This was a difficult list to compile. Almost every show I have played since the #looptheworld adventure began has been memorable for one reason or another. Special mention has to go to Choppers Bar, Koh Tao. Those hot, sweaty nights with the Koh Tao Pub Crawl made up a huge amount of the memories that the tour has brought me so far. Every night at Choppers was another crazy party. So too were all of my performances at Harmony, Ios. However, this here list is about those single shows that stood out. The shows that warmed my heart and kept me on a high for days after getting off stage. Those shows that reward me more than financial gain. The shows I’ll remember long after my career is over. The shows I’ll look back on and smile.
Surfers Paradise Live Festival May 2015
A festival stage definitely helps to make the top 10 list. A big crowd, a great PA, a professional sound man, the whole kit and caboodle. This was also the last show before we took #looptheworld international. On a more personal note; Surfers Paradise Live Festival was special because my family was there. My mum, my little sister Megan and my adorable little nephew Malakai. It was also the first time my newborn nephew had left the house since his birth. I’m very proud of this fact. It will be a story I tell him when he’s older. I hope one day he takes up the musical adventure that has brought me so much satisfaction.
This will be the sixth instalment of the #looptheworldGig Profiles. As I travel the world playing music for a living I will be writing up these Gig Profiles in an effort to help out those that dream of doing the same. I hope you find the information helpful. If you have any questions feel free to contact me. I’ll do my best to help out as much as I can.
This is the first gig I ever played in Europe. In 2015 while on Koh Tao in Thailand I bumped into an old friend of mine Scott Frost. We used to work in a kitchen together when we were teenagers. Since then he’s gone on to be a chef all over the world. Before landing in Thailand and buying himself his own restaurant on Koh Tao he had spent a season on the island of Ios in Greece cooking in the Harmony kitchen. He introduced me to Kathleen, the owner of Harmony and luckily for me she was in the process of booking her artists for the 2015 season. After a short conversation online she booked me 6 nights a week for two months over July and August.
The gig doesn’t pay a lot but the small and steady income was enough to sustain me quite comfortably. Living expenses are minimal on Ios. Those of us that work on the island receive a few perks in the way of “locals prices” in almost all the bars, a few eateries and even some of the islands adventure activities. In my case I even managed to score a great deal on some accommodation. I was travelling with my partner Hannah so opted to avoid the staff accommodation. But if you don’t mind living in close quarters with your work mates then the staff accom is a cheap option that is always available.
One of the best parts of living and playing on Ios is the feeling of belonging to the community of young, fun loving staff that stay for the season. Within days you’ll be welcomed into the family as if you’ve been there for years. I must warn you though, these guys know how to party, or more to the point, drink! The daily routine on Ios usually consists of waking up late morning, probably hung over, hitting the beach for a few hours then making your way up to Harmony for the “Staffie” meal. At about 7pm most of the island staff head home for a early evening siesta before hitting the town at midnight and drinking till the early hours. Your social life will love you for it but your liver will probably have a different opinion.
Harmony is a popular spot for the seasonal staff. The food is amazing! Generous servings of Mexican inspired meals, cocktails, live music, backgammon and giant Jenga. What more could you want? Town doesn’t really warm up until about midnight and Harmony has managed to slot in as the place to go out, before you go out. The restaurant is positioned on a headland looking over Mylopotas beach with a beautiful view. The warm evenings make for great out door dinning. Million dollar yachts are moored out the front and inflated bananas covered in screaming tourists pulled by speed boats often fly by. The PA is delightful for the size of the venue. A nice big sub woofer and several FOH speakers distributed among the restaurant will mean you get a decent sound. You’ll need to do your own mix. If you are not familiar with running a PA the other musicians and Luke in the kitchen will give you a hand figuring it out. Each night there are two shifts for the musicians. The first 6-9pm and the second 9-12am. You will share the roster with 3 or 4 other musicians so if you ever drink a little too much the night before or get run down by the infamous Ios cough someone is always there to cover you as long as you return the favour. The patrons are there to eat and must be seated to be served. Almost every night it’s full but it is firstly a restaurant so don’t expect an energetic dance floor. That doesn’t mean you won’t get tables full of excited diners getting involved. They are mostly after popular covers but once you get the crowd on side there is more than enough space to perform your original material. I managed to move a decent amount of CDs, to the point that I sold out. Make sure you bring enough, the extra income goes a long way. To get the gig you need to talk with the boss Kathleen. She will want to see a video of you performing live to see how you interact with your audience. It’s best to apply for this gig between February and May before the season begins. The season goes from May to September. I suggest staying at least a month to really get into the swing of the island life.
