Monday, November 17, 2014

Eindhoven

“Have you  checked in yet?”  asks Lucas.

We're stood at the check-in desk for Brussels Airlines at Bromma Airport and being that it's the “check-in desk” I'd assumed that this is where we'd be fucking checking in.  Obviously I've made some sort of howling mistake.  The friendly looking woman attending us is sat behind her desk and is on the phone, and amidst the confusing conversation  I've now embarked on with Luk and Viktor I hear her saying something about "standby list" and "overbooked".  And for a moment I have that sinking feeling in my stomach.  We’re flying down to Holland via Brussels to play Bloodshed Fest in Eindhoven tomorrow and I do not want to miss this fucking flight!  There are a lot of friends bands playing this evening, so for a start that’s going to be a good crack, but first and foremost we’ve paid for these flights ourselves and my student budget won’t stretch to flights being tossed in the can.  And then there’s Kev, who has already been on the go since cack o’ clock this morning and is probably already in Eindhoven and we can’t just leave him there.  Like your life flashing by you in the space of a few seconds as you face the final curtain so are these thoughts whizzing about my head, and then I’m pulled back from the brink by the friendly looking woman, “Okay, we’re upgrading you guys to business class”.  Dancer.

Chuffed, we make our way through security and head to the bar whilst we await our flight.  Stix is on the beer but I’ll be fucked if I’m paying sixty odd kronor for a pint of Carlsberg, so opt for a ridiculously expensive mug of filtered coffee instead.  Airports seem to have an inflation rate all of their own.  Of course, once on board we take full advantage of the complimentary service, laughing our asses off at the thought of Kev crawling out of bed at three in the morning to catch that soul destroying Ryanair flight out of Stansted Airport as we sit there swigging free drink and eating our pasta pesto.  I’m sure our fellow business class passengers have clocked that we’re not supposed to be here.  “Just because you’re in business class does not mean that you are business class” quips Lucas.

We land in Brussels, which is a huge airport and walk for what takes about twenty minutes to the baggage hall.  So nice not to be carrying anything, we’re lending all our gear from the Hårda Tider and Night Fever guys.  I have no idea who is picking us up but before we even have time to look around our lift has spotted us.  We walk about one huge car park followed by another until we find our van, our driver for the day, Koen, can’t remember where he left it, such is the magnitude of this place.  We eventually locate the splitter though and we slowly make our way for the exit, the van roof scraping along the low concrete ceiling as we go.  “It’s only rented” Koen assures us.

The drive to Eindhoven takes an hour and a half and it’s around four pm by the time we arrive.  Kev has already texted us, telling us he’s found the hotel and he’s gone to bed for a bit.  The poor fucker had put on a Dry Heaves gig at the Nest last night so has probably only slept a couple of hours.  That he can be arsed continually inspires me.

The venue isn't the usual punk house you'd find on the DB tour circuit. It's more a complex than a venue, with several floors, one of which houses the production offices alone.  There are two stage rooms, one in the basement where we're playing and then the big one, which has a big high stage and looks like a school assembly hall.  The lobby is where all the merch tables are set up, as a well as the kitchen and a bar.  Whilst waiting for our passes and fee, which luxuriously enough we're picking up before we even play, I make a right cunt out of myself.  One of the big outer walls is made entirely of glass and the sun is blasting mercilessly through it, heating the entire lobby area up with it's rays.  I spot who I think is my mate Stijn from the band Reproach stood by a merch table in front of this glass facade but with the insane amount of backlight it's a little hard to decipher whether it's him or not.  I look over a couple of times, and then, despite the fact he seems to have grown a grey beard, I decide it is indeed Stijn and slowly make my way over, squinting in the light, hoping that before I get to him his face will be revealed.  The venue is not open yet and there aren't many other people around so me shuffling slowly across to him is hardly inconspicuous.  When I finally reach him I put my hand on his shoulder and with a big smile greet him, "Hey man, how are you doing?" I've clocked that it's not Stijn before I even ask the question but can't seem to stop myself.  Grey Beard, very confused, shrugs his shoulders, "Yeah, I'm good".  I offer a pathetic, "Sorry, I thought you were a friend of mine".. he nods, obviously getting that fact, and I shame walk away.  Luk is right behind me, "That was a bit embarrassing".  Yep, thanks for pointing that out buddy.

The whole debacle reminded me of another disastrous episode when I was a kid and I thought I'd spotted my cousin Ian up the town centre.  I was walking about fifty yards behind this guy with long hair who I was certain was Ian even though my best mate Neil assured me it wasn't.  I ran up behind him and playfully kicked him up the ass only to recoil in horror when this total stranger turned around with a look on his face that suggested he was about to destroy me.  Fuck knows how I got out of that one unscathed...

I’m so fucking glad we decided to book a hotel, anyway.  We got a mail from the festival production manager a few days back informing us that the accommodation provided this year would consist of a wooden floor in the gym hall on the third floor of the venue, and it would be a good idea to bring an inflatable mattress.  Obviously haven flown in with only hand luggage allowance this wasn’t an option, as neither was a sleeping bag, so we were faced with a couple of very rough night’s sleep that I’m not sure I could still handle.  For some reason it would have felt more manageable, both physically and psychologically if we’d been on tour since when you’re on tour you’re pretty fucked up anyway,  but just coming down for the weekend, taking a couple of days out of my regular life of early mornings and sleepless nights with Polly, I just couldn’t handle the thought of coming back an utter wreck on Sunday night, because obviously, if I’m going to crash on a wooden gym floor with no sleeping bag then I’d have to be completely fucking boats to do so...

“There was a bit of a mix up with the booking so we’re upgrading you to a deluxe room”, the friendly looking woman at the hotel desk informs us.  This seems to be our day!   We head up to the rooms, one of which Kev is sleeping in. Luk and Vik think they're being a pair of wise cunts by telling me I'm staying with Kev and claiming the upgrade room for themselves but when I follow them along the corridor it turns out their room is exactly the same as the other one and that both our rooms must be the deluxe upgrade.  "Fuck me, I can't imagine what the normal rooms are like then" laughs Kev from underneath his quilt when I update him on the crack.  Indeed, the deluxe room's "added extras" seem to consist of a fat back tv with one barely decipherable channel on it and a kettle.  Still, better than that fucking gym floor any day of the week.

After a quick shower we decide to head into town and get some grub.  We'd been talking about buying a couple of cans from a shop and hanging out in the hotel room for a while, instead of hitting a bar, budget limitations again coming into play, but decide against that plan almost immediately.  It's a nice, sunny evening, way warmer than back home and this counts as holiday for me, I'll be fucked if I'm spending it sat in a hotel room drinking cans like a fucking alchy.  I've been banging onto the guys about the legendary chips and peanut butter sauce since we left this morning, and I'm starting to get on their tits with it.  I do tend do go on a bit if I'm excited about something though, especially food. We hit one of the many chippies along the way and I delve into the heavenly snack.  The other guys look at me like I'm a fucking wanker.

The street we're on, which is a pedestrianised stretch of alley between our hotel and the venue is lined with mostly horrible looking bars, even worse looking clubs and fast food joints.  It's relatively quiet now but you can tell it's not going to stay that way.   We do find this one little place though that seems to be pretty quiet and has a load of decent beers on sale, a little bit more expensive maybe than the other places but that's probably a good thing.  We sit there for an hour or so enjoying a couple of select picks from the bar. Kev as usual hasn't got a fucking clue and just follows Viktor's lead.  Vik likes his strong Belgian beers and jumps at some blonde 8,3 percenter.  You can see the look of disgust on Kev's coupon as soon as he sips on it, "Tastes like fucking paint stripper".  Vik ends up polishing Kev's off and Kev opts for an Amstel or something similarly uncouth.  A little warm from the beer, we head along to the venue where we meet up with some of the Deptford crew, Jamie, Viv and Wayne.  They've made the trip in Jamie's car.  Kev could've just as well have made the trip with them.  Jamie's brought a box of our merch for us too, great lad.

I don't really catch that many bands during the evening, we spend most of the time hanging out upstairs in the merch room with the guys from Hårda Tider, Night Fever and Dogmatist, as well as our friend Jos from the legendary bands Lärm and Seein' Red, who's taken the train down after work to hang out.  The tiny little beers you get to buy for your beer tokens here fly down the neck at a steady rate but they have little effect being that it's pretty weak lager.  Probably just as well, I don't really feel like getting too fucked up, I don't want to waste a good nights sleep in a hotel bed.

The first band I watch is Systematic Death from Japan.  Our friend Ronald is driving them around, who also have the Citizen's Patrol guys on tour with them.  Lucas told me that he'd spotted them earlier when they arrived in the van and they literally jumped out the back of the van and began taking photos of everything, totally chuffed.  I love the Japanese, wonderful people.  And fuck me, can these old guys still play.  I hope I can perform at that level in twenty years time.  The drummer is like a fucking machine, hits the shit out of his snare drum at full speed.  They were absolutely great, loved watching every second of them, and by now the beer was just starting to work it's magic, just a little.

Night Fever played after them on the main stage by which point I was really starting to zone into party mood.  Night Fever are the perfect band for that.  Solomon flying about the stage with his fingerless, leather gloves on, mixing up his hardcore ranting with the old Danzig style warbling.  Sounds like a horrible mix I know but somehow Solomon makes it work.  This is party hardcore.  They work the big stage really well too.  I have to say that I'm a little surprised there aren't more watching them, although there is still a good crowd in, but maybe the festival in general feels a little calmer than last time I was here with Victims.  I'm stood near the front with Viv and Viktor, enjoying the show drinking one of the little beers when some kid comes running across the stage and dives right into the section of crowd I'm in.  I have to laugh as I and a few others around me immediately scuttle off to the side, beers held above our heads and away from the danger of being spilled as the diver hurtles towards the ground.  Old cunts.

Talking of old cunts, Varukers play last on the main stage.  Fuck me.  I clocked Biff earlier on in the evening, sat behind their merch table, his eyes and mouth rattling about all over the place.  Apparently they'd driven all the way from the UK just to play the one show here tonight, no doubt off their tits the entire journey.  They can still play but "can" and "why" are two very different sides of the coin.  I just don't get it.  There will always be the hardcore fanbase down front loving every second of it but I can only stomach a couple of songs.

