Sunday, April 3, 2016

Vancouver

Last day of tour today. Feels strange. As always. It was only nine days ago that we played the first show in Santa Ana and yet it seems like months ago. We’ve covered a lot of distance in that time and hours spent on the road in the back of a bus can skew the perception of time. As much as I’m looking forward to my first visit to Canada, and Eric assures me the show in Vancouver tonight is going to worth the hassle of the border crossing, I’m ready to go home to my family.

I woke up and Skyped the girls, sat on the deck of Eric’s houseboat in the sun with a cup of black coffee. Jen assured me Polly is missing me despite the fact her attention was mostly drawn to her favourite kids show on the iPad. Polly does take the time out to tell me that she’s coming with mum to pick me up from the airport soon though. When I hang up I feel a longing to be back home with them but put it to the back of my mind. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover over the next two days before I’m back home in the comfort of my home. First off, we have to get across the border, which although Greg has assured us has slackened a lot this last year or so, and the fact that we have paperwork from the venue in Vancouver, Eric has a criminal record that requires a bit of navigating around when he crosses the border. If we get into the country then after the show we’re basically heading straight to the airport for a seven am flight out of Vancouver back to Los Angeles and then we’ve got an eight hour stop over there before flying back to Stockholm at six pm. It’s going to be a long, sleep depraved couple of days.

We grab some breakfast at a diner by the marina where the guys live before hitting the road around midday. Jude is coming along too since they’re going to go camping in Canada for the weekend. As we’re stood at the door waiting for a table I spot a young girl with a bit of a hard rock vibe stood at the counter looking our way. Eric says under his breath that last time he ate here she kept banging on about his Venom t-shirt. She’s a bit of a local eccentric by the sounds of it. Sure enough, she spots Jon and shouts over, “Hey man! Nice Motörhead t-shirt!” And then barks across at us for the next few minutes whilst we wait for someone to seat us. After we’ve eaten she comes over to our table and asks if we’re a band and then starts taking details. She tells us how her friends band are supporting Mushroomhead in a couple of weeks and that she’s going with them to help carry gear and that she’s getting in for free. Fucking Mushroomhead? Are those tits still around?

Stuffed on a huge breakfast we head back to the bus and make the two hour trip to the border. Like I say, we’ve got paperwork that Greg assures us will ease our passage into the country by stepping into the unknown it’s still a bit unnerving. The last time Victims played Canada was before I was in the band and on that occasion they left the van in the US and took a Greyhound bus into Canada, returning a few days later by foot over the Niagara Falls bridge. Must have been quite the sight for our friend Matt who was waiting with the van Stateside.

Not really sure where to go Eric pulls up into the bus lane and there we wait. There are cops in the other booths dealing with car passengers and most of them look our way but make no gesture to us as to direct us. Eventually some G.I. Joe looking asshole, complete with crew cut hair and shades, struts over. Eric leans out of the window to greet him and G.I. barks “Shut off the engine!” What a prize fucking dick! For one, does he really look at himself in the mirror every morning before leaving work and think, “Yeah man, I look fucking good!”, and secondly, is there really a need to talk to everyone like they’re a cunt? Johan remarks that it’s as if they’re trained to talk down to people and make them feel uncomfortable. Nothing like an abuse of power. Joe enquires about the purpose of the trip and what us guys are doing in the back and then orders us into the building with our passports. Here we go then…

It’s not all that bad though. They don’t seem to give a fuck about us, they’re mainly concerned with Eric. He’s been through this route a bunch of times with Black Breath and got through due to the fact that being a member of the band he was then seen as essential to the travelling party but now they’re wondering why he has to be travelling through with us if he’s not in the band. He points out that he’s still pretty essential to the travelling party since if he doesn’t travel with us then we won’t get anywhere. After an hour or so and a two hundred dollar fine we’re let through the border. We split the bill with Eric.

It’s only another forty miles or so to Vancouver and we arrive at the venue a little ahead of time. Vancouver seems like an interesting place. It’s beautiful for one thing, surrounded by snow tipped mountains, a real breathtaking horizon in all directions. And Eric assures us that there are some really beautiful parts of the city, some really affluent parts of the city, but the area we’re playing into tonight, East Hastings Ave, does not belong to that particular part of Vancouver. East Hastings is a long straight road that seems to go on forever. When we start along it we seem to be in a pretty trendy part of town but as we get closer to the venue the area seems to get poorer and poorer. The venue itself is still on a pretty safe block but Eric tells us that a few more blocks and you want to be emptying the bus of anything valuable when you leave it. Eric tells us to bring in our most valued items anyway.

The venue, the Astoria Hotel, is closed when we arrive anyway. Whilst Eric and Andy are checking it out I step outside for a bit of air and as I walk down to the street corner I spot some young guy with a smile that’s just a tad menacing looking my way. “Hey, do you drink Labatt's?” A bit confused by the question at first I tell him that no, I do not drink Labbatt’s. “So you’re not a yuppie then? You’re not a hipster either. That’s good”. I have no idea where this is going back head back to the van before finding out. He’s chirping on after me but it turns to an incoherent babbling. He starts on the next person, a younger girl, who in no subtle terms walks across to the other side of the street.

With some time to spare we drive back up the road to some sushi grill place Jude had spotted. Fuck do I need something a little healthier in me. The place is absolutely top notch. They have such delicious vegetarian sushi in North America, makes you realise how boring and unimaginative the stuff we get back home is. Despite sushi being by far the most common “ethnic food” in Stockholm, it’s all the same boring shit wherever you go. We’ve had some great Mexican grub during the last week but this is by far the best food I’ve had all tour.

We make our way back down to the venue and it’s time to load in. The first band Last Kaste are soundchecking and it’s loud as hell. Andy comes walking out with a pained expression on his face. The venue is cool though, a big spacious bar with pool tables and flipper machines and a cordoned off gig space. The girl who booked the show, Vanessa, seems delighted to have us here. She’s super friendly. Load in is interesting. Eric parks the van a little way down the block so we have a bit of a walk with the gear back and forth. As we’re opening up the back of the van some chuffed looking homeless woman comes up to us enthusing about the bus, saying she’s never seen one like it before. And then there is some crazed homeless guy sat right outside the venue holding a cup in his hand shouting, “Quarter!”, as we load in the gear. I tell him that I’m sorry but I don’t have any money on me, every time I walk past. I feel sorry for the guy. He reminds me of so many of the people I work with at the homeless shelter back home.

Once loaded in we set up by the side of the stage and then hang out by the pool tables. Seems like someone has left one of the tables mid game whilst the other is taken by the local street punks. Andy comes walking out of the toilet laughing, saying that he thinks tonight might be a bit of a wild one, apparently there is a couple fucking in the toilet. Ten minutes later Jon comes out and says he just did a shit in the cubicle beside the one the romantic couple are in. “Someone just came all over the place whilst I was taking a dump”. Seems that the couple in question are the holders of the second pool table and the fuckers have taken the cues with them. Want a fucking game here! I ask Vanessa if there are any more cues and she laughs and says, “Well… This random wasted couple came in a while back and started a game and then went into the toilet together and have been gone for quite some time, I don’t know where the cues are though”. Right enough the couple finally emerge from the bogs, the two of them looking rough as shit. They sit down to a table where a half drunk pitcher of beer stands. They finish up and fuck off. Eventually the pool cues turn up and me and Jon finish the game.

We hang out playing pool and flipper until the first band start. We’re supposed to be on at eleven tonight but it’s nine thirty and there is hardly anyone here and Last Kaste haven’t started yet. I guess we’re going to be a bit late but since all we have to do is go to the airport for five am that might not be a bad thing. Very strange feeling waiting for a gig and then knowing that you’re heading off on a mammoth journey home directly afterwards. Eric assures me that the show tonight is going to be good and says that over here in Canada things are a little slacker and the punks come out a bit later. Vanessa asks if we want more drinks, of course tonight we have a totally free bar, typical that this gig is the last one. I thank her kindly but tell her about the journey we have ahead of us and she totally understands.

Last Kaste start just before ten and indeed quite a few punks have arrived. And also two random old guys, not together, pushing walking frames. One looks like he’s wearing pajama bottoms and is sat right at the front of the crowd in front of the band. Some punks start moshing and this big punk with a mohican wearing a Kaaos t-shirt stands in front of the old guy to protect him from being fallen on. I notice the old guy patting him on the back and asking him to move out of the way. Brilliant.

Last Kaste are pretty good. Total snotty punk with this girl on vocals who stands on the floor in the crowd for the entire set. Really enjoy the show. The second band, Chapel, seems to grab the attention of the rest of the guys. They’re a three piece wearing corpse paint and the singer/guitarist plays with a hood over his head the whole gig. Sounds more like High on Fire. I think they’re pretty good but, and I’m glad the line up of the show is a good mix, but I lose interest after a few songs. I stand by the merch and drink the second and last beer of the night, really tired and hoping to find some energy from somewhere for the show. There is a steady stream of people entering the venue so it should be a good gig anyway. This one guy catches my eye, he’s stood lingering just to the side of our merch table, looking over now and again. He’s wearing a denim jacket full of patches of which every one is Swedish in origin. There are also a few Wolfpack and Anti Cimex patches in amongst the the mohicans and studded leather jackets.

It’s around half twelve by the time we start setting up. I love it when you can feel a show is already buzzing as you’re stood setting up on stage. People are coming up close to the stage even as we line check. By the time we start the floor is pretty packed and by the third song, Victims in Blood part 5, the punks are really going for it. The show feels great, loads of energy on stage and in the crowd. The stage is quite high and squared off with room down either side of it so we’re surrounded as we play, giving it an all the more intimate feel. It’s a great feeling playing your ass off and seeing punks flying into each other, and those who aren’t are stood with broad smiles enjoying the gig. By the time we finish up with This is the End, we’ve got people on stage. We play Your Life is Red and My Eyes as extra songs and leave the stage to great applause. It’s a fantastic end to what has been a really fun tour.

