by Mike Knaak
For this travelin’ band, playing a Friday night gig in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and then appearing the next night 500 miles away in Brice Prairie, Wisconsin, is no big deal.
But earlier this summer Sweet Siren really took their act on the road.
The Top-40 and classic-rock band played for U.S. troops at two stops in Germany.
Guitar player and Sartell resident Jeff Schreiner said the eight-day trip in early August was “unbelievable.”
“They are away from their families a year at a time,” Schreiner said of the troops. “It means a tremendous amount to them that you play for them. They love American bands playing American music.”
The band’s first stop was at Grafenwöhr Army Base where they headlined three shows as a part of the American German Volkfest, a family style festival.
Then it was on to U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Illesheim for one performance.
Schreiner and his three band mates all have day jobs and the trip would not have been possible without the cooperation and support of their employers, he said.
Schreiner is a driver for Sysco Food Service. Lead singer Carolyn Burgoyne works at Advantage One Insurance, bass player Jethro Arola manages a lumberyard in Menahga and drummer Kent Christen is parts and service manager at Welle Motors in Sauk Centre.
Schreiner, 48, has been in the band 11 years. Sweet Siren plays current Top 40 hits as well as classic rock and country.
Locally, they frequently appear at Benton Station in Sauk Rapids. On Saturday, Sept. 7, they’ll be at La Jam at the La Playette in St. Joseph.
Armed Forces Entertainment, an agency of the Defense Department, arranged the tour. Sweet Siren’s agent, Time Music Agency, has a relationship with Armed Forces Entertainment and helped with the band’s application.
The band applied for the tour in the spring but didn’t learn until early July that they would be going. And the dates and travel details shifted right up to the last minute.
The military allowed the band to bring three additional people. Accompanying the band were sound technician Mickey Ironi, lights and stage manager Greg Schreiner and Jeff’s wife Vanessa who photographed the band’s performances.
“We had the times of our lives,” Schreiner said. “There was no part that wasn’t enjoyable. Seeing the different culture. The troops were super appreciative.”
In Ansbach, Vanessa met a young soldier from California. “Talking about Mexican food he got tears in his eyes,” she said. He told her “I’m just so happy that you’re here. You’re from back home.”
The band connected with some Minnesotans too. At Volksfest, they met soldiers from Mankato and St. Peter, one wearing a Twins jersey. At a hotel, the woman behind the counter had moved to Germany from St. Cloud.
Usually the band travels with a truckload of gear, but the military provided all the sound and lighting equipment. The musicians just needed their guitars and drumsticks so they could travel light.
A trip to Germany wouldn’t be complete with sampling local beer, which they described as “excellent” and cheap. Returning to Minnesota, Jeff found a favorite, Paulaner Hefe Weizen, at Westside Liquor.
In Germany, Vanessa said, “beer is cheaper than water.”
Jeff grew up in St. Joseph and attended St. Joseph Lab School. He took up the guitar at 15, about the same time he and Vanessa met at Apollo High School. The couple has lived in Sartell “since we moved out of home,” Vanessa said.
With his busy work and performing schedule, would Schreiner go on another trip?