Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Antwerp

From Alvik to Antwerp, Victims is starting to get about again.  Last week we played a very last minute show in Stockholm at Sick Sound’s release party for their latest fanzine.  It was a bit of a strange one, a few bands had hopped off at the last minute for various reasons, ourselves jumping on due to the fact First Blood from the States had cancelled their tour, so the whole thing ended up being a bit flat.  In all honesty we did it for the money.  We wouldn’t usually play Stockholm twice in the space of four months but with studio time for the new album coming up we’re not in the position to knock back income.  And despite it being a low turn-out it was fun to play a new song, Errors, in the set.  Plus my dad was in town visiting and he came along which made it all the more fun.  The new Sicksound zine looks ace too, they really take fanzines to another level.

Today’s show in Antwerp had been planned a few months in advance however and I was really looking forward to it.  I went to bed worried that I was going to wake up in the night vomiting though, the dreaded stomach bug is going around Polly’s nursery and I lay there thinking how fucking typical it would be to start puking in the middle of the night and have to cancel the show, or even worse, get sick in Belgium.  That fucking bug can pounce at any given second, without warning.  I’ve been washing both mine and Polly’s hands hysterically this last week, she probably thinks I’ve lost the plot.  The alarm went off at six and thankfully we were all still in good shape, I’d even managed to sleep pretty well, something I normally have a hard time with the night before I travel.

Johan came for me just before seven.  He’d had the night to himself, Pia and Billy having headed off to Nyköping for the weekend.  We spoke about the luxury of having your apartment to yourself, how rare that is, and as much as you love your family, isolation now and then is good for the soul.  His night alone turned out just like all of mine do though, you have these plans to do this and that, listen to this record, watch this film or read that book or whatever and before you know it you’ve passed four hours without doing much or any of the above.  We picked up Jon and Andy and made our way across the still sleeping city of Stockholm to Bromma airport, which is the smaller airport that is actually within the city limits, just out by where we used to live.  A very easy start to our trip.

The flight was just over two hours, it was one of those planes with the wings on top and we were sat underneath them, just behind the engines so the noise on route was constant and gave me a headache. Probably didn’t help that I’d drunk nothing but coffee all morning either.  We get to Brussels airport and make our way to the train station from where we take a simple half hour journey to Antwerp.  The sun is shining and spring seems to have arrived in this part of the continent.  We’re all pretty chuffed as we stand there by the cab rank, feels like we’ve arrived on holiday.  I’m already regretting bringing my thicker jacket with me since it’s a pain in the ass to carry about.  Jon on the other hand is stood there in his trusty sheep skin 70’s football manager coat, Venom hoody pulled up over his Bolthrower beanie hat, scarf wrapped around him, puffing away on a fag with a pained look on his coupon.  I ask him if he’s not hot in his garb, “I’m always freezing”, he mutters, taking another drag.  Must be poor blood circulation I guess…

We take a cab over to the venue which is only a few minutes away and right by the harbor, where we meet Peter who runs the place.  He’s got one of those friendly faces I recognise from somewhere in the scene.  He tells us that he booked Victims way back in the days before I joined the band, fuck knows where I know him from.  I doubt very much that he booked Speedhorn… The venue is a squatted place, although they seem to have a good deal with the council, relatively hassle free.  The place used to be a warehouse or storage space for what I can’t remember.  The gig room is a simple square room with a bar in the corner and an open stage where the PA speakers hang from the roof as opposed to being towered on the side, really decent size.  The place resembles a bunker.  There is an outer room where we’ll sell the merch and besides that in the same building but separately run is a café.  Peter takes us here first and tells us to order some coffee which will be on the house.  I don’t know why, but the free cappuccino feels fills me with a feeling of joyous appreciation.  I was fucking gagging for some caffeine and having proper barrister treatment on the house was a hell of a bonus.  It’s the little things in life.

We sit around and talk about this point a little, that of the “little things”.  We don’t want or expect rock star treatment, we don’t expect five star hotels or bottles of fine wine on the rider, just something as simple as being greeted with a friendly smile and being made to feel welcome makes a huge difference.  We speak about how what a contrast England is for example, not on a punk level I have to add, but on that tour bus “next level” where you’re met with an attitude designed to make you believe you should be grateful to even be there, that the venue is doing you a favour.  Touring on the continental mainland, on all levels, has always been a far more pleasurable experience.  This free cappuccino just made my fucking day.  On top of that Peter hands us a tenner each for buyout.  Not sure if this is for the afternoon or whether it’s to cover dinner later, as stand up as Peter has been so far, he gave us cash back straight away for the train and cab, a buy out for lunch might just be pushing it.  There was a big kitchen upstairs though…

We sit and enjoy our coffee and ponder what to do with the afternoon.  My eye catches this really nice book of paintings that some artist has left for sale.  Full of skulls and weird abstract images, twenty Euros, I wish I could afford it.  We’ve got about five hours to do with what we please, total luxury.  We were here a few years ago when we played a show with Napalm Death in this bigger venue a little outside of the city centre.  We took a walk into town that day and the little we got to see of it looked promising.  Now we’re right in town, the sun is shining and we’ve got all afternoon to enjoy it.  After dumping our bags Peter shows us around the corner to the harbor and points along quay to the Museum Aan De Stroom, telling us that should be our first stop.  It’s this wacky glass building built on misaligned platforms of red brick.  Peter tells us you go can go to the top and stand on the panorama roof for free.  Sounds like a good plan, we make our way up.

From up there you can see the whole city with the cathedral protruding proudly above the surrounding rooftops, right in the middle of it all.  Peter told us that is where we’ll find everything else we’d need.  We hang out up there for a while taking pictures and enjoying the fresh air, enjoying the panoramic views.  The museum itself has what seems to be an exhibition on Antwerp during the First World War and there are some stunning pictures lining the walls of the escalators that take you from floor to floor.  Johan remarks that it would have been a great alternative had the weather not been so inviting.

We head over into the labyrinth of old cobble stone streets and alleys, which are broken up on a regular basis by numerous plazas.  It’s not the most beautiful city I’ve been in, although there are some stunning churches dotted about, there is an element of dirt about the place, but it certainly has its charm.  We walk around exploring the place for the best part of an hour before hunger starts to impinge upon us.  There are countless cafés and bars to choose from and we dither around from place to place in a fog of indecision.  I spot some place that is selling soup and fresh bread for five Euros which we look at for a bit but then carry on.  We keep saying to ourselves that we should stay away from the main square next to the Central Station since it’s bound to be swarming with tourists and tourist prices but nevertheless we end up there, as if sucked in by a tractor beam.  We head into a Tex Mex place called Chi Chi’s that may as well have had Shite Franchise written on the sign.  One look at their sorry looking buffet should’ve been enough to warn us off, but still we sit.

We leave the place about fifty minutes later and I’m filled with a mixed feeling of regret and anger.  Johan and I decided to share a plate of nachos and cheese quesadillas which despite the place being empty took around half hour to arrive and when they did caused a choke/laugh.  The plate of nachos was actually four nacho chips with a bit of melted cheese and a jalapeno on, a blob of cream and guacamole on the side.  The quesadilla was one pirogue cut into four measly sections.  They cost seven Euros each and then when we got the bill they’d charged us two fifty each for the tap water.  Felt like a complete kick in the balls.  Of course when the waitress came over to clear the table and asked us if our food was ok we mumbled that it was fine, yes, and then left the place cursing them in Swedish.  Really brave.

Feeling aggrieved from spunking the ten euro buy out on effectively nothing we felt the need to find a decent bar and rectify the anxiety with a nice draught glass of something Belgian.  We made our way past the main square where there were a load of people stood around watching what seemed to be a cow weighing competition.  Beyond them were two guys, maybe farther and son, playing bongos and singing We Will Rock You, Jon looked over at us, “If this is what tourists do then fuck going on holiday!”
We made our way from the square and back in to the smaller streets, trying not to look at the vast array of menus offering infinitely better food than what we’d gone for.  It’s important this food thing, it’s like when you go on holiday, food is one of the crucial factors and you’re gutted if you end up with something crap.
Anyway, we meander through the streets, looking in a record shop or two, which is never fun when you’re broke, before landing in one of the many smaller squares off the back of a church where there is a cosy little corner bar with some tables outside that are bathing in the sun.  The girl working in the bar speaks some Swedish and has a friendly demeanor.  Johan asks her what the best beer they have is, to which she bashfully replies that she doesn’t have much knowledge on the matter.  Two locals sat at the bar point to the tap of Le Chouffe.

The beer fully redeems Tex-Mexgate, I enjoy every drop of it as we sit there basking in the sun’s warmth, idly chatting away.  If only every day on tour was like this.  I could easily have sat there all evening drinking the Le Chouffe but it’s soon time to go and we pop into one of the many Frituur shops and pick up some chips and satay sauce, something that just has to be consumed when in this part of the world.  You tend to forget how far along Sweden is with eradicating cash from the system though, it’s easy to assume that you can pay for everything, everywhere with card, like at home, but when I try that here the guy tells me that the minimum transaction for card payment is twenty five Euros!  The chips cost three.  Thankfully Andy has cash.  Johan does too, he brought thirty quid with him from the band account, although what he thinks he going to do with that in Belgium I don’t know.

We arrive back at the venue around five-thirty, the rest of the guys from the other bands are there, sorting out soundcheck.  We’re playing with a bunch of old friends tonight.  The headlining band, who invited us over to play and sorted our flights is Blind to Faith, which has Stijn from Reproach on vocals as well as Vincent and Cedric from Rise and Fall on guitars.  The two other guys I don’t know but I immediately take to the bass player, this little, long haired heavy metal looking dude with a cheeky look on his face.  We’re in the back room where there are some beers, some regular pilsners and then a couple of local blondes, one at six percent and the other at nine.  The bass player, whose name is Loek, starts to tell me about the beers and asks me if I would like one, I take a sip of his six percenter.  It’s pretty nice but you can tell it has the capacity to blow your tits off.  I’m still feeling a little warm from the Le Chouffe.  Loek explains to me that you’re fine with a couple of these blondes before the show but after that you should move on to the regular beers, otherwise the show could get messy.  A couple he says?  A couple would put me to sleep.  He sips away, chuffed.

