Snow Burial have been on our radar since last February’s Victory In Ruin caught our attention & then in January of this year our very own Angelique Le Marchand caught the boys on camera at the London leg of their first UK tour. Turns out touring the UK was something of a dream come true for the band, although next time we’d advise not coming in the middle of winter, so Ben from the band penned a few words on their experience.
I flew across an ocean to make a dream real. Dragged some brothers with me to break through a wall. No one asks you to make this music or play these shows, and plenty will tell you “no.”
My family waited for me at home and sacrificed so I can pursue this wild dream. I could not be more grateful to them for all that they have done. They cheered me on while we all sweat.
Every couple of hours I realized ‘I am in England to play music’ and I would grin, ear-to-ear.
Day 1, Friday:
Friday night I was putting the kid to sleep while my better half was finishing up packing. We had booked flights to DC to see the nieces over the MLK JR holiday weekend, trying to kill two birds with one stone. The plan was that the family could hang out over the holiday weekend while I would fly out of DC to London.
Of course, we start getting texts about how the kids have a stomach flu and that pops was coming down with a fever. Fearing a recurrence of strep we decide that it’s safest for the kids to stay home instead of coming along (in an attempt to avoid illness while I am across an ocean) and immediately start trying to change my flights so I can stay to help out for the rest of the weekend.
After almost four hours of phone calls and online research we conclude that there was no way to change the flights with it costing several hundred dollars. We try to find any kind of backup plans while keeping my original itinerary. The family ended up going to Chinese school, visiting with with family friends and arranging a play date with school mates. Frustrated and apologetic, I made my way to Midway.
Day 2 Saturday:
I fly to DC and manage to get all my gear squared away. My guitar case is literally bursting at the seams with shirts and the suitcase squeaks in under the weight limit. When I land my sister in law comes to pick me up. She and the kids are feeling much better but pops is still wrecked with what, in fact, turned out to be strep. The healthy ones and I go to get Thai food then drop me off to see a movie before my evening flight to London. “Live by Night” was garbage, but an okay way to get through a layover.
I manage to talk my way into getting the guitar in the carry on for British airways who are not nearly as accustomed to musicians as the American airlines. The rest of the night is spent getting some chipotle for dinner and half watching football before the flight. A whole row was blissfully open for me and I slept for the entire flight.
Day 3, Sunday:
The plane landed on time and I gathered the guitar and laptop bag, squeezing my way out of the 777. We all walk to the passport check and I realize that I never filled out the entry form so I hastily borrow a pen and write it out. Turns out I was so groggy that I filled it out almost entirely incorrectly and the guy at counter starts fixing everything in an understandable huff.
Thankfully the work sponsorship certificate worked perfectly and after a few minutes I was let through to baggage claim. I grab the suitcase and head towards customs prepared to show all the merchandise and paperwork. As I walk around the corner to make claims I find an empty booth, a locked gate and instructions to call someone if it’s empty. I quickly decide to risk it, walk back past the security guard who pays me no mind and into the other customs room, where I again find absolutely no one and walk out into the airport.
Andrew texts me the address of his friends that are putting us up for the night and I make my way to the underground to purchase an all day ticket. Turns out the paper tickets work great on the underground and nowhere else. I have to talk my way onto the bus to get to the flat, drop my stuff off in a house full of 2 year olds and parents, then talk my way onto another bus to meet Andrew and Ste.
My first experience at an English pub was everything I could have hoped for. It was a Samuel smith’s pub where the main bar was surrounded by ornate private cubicles. You could easily converse, had elbow room and were surrounded by classic traditional furnishings. I can hardly believe I’m walking around London, trying not to get run over as I look the wrong way for traffic. We cap the night off with an amazing Sunday roast while comparing the Brexit to Trump’s upcoming inauguration.
Day 4, Monday:
Brandon arrives and we drag hundreds of pounds of gear through the underground to meet him and get the hired car. We are giddy with excitement, high-fiving each other just for making it over to England. We get the car, collectively freak out about driving on the wrong side of the road and take off for Nottingham while housing down some sausage rolls.
We find the venue, park and chat with the other bands after loading in. They tip us off to a record store around the corner where we sell a few CDs and an LP to the store before eating free burgers. The venue is newly re-opened and has housed many awesome bands over the years.
Of course my “voltage converting power strip” was a lie and I manage to blow up the power supply for my pedal board immediately. Turns out it only steps voltage down for the USB and it fries my voodoo lab 4×4, meaning I got to play the entire show with no pedals. Nothing to do but laugh, so I just work the volume, tone and pickups to get different sounds and the show rocks.
Two very important lessons: never cheap out with power when it comes to crossing an ocean and be ready to handle anything breaking.
We load out into Megalodoom’s studio and drive over to Tanya’s to crash on her floor. She very graciously makes us some tea, gets us bedding and trades us vinyl while chatting about movies and our respective music scenes.
Day 5, Tuesday:
We wake up, eat some vegan brownies courtesy of Tanya and shower off the previous night. I snap a picture of her archetypal British town road before we head back to London. Last minute the venue gets changed and we have to sort out new backline gear but get a new place to crash for the night. Thankfully the folks at the new venue are super helpful and we manage to get setup in time to have some fun around town
I rush off to get presents for the family while the guys meet an old friend of Andrew’s at a pub. I catch up with them, have some chips and ale before meeting up with Patrice to sort out lodging. She shows us around the Underworld and we head to the Unicorn for the show.