As we’re packing up after the show lots of people are coming up and thanking us, shaking hands and saying “Wow” a lot. This one guy says he drove over from Calgary to see some show tomorrow night and dropped in tonight just on the off chance and that we blew him away. Another guy tells me he’s been waiting to see Victims since 2001 and that it meant so much to him that we came, he’s pretty emotional about the gig. Amazing how music connects people. What a wonderful thing. The drummer from Last Kaste, who has been taking photos the whole gig asks me if one of us can do a quick five minute interview, I tell him sure and send Jon his way.

And then it’s time to go. It’s a shame, it would have been great to hang out with Vanessa and the crew and I would have liked to see more of this city. My first ever trip to Canada has been all too brief. Hopefully we’ll be back again sometime. Once packed up Vanessa comes over and gives us all big individual hugs, we thank her from the bottom of our hearts and then we head off. Eric and Jude have booked a four star hotel by the airport for the night and they’re taking us there so we can shower off before Eric drops us at the terminal.

It’s about two by the time we get to their hotel and we have to be at the airport for check in at five. What I wouldn’t have done for a direct flight home from Vancouver at say, noon. I’m so jealous of the guys staying at the hotel. I love hotel rooms. Eric has done a monster job for us this tour though and he’s certainly earned a bit of luxury. I think ahead to the end of April when me and Jen are going to London for the weekend, just the two of us for a couple of nights, and have a nice hotel booked. We’re actually going to watch Speedhorn play one of the nights, Kev is coming along too. That will be fun.

Anyway, we take it in pairs to sneak up to their room and shower off. Jon and I head up first whilst Johan and Andy sort their bags out and then we swap. We say goodbye to Jude. It’s been great hanging out with her too. She’s coming over to Europe with the Black Breath guys in July and Stockholm is the last show so they’re going to hang out for a few days. Really looking forward to that.

Whilst Johan and Andy are up showering Jon and I sort our bags out and arrange the rest of the merch. We’ve got a bit left over so we’re bring an extra bag home. Going to cost a bit I guess but we made way more from tonight’s show than we imagined we would so it paid off. We’ve got a release party for the new album coming up in a couple of weeks at Kafe 44 with Bengtsson, so it’ll be good to have some extra merch to sell. Once packed Jon pulls out a bottle of Canadian Club and demands I take a swig with him, just to toast the end of a successful tour. I take the mildest of swigs.. Jon takes a somewhat larger mouthful and by the time Andy and Johan return he’s drunk.

Eric drops us at the airport around three thirty and with some time to kill we get our heads down for an hour or so. I wake up to the vibration of my phone alarm going off in my pocket. Five am, time to check in. I’m so tired I feel fucking stoned. Jon too by the looks of it. Either that or he’s sat drinking his whiskey while the rest of us slept. Either way he’s acting weird. 

It’s going to be a long journey home. At least Andy and I have a direct flight home from Los Angeles, even if we do have an eight hour layover there.  Johan and Jon have to fly via Paris with a further two hours wait there, and their flight leaves LA half hour after ours.  It's going to be an even longer journey home for them, more so for Johan if Jon is, as it appears, intends on going on the sauce. 

Can't wait to get home to see my girls.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Portland (again)

Woke up sweating my ass off on Eric’s couch. We’re heading off early to Portland today so there wasn’t a whole lot of sleep last night. With one foul swoop you’re back to feeling knackered again. Yesterday’s day of rest already forgotten. Seems like Johan is getting sick now too. With my luck it will come to me just as we’re about to fly home on Saturday. Two shows left now. It’s been fun but I’m ready to go home. We have the stress of going in and out of Canada to deal with too. But one thing at a time.

We get some coffee and breakfast for the road and double back on the route we took yesterday. Three hours back to Portland. Eric and I sit up front listening to records and talking about how the poor are kept down by the rich and turned against one another, about the prison labour system here in the States, British colonialism and how we’re not really taught that stuff in school when we’re kids. And then Eric gets into 9/11 conspiracy theories, or facts as he puts it. Time flies by when you’re putting the world to rights.

We get to Portland a couple of hours before load in time so we do a bit of mall shopping and then head over to the venue. The place is fucking huge tonight and when we walk in through the back door and into the concert room we’re met by a lot of serious looking metalheads going about their jobs. The stage is gigantic and there is amps and drums all over the place. Quite the fucking contrast from the Veteran’s Hall in Eugene. I know where I’d rather be. Eric is walking about looking for anyone who might be in charge and this big, long haired, old in-house stage hand who is walking about with a lamp on his head like a zombie shouts at Eric, “Get the fuck out of my way! We’re trying to work here!” I don’t know if he’s joking, I guess he could be Portland’s answer to Bengtsson, but it compounds the feeling that we don’t really belong here.

Thankfully there are some friendly faces and old friends in the building too. Henry, a friend from New York is here tour managing Tribulation, a Swedish band some of whose members I recognise. Then there is Jeff from High on Fire, an old friend of ours, their tour manager John is also a friend of ours. And then there’s Olle, one of Jon’s closest friends who is doing sound for Tribulation. I get talking to Henry for a while and ask how the tour is going. They were in a van crash a while back but they seem to have recovered. Apart from that and one of the bands on the package he said it’s going good. I ask what the deal is with the band he mentions and he says, “Awful band. Terrible people”. Pretty scatching review.

None of the rest of our friends are here yet so we sort things out with the venue staff, most of whom are actually friendly, I guess it was maybe just a bad start with old grumpy bollocks, before heading off in search of food. We’re getting nothing from the show tonight. Not even paid. It was Scotty who wanted us to play the show if the truth is told. But fair enough, I could see why he thinks it’s a good idea.

The venue staff seem to like the cut of our jib, turning up in the green and white bus, and they stand around talking with us for a while. High on Fire’s driver comes up to me as I’m stood there waiting for the rest of the guys and asks if he can have a look onboard, seems to make his day.

It’s fucking roasting in Portland. We go by some food trucks and sit around on a curb in a parking lot, eating burritos in the baking sun. It’s not exactly enjoyable. After a quick walk around we head back to the venue for line check. John has kindly offered to do sound for us for free, he’s only tour managing High on Fire on this tour so he thought it would be fun anyway. John was out with Nasum when Jon was over here a couple of years ago. The huge stage provides a massive sound anyway, not used to hearing Andy’s drums pounding at me through big side fills. We finish up and they open doors right after. With forty five minutes to spare, Jon ducks off with Olle for a quick beer. We haven’t got wristbands yet though and the thought of him not getting back into the venue through the tight security here makes me smirk to myself. Turns out to be no problem though.

Feels like Johan is a mixture of nerves and sick today and not long before we go on stage his nose starts bleeding. We’re stood in the wings waiting for the sign to go on and Jon tells everyone to not stress the gig. I don’t feel the slightest bit stressed. I’ve done a hundred gigs like this with Speedhorn over the years and they were normally pants. All very well doing a big gig but if you’re first on and playing to nobody then it is in fact just a small gig in a big venue, which is just cack. And pointless. We walk out on to the stage and I swear there are less people in the room than there was at the Eugene gig the other night. Total pants. Just as we’re about to get going Jeff from High on Fire runs on to stage and hugs everyone, and then he heads out on to the floor to stand and watch with Henry, Eric and Olle.

The gig actually isn’t that bad. As the set goes on people filter in and the crowd gradually inflates to around a couple of hundred. There are actually quite a few sat up on the balcony that goes around three quarters of the room. At one point during the gig a small most pit even starts up, although it only consists of about four people running around a large space of open floor. And then when Jon announces, “Okay, we’re gonna play two more and then leave you alone” someone shouts back, “Play three!” I don’t know if they’re taking the piss.

We pack down immediately and the helpful venue crew help us down to the loading bay with everything. Jon appears with a six pack of Pale Ale that Jeff had given him from High on Fire’s rider. Nice one. Sweating my ass off, sat in the breeze by the door to the parking lot, the beer goes down a treat. Once the van is packed I go back up to the stage to watch a bit of Tribulation. It’s not really my thing but it’s actually pretty fun watching them. They put on a great show, very choreographed maybe, but that’s a big part of the package I guess. The guitarist on the side of the stage I’m wearing catches my eye and I can’t take my eyes off him afterwards. He’s wearing high heels and an open see through blouse, really skinny guy wearing make up, effeminately dancing about the stage as he plays. It’s almost like watching a ballet dancer. There is incense burning on either side of the stage and as much as the music isn’t my cup of tea I can’t help but appreciate the art in their performance.

Towards the end of Tribulation Brad from From Ashes arrives, he’s gutted he just missed us, he tells us he was on parent duty. It’s okay, it’s great to see him. He mastered the new record and it’s fun to have a copy to give him. Ridiculously he insists on paying for it. I laugh when Tribulation finish their set. The house lights come on and the four in the band link arms at the front of the stage and take a bow, and then stand there waving arms in the air and thanking the crowd. The venue is maybe no more than a third full but they’re stood there looking like the back of that Alice Cooper band record. I don’t know if they’re taking the piss.

We head over the road to this games arcade that has a bar with Brad and Olle. It’s nice to sit and chat with them, we talk mainly about kids and the joys and tribulations, no pun intended, of being a parent. A little bit of punk rock gets thrown into the conversation of course, but it’s mainly kid stuff we cover. We get talking about Canada since we’re heading there next. I tell him I’ve never been there before. Brad says, “It takes a couple of hours to go through all that border control shit and then you drive five miles into the country and you realise, it’s exactly the same thing. And then some punk comes up to you at the show and says, “It’s great that you guys could come oot”, and you realise, that’s different”. Brad has to head off early tonight, he’s got a big evening on with his wife tomorrow for her birthday party. Something about a Price is Right theme night or something. Fuck knows.. It was great to see him for a little while anyway.