The first night of the Fest done, I'm really in the mood to go and grab a nice quiet beer somewhere and just chill out for a while before heading to bed.  There is talk of an after party where there are some bands playing, one of whom are friends with Kev, and for a minute it sounds like it could be fun.  The place is in some tiny squat, it costs five Euros to get in and then it's a free bar after that.  But then Kev says, "Twenty minute walk" and any thoughts I had of going are immediately extinguished.  Kev and the Deptford guys head off whilst me, Vik and Luk head back to that small bar we were in earlier, via another chippy.

The street is now absolute chaos.  Hundreds and hundreds of people on the piss, it feels more like Ibiza than Eindhoven.  We make our way to the seclusion of our little bar but even in there it's pretty packed, although with a substantially older and calmer clientel.  Luk soon succumbs to tiredness and heads back to the hotel through the masses in the alley whilst Vik and I stick around for another couple.  Vik is talking a lot and doing it enthusiastically and I can tell he's pretty drunk, not surprising considering he's back on the paint stripper Pale Ale.  We eventually decide to call it a night, although not before we grab some more food, this time a falafel joint being the preference.  The falafel is dog shit.  No sauce, no salad.  When I ask for some accompaniment the guy squirts some garlic mayo into the bread and hands me a small pot of sweet chilli sauce.  That'll teach me to stray from the old pommes frites whilst in the Netherlands... We sit at the falafel place for almost another hour, Vik banging on about this and that, the volume increasing steadily.  It's past four by the time I get to the hotel room. Kev's bed is empty.

I wake with the slightest of headache's.  Nothing major, just enough of it in the background to annoy you.  My phone buzzes, it's Lucas asking if Kev and I are ready to go get some breakfast.  I look over my shoulder at Kev's bed.  It's still empty.  I lie in bed watching Amy Schuler standup on the fuzzy tv channel for a half hour, before rustling up the energy for a shower.  Kev rolls in about half hour later, bright as a button, although he claims his head is a little sore.  He says he ended up sleeping at the hotel the Deptford crew were in, although he didn't get there until six am.  According to him the after party was an absolute blast, this really small little squat and it was indeed free booze after the initial five euro entry fee.  His mate's band, Terror Defence were awesome by all accounts, and the crowd, which was full littered with Scando pissheads kicked off big time.  I kind of wished I'd had the energy to go along but I was knackered, and I can only imagine the hangover I'd have now if I had.  Fuck knows how Kev is in such a relatively healthy state!  "I was fucked when I got to the hotel, but I've slept for five hours now so I'm okay".  Wanker.

We meet the guys outside the hotel reception and head down to a breakfast place Kev had found the day before.  It's another glorious day.  Summer has stuck around late here in Eindhoven.  The breakfast place has good coffee and their freshly baked bread hits the bullseye.  Good start to the day.  We head along to the venue around mid day, the chaos street sleeping once again.  When we get to the venue we find Hasse who plays guitar in Night Fever and drums in Dogmatist slumbered on the pavement, hood up over his head, cradling a kebab in his hands.  He looks like he's been sat there all night.  Vik is delighted to see him. "Heeeey Hasse!  How's it going?"  Hasse looks up, eyes swollen red, "Naij!  Fucking shit!"  We burst into laughter.  He looks absolutely fucked!  It turns out he's only slept an hour and he doesn't really know where he is right now.  Poor fucker, Dogmatist are first on, in about an hour and half.

We head in and set up the merch that Jamie has brought with him from the hotel.  We hang around there for a while, looking forward to the day ahead.  We're on after Dogmatist so it's an early start.  Kind of nice in way, get the show over and done with, but I do wonder if there's going to be anyone in the building by that time.  Kev tells me he met a lot of people at the party last night that had said at five am that they really "hoped" to come check us out but couldn't promise anything.  I'd be amazed if anyone from there made it to see us at three-fifteen this afternoon. As we're sat there chatting with Jakob Adult Crash, who is out driving Night Fever, shaking his head recalling last night's partying, we hear Hasse somewhere off in the distance, "Naaaaij!".  Five minutes later he's got a beer in his hand.  I think that might actually be his only way out of this.  Nikolaj, their bass player, looks on unconvinced... Luk isn't doing too well either, he's been complaining about a headache all morning, insisting it's nothing to do with the booze.  He's got a couple of asprins from somewhere anyway and headed to the bar to ask for some water when suddenly the room is drowned in insanely loud grindcore, some wise cunt obviously hasn't checked the volume when putting the stereo system on.  Luk turns around, his shoulders hunched up to his ears and his eyes squinting in pain, as if he's just had a sharp rod inserted up his rhana.  This amuses me no end.

Dogmatist play just after two pm.  Hasse is smiling his ass off before the start, there's a hint of shock and resignation in his smile though.  It starts off okay but it doesn't take long before the cracks start to appear.  A dropped fill here, a missed snare there, Hasse huffing and puffing, shaking his head but all the while grinning to himself.  Apparently they drop a few of the faster songs in the set to accommodate the situation.  At one point Hasse drops a stick and for a split second it seems like he's going to keep the beat going whilst he recovers a pin but then he just stops playing, unable to manage two things at once.  Brilliant.  They're a great band though and you can't help but enjoy the show, this is punk rock after all, not fucking Deep Purple.  And Hasse had warned of the dangers of them playing first after Night Fever's show the night before.. Still, their last lp is one of my favourites of the last six months and it's great to see them play.  Lucas is going about how much he loves the singer's high screeching style, Luc calls him The Witch and imagines him flying onto the stage on a broomstick that turns into a guitar and then flying off again when he's done.  Luc then does a little re-enactment of how he sees this scene in his head.

We're up next on the stage, although there's something else going on the main stage whilst we set up.  Peter from Hårda Tider has literally lent me everything, even his guitar.  He's such a nice guy, I can't thank him enough, although he continually assures me it's no problem.  I lent this very same Gibson SG a few years back when Hårda Tider played with Victims in Potsdam and I liked the particular model so much I bought one.  Anyway, our show goes pretty much to plan.  For once we're playing a stage with an actual monitor set up and you can actually hear everything pretty clear.  Sometimes that has the opposite effect to that you're after, since our set is based on it being a little chaotic but if the truth's told, it's nice to be able to hear everything now and again.  There are maybe fifty, sixty people in the small room, enough to make it feel pretty good at least.  Funny thing is, my legs are tense as steel rods for the first couple of songs and it makes it hard to get into the gig, but after taking a swig of beer after the first block of songs I start to relax and enjoy myself.  Feels like we get a pretty good reaction and we play pretty tight.  When we go into the final section of I'm Still Drowning, the slow section, I notice Linus HT starting to get a stomp on.  He loves that stuff.  He's right up to us afterwards beaming about the show.  The stage is hot as fuck with all the lights and I'm drenched by the time we're done.  I stand there chatting with Jos for a while afterwards, before packing down.  He's telling me about his spoken word thing he did here at Slowend Fest a while back and about his book that he's bringing out in the near future.  I'm really looking forward to reading that.

Afterwards, when all is sorted, we head out in search of a bar selling quality beer, needing a break from the little cups of foam you get from the bar at the venue.  The Deptford crew and Jos join us.  It's Saturday afternoon and of course, Chaos Alley is brimming with footy fans going to the PSV game.  We steer clear and end up in some modern looking bar, loads of space and a long table, kind of has that new hipster bar feel to it that a lot of the places have these days.  It's just the ticket though, sitting there with friends and a couple of quality ales,
recounting stories old and new.  Can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.  Of course, quality beer usually means higher alcohol percentage, and after a couple of IPA's I'm already feeling that warm glow inside.  It's only five pm, it's going to be a long day.

Viv and Wayne are telling me about the party last night and how crazy the gig was at the squat.  Viv says she knew it was time to leave though when it got to around six am and a large section of the males in attendance started taking their tops off and chest slamming into each other.  Wayne adds that it was sweaty as hell in the small room, of course, he had kept his leather jacket on the whole time...  

We head back in time to watch Hårda Tider down in the basement.  There's a fairly decent crowd but I'd imagined that the pace would be packed since there is a bit of buzz about the guys right now.  Luc was telling me last night though that the Fest was a little calmer this year than it had been in previous years. Still.. The HT guys seem to enjoy the gig anyway.  It's not totally my thing but what they do they do really well and Erik the singer is always fun to watch, he never stops moving, between songs he gets into these little rants and just paces back and forth across the stage like a kid who has got their hands on a lot of the old E numbers.

After the gig we head back upstairs and I bump into the guys from Reproach who had arrived right after we'd played.  Typical.  Great to see them all the same, really nice guys.  And I realise that Stijn really does look nothing like Grey Beard.  Iron Lamb have arrived too, strange hanging out with Johan here when we normally meet at the play park or at nursery with our kids.  The Night Fever guys are all looking pretty sauced, the drummer is spread out on the merch table, half asleep, Solomon has an intense vibe going on, apparently he hasn't slept at all since they came back from the squat last night, and Hasse has apparently just gone back to pissed up again.  He doesn't even remember meeting us this morning outside the venue.  Those Danes sure know how to party.

We head back downstairs to watch Cardiac Arrest.  They're fucking great, proper good American hardcore.  Wayne is in his element, down the front the whole show, leather jacket sitting proudly on his torso, finger resolutely pointing at the singer, every now again he's on the mic chanting along.  Great seeing Wayne bouncing about with these taller hardcore guys, impervious to everything except the Cardiac Arrest vocalist.  Viv prods me now and again, nodding in Wayne's direction like a proud mum.  Vik gets chatting to their singer afterwards, they know each other from when Nitad played with them over in the States, seems like a good guy.  They're playing out in the suburbs in Stockholm next weekend but I already have tickets for the Shellac show.  Would have been a fun gig to try and get on otherwise.