The first band on the bill are White Jazz, which is Bjorn and most of Rise and Fall, really looking forward to seeing them play, I’ve heard good things.  It’s nice to see Bjorn, always really friendly.  We soundcheck once Blind to Faith are done, always a good idea when you’re lending most of the gear.  And it’s just as well we do since a couple of minutes in and Jon’s guitar, his trusted friend Judas, packs in.  He stands there looking confused for a couple of seconds and then flips the guitar over to look at the back.  Much to Johan’s horror the protection plate that covers the wiring has been removed and one of the wires connecting the volume pot has come off.  When Johan asks Jon why he removed the plate in the first place, Jon answers sheepishly that it’s been like that for ages.  “That’s a really British answer” notes Andy.  Luckily enough the sound engineer is on top of his game and he’s got his soldering iron out and fixed it in a couple of minutes. That sorted, soundcheck commences and by the time we’re done and everyone is happy and it’s pretty much time to open doors.

The outer room where we have the merch set up starts filling straight away.  We catch up properly with the guys from the other bands for a while.  It seems like we’re getting no more food, making the Tex Mex disaster all the more miserable, so I head into the back room to looks for some crisps for me and Johan. We’re getting pretty fucking hungry again.  The room is full of people, seemingly most of the guys from the second band, Wrong Decision, and their brawny shell-suited friends, this one guy dressed in all white like he’s just came straight from Wimbledon, a little party going and the beer and food, crisps, is being devoured at a rapid rate.  I help myself to a can of the regular pilsner and fill up a plastic cup with some crisps for Johan, after scoffing about half a pack of Sweet Chili Doritos with Andy who has now turned up.  The Wrong Decision guys look like the typical gang of local tuffs you see hanging around the Esso garage up Abbey Way in Corby.  I get the feeling that the fridge is soon going to be emptied.  I head back to the merch and warn Jon of the situation in the backstage room, he tells me he’s already stuffed away a couple of those strong beers in his bag.  Thinking ahead as always.

White Jazz play first, although I miss the start of their set having not knowing it had commenced.  Peter wasn’t joking when he said the room with the stage was like a bunker.  There is a little tunnel going into the main room that acts like a vacuum, the noise all but disappearing by the time it’s got to the outer merch room.  Inside it’s packed and I can’t really see that much of the gig.  I notice the drummer from Link is here and I say hello.  The gig is really good though, a lot more angular and maybe arty than the Rise and Fall stuff, three of whose members are in White Jazz.  I catch the last half of the show anyway and I’m really impressed.  I look forward to the seven inch when it comes out.

I also sit through the best part of the Wrong Decision set as I’m out by the merch chatting away to the Reproach guys about punk and being a parent, Frank from Reproach having also recently become a dad. Andy has bought a couple of records from the distro but right now that’s not on the agenda for me, my student budget already stretched to the limit.  After a while Johan goes in to check out the band and comes back almost immediately saying they sound as their appearance would lead you to expect.  I can’t help but let my curiosity get the better of me and go to check it out, although through the side door which takes you to the right side of the stage.  There I find Jon, still with many layers of clothing on despite the heat of the room. Jon is digging it big style, being that it sounds like old school NYC hardcore that doesn’t really surprise me. “I really like hardcore” he reasons as I smile over at him.  In all fairness it’s a pretty okay rendition of that style although there are some berks in the crowd throwing windmill moves around, Wimbledon amongst them, which is disappointing.  They play for quite a bit longer than the scheduled twenty minutes and I’m guessing they started late too, but they’re young kids though so it’s not that strange I guess.  I have to crack up though, when they finally finish the emotionally drained, bare-chested singer gives a big dramatic kiss to his girlfriend who is stood up front.  Looks fucking daft.

And so it’s time for us to play.  Or at least, I assume it is.  We’re all tuned up and ready to go, I’ve tuned Cedric’s guitar that he’s lent me as a spare, checked the settings on the JMP amp he’s also lent me, the others guys seem to have done the same, so I start to strum my guitar, quietly at first.  Thing is, only after I’ve started making considerably more noise do I notice Andy crawling around on all fours looking for something.  Turns out his hi-hat clutch is missing.  Andy isn’t ready, not by a long shot.  Thing is, now me and Jon have started making noise we can’t really quit, people have shuffled into the room and they’re now waiting.  I can see this is stressing Andy out considerably.  We stand there for around five minutes making noise whilst Andy readies himself.  I feel pretty bad for him, the glaring, open stage set up hardly helping matters either…

We finally get going and the long doom intro is soon forgotten.  It feels great on stage.  There is plenty of room, it’s a nice surface that doesn’t have you slipping about the place and although the sound isn’t great everywhere, I find it best over in front of Andy, I have a lot of energy.  It’s one of those gigs where you feel fit as fuck.  Some gigs you look down at the set list after five songs and wonder how you’re going to make it, others, like this, you feel like you could play all night.  The guys from Reproach are down front over by Jon, fist pumping away, shouting between songs.  I have to laugh, Tim their guitar player had said to me earlier that our album Killer is one of his favourite records of all time, that he’s listened to it at least once a week since it came out in 2008.  He said the same thing to Andy, Andy told him he needs to buy more records. Anyway, Tim and Bjorn, Stijn’s cousin who drives Reproach on tour are over there in the corner, shouting for the song The Burning Fire from that album, pretty much between every song, after a while they even start singing the intro bit.  I doubt the guys ever played that song live, even when it was fresh.  I toured a lot of the Killer period and that song never came up in discussion.  Horses for courses and all that I guess.

Anyway, the set flies by, and by the time we’re done I’m pretty spent.  It’s fair to say this is the most energy I’ve had on stage for a while.  We pack down and everyone seems happy with the show.  Once I’ve caught my breath I head to the back room and exactly as I expect I find an empty fridge.  Those fuckers have stripped the cunt clean.  Johan and Andy are stood there shaking heads, not amused.  As much as I would have liked to come in and help myself to a cold Belgian beer I can’t help but smirk to myself, thinking back to when Speedhorn were kids and we’d wipe out all the booze that came across our path.  Little bastards.
Bjorn Reproach is in the room too, leaning over the table sorting out lines.  He asks me if I’m interested, I’m not.  He gets on with it and then goes into turbo mode, he’s chatty enough at the best of times and the fucker is always laughing, but this takes him to a new level.  Bjorn Rise and Fall is also in the room and whilst Bjorn Reproach blasts on relentless, the rest of us talk kids, Bjorn RF having an eighteen month old at home.

Presumably having noticed the situation with the fridge, Peter sorts us out with some beer tokens for the bar, very appreciated.  Thirsty as fuck now.  I head to the bar just as Blind to Faith are starting.  I head to the side of the stage with a small plastic glassed, yet very tasty draught blonde beer and enjoy their set.  Bjorn is there, still buzzing, and I hang out with him enjoying his company.  When he sees I’m out of beer he asks me if I want another.  I gratefully accept his kind offer.  He comes back a few minutes later with a Triple Bos, and shouts something in my ear about it being from the forest, that Bos means forest, that the beer comes from around here.  All I know is that it’s the nine percent stuff.  I give it a clunk, it tastes every bit a nine percent beer.  Bjorn swigs away on his whilst I treat mine with a little more respect.  It’s like fucking drinking crack!  I’m only half way through but I start to feel weird, almost stoned from this beer.  Bjorn turns around to me again, “I hope you like it!”.  “Yeah, absolutely”, I assure him, not wanting to appear rude but knowing full well that I’m not going to be able to finish this beer.  How the fuck Loek reckoned you’re okay with two before a show is beyond me.  Satisfied with my response, Bjorn gives me a big smile and clinks my bottle with his and gets back to watching Blind to Faith.  He turns around again about a couple of minutes later, and asks if we can take a picture together, he’s obviously still buzzing his tits off.  Of course, we take a pic and Bjorn shows me it, complaining that his flash is crap.  A few moments later he turns to me again, “I’m gonna head off to find my girlfriend.  Is that okay?”  I just laugh at him and give him a hug before he scoots off into the crowd.  Feeling stoned from this evil beer I feel the need to get out of the room and into the significantly cooler, more open space where the merch is at, dreaming of coming back down to the normality of six percent beer.

I head out to find the other guys there, Blind to Faith finishing shortly afterwards.  Andy is having exactly the same experience as me, complaining about the mental beer.  Jon has obviously tanked his because he’s laughing extremely loudly at everything.  Johan seems to be the only one who’s avoided it.  He has a sup of mine and shakes his head.  I leave the remaining half of the bottle on the merch table and find a normal pilsner placed into my hand almost immediately.  Thank fuck for that.  Loek comes up to me after the show, same sly grin on his face that he’s had all night.  “You’re from the UK?”  I answer in the affirmative.  “Do you know Bloody Kev?”  It is indeed a small punk rock world we live in.

Turns out Loek, who plays bass in BTF, as well as the drummer Nabbe, played in the great Dutch band Insult.  They toured with Hard to Swallow years back and they’ve been friends ever since.  I can’t believe it. This gets me going straight away.  Nabbe comes over later on and the three of us talk about the HTS guys and Kev and all the other common friends we have.  This, more than anything is what I love about playing punk, that connection you make with people from all over. We spend a good half hour babbling away over another beer.

I take merch duties for a while which I always enjoy since it’s a great place to meet people and chat.  A lot of the punks here seem to be shocked by the cheap prices of our shirts.  Ten Euros?  Weird.  This one girl comes up to us later on and shows us this book she has with her, a project she’s worked on that is a collection of set-lists from all over.  It’s really nicely laid out.  Jon says to her, “That’s a really nice idea!” “It’s not an idea, it’s a product” she replies.  Touché.  Again, I wish I could have afforded.  Could have done some really nice shopping on this trip…

The night draws to a close about half hour after Blind to Faith finish.  The mental buzz from the Triple Bos now have subsided I find myself in the mood for a beer at some chilled out bar.  Ideally somewhere nearby to where we’re staying, just one or two before bed time.  The place empties pretty quick and we say goodbye to everyone.  Peter tells us he’ll call a cab but we decide to head off and get some food first.  We find a kebab place after ten minutes or so, almost everywhere else is closed.  A bit stuck for choice, we order a veggie wrap.  It takes ages and turns out to be pretty crap, it’s essentially diced red peppar and onions in a tortilla bread with some sauce they call samurai which is sickly sweet.  The guy who runs the place is a chirpy little guy though, who it turns out, used to live in Malmö and merrily goes about impressing us with his Swedish.  Jon engages.  The conversation bumbles along whilst our stomachs rumbled in anticipation.  It wasn’t worth the wait.  The samurai sauce they seem to love is not my bag…

We head back to the venue, the city by now well and truly wrapped up in bed and asleep.  It feels like the chances of us finding a cosy bar to enjoy a beer in are minimal.  And if I’m honest, I’m starting to feel pretty tired myself, it is past two after all… By the time the cab arrives my eye lids are heavy and the bar idea is well and truly canned.  If it wasn’t for the cab driver slamming his foot on the gas as soon as we sat down I would have fallen asleep in the cab.  “I love the driver,” Jon says as the engine revs all the louder.  We drive about five minutes and arrive at our destination.  They have a band flat above some practice rooms, although it seems to be in the process of being built.  We’re met by a friendly woman who shows us in, Andy looking back in horror at me as the first room we enter resembles a building site.  But after climbing a very steep and narrow spiral staircase we come to the flat, where there a numerous beds, a couple of showers and kitchen that contains breakfast for us in the morning.  This will do just fine!  A quick wash and into bed it is, I lie there and read Primo Levi for all of thirty seconds before my eyes give in.

