Tour Diary: The Burnt Tapes’ Greek Disaster

Dank Tone shares a tale of cursed weather, swine flu, lost luggage… and good friends.

In January, London’s melodic punk quartet The Burnt Tapes returned to their Athenic roots for a short tour of Greece with pop-punks The Overjoyed.

Tone, the band’s charismatic bassist, wrote this exclusive tour diary for Shout Louder.

Dear Diary,

Best night ever! That’s all there is to be said about our home-coming show in Athens that brought to an end our short, but way overdue, tour of Greece.

The tour that was plagued with nightmarish bad luck. Fates conspired against us with terrible weather, logistical restructuring, unreliable airlines and swine flu. Bear with me, this is a doozy.

The booking of the tour was as smooth as butter, mainly thanks to the Greek god that is Leo, vocalist and guitarist of The Overjoyed, one of the flag bearers of 21st century Greek punk. Sick band and top peeps. For once I didn’t have to bug hundreds of promoters and venues. Just kick back and let others do the leg work – fucking bliss – more of that please.

The Greek punk scene is a little alien to us as we haven’t been around for years. In our younger days Athens was a bubble where we got our punk kicks, however we got really psyched to find that we would be visiting the towns of Thessaloniki and Karditsa. You might have heard of the former.

We totally trusted Leo with choosing kick-ass venues and bands to work with, but one point we just wouldn’t settle without was the venue for Athens.

AN Club is somewhat of a home of Athenian punk, not to sound arrogant, but I’d say in all of Greece. The few international high-profile punk bands that come through Greece by almost all end up playing AN Club by default. I believe NOFX played their one and only show in Athens there. I, myself, had the pleasure of busting my punk show cherry there back in 2003 when Phil, Pan and I went to see Lagwagon, supported by the Greek legends that are Vodka Juniors. Needless to say this was a big deal, especially considering that I haven’t been back since that night (I shipped off to the UK a year later).

Here it was: our first time playing in Greece, performing at a monumental venue, with friends joining us for the journey. All I had to do was to get through New Years celebrations with mother dear, dank free (spare a thought for me).

What could go wrong, right? Well, let me tell you, folks.

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When I land in Athens I eagerly wait for my bag. A bag filled with presents and sweaters that we hoped would sell like hot cakes at our shows. So, I wait and wait and wait… and wait. Nothing. The display changes its info and I’m left standing, as we say in Greece, with my dick in my hand.

The airport staff have no clue as to what’s happened and I’m brushed off with the standard, “Fill in this form and call us in a couple of days”. There are still five days until the tour starts so maybe a Christmas miracle was in the making. We still have the tour and our buds to party with; I am a Just Glad I Have Water kind of guy after all. Guess we’ll be fine. Guess again.

A couple of days before things were due to kick off, we got the next batch of bad news. Leo got fucking ill and ended up in hospital. Apparently Swine Flu isn’t retro around here. That put loads of factors into a spin. The Overjoyed had to drop out of the first two shows so that Leo could recover in time for Athens, which is meant to be their album release show for Aced Out (which, by the way, you should totally check out, it’s epic).

Without The Overjoyed it no longer made sense to use the nine seater van we had sorted, so a last minute car hire for the four of us had to be arranged. No biggie there, but what co-tour is complete if you aren’t trapped in a tight space with nine assholes letting their own brand of fragrance out? It’s a blow, but we’ve got shows to play so there’s no time for regrets… unless you’re totally Regret Club like us.

Only the weather and cops could stop us now.

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As this is Greece, the worst weather most imagine is a slight drizzle, wet roads, maybe a mud slide or two. Basically nothing our trusty rental car couldn’t handle. It was those pesky cops that we had our eye on.

We made a huge mistake. What came on the forecast was almost a targeted attack on us from the heavens above. Central and Northern Greece was expecting a fuck load of snow on the exact days when we would be driving through. Of course it had to be those days!

Driving on a highway blasted by snow and ice wasn’t going to be fun, but it had to be done. Oh, did I mention there was no sign of my luggage? Yeah, still nothing as we got on the road. Bar a few Tokyo Drift moments caused by Pan and not the snow, we got to a snow-free Thessaloniki unscathed. All in good time, we met with a very old Uni friend of Phil’s, who we’d be staying the night with, before heading over to the venue.

The night went great. A very decent turn out and very warm welcome. We met another bunch of talented musicians that are Hoi Poi Farplane Wind and enjoyed their set that included an Iron Chic cover: WIN!