There's not really much else I'm want to see today except Voorhees so we start talking about heading out to another bar again.  Good to take a break from this place.  Solomon is still going strong, well, he's still standing anyway but he is starting to look a little tired, not surprising since he's been up since yesterday.  He's up for going to another bar with us and duly leads Vik, Luk and I to the closest bar to the venue, just across the street.  The area is starting to buzz again and Chaos Alley is already brimming with people.  Solomon marches straight into this bar, which I think in actual fact is more of a restaurant, a pretty chilled out one at that, and orders four vodkas.  Straight.  No ice.  Who can argue with that?  The girl behind the bar, who turns out to be the proprietor, looks a little taken aback by Solomon's abrupt style.  Vik offers to pay for the round and we all line up to collect our drinks, I motion quietly to the barmaid that I would very much appreciate a little ice in my drink.  We take a table outside and Vik asks if we can sort him out with money for the drinks.  I had a feeling he'd jumped the gun a little.  We sit there sipping from our glasses, Luc looking a little tortured as he does so, I actually quite like vodka on the rocks, whilst Solomon knocks his back.  Some guy, a friend of the owners, approaches us and starts with some small talk.  I can tell he's checking us out to see if we're going to be any trouble, it's pretty obvious.  Solomon loses interest immediately and leaves whilst we three engage him and end up having a pretty good talk.  We chat for a while and when he's satisfied that we're normal guys he makes his excuses and leaves us to it.

Once the voddy is polished off, I finish Luc's for him, we head for yet more chips and sauce.  Viv and a couple of the others tag along.  We meet Hasse there who is by now well into    party mode once again.  He's a little intrigued by my peanut butter sauce so I offer him some.  At first he seems to like it but then his face changes, "It's pretty dry... It's really fucking dry!  Isn't sauce supposed to make the foot wetter?"  Seems like I'm on my own.

We get back in time for the Voorhees show.  Me and Jos get chatting again for a while, just general stuff about life, family, work and so on before he heads off to catch his train home.  It's always great to see him, a genuine gent of the scene.  I then catch up with Acko from Voorhees, he's still spouting the Charlie Manson look, he pulls it off though.  He's another one it's always fun to catch up with.  We follow them down to the basement and now, with a good amount of beer and some voddy in me, I'm ready to get down to business.  Again there isn't a huge amount of people in the room but enough to create an atmosphere and when they kick into the first song I'm beyond caring anyway, me and Kev are straight into the pit.  We're followed shortly thereafter by Vik and Luc, the whole of DB moshing to Voorhees.  Brilliant.  Wayne is right there with us too.  In all honesty it's more fun for the nostalgia aspect than anything else.  I mean, it's pretty good but not great by any means.  But I really don't care, it's eleven pm, I've been drinking since two pm and it's Voorhees.  Fucking worse ways to spend an evening.

Stijn and the Reproach guys are doing their best to entice me to another after party at the squat again but I'm not even close to being tempted this time, far too knackered.  I know fine well I'd get there and crash out straight away.  Better to do that in a bar nearer the hotel.  Of course, we end up back at our favourite place.  We're all pretty fucking sauced by this point.  The bar is pretty busy too.  The Deptfords come along for a bit but one by one they drop off.  Kev says he's taking the merch bag back to the hotel room but doesn't return, Vik is just pure boats and fucks off, leaving just me and Luc.  More chips.  The last I really remember is being stood outside amongst the chaos of that fucking street, eating chips and banging on to Luc about how I'm willing to go for another beer with him, that it's something I'm prepared to do for him.  We end up lurching back to the hotel, just a vague memory of thrashing my tooth brush around my gob before collapsing into bed.

I wake up a few hours later with the feeling in my stomach that tells me I'm going to vom.  But it never arrives, just lurks around in the background the whole fucking day, plaguing me.  Vik looks like cack so that helps.  Kev seems to be fine again.  Don't fucking get it.  He tells us though that when he was making his way back to the hotel last night he couldn't make his way through the packed alley so decided to sit down on a bench for a while where he ended up falling asleep with the merch bag beside him.  He woke up about half hour later, not knowing what the fuck was going on.

Kev is catching a lift back in Jamie's car anyway, can't say I blame him.  His flight is a ten tonight which sounds very boring.  If he travels with Jamie and the guys he'll make it home about four hours before his flight even lands at Stansted.  No brainer.  We say bye to him and walk off in search of breakfast, via checking in with the venue where we're meeting Luc Bloodshed who is giving us a ride to Brussels.  We meet Kalle HT there who is waiting with their van.  Apparently the fucking guards had kicked out all of the bands who were sleeping in the venue at eight this morning!  Wankers!  I'm so relieved we weren't there.  I think if I'd been in that situation I would have fucking cried.  We bump into Peter, Linus and Erik from Hårda Tider who tip us off about a great bagel place they found.  We laugh about all the chips and sauce we've eaten this weekend, I really need something healthier.  Feels right now like I'll never eat another chip again, but that's obviously nonsense, much like the many occasions I've sworn myself off the booze.  Peter tells us about this sauce they have in Holland they call War Sauce, apparently it's a mixture of brown and white sauce and they derive the name from that.  Fucking mad.  Lucas is outraged.

The bagel place is indeed top notch, although I wish I was in a fitter state so I could truly enjoy it.  The Deptfords end up walking in just as we're finishing up so we get to say goodbye all over again. We end up waiting for ages outside the venue, Luc has been dealing with a lot of shit due to these arsehole guards at the venue.. We finally get going around one pm, so there's still plenty of time to catch our flight, although we don't have much margin for unforseen fuck ups.  I feel mildly nauseous  the whole trip, not helped by Luc's girlfriend's tub of noodles that she's brought along, but the vom is kept at bay.  Despite the fact I feel pretty shite we still manage to have a good gab with Luc and his girlfriend which helps the journey no end.  Nothing like a few rib tickling tales to keep your mind off the hangover.

Amidst all this joviality the game nearly comes to a very sudden stop.  Luc is in the fast lane and the traffic is pretty light.  Out of fucking nowhere some asshole comes from behind us and barges right into our lane, not just cutting Luc up but very nearly smashing him and us into the central reservation.  We'd been on the verge of overtaking a lorry and I can only imagine that this half wit had just come off the slip road we passed and simply not seen us because as Luc's girlfriend put it, "Nobody is that much of a twat!"  Luckily Luc was aware and hit his breaks whilst avoiding a skid.  We're all a little shaken though.  I'm sat in the middle seat in the back, cramped into the tiny car but with no seatbelt, if we'd crashed I wouldn't have stood a fucking chance.  The gig would have been up in the blink of an eye.  Fucks you up a bit if you start getting too deep into that frame of mind.  The whole episode seems to have woken Vik up anyway, he'd been sat there until now, eyes closed, no doubt trying to shut out his own hangover.

We arrive at Brussels airport without further drama.  I'm very glad to get out since I'm really starting to feel sick again and after bidding farewell to the guys we make a beeline for the bogs where I wash my face with tepid tap water.  The flight home is smooth enough although this time we're sat where we belong.  Lucas comments on how it's hard going back to economy once you've experienced the upper echelons of business class.  I'm just glad to be on my way home.  I sit there contemplating how utterly and pathetically predictable this hangover is.  I remember thinking on the flight over how well I felt, sat there with my free pasta pesto and coffee and knowing then that I'd most likely feel shite on the return journey.  As if there's no way I can actually effect this outcome...

One of these days I might just give up drinking.  I mean, why not really.  I'm sure I could live without it if I really chose to.  One thing is for fucking sure though, I won't be eating any chips for a while.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

London (Dalston)

I hope Polly never sleeps in a room like this... That was the first thought that entered my foggy head when I awoke this morning.  The thought came and went, quickly followed by the realisation that my lungs felt like a thousand cigarettes had been stubbed out on them.

Daylight has invaded the room and the rest of the guys are still asleep, contorted in various positions about the ragged furniture.  Vik on the couch, the cushions of which Luk is strewn over on the floor beneath him, Kev and Lee each to their own armchair.  Lee...  The poor fucker doesn't even drink.  Although I don't know what's worse, trying to sleep sober on an armchair or waking up feeling like cack on the floor amongst the fag buts.  When I see Lee sleeping there in the most uncomfortable of positions it takes me back to the days of touring in Betty.  We'd been talking about him coming out on tour with us next year in Europe for a couple of weeks but I wonder if he's still up for that...

I lay there a while, my chest wheezing, wondering what the fuck I'm doing.  Is this really how I choose to spend my “holidays”?  I wonder how many people in my position have asked themselves the same question.  Of course, the question is all the more pertinent when you've had a fuck load to drink the night before.  An hour or so later we've all arisen, like a band of ghosts, and in near silence gone about the business of getting our shit together.  The silence is eventually broken by Kev, face enclosed in his hands, collapsing onto Luk's make shift mattress, “Oh God...”  As always, seeing one of my comrades suffering always makes me feel better.

I manage a quick shower, it's actually quite welcoming, and then get packed up.  I'm ready to get out of here.  Steve, the bartender who lives in the flat, comes into the room and lights up a spliff, offering me some.  I can't imagine anything I'd rather do less.  Dip my balls in hydrochloric acid maybe... Still, Steve seems like a nice enough guy and we get chatting about music a little whilst the others shake themselves to life.  He tells me he's been struggling to get a band together, can't find a drummer good enough.  Strikes me as a little odd.  Maybe it's not a punk band he's getting together.

Lee heads off to put some more money in the parking meter and the rest of us shuffle downstairs to the bar.  Sean is sat there with one of the barmaids, both have a half pint on the go, ready for the coming day.  Sean tells us it's the big derby game between Forest and Derby County, he's expecting a busy Sunday.  We chat for a while at the doorway before exiting back into reality and the bright sunshine that lights it up.  Sean closes the heavy door and like that, the domain behind it has gone.  Kev tells me there's a rumour going around that Sean recently went eight weeks without leaving the pub, he'd been sending his bar staff out for take away food.  What a job.

We head off in search of breakfast, hunger having invaded the group.  Kev declares that he has no idea about any places to eat around this area.  We walk around the corner from the Angel and count six cafés within a fifty meter radius.  Kev mutters something about this being a hipster area... We park ourselves at some tables outside one of the cafés and order breakfast.  I go for a veggie sausage cob which turns out to be rank.  No butter, just a dry Quorn sausage in a bun made of air.  Not even HP can save the fucker.  I only make it about half way through before giving up.  The old woman working here is really friendly though so I feel bad for not eating the food but my hungover taste buds just can't hack it.

We say our goodbye's to Lee, can't really believe he drove all the way down here just for last night, probably the worst of the four shows we'll play this weekend.   Still, it's always great to see him.  We head to the bus station, the gear feeling heavier today.  I'm not looking forward to this fucking bus journey... What I wouldn't do just to lie down in the back of a Transit van right now.