The next day we awake early(ish) and find another glorious spring day awaits.  I put the coffee on, make a couple of sarnies and afterwards I embrace the shower.  A cab is coming at two to take us to the airport for our flight at five.  With a few hours to kill Andy, Johan and I head into town for a walk, Jon opts to sleep until we leave.  We spend an hour or so walking about before taking a seat at a café back in the area where the flat is and enjoy some cappuccino and some sunshine.  Fucking perfect.  If only every gig on tour was as luxurious as this one has been.

I’ll soon be back out on the road with Diagnosis? Bastard! for a ten date trip around Europe.  I very much doubt I’ll come home feeling quite so refreshed after that trip.

       
   
 
   

Friday, March 6, 2015

Make Punk Not War

I’ve been playing in Victims since early 2009.  In that time I’ve got to travel to some really interesting places and I’ve played some amazing shows.  In a lot of ways, I’ve realised many of the dreams I harboured during my days with Speedhorn.  Not just the travelling so much, we did plenty of that with Speedhorn, but more the type of shows we’ve played.  Sure, we played some monumentally big festivals with Speedhorn, before a sea of people that rippled off into the surreal.  But the thing is, my dream when I was a kid was not playing those kinds of shows, it was playing on a floor in a tiny room full of likeminded people, all going nuts.  I can genuinely say that my favourite show with Speedhorn wasn’t Ozfest, it was a house show in Bradford.

I’ve played a lot of those kinds of shows with Victims this last six years, house shows in the States, punk squats in Europe, as well as some great DIY Fests, but one dream of mine has still not been realised; Russia and the Baltic states.  Everyone who knows me knows I have a bit of a thing for Russia and the old Soviet, I suspect that it stems from my childhood obsession with football and teams with exotic sounding names from Eastern Europe like Spartak Moscow, Dynamo Kiev and Skonto Riga, for whatever reason I find the territories behind the former Iron Curtain fascinating and it’s always been a dream of mine to go and play there one day.

We’re very privileged in Victims in so much that we have a regular flow of emails coming in offering us shows.  The situation this last few years, namely that three quarters of us have become fathers, and add to that the fact that we’ve just so happened to relay our paternity leave, has meant that we’ve had to politely decline the majority of shows that come our way.  It’s not just the time away that is the reason behind us knocking back shows either, it’s the fact that the added responsibility of having kids means that we can no longer just fuck off and play shows and come home with nothing to show for it, or at least, we can no longer afford to come back with debt for the sake of playing shows.  We’ve been offered tours a couple of times this last year in South East Asia for instance, which of course would be incredible, but the fact is it would cost us a lot of money to travel there and play because their isn’t the economy in that part of the world to make it possible for us to at least cover our costs.  Victims going to Asia on tour would be an amazing experience albeit a very costly one and right now, with young kids at home, we can’t afford it.  Maybe by the time our kids leave home and we’re in our late fifties we’ll be able to take that gig...

Russia though, well that’s something different.  I think we’ve had at least four offers this last two or three years to go there and play and if it was up to me we’d have been every time, or at least, we’d have gone once.  It seems that the scene in Russia carries with it a bit of a stigma though.  The other guys in the band simply aren’t interested and I’ve often had my enthusiasm for the offers knocked down with, “Gaz, if you want to go to Russia you’re gonna have to go there as a tourist”.  I think Andy was there with an old band in the Nineties, although he doesn’t seem to want to talk about it so much.  He just shakes his head and grumbles a no at me.  The worry is that apart from the country being a little well, you know, corrupt, there is a strong Nazi presence in the punk scene.  This is nothing I can vouch for either way since I’ve never been there.  I’ve heard it a few times from reliable sources although the understanding is that it’s gotten better over the years.

That’s not to say it’s not there.  My friend Ove went there filling in on drums with Massgrav a few years back and he told me all about it one day over the counter at Sound Pollution.  Ove told me that the shows they did went really well, all soundly organised and well attended, the crowds were really into it and they got paid.  I was delighted with the report, thinking immediately how I would use it as a source of encouragement next time we got an offer.  But in the midst of my delight, Ove added a postscript:

“Everything went fine until the last show, which was some place in the middle of nowhere a couple of hours drive from Moscow... We’d played the gig and it was good, a load of kids bouncing around to the set.  Then afterwards whilst waiting to get paid, the guy who had booked the shows and travelled with us came up to us and said that we’d have to wait at the venue for a while because a bunch of Nazi’s had turned up and were hanging around outside waiting for the punk kids to leave.  We asked him what were we gonna do and he just said, totally unmoved, “Ah it’s ok, pretty normal, they can’t get in so we’ll just have a disco and get drunk and sooner or later they’ll get bored and fuck off””.  And it seems that indeed they did.  Sooner or later...

This unfortunately confirms some of the fears over on this end.  For me though, despite this, I still really want to go.  I’ve come across Nazi’s before and I’ve been fucked over by promoters before and I get that it’s a risk, but I figure the likelihood of being killed in Russia if we went to play there is pretty fucking minimal and whatever shit happens would simply provide great writing material.  Sometimes it’s the crazy, scary stuff that makes the best stories.  The other guys don’t necessarily agree.  Although Andy has been making noises of late that he’s heard it has gotten better and maybe he’d be willing to give it a go, if it was through a referenced, reliable source.

This year I got as close as I’ve ever come.  We received an email inviting us to headline a punk festival in Ukraine, offering to pay flights and accommodation.  To my surprise it wasn’t kicked into touch directly, the guys all said it sounded interesting.  There was just that little thing called The War that was going on but Andy mailed the guy and asked him about the dangers of going there and received an email back assuring us that where the festival was being held was a long way away from the conflict.  Ukraine is a big fucking country after all.  After a lot of uming and ahing we went ahead and accepted the offer, the promoter even throwing in five hundred Euros extra.

There were a lot of bands from the Baltic states and Russia playing the bill, with only us and our mates Reproach from Belgium coming in from the West.  As much as the worrying shadow of the war was looming I was still really chuffed that we were going to Ukraine, finally I was going to play a gig in this part of the world.  A fucking dream coming true.  The nearest I’d been previously was a two hour stop over at Kiev airport with Jen on the way to Thailand, which was pretty cool in itself.  Totally old school place where the line for the customs took almost the entire time allotted for the stop over due to the fact there was just one old, worn out lady who looked like she despised the lot of us working and the system they were using was from an era many moons before the digital age.  It’s just this kind of thing I love.

As the weeks went by the tensions in both the country and the Victims camp steadily rose and I noticed that I received the same slightly worried reaction every time I told friends or family that we were off to Ukraine in May.  With the situation intensifying all the more on the Ukrainian-Russian border Andy mailed the Swedish embassy in Kiev asking for advice.  They wrote back saying that they weren’t warning people to stay away from the region we were travelling to right now but they couldn’t guarantee how it would look in a couple of months time.  That was enough for everyone, for me too.  As Johan put it, “I’ve got a family to think of and as much as it would be an amazing experience to go to a place like Ukraine and play I have a lot of respect for war and don’t want to die”.  Johan’s words hit home to say the least.  As much as I love playing punk and travelling to places you’d never hit up on “holiday”, I have a beautiful little girl to think of and putting myself into a risky situation just to play some songs is grossly negligent.  Last time I checked Reproach’s web page they had a list of upcoming gigs for the year up, the Ukraine festival conspicuous in its absence.    

I guess if I ever do end up going to that part of the world then it will indeed have to be as a tourist.  Maybe not when there’s a war going on though.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Professional Punks

I read an interview with the band Frau recently, in it they were asked about the punk scene in the UK.  One of the responses offered was that the UK punk scene is full of professional punks.  That a lot of the people involved, whether in bands or running labels, booking shows or writing zines, whatever, a lot of them have professional jobs.  This got me thinking, being that I’m now back in school and aspiring to something along those very lines.

Reading the interview reminded me of a conversation I had with Mark from Black Breath/Go It Alone about the differences between the scenes in North America and Europe.  He told me that he thought it was amazing that so many of us “older guys” were still playing in bands, that it seems like it’s a much more accepted thing to do in Europe than on the other side of the pond.  That is, being old and playing in a band is not frowned upon over here like it is for those guys back home.  He was curious as to why this was.  One reason may be that culture and subculture is supported a lot more by the government in Europe, even though there are plenty of complaints to the contrary from people here I think this holds water somewhat.  I remember when we were kids in the band Sect, applying for a Prince’s Trust grant from the government to fund the recording of a demo tape.  Some woman came down to our practice space at the local community centre and interviewed us, it took about twenty minutes and then they posted us some money to put towards the studio.  Free fucking money, couldn’t believe it.  In Sweden today you can apply for money to support your art from an organisation called Studiefrämjandet which gives support to bands in all sorts of ways, donating money for equipment and so on, all you have to do is, once signed up, send a report off stating when and how often you’ve been practicing, and you can claim money back.

I’m not saying that "the system" over here doesn’t have huge flaws, it does, and it’s getting worse for sure, but I’ve always been amazed by how much harder things seem to be with everything in North America, especially in the good ol' US of A, land of the free.  At least that’s the impression I always get from friends who are from there.  Mark told us that if you’re still playing in a band after the age of twenty five you get looked at like you’re a bum whereas over here there seem to be people still doing the band thing well beyond that.  Indeed it isn’t that uncommon for punks in their forties and fifties to still be at it.  I always remember how Mark put it: You can play in bands when you’re young, up until about twenty five it’s deemed okay, but then if you haven’t “made it” by that point it’s time to scrap it and get educated and get a proper job.