We head back over the road and catch most of the High on Fire set. Always fun to see those guys play even if don’t really listen to their records all that much. Watching Jon’s big idol Matt Pike play guitar is always entertaining though. I’m surprised that there are still pretty big gaps at the back end of the room though. Might be that this venue was a little too big for this package. The room doesn’t fill up any more when that fat sausage Abbath goes on afterwards to close out the show. Two songs into that we pack up the merch, think we sold around eighty dollars tonight, half of which came from Brad and Jeff, and head out to the van. Andy and I go to meet up with Joe from Long Knife whose drumkit we’ve rented on this tour, he’s stood outside the venue. We spend most of the time talking about GISM and Deathside playing again, and how he’s heading over to Europe to see them play. Before we leave we pop into the High on Fire bus to say bye to the guys and hang out there for a few minutes. Joe Preston from The Melvins is here too, he stands there smiling broadly without saying much. Always looked like a nice old dude did Joe, proves to be the case. We’ve certainly caught up with a lot of people on this little trip.

The drive back to Seattle seems to take forever though. From the beginning I’m fighting like hell to stay awake, but about halfway through the journey I get a second wind. We continue with Eric’s Teenage Fanclub education whilst the others sleep in the back. It’s three am when we get back to Eric’s. I’m out almost as soon as I hit the couch.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Seattle

After three days of seven hour drives it was a bit of a luxury to wake up today knowing we’ve only got a few hours in the bus up to Seattle. The plan was to get up there early and spend the day hanging out with Eric in his home town. I think he was eager tos how us about his home. I was really looking forward to it. The plan is to the same tomorrow and head back to Portland early since we’re back for the High on Fire show before heading to Vancouver for the last show of the tour.

I have a quick mug of coffee on the veranda at the back of Kelly’s house, the sun is shining and I feel good. Got to speak to the girls on Skype too, the perfect start to the day. We take some pics with Bengtsson and then say our goodbyes. Jamie has already left for work but hopefully we’ll catch him when we’re back tomorrow. Bengtsson tips us off about a decent organic coffee shop a few blocks away so we head there to get some breakfast to go. I tuck into a delicious fried egg, cheese and sundried tomato roll and a cappuccino. The people at the cafe are really friendly, “You guys look like you’re in a band”, remarks the girl behind the counter. After talking for a little while I head out to the bus and then when Eric comes out behind me he’s holding a big paper bag full of yesterday’s muffins that they just gave us for free. Great start to the day.

It only takes a couple of hours up to Seattle. I sit up front with Eric as usual and we play gems from the Teenage Fanclub catalogue, he seems to really dig it, whilst he points out the sights like mountains St. Helens and Rainier, as well as places like Tacoma, Olympia and the Sleeter-Kinney Road which the band took their name from. It’s just after one when we get into the city. Before heading to the houseboat where Eric and Jude live, and where we’ll be sleeping tonight, Eric takes us to this park called Gasworks Park, which is an old gasworks that they’ve now turned into a green park overlooking the lake with a great view of the Seattle skyline on the other side. Really cool place. We sit around in the sun for a bit, taking in the views and just generally chilling out.

Eric’s place is pretty amazing. They live by the marina which is in the middle of an industrial area which helps keep the price of living down for them. Their boat is more of a two story apartment floating on the water than a boat, it has no motor. I can’t believe it when we turn up, it’s one of the coolest homes I’ve ever seen. We sit upstairs out on the deck in the sun and enjoy a cold bottle of Pyramid IPA. I could sit there all day. Pure fucking heaven.

Andy is looking worse today. He looks pale and in dire need of rest. I can see him flagging and as we’re sat out on deck drinking he’s gone and lay down on the bed. Sucks to be ill on tour. THe four of us decide we’re gonna go play some mini golf over by the golf club and leave Andy in peace. After stopping by a taco truck just outside the marina Eric drives us over in his El Camino pick-up to the club, Jon sat in the front and me and Johan sat outside on the back. Feels fucking weird driving around Seattle backwards out in the open of the pick-up garnering looks from other drivers as we pass them. They have a great deal at the golf club where for eleven dollars you get a round of 18 holes on the mini golf and a pint of beer. Fucking magic.

It’s so nice being out of the van and just hanging out, doing something else outside of tour world. We have a good game, Johan winning, taking me at the last couple of holes. It was neck and neck between us but then I choked when the pressure was on. Johan was well chuffed. Jon comes in last but seems happy with his efforts. It’s around six thirty by the time we’re done and all of a sudden we’re back in tour mode. Almost forgot we had a show to play tonight. Andy is sleeping on the sofa when we get back and for a minute I wonder if he’s going to make the show at all tonight but when he wakes up he actually looks a bit better. Apparently Jude has given him so strong medicine.

On the way to the gig we stop by Guitar Centre to buy a replacement bass drum skin for the one that Bigfoot destroyed last night. The venue, The Highline, is a vegan punk venue/restaurant bar in the trendy Capitol Hill area of town. It’s a nice spot and the staff are really friendly. They give us a few beer tickets each and tell us to order what we want from the menu. It’s a good line up on the bill tonight with Jaeng and Deathraid playing with us. Eric has said that it will be a similar sort of crowd to the one in Portland last night, ie, older and a lot of people in bands, but that there should be a bit more energy from them. He is of course of the opinion that the Seattle scene is superior to that of it’s Oregon counterpart.

We set the stuff up on stage and then order some food. I order a vegan battered fish sandwich and fries. It’s really good but after eating it I feel a bit weird, almost a bit sick. I think it must be simply a case of days of eating fried food. I think I need a salad tomorrow, or soup, veggie sushi or something. I need some health simply put. After dinner we all decide to take a walk around the area since we’ve got a couple of hours to kill and we all feel a bit bloated. We bump into Eric and Jude who had taken off to get some thai food and they take us down to the neighbourhood where Elijah from Black Breath works. Would be good to see him. Not sure if he’s around though since he hasn’t been replying to Eric’s text messages. He’s always fun to see and I want to check out his hair. He’s known for having this huge ginger hippie afro but Eric told us that strangely it seems to have shrunk recently even though he hasn’t cut it.

We walk over to the record shop where he works which is this huge place full of vinyl. I walk in and I swear I hear Elijah’s voice greeting us, “Alright guys”, Johan hears it too but we don’t see him. Turns out the sound was one of us walking in on a creaking floorboard. We piss ourselves laughing since we were both convinced it was him and that is how he sounds when he talks, that kind of Beavis and Butthead tone going on. Turns out Elijah is in India with his girlfriend. Hadn’t bothered telling anyone in the band he was going, just fucked off. Classic Elijah. Eric wonders if he’ll even make it back. We all go record shopping anyway, Andy picking up a few choice hardcore cuts for cheap. I pick up a copy of Mother’s Finest’s second lp that Eric has been playing in the van. They were this really cool black rock n’ roll band from the Seventies. I soon as I heard it I thought to myself that it would be right up Jen’s street. It was only four bucks. The guy behind the counter makes me laugh. I go up with the lp and he asks, “Hi how are you doing today? Do you want a bag for that?”. The usual. I pay up and start to walk out when Andy shouts me from the racks with a punk lp that he says I need to buy, only costs three bucks, so I take it and head back to the counter. Literally a minute later. “Hi how are you doing today? Do you want a bag for that?” He’s not kidding either.

Afterwards Eric wants to pop by the bar he works in, it’s just across the road and he needs to pick up his paycheck, says he can sort us out with some free beers. Sounds good to me. The place is busy but we manage to get a booth and Eric sorts out a pitcher of Manny’s IPA. You can tell this place is one of the places to be and you get the sense that at the weekend the place is packed, full of poseurs. The beer goes down a treat and I have a nice time sitting there having a conversation with Jon and Jude about studying since all three of us are currently or soon to be back in school. She’s really friendly and easy to talk to, just like Eric. They make a great pair.

Time is getting on so we have to head back to the venue. It’s past ten and we’ve probably already missed the first band, which is a bit of a shame since someone in Portland last night told me they were really good. As we walk back up the road I say to Johan that if I’m honest, I could happily fuck the show off tonight and just hang out on Eric and Jude’s boat, chill out and watch a film or something. He couldn’t agree more. Think we’re all feeling the burn a bit. Old bastards, we’ve only done six shows…When did it get this way really?

Neil from Black Breath is at the show though meaning that we’ve checked off the whole band on this tour except Elijah. Neil looks as happy as ever, comes up and gives us all crushing hugs. Eric introduces me to a friend of his Dave, who is sat at the bar. He’s been a huge fan of Victims for years and he’s telling me how he fucked off work to come to the gig and that he’d only found out about it today. He’s well chuffed.

We did indeed miss the first band which is a bit of a bummer and Deathraid are already playing when we arrive. They sound fucking great and me and Andy stand and watch the rest of their show. The sound in here is top notch, loud but not overpowering and you can hear everything perfectly. Deathraid drive a lorry load of d-beat straight into the crowd for about twenty five minutes. Nothing new, but done really well. I guess Victims aren’t really bringing anything too original to the whole d-beat genre either, not many do, but it’s always a buzz seeing bands who do the style really well. Watching Deathraid puts me in the mood to play the show for the first time today. Thanks guys.

There is a fairly decent sized crowd in for tonight considering it’s a Wednesday, the dancefloor area is filled out. I don’t know what it is but there is just a lot more energy tonight. The crowd is really receptive, and although they’re not flying about the place, this is another 21 and over venue so to be expected, there are quite a few heads banging enthusiastically and the entire crowd seems to be smiling. Eric is stood right in front of me the whole gig banging his head, loving every second of it, he might be a bit drunk I don’t know. There is this one girl beside him who is sending a text message and he bangs her out the way, making it clear that if she wants to stand and text she should go to the back of the room. She throws the ice from her drink at his back but he doesn’t give a piss, just carries on banging his head. Nice having such an enthusiastic driver/tour manager. Not to mention good friend. We get called back on for an encore tonight and unlike the LA show we nail both songs.