As expected the bus journey is a real pain in the balls.  Fuck knows why we always choose to sit next to the toilet. It's pretty chilly where I'm sat, and it's not the kind of chill that eases the hangover, a few times I consider moving to where the other guys are parked, which is right at the back opposite the bog, I'm sat in front of the bog.. but where they're at it's roasting hot and smells like shite.  Rubbish choice.  After a couple of hours of rumbling my guts can no longer hold on and I enter the sweat box and add my own brand to the cocktail of turd.  When I exit, by now feeling truly shite, I find the other three sat there with their tops pulled up over their noses, Lucas' face looks particularly horrified.

We finally arrive at Victoria around four thirty, the last hour of the journey having being spent weaving in and out of London traffic.  Viktor and Luk have been discussing where they're sleeping tonight since they're on the six am flight in the morning, the very same flight I was supposed to be on.  I had been dreading the all nighter which lay ahead tonight, leaving London at four am to head to the airport and then going straight from Arlanda to school tomorrow.  Fucking irony is that right now I'd do anything to be on that flight in the morning.  I hate not knowing when I'll be flying home.  I haven't felt like this since the very early days of mine and Jen's relationship where we'd say goodbye to each other in Stockholm, not knowing when the next time would be.  It feels so utterly fucking worthless to be away from Polly unnecessarily.  It's one thing leaving your kid at home to go play shows but to be stuck here on this fucking island like a prisoner... I've never missed Polly so much.  Anyway fuck it, still another show to play before I have to start dealing with that crap.

Luk has decided to stay with Vik at Bea's house but since he's left some of his gear at Kev's the two of them head back to Deptford whilst Vik and I head over to Dalston to check out what's going on at the venue.  We take the tube over to Highbury and Islington and then change there for the overground to Dalston Junction.  As we're making the switch between lines, somewhere in the tunnels of Highbury and Islington station we hear some radge fucker shouting, the echoes accentuating the aggression in his words.  When we turn the corner into the main walkway leading to the escalators we discover the source of the rage.  The guy is built like a brick shithouse and obviously fucking mental.  He's stood on the concrete stairs between the two escalators shouting “Fuck off!” and other such Shakespeare at random passers by, just willing someone to look at him.  He has HATE practically etched into his eyes.  We study the advertising posters on the wall thoroughly as we make our way up to the station exit.  The overground train takes a fucking age to get moving and for a minute I imagine the chaos of Mr. Radge boarding our train and terrorizing every fucker on it.  We both keep an eye on the platform, willing the train to move.  My hangover simply could not have dealt with that today.

We arrive in Dalston and make our way down the high street to the venue, Power Lunches.  It's a pretty cool little café/bar with a basement room downstairs where the bands play.  Very small set up, perfect.  There is a matinee show on when we arrive, our new friends Kylma Sota are currently playing.   They're last on though and there isn't long left so we decide we'll just leave the gear up by the merch tables and head off in search of food.

Whilst browsing possible spots to eat we notice almost all of the people sat outside the cafés are bars have their eyes trained on the road.  Two cars are stood still, blocking both lanes whilst the queue behind beeps in annoyance.  One of the cars has obviously pranged the other and the two driver's are now engaged in some sort of stand off.  The skirmish heats up when one pushes the other who is on his phone, presumably calling the authorities.  The whole thing gets a bit embarrassing when the one guy pulls his fists up to his face, heavyweight boxer style and starts dancing around.  Cries from a gathering of onlookers call out, “Don't fight!  There are cameras!”  This scene continues for a while but ultimately ends in a big nothing, leaving the traffic behind rightfully pissed off.  I don't get these people.  How can you make such a scene of yourself in front of so many strangers.  Fucking pathetic.  Vik and I discuss this a while, concluding that it basically boils down to a lack of intelligence.  They're not alone in this world...

We walk a little further along the main road and check out a few of the places serving grub.  It's a really hip little area this, I'm sure Kev hates it.  Most places are in the process of closing though and as determined as I've been all day that I won't be drinking any beer tonight we're left with little choice but to head into one of the trendy pubs. We sit outside, sharing a pizza and I order a Guinness to wash it down with.  Fuck it, one won't hurt, in fact, it might actually help.  Right?

As is usually the case, the first poured into the hungover system takes a while to digest.  The first couple of sips taste pretty good but I soon realise that the pint is a mistake.  Bea arrives after a while and the three of us sit there chatting but the temperature soon starts to sink and we decide to head back to the venue.  We bump into Pablo and Rachel who are heading home.  Pablo's band were supporting Kylma Sota.  He tells us it was pretty naff, only about five people watching them.  He says it was a little better by the time the Finns went on.  There are a few punks hanging outside the venue, sitting around on the pavement drinking cans, Marko and the Kylma guys amongst them, Marko smiling as always.  It's good to see them again.

We're first of four bands tonight.  I'm more than happy with playing early.  Being a Sunday night the show will be over by ten thirty and I'll be more than chuffed to head back to Kev's and chill out after the gig.  Kev and Luk turn up around seven, just as I'm starting to wonder where they are.  The nuclear bunker that is the London Underground blocks any mobile signal so there's been no contact with them and they don't know when we're on.  Some of the other Deptford gang have come along too, Alec, Christie, Jamie, Miles, Sean and of course Misa.  I say Sean, he's technically a city inhabitant but he's always with the Deptford gang.

Misa has a smile beaming across her face as always.  Kev reminds her that they are now engaged and they need to plan their wedding.  Misa laughs, telling Kev that she can't really imagine the two of them together...that way.  “You don't have to do me, just make me dinner” Kev explains.  Inside we meet Kiwi Chris, everyone's favourite antagonist.  He plays in the same band as Pablo.  He's pissed up and moaning about East London.  Fucking hipsters this and that.  Maybe as an outsider I just don't get it.  This place seems okay to me.  Chris goes on to tell me that last time he saw Victims we were crap.  Always good catching up with him...

We take to the very, very small stage at eight.  Everyone is still hanging outside and for a while we're on our own down in the room, just us, the soundguy and Marko who is sat there looking chuffed.  “Play every song you know.”

“Any requests?” asks Luk.

“AC/DC”.

Eventually, led by Sean, a few other people straggle into the room as we go about making as much feedback as possible.  I really can't be arsed breaking a string tonight, want a hassle free gig.  There are actually a good few people in by the time we go into the first song.  Kev spends most of the gig on the floor.  I feel like joining him as there is barely room to stand in front of Vik's kit but I stay put most of the time, despite the punishing heat of the blue stage lights.  It sounds good up there though and this is the first time this weekend it's felt really tight and controlled.  Chaos is of course part of the deal with this band but it's about controlling it, and we've reached that tonight, fourth show in.  It's now you wish you were out for another couple of weeks, now that we're in sync.

The gig is flowing along nicely and then, just as I'm really getting into things, I stamp down a foot into nothingness.  The stage floor simply isn't there.  I fall from the shallow stage edge and the momentum is too great to stop.  In a split second I realise that this could be bad.  I'm flying at quite a speed into the crowd and the trajectory is taking me rapidly towards the floor, guitar first.  In my periphery I spot Kev, screaming into the crowd and I manage to change course, right into his back.  It saves me but Kev has taken quite a hit.  Somehow I'm able to keep playing, barely missing a note, and make my way back up to stage.  Just as I'm wondering if anyone else has noticed I look up at Vik, who, still playing, is pissing himself laughing.  Balls.

The gig comes to it's end without further incident and all in all it's been a good show.  A bit Sunday night but I feel it's the best we've played for a while.  Funny thing is, when we play tight like that we sound a lot more like a hardcore band.  I'm not sure if that's good or not.. We pack down and head up to the cooling night air.  I buy myself a bottle of Budvar from the bar, this tastes infinitely better than the Guinness from earlier on.  Nothing like playing a show to cure a hangover.

The Detergents play after us, which is Bri from Skiplickers and another couple of guys from Dry Heaves I think.  They play 77 UK punk, playing simple straight up songs with titles like Don't Work Saturday.  I've never been a massive fan of this style but these guys have a charm about them.  Bri tells me later on that they literally just started the band, just for fun since none of them have really played their instruments before and they fancied giving it a crack.  It shows now and again.  At one point in their set the drummer fucks up and the song comes to a stop.  The three of them look at each other smiling and Bri motions to the drummer to start again, which he does, but he starts the song from the beginning which throws the other two because they thought they would be taking off from where the song had collapsed.  “Start from the chorus!” chortles Bri.  Total practice room stuff.  If that's not punk I don't know what is.  I smile to myself, imagining Johan's face if he was here right now watching.  I get talking to Bri afterwards, he's putting on a Victims/Skiplickers show in Sheffield when we come over for a weekend in January.  Looking forward to that.

Up next are Pregnancy Scares from Canada, who are touring around the UK with the Detergents.  Tom Ellis, one of the main men in the scene here and who is putting this show on tonight has been driving about the country with them.  I thought he'd been looking a bit pasty earlier and then Bri mentioned something about him puking in the van earlier.  Guess they've been having a good time.  Anyway, Pregnancy Scares have a member from the band Crusades within their ranks, a band whose first album I really loved.  Dark and melodic pop/punk with a stark Anti-Christian theme in their lyrics.  Not normally my bag but good songs are good songs.  Unfortunately their second album was a big let down, for me anyway, way to polished and commercial sounding compared to the dark desperation of the first.  Anyway, Pregnancy Scares play really chaotic punk/hardcore with trebly guitar and angular riffs.  I really like it, the singer is really energetic and the guys in the band can play the shit out of their instruments.  The whole thing is insanely loud though and in somewhat of a rarity I find myself shying away from the volume of it all.  I don't have any ear plugs with me; I rarely do, so have to stand there like a tit, hiding at the back with my fingers over my ears.  It gets quite awkward at one point when the heat starts getting to me and before I know it I have sweat dripping over my brow and it's so fucking loud that I'm stood there trying to wipe the sweat away without removing my hands from my ears.  Ridiculous.  Towards the end of their set they play a cover of the Wipers classic Over the Edge, one of Luk's all time favourites, and just as I'm wondering if he's watching I spot him fist pumping the air and moshing around in front of the singer, grabbing the mic to chant along to the chorus.  Luk really loves The Wipers.