“Made it” has always been a fucked up concept to me.  What the fuck does “making it” mean really?  The thing is, slowly but surely getting back to the point, job/band thing, the one doesn’t necessarily have to be sacrificed for the other in Europe.  You can have an education; you can have a professional job and you can play in a punk band simultaneously.  That conversation with Mark, sparked into the conscious again by the interview with Frau, brought me to think about the fact that I know quite a few punks or people in and around the scene that have some mental jobs that they leave behind on a Friday night to go do this punk thing at the weekend, or even every now and again for a lengthier period of time.  Of course, I now belong to the older generation where this phenomenon is more prominent.  Amongst the younger, of which I once was, it’s a lot easier to do punk full time, before kids come into the equation, before “digs” becomes rent and when your body can still physically function after endless months of touring, function at a bare minimum at least.

But yeah, the older you get the larger part normal life plays for most of us.  For most of us punk becomes an impassioned hobby, but a hobby none the less.  It’s not something you’re forced to give up at twenty five or face being labeled a bum.  And as much as I know some charming bums within the scene, I know a fair few others who have professional jobs, as Frau would put it.  My mates Karl and Jamie who play in Disculpe and a bucket load of other bands from around the Deptford scene are both professors, or something along those lines, they both work at universities and they’re both clever as fuck at least, one an expert in sociology, the other in music theory.  Alec and Mucky Marcus run a successful tattoo studio and coffee shop business which Kev helps run.  Nige who played drums in their old band Regimes is now some mega rich real estate entrepreneur or something.  We know a guy called Sean from Canada who made millions through the internet boom and can now be seen at practically every London gig going.  Wayne is a vegetarian chef who works at some fancy restaurant in Primrose Hill on and off.  I once knew a guy who worked for the McLaren Formula One team, some physics expert or something, who played in bands back in the day.  I even knew a guy called Willis from Swansea who sang in Black Eye Riot, absolutely mental in the nicest sense of the word, who was rumoured to work for Jackie Chan as his PA in Europe!  I’m not sure that was ever confirmed though.. Still, the thought of Jackie Chan’s PA drinking poppers and almost blinding himself in the backroom at a Speedhorn gig in Swansea is an image I’ll hold dear for the rest of my days.

One of my dear friends mentioned above, Karl Ghostface Kidneybean Broome, is as I said a lecturer in sociology and since I started studying we’ve had a few interesting conversations on the matter.  I’ve decided I’m taking him on as my mentor since he’s soon out of contract with the University of Sussex, although I can’t afford to pay him. Student and all that.  Anyway, Karl, like me is from a working class background and has a long history in the punk scene, and that coupled with a passion for sociology has led him to where he is today, and he’s started to write about these matters on his new blog, What Is Not To Be Done.  Check it out, it’s a very interesting read.

The scene is full of professional punks?   Maybe.  I know a few at least.  A few others beside the lot mentioned above.  Like I said, my aspirations now lie somewhere with that lot too.  I’m at the start of a longish road towards obtaining a degree in sociology which I hope will take me to a job that is a far sight more rewarding that some of the shite I’ve dealt with in the past to make the rent.  Something in the school environment appeals to me at this moment in time.  I figure that with the long summer breaks I’ll be able to both spend time with the family and still go on tour.  Be a professional punk.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

London (Peckham)

It took a while to get going this morning.  Woke up first around ten thirty, closed my eyes for a second and then it was eleven thirty and Andy was all showered and ready to go.  It left me confused for a couple of seconds.  We had big plans today since we had the afternoon to do what we pleased with.  We’d spoken about walking over to Greenwich for a look about, maybe go to the Maritime Museum, or maybe head over to London Bridge and walk along the South Bank, take in the Tate Modern, fuck knows why but I’ve never been.  Of course, we’d neglected one major issue.  It’s January.

Once showered we head down to the High Street with Kev and make our way to Café Bianca for a sitting of English Breakfast.  There’s a big gang of us, all of Victims and Disculpe, tucking into to various fried breakfasts.  Jon is in his element here, mad for the fry up, “The tea actually is greasy too, I love it”

I go for the veggie breakfast of course and for once I don’t feel sick afterwards.  You always get a ton of food and I usually spend the latter half of the meal bloated and nauseous but continuing onwards like wounded soldier marching stubbornly into no-man’s-land.  Not today though.  I actually leave half an egg and a hash brown.  It’s tough though.  It’s like the fuckers are staring at me, mocking my stomach.  One moment of madness that catches my eye during breakfast is Niki, sat across from me pouring vinegar on his poached eggs.  It’s as if he hasn’t a care in the world.  Fully satisfied we head back outside, the icy rain dampening our commitment to our afternoon of sightseeing.  We trudge back along the road to the Waiting Room and as soon as I take a seat and sup on a cup of London’s finest coffee I realize I’m going nowhere for the next little while.  Andy and Jon head off for a wander but they’re back soon enough and we hang out in the warmth of the café with the gang.

We’re supposed to be at the venue for three and so with an hour to kill, we head back to Kev’s to chill out for a while.  Cue everyone sitting around on their phones.  Karl has headed off to practice with his other band Bad Meat, who he has together with Mad John, who are playing at the after party tonight.  Yes, not only are there ten bands playing the gig in honour of Karl’s fortieth, there’s an after party at the Birds Nest starting around midnight with another four bands on the bill.  The thing is, Karl gets in touch after a while and says to Kev he’s not going to make it for Disculpe’s set time of five thirty and wants to push it back a bit.  Kev is flummoxed.  He says they can’t put it back, it’s all organised.  As soon as they decide the Disculpe gig is cancelled, Niki fucks off to catch the first train back to Southend, delighted.  So that’s that, no Disculpe tonight.

We meet back down at Marv’s practice studio just after three to load the gear for tonight into the van.  We need to bring drums and a few extras for tonight.  Kev and Karl have warned about the potentially poor sound at the venue tonight, The Montague Arms in Peckham, having experienced some pissy sounding shows there previously, the problem being there’s nowhere else in south London that’s the right size for the show according to Kev, so they’re doing all they can to take precautions, one of which is bringing a decent drum kit.

It’s pretty fucking cold in the venue, although with doors opening shortly and the expected onslaught of punters through the door, that should change soon.  The venue itself is a big old pub with an oblong room with the bar lining the back wall.  The interior is very Maritime with wooden steering wheels here and antique globes there, as well as an array of dead animals about the walls, it’s quite a place.  The high stage is in a separate room at the bottom end of the pub and although you can see through to the stage if you’re in the bar area the sound doesn’t make it through.  Quite nice really, means you can stand and have a nice undisturbed chat with a beer if any of the ten bands on the bill don’t tickle your fancy.

We’re here early so we can soundcheck since Kev has concerns with the PA.  It’s just as well we do and all since it turns out Kev’s bass head is fucked.  Don’t know what’s up with it but it sounds like it’s under water.  Johan plonks away on it for a bit, looking around for eye contact with somebody.  The sound guy, some young Scottish bloke who looks a bit lost, asks when we’re ready to go... Jamie comes to the rescue with another head.  Soundcheck goes smoothly otherwise and despite the concrete interior of the room it sounds pretty good up on stage.

Jay and Dave Speedhorn turn up during soundcheck, their usual mischievous grins firmly in place.  It’s good to see them as always.  I have to admit it’s been strange at times watching Speedhorn from afar, my band, the band I started and wrote a great deal of songs for, now out playing again.  Of course, I declined the offer to reform many times over the six years since we called it a day in 2008, and I felt that I could no longer keep the other guys from doing it again if that’s what they really wanted.  For me the band finished at the right time though.  But who’s to say what’s the right time or wrong time?  I’ve always been against this huge wave of reunions we’ve been witnessing this last decade, it’s almost like the new thing is the old thing.  For me it really took the fucking biscuit when Refused reformed.  But then, who am I to say?  And isn’t it just entertainment, after all?  If people are enjoying themselves then what’s the harm? Anyway, as much as I’ve supported the guys in their choice I’ve kept myself away from a lot of the press surrounding it, which hasn’t been so hard to do living in Sweden.  It’s been a little strange...  I’m therefore very happy about the fact that there’s no strained feelings with Jay and Dave, I don’t know if it’s because they come to the band a lot later and have a bit more distance to it or whether it’s just because they’ve always been easy to hang out with. Whatever.  It’s good to see their smiling faces again.  These guys were with the band when we toured with Victims and now here we all stand, chit chatting.  Funny how things go.

Soundcheck is done just after four and we’re on at eleven, nine bands between now and then.  Thing is we’re kind of stuck in the middle of nowhere and when I asked Alec earlier about going for a walk around Peckham he just laughed.  Kev is manning the door for the night, he’s got a lot of work on.  He tells me that he’s got around twenty tickets left to play with and within the first ten minutes most of them have gone.  He tells me it’s looking like being about thirty of forty over the two hundred capacity for tonight.  I’m tempted by one of the fine ales they’ve got on sale here but I don’t have much money left and have to spread it out over the night, plus I can’t really get started on the piss now when we’re not on for another seven hours or so. And Kev, bless him, has bought a hundred beer tickets for the bands, even if it’s Carlsberg, it’s at least free Carlsberg.  Free for us anyway, not for Kev so much.  Before any drinking takes place I need some food anyway, so we decide to take a walk down the road on the back of some tips from the pub manager and pick up some dinner.

It’s dark out and the rain is drizzling down miserably.  There really isn’t much around and we take a kebab shop over a rather looking dodgy noodle place, that doesn’t have much in the way of vegetarian cuisine anyway.  Falafel it is.  And it’s fucking good.  Really clean and fresh, the hummus is to die for.  So glad we went for this.  The place has a coal fire on the go where some guy is sat roasting meat on a stick, it looks pretty disgusting but there’s no denying it smells pretty good.  We take a seat by the door and watch the take away clientele pass through the place as we tuck into our grub.  Most of them are wearing jogging bottoms, real give up on life garb.

