking forward to one day returning to the continent. Soon, hopefully!
The continent is calling
Here’s another blow – over the years we’ve met dozens of bands and artists on the continent who would love to perform in the UK. I would gladly make some arrangements for them and ask nothing in return except a helping hand with promotion the next time we’re in their town. But now, these kind, open hearted, cross-border reciprocal relationships will be difficult to maintain. It’s gutting.
Anyway, over the course of writing this blog I decided I wanted to tour in France again. I’ve consulted my wife, consulted the band…now just need some gigs. I’ll keep you updated!