Really good gig, I’m buzzing afterwards. I grab a pint from the bar and get a rush from it straight away. Feeling a bit sauced I decide to leave packing down the gear and head to the merch where Eric and Jude are helping people with their needs. I meet a bunch of friendly people who really digged the show. I’m blown away by this guy from Japan, whose name I learn is Taki. He tells me he flew here from Tokyo just to see us. I’m sure I’ve misheard the guy but he confirms that he’s here just for us. Exasperated, I ask him why. “You no come Japan”, he says completely non plussed. I give him a big hug and take him around to the rest of the band and get everyone to sign stuff for him and he asks if he can get a group photo with us. I’ve never seen anyone so happy, he keeps repeating, “This is so cool!” I feel completely humbled by Taki. It certainly puts things into perspective.

I also get talking to two of the guys from Jaeng, turns out they're from the band Gloss.  I tell them they my other band has a song on the new record which had the working title Gloss, they laugh and look pretty touched by that.  Great band.  Feel like I missed out now, should have seen Jaeng.  I'll have to check out some of their stuff online.

We hang out for a little while longer before loading out the gear and heading back to the boat. Jude has sorted some beers and snacks and when we get back to their lovely home we sit around munching on avocado oil chips and hummus, talking American politics until four am.

Today was a good day.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Portland

Somewhere in the middle of the night I’m stirred by some sort of hushed commotion. I open my eyes a slither and from what I can make out Andy and Johan are guiding Jon back to bed. I hear something about the mess in the bathroom. I don’t want to know the details. When I wake next time it’s daylight and the guys are up and about, getting things ready to go. Dying for a piss I go to the toilet and find the bog blocked with a mush of toilet paper and the remnants of what I’m guessing is Jon’s handywork. There is even a sodden heap of toilet paper on the side of the bathtub. The toilet is fucked. Fuck knows what Jon was doing in here last night but the place is a mess. The lot of us have to make do with pissing in the shower. Amazingly, once Jon is up and about he doesn’t so bad. I was sure today was going to be rough as balls for the guy but he seems to be functioning. He’s pretty quiet though, hasn’t got much to say for himself.

After taking breakfast at the diner across the road and checking out the local pawn shop where they have both musical equipment and machine guns for sale, we get on the road. It’s another long journey today. We didn’t make too much progress in the dark last night so we still have about three quarters of the journey left. Like that punk kid told me last night though, “You don’t wanna make that journey in the dark, it’s some of the most beautiful scenery in the country”. He wasn’t lying.

It’s a glorious day, the sun shining proudly in the middle of a cobalt blue sky. We drive through the Jedediah Smith Redwood Park, following the Smith river all the way over to the I-5. The road through the national reserve is breathtaking. The Smith river streams forcefully alongside us, it’s crystal clear water frequently peppered with white water rapids. The road gets nervously narrow at points, crumbling rock faces on one side, sheer drops into the the river on the other. Eric can’t quite enjoy the view as much as myself for long parts of the journey. I’m sat up front with up, eyes wide and constantly gaping, “Woah shit! This is amazing!” The star of this particular show though are the magnificent redwood trees. Words can’t justify the majesty of these great beasts of the forest. We pull over at a layout at one point and get out of the van to enjoy a more intimate look at them. I could stand here all day, by the river, looking at them. We take some photos and breathe in the crisp river air. When you’re stood in the midst of nature’s finest like this you can’t help but feel that you’re place on this planet pales into insignificance. When we get back in the van and carry on with our journey towards Portland I sit there and think about how lucky to have the opportunity to travel to places such as these through simply playing punk rock.

The journey, although it’s as long as yesterday, isn’t anywhere near as draining. I guess the scenery helps, even back on the I-5 there are spectacular views of the Siskiyou Mountains. I have to say, I’m impressed with Jon, he’s been sat in the back of the bus studying all afternoon. How he survived last night unscathed I’ll never know. If I’d been in that state last night there isn’t a fucking chance I’d be studying economics today, I’d be sat here crying to myself. He’s obviously made of sterner stuff than he gets credit for. We make it to Portland in good time. We even take the time out to pop into an outlet centre, Vans shoes shopping on the agenda. I end up feeling like a right shit dad though since I realise that I don’t know what size shoes Polly has. Funny how your emotions swing when you’re on tour. Andy and I make an educated guess and I end up picking up some pretty cool shoes for her.

We arrive in Portland just before seven. The drive into the city is pretty cool. We drive over this huge double decker bridge that takes us across the Columbia RIver. There are loads of bridges crossing the river, all of different designs. The city’s surrounding horizon is decorated with monstrous white peaked mountains that stand alone. Some of them reaching as high as 14,000 feet. Absolutely incredible to look at. We pull into the low lying neighbourhood and park the bus right outside the Black Water Bar where we’re playing tonight. We’ve got a host of friends here so it should be a really fun show.

Strange thing, we were asked if we would be part of a documentary about this famous punk venue a while back and so there are two guys here who are going to film us loading the gear in and later interview some of us. Kind of strange lugging in gear and trying to pretend the cameras aren’t there. Once we’re done and set up on stage Andy asks me if I want to do the interview with him. We feel like a right pair of plums, stood outside the venue on the street, each with a mic in hand. The interview only takes about ten minutes. It’s mainly based on the Portland scene and our connection to it, which is mainly through our friends and the greater punk community in general. There are some questions about being vegetarian too, since this place is known for it’s all vegan menu. At the end of the interview they ask us if we would give a message in Swedish back to people back home. Not knowing what the fuck to say I just blurt out, “Hey Polly. Pappa misses you, home soon!” Andy does the same. When we walk back into the venue Andy says, “Fuck, we should have said fuck SD or something”.

It’s time to get try out the vegan cuisine anyway. Jamie, our good friend who plays in Black Breath with Eric is here. He actually works in the kitchen here but today he’s free. He has arrived with the legend that is Bengtsson. Really weird to be hanging out Portland with him. He’s here for Andrew Loomis’ funeral, been here for a couple of weeks. Always fun to see him. He goes back home to Stockholm a couple of days after us. He’s in his usual comical grumpy mood, it’s his thing. Totally deadpan, he plays it up big time. Always fun to hang out with him. The food is indeed superb. I go for a crispy chicken and bacon sandwich. It’s a bit tight on the hospitality tonight, we get four drink tickets each but food can be purchased for three of those tickets. One ticket is good for a PBR, two for an IPA from the tap. Johan comments with that sarcastic self amused look on his face, “So the band can either eat food or have a beer? You get one or the other?” The girl working the bar had explained the beer ticket situation, tipping me on going for the PBR since we’d get more of them. I laugh with her and say that my days of more is better have long gone. I go for an IPA.

Keith who is putting the show on is an old friend of the band but I have a bit of a hard time working him out. He’s pretty quiet. I think it sucks that he won’t give Eric any tickets, he says that he already give the band one ticket extra each. I guess this is the usual way in the US. We’re pretty spoiled in Europe as far as hospitality goes. Or are we? Maybe that’s the way it should be. Keith tells him that he’ll try and work out some more tickets later but it doesn’t sound too convincing. The beer from the bar is both good and cheap though and everyone here is really friendly, it could be worse. Could be way worse when you think about it. Fuck it.

John from From Ashes Rise is playing with his other band tonight, Pressing On, which also has people from the great band Talk is Poison. They’re first on the show tonight. Great to see him. We catch up on dad life and share pics and all the usual stuff. He looks totally chuffed with things. Pressing On are bang on it too. So fast and tight it’s unreal. I’m filled with envy as I stand there watching John play seemingly effortlessly at a hundred miles an hour, riffs all over the place, solos thrown in almost nonchalantly. Bastard. I’m ridiculously limited as a guitar player considering I’ve been doing it for twenty five years. Anyway, they blast through the set and there a good few people in. The bar is set up with a stage on one wall, a floor space in front of it and then dining tables behind that. Everyone gets up and stands to watch them though. I’m a little surprised by the dampened response between their songs but then looking at the crowd you notice that almost everyone here is over thirty and plays in bands. Derek from From Ashes is here, Billy from Tragedy, who is wearing a Bengtsson t-shirt, the Long Knife guys, a host of others.

When they’re finished Keith comes up to me at the merch table with some guy kitted out in a leather jacket, bandana around the neck and rockstar shades resting on top of his head. Looks a right fucking poseur. Keith asks tells me this is the other band, who flew in from Texas, and they have no drumkit, is it okay if they borrow ours? I check with Johan and we figure it works. Only then does Shades, who has been stood behind Keith smiling nervously, come forward and talk, just to say thanks. Seems nice enough I guess. They go off and double check with Andy who is stood outside and he comes back in and shows them the gear. When he comes back to me he says, “I hate this band!” He can’t work out why they didn’t contact anyone beforehand, since they were flying in from Texas without any gear. Fair enough point I guess. What the fuck would they do if we were assholes and just told them no. Turns out they need to borrow a whole load more too. Shades needs an amp, they need to borrow the snare and drum pedal too, bass amp needed too. Andy is well pissed off, “Seems like they didn’t forget to bring their fucking candles for the merch table but actual equipment is less of a priority”.