The singer from the headlining band, Piss, really looks like the singer in a band called Piss.  I've never seen them before but I clocked straight away that the guy walking around with the white t-shirt and jeans, black braces, crucifix ear ring, perm and moustache was in a band.  The band is from Germany although the singer and drummer of the three piece are from Sweden.  You can tell.  They look like they hang out in Sofo a lot.  They're pretty good though.  Very fuzzed up guitars banging out an almost garagey, punk, hardcore.  Kev and Jamie really seem to be digging them but for me it drags on a little too long.  Again it's ear bleedingly loud and again I'm stood hiding at the back with my hands over my ears like an old cunt.

When the gig is over I'm ready to get on the train back to Deptford.  I'd be more than happy with a cuppa and some toast in front of the box but Kev really seems to want a pint.  We thank Ellis for the show, he gives us twenty five quid for our troubles, which is actually pretty sound of him considering he's lost eighty on the show.  I thought it was a pretty ok crowd but I guess with three foreign bands, one who's flown from Canada, he's got some overheads.  We say bye to Luk, Vik and Bea, and even though they're leaving at a horridly early hour I once again find myself wishing I was going with them.  I tell them I'll see them home at some point and we head off to get the overground train to Deptford.

To the gang's dismay the info screen says the train is arriving in fifteen minutes.  Kev and Alec are raging.  We work out we should make it to New Cross for half twelve which should give us enough time for one pint at The Albert at least.  I'm actually now quite in the mood for sitting in the pub and having a relaxing pint and a chat.  Kev sits there moaning for pretty much the entire fifteen minutes, picking on Miles for being young and being a student, accusing him of doing nothing but sitting at home with his spotty mates, smoking spliffs and listening to Nirvana.  It's all good entertainment.

We make it to The Albert for about twenty to twelve and as I'm sat there enjoying a fine pint of IPA I realise it's the best I've felt all day.  I laugh at Kev moaning about the hipster pub, as usual, and point out the fact that he seems to spend a lot of time in this joint considering he apparently hates the place.  “I only come because I fancy all the barmaids...”

The bell rings come far too quickly for our liking and there is talk of going to another pub and as enticing as that sounds both me and Kev know it will be a mistake.  We head back to his for some tea and Marmite on toast instead, which hits the spot beautifully.  Kev heads to bed and I turn the light out around one thirty.  Tomorrow is going to be a busy, anxiety filled day.  I just pray I can get my new passport at some point this week.  With no shows and nothing to do but wait at my dad's house in Corby I know missing home is going to be pretty brutal.  I spend most of the night awake, pondering over the possible various routes the following day will take.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Nottingham

I wake up early, around seven. Around about the time Polly normally rises. My body has a hard time shaking the routine. I'm also dying for a piss and go through the usual half hour of convincing myself I'll sleep it off only to eventually get out of bed defeated and piss so hard I'm sure the pan is going to crack. I wake up again around ten, starving. Hungover? Maybe, not sure. Don't feel great but don't feel that bad either. Kev's got the kettle on. Nice one.

A quick shower and I'm ready for some breakfast. We've mistaken check out for eleven, it's actually noon, but I'm in no need of another hour in bed, I need food. Kev pops over to Vik and Luk's room to see what they're up to. He comes back saying they'll be ready in fifteen minutes. I grill him on the situation over there. He tells me that Luk was just getting into the shower and Vik was in his pants. No way. Fifteen minutes my jacksie. We head off and tell them we'll text the info on where we are. I know this will prove to be a wise decision.

Kev, Jack and I actually end up in that oldest pub in Leeds, the Packhorse. Jack had found it last night. We're amongst the first in the joint. Laura joins us shortly afterwards, her and Jack both feeling a little worse for wear. My craving for a beer wins the battle over my conscience and I order a pint of IPA, it's only eleven but fuck it, I'm on tour. I order a Ploughman's to wash it down with. The pint tastes of guilt, not to say it doesn't taste good. The taste of guilt is often sweet. Vik and Luk turn up around twelve and the same, I'm guessing Vik and his conscience are good. “Ahhh, oil”...

Today we're taking the train, changing at Sheffield. Piece of piss. I could get used to touring in this fashion. Would be amazing touring Europe by rail. Vik's wondering loudly where the trolley is at but it doesn't show. There's plenty of space on both trains and we spread ourselves about the carriage, enjoying the space. We get to Nottingham around three and make our way straight to Annie's Burger Shack. She's moved out of the Navigation since we were last here a year ago and now has her own restaurant. The place is stunning. Very New York feel to it, big and spacious with an open kitchen. The bar has some fine choices in ale and the burger menu is just ridiculous, every option coming in either meat, vegetarian or vegan. Kev had contacted Annie a few days before about booking since you're fucked without a reservation, such is the buzz about the place. Annie has come a long way since she arrived from the States back in the Nineties. She's out of town today but she's put us on the guest list and we're taken straight to our table. Pure fucking luxury. It really feels like we're on holiday rather than tour as we're sat in this awesome place, supping on beer, waiting for the grub.

Lee has made the trip down from Glasgow today and gets here in time to order some food before ours arrives. It great to see him as always. He was going to come to Leeds last night and make a weekend of it but he'd picked up the keys to his and Kelly's new house after work and was knackered by the time they were sorted. We've been talking about him following us out on tour if we do a proper stretch in Europe next year, would be like old times again. I hope it happens. Although, any touring from now on will have to be done when I'm on a break from college... Can't risk missing time like this again. Full of burgers we head over to the venue.

Last time we played here some poor bastard was kicked to death in the street, just down the road from the punks stood outside the venue drinking. We pass the spot where it happened, hoping for no such drama tonight. The gig tonight is a bit different from the others on this stretch. Since our mate, Boulty, is the guy who runs the place, we'd managed to get ourselves on the already booked bill. It's a predominantly grind orientated line up, but that's ok for us, sometimes it works being the only hardcore punk band of the night. Plus, we've got a few mates coming down so it should be good. Typically enough though, Endless Grinning Skulls, as well as my old mate Slaven's band Grey Hairs, are playing on the other side of town, supporting the now hyped rant band Sleaford Mods. Really strange. So most of the crew coming tonight aren't actually Nottingham, that lot are all over at the since long sold Mods out show...

One friendly Notts face that is hanging about though is Steve, who plays in Molluch and Beast as God. It's good to see him. I first met him in Leipzig when Molluch were playing with Victims, we've stayed touch somewhat sporadically since then. It's good to catch up with him. It's always good to see Boulty of course, but he's running around like a blue arsed fly during the headlining band's soundcheck. We're not really sure where we're sleeping yet. We stayed here last time, and Boulty tells us we're welcome to do so again, but the room with the mattresses is obviously going to be pretty cosy since two of the other bands are sleeping here already, so we decide to keep our options open. We decide to head to the pub to ponder the situation..

A couple of the old Speedhorn guys, Jay and Dave are here for the show, along with our old friend Jim, who has taken my place in the reformed line up. They were in some pub in town earlier but we’ve missed them by now so we agree to see each other at the show later on. Will be good to see them, I'm chuffed they've come up to hang out. We're deciding on what pub to head to, Kev determined he's not going to the Angel, since whenever we go there he ends up fucked. We argue that we're only having the one but Kev is sceptical. He eventually concedes and we make our way there. Kev leads the way into the pub but before he's even stepped through the doorway we hear a chorus of, “Kev!!!!”

The guys from the X-Rays are stood at the bar, beside a seated Sean who used to play with Kev in Hard to Swallow and is now the landlord of this place. Everyone is delighted with the surprise visit of prodigal son Greenham. The X-Rays boys have obviously been here all day, the lot of them, boats. Sean tells me they'd come in at one this afternoon, decided they were going on a bit of a pub crawl, headed to another pub, drank six pints each and came back. They've been here since. Coop, their bass player, who I've met a few times and is a mutual friend of a lot of people back in the Stockholm scene, spots me and heads over grinning. Coop only has one volume and it's set to shouting. I get caught at the bar with him and the rest of the X-Rays guys, all telling me how much they love Kev, who is presently caught up in conversation with Sean. They've heard we're playing tonight and they ask me roughly around nine or ten times what time we're on. I patiently tell them eight thirty, over and over again. They're all so fucking chuffed that it's hard not to be taken in by their drunken charm. I eventually make my way over to the table where the other guys bar Kev are sat to enjoy what's left of my pint. It's soon time to go and we motion to Kev on his way past our table that we need to leave, he shows us the two pints he's holding in his hands, “Well I told you what would happen if I came here! I've just been bought these two!”

We eventually get out of there, Coop and the X-Rays in tow, the lot of them shouting as we go. We head to the Polish off-licence on the way to pick up some booze for the gig. Gaz, the X-Rays singer is again asking me what time we're playing, he's panicking a bit, saying he's promised his wife he'd be home around ten. I tell him he's got plenty of time. He's worried, saying he has two kids birthday parties to attend tomorrow. One of their other mates that are with us is trying to get through to him, assuring him it's ok, that his wife had told him earlier that he'd could sleep in the spare room tonight, no problems. “What time are you guys playing?”.. Fuck me... We walk into the off license and pick up a few cans of beer each. Gaz buys a bottle of rum and a big bottle of Coke, pours some of the Coke off and tops it up with the bottle of rum. Amazing.

We're too late to see Boulty's new band, apparently they only played for eight minutes. Megaladoom are about to start and after them, we're on. Snitch and Kimmins have arrived, they've driven over to see us play. Really chuffed to see them. I explain to them about the passport situation and tell them I'll most likely see them in Corby next week... The Speedhorn boys turn up a while later, all of them fairly drunk, but Dave is fucking blasted. His eyes are already on the close. Jay is loving every second of it of course. It's good to see Jim. I haven't seen him in a very long time, not since the days that I was in Speedhorn and he in Charger and we toured together. Funny that he's in Speedhorn now. He's a great choice for the job though. It's nice catching up with him.
Megaladoom are of course very doomy, no vocals, just slow, epic riffing for about twenty five minutes. They do it well though. I can see Lee is kind of digging it, right up his alley. Again, we're using other people's amps tonight. I'm on Boulty's beast, whatever it is. If I'm honest then I've had a few, just about on the cusp of reasonable, just. No soundcheck again, just up and blast. I'm pretty chuffed with the sound I've got but I can't hear Luk. I shift my thumb up in the air, demanding more volume from him but he's already on ten. It takes me a while to get to grips with what he's saying until I eventually turn down. I ask Kev if he's got vocals, he shrugs as if to confirm he has but I haven't actually heard anything out of him yet. Fuck it, let's go.'

