TSMB Tour of Georgia 2011
2011 saw TSMB embark on it’s third international tour, this time we went to Georgia. We arrived in Tbilisi, city of churches, cheese and building sites. The Hotel Georgia was suitably rock n roll – its people brought us from the airport with the ingenious stuffing of people and instruments into their minibus, raced us into the nicely-lit night-time Tbilisi and sorted us into rooms with the minimum of fuss and, indeed, of money.
We covered the country, playing gigs in a park in Stalin’s home town of Gori, on the steps of the museum in Mtskheta and then in an IDP camp for people displaced by the conflict with Russia in South Ossetia – we were ferried there with the help of soldiers from the EUMM (monitoring unit). The tradition of weird gigs continued with a set at a masters students’ graduation ceremony – for the first time, the audience wore weirder hats than we did – in coastal resort Batumi. Our final gig was blagged by band members wandering round pubs in Tbilisi asking bar owners if they fancied having a 13-piece brass band playing, that night. Most (probably sensibly) said no, but the owner of Scarlet Sails on Leselidze Street let us in. Mad night, doing a march along the street which drew in a lot of people. Then we did our set, boogied to a rock band doing British and US 1960s covers, did another short set then joined the other band, occasionally, on bass, percussion and backing vocals. Kinda weird, as we were from London doing Balkan music, and they were from Tbilisi, doing western rock music.
Great time, during which we were fed and watered and hosted by various people, who all insisted that we eat as much as we could – we certainly could and did. We wandered in and out of lots of churches, in search of singing, and found some. We haggled at the Soviet junk market, and, er, bought hats. Did I mention cheese? We ate a lot of that, and beans, washed down with decent Georgian wine and the local lager, Nakhtatari – try saying that when you’ve drunk a few. Lots of white-knuckle taxi rides, plus the odd lurching bus journey as drivers avoided roadside cows and pigs. I think we’ll be back in Georgia – there’s at least one cheese we didn’t try, and at least another thirteen hats we didn’t have room for.