Scott and Sanford are setting up and troubleshooting the PA when we get there and I couldn’t be more excited. A great crowd starts rolling in as I’m surprised by multiple friends who I had no idea were even in the country. Absolutely buzzing with energy we start the show and play one of our best sets ever in front of our best crowd in London. Pure satisfaction.
Sanford and Scott both melt many brains with their intensely atmospheric and punishing brand of electronic doom. After the show we toast to our good fortune, then chat with Sanford, Scott and Ansgar about the show and touring mainland Europe. I actually play a Scott Kelly signature guitar, and I manage to not relive the Chris Farley show. He was sweet about it and he’d actually never seen another one live before. It’s the best guitar I’ve ever played.
We gave some sweaty hugs to our friends and make our way back to the flat to unload and unwind. Our first kebabs ever are stupid delicious while 311, Beach Boys and Deftones make the soundtrack to an excellent conversation with some new friends.
Day 6, Wednesday.
I sort out an itinerary to make a pilgrimage to Stonehenge and set off to find a fresh parking ticket on the car. Turns out London is as aggressive as Chicago – you can’t be 10 minutes late. At least we weren’t towed.
After finding coffee and sausage rolls we set off south on a surprisingly beautiful and sunny day. As Stonehenge appears over a hill I involuntarily shout. It’s both humbling and exciting to see such a feat of engineering that’s lasted thousands of years. We make our way up the hill, take some photos and end up dancing in a tourism video for Singapore. I finally get to call back home and immediately feel homesick but still teeming with excitement.
Andrew remembers that the Salisbury Cathedral is very close by, the oldest and possibly grandest in the country. The massive spire and incredible architecture is awe inspiring. We also find out that an original copy of Magna Carta is there and seeing it takes my breath away. We snag a quick lunch, learn what salad cream is and get back on the road.
The town center in Plymouth is jumping as we load in. Our excitement is quickly dashed as we learn that, unbeknownst to us, the biggest football match in years is happening IN Plymouth, as Liverpool was forced to travel down. Painfully, the place is almost empty but two great things happen: Ben was a mensch about the gig, gets us sorted and Monolithian absolutely crushes. We listen to some Unsane in the venue after finishing and then roll back to Shanon’s pad to have beers and crash.
Day 7: Thursday
The late nights, beer and kebabs are starting to take a toll on us but Andrew and I switch off on our longest drive of the tour. Since Brandon can’t drive stick he just sleeps in the back while I white-knuckle my way through driving on the wrong side of the road all the way north into Liverpool.
Thanks to Andrew’s European education experiences we’ve managed to have a number of friends all over the country. His ‘uni mate’ Paula set us up with a killer gig and a place to sleep with some sweet giant dogs. Her and her Fiancé Mark are unbelievably welcoming to us as we chow on some pizza and jam with the awesome local bands. NEOD has us laughing, Novacrow gave it their all and Oceanis kills some super tight tech metal.
We are then treated to an epic night of chats with Paula, Mark, Justin and some of their mates. Including, of course, kebabs. And thrashing about to Faith No More until 5AM in a lock-in. The next gig is close so we have the luxury of eating proper English breakfasts at 2pm.
Day 8: Friday
Despite a few speed bumps along the way we get sorted out with food, beer, lodging and wages on our first ever gig where we are the only band playing. There’s a solid turnout in Blackburn considering the short notice and mix-up with the scheduling. We manage to sell some merch, rock out to some awesome tunes put on by the metal DJ/manager/Promoter, Alex and end the night with a curry and sharing some Stonehenge mead with the crew.
Although this was a tired and kind of short ‘day’ it was a blast and we’re starting to feel sad about there only being one more show to do.
Day 9: Saturday
Bristol is pretty close so we get the chance to drive through Andrew’s university town and have lunch with Ste. He had just come from the Dillinger show where an unlucky guy fell on his head in the pit during encore and we trade stories about shows before getting back on the road to Bristol.
I drive down and my knee starts getting sore from clutching, but the venue is superb. We load in, and sort out an airbnb since every other band on this festival night are from out of town. No couch for the first time this tour.
The first bands start kicking in and the energy is palpable. During Dead Hand’s set I fill in as their “bassist” for a song, throw their sampler/vocalist in the air and help them crowd surf in a small pub room. Inspired, I jump on a borrowed amp during our set and last show of the tour and manage not to break anything. Beggar closes the night to a packed house and absolutely slays.
It was a bittersweet night. I could not have felt more proud to be a part of so many killer shows and to be responsible for arranging such an epic adventure. Thinking about seeing my family again made me tear up during the last set; I felt the long absence, desperately wanting to hug them and to share my gratitude for helping me with this insanity.
Andrew and Brandon got kebabs again with some of Andrew’s friends from high school while I drove back and passed out. My first night in a real bed in over a week was a siren song and I gleefully slept.
Day 10: Sunday
The first show feels like it was a month ago. I shower, eat some toast and try to hustle the guys out so I can talk my way into carrying on the guitar again. An easy road trip gets us to Heathrow on time and I get to call home again before boarding.
I’m writing this on the plane home so I don’t forget anything. My first tour in the states was similarly gratifying but there was a new and deep joy in making it overseas to somewhere I’ve never been before. A teenage dream turned into a passion 20 years later and it got me to play all over England. Almost unbelievable.
While some might lament starting off so late (I’m 35) I could not have managed this were I younger. It took so much help to get any of this accomplished and I spent my energy elsewhere back then. Being a parent was also enlightening – there’s time to truly live but there’s no time for what now feels like nonsense.
In no particular order these fine people are responsible for getting us over to the UK and making this happen:
DIY UK/Europe Touring page