We head back to the venue, stomachs filled and satisfied.  When we get back I’ve got two shocks in store. One is that the place is fucking rammed, the bottle neck that runs along the bar is jammed and I can see it’s going to take a long time to get served.  The second shock is that our good friend Jos from Holland is here. I look across the mass of heads in confusion, he looks back with a wry smile.  There are a whole load of other mates here too, the Deptford Crew of course and then there are some old mates from home who have travelled down with Jay and Dave, people like Dix from Scurge and Scott from Defenestration, people we’ve grown up with in the music scene in Corby and Kettering.  It’s great to see everyone, this feels like it’s going to be a hell of a party.  I slowly make my way through the crowd to Jos, “Well hello, what the hell are you doing here?”

I fight through the crowd back to the bar to get myself a beer and then check in on the band currently playing, Organised Death Machine, which has our mate Pablo and Kiwi Chris amongst its ranks.  From where I’m stood, just near the door, the sound doesn’t travel to all that well and most of the bottom end on Pablo’s bass has drifted off somewhere into the ceiling.  Seems like they’ve had a pretty good gig though, there’s plenty watching them.  They’re the only band I even catch a glimpse of until Regimes play a couple of hours later.  There are simply too many people in here, I can’t be arsed battling my way back and forth about the place so opt to station myself in the vicinity of Kev and catch people there for a chat.  I hang out with Viv and Wayne for a while, and Misa is flying about the place like an atom, laughing her ass of as always.  She comes powering through the crowd towards me with her compulsory two pints aloft, resting on her head.  She gives me a big hug, “Gaaaaaaaaaaaz!!!” we spend about a minute just laughing without actually conveying anything to each other.  After a while Misa laughs, “Gaz you are so…how do you say?  Is cuddleable a word?”  Cue more hysterical laughing.  Misa is fucking crackers and I love her.

A while later Vik arrives with Bea.  Funny being with Vik and Kev in London and not doing a DB show. Vik turns to me, “There are far too many people here, it’s ridiculous!”  It is actually starting to feel a bit crushed in here at times, if a fire kicked off right now we’d all be fucked.  Kev has at least put a SOLD OUT sign on the window now, but with extra admission and band members its way too much in here.  Kev looks chuffed.

Another friend that’s made the trip from Holland is Ester from Flees and Lice, she’s another real character and an old friend of Misa’s.  Together they make quite the team.  Ester doesn’t recognize me from being in Victims at first, I guess that’s the cross to bear as the “new guy”, I empathise with Ronnie Wood.  Once me and Ester remake our acquaintances, the last time we met was when we played her place the Crowbar in Groningen, she’s into full flow.  She tells me I look tired and says she has some stuff for that, if I’d like some. It’s a nice gesture but I’m good.

I make my way back through the bottleneck and up to the raised area where Johan and Andy are sitting with our merch.  I catch Karl and his wife Jules sat beside them and take a seat myself.  I get talking to Jules about kids TV shows and she gives me some good tips. We talk about Backyardigans, the Canadian TV show that Polly is insane about right now.  Jules is Canadian and she smiles when I tell her how much Polly loves it.  It’s funny when you’re a parent and you realise that the battle for the TV with your kid is a battle you have absolutely no chance of winning, and then before long you start to get into the shows yourself.  All I can say is, Backyardigans has some brilliant tunes on the show.  To be honest, Polly only really discovered the television a few months back and it’s easy enough to draw her attention away from it, all I have to do is put on a record, any record, and start dancing and she’s right there with me.  Still, when you’re making dinner or the doing the laundry or whatever other chore there is constantly to attend to, the TV is a handy distraction.

Regimes are on and then there are two more before Victims are up.  Regimes haven’t played for a long time, except the warm up show for this a few days back, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them.  This will be their last show, I think.  It’s fun seeing Mucky Marcus play guitar again, my SG come to that.  I didn’t really know what to expect from their gig but as much as I always liked the band, I’m not sure I remember them ever being this good!  It’s tight as shit, works great with Jamie on bass too, and the crowd are packed in and going mad.  Kev is in great form too, I’m buzzed to shit watching them.  When they play Chemical Cosh the mosh pit are all singing along to the chorus and a few stragglers make it up on to the high stage to launch themselves immediately off it.  What a fucking bonus.

I catch up with the Victims guys and Vik afterwards and everyone is smiling, surprised by how good the set was.  As soon as Kev is done he’s back to the door.  The squeeze in here just seems to be getting tighter.  I exchange glances with a few familiar faces around the crowd, all of them deflecting back the same sigh I send them.  Kev tells me that the bouncers, who have been a bit freaked out and are acting like cunts, patting everyone down all the time, have said that’s it’s one in/one out, irrespective of whether you have a wristband.  I look through the doorway to the smoking allotment and there is even a crush of people there, waiting to get back in.  I happen to catch little Jay’s face in the mass, shaking his head and smiling.  I hope he manages to get back in before Victims play.  That would be ridiculous.  One person who won’t be getting back in is Kyle, the old bass player from Scurge, who has been caught with a bag of the naughty stuff.  As he’s being led out I ask his mate who is following him out what happened, “Only got himself to blame, fucking blatant!”

I get talking to Kelly Apple for a while, I don’t know if she’s boats or what but she’s going on about Jon, “your guitar player”, she says she’s thinks he’s really hot.  She recalls the last time she saw Victims play, must have been the Grosvenor a few years back, my first tour with Victims, she says that she approached Jon, really nervous and really drunk, and told him that she thought he was really attractive and then threw up on her shoes.  When she repeats the story a few times I begin to understand that she is pretty steaming.  She keeps saying to me that I can’t let her go near him tonight.  I look over at Jon, flummoxed by the whole affair.  I catch up with the guys later and tell them what Kelly said, Jon eyes light up, it’s actually really sweet, I’ve never seen Jon flattered in this way before.  “What can I say?  The ladies love Jonny” he says.  He just about pulled it off.

The set times are running late, how could they fucking not be with all these bands?  I was thinking that it was covered, that the music curfew was midnight and with Kev setting the Victims set time at a very ambitious ten fifteen we were ok.  It turns out in fact that the curfew is eleven, and there are still two bands to go before we play.  I can tell Kev is for the first time, starting to get a little nervous.  He says we’ll get things moving along and he’s cursing one of the earlier bands who took ages at change over.  Well go figure.. Paco Mus’s band, The Lowest Form is up next.  I’ve been looking for him since he has some records for me that I ordered a while back.  The first time I clock him is when he’s up on stage setting up.  I don’t see much of their set, I simply can’t be arsed fighting my way through.  The sound is pretty bad from where I’m standing though, the bass amp sounds like a wet fart.  Shame.

I catch Paco afterwards anyway and he tells me he’s given the package of records to Andy.  It’s nice to finally meet him, to put a face to someone you’ve been corresponding with.  Kluster Fuck are now on stage, and we’re after them.  These are good friends of Kev, good people, we’ve met them before at Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen where they’re involved.  Kluster Fuck are the first band that have played today that you can trust when they say they’ve got a fifteen minute set.  Most of their songs average out at thirty seconds.  It’s not totally my thing but what they do, they do really well.  Anos, who’ve I’ve only ever seen sing, blasts the fuck out of the kit and Kristine has an insane set of lungs and is absolutely manic on stage.  She sounds like a pit-bull being tortured.  Fifteen minutes and it is indeed done.

We get up on stage as quick as we can, knowing time is against us.  The room is packed, the anticipation almost boiling over, I am fucking ready for this.  And then I hear this little Scottish voice, almost apologetic, as if excusing itself for existing, it’s coming out of the monitors somewhere.  “There’s nothing from the bass drum.”  Johan and I look at each other and then together in the direction of the sound guy in his little hut at the back of the room.  Johan asks if we should change the mic but gets nothing in response bar a shrug of the shoulders, the guy looks completely fucking scoobied.  He mumbles something about us just starting and he’ll sort it but somehow I don’t trust that.  When we start looking to address the problem ourselves, amidst shouts from the crowd of  “Just get on with it”, we‘ve been stood here a while now and it’s getting uncomfortable, the sound guy appears on stage.  Johan suggests he swaps the mic with the hang tom, he does as told.  He tries the broken mic lead, blows in it a little, Andy shakes his head but Johan confirms that’s actually a valid course of action since moisture can cause glitches and blowing it away can work. Eventually he gets things sorted and with bass drum now sounding we launch into Death Do Us Part.  The wait was worth it.  The crowd kick off from the very start.

It’s one of those gigs where you feel like a fucking King up on stage.  The place is packed, the crowd is swathing about the dance floor, I clock Jay and Dave in the middle of it all, getting tossed about and loving every second of it, people are stage diving, Kev amongst them, kicking the mic into Johan’s mouth, he doesn’t care.  The gig flies by, it’s one of the most fun shows I’ve played in ages, and last night was no cack affair either.  We drop one of the more mid tempo songs, weighing the feeling in the crowd, we just keep it going.  We’ve got four songs left and I hear that little voice again, coming out of the monitors.  “Last song.”  I can’t work out if it’s a question or a demand although I couldn’t give a fuck either way.  I know the other guys haven’t heard him, even when he repeats himself, so I just carry on.  We finish with This is the End again and it feels like I spend more time pumping my fist in the air than playing guitar, I look over to the right hand side of the room and see Kev and Misa, raised above the crowd with one arm around each other, the other lofted in the air, singing along to the chorus.  Feel like fucking AC/DC up here.  Magic, pure fucking magic.          

How do you top that?  The crowd moves out quickly after the show, everybody I’m sure desperate for a bit of legroom.  I’m fucking desperate for a good pint now but Jamie are Kev and wanting to get moving since they have to take the gear and the van back to the practice room where it will be safe for the night.  We contemplate walking, I could certainly do with the brisk air, but it seems stupid to blow off a lift, and plus, there’s an after party to get to.  Everyone seems to be heading there and up early or not, I need a couple of pints.  I just hope the Birds Nest isn’t as stupidly packed as this place was.  We all squeeze into the van, making space for Vik and Bea as well as Goy, who spends the entire trip laid up behind the back seats on the luggage shelf, pissed up and moaning about the state of music, saying he missed UFO.  Love him.
If it’s even possible, to my horror, The Nest is more crammed than the earlier show.  Fuck.  I’d envisioned sitting down for one thing, with a pint and a nice easy catch up with some mates.  It’s not happening.  It takes about half hour to get served and you can forget sitting, there’s barely room to stand.  Wayne’s band Nembutal are playing, as is Karl, Mad John and Nige’s hard rock band Bad Meat, and Kluster Fuck are on again and our travelling partners Link.  I barely see anything of any of them, you can’t see fuck all in here.  I’m on the other end of the bar with Jos and his mate, Andy and Johan, Vik, Bea and Viv.  The others fleet about but we station ourselves here.  Alec is with us for a while but leaves early, stating he can’t be fucked with the crush in here.  Can’t say I blame him.  Jon is over by the left hand side of the bar, he’s made a connection with Misa.  When I was on my way to the bogs I catch Misa trying to pronounce Jon’s name, it goes on for ages, “Jo? Joe? Joon?”  ad infinitum.  The two make a great match.

