It all began with an email. Michal Biedota, a label-owner from Poland, wrote me to say he’d heard of me and wanted to press some cassette tapes of my album “People Tonight”. The crazy thing is that he’d heard of me two days in a row from two different friends. One saw me on Das Supertalent and the other saw me playing on a train in Berlin. It was all too synchronistic to not contact me, he said.
He then asked if I’d like to release the tapes and then go to Poland to do a small tour. He was met with a resounding “Hell yes!”.
So after a few mails back and forth figuring out the look of the covers, the colour of the tapes themselves (green and gold) and details of the tour, things were set in motion.
Truth is, I’d never toured Poland and had no idea if I even had fans there. Boy, I was wrong.
Alberto, an off-the-wall rapper-artist-cafe owner who lived in Riga, Latvia asked me to pop by Riga first to play a show. He asked if Minna could join me. (Minna Cooloo – relatively obscure Finnish rapper). The adventure began.
The Riga show was fun. The audience was super-hyper and dancey. A party audience. Sometimes it’s the best kind. Riga itself is a charming little town. We meandered around the old town. We saw plenty of drunk yahoos. It was hilarious. Drunk people can be really fun to watch.
After our deluxe time in Riga, I set off for Poland. The cities on the tour were Krakow, Opole, Wroclaw, Poznan, Warcaw, Lodz and Gdansk.
I arrived in Warsaw and was met by a tall, bald, bespectaclted young man. This was Michal. He took me to an art cafe next to a huge art gallery. He bought me a coffee and sandwich. He told me all about living in Warsaw, BDTA (his record label), moving to Warsaw from Wroclaw to be with his girlfriend, who painted this picture of their blind cat:
Funny thing. They had this black cat (very adorable, by the way) for four years before they discovered he was blind (since birth!). He was often tripping and smacking into things before they finally took him to the vet. When you meet him, it totally seems like he can see. He has big eyes that seem to be staring widely at everything. Nope.
He opened his silver suitcase and showed me the tapes. My very first tapes!
I was super excited. We then boarded a bus to Krakow.
This was the first building I saw after getting out of the taxi.
Every show was packed except for Opole. Opole is a small town of 5000 people. 20 people came to the gig. No biggie smalls. I’ve played small shows before. I did it like a pro. Hell to the yes.
The structure to most days was simple. Get up. Go catch the bus/train, go to the next down. Find the hostel/ hotel/ apartment. Go to the venue. Soundcheck. Find food. Go back to the venue. Play. Hang out for an hour or so. Go back to the hotel/ hostel/ apartment. Sleep. Rinse and repeat.
The great thing is that busses in Poland all seem to have wifi. Therefore, my time on the bus (coach, as they call them) was spent updating my Facebook page, promoting the upcoming events, uploading pictures from the show the night before, answering mails and, of course, watching movies. I slept occasionally too. (In fact, right now I am writing this blog on a bus from Gdansk to Berlin).
I ate perogies. Lots of them. I ate perogies made by Ukrainians in Gdansk. I also had beet borscht. Delish.
I met so many wonderful people on tour. I also had many fascinating conversations. I talked about existentialism with drunk students in Poznan. I talked about the necessity of glitter in my show and the amazingness of Cure’s early albums in Gdansk. I talked about the history of Jews in Lodz with Michal (they essentially built the city but were eventually scorned by the majority of the population). I talked about Pocahontas and whether or not the synthpoperetta I’m writing will have horses and whales or not (I’m undecided).
I was on national radio in Wroclaw. The DJs later came to the show and asked if I’d play their New Year’s gig next year. “Hell to the muthafuckin yes” I responded. I was interviewed for student radio by a charming young woman in Warsaw. I was interviewed on student radio in Lodz by two DJs. They also played a handful of songs that influenced me. The The, Bronski Beat, Supergirl and Romantic Boys and OMD, to name a few. I was interviewed (very pointed and interesting questions) by a radio journalist in Krakow who is obsessed with old Polish music. I was also in a newspaper in Poznan (interviewed on Skype a few days before I left Berlin). I also played “Emotional Self Control” (my new song) atop a castle (that was built two years ago) in Poznan for “Balcony TV”.
The shows were amazing. It was wonderful to see that so many people knew me (thanks to my viral hit, of course). It’s uniquely exciting to go to a country I’ve never been to before and play shows where the majority of people know all the lyrics to songs of mine. That’s a thrilling experience.
It was a successful tour. Michal was a great manager. He took care of all the details, fed me, introduced me to people, arranged radio gigs and scolded me when I wanted to stay out and party instead of going to the hostel for some shut-eye.
As an artist (and a fairly daydreamy one) it’s great to have a tour manager who works out the details and books shows. I’m not the most organized person and as much as I’d love to tour Russia, Canada and The States, I’m usually too consumed with my own career/ life in Berlin to arrange these things. Booking tours takes an enormous amount of time and energy.
Anyway, I feel really enthusiastic about my shows and my career right now. Touring Poland was a reminder that my work has definitely had some sort of impact on many people – people I don’t know. I’m inspired to keep going – to keep working on the show/ thinking outside of the box/ figuring out new moves, new details, new approaches… and overall, to keep challenging and pushing myself. Creativity knows no limit.
Thank you to all of the beautiful people who came out to my shows. You’re all wonderful and I enjoyed playing for you, meeting you, talking to you, and getting to know you. Keep eating perogies.
And a huge thanks to Michal for making the cool-ass tapes, arranging the tour and being a very entertaining travelling companion/ manager for seven days. You’re the best.
Love you guys
PS: To buy my music, go to my bandcamp at http://stephenpaultaylor.bandcamp.com