Best of luck. It really is a great way to spend a European summer.
I know it sounds cliche, but one of the most exquisite things about travelling is the people you meet. I mean, that was the inspiration behind this column in the first place. Travelling opens your heart and mind and as a result you meet beautiful people wherever you are. On Ios I was fortunate enough to meet Tallulah, although I suppose it’s not surprising as she seemed to know everyone on the island. Tallulah is originally from South Africa but has been a woman of the world for several years. She even worked with a circus for a while! My story of Tallulah is only a small snapshot of the beautiful person that she is. I am writing about her this month because in the short time that I have known her she has inspired me to be more open and spontaneous both with myself and with others. Tallulah’s outlook on life is magical, she exudes positivity.
As many people do on Ios, Talullah was sharing accomodation with another person. Tallulah and Sophia’s house was just one room with two beds, a small kitchenette and a bathroom. Their room actually reminded me quite a lot of my George Street home back in Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia. Tallulah had brought fairy lights with her to the island, those who know me will know that I find that very impressive. They always had such lovely food and their door was always open, literally, they had a shoe shoved between the door so that it wouldn’t close and friends just dropped by whenever they liked. The first thing that struck me about Tallulah and Sophie was their down to earth beauty. Both girls, in their individual way, exude confidence, with open hearts and smiles.
Half way through our stay on the island we heard that Talullah had broken not one but both of her ankles after falling from the roof of one of the many churches on the island. She had ventured up to see the sunrise over Ios. I went to visit her with a block of dark chocolate and a watermelon in hand and I must admit, I was expecting to find a broken girl ready to pull the pin and find a way home. Instead I was met with the same beautiful smile and carefree attitude I had come to know from her, she pursued happiness and positivity with complete dedication and grace “mostly, it just reminds me of how lucky I am to be able to walk in the first place” she told me. When people asked what had happened she responded with a cheeky “I fell from heaven”. Luckily, and I say that somewhat trepidly, it turned out that only one foot was broken, the other just badly sprained. It still meant walking was a massive inconvenience but it didn’t stop her. Being as magnetic and beautiful as she is there were always a few handsome gentlemen who were willing to give her a lift and she would do the sitting down dance all night long. I should mention here that she did not want to be seen as ‘unable’ and so was fiercely independent even with one broken and one sprained foot. An accident that would cut a lesser persons holiday short without a second thought, barely even slowed her down. Her brother Sebastian, who was half way through an adventure of his own was quick to drop everything to come and be by her side. He deserves a special mention in The Beautiful People We Meet. Within hours of his arrival on the island we became what felt like long time friends. The strong sibling love was a special thing to witness on an island of strangers.
Thank you Tallulah for being such a wonderful positive person, the world could do with a few more people like you.
I am living on the top of a very large hill looking out over Ios village. It is a lovely place to stay, slightly out of the hustle and bustle. The sky’s here are calm, hardly ever a cloud to be seen. I love to sit on our balcony and soak in the dry serene beauty that is Ios. The view certainly is quite a juxtaposition to the crazy night life here. The walking streets of Ios village are a beautiful maze. Lined with white walls, blue doors and paved in old stone rich with history, they tumble and collide in amongst each other. The first time we weaved our way through the village we were not entirely sure of what we would find and then, all of a sudden, we were there in amongst it. Streets seemingly on top of streets, bars on top of bars. Music pumping. Humans everywhere. Ios nightlife is unlike anything I have experienced and it took me a little while to aclimatise. It’s as if it has ADHD. Generally the bars are quite small, 50 people and it feels packed. One minute the bar will be packed to bursting and then in the next moment, everyone has disappeared, skipping, dancing, shouting and laughing their way to the next bar and thus the cycle continues, people bouncing from one bar to the next, all night and then some. It is not unusual to find yourself stumbling home with the sun glaring at your eyeballs after a crazy Ios night. But not before stopping to grab a famous gyros of course. My favourite late night food on Ios was introduced to me by Tallulah, who you can read about here, head to Club Sandwich and instead of ordering the normal Gyros, which are wonderful as well, order a chicken gyros without chips on a pancake instead of the pita bread and with special sauce. Trust me, it’s amazing!