We hang out for a couple of hours, I’m surprised we make it that long.  Jos is taking the piss out me and my beanie hat.  I have to admit, I’m going for the Ian MacKaye look, I figure you gotta go with the flow, roll with the punches a thinning hairline throws you.  Karl, suffering with the same problem, age and thin hair, tells me I look prime, bless him.  Jos calls me on it though, takes my hat off me, starts pissing around with his own flat cap, turning it backwards and making faces at me.  Piss taking fucker.  Point taken big guy.  We cuddle up for a photo together.

Another piss taker arrives, Kiwi Chris, although is piss taking is a little more venomous.  He says he saw the gig and thought we were shit.  This is his usual approach.  Don’t know if he has a really small penis or what but there is definitely some insecurity issues there.  Funny, I clocked him down the front when we were on, huge smile on his face.  Viv lambasts him but I can take it, I know where it’s coming from and I know he doesn’t mean any harm, although his tongue constantly purchases him black eyes.  He asks me if I saw his band.  I could easily say that I did and that I thought they were shit but that’s just not me.  He doesn’t believe me at first when I say what I saw I thought was good but when I repeat myself a little smile appears on his coupon.  Kiwi Chris…

We leave around two, we’ve managed to say hello and hang out with most people, although I wish I could have made more of it.  One of those occasions where you’ve talked to loads of people and really haven’t spoken to anyone.  I meet Jay before he leaves, he’s heading off to the Amersham Arms for some drunken debauchery, the rest of that crew are there.  He cracks up, tells me Dave is wearing a boot print on his cheek that he received during our set.  The only person I haven’t really managed to hang out with tonight is Wayne, but we catch each other on the way out.  I’m sure we’ll be back with DB at some point, otherwise I’ll have to make a private trip over with the family.

We get back to Kev’s just after two.  The alarm is set for eight, six hours of sleep on the floor.  I like a hard bed though, good for this shit old back of mine. I hear Kev coming back sometime around three with what sounds like Kiwi Chris’s voice behind him. It sounds like Kiwi is boats.  I get up for a piss once they’ve gone to bed and find the bathroom mirror has been taken down from the wall and laid on the floor and various plastic bottles have fallen into the tub.  I wonder if Kev will need waking in the morning…probably not.  He always seems to make it through somehow.

I retake my position on the floor between Andy and Jon, glad we’re on the afternoon flight.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sheffield

Wake up and reach straight for the headache pills.  It’s nothing major, just a little tingling behind the eyes, enough to warrant a pill though.  Those of us with kids were talking yesterday about how no matter what time you hit the lights you still wake up early, the old body clock set to dad.  I check on Andy, his eyes are closed but I can tell he’s awake.

I give sleeping another go but it’s no good.  I give up and jump in the shower before heading downstairs to see if there’s anyone up for taking some air.  The sun is shining and I could do with a brisk walk to brush off those remaining cobwebs that the shower missed.  Karl and Alec are alive and up for it so we head down the road to see what’s about and end up in a café.  There’s a rumour that Flash is cooking up some breakfast later but there’s no telling how long that will be, judging by the chorus of snores in the house it’s going to be a while.  The café looks pretty decent and I order some poached eggs on toast.  It’s pretty disappointing though.  The toast is dry as sand and the eggs are petite, to say the least.  Still, nice to get away for a bit.

We head back to Flash’s where people are beginning to stir.  Kev looks fresh enough despite last night’s over indulgence.  I head into the dining room where Flash has put a veggie buffet on, looks fucking amazing. Those who are awake are mulling around the table, picking it to pieces.  Under the table lies Jon, fast asleep in his sleeping bag, completely oblivious.  Even when he stirs a short while later he just lies there rubbing his beetroot red face for the best part of five minutes.  Jamie catches me looking at him and smiles.  He tells me that Jon was stoating about the house last night confused and he stood right on him before falling flat on his ass.  He says he heard him later on in the kitchen taking what he imagines to be a slash into a can or a bottle; the sound of running liquid was interrupted by the sound of pouring every ten seconds or so explains Jamie. Jon eventually pulls himself to his feet and starts telling Jamie how he’d been sleep walking last night, says he always sleep walks when he’s had a drink and that if he doesn’t then he wakes up with an anxiety attack instead.  Fuck knows.  Jamie then points at his trainers and tells Jon how he’d also lent them in the middle of the night and fucked off into the back garden in them.  Jon just looks at me with the usual look of confused amazement.

Out of politeness I help myself to a plate of food from Flash’s buffet but I can’t manage much.  It’s far, far better than the eggs I’d eaten earlier.  Wish I’d waited.  Bad tour economics right there.  We hang out for a while in the front room waiting for everyone to ready themselves, me, Karl and Kev talking about the great emo bands of the Nineties like Moss Icon and the scene in the UK at the time with brilliant bands like Bob Tilton, Baby Harp Seal and Karl’s old band Tribute.  It’s soon time to get moving and we line up outside the van with the Link guys, Flash’s girlfriend and Skit, who Flash keeps shouting at in what sounds like Czech, but I’m not sure, and take a couple of pics.  A permanent reminder of a very nice evening.

The drive up to Sheffield takes around four hours with a couple of stops.  The weather is pretty schizophrenic, one second it’s sunny, the next the sky goes all fucking Mordor and the van is being pelted with hail and snow.  It goes back and forth like this pretty much the whole journey.  The van the guys have hired is a real top-end Sprinter, complete with TV and DVD player.  Kev has brought some discs with him and I think mainly to shock the Swedes, Karl puts on a couple of episodes from the second season of the British cult classic Love Thy Neighbour.  The racial humour in that show would simply not be tolerated today, even though the joke is of course on the racist character played by Jack Smethurst.  It pretty much goes right over the heads of the Swedes.  After a couple of episodes we switch to a documentary about the early years of Iron Maiden, something we can all fully appreciate.  Someone mentions that Steve Harris is supposedly a right homophobic twat though.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he is a bit of a cock since he’s openly admitted his hate for punk rock.

We pull up outside the venue around three pm, about three hours to spare until we load in.  It’s as cold as a witch’s tit up North, the kind of chill that forces your shoulders to hunch up in knots.  We sort the parking ticket out and head in to town in search of food.  It’s a shame it’s so fucking freezing because it would have been nice with a walk otherwise.  Jamie lived here for a couple of years so we follow his guide to a vegetarian café called the Blue Moon.  It takes a bit of a while for him to pin the place down but it’s worth it when he eventually does.  I opt for a mushroom and leak cheese bake which shows itself to be a superb choice.  We’re sat around various tables in the café enjoying the warmth as much as the food.  Jon takes a beer of course, as soon as I saw that they had Samuel Smiths Pale Ale on sale I knew Jon would be taking one, I was tempted myself in truth but decided that I needed some food in me before embarking on booze. Niki Nailbomb is sat at a table on his own when Jon approaches him and asks if he’s like some company. Before long they’re in to full flown conversation.  Niki comes up to me afterwards, “Ee’s alright that boy, we ave a common love of Yoof ov Today!”  Seems like the two of them have hot if off.

When we’re done at the café we walk over to the Crucible Theatre so Jon can have his picture taken in front of it, being a big snooker fan.  He stands there in his big sheepskin coat and Bolt Thrower beanie hat with a glowing smile as Kev snaps away.  As we’re waiting around Niki is talking with the other guys about his plans for getting home tomorrow after the gig, figuring out the earliest possible train he can take after Disculpe have played and when that will get him back to his beloved Southend.  Karl, shaking his head, “It’s amazing that you actually like playing in bands!”

“I dan’t really!  I just like the moosic.”  We all crack up laughing.  Kev points out that the main thing Niki is interested in is being on records and getting his hands on a copy.  We head back to the venue; Bryan and Avi are there setting things up.  It’s great to see them as always.  Tonight’s lineup is really strong and it should be a great night.  Link are playing again and then there is War All The Time and Bryan’s own band Skiplickers, both of which are really great.  I tell Bryan that we had some food at the Blue Moon Café and he laughs, telling me that the food they’ve got for tonight is coming from the very same place.  I think I’ve got room for more anyway.  The space the guys have got here is really cool.  It’s a unit on a little industrial backstreet just off the city center.  There is a small narrow room with some sofas in it as you enter and then a larger, square room off to that with a low stage along the far wall and a bar off to the side.  I think the guys have a studio upstairs since there is a white board in the first room with a recording schedule on it with all the guys bands booked in; Dry Heaves, Skiplickers, Detergents.  What a great little scene they have here.   We load in pretty quick anyway and then with not much more to do we decide to head for a beer.  There is a pub, The Lord Nelson, right next door.

Bryan assured us the place was alright but I’m a little tentative after peaking in through the door.  It’s a pretty small place and there’s a right rowdy crowd of middle aged chavs in there.  I open the front door and, “Come on you fucking twat!” pours out.  I hope they’re shouting at the horses on the box.  We think about heading somewhere else because the last thing I can be arsed with is hassle, I just want to sit down with a pint, but on reflection we didn’t pass that many decent looking places on our excursion earlier so we decide to take the chance.  Jamie leads the way without the slightest suggestion of hesitation.  “I lived in Bermondsey for long enough,” he chirps.

