Box News #278 – March 18, 2019

Mick documents the second leg of the mighty Heep’s ‘Living the Dream’ European tour 2019, through France, Spain, Italy, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Holland and Moldova.

Well Milan was amazing and even Eli from Frontiers Records our record company made it down to say hello. He kindly gave me two big books of cut outs of interviews and newspaper clippings we had of the ‘Living the Dream’ promotion throughout Europe. It was a great show and our last in Italy, and what a way to end our Italian shows on such a high! They were amazing and the atmosphere incredible.

The next day was a drive day to Belgrade Serbia. We breezed through the custom points and arrived at the hotel in time for dinner and an early night. This suited Phil as the next morning he looked a lot better, and there was less of the incessant coughing. He said he had a better sleep, so that was good.

Well in Belgrade Serbia we played the ‘Sava Centre’ which was sold out. This was a seated affair with multi balconies above each other going up into the gods, but they came to rock, and it was a magnificent show. They loved it and in a territory like that, I was surprised at how well the new songs went down. That was brilliant. We had our old friend Milenko announce on to the stage and he loved it. He then took his seat right down the front.

Bulgaria and Sofia was our next concert and we had not been in Bulgaria for a while, so it was good to be back. They were a wonderful audience and of course the song ‘July Morning’ has a special meaning for them, as each year they have the July Morning Festival where on July the 1st, as the sun comes up, they play the song. This attracts people from around the world which is really cool. They really rocked out with us which was tremendous.

The next day we had a long old travel day of 10 hours to get to Athens in Greece. We made it by 7.30pm just in time to get a bite to eat for dinner and have a much needed early night. Vic really did well to get us there that early.

We had a lot of the day off as we were not on stage until 22.00pm that night at the ‘Fuzz Club’ which had sold out. I caught up on all of my emails, bills, blog and just general computer business, so I made good use of the time.
Scampi had arranged for someone to do our clothes washing, so we had to take it down to reception at 12 midday in laundry bags with our name on it, as the crew were leaving for the venue and taking our laundry with them.

Other than popping out for a few bites to eat that was it for me, so I had a quiet day. We were picked up at 8.30pm, as there was a video interview for me to do at the venue before the show.

The interview went well and then we prepared for the show, and although it was sold out, I was surprised to see that people were still allowed smoke in the venue even though there were ‘no smoking’ signs around the building. Nearly every venue around the world is non-smoking, but certainly not in Athens, and this threw me a little, as it is not my favourite thing at all, as I sing all of the high notes and have to take deep breaths to reach them, and then you get a lung full of second hand smoke.

Having never smoked in my life, I found that a bit uncomfortable to say the least. So did the other boys as everyone remarked on it after the show. Still apart from that this show was a real highlight of the tour thus far, as the Athens audience were absolutely fantastic. They were so enthusiastic to both the new and classic songs it was amazing, and they sang so loudly it really was emotional. Greece has always had a special place in our hearts as a band, and that night just proved it. We could feel their energy and it was obvious they could feel ours, so it was a special magical rockin’ night.

We met a few people after the show and then we headed to the hotel as the following day we had a 4-5 hour drive to Thessaloniki. There was some sort of strike on, so there were blockages at various tunnels with vehicles blocking the way, so some of the journey we had to do on ‘B’ roads. We still made good time and arrived at the hotel at a reasonable hour.

We were not on stage until 22.15pm, so we had a cushion of time right there.We were playing the ‘Principal’l venue which is a fairly large venue. We had dinner in the hotel and the Chef came out and had a picture taken with us, and then we were picked up by Vic at 21.00pm.

The ‘Principal’ looked totally sold out and it was rammed in every corner. It was another magic night in Greece but unfortunately a lot of people were smoking and this irritated our throats and chests, but once again adrenaline got us through. They were a fantastic audience and with us from note one. So many young fans too, as in Athens, which was brilliant.

We did not stay too long as we had a long old drive to Istanbul Turkey the following day. So we went back to that hotel pretty sharpish. However, the sleeper bus was blocked in by a car when they wanted to leave, so it was all hands on deck and our mighty crew picked the car up and moved it. Job done!