The best bit is that once they’re sorted with our gear on stage this Bigfoot looking fucker walks out from the side room of the stage and starts tinkling with the drums. They kept that fucker hidden well. He must be about seven foot and wide as a house, long greasy hair and a goatee beard. I say to Andy that the typical thing will be that after all this it will turn out they’re great. It doesn’t really work out that way as it turns out. The bass player, clad in low lying bandana and Totalitär t-shirt, he looks like the character Dave from Flight of the Conchords, starts playing some driving plink plonk riff. Then Shades and Bigfoot join in and the girl singing starts chirping into her mic through a reverb pedal. It’s kind of new wave punk, a bit like some of the stuff that has been coming out of places like Barcelona and London. I don’t mind that style at all but this isn’t that shit hot. The only thing that keeps me amused throughout it is watching Bigfoot play two handed on the hi-hat, he’s getting funky as shit. Then of course he puts the front skin of the bass drum through and the amusement turns to annoyance. Glad you could play tonight guys.

Andy says that he’s not feeling great at the minute, feels like he’s got some sort of fever on the go. Said he got a cold chill when Pressing On were playing and had to go sit down. He’s been coughing like a chimney at times during this tour, a bit worried about the old boy. As Texas are packing down the gear they actually brought with them I ask Johan if he fancies a shot before the gig, he said he was feeling tired as shit today again. He seems to think it’s a good idea, we decide on rum. I man the merch as Johan pops off. He asks Andy if wants a shot before the gig, Andy replies in shock, “Do I want a shot? Are you joking?” Johan looks at me and smiles and then fucks off to the bar. The shot of Captain Morgan goes down well enough but doesn’t really give me the injection of energy I was hoping for.

Just as we’re about to start setting up our old friend Dispeter arrives. He’s been living here for a while. He’s another pappa in the crew, they’ve just had their second a couple of months ago. Great to see him, he looks chuffed with his lot. We get set up pretty quick and try to get on with things. It’s an early curfew tonight of eleven pm. Suits us old fuckers just fine. Sounds pretty good on stage we get going. During the second song I’m hit by a putrid smell of electricity burning. It’s a pretty sickening smell that I can even taste in my mouth, turns my fucking stomach. The rest of the gig is for my part a fight against that. The show tonight feels a bit like Oakland the other night, pretty good crowd but not much of a response. People just stood about with their arms crossed. Kinda exactly like I was during Pressing On. I guess that’s the way it is when you play to a room of people like me, namely over thirty and in bands. There are a few people stood up front watching intently but that almost puts you more on your guard. It’s quite the comparison to last nights show. Play to young kids in a small town where not much happens, play to old fuckers like myself in Portland. It’s not rocket science really.

After the show we pack down quick and then stand around chatting for a bit whilst shifting a bit of merch. I get talking to Jonathan the bass player in Pressing On, he tells me he booked the Victims show in Portland last time they were here, ten years ago. Good guy. He says that he’d love to book a tour with us and them, the two bands sharing a van and doing the West Coast. Johan books it in for 2026.

Some young girl from Sweden comes up to me afterwards and starts chatting away. She’d caught me during the show and told me to turn up my amp since you couldn’t hear it. I don’t know how it affected things out front when I compiled, it felt overall really loud in here tonight. We stand there and chat for about ten minutes anyway, she’s really cool. Ana is her name, a real Gothenburger. I love the accent, cracks me up. Always makes me think if Nitad’s old roadie, Mats. Once sorted we take off in the bus with Jamie, Bengtsson and an old friend of the guys called Ryan, who had put them up when they played last time. We’re staying at Kelly from Problems house tonight. Jamie is living there for a couple of months whilst Kelly is on tour, and Bengtsson is staying there too whilst he’s here. THe thought of those two hanging out in the house for a couple of weeks is an amusing one. Jamie has been been to the store and bought a case of beer and some cider. When leaving the venue I’d been really in the mood for a chilled out bar, of which Jamie said there were plenty within ten minutes walk of the house, but once we get here that pepp has well and truly gone. I sink into the couch and start tucking into some nachos and salsa and get into conversation with Bengtsson and Johan. Andy has the one beer before bedding himself down at the other end of the room, Bengtsson doing his best to taunt him and get a rise out of him as he does so.

After a couple of beers I feel the need of sleep coming to me too. Jamie and Jon are sat out on the back porch talking guitars and riffs whilst the rest of us bed down for the night. I’m lying on this long, soft couch adjacent to another couch that Bengtsson is on. Bengtsson is loudly commending my choice of sleeping spot, saying I’ve got the best spot in the house. “Fucking good couch that! This one too, we’ve got it sorted! Look at these guys on the floor.” I fall asleep to the sound of Bengtsson laughing at some tv show he’s watching on his phone.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Eureka

Woke up at Scotty’s and helped ourselves to bagels and coffee. Scotty was nowhere to be seen but he’d told us to help ourselves. One of his housemates appears after a while and find Andy, Johan and I stood around this drip down filter coffee device, studying how it works. How many men does it take to make a cup of coffee?

We sit around on the steps of Scotty’s house, doing breakfast in the sun. Pretty chilled out start to the day. We have a drive of about six hours today, it’s not all that far to Eureka but the roads are small and winding. We leave Scotty’s around midday and head over to Berkeley to check out Amoeba Records. We figure that we don’t really need to stress getting to Eureka, rather hang out here. They told us that we should get there for eight at latest so we’re aiming for that. The plan is to get there play, hang out for a couple of hours and then drive a little longer afterwards and get a motel. It’s an early show tonight, has to be done for ten, and we have a long assed drive to Portland tomorrow.

As we’re driving along the avenue that leads to Berkeley Eric tells me about his experiences with Oakland. He says West Oakland is about as rough as it gets, and it’s there that a lot of the punk kids live since it’s a lot cheaper on the rent. Eric says that he was driving through there one time in a car with some friends and they’d stopped at an intersection. Eric was laughing about something and then he noticed some old guy in a string vest stood on his porch looking menacingly at him. Staring him straight in the eye he points and Eric and says, “I will execute you!” Eric, a little shocked, continues to laugh and then the old guy repeats the threat again whilst running his thumb across his throat. Shitting himself he burns out of there. I asked Eric what the fuck had he done to warrant that, “I didn’t do anything apart from being a white guy in his neighborhood I guess”. Scary shit. On many levels.

Oakland merges into Berkeley without announcement, the only reason you know you’re in Berkeley is that all of a sudden it feels like you’re driving through a theme park for tourists. It’s quite the contrast from it’s neighbour. There are tourists and students roaming the streets everywhere. We do a bit of shopping at Amoeba, I pick up a Hjertestop record as well as the last Violent Reaction lp. Once done we grab some pizza slice and sit around on the curb behind the bus, enjoying the sunshine, before boarding for the ride. Berkeley is a pretty little place, kind of place you feel you should be here on holiday with the family and enjoy it a little more. For now, all we get is a view from the bus as we make our way to highway. The views of the bay and the silhouette of San Francisco on the hazy horizon are pretty cool anyway.

The drive seems to last forever. We were on our way by one pm, but it’s closing in on eight by the time we begin to near Eureka. We stopped a couple of times along the way for some scenic piss stops. The woods up here are something else. The entire journey is made along the smaller road that runs directly north of the Bay Area, there are some stunning views and every now and again you’re in the heart of the forest, the road snaking carefully through giant redwood trees. It’s beautiful but a little nerve tingling at times. We’re getting close to Eureka and the clouds are indeed rolling in, just like Andy Gibbs had said they would. I’m sat there looking at them as we’re pulling up the long, slow hills of the forest roads and thinking that maybe this Eureka place will live up to it’s reputation.

We get to town around seven forty five, fifteen minutes before the deadline they’d given us, or on time as Eric sees it, and we’re hit with the anti climax that is the strip mall. I’m a little disappointed by the fact that it looks like any other new town in the US. There are some nice little spots along the oceanfront though and the place we’re playing is further into the residential area, which itself looks like a pretty normal grid system town, if not a little run down. We pull into the VFW hall carpark where there are a few young punk kids hanging out. We pile out of the van to find out what’s happening and some kid who looks like he knows what’s going on approaches us, “Are you from Sweden?”. This amuses Andy. The kid tells us to load in around the back where they have a ramp. We do that and find what I assume is the first band loading their gear out. We load into the hall where the second band are line checking, the girl who plays bass is Maria and she’s putting the show on tonight. Could be a really fun show. There are a handful of kids hanging about the room, not one of them looks to be a day older than eighteen. Maria’s band are checking their gear, they have a high drum riser where the kit and their backline is stood aloft on, whilst the Maria and the other girl on synth stand on the floor. Can’t really see Andy wanting be sat up there looking like a plum.

There are four bands on tonight, and the word is that it would be a good idea if we played third since that’s normally how they do it, leaving one local band to close out the show. Sounds like a fair enough idea to me. It’s probably a good tactic in these smaller towns that a lot of bands never make it through, since all the kids that come these shows will probably go to any show going, it’s not necessarily that the kids here are fans of Victims, they’re just chuffed there’s something going on at all. We dump the gear in the space to the side of the stage, behind a projector screen where they have images displaying as a backdrop to the bands. Andy starts setting up his drums, Johan and I decide to check out the bar on the other side of the corridor from this function room.

Jon is already sat there on a barstool, his brightly coloured Venom patch on the back of his leather jacket shining like a beacon amongst the young punks. He’s enjoying a can of PBR and in the process of beginning a conversation with some older woman beside him. The bartender is this old brick wall of a guy, trucker cap and long grey beard just about hiding a sly smile. In notice they have Lagunitas on tap, it’s the only tap they actually have, and by the look of it it’s only two dollars fifty a pint. Nice one. We order two of them and the guy asks us if we’re sure. We assure him and so tentatively he walks off to the tap and starts pouring foam into a big jug. He tells us it will take a little while, there’s something wrong with the barrel. No stress, I tell him. Five minutes or so later he comes with two plastic mugs full of beer and when we go to pay he just waves us away and winks at us. Nice one mate.

