Two years after Tahuna Breaks‘ first venture to Britain, June 2015 marked the beginning of a two-week sortie return to the UK and then a wee crack at Europe, including the chance to perform at Switzerland’s legendary Montreux Jazz Festival. Bassist Tim Gillon provided NZM with this intriguing diary of their whirlwind trip.
I’m unsure how many bands would play a UK gig the same day they flew in from NZ, but we did so, and nailed it. Arriving into London early morning we headed off in our sweet tour van, picked up the backline gear, and headed to Shoreditch to chillage, have a drink, and prepare for soundcheck.
Prior to the gig, we met Gareth Long Bailey, a colossal trombone player who was recommended to us by Crazy P – the producers of our ’Shadow Light’ album. Indeed he was colossal in the sense that he could shred the bone but also he was two metres tall, at least.
Show time to a sell-out crowd and it was clear that Kiwis and other fans alike had been hanging out for a Tahuna feel-good boogie. We played a mean set, which was surprising considering how many miles we’d come. We couldn’t really fault it other than the smoke machine which decided to switch into overdrive and completely fog out the stage.
On the drive to Glastonbury, about 50kms, our sweet tour van decided to be not-so-sweet with the dashboard lights indicating an engine fault. “Drive on,” was the call from the boys, and thankfully the van got us there, even if we had to drive at reduced speed – but isn’t that what adventures are made of?
After a long and arduous check-in procedure and some de-stressing, we gathered ourselves to play the marquee show of the whole tour. Living the dream has long been a mantra of Tahuna Breaks, and this gig epitomised that mantra. It was the fulfilment of a dream to play at such a huge festival and the boys played well to a large and passionate crowd of approximately 3000 people. Our crowd was definitely the biggest gathering we saw at the Gully Stage during the festival.
After the gig it was time to relax and have a good old sing-a-long to Pharrell in a crowd of 100,000, and later to top it all off with a visit to Shangri-La, a crazy late night dance zone where anything goes.
The following day was a day to check out the Glastonbury Festival happenings, and it has to be said again just how large and amazing this festival is. There is something for everyone, whatever your musical taste. The sheer scale of it is mind blowing as you can walk for hours and still not have discovered everything. Highlights of the day were checking out Hiatus Kaiyote, Roy Ayers, and a DJ set from Groove Armada.
If there could ever be a recommendation to first time touring bands, it is to allow enough wiggle room in your schedule for the unexpected. We had caught the ferry from Dover to Calais when shortly after departing, the captain announced the French port workers were going to be on strike – but the ferry would proceed on the hopeful basis that the situation would improve and we could dock. Two hours later, with French land in sight, the captain advised the situation hadn’t improved, the ferry wasn’t going to dock in Calais, and thus we had to return to Dover. In a mild state of panic we decided to pre-emptively booked the train across the Channel.
We got to Antwerp in the end but it was another drama for sure.
A second recommendation for touring bands – if possible build into your schedule off days where you don’t have any musical commitments. Today was one such day and it allowed us to sample some good Belgian beer and take in the sights of Antwerp. We didn’t have any expectations of Antwerp but were stoked to find a bar or two with 300 different beers on offer. Would’ve been rude not to try a few.
The ZVA festival has been in place for 20 years and has a variety of performing arts including: theatre, giant puppet performances and live music. Some events are ticketed while others are free, and all of this is supported by the City of Antwerp (council) and local organisations.
As part of the festival, each day a team set up a mobile truck and trailer stage in various suburbs and communities around Antwerp. Food and drink stalls were set up around a perimeter and people could come check out the sounds. We performed each day, sometimes in searing heat, to locals among whom I’m sure no-one would have heard of us before. Dedicated fans travelled to Antwerp from Cologne and Amsterdam just to hear our sweet dulcet tones. All in all, a great opportunity to form friendships with a team whom we saw and interacted with on a daily basis. After doing so much travel from one place to another, it was refreshing to stay in one place and not have to hit the road to get to the next gig.
Prior to each gig, there was the opportunity to do some sight-seeing. Marty Greentree (lead singer) grew up on a diet of old school Motown, R&B, funk and soul acts – James Brown was one such example, Marvin Gaye another. For two years Marvin detoxed and got his life back together in Ostend – a neat, little seaside town two hours journey by train from Antwerp. So off we all went, and it was well worth it. We hired headsets, visited the places Marvin sang and lived, and had an honorary beer in his former watering holes.
Other highlights included laughing at band members wearing gripper togs (speedies) at public swimming pools, watching the NZ Black Sticks hockey team compete at the Olympic qualifier tournament, subsequent conga lines with the Black Sticks’ girls at their after party, buckled bike wheels (when trying to give the girls a ride home) – and lost bikes after a late night out.
Touring can be highlighted by the simplest of things or gags. During each segment of road tripping there was much laughter over who could do the best phoney French accent. Thank you to the friends and family (who were touring with us) for enduring our gags. Today was another travel day and a sweltering, sticky hot one. Following our arrival we had refreshing mojitos in Mulhouse (France) and a chance to lay our weary heads.
The mercury topped 35 degrees easily, so thankfully the Montreux Jazz Festival is situated right by the picturesque Lake Geneva. It was a welcome relief to have a swim, listen to some high quality jazz, and just soak up the vibe of what is a truly classy festival. This was the 49th Montreux Jazz Festival and past acts are a who’s who of the music heavyweights – Miles Davis, James Brown, Kenny G and Jamiroquai to name a few.
Our set was on the Music in Parks stage, where we were the final act, playing from 10:30pm to midnight. We love to play late night sets and this was no exception. The boys busted out a super performance to round off the tour, and I’m sure we were impressionable in winning a crowd that hardly knew us beforehand. It was pretty dark but I’d estimate another crowd approximately 3000-4000 strong, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves. As did we. Mission accomplished.