If it was hard to gage the sound out front last night, it's not that difficult tonight. It's pretty obviously very loud and very chaotic. We're opening with Hypnotic Eye from the split tape with Hello Bastards, the slow song, and then straight into DB followed by Nausea. I've broken a string half way through DB... It replace the string fairly rapidly whilst Luk and Vik make noise but still, it's a pinch in the balls to bring the set to a stop so soon. I don't really take the time to stretch the new string in and Am I Stupid? Or Idiot! is way out of tune. Sounds fucking cack from my side. I tell myself to get it together and by the next song we're ok. But let's face it, it's a pretty pants start to the show. It gets better but the chaotic sound ensues, we've left Boulty pretty much fucked as far as being able to do much with it. The small room has about thirty people plus bands in it anyway, enough to make the place feel pretty decent, and I guess the vibe of our set kind of fits with the backdrop this little DIY space provides.

We spend most of the two headlining bands sets stood outside drinking and catching up with everyone, the sweat is bellowing out of me in the form of stream and I'm in desperate need of the cooling night time air. There are quite a few of us hanging around outside. Kev has clocked how fucked Dave is and has decided to pick on him, give him a bit of hell about the Speedhorn reunion, all in the name of fun. Just like old times again, Kev loves taking the piss out of Dave, it's too easy I guess. Of course, a while later Dave is over to me, little slits for eyes, telling me he's quitting Speedhorn. Love the little berk.

The rest of the Angel crew have left, but Coop is still in the building, down in front of the bands playing air guitar, going mad, t-shirt soaked in sweat. Kev starts taking the piss out of him, playing air bass, but as he does so he catches his thumb nail on one of his belt studs and rips the fucker, blood starts pissing out. I find Kev walking about with a bloodied napkin wrapped a his bulging thumb, looking a little shocked. All he gets out of me and Vik is laughter.

I head inside to catch a little bit of the last band but as is always the case when you play a gig with a lot of mates in attendance, attention is elsewhere. I do get chatting to the headlining band's sound guy afterwards, in one of the rehearsal rooms at the back, he seems a nice enough guy. I come to the realisation whilst we're stood there though that sleeping here tonight isn't really an option. Lee had been lobbying the idea of a Travel Lodge, but the prices are just too high in Nottingham. To think Kev had booked four bus tickets from London to Leeds, two hotel rooms in Leeds, four train tickets from Leeds to Nottingham and four bus tickets back down to London from there for the grand sum of one hundred and four quid, a sixty four quid room at the Travel Lodge in Notts simply wasn't on the cards. And besides, Sean had offered us a place to sleep in the flat above the Angel...

We head over there, leaving Boulty singing nu-metal karaoke at the venue. We arrive with the gear and take it immediately upstairs to the flat. I can't really work out how we're all going to fit into the living room but decide that's not important right there and then. I'm getting pissed tonight and sleep will take care of itself later. To be honest, pissed is the only way sleeping tonight is going to work. We head back downstairs and there's a party going on. Some mate of Sean's is celebrating his 40th and there are a couple of DJ's in, playing old Eighties pop songs. Winner. The Speedhorn guys are in the lounge, along with Dix and a couple of others from Corby. To my amazement, Walpole is also in the building: Jay tells me he'd called and happened to be in Leicester, when he'd heard the boys we're in Nottingham he'd got straight on the train, and now here he sits, shirt buttoned unashamedly halfway down his chest and sunglasses on. He'd best not venture into the bar, he'd get fucking murdered looking like that. Before I even sit down, Walpole has put a shot of Sambuca in front of me.

Everyone is pretty boats but Dave is beyond, his forehead now resting on the table, some band sticker stuck to the back of his head, Jay taking photos. I get talking to one of their mates who has an Orchid t-shirt on, one of my favourite screamo bands, and we blether about music for a bit. Good guy. I recognise him from one of the bands back in Corby. We sit around noshing for a bit longer, Dave invariably coming round now and then to tell me he loves me and he's quitting Speedhorn, Jay lapping up his misery.

They head off to Rock City around one. They ask if I want to follow but there's no fucking chance. Jim has long gone home, probably a good idea. I hug them all goodbye and me and Vik head back into the bar, doing our utmost to avoid brushing Scary Sean, this evil looking punk who plays in The Vile, who is stood at the bar. Fucking terrifying looking bloke. The party is rocking and before long the four DB boy are bopping to Eighties cheese. Luk has got his dancing shoes on. Lee has that smirk on his face. How many times has he witnessed this carry on over the years...

The next hour or so goes by in a blur of bad music, drunken chat with Sean, Luk playing keyboards on the bar top, Kev falling asleep on it, Vik getting his moves on on the dance floor. Luk reminds me of the night before when Vik had been sauced up and moaning about today's skinheads, saying they're all fucking wimps nowadays.. “None of them fight, none of them” he was laughing to himself before shouting at me, “Gaz! Shave my head Gaz, shave my head!” We crack up at him, now with a big grin on his coupon, dancing to Madness.


It must be around three by the time we call it a night, we're amongst the final few left in the bar. I barely remember heading upstairs, although I'm of sound enough mind to brush my teeth and get in to my Don Draper pyjama bottoms. I find a sleeping bag from somewhere, not daring to inspect it for filth, I just crash out on it on the floor beside the table, knowing fine well tomorrow is going to fucking sting...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Leeds

Slept alright once I finally drifted off last night. We were meeting Viktor at Victoria Station to take the Mega Bus to Leeds. We didn't have to be there until eleven so there was no real rush. We popped by Café Bianca for some breakfast, Karl, Alec and Mucky meeting us there. I normally make a point of getting at least one fry up in per trip to the UK but somehow I wasn't feeling it today. I guess my appetite wasn't it's usual ravenous self.

I've also come to the realisation that every time I eat a fucking fry up I regret it immediately afterwards... It's the same with the chippy most of the time. Sometimes you do certain things purely out of nostalgia, things that were habit when you were a kid because that's just what you did, or ate as in this case. The fact is, I don't like a fry up. Haven't done for a long time. I guess that means I should apply for a Swedish passport as the last few ounces of Britishness are slowly sifting away. Wish I had one of those fuckers right now...

Whilst we were sat eating our breakfasts and drinking our greasy mugs of tea, the TV was showing the Oscar Pistorius verdict, live from South Africa. It seems he's getting done for “involuntary murder”. He's getting fifteen years but still, what a joke. His defence has been cringe worthy at best. The power of celebrity is truly wondrous. Kev doesn't agree with the fifteen year sentence either, “I reckon they should take his daft legs away and replace them with little feet on his stumps, keeping a three foot restriction on it him at all times, and on the feet there should be a really big toe on them so he looks like a right twat and there should be little speakers on them playing a little voice that constantly says “I killed me wife, I killed me wife””. I love how Kev's mind works.

After breakfast we head do to the DLR train at Deptford, Kev greeting numerous people on the way as usual. The DLR is almost like one of those futuristic monorails you see at some airports and it provides a pretty great view of the Canada Water area of London, it's like riding a train through Legoland or something. Whilst we're stood waiting at the platform Kev says that we should try and get a seat up front since there's no driver and you can pretend you're driving the train yourself. Chuffed with this idea I dive towards the front seats, completely ignoring the fact there is a guy with his little son who obviously had the same idea I had. I feel like a bit of plank when the little boy shyly shuffles up and sits beside me, his dad taking the seat behind. Kev and Luk are a few seats back, presumably shaking their heads. I feel like a bit of a twat.

We meet Vik with little time to spare, it's a bit of a walk from the train to the bus station, and there's little time to buy refreshments. We board and settle in for the near five hour journey. A couple of the Deptford Irish contingent are on board too, Laura and her fella and another guy Jack, who is going to share a room at the Travel Lodge with us tonight. I'm already looking forward to the luxury of a hotel bed and I feel it would be a complete waste to wake up in it tomorrow with a raging hangover. We'll see how the night pans out...

Five hours on a coach feels like a long time and by the time we arrive in Leeds Vik and I are gagging for a pint. We check in, wash off quick and then head out for an ale, a couple of hours to kill before we need to be at the venue anyway. Jack says he's meeting a friend at the oldest pub in Leeds and wonders if we'd like to join him. Seems like an ok idea so we follow him and the GPS on his phone. There's some sort of mix up though and we don't find the pub we're looking for. After walking around for the best part of five minutes Vik informs us he's already clocked a pub we'd past and leads us there. He's sat enjoying an ale before I've even reached into my wallet. “I love a good point of oil” he chirps in mock Irish accent. I can only agree though as the cold pint of Pale Ale slips down my throat like liquid silk.

Our hotel is right next to the Cockpit, a venue I've played many times over the years, both with Speedhorn and Victims. My favourite memory from there has to be the time Kev's old band Helvis supported us, they'd been added to an already tight bill and given there was a tight curfew Doug our tour manager, and also old friend of Kev's from Nottingham, made them go on before the doors opened. I remember the looks on their faces as they started their set up on that high stage to just the Speedhorn guys, standing about the large dance floor and Doug side stage, having a fag and laughing to himself. What a bunch of cunts we were.

We head back to the hotel to grab our gear for the gig tonight and I make the mistake of lying on the bed for five minutes. The temptation to rip of my jeans and crawl in under the covers is almost too great to resist. I really don't want to wake up in this thing feeling like piss in the morning. We arrange for a cab to pick us up and we're off in search of the venue. It takes a little while to find since it's hidden down some little back road in an industrial estate just out of the city centre where a lot of the students live. Chuffed once we find the place though, it's a really nice set up. It reminds me of the many well run squats you find in Germany. It has a decent sized gig room with a pretty deep stage, and then a little bar room with some sofas and armchairs about the place and an adjoining courtyard area with tables and chairs. There is also a studio and rehearsal rooms here, really cool set up. The place is actually owned and run by Lecky, the singer in the legendary band Voorhees, who were supposed to be headlining tonight but pulled out a few weeks ago when Atko the guitarist realised he was going on holiday the day before. They're playing Bloodshed next month with us anyway so we'll catch them there.