We take a seat at table and some crust punk comes up to me and starts talking, tells me he’s really grateful to us for coming through his town. He can’t believe that we’re here from Sweden, to just play nine shows and that one of those shows is Eureka. I can’t really believe that either, if I’m being honest. He’s a really nice kid anyway, I ask him for tips and travelling to Portland from here, tell him we’re looking to do a couple of hours and then get a motel at the next town, Crescent City. After there the roads aren’t anything you want to be driving on in the dark, he warns us, and besides, it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and you want to see it in the daylight, he smiles.

It’s time for us to start setting up for the gig and we grab Jon from the bar who has just ordered another beer and a shot of Jameson. Brick Wall enthusiastically pours Jon a huge double, probably a treble, and then pours one for himself. Brick Wall downs it like it’s water and patiently waits for Jon to finish his, which takes a couple of swigs. We push the riser back and set everything up on the floor. Maria proudly loads the VIctims logo onto the screen as a backdrop for us, really cute. Some other young kid stands just beside me on his own, looking on as we set up the gear. I say hello to him and a big smile beams across his face. He says he’s looking forward to seeing us. I tell him I’m looking forward to playing. It takes us about ten minutes to set up and during that time the dark room has started to fill with kids, there must be fifty or sixty or so, it’s more than I thought it would be, I wouldn’t have imagined there with this many punk/alternative kids in Eureka.
From the very first chords of Death Do Us Part, the kids go fucking wild. I can’t really make out what’s going on since all I can see is a shadow of bodies flying around in the dark behind those who are stood in the front line. When we break for the first time we’re greeted with a screaming roar. I can’t believe this, it’s fucking amazing. I look over at Johan who has his back turned to the crowd, tuning his bass with a huge smile on his face. Back into V5/V6 and the kids continue the carnage. It sounds great as well. I’m flying about myself, feeding of the energy these kids are pouring out into the room. I feel like I could play all night. There are kids crowd surfing, piling up on top of each other, one guy is hanging off of some pipes from the ceiling, it’s totally radge. By far the most show of the tour so far. It’s funny, last night in Oakland the place was really busy but most of them were stood there with their arms folded. Tonight could not be any different. At the end of the set they start chanting for an encore but we decide to leave it, there is still another band to go and the curfew is supposed to be ten pm. Maria goes up to the mic and starts chanting us on, the kids continue baying for us to come back. Andy makes a waving gesture to signal that there won’t be any more and I hear one guy’s voice, distinct from the crowd, shout, “Why not?” And then moments later when the celing lights come on I hear him again, “Oh man…” he sounds genuinely gutted. What a fucking gig.

We dry off in the kitchen beside the gig hall and tuck into some bean tacos that they’ve sorted for us. Afterwards we watch most of the last band, Pervert, young kids playing sludgy hardcore, reminds me of the old band Molehill. Pretty good stuff. There aren’t a whole load of kids left but those who remain having a whale of a time. Towards the end I motion to Johan and we head over to the bar. Jon is there with another huge glass of whisky and a beer, chatting away to Brick Wall. I order another couple of Lagunitas but he shakes his head and tells us we should have some Downtown Brown, and hands us each a bottle of the locally brewed Brown Ale. I have a sip and find myself pleasantly surprised, it’s really light on the gut and booming in taste. I put my hand in my pocket and the big smiling Brick Wall barks in his best English accent, “Fuck off! You conts!” Fucking love this guy. We leave Jon to his mates and take seats at the other end of the bar and watch a bit of the baseball on tv. Brick Wall comes over to us after a while and makes a loud gesture, “All you travelling band motherfuckers, shots on the house!” Somehow I get the feeling he’s not going to take no for an answer. He pours three huge shots of whisky and asks where the drummer is, Johan tells him that he doesn’t think he will drink it, he’s not really in that place today. Brick Wall shrugs his shoulders and drinks Andy’s shot. We follow suit and the burn in the chest is immediate. Not really how I envisioned this going. Turns out Brick Wall is a really nice guy, he leans over the bar and starts chatting away to us, telling us about the town and how he thinks it’s great that these young kids are trying to get something going with a music scene here. I can only agree. It warms the heart. These veteran halls may have a bit of a hard exterior but in my experience they’re always really welcoming. It’s a pleasure to be here tonight.

Shortly afterwards Andy’s turns up and tells us that Eric is ready to go and it’s time to pack up. That’s the end of that then. I rush down the rest of my beer and we grab Jon on the way out, who is on whisky number I don’t know fucking what. Don’t want to know… As we make trips back and forth to the van there seems to be a small bit of drama going on. One of the young punk kids is wasted and is making a bit of a scene. Brick Wall is telling him in no uncertain terms that it’s time to go. The kid obviously feels insulted by this. It goes on for a while and I catch little snippets of it as I pass by with various bits of gear. Andy cracks up outside, telling me he heard Brick Wall finally losing his rag with the kid’s refusal to leave, “Right that’s it asshole, time to get your mom down here!” Seems like this community takes care of itself.

We’re almost done with the pack, just a couple of guitars and merch left. Me and Jon head back in. I turn into the gig hall, Jon takes a left into the bar saying something about one last for the road. When all is packed Johan and I go inside to thank Maria for everything and then pick up Jon. He’s stood there drinking another massive glass of Irish, talking to some young kid in a bandana, “Listen to this kids story!” Before we get the chance to politely decline the kid starts up with his tale of how Lemmy kidnapped him for four days, frequently peppering his story with pauses for effect. We have to stand there and listen to him for close to ten minutes whilst Jon stands beside him eagerly egging him on. Finally a friend of Bandana grabs him and says he’s needed outside to deal with his pissed up friend. Before he leaves he says, “Long story short, I spent four days on tour with Motörhead carrying Mickey D’s drums, getting 500 dollars in the process. Sex. Drugs (at this he pauses and exaggeratedly wipes his nose with his thumb). And rock n’ roll.”

Finally able to get the fuck out there, we pass Brick Wall sat under a tree with his arm around the pissed kid, “I like you”, I hear him saying. Think Brick Wall is pretty sauced up himself. We get in the van and head back to the highway, now shrouded in darkness, and set our sights on Crescent City and a motel.

I sit up front with Eric, playing music and chatting away. He’s not too psyched about this drive but we’re told that the road is pretty decent most of the way. It’s pitch black though. At one point we pull over on the side of the road and gaze up at the stars. The stars are magnificent, feels like we’re stood in a planetarium. We continue down the road, hoping that we’ll make it to Crescent City before two so we can purchase a couple of beers. I told Eric I have a vision of lying in a motel bed, watching tv and drinking a beer. Eric tells me he likes that vision. The road starts to snake the closer we get to our destination. It’s so fucking dark. To make matters worse, the fuse on the dashboard has gone so Eric can’t see how the temperature gauge is doing and every time we hit one of the many hills he has to turn the cabin lights on to check the needle. It’s a bit of a strange scene, all to the sounds of Teenage Fanclub on the stereo.

Jon comes up and plonks himself beside me. He’s fucking wankered. He keeps cuddling me really tightly and all I can make out is that he loves Ana. He’s really sweet but it’s hard to deal with and I think Eric could do without it at the present time. I tell him numerous times to go back to his seat, that it’s not safe. Eventually he listens and shuffles off into the darkness of the back of the van. A moment later I look round and in the light of Johan’s iPhone lamp I can see him and Andy picking Jon up off the floor. They finally get him sat down and I look over my shoulder and find Jon looking at me directly, his face kind of distorted by the blueish tint of the lamp, hair hanging down in front of his face. It’s a bit of a dark scene. Minutes later he’s back, grabs me again and says, “Well have you heard? I’m out of the band…” He’s put back to his seat again and thankfully he falls asleep.

We get to Crescent City, which isn’t much of a city by the looks of it, and check out a few different motels once we’ve stopped at a garage for beer and crisps. We end up at a Super 8. Two double beds. Andy and I walk over to the room first, the usual routine, since we’re doing it on the sly. From the door of the ground floor room I see Jon exit the van carrying his big sports bag. He seems to be putting one foot in front of the other but he’s somehow moving sideways. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. The weight of the bag and the booze in his legs gets the better of him and with nobody to save him he falls and hits the ground hard. Andy runs over, pulls him up and leads him by the arm to the room.

We’re all inside and Jon is sat there on the edge of one of the beds, eyes empty. He starts making a move to crawl into bed fully clothed, shoes and all. I tell Jon that he should sleep on the floor because a) I don’t want him to fall out of the bed in the night and b) it seems like it will be me that has to share a bed with him. I ask Eric if it’s okay for him to share the bed with me, I know he normally likes to sleep on the floor on his little camping mattress but he understands the deal tonight. “As long as you keep your legs to yourself!” he jokes, he’s obviously heard about me sleep spooning various members of my band.

Explaining to Jon that he’s on Eric’s mattress on the floor is a pretty taxing process since he’s completely off his tits, but eventually he grasps it, “Ah ok, ja ja”, and slumps down beside the bed. We crack open a beer each and Jon mumbles wonderingly if there is a beer for him. His question is met with group disdain. When we look over at him we see that he’s taken Eric’s pillow from the bed and has his head on that, lying on the floor in the small space between the bed and the camping mattress… We shuffle him over to the bed and leave him there to sleep. You can’t help but love the daft bastard. We’ll have to put a stop on the hard liquor though.
I take a quick shower and then lie on the bed and enjoy a bottle of beer. We share some crisps around. Eric has certainly earned a drink today. It’s been full on. Tomorrow will bring more of the same.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Oakland

Woke up feeling good today, the first normal nights sleep I’ve had since we got here. Feel good to go for the day. We’ve got a five hour ride up to Oakland, we’re heading off around midday. After showering we have an hour or so to kill, so Andy and I head up to Santa Monica in search of some coffee. Johan goes out for a five kilometer run, have to say I’m impressed, it’s been a while since I went out jogging, can’t see myself picking it up again on this tour.