It was a very busy month this past month, Simon was gigging nearly every night at Harmony. The staff there have become my Ios family, they are such a friendly bunch of humans and they certainly know how to party. If you are ever on Ios I would highly recommend a visit to Harmony, the food is excellent, the people are excellent, they have live music and the view….. the view is spectacular. Just be sure to book a table as they are booked out most nights.
On the few nights that Simon did have off he ended up playing at another wonderful bar called Lotus. I loved Lotus for it’s chill vibes, the old wooden flooring, the palm trees, the stars overhead, the tunes, a game called ‘shut the box’ and of course, the absinthe.
This month has been a slightly difficult month. The main focus for me on Ios was my diving. I am currently only a few days away from becoming a qualified dive master, which is very exciting because not only do I feel that it will open up a lot of opportunities for me but mainly, I just love diving! Unfortunately I did not have a wonderful experience at the dive school that I chose to study with and as I was there nearly every day it did have an impact on my time here. However, as the saying goes “what doesn’t break you will only make you stronger” and so, as in all things, I will learn from this experience.
My favourite part of each day is taking the 20 minute walk down the hill to Mylopotas Beach which is where both the dive school and Harmony are situated. The view on the way down is spectacular, there is something very special about it, the dry rocky mountains of Ios climb up to my left and the calm, deep, endless blue of the Aegean stretches to meet the horizon on my right. It inspires a sense of calm and contentedness and it certainly reminds me each and every day of just how blessed and lucky I am to be here with Simon on this #looptheworld adventure.
If you have any comments or questions please let me know, I’d love to hear from you.
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. I love my job. Lately I’ve noticed a number of posts while scrolling through social media, they are often worded differently but the main idea is the same. They posed the question; If money was no issue, what would you do with your life?
I can honestly say that I’d still be doing this.
I’m lucky enough to be financially supported by my vocation. At times is does get a little economically stressful but I think those moments are shared by even those that have a lot of money. Being able to pay my own way, and that of my partner, is only a small part of the satisfaction I get from my work. When we first arrived on Ios, a small island in Greece, we were met by a smiling Greek man named Nikolas. He drove us into town and put us in a very large room for a discounted price as he was aware that I was on the island to play music. Within hours I was being greeted by business owners and staff that had heard that I was coming. Hannah and I almost never paid full price for anything from then on. We were treated as part of the Ios family before they had even heard me play. There were a handful of people on the island that had heard me play before my arrival and they quickly spread my reputation among the Ios crew. Many of them made the effort to come check out this “loop guy” and by the time I finished my first week of shows I was being recognized on the street as if I’d lived there my whole life. Next we were offered a house by a couple of lovely Swedish brothers, Nikolas and Lars. They were leaving the island for six weeks so had an empty apartment. The rent was much cheaper than even the staff quarters and we had a lot more space, a beautiful view and a kitchen. Hannah cooked me some delicious meals. It was so good to have a little home cooking again, it had been a few months.
There are a lot of perks that come with the job but the best of all is the way people open up to me after they witness a show. I’ve spoken about it in depth with my father as he was also a performing artist and has shared many of the same experiences. It’s as if people become your friend while you are on stage, they bond with me quite closely while I’m completely unaware. By the time I get off stage they address me as if they have known me for years. I do perform with all of my heart and soul and I guess my song writing and story telling do give a lot of insight to my personality but it’s more than that. People love music. It’s like a drug and I’m the dealer. We met so many lovely people on this island. They all treated us with such kindness and respect. There are too many to write about here but check out this month’s installment of “The Beautiful People We Meet” by Hannah or Chris Penner’s guest blogger piece “Searching For John Stamos” if you’d like to be introduced to a few of them. I’ll miss them but I believe that, at least for some of them, it won’t be the last time we meet.
