Larne musician Aaron Black has just returned from the trip of a lifetime to Russia, covering over 4,500 miles in 12 days.
The Craigyhill man is guitarist with the group R51 and has been with the band for the past four years.
During that time a highlight was performing in Berlin, but that experience was nothing compared to what lay ahead when he and his colleagues touched down in Moscow.
He said that everyone they met during the tour was lovely and he was surprised that Russia turned out to be a lot more Western than he had expected.
“When we got off the plane we were picked up by our tour manager Stanislav, and driver Slava in a Ford Transit splitter van, which took us to everywhere we played and dropped us back at the airport again,” Aaron said.
“On the second day of the tour the starter motor failed and it needed to go to a mechanic and get a new one, but it got us around... just about!” he added.
In total the 11 gigs involved around 4,500 miles of travel.
“The longest drive we had was between the venue’s Hard Machine in Saratov and Bubo Tutor Club in Moscow. It was nearly 800km and took us 14.5 hours (through the night) to get there, thankfully it was the last journey we had to make, apart from going back to the airport,” Aaron explained.
He said he was surprised how Westernised Russia was, and the venues the group played in included no less than three Irish pubs.
The gigs themselves saw audiences of between 50 and 200 people, depending on the size of the venue and on average there were 130 people per night.
The response was overwhelming from the audiences and every night the band members had to get used to crowds gathering to ask for their autographs and having photos taken with them.
While travelling they got the chance to sample local cuisine, which the Larne man says was very nice, although he admitted he has almost been put off the herb dill for life, since it seemed to be used in every dish.
Aaron said that driving in Russia was a bit less restrained than at home, which also took a bit of getting used to.
So what is next for R51?
“We’re going to spend the next while writing new songs and planning for a possible debut album.
“We also hope to go back to Berlin and London to play some more gigs in the near future,” Aaron revealed.