The pissed up crowd at the one end of the bar don’t even register us as we walk in.  There is a large, deserted alcove off to the side with a bunch of free tables so we head for there.  The landlord is a friendly enough looking guy who seems to be doing a gallant job of humouring the rabble he’s been left with.  There is plenty of good beer on tap and I go for a pint of Old Speckled Hen.  Two quid seventy.  Fucking dancer. It tastes like pure heaven too.  We’re sat there for about half hour when Bryan comes in and tells us the food is ready.  I’m just about to purchase another brew though, I really fucking fancy it, although I feel bad about not going to show my appreciation for the hot food.  I decide to make the second pint a quick one.  It’s really relaxed sitting there having a drink with everyone though, it’s warm in here, a lot warmer than the venue, and there is good cheap beer on tap.  Johan seems to be pretty relaxed today, he’s on to his third and is wearing a sly smile.  Jon and Niki are in full conversation about hardcore, new best mates, much to everyone else’s amusement.  The jukebox is playing crappy songs from the Eighties, really loudly and the shower are singing along.  And then a Bob Marley song comes on and they all start shouting along in diabolical Jamaican accents.  And lo and behold a black guy comes in and they all start cheering, pure delight at the sight of him.  “Jamaica!!!” one of them guffaws, holding his arms out to the guy for a hug.  The guy just smiles uncomfortably.  With that I decide it’s time to go see to that food.

Even though it’s lukewarm the veggie lasagna hits the spot, even if the spot is pretty small.  Karl has come with since he was also feeling guilty about not eating the grub.  Besides the food Bryan has got a couple of crates of beer in for the bands.  I’m sure it’s getting better in the country, free beer and food on the DIY scene wasn’t always a given, at least not beer.  It’s still pretty cold in the venue though since it’s not open yet so the cold beer takes a while to go down.  I think about heading back to the pub but decide against because it’s going to be another three or four hours until we play and I’m already on three beers, which is closing in on my limit.  I decide I’ll have another when Disculpe play.

The venue fills up pretty quick.  There must be a good two hundred people.  The first band is some doom/post metal/punk three piece whatever from Holland.  They’re not bad in all fairness but they don’t really hold my attention.  The main thing I notice is that the sound from the PA is pretty strong.  My friend Jeremié who sings in the band Beast as God has made the trip up from Nottingham and I spend most of the Dutch band’s set talking to him.  I’m shocked when I notice he attaches a couple of hearing aids to his ears, before I can form the question he nods his head in resignation.  Fuck.  He tells me all about it, how he’s been through the emotional ringer with it.  I can’t fucking believe it.  It’s a bit of a wake-up call to be honest, is this what lies in store for me too?  First Jos, now Jeremié, our friends in the scene are succumbing to it.  My tinnitus is constant these days but it’s still at a level I can zone out.  After speaking to Jeremié it makes me wonder how much longer that will be.  I don’t have ear plugs with me on this trip either.. I thought I’d made an adult step a few years ago by making sure I always have them in at the practice space since that is the most punishing environment we work in.  Still, Jeremié seems to be dealing with it pretty well now and we’re soon on to discussing happier topics, like our kids.

Disculpe are up next, and there I am, stood right in front of the PA stack on the left, no ear plugs.  It’s great watching them play, this is one of the best bands Kev has done in a while.  Funny watching Karl prowl around the floor in front of the stage, he looks like an enraged bin man on steroids.  Fucking awesome. There is great energy on the stage from Alec and Jamie too which looks ace with Kev stood there concentrating on the numbers on the back of his bass neck, he’s getting better all the time though, he actually looks the part now.  Some of Niki’s mates are in the crowd, shouting at him between songs, they look like a right crowd of piss takers.

Skiplickers are up next and being the home town kings the place is packed for them.  But fuck me, they fucking destroy.  Bryan is a great front man, full of energy.  The band are tight as a duck’s arse and they simply tear the place up.  I met Weird Chris right before he went on stage, he showed me his chest and the one straggly little hair sticking out the middle of it, placed right in the centre of a tattoo of stars and clouds, “I’ve been growing this out for tonight” he says.  Weird Chris…The crowd really kick off for Skiplickers, who are one of the best bands doing this style I've see for a while.  Boulty, our mate from Stuck on a Name in Nottingham, is here, towering above the crowd, fucking streamboats chugging on a bottle of Buckfast or something.  At one point he sprays the fucker all over the place and soaks every fucker around him.  I see that white foam spray heading right at me but it lands in Russ Stalingrad's eye which is blocking it's path towards me.  Boulty carries on, oblivious.

I have to say I’m a little disappointed by War All the Time.  I mean, I really like the LP they put out a few years ago, real nice Totalitär vibe on it, but live it’s a bit still.  Rob, the singer who used to be in the legendary band Kito, looks like a fucking monster with a wide eyed stare partnered with a menacing smile, daring anyone to take him on, but he doesn’t do much else.  To be fair, the sound isn’t the best, very muddy, which doesn’t help.  I laugh to Johan just before they start, you’d be hard pushed to find a more British looking band.  Don’t get me wrong, their set is fine, I was just expecting something else I guess.  Bryan Skiplickers is right down front dancing away the whole set, encouraging others to join him.  That warms my heart somewhat.

I don’t catch much of the Link set again, I’m out in the van for a chunk of it, talking with Karl who is wrapped up in his sleeping bag, lying there in the dark.  It is fucking freezing here in Sheffield.  Living in Sweden you’d think we’d be used to this but the cold on this island is a different beast.  Even if it’s technically warmer here than it is back home, the rawness of the moist island air tears you to fucking shreds. I head back into the venue and catch up with Gords from EGS/Geriatric Unit, he’d managed to find a lift up here.  He’s telling me it was touch and go whether he’d make it because his neck is fucked and he can’t drive.  I have to crack up, we’re all falling apart at the seams, us old punks.  I catch the end of the Link set, sounds pretty good, plenty loud enough anyway.  Niki is hanging out with his mates, cider can in hand, looking chuffed.  “Ad a bit more to drink tonight, getting’ pissed!” he laughs.

So it’s time for us to play.  The place is full, it sounds good up on stage, I’ve had a few beers but, not too many, just enough to loosen me up, and I feel ready for this.  Once we’re set we give Andy the nod and he counts us into the AC/DC style rumble we begin the set with.  It’s met with a big cheer and a feeling of impending crowd participation.  We blast into Death Do Us Part and about ten seconds in I notice, just out of the corner of my eye, a wave of punks flooding towards the stage, I can see they’re going to land on Johan but it happens so fast I don’t have time to react.  Johan goes down under a pile of bodies and with them the drum kit.  Me and Jon are left feedbacking and looking on in amazement as Bryan and Jeremié rush to Johan’s aid and Andy pieces his kit back together.  So this is how it’s going to be?  Fuck me!  Johan pulls himself and the mic stand upright again, he’s got a slight cut above the eye but he’s wearing a smile, and we let the feedback ring until Andy starts the song again.  For the rest of the gig Bryan and Jeremié are right in front of the stage, dancing and fist pumping whilst simultaneously acting as a barrier to block inrushing punks from hitting the stage.  They succeed for the most part but a few get through now and again.  Fuck knows how many times during the thirty minutes Johan gets the mic fucked off his mouth.  Quite simply, it’s a great fucking gig.

As soon as Avi realizes we’re not playing any extra songs he puts the disco into action, now playing cheesy pop/dance songs which suit the situation perfectly.  Everyone immediately starts to dance.  We chill out with a couple of beers after the gig but the whole time we have in mind the fact that we’re driving back to London tonight.  Bryan had asked me a couple of weeks ago if we wanted to stay at his and party, something I would have happily agreed to, but Kev is insistent that we have to head back to London tonight.  It is he who is putting the show on tomorrow and being that he’s booked about a hundred bands to play with us he has to be there relatively early to arrange everything.  Except now Kev is pissed up and mingling away. Jamie comes over around one am and tells me it’s time to move.  Jamie’s the poor bastard who has to drive tonight.  As it is, Avi brings the disco to an end anyway, “That was the last song for tonight folks, thanks for coming down now fuck off!”  Brilliant.

Of course, the last in the van is Kev.  I was leaving with him and he got stuck talking to some old bird on the way out.  When he finally arrives he’s met with a piss taking jeer from the rest of us.  “Well fucking excuse me for trying to have some fun!” he moans, and then continues to mumble under his breath about how he thought playing in a band was supposed to be fun, until we reach the city limits.

We hit the motorway and the van turns quiet, except for Alec’s hard rock classics mix on his phone, which he has playing up front beside Jamie.  A couple of hours in I can tell Niki, who is sat behind Alec, is getting twitchy,  “Are you gonna be playing that fucking music all night?”  Alec just looks at him, totally baffled by the question.

We stop a couple of times on the way back, each time the door opens the cold sends the body into shock.  I waste some money on a putrid portion of French Fries from McDonalds on one occasion but for the most part I just sit in the back, not sure whether I’m sleeping or not, somewhere in the haze I hear Jon's voice beside me going on about how's he's starting an Oi band with Niki.  I start to life around five am when we get back into London. Jamie must be fucking knackered, you can tell by the way he’s throwing the van around the deserted streets of London like a rally car.  It’s five fifteen when we get to Kev’s, my knees are aching from the strained position I’ve been sat semi-sleeping in for the last four hours.  Kev’s hard living room floor has rarely been so inviting.  

     

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bristol

We were on the seven am flight to London, meaning Johan was coming for me at four-forty five.  I sometimes wonder what I’m doing with all this.  In fact, I constantly wonder what I’m doing with all this. There hasn’t been much sleep these last few nights, I’ve been up late writing a reportage on suicide in Sweden which has to be handed in by Monday, and given the fact I’m fucking off to England with Victims for the weekend I had to get it done before we left.  I was lying in bed last night around midnight, thinking about the fact that I’m in for another night of less than five hours sleep, the third in a row, and how shit I’m going to feel by Sunday after three nights of kipping on various floors.  Still, the shows should be good.

I didn’t feel too bad as I sat in Johan’s car as we drove out to Arlanda.  Weather was shite though, the dark sky emptying it’s clouds upon us.  I hope it’s better in England.  The airport was pretty dead, we were straight through without any hassle.  Nothing worse than queuing at airports whilst keeping a nervous eye on the clock.  I felt bad for this one poor sap that had missed his flight.  We were sat at café in the departure lounge next to a gate that had just closed it’s flight to Helsinki.  This young suit turns up looking flushed, totally baffled by the fact the gate is closed five minutes before his flight is due to lift.  He stands there scanning the vicinity looking for anyone to offer an explanation.  Jon mutters “good luck mate” on a few occasions, obviously finding the episode pretty amusing.  The suit ends up asking the people working behind the counter at the café if they can call someone from personnel to the gate.  What the fuck does he think that’s going to achieve?