My main gig on Ios was a popular Mexican restaurant on the headland of Mylopolos Beach named Harmony. It’s owned by a bubbly, blonde, mid thirties, Australian woman named Kathleen that has turned her love for travel and adventure into a business venture. Every season, which lasts from May till September, her and her cute little one year old son Jax make their way back to the other side of the world and continue living the dream. Most nights were quite busy with a great vibe. It was the place to be after beach time and before town kicks off. They had a great team in the kitchen pumping out massive servings of delicious Mexican food. My two favorite blokes on the island Red and Omar manning the bar and a bunch of gorgeous Australian, Irish and Greek girls running the floor that would always have a smile and an ass wiggle for me every time I played that song they like, but it was a seated dinner crowd so I missed a dance floor for most of the time I was there. In fact the one time I finally got that dance floor I’d been craving was the last gig I ever did on that crazy little island at a bar called Lotus. It really was a lovely night. All the crew that we had become close with, well at least the ones that didn’t have to work that night, came down. (Actually one guy that was supposed to work, pulled a sickie so he could come… champion!) Including, once they had closed up, all the staff from down at Harmony. Lotus is an Absinthe bar so as you’d imagine the drinks were flowing and we also had a little help with party inspiration from Mandy, if you know what I mean. It was a magic night and such a perfect way to say goodbye to the island. I started playing Lotus half way through my stay but my hectic schedule at Harmony meant I was only available one night a week. Lotus is owned by a young Greek/German fella named Nikolas and his mother who is one of the rare people that live on the island permanently. I really enjoy Lotus. Every night after I finished my gig at Harmony you could find me down there groovin’ along to Snello’s mixes, having a yarn with Nicko or playing Shut The Box with Lulah and Chris. Poppy would always greet me with a smile and a kiss (both cheeks, we are in Europe now, I must remember) and Antonis would whip up the perfect Espresso Martini.
Ios is a crazy place. I’m a night life kinda guy but this night life was next level. Most of the bars and clubs on the island don’t even open before midnight. The biggest ones don’t open till 3 am and they go all night winding it up around 10 am. The crew that live and work here for the season are all quite youthful, they need to be. They work hard all day and party hard all night. A decent nights sleep is not high on their agenda. I only have to work for 3 hours a day but I still found it difficult to time my siesta right so I didn’t end up walking around glassy eyed and unable to finish a single thought. A lot of the nights kind of blur into one after a while but the 17th of July I remember well as it was the only night I had off the entire time I was on Ios. 41 shows in 42 days. For the past 7 years or so I’ve been performing about 120-150 shows a year. This year I I will well and truely beat that. Last night I played the 85th show of the #looptheworld tour, in three weeks time I’ll be clocking up my 100th. If i keep this up it’ll be about 250 shows by the end of the year. I’m looking forward to Switzerland, I only have to work three nights a week there. I’m craving a few quiet nights in with a pizza and a movie.
I’m writing this while sitting on a train traveling from Milan, Italy to Lucerne, Switzerland. The locomotive is slowly winding it’s way up into the Swiss alps along side a river that has carved a pass through the towering mountains over millions of years. The scenery is breath taking. Unfortunately Hannah is not with me as she lost her passport and needs to go to Athens to get an emergency replacement. She’ll catch up in a couple of days. I’m being picked up in Lucerne by Andrew and Corinne, a lovely couple that I met with Hannah in Thailand. Not only did they book me a bunch of shows but they are also putting us up in their wonderful home. I’m tiered after the transit and missing Hannah’s company but deep in my soul, I am so very happy.
Each month we have a guest blogger write an article for the #looptheworld Letterbox. This month we have the wonderful words of Chris Penner. We first met Chris at one of my shows at Harmony on the island of Ios, Greece. We instantly got along really well, as I often do with Canadians. After we’d hung out a few times, Hannah and I agreed he would be the perfect candidate for our guest blogger this month. He confirmed that with his enthusiastic response when we asked if he’d be interested. Thank you so much for your words Chris. I hope you all enjoy this colourful perspective of the beautiful island of Ios.
For those highly unfortunate souls who are unfamiliar with John Stamos, he is an actor who portrayed Uncle Jesse in the 90’s blockbuster television show Full House, alongside the Olsen Twins and Bob Saget; however, more importantly John Stamos is the most handsome Greek man of all time. Even before I wrote this I did a quick google search on the Greek god and one of the first articles was “John Stamos still has amazing hair and side burns”! Have Mercy!!
On June 8th this year my close friend Michael Budd and I decided we would venture to Greece in the hopes of finding this “ómorfo ándra” (beautiful man). It was less of a hunt considering we had jobs lined up on the island of Ios to teach watersports for Mylopotas Watersports on Mylopotas beach, so much repetition in that sentence, my English teacher would be so proud. So! We spent two nights searching the bars in Athens, knowing full well he lives in the U.S.A., we hopped on the ferry to Ios, with an Irish guy named George who we’d convinced to join us, and started our summer in Ios.