There was an after party to remember too, shut down in its prime by – you guessed it – cops! Well, technically the bar didn’t have a license for loud music after 11pm, so maybe we’ve gotta raise our hands this time and let ’em cuff us.

We went to sleep feeling very positive for another great day in Karditsa, a little-known town that gets super buzzed about bands coming through. But what goes up must go down, without medical assistance that is.

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Now, I love snow. As a long time shredder of the powder on a board, I have spent many seasons agonising other poor or delayed snowfall in the hot spots of the Alps. So naturally, waking up to a city covered in a white blanket made me smile. I snapped a few pics and vids before finishing off some Albanian green I had left from the night before.

Checking my phone, I noticed an oddly high number of messages in the group chat we had going between all the bands and peeps involved with the tour. Surely it had to be good news after everything so far? Wrong again!

The snow fell all night and even more so in the central area of Greece where – you can see where this is going – Karditsa is located. If it was a metropolitan hub, a titan of a city, chances are snow plough machinery would have dealt with the conditions. No, it is but a small, humble village up a mountain.

The call was made by the promoter to pull the plug. With complications for transportation, there was a real risk that people from bigger neighbouring towns weren’t going to make the trek and we’d end up playing to ourselves. Again, not the first time that would happen. So there it was: 1 of only 3 shows got cancelled. It seemed like shit could not get worse. It did, but thankfully by not much.

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Photo: Bill Korakas

Athens was ready to go: no snow, no cancelations or complications.

Leo was out and kind of stable. The event page looked like it was gonna get packed. This might have been a one-off, but it appears in Greece FB event page attendance confirmations actually mean something! By now any new hiccups were not going to surprise us, so we took it with a grain of salt when Pan came down with the sickness (hehe, get it?).

As a final straw, we learned that Hoi Poi had to pull out due to a member’s house and car getting snowed in back in Thessaloniki. This meant my plans to set crash their set and sing Cutesy Monster was out the window. DAMN YOU ZEUS! We power on as always.

We stuffed Pan with meds like a turkey in the hope he could at least live through this one night. We got ourselves to the venue nice and early for sound check, put up the merch we did have (yes, still no sign of my lost bag), basically LPs and t-shirts. We were ready, but didn’t know what to expect. We were anxious about the turn out, the reception… and maybe a fucking earthquake to finish us all off.

The early part of the evening did scare us a bit, as we were about 20 minutes from the first band going on and the 300/400 capacity venue was looking bare for our liking. Still, a couple of friends showed up and we had a right nice laugh over refreshments. I wasn’t drinking, as I promised mother dear that I wouldn’t. Church was waiting for us the next morning, and I love my momma. Eventually more people flooded in, and it began to look more and more like that fabled Lagwagon show 15 years ago. It became clear: this was going to be an epic night.

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Photo: Andrew Gabriel

And so it was. A great set by a Darko-ish shredder band called Qualia And The Five Ancestors Of The Great Maryland Kingdom (I know, what the fuck) really warmed everyone one up and the place was packed by the time they were done. Even more unexpected childhood friends and acquaintances let us know they were there to watch and mercilessly judge. Well, more supportively judge. The stage was set for the moment our teenage selves probably never imagined would happen.

Everything was perfect, the lighting, the crowd singing along and dancing, even our friend Martina of Vegan Mosquitos who did guest vocals on the recording of Things Get Weird, jumped on stage and did a duet with Pan. I didn’t need beer to feel the exhilarating rush of enjoyment all this brought me. I think all of us felt that. Maybe not Pan, as he was dying of swine flu. It’s the kind of night that makes you want to desperately comeback, to do even better next time.

Sweaty and dumbstruck by what just happened, we gleefully galloped off stage to hydrate and enjoy the main event of the night. The Overjoyed completely blew the room away and set us a benchmark for the next visit.

It was so heartwarming to see the support they had and how our small scene in a country that has seen nothing but negativity for a decade remains united and dedicated.

As the rest continued to party, drink and be merry into the night, I shuffled away with my best buddy to his car and drove home, knowing that despite everything (another great Greek band) that went wrong, I was never going to forget this adventure. And that I would never play here in the winter again.

P.S. I got swine flu as soon as I got home.

The Burnt Tapes are due to release their debut albumĀ Never Better via Lockjaw Records (UK/EU) and Wiretap Records (US). The first singleĀ Yuzi is available now.

The Overjoyed have just released a brilliant album called Aced Out on Nasty Cut Records. We strongly recommend checking it out – it’s a banger!

 

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