So headlining instead are Kylma Sota from Finland who are over for a run of shows. They’re also a great band so it should be fun. Last time I'd seen them they were supporting D-Clone at Kafe 44 and they were so fucked that the guitarist had to keep playing the riffs to the bass player before each song since she had no idea where she was. They'd taken the ferry over night to Stockholm and had been up drinking all night, and then Bengtsson had found them outside the venue on his way to work where they were stood drinking Jagermeister miniatures and wondering when they could get into the venue. After being told that they wouldn't be getting in until four pm they went and sat in a park and carried on drinking. It was a wonderful mess, punk as it should be, completely stripped of any pretension. Love the Fins.

The show tonight is actually part of a two day Fest and the man in charge tonight, who is sorting us out, is Liam who plays in the band Perspex Flesh who are on later too. He's drinking one of those famous flagons of Weston's Old Rosie cider and has a permanent smile on his face. I like him already. I shoot and admiring glance at his cider, “Wouldn't leave home without it” he smirks.

We dump the gear in one of the rehearsal rooms and sit down with the Fins who have been stood here drinking since we arrived. Kev booked them in London before so he kind of knows them already. Marko, the singer is another one of those people who looks constantly chuffed. He also seems to constantly have a drink on the go so there might be a connection there. Vik heads off to the bar for the first round, it seems the choices are Stella, Carlsberg or Strongbow. As much as I hate Stella there's no way I'm drinking Carlsberg so I order a can of the old Wife Beater. “Fucking hell Jazzy, on the sauce tonight!” Vik laughs. He's fucking gutted when he sits down beside me and I point out to him that his Carlsberg is a measly 3,8% though. “Fuck sakes, that's like folköl” referring the infamous “people's beer” we get back home, which is the only kind of beer you can buy in the supermarket and it's limited to 3,5%. You can only buy real beer at the State ran shops that close at seven pm, three on a Saturday and doesn't even open on a Sunday. Sweden. Marko picks up on the “folköl” comment anyway and asks us if we're Swedes, and hence a conversation and a kinship between the two bands has been struck.

Marko is drinking a cloudy looking pint of Strongbow. He's been drinking them since we arrived. It turns out that it's actually Strongbow and gin and tonic, a heady fucking concoction if ever there was one! It actually doesn't taste quite as revolting as it sounds. When asked by one of the Irish crowd why he's drinking such a thing he replies, “One hand!” as if it's the most obvious thing he's ever had to point out. He explains further how much of a pain in the ass it would be if he had to carry the Strongbow in one hand and the gin and tonic in the other. Love the Fins.

We hang out with the guys chatting for the next hour or so, Marko chuffed that I'm wearing an Angel Hair t-shirt, one of his favourite bands ever apparently. We get talking about everything punk, Swedish and Finnish bands, practice rooms and the scenes in our relative homes. Marko summaries it quite nicely, “One thing I think Seeden is much better than Finland, especially Shtockholm. Seedish people know how to dress. They dress really nice. Finish people dress like sitt!”

The first of the night's six bands starts around eight and there are already a lot of people in the place. I have a feeling it's going to be a really good show tonight. The sound is kind of echoey, bouncing of the brick walls, but the atmosphere is good. The first band is a girl band playing pretty noisy punk, and the second band are called No Form and are about as artsy as it comes, a little too much for my liking. The young lad on vocals is dressed in a suit and is bellowing into an insanely reverbed microphone, since the Spain scene has taken off this last few years reverb has really become the thing.. They're ok but erring towards the silly just for the sake it I feel, the singer pulling out a trumpet at one point and huffing and puffing it into the reverb. I don't know.. I watch about five minutes and fuck off for one last beer before we're up.

As we're travelling by bus and train we don't really have any gear with us, just guitars, cymbals and snare. Band of fucking gypsies. I have a word with Liam about heads and it's all sorted, we can use theirs. He's almost through with the Old Rosie now. I ask him if he's looking forward to playing, he tells me he is although the band is not in the best of shape right now, “The drummer's full of the flu, he'll be turning up just before we play, and I've been feeling a bit gutsy too” he says, swilling round the last of the cider in his flagon as he does so. Not fucking surprised mate, two and half litres at 8,3%, I'd be fucked by now, never mind gutsy!

There is no soundguy tonight, just a small mixing board on the side of the stage, over by Lucas. The amp I'm lending from Perspex Flesh is insanely loud. I start at about four on the master and Luc just gives me those eyes, kind of like a parent looking at their kid and saying, “Come on now..” After the scratchiest of line checks we're ready to go. It's one of those stages where I have absolutely no idea how it sounds out front, I can barely hear Kev at all although that's not important and wherever I move on the stage I get a completely new guitar sound. Still, a few songs into the set and it feels tight, a lot tighter than last night. The room is pretty full and by the look on most of the faces in the crowd I get the feeling the sound out front is good. Kev is up and down from the stage the whole show, really getting into it. It feels like we're all enjoying ourselves. About half way through the set I feel this fucking pain in my knee though, really sharp, as if it's locking up. I have to hobble back towards my amp, mid song, and straighten it out. It fucking hurts, like I've been stabbed just below the knee cap. Once I get my leg straightened the immediate pain subsides but there's a little left, somewhere there in the background. I sometimes wonder to myself if it's time to retire from this game... And then I see Kev down on the floor, ten years my elder, screaming like fuck into his mic, mouth lip bleeding a little from accidentally gumping himself in the mouth. Beside him I see Marko, playing air guitar and smiling broadly.

It feels good after the show, a lot of people seemed to have liked it, there was elements of the crowd building up to kick off during the set, but as always when we play to a new crowd, by the time the tide rises we're done and it's all over. Upon leaving the stage the Kylma Sota drummer grabs Lucas and says, “Thank you for the songs” in typically monotonic Finnish. Chuffed. I'm no longer thinking too much about the luxury of the hotel bed, I'm buzzed from the gig and I want a pint, or two. Vik looks at me and suggests we have a shot, that he's feeling pretty knackered and he needs a shot injection to get him going again. I've been sworn off shots for a long time, I'm no good with them. But tonight I think Vik has a point. Luk isn't interested, he's sat at the merch talking to the Irish girl band who are playing after us, so Vik, Kev and I head to the bar without him. Captain Morgan Gold, reminds me of the many messy nights I worked at Debaser.

We chill out with a beer, or a cider, I'm not fussed which by now. Marko must be on to about his seventh or eight Strongbow GT by now, still smiling, still standing. Love the Fins. We watch a bit of Sissy, the Irish all girl band on after us. I'm not really a big fan of the whole Riot Girrrl thing although I have a lot of respect for it, but these guys do it well. Shame you can't really hear the vocals. I turn to Vik, “It's pretty fucking hot in here!” Vik looks at me, mouthful of Strongbow, “It's time for a shot?”. Back to the bar we go.

I'd been looking forward to seeing Perspex Flesh, I really like the lp they put out recently, but unfortunately the sound isn't so great. Whereas with Sissy the vocals were non existent, now Liam's vocals are literally the only thing you can hear, and there is a tsunami like amount of reverb on them. The music is good, but as soon as he starts singing, it completely fades to the background. Shame. Liam is pretty funny looking on stage though and entertaining with it, he looks like a cross between Paul Diano and our mate from Stockholm, Into. Whilst watching them some guy approaches me and tells me he follows my blog, says he came across it by chance. “I never liked Speedhorn, but I really like your blog.” We get talking and he asks me how it is balancing being a dad and playing in a punk band, he tells me that his wife is expecting and that he plays in bands and he's really worried about it. I reassure him that he's going to be fine, that being a dad is the most amazing feeling and that with a bit of planning you can make being in a band, or two, or three work. I mention to him that it helps if your wife also plays in bands, he shakes his resignedly and says, “No, mine's not into punk at all.” I tell him he'll be fine all the same. He tells me that his band is due to go out on a two week tour about a month after the baby comes.. Not entirely sure that will work out... Nice guy anyway, fun talking to him.

More beers and then Kylma Sota take the stage. This is a completely different affair to the last time I saw them at Kafe 44, although Marko is still drinking that cloudy cider.. I'm almost disappointed that they're not wasted at first, but fuck me, as soon as they start the show that disappears. They are fucking on it. So much energy, the crowd is loving it. Marko is a great font man. They rule tonight.

We hang around for a short while after they're done but not too long, the buzz of the booze has worn off and I'm not drunk, I'm just feeling really tired and bloated now. Just as well maybe, it's been a good night, now would be a good time to head back to the hotel and catch some Z's. Everyone seems to be on the same page so we gather our gear, say our goodbyes and head around to the garage around the corner in the hope of finding a cab. There are a few around, one guy, some old Indian bloke, is filling his tank. Kev shouts over to him, asking if he's free. It seems he is, he asks us where we're going. We tell him and he looks at us confused, “You can walk there.” He gets in his cab and fucks off. What the fuck? It ain't that fucking close. Weird old bastard. We hail another cab shortly after, some guy who apparently isn't opposed to making money, and we drive in the direction of the hotel. It takes about five minutes... Walk? My arse!

We get dropped off on a busy street next to the hotel, laden with shitty kebab shops, shitty nightclubs and hordes of drunken bastards looking to get in them. I convince myself I'm hungry and I need chips and cheese and regret it as soon as the first fry enters my mouth. Where the fuck do I get the notion I like chips and cheese from? It's absolutely horrid and these bastards are amongst the worst morsels of food I've ever abused my taste buds with. I throw about half of them in the bin, that's how bad it is! We head back to the hotel. Unusually for a Travel Lodge they have a bar. I'm all about bed but Vik is still thirsty. The woman working in the bar clocks us, “Are you guys wanting a beer? The bar's open”. Vik demands one more out of me and Kev. I say no but Kev is game, I join them, Vik goes to the bar and comes back with three manky pints of Stella. Kev falls asleep about half way through his, I manage about three sips. It's hard going. Vik and Kev plough on through theirs and I empty my pint equally into their glasses.


Time for bed.

Friday, September 12, 2014

London (Deptford)

Woke up on the floor of Kev's living room and for a minute I thought it was all just a shitty fucking dream.  The feeling of relief was fleeting though, barely there a second.  It wasn't a fucking dream.  My passport was gone.