As a very sheltered Canadian from outside Toronto, whose travel experience includes all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica and Mexico with my family, the move was a bit of a culture shock. Not in any dramatic fashion because Ios is still a tourist destination, it’s not like we were shitting in pots or practicing Ainu Bear Worship, it was the little things. The pace was much slower than Toronto, which should go without saying, and in no offence to Greece, but we realized once we were on the island that we were on Greek time. Meaning if we sat down for dinner expect to wait a bit longer, if you’re told something will arrive in 5 minutes, expect it to be a about 15. This concept wasn’t very difficult to grasp considering the beauty of this island, you can sit, relax, tan, soak in the majesty of what is Ios and colour me surprised, I learned to love it. Furthermore what really shocked me were the showers. Never in my life did I think I would yearn for a showerhead. For those in Canada reading this you’re probably thinking “Cant wait for hockey season to start” but after that you’re thinking “what do you mean lusting for a shower head?”. While I was using the washroom in the first place Mike and I stayed at, I asked where the showerhead was, not realizing it was stuck to a hose in front of me. If you’re lucky the water is hot but you have to spray your body, soap up then hose it all down like you’re getting rid of all your change at a cheap car wash. But that is the extent of my displeasure.
“I’m Living in Paradise” This is a sentence I repeat to myself everyday. I say this to myself on the walk down to work from the village, when times get a bit frustrating at work and mostly when I see the sun set on this island and I truly believe that. I have never been to a better place in the world. It’s sunny everyday, the temperature is perfect, there are never any clouds, and it’s acceptable to drink every night. But beyond the weather and the acceptance of alcoholism are the people. Before I left I had my very tight group of friends that I was content with, more than content to be honest, I never considered travelling and as much I love meeting new Canadians I was a bit apprehensive of experiencing new cultures and people. Will it be difficult? What are they going to think of me? Will we get along? Will they be rude or closed minded? Which turned out to be the complete opposite and my absolute favorite part of travelling, besides the late night wakeboarding, sunset cruises, smashing drinks and skinny-dipping as the sunsets over the Mediterranean. I had met so many wonderful people, friends I will have for life, which I believe is the greatest part of travelling. Opening up to stranger and discovering what it is they love, what are their struggles, their future plans and experiences is like food for the soul. Finding common interest with a person born on opposite sides of the world is exhilarating and I’ve fallen completely in love with it. Which brings me to Simon Wright and Hannah Blake.
July 2008, Molson Amphitheater with Mark Hubner was the first time I saw Dave Matthews Band live. February 2010, Dan Hammonds basement with Sam Statham I watched Sidney Crosby score the golden goal for Canada to win the Olympic gold medal and June 2015 at Harmony restaurant with Mitch Bolton and Mike Budd, I saw Simon Wright play for the very first time. There are moments in your life that are burned into your memory with a cattle prong and watching Simon perform was certainly one of them. I am a music lover and a live music fanatic and there aren’t many words in my limited vocabulary to describe how I felt that night: Shocked, awed, amazed, blown away and chills. At one point during his performance he did a remix of the Game of Thrones theme song and being a GOT nerd I could barely contain the little girl scream I wanted to release. I kept it totally cool and just looked across the table at Mike showing him the hairs that were standing up on my arm and he returned the same gesture. I had never experienced a looping machine before and to be honest I wasn’t really paying attention during the first song until I thought there were about 6 people on stage only to glance over and to my great surprise there was just one dude. It was incredible! After meeting Simon and Hannah and discovering that their spirits and personalities outshined his talent was mind blowing. Here are two incredible people, talent and kindness taller than the CN Tower (had to get a Canada reference in here somewhere) and so down to earth. I feel extremely lucky to have seen Simon perform his music and extremely privileged to call them my friends!
At this point I’m sure you’re wondering “what happened to George who you convinced to come to Ios with you?” as you should be! Well, George got a 600Euro ticket and had to go home after 3 weeks, I miss him but Ios got the best of him as it does of many people. I myself have felt at times that the island is beating me, which is nearly impossible cause I’m a 6’5 man stuck in a 5’8 frame. Thankfully I’ve met the best people in the world to share my first summer abroad with and I enjoy everyday a little bit more than the previous, meaning to say everyday is the best day of my life on Ios!!
Thanks for reading,