We get some coffee to go from a diner just a few blocks away, it’s pretty good but expensive. I can’t really justify spending what works out close to fifty kronors on a cup of black filter coffee. LA is killing my minimal student budget. I remember Linus being shocked by the price of the beer at the gig last night too, “8 dollars for a bottle of Stella? Tja!” Couldn’t live in LA, wouldn’t want to either. It’s a fun place to visit for a few days but I’m getting to my fill of it. I couldn’t live in a place that has no viable public transport system in place, having to drive the car every day just to get from A to B would do my head in. And there are other aspects of LA that get to me a little as well, the whole place seems obsessed with celebrity. I much prefer the lifestyle in New York, although I couldn’t live there either, but I could maybe stick it out a little longer.

Anyway, we get going around twelve. I try Jen a couple of times, hoping to get to see Polly for a second but we can’t seem to sync things. Leaves me feeling a little homesick again, but I shake that off. It’s a little tough being in a completely different time zone from my little girl though. The first hour or so out of LA offers some decent scenery as we crawl over the hills of the Grapevine. It must have been raining a bit since the rolling hills are a lush green, Eric says it’s normally bone dry brown around here. I mention what a nice drive it is and he tells me to make the most of it since once we get past the Grapevine it’s pretty much one long, boring, straight road. It proves to be so. The only things of any note along the way are some citrus farms and the scatterings of tire debris that the cavernous roads have blown off trucks. Every now and again that bumps in the road rattle the bus so much you could swear the thing is going to fall apart but it turns out the bus is a sturdy old thing.

As I’m sat writing, listening to the Tom Petty records Eric is playing up front I’m hit by a wave of stench. Eric shouts back to us, “Yep, that’ll be Cowschwitz.” In the fields beside the road are thousands of cows stood about in what is by the smell of it their own shit. They just stand there looking bored. I wonder if they know that they’re next destination is the slaughter house. Fucking horrible. All these cows slaughtered for food and the fact is tens of tons of beef is left to spillage every year in this country alone, just thrown away. Whilst millions around the globe starve. Fuck humanity.

It’s getting late by the time we arrive on the outskirts of Oakland. Just as we’re coming up to the exit we need from the highway we come to a stop, cars are packed to a standstill and there is a fire truck coming up from behind weaving through. I call Scotty and tell him we’re near by but might be a little while since we’re stuck in traffic. He tells me that he’s stuck in traffic too so we should be there about the same time, there’s no stress anyway. Turns out there’s actually no block on the road but everyone has slowed down to check out the crash on the side of the road. The car is totally smashed and it’s side, thankfully it seems like there no injuries though. Just as we’re complaining about the assholes creating the traffic jam out of pure morbid curiosity, upon reaching the crash site Eric says, “Woah! That’s pretty fucked, I’d slow down to look at that as well to be fair”.

We’re about five minutes from the venue when Scotty drives up beside us, big beaming smile poking out of his window. We follow his car to the venue and do a round of hugs. Great to see him. Last time we hung out was when we did the Municipal Waste tour together. I’m chuffed he’s putting the new Victims record out, he’s really supporting us a lot with it and he works his ass off. We head into the venue and I get a bit of a shock. Eric said it was a warehouse venue but I didn't think it would be this big! It’s gigantic, probably holds around fifteen hundred or something. Thankfully I soon realise that we came in the back entrance and the stage is actually the other side of the black curtain behind the huge empty stage in this room. The other side of the curtain is more like it, a cordoned off little space with a decent sized stage and a bar. Scotty says there should be a couple of hundred people here tonight and if that’s the case it should be great. The line up is certainly top notch. Korrosive, Torso and Brainoil on before us. Nice when you play a gig and you want to see every band.

Scotty has brought a couple of cases of beer, some PBR’s and a six pack of IPA that is 7% strength. I decide that PBR will be more drinkable when you’re pissing sweat after the gig so go for the IPA, but having ate nothing but a Subway sandwich and some crisps all day it fuzzes my head up pretty quick. Jon has popped one too, he told me he needed a couple of beers to land since his head isn’t feeling too good, he’s got some shit going on. We lug all the gear up on stage and then he fucks off again. Johan talks down the mic, “Jon to that stage, Jon, to the stage please”. He comes stoating around the curtain looking like he’s seen a ghost, “Don’t fuck with my head like that!” Soppy sod.

By the time we’re set up with merch doors are already open. We head off in search of a quick bit of food before it gets too late. Johan stays to man the merch whilst the rest of us head out. Coming in through the back entrance it looked like we were in the middle of some induatrial area but going out the front door brings us out into the streets of downtown Oakland. As we walk out the door some girl working security asks if we’re in the band, I say that I am and show here my wristband, she says nothing and just looks the other way, at nothing. Just turns her head and lets me know she’s not interested in any kind of conversation I guess. Downtown Oakland looks pretty nice anyway, a few cosy and restaurants about. Eric tells me that there a lot of poor areas on the flipside of this city though. In fact, the guys from the venue sorted out parking for the bus on the front side of the venue since a few weeks back some band had their van robbed out back.

Eric was stoked on this vegan place nearby but it’s closed since it’s Easter Sunday, fucking Jesus, so we end up in a diner style burger joint. They promise BIG burgers. It’s totally okay, they have a veggie burger that does the job. I take one back for Johan to munch on. When we get back Korrosive have already started but they must have just started since I catch another fifteen minutes. They’re really good, got an old school Finnish kind of thing going on, all big spiky hair and the singer has a don’t give a fuck, snotty attitude about him. Fucking love it.

I head back over to the merch and bump into Erika, an old friend of ours who hung out on tour with us on the East Coast one time. She plays in a bunch of bands. We first met her when she was with Saviours in England and we played together. Good to see her. She tells me she’s been reading my diary. “You did?” I ask. “Well yeah, you put it online”. The guitarist in Saviours, Sonny, is doing sound here tonight. He was talking telling me earlier about the night we played Nottingham together. It was at the Old Angel, which has sadly just closed. He says that they slept in the flat upstairs and he’d fallen asleep in his denim jacket and when he woke up in the morning some fucker had stolen a bunch of patches from his jacket! “Funny thing is they’d only taken the punk patches and left all the metal ones”. Fucking punks.

After Korrosive are done I have to face up to the fact that Eric’s Les Paul needs restringing. I may be a lazy bastard I don’t know, but stringing a guitar is the most boring task there is. Eric keeps me company whilst I get to work but I’m not done by the time Torso starts up on the other side of the curtain. I’ve only seen the name about before so I had no idea how they sounded but I soon learn they sound shit hot. Full on raging d-beat hardcore. I rush through the restringing bullshit and manage to catch the second half of their set. They are absolutely vicious. Two girls, two guys. The crowd are pretty psyched too, there is the horseshoe thing going on and every now and again one of the crowd members run from one side to the other doing a roly poly on the floor halfway across. No fucking idea what that’s about. The girl on vocals doesn’t give a fuck though, she paces back and forth across the empty stage blasting out the lyrics. One of the best bands I’ve seen for a while. It’s loud as shit as well, and I’ve made my way down to the front. I stand there like a dad, hands covering my ears, nodding my head up and down in appreciation.

I catch my mate Andy Gibbs during the show, I met him when his band Thou played with Victims in Leipzig. He asks me where we’re playing tomorrow and when I tell him Eureka in Northern California he laughs, saying they played there a while back. “Weird town”. Funny, seems to be a running commentary on the place this last few days. Apparently it’s this little hippie town on the coast up there that has a bit of an enclosed vibe about it, they petitioned to the government to make their town a free state so they say, they were denied though. Andy says that it’s just got this weird feel to the whole place, it’s surrounded by trees in the bay and there is a weird mist that hangs about the place. Sounds like The Goonies or something. Should make for an interesting show tomorrow.

I’m kneeled down behind the merch stall stretching in the strings on the guitar when some big guy wearing a Victims shirt comes up to Johan to buy another shirt, and starts telling how much he loves Victims, going on about how he saw them here the last time around on the West Coast. He starts going through the history of the band and then he says, “And yeah, now you’ve got the dude from Raging Speedhorn in the band too”, Johan points at me squatted by the table, “Yeah, this dude”. Oh boy.. To my amazement he says he loved that band. I tell him that he’s one of a minority in this country. “Yeah man, that band was killer. Like, Victims is fast as shit and ripping and stuff, and then you guys were more like, groooove man. Hold that riff… Fuck man, I love Victims, sick that you guys are in town tonight. I told my old lady, I ain’t staying in watching no film girl, I’m going to see Victims!” Quite a guy.

Brainoil are up next. I was talking to Greg earlier in the night, a really nice old guy with long hippie hair, a very mellow dude with a friendly voice. He said he was recording the new Lecherous Gaze album at the minute. He looks totally chuffed all the time. My kind of guy. During the set he quips, “Hey everybody, we’re Korrosive, thanks for coming”, whilst pointing to the back wall where there is a Korrosive backdrop hanging. Everyone cracks up. “Nah fuck that, we’re actually Torso. That one is bigger”, pointing at the indeed larger Torso backdrop hanging above it. Seems like a right character. Brainoil sound heavy as shit, play a lot slower than the other bands, I can’t help thinking that’s nice since Victims would have looked like a bunch of old dad’s playing mid tempo punk had we gone on straight after Torso. Maybe we did anyway.

It’s a good sound on stage tonight, and Jon seems to have sorted his amp out since last night. Andy can hear what he’s playing at least. Don’t know why but the show feels a little tougher again tonight. Maybe it’s the whole Sunday thing. There is a good crowd, the place is pretty full, but there isn’t much movement. Speedhorn is up the front shaking my hand between songs but the others kind of stand there observing. They’re up close to the stage though. One of those Sunday night gigs I suppose. I enjoy playing all the same.