The journey to Istanbul was supposedly meant to be 7 hours with stops, but we also had to contend with the border crossings. Leaving Greece through the border was fine, but for some reason getting into Turkey became a problem. The sleeper bus made it through after some hassle with documents, and we made it through after paying 90 Euro for some insurance, that we were never told we needed, as we did not have a green card. Well on a hire car we were never told we needed one, but there you go we paid the insurance and left. Now our 7 hour journey became 9 hours which was a long old schlep.

However, the equipment truck was having horrendous problems getting through, even though we had water tight carnets and all of the usual documentation required. Because they were not happy for what ever reason, they sent our truck driver Pete to another port office 50 miles away to get it sorted, but when he arrived there it was shut until 9.30am the following morning. Now you would have thought that they would have known that and informed him, but they didn’t, so he drove all the way back to the original border to try and get this resolved.

The end result after many hours of going back and forwards our poor Pete did not stand a chance, as they then decided to unload the whole truck and go through every piece of equipment. This was after him driving through the night from Thessaloniki, so he was knackered and stressed beyond belief.

As they decided to do this and the fact that he still had 184 miles to drive to get to the gig, he would not have made it in time for the show, so we had no other option but to cancel the gig.

The following day we were having to drive to Telfs in Austria that is 14 hours drive, including 12 hours down time due to drivers rules, and then another 14hours to Telfs.

Well we decided with the Istanbul promoters to put the gig on the following day, and the drivers and Scampi put their collective heads together to try and find a way to get to Telfs on time. This is what we decided to do in the end, and it was the only logical solution we could of made.

The crew, Russ and Davey all had to check into our hotel because they had no rooms due to the fact they were originally going overnight from the Istanbul gig. Luckily the hotel could accommodate everyone, and as you can imagine everyone had a quick bite to eat and an early night, as we were all shattered. The poor truck driver though was still at the border and I felt for him big time, as he must have been be spent, and still he had that 184 miles to drive once they have finished with him. Now he had a nightmare and a half to put it mildly.

Well the gig did go on the following day, and it was amazing. We felt really bad for those that could not make the show on the second day, but those that did make which was at least 95% of the sell out crowd, they had a great time. It was a magical show and the Zorlu venue was amazing. The staff looked after us very well and the show had a very special feel about it, and a great atmosphere from the off. They were fantastic with so many young people there too, all singing the new album songs as well as the classics, so that concert was one to remember for sure.

After the show the sleeper bus and the truck left right away to have a stopover in Serbia before the drivers need a 9 hour legal drivers break. Then they could finish the journey to Telfs Austria.

However Phil, Bernie and I said good bye to Vic who was driving to Telfs by van and we flew from Istanbul Airport to Munich, and then we took three trains to Telfs in Austria and a taxi to the hotel. We arrived at approximately 6.30pm and decided to meet for dinner at 7pm.

While we were eating we were being sent text messages from Scampi saying all was not well on the trucking front, as he had been held up again only this time at the Serbian Border. There we so many trucks waiting too get through that there was no way he could make it to Telfs on time, so when he was cleared Scampi gave him instructions to drive direct to Vienna where our next show after Telfs was. The sleeper bus did the same and they all stayed in Vienna the night, when they eventually got there, knowing that the gig would have to be re-scheduled it made sense and saved a lot of money on fuel as Telfs was still a 5 1/2 hour drive to Vienna.

If we could have made it in time there would not have been a problem, but the Gods of the borders were against us on this one. Devil’s of the borders more like!

Well the Telfs promoter arrived while we were having dinner, and he was obviously upset as the show was a sell out, but he did understand in the end that it was out of our control and that the only solution was to reschedule it.

The following day when we were having breakfast in walked our very tired Vic, who amazingly had made it to Telfs. Still he was in a much faster vehicle and not carrying lots of people or lots of equipment, but it did amaze us that he had driven that distance and through those difficult borders, and arrived so quickly, so he won the ‘King Driver,’ award of the day.

We had a spot of lunch in a restaurant opposite the hotel and then we had a walk around town for some much needed fresh air. Our suitcases were on the sleeper bus, so we would not see them until the next day, so we bought some bits and pieces to get us through in the toiletry department. Then we chilled until dinner time. I was pretty excited as I would be able to see the Spurs v Borussia Dortmund Champions league football match that night in my room. With all of the casualties we have in our team of major players and that Dortmund are top of the German League, I was fearing a good kicking coming on, but you never ever know with Spurs, and to my surprise they won 2-0. What an amazing night! I was dancing around the room like a looney. Yes there was evidence of non stop cockney dancing in my room for sure.

In the morning we drove to Vienna where we were playing a venue called ‘Simm City.’ This is owned and promoted by our very good promoter friend Martina Porkony. It was a good size venue and packed to the rafters with an amazing atmosphere. It went some way to helping the disappointment of not being able to play Telfs, as the audience were fantastic. We had a truly great night there and it is always good to see Martina and and her dog Pako, who is forever by her side.

The following day it was a fair old drive to the Czech Republic where we were playing the ‘Beat Festival’ in Prague with UDO. Once again the audience were well up for it and although UDO had been on before us, they still had an abundance of energy left for us Heep boys which was great. It was a terrific show and the Czech audience did not let us down.

While on this tour I had been approached by Furch Acoustic guitars, that are made in the Czech Republic in Brno to be one of their endorsers. Well on the song ‘Waters Flowin’ that we play live from our ‘Living the Dream’ album, I play a Furch Acoustic anyway, so it was a no brainer really, as they are beautiful guitars.

On the way to Hluk our next city we stopped at a music shop in Brno, where incidentally the factory is, and we met the Furch Representative Mirek. It was good to meet him and we talked through what type of acoustics I required, and he showed me so many guitars and different woods etc that I was spoilt for choice, but in the end we decided what would suit me best and he wrote it down. It would take about 3 1/2 months to get them all finished, but it will be worth the wait, as they are super quality and they look and sound beautiful. We then had a little lunch next door, and after that we drove off to Hluk after saying our goodbyes.

The venue in Hluk in the Czech Republic was a huge Sports Hall and this was very well attended and the promoter was delighted. The show was rockin’ and all in all we had a great time. We were staying in a Wellness hotel but to be honest I didn’t feel any healthier staying there at all.
The following day we travelled to Kosice in Slovakia. The venue was the Spolocensky Pavillion and once again this was an amazing show, and I was very happy with the consistency of the band, as we had set the bar high on the first show, and it stayed there. It was another great audience and then we had a day off, which ended up being a travel day, driving to Poland

We had a 179 mile drive to Wroclaw Poland which took approximately 4 hours with a lunch stop. The roads were terrible and whether you wanted it or not, your backside was massaged to the point of being numb. We were playing a venue called the ‘A2’ which was rammed.

Back in London at our home we had a cleaner called Agnes who was Polish. She no longer works for us, as she had to move away, but I remember promising her that I would get her friends into the concert. Well I sent her a text and she was delighted that I had remembered, and they came to the show and just loved it. The even sent me a video message thanking me which was very nice of them. It was a great show for them to see, so I was very happy about that.

We then drove to Warsaw and we arrived in time for lunch, as Georg Jozwiak who used to own the Hamburg Hard Rock Cafe invited us to have lunch in the Warsaw Hard Rock Cafe. I still have a Carparelli S4 hanging in the Hard Rock Cafe Hamburg that Mike Carparelli donated, which is cool. We arrived on time and Russ and Davey jumped into a cab to join us, as they had driven overnight on the tour bus which was parked at the gig. It was good to see Georg again and we had a fabulous lunch before driving to the hotel to get ready for the concert that night.

It was another fantastic concert and we met Georg and a few of his friends after the show before driving back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

I have to say the audience were shouting so loud, I still had them ringing in my ears even when I got back to my room. It was a magic night indeed.

Our last show in Poland was in Gdansk at the B90. It was a great show to finish Poland on but we had a really long old drive to Holland the next day. We drove for 8 hours and stayed in a hotel and did the other 4 hours on the gig day. The show was in the 013 in Tilburg and it was nice to play our last concert of this tour, as a sell out. Holland never let us down and it was a show to remember for sure. It was lovely seeing Louis Rentrop there too who used to be our webmaster and that made it extra special.

The next day we drove to the train that took us back to England through the tunnel and I was home for 5.30pm. Romeo my son was home from College so he came running downstairs for our long awaited hug, and then Iggy my dog went mental with excitement, while Biscuit our cat sat in his cat bed waiting for me to go over and stroke him while he just purred away. Sheila came home from work a lot later, and we all had dinner together, and it felt really good to be home and back in the heart of the family.

We had 13 days at home before flying out to Moldova for a show. Our flights were booked with Turkish Airlines as we were routing through Istanbul to Moldova. Well we sat on the plane for a half hour, then we coasted to the runway where we stopped for half an hour, and then much to our surprise we went back to our original spot for about an hour. We found out that someone up at the front of the plane was ill, so it took all of that time to get him or her off the plane with the rest of the family travelling with them, and into the hands of the medics.

Well this delay cost us dearly, as we missed our connection to Moldova. When we eventually arrived in Istanbul Scampi our tour manager went to the Turkish Airlines desk to get us a hotel at the Airport only to be told in the flying stakes, that we could get an 8.30am flight. As it was an international flight they insisted that we had to check in 3 hours before departure. This meant at the most we would only get 4 hours sleep, and we would not see our suitcases.

In the morning we dragged ourselves out of bed and went to the Turkish Airlines check in desk only to be told that the 8.30am flight was cancelled so they put us on the 8.30pm flight instead. Scampi politely but firmly informed them that by missing the concert in Moldova, this could cost rather a lot of money for the airline to shell out, as well as the bad will involved, and soon they found a flight that went to Odessa in the Ukraine. Thankfully our suitcases all arrived and we then had to drive 4 hours in a bone shaking bus to Moldova.

We eventually arrived at the venue in Chisinau with approximately 4 hours to showtime. Well the band went to the hotel while the crew had to pull out all of the stops with no sleep, to get everything up and running in time. Luckily Vic had driven over all of our own equipment, so that did help a little, but still it was tight, as well as everyone being tired. Aaron our monitor engineer came separately, so he was in the day before and he had it relatively easy on the sleep front, but it was still heads down to get the show up and running.

Well the crew did us proud and we had a great concert, and adrenaline definitely helped get us all through. The lady Mayor came into the dressing room after the show saying how wonderful the concert was, and we had the obligatory pictures taken with her, then thankfully a little food arrived. It was just nibble type food and there was a suggestion that we be taken out to a restaurant that was meant to be the business and the best ever. Now we had an early start the next day and at best we would only get 8 hours sleep if we went straight back then, so Russ and I decided to make do with the nibbles and have some sleep, while the rest of the party went out. Like most times in these territories they promise you a good restaurant with the best food ever, but in fact it turned out to be a pub. Still the guys were happy with that and by all accounts the free drinks flowed freely, but I personally was happy I took the bed option, especially when I saw everyone in the morning.

There were plenty of nodding dogs on the flight home and it was Turkish Airlines again routing through Istanbul, but this time it was only an hour late in the end, so after that trip, I was happy to get back home again in one piece, even though it was a super tired piece.

‘Appy days!


3 Responses to “Box News #278 – March 18, 2019”

  1. Heepaholic Says:

    Wow, I just can`t understand how the hell you guys can “survive” touring with so many challenges, especially in Turkey. Well, enjoy your gigs in USA and Canada!!

  2. Glen Doucet (Canada) Says:

    Amazing to read your blog Mick and see what you guys sometimes have to go through just to play a gig….professional is a word that does not do the band justice….you really all go above and beyond to bring Heep music to the world…..well done to all including the crew….

  3. Before the Istanbul concert, the problems at the border and the postponement of the concert were very sad for Turkish fans.
    Many spectators who bought tickets from outside of Istanbul had to return to their cities.
    But the concert was amazing.
    URIAH HEEP I watched every concert in Turkey, this time it was spectacular.

    All of the group members and technical staff, especially Mick, were very friendly, sympathetic, polite and smiling.

    Thanks to MICK and URIAH HEEP for million times.
    The 2019 Istanbul concert was an unforgettable show.
    ” Teşekkürler “…

    Bora Cetin

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