Our flight is smooth, something I’m always extremely grateful for.  I seem to get worse at handling the turbulence with age, or maybe it’s the whole being a dad thing the different perspective on your own mortality that having a small child at home gives you.  The plane is half empty anyway so after taking a couple of obligatory snaps of the guys sleeping and sharing them on Instagram I find myself an empty row of seats to sleep on.  I catch maybe a half hour or so.  When I come to I notice a middle aged couple sat across the aisle from me, passionately petting.  The guy, this Mediterranean looking old boy with a pencil moustache and a comb-over that consists of a few oiled strands of hair, he looks kind of like Poirot with a tan, catches my eye whilst he’s stroking his ladies face and putting his tongue into her cake hole.  Feels awkward.  I head back to Jon.

We get to Gatwick about a half hour ahead of Karl who’s picking us up, so we head for some coffee and watch the world go by for a bit.  I was thinking Karl was bringing the van but it turns out he’s in his car.  As we’re walking towards it pushing three trolleys of gear I wonder how the fuck everything is going to fit, I look back at Johan who is smiling through the doubt.  Somehow we squeeze it all in though and we head off to Deptford.  It’s great seeing Karl again, the whole basis of this trip is his 40th. birthday bash we’re playing in London on Saturday.  Since we’re here anyway we thought we may as well make a weekend of it so we’re playing three shows with Disculpe.  Will be weird travelling with Kev and playing in different bands. We sit in the car and talk about sociology almost the whole way to Deptford, being a lecturer in the subject I’m studying he was interested in how it was going for me in school.  I love listening to Karl talk about this stuff, always got a lot of interesting things to say.  We arrive in Deptford and chill out at the Waiting Room for an hour or so, drinking numerous cups of their fine coffee and munching on veggie bagels.  Fucking wonderful.

Jamie and Kev turn up with the hire van, a brand new Mercedes Sprinter, and we head round to Marv’s practice studio to load in the gear.  We joke about how this will do nothing to dismiss the image of us being rock stars that places like Köpi have of us.  The drive to Bristol takes a few hours, half of which is spent travelling through London.  Still, rather see that than the misery of the M25.  The journey is pretty uneventful bar the constantly changing weather.  One minute the sun is out the next it’s snowing.  When we stop at a services for some snacks I note how raw it is. Raw in the way on England can be.

The venue in Bristol is tiny.  It’s this little rough and ready pub called the Red Lion in one of the city’s suburbs that has a carpeted side room that probably hold surely hold no more than fifty comfortably.  Kev tells me he saw Infernoh and Nomad here a while back and it was insane.  The PA fell on Wayne’s head apparently, much to Kev’s amusement.  Hoping for more of the same tonight.  It’s already dark when we arrive but welcomingly enough the air is not as biting now.  I haven’t got a sleeping bag with me, apart from the stupid big blue jacket I have on my back, so I’m hoping that Flash, the promoter’s house, has it’s pipes on the inside.  Otherwise I’m in for a rough night.  Or a very pissed one.

There is a Belgian band called Link playing these shows too, they’re waiting when we arrive.  Seem like good guys.  You can tell just by looking at them that they play epic crust ala Tragedy.  We’re all sharing gear anyway which makes the night a lot easier.  We get loaded in and I’m eyeing up the bar that seems to have an okay selection of ales but until I get some grub in me I can’t partake.  Luckily there is a Chinese chippy right next door which takes care of that little conundrum.  Chips down the hatch I head to the bar.  Pint of Staro to wash the salt down.

Flash turns up once he’s finished work, carrying with him a huge IKEA plastic container box, within it about fifty pints of punk stew sloshing around.  Even though I’m satisfied after the chips I feel it rude not to eat the free food.  It tastes like ash, or bonfire, as Kev remarks, but somehow it’s quite compelling and I nosh it down.   The punks are slowly filtering in as the first band goes on, some young guys playing a mesh of all kinds of manic stuff, a bit all over the place but they were okay.  I get talking to Nicky Nailbomb who plays drums in Disculpe.  Never met him before, funny really since he’s been a part of the scene for years.  He’s a funny guy.  Looks like a cheeky little builder, always got a sly smile on his coupon.  “I tell you wot Gaz, I get omesick if I’m gone for more than a day.  I facking lav Southend!” he laughs, but I can tell he’s not joking.  I like Nicky Nailbomb immediately.

I have to laugh, whilst the first band is playing, me, Nicky, Karl, Johan and Andy, the punk rock dads, are all sat around showing each other pictures of our kids, lots of “Aaaaaah”ing going on.  I look over at Jon who sat in a leather armchair in front of the fireplace in the bar, Arthur Daily sheepskin jacket on, lightly snoozing. Brilliant.

Disculpe play next.  I’ve been really looking forward to seeing them.  Really fun to see Alec back in a band again.  They don’t disappoint either.  The sound is great too, not rip-your-face-off loud but loud enough and you can hear everything really clearly.  Kev plays bass pretty well too, he’s definitely improving.  Me, Johan and Andy stand in the tiny room with about forty others the three of us cracking up every time Kev pushes his glasses back up his nose between riffs.  But yeah, they were great.  One of the best bands these guys have done for a while.  Fun watching Nicky play drums too, he has this weird backwards hands style, kind of like Andy’s feet.

I don’t see much of Link but there are plenty in the room watching them, and I can see a little through the hole in the wall behind the bar.  The old barmaid woman comes up to me asking if there’s any free merch for the barstaff, as in herself.  Cheeky move really but what the hell, I help her out.  She’s definitely at it though.  I ask her what size and she’s all, “Ooooh I dunno, what size do you think I am?”  Jesus… I’m not playing the game though.  “Large?” I hazard a guess.  “Cheeky bugger!” she replies.  I sort her out with the shirt and move along.  A while later she’s at it with the Disculpe lot.  Kev is only too happy to help.  “What size do you think I am?” again.. “You look like an extra small to me love, come on, lets sort ya owt!” he says, grabbing her by the arm and whisking her away.

I get talking to Nicky again who is telling me he thinks the band name is rubbish.  “It’s like, Spanish for “excuse me” or summit.  Bloody stupid name.  Everyone’s taking the piss, saying we’re polite punks.”  Nicky’s other band that he has together with Mad John is called Nasty Bastard.  So I guess he has both ends of the spectrum covered.

We go on around eleven thirty, Link obviously playing for a good forty minutes or so.  Goes with epic crust territory I guess.  It takes us a while to get going since Andy’s drum pedal seems to be fucked.  After ten minutes or so we’re set though, but chasing time since there’s a curfew set at midnight.  Flash is doing the sound so he’s keeping a check on us.  It’s a pretty good gig anyway.  It’s not crazy rammed but the room is full enough.  I have some issues with my lead that I eventually have to change, Jamie coming to my rescue as always, but amazingly I don’t break any strings.  It feels like a very typical “first show” on tour.  There’s plenty of energy being put in but it takes it’s toll.  It’s tight enough although I do miss the start of Circles, thinking we were playing something else.  I feel pretty cack by the last block.  Totally knackered.  Lack of sleep taking it’s toll.  The crowd gets more enthusiastic as the set rolls on though and by the time we’re onto Scars the place starts to erupt.  Karl is down front, singing along.  Always makes me smile to see him in there having a good time.

I find Kev and Alec at the bar after the show.  Both pretty pissed.  Kev’s got that look in his eye, like he’s out to wind everyone up.  “It got better towards the end dinit?  When you started playing the old songs that people actually like.”  Cheeky cunt.  We sell a good lot of merch though, surprisingly so.  You can never bank on selling much to the UK punks.  There’s a good hang out at the bar, although I’m feeling a bit drained.  I look over at Alec at one point who is wearing Jon’s jacket and doing impressions of Arthur Daley shouting at people.  Kev is going mad because he’s heard that Peter Sutclifffe’s nephew is in the place, and he’s trying to track him down.  He keeps telling everyone about it like it’s the best thing he’s ever heard. Apparently Sutcliffe’s nephew sings in some punk band down here.  Kev’s never heard them but they’re already his favourite band.

I’ve only managed to battle through one bottle of beer when Flash comes around looking to start the process of shipping us back to his house where we’re staying.  He’s bought a load of beer in and wants to get back. I’m only too happy to oblige.  Me, Karl, Alec, Jon and Kev take the first ride.  When we get back Kev tells me he’s got a few extra sleeping bags with him, so I’m out of having to sleep in my jacket, which is nice. Flash has bought a crate of lager and another of cider from Lidl, I opt for the Taurus cider.  Jon is flying into the Gallahad Lager.  His bloated little eyes alight with glee. Before long everyone is back and accounted for, except for Jamie, who was last seen chatting to some girl at the bar.  Flash, being the gent he is makes a third trip back to pick him up.  Kev starts cursing Jamie, going on about how he’s always in there with the birds.
Jamie not being here yet though, his pissed eyes turn to me and he starts giving me shit.  Fuck knows what he’s going about, we just laugh the old sod’s drunken ramblings off.  When Flash gets back with Jamie Kev starts back on him again.  Flash tells Alec to put an LP on which causes Alec some panic, he claims he doesn’t know how to work a record player and he’s not the man to be charged with this task.  He’s as pissed as Kev.  He’s soon asleep and we’re taking pictures of him.

The Link guys are sleeping here tonight too, there’s plenty of rooms to choose from though.  We all sit around in the dining room for a good while, chewing on Taurus Cider, chatting away with Flash and his girlfriend and playing with their dog Skit, I’m guessing he’s named after Skitsystem.  We gradually emigrate to the kitchen as people start to drop off one by one.  I’m up for a while longer, Kev still giving me shit, at least I think he’s looking at me.  We end up drinking some David Beckham single malt whiskey, although for the life of me I can’t work out what Beckham’s got to do with it.  Tastes alright anyway.  At three-thirty Andy and I decide to call it a night, we’ve been up for almost twenty four hours now, not bad for a pair of dads.  Flash points us in the direction of the back room upstairs which has a sofa bed in it.  I go looking for one of Kev’s sleeping bags but not being able to work out which one of the three light switches will light the hallway, I paw away at all of them and end up starting a bit of a disco on the living room where a few of the guys are already sleeping.  Flash tells me he has some other sleeping bags upstairs and I gladly head up there and crash out on the small double sofa bed with Andy beside me.  It's a bit tight but it's warm.  Fucking knackeredm I'm out like a light.