Somewhere between the departure room at Gate 17 Arlanda and customs at Gatwick my passport had disappeared.  That feeling when you go for your pockets and realise it's not there, and for a split second you tell yourself to calm down, it is there, just look again.  But it wasn't.  I spent the morning on Kev's phone trying to track it down, trying to get a travel document to get me on my flight Monday morning, hoping for a miracle.  It's not happening though, my only option is to head to the passport office in Peterborough on Monday and order a new one.  I'm hoping I can get home by the end of the week.  It's fucked up feeling like a prisoner on your own island, I'll be gutted when the lads leave at four am on Monday morning for their/our flight home that I won't be getting on.

The bastard is we'd had a really fun time on the flight over last night.  When we boarded the pilot had warned of possible light to moderate turbulence on route.  Now light I'm ok with but moderate had me ordering a gin and tonic from the bar service.  Me and Vik had a couple each and we spent the entire flight laughing and taking the piss out of each other.  The turbulence never came either.  I felt a little buzzed when we landed, not pissed by any means, but in a very good mood.  Chuffed to be out playing a couple of shows with the guys.  I was hoping we'd make it to Deptford in time for a pint at The Albert.  Needless to say any such good mood was soon to be extinguished.

Of course, I was expecting nothing but a piss take all day but the guys can probably tell it's not the time.  Grateful for that I decide there's no point in destroying myself over it, what will be will be.  There are still some shows to play and if I don't forget about this shit for a while then there is no point in playing the shows.

I had an appointment with Mucky for a couple of tattoos and although I wasn't exactly in the mood, it was his day off and he'd kindly agreed to come in to the shop already.  It was actually nice getting them done, took my mind off things for a while,  Mucky joked about how I seem to do this every time now, getting tattooed before playing a run of shows.  I guess now it's a tradition you can't mess with it.  When we were done we grabbed some lunch with the boys at the café, adhering to another tradition that is the mighty Sith Burger, quite possible one of the hottest burgers around.  Veggie patty, jalapeño cheese, extra jalapeños, Sarrachi hot sauce, and the legendary Deptford Death Sauce to boot.  It's a fucking monster but it tastes great.  We were joking about the stench that was bound to be left in his living room tomorrow morning, Luk just shook his head at me and my burger, “Plain ignorance”.

We were practising at Overdrive Studio which is ran by Marv and John Conflict, we had a few hours booked in to go through the set with Kev.  Always good to see Marv.  His band are on the bill tonight, Smack Battalion, who has our old friend Pablo on bass, looking forward to seeing them.  It's a great little scene here in Deptford, with the shop, the café and the studio, the Bird's Nest just round the corner.  Kev seems to know everyone here, every one that passes him on the street has a hello for him.  There's this crazy old guy. Rupert, I think he's from Uganda or something, he always sits outside the tattoo shop, shouting and laughing.  We sat and listened to him and Kev talking for about five minutes, I didn't understand a word of it but Kev translated afterwards.  He had been joking about the upcoming Scottish referendum, saying that where he's from you don't get a yes or no vote, you vote no you get chopped up and hidden in a box.  He was pissing himself laughing the whole time he was saying this...

Anyway, practice went well.  The set was sounding tight.  Afterwards we all helped Marv push the back line from the studio to the Nest on a trolley, along the main road littered with brale pavements.  Marv joked, “I bet you won't find Speedhorn doing this”.  I just laughed uncommitted, not wanting to get involved in that conversation.  We had two trips back and forth and then the first thing Viktor has to do once we're loaded in is gaffa tape a leg on to the Nest's bass drum that we're lending for the night.  With enough tape and a brick in front of the drum it should stay in place though, Vik seems fairly confident.

We have nothing to do but hang out in the bar and have a couple of beers whilst we wait for the crowd to show up.  The Nest is so small it doesn't take many to make it good but I notice by the time the first band go on, Don from the tattoo shop's three piece, there aren't that many people in the house yet.  It feels a bit strange since there's been a bit of a buzz about the gig, it's kind of a release fest for our split tape with Hello Bastards who are on before us tonight, as well as a fund-raiser for Jocke D-Takt who lost a lot of his label's stock, including our records, in a flood.  And then the word goes round that some asshole has been acting weird at London Bridge station and causing a security risk, being that it's 9-11 the cops are extra sensitive and the station is closed down, making it hard for anyone north of the river to get here.  Fucking typical.

By the time Smack Battalion go on though a pretty good crowd has amassed.  There are a lot of friends here of course, Jamie, Chris, Karl and the tattoo shop gang, the whole Deptford crew.  And of course Misa, our crazy Japanese friend who always has two pints on the go at the same time and is always laughing.  She always used to obsess over my cabin bag I would have with me on my travels but now here attention had shifted to my new crew cut.  When I meet her the first thing she does is rub my head furiously and then grabs it and rubs bonce against mine, laughing crazily.

Being that we have an eighteen month old daughter at home and I haven't slept properly since she came into the world it usually only takes me a couple of pints before my head begins to numb and I start to feel drunk.  I've had a couple already by the time Hello Bastards come on although I'm actually feeling fine, I still decide not to risk it though and tell myself I’ll look forward to a cold one after our set.  The Hello Bastards set begins with Max their singer talking about 9-11 and makes the point that there are 9-11's going on today, all over the world, in some countries it's 9-11 every day.  It's a fair point well made.  They then blast through about twenty songs is as many minutes and leave the floor over to us.  Good job.

It takes a while to get going.  Marv has hooked up a guitar cab on either side of the small stage but I have no idea how any of that works.  I track Marv down, he's stood outside having a pint, and he's happy to help get me sorted.  Time is pushing on towards the eleven pm curfew and I'm raring to go.  I've got Pablo and his girlfriend Raquel stood in front of me looking chuffed and I'm dying just to do this thing.  It feels a bit strange starting with the slow song from the tape, Hypnotic Eye, but it works as a kind of intro and then we're into DB, back up to normal speed and flying.

The set flies by in a whirlwind of chaotic noise, I can barely hear Kev or Luk although that doesn't effect me, as long as I can hear Vik's snare, which I can, somewhere over there in amongst the feedback.  Not being either a) pissed or b) hungover really seems to work for us when we're playing shows, we should try it more often.  I have a feeling we won't be keeping that up though over the next few days.  It makes a huge difference though when you get to ten minutes into the set and you can still breathe...

At one point in the set my guitar cab over by Luk cuts out and I see Luk motioning to me to stop, Jamie on hand to sort it.  Back up and rolling again and of course I break a string.  Always.  Jeff from Hello Bastards lends me his although I was more than happy to play on with just the five, it would have worked, we only had a few songs left and I could have pulled it off, but when I put Jeff's guitar on I'm happy to have it.  The set ends to the shouts of Kelly Apple, demanding two more songs, but we're done.  The lights in the bar are already on and someone has put Black Sabbath on the PA.  I didn't want to do more anyway.  I hadn't noticed but Kev's tells me as we're packing down that the pub had cut half of the PA off during our set due to noise complaints from the neighbours.  Luk jokes, “Good gig review: Noise complaint”.

There's a good buzz after the gig though, it felt hard to judge during the set, although it always is since I never really look at the crowd.  We sell a lot of merch though, Kev and Luk are chuffed.  Vik's girlfriend Bea has been shifting a load of shirts for us.  Good girl.  Funny that this is where the first met just over a year ago.  Misa comes up to me afterwards, laughing and toasting a glass as always, “Gaz your band is so awesome!  You play your guitar above your head!”.

Kev is chuffed with the all-star array of old punks in attendance tonight.  One of the guys from Icons of Filth is here and he's bought a couple of shirts and records, another guy from Corrupted is here, John and Sarah Conflict.  Kev is in his element.  We pack down as quick as we can once money is sorted in order to make it to The Albert for a pint.  It closes at midnight and me and Vik are fucking gagging!  Kev is stressing a bit about getting up early for the old Mega Bus in the morning and Luk is starting to hint that he's tired but we're having none of it.  I don't want to get pissed by any means but I do want an after show pint and I want to be able to hang with our mates for a while and have a chat.  Kev moans about The Albert being a hipster pub but he's always fucking moaning about hipsters.  Soon enough there is a convoy of us striding determinedly up the road with all the gear.  A beer will be had.

We only manage the one but I'm happy with that.  It's fun just hanging out with everyone.  Kev is taking the piss out of Misa, proposing to her on one knee, telling her they could have beautiful yellow babies.  Misa is shouting and laughing at me, “See, see he's laciest!  This guy, fuck him!”  I often think Kev and Misa should marry, they'd be a great couple.  The girls from the café are here hanging out too, they seemed to really enjoy the gig.  It's obviously way beyond any kind of music they normally listen to but being artsy dancer types themselves they really seem to appreciate the whole sub culture vibe of what we're involved in.  Kev is chuffed that they're into it.  He keeps saying that.  It's only twenty minutes and then the lights come on and it's time to leave.  Could've done without hanging maybe a little longer anyway...Wayne and Clara have just turned up after finishing work, asking if we want to come back for a drink at their place.  Sucks not have seen them more tonight but an after party would be a bad idea, of that I'm sure.

There had also been a hint of the New Cross Inn up the road and for a second pint and I'm tempted but I know it will only lead to regret in the morning.  We're all stood around outside the pub, chatting away, Misa holding dearly to the last dregs of her pint, Kev holding her arm and dancing, singing to her, “Misa, do you believe in love?...”,  Luk is showing off some tropical dance moves to the café/dancer girl squad, Kev moaning, “Look at that cunt!”  Eventually Vik and Bea jump in a cab going back to her place and we head down Deptford High Street, carrying our gear towards Kev's house.  Luk is moaning about his heavy bass case, asking to swap with me, just for a minute, just so I can appreciate what he's going through.  It feels like he's got a fucking corpse in there.  Fuck that, he gets it back immediately.

We end up back at Kev's place around one thirty, hell of a difference now Pat and Gemma have moved out, the place feels about twice the size now.  We check through the money and the merch before settling down in front of the box with a cuppa and Marmite on toast.  Alarm is set for eight, not too bad.  I takes me a while to get to sleep though, thoughts of that fucking passport floating around in my head.