The venue closes shop pretty much as soon as we’re done. The security are eager to move everyone on. We shift a bit more merch after the show and then pack our stuff down. Jon has disappeared, fuck knows where he’s gone. Greg from Brainoil grabs a shirt from us just before we leave. He asks where we’re going tomorrow, I tell him Eureka. “Woah.” I’m starting to get really fucking intrigued by this place.

We pack the van up outside and stand around talking to Mark who used to play in Black Breath who is now living here. One of the staff from the venue is hanging outside the venue and is looking for conversation. He tells us he plays in Verbal Abuse. That pricks Andy’s ears up. He’s a nice guy, telling us about how the guitarist from the band wanted to come down to the gig tonight but he’s on house arrest and can’t leave his house because of this foot bracelet thing. He’s saying about how Verbal Abuse want to get over to Europe, but they need to get a new record done, says they can’t keep touring that one album from thirty years ago. I think to myself that he looks a little on the young side to have been in the band the whole time and it turns out he joined in 2005. For a second, I have to admit, I feel a little bit, argh, like, this isn’t the real deal, he’s a new guy. And then I catch my inner self being an asshole and realise that I’m that guy in Victims.

Scotty has gone ahead to his place to walk his dog Chico. It was a while back now so we have to cut the talk and get moving. Scotty gave us his address and instructions to a garage so we can pick up some beers. We get to the garage and find that it’s one of those order through the window deals. There are a few other cars parked up and people hanging around, it’s pretty obvious to everyone here that we’re not from these parts, and judging by the looks we’re getting we should probably make this pretty snappy. The guy working in the shop is sat there fast asleep though. I apologetically wake him through the speak box thing and he stirs to life. Ordering turns out to be a bit of a struggle. Six Sierra Nevada’s doesn’t seem to cause any problems but before I can get the rest of the order out he’s off to the other side of the shop to the beer fridge. When he comes back I order a pack of the Jalapeno Jack Kettle Chips and six bottles of water. He comes back with the wrong crisps. I know I should just let it go but I really fancied those fucking Jalapeno Jack’s. Johan and I stand there doing our best to point him in the right direction but the sleepy fucker just walks around picking up random items and wafting them hopefully in our direction. We finally crack it and when he comes back I have to ask him again for the water. He comes back with one bottle. Andy is getting pretty pissy behind me, and the other people hanging about are starting to look a little bored by us. I say to Andy and Johan that we should just get the fuck out of here but Andy is adamant this guy is going to get the order right. I say that I feel sorry for the guy, “Yeah but you’ve always been weak for an idiot”, cracks Johan. It’s good having a foreign language to use as code. Whilst Sleepy is off looking for water Andy gets annoyed because he’s spotted a six pack of water lying on the floor on the other side of the shop and Sleepy is coming back with six larger individual bottles. Seriously Andy, lets fucking wrap this up now. He comes back and we pay the man and gratefully walk off from the window. I hear Jon behind me as we leave, “Hey! Can I have a bottle of red wine please?”

The fucking tool is making an order of his own.

We finally get back to Scotty is out waiting for us in the street with little Chico. Great little dog. He’s getting old and has pretty bad arthritis, Scotty tells us he’s trying some alternative medicine treatment on him. Scotty loves that dog, he’s pretty concerned about him. Scotty lives on a pretty calm street not far from where Oakland merges into Berkley. Eric tells me not to leave anything in the van all the same. Scotty has got a mattress laid out for us and there are two sofas, a long one and a short one, or should I say an Andy one and a Jon one. The Jon one is only a two seater but that fucker can sleep anywhere. We sit around and chat for a while, Scotty shows us a review of the album in Decibel magazine. Gave us 8 out of 10 which apparently is pretty generous for that mag. Not that that matters, but it’s good for Scotty who is putting the record out I guess.
Apparently Jon had disappeared after the show earlier because he was doing some video interview with someone. Scotty asks him how it went and he says it was good but that they asked him the question, “Which band did he most dislike right now”, or something stupid like that. We ask his what he said and he slowly structures the answer in his head, he’s been smoking some of Scotty’s medical weed, and then he says, “Well I really didn’t want to be that guy, or start anything. I wanted to say Takida but don’t want to start any ambivalence”. We wait for the rest… whilst Andy is laughing, asking why the fuck anyone would care if he said Takida. “So, what did you say then?” asks a genuinely curious Scotty. “I said that I was unhappy with the way the Rn'B scene was going”. We all piss ourselves laughing! Jon just sits there with a serious coupon.

Nobody seems to be claiming the last bottle of Sierra Nevada so I sip on that as a last little nightcap before bed. The Jalapeno Jack crisps were fucking beautiful too. Well worth the hassle.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Los Angeles

Felt rough as a dog’s arse when I woke up this morning. Or should I say woken.. It was just past nine, meaning that’s now three nights in a row of a little over four hours sleep. I was hoping we’d get to sleep until around midday since we have the whole day here in LA to hang out but it wasn’t to be. Painfully obvious there will be no more sleep right now I Skype home to the girls for a quick catch up. Polly is in good spirits, chatting away. The reception is pretty poor though so it’s hard to make out, and that coupled with the horrific image of myself in the little square in the corner makes me a little down. Tired, body aching everywhere and I miss my girls. I tell myself to get it together, after all I’m in California playing punk rock, it’s a very privileged position to be in. The little dip out of the way, I jump in the shower and decide to tackle the drowsiness.

Andy tells me that Jon woke up and drank a bumper can of Modelo beer for breakfast. That does not bode well for the day. It’s going to be a long day, we don’t need to be at the venue until seven, we’ll have to keep an eye on the boy. Johan, Andy, Nath and I take a walk down to Melrose Avenue a couple of blocks away for some coffee and pie at this little bakery. The cherry pie is out of this fucking world, I’ve never had anything like it. Nath had promised good things about this place and he wasn’t lying. The portions are huge though, of course, so we take some scraps back for the others. By the time we get back to Nath’s I’m really flagging again so I go lie down on his bed for a bit. There’s a nice breeze coming through the window and I contemplate just lying here all afternoon, but I get the feeling Nath really wants to take us about the place this afternoon, and plus Scott is meeting us for some lunch so it would be pretty rude just to lie here sleeping, and probably completely counter productive to my sleep pattern. We don’t have that early a start tomorrow so hopefully I’ll get some rest tonight.

We split ourselves up between Nath’s car and an Uber cab and head over to this Mexican place on Beverly Blvd. We take seats outside and wait for Scott to turn up. The sun is beating down and Jon is sat there with his leather vest on over his t-shirt, face red and puffy from last night’s excess. He’s forgotten his cigs in Nath’s car and walks off to retrieve them. Whilst he’s gone Scott turns up and says, “I’m guessing the dude in the Slayer t-shirt walking about the car park looking confused is with you guys..”

When Jon comes back he takes his seat at the other end of the table and when he notices Scott his eyes light up and he shunts over to Scott, hand held out, “It’s nice to meet you Mr. Carlson”. Cracks me up. Scott is a really sociable guy and it’s really easy conversing with him over lunch. Whilst we’re waiting for the food the waiter produces a stream of nachos and different salsas to the table, it’s almost impossible to stop eating the fuckers and by the time we get to order food I’m pretty full already. When I receive my relleno I have doubts over whether I’ll make much of a dent in it but I actually manage most of it. Jon is sat at the other end eating like a fucking horse. It’s an unusual sight, he’s normally pretty sparse with the food but he’s just put away four huge beef tacos and a pint of Pacifico.

When we’re done we’re all in need of a walk and we make plans to head back to Nath’s, drop his car off and take a walk along Melrose. Eric and I take a ride with Scotty in his car, he has this flash Dodge thing that is really tight in the back, but still, it’s a pretty shit hot car. Not that I’m really bothered about cars. We rendezvous at Nath’s and from there we go walking for a couple of hours. Jon has Scott’s ear for the most part, continuously calling him Mr. Carlson in a little high voice, sounds like he’s back in school. Cracks us all up.

At the bottom of Nath’s street is this shop that has a big pink wall on the side and every time we’ve passed it there are people getting their photographs taken. It’s infamous apparently. We decide to take a band pic there, I have this funny idea of making a Weezer style band pic and making the next Victims record the Pink Album. Nath and Scott take some pics of us and Andy remarks in my ear, “This is weird, I never thought Scott Carlson from Repulsion would be one day taking photos of us”. The funny thing with this wall is, since it became a popular tourist attraction they made up a few rules about the do’s and don’ts, like no feet on the wall and such, and they have actually employed a security guard to watch over proceedings. He just seems to stand there all day, doing fuck all but smile awkwardly. Weird place, LA.

We flit in and out of shops, there’s a pretty cool record shop selling mainly punk stuff but I’m not really in the mood and can’t really afford it. We pass a vintage t-shirt and have a look inside, really cool shop but as is the norm with these places stupidly overpriced. Most of the stuff I’m looking at is anywhere between twenty dollars eighty dollars, for stuff you’d find in Oxfam for a fiver. The guy working asks Jon if he needs help and Jon enquires about the Iron Maiden Somewhere in Time tour shirt in the window. The guy tells him it’s a hundred and twenty five dollars, I hear Jon behind me spitting out, “One hundred and twenty five dollars?!” The guy meekly attempts to justify the price, saying how it’s an original and blah blah blah but Jon is in the mood for the talk and picks his argument apart. Still, no purchase.

A little further down the road we come by The Great Frog, I think it’s called, some heavy metal jewelry shop with a load of skull rings and the such. There are a load of photos by Ross Halfin, the rock star photographer who once photographed Speedhorn in Japan, it was an abysmal experience. There are all these photos of Metallica and Maiden and stuff, going for thousands of dollars. No thanks. The girl working the shop seems really nice though, turns out she plays in some doom band that Scott seems to know about. I get the impression Scott knows most people around here.

After walