Baz Francis of English band Magic Eight Ball recently took a trip to Finland where he performed solo and acoustically in Helsinki for the first time. He has been generous enough to write his experience for us and for you, the reader. We hope you enjoy reading the adventures of his trip to Finland.
After Magic Eight Ball’s triumphant performance at GuilFest in England on 17th July 2010, we were scheduled to play two countries over one weekend the following month before things took a left turn for the band and the line-up changed shape before those gigs.
With England being so close to other nations new to the soles of my shoes, I decided to make my forthcoming gig trip to St. Petersburg in Russia go via Helsinki in order to perform there as well. Here is my diary of the self-arranged one-man European tour of sorts that followed…
Having already gigged solo and acoustically in Wales and England this August, my trip to Russia was set to further this tally even more. Monday, 23rd August came around and as I spent the day preparing my long set at Liverpool Musik-BAR in St. Petersburg that evening, I also found time to make another call and finally bag the gig in Helsinki that I so desperately sought at Bar Loose in that city two days later. This Finnish gig turned out to be a real result as it was to see me support established Finnish group Mariska & Pahat Sudet.
Russia was always going to be a tough gig to follow, but 2 days later it was business as usual as I rolled into Helsinki for my relatively short support slot there on Wednesday, 25th August. What happened next makes me love Facebook at least just a little, as an hour into my being back in Finland I heard my name being called out in the street.. by the randomly Facebook befriended local musician Anna Vihonen who (along with Finnish Underground Radio, Finnish Music, plus Stacey Dunk back in England) had been orchestral in helping me find a gig in her hometown! Not knowing she was planning to meet me at the station, I joked with her about how she made me feel famous in Finland for a split second!
After tea and a short tour of the neighbourhood from Anna V. I was escorted back to my hotel from where I warmed up before heading back into the city for my gig that night. Being in a band (called Annariot) herself, Anna V. had explained to me how the Finnish audience that night would be reserved yet polite at first but relax later on, and as the warm-up act for the evening I noticed this to be very true.
I performed 6.2 (!) only original songs at Bar Loose to an audience that was torn between the aloof and the open-armed, and the sweet banter of my new Finnish friends Veera and Susanna was a constant source of support throughout my set there. At one point when I declared through the microphone that I liked this place, a stranger in the audience called out how they liked the singer, and compliments don’t really get sweeter than that.
Now what happened next was a little confusing. Two guys started putting their fingers in their ears as I was singing, and although I made light of it, this is obviously the last thing a singer wants to see at one of their gigs! I just assumed that not everyone was a fan of me, but as I was leaving the venue one of the said gentlemen called after me to explain that he and his friend had some hearing trouble due to their proximity to the speakers, and their ear coverage was merely a protective measure and of no detriment to my singing ability. You’ve got to respect a man for wanting to make sure another’s feelings are not hurt by their albeit innocent actions, and after my evening’s wage of a vegan burger and Diet Coke I went for a stroll throughout the pretty moonlit streets of Helsinki.
Sadly Anna V. hadn’t been able to make this gig of mine, nor mine hers the following night, but Magic Eight Ball and Annariot are now planning some shows together in England come early 2011. You can check out Annariot in the meantime at:
On my walk back to the hotel I was struck by how nice this evening was and how this was the perfect city to be in right then. Appreciating the moment nearby me was a young photographer called Janne Airaksinen who was proudly taking pictures of his hometown by night, which compelled me to ask if he’d like to take some not-so-obvious music-related shots of me here as I was with guitar, enthusiastic and with nowhere in particular to go. Janne was happy to oblige me and after some time spent by the river under the moonlight, this very talented guy was able to capture some great moments and beautiful scenery all in one. You can find him on Facebook and check out his work at:
The following day I headed back to England and set about trying to get one last show there before the month’s end, and thanks to James Gould I was put on the bill at his ‘Dead Famous’ night at The Grey Horse in Kingston the following Tuesday, which is where I completed my gigging trek of 4 countries in the space of a fraction of the month of August. Every step of the way I received invites to return and play, and not just these same places again, but also new places like Iceland too. You can see a photo album of my musical travels this summer on Magic Eight Ball’s Acoustic MySpace at:
Amongst all this gigging I also re-commenced work on the forthcoming Magic Eight Ball EP, and for the rest of the year at least our bassist shall be my good friend Andy Copper of Serotone:
Then for our Christmas run of shows we shall be joined on drums by my darling Kate ‘Killa K’ Wilkinson of The Ramonas and a million and one other musical endeavours:
So there you have it, the story of my little acoustic tour of England, Wales, Russia and Finland, a trip that not only taught me so much about my craft but also about the good souls you find when you travel beyond your nowhere towns with your eyes open.
Best wishes, Baz Francis on behalf of the UK’s very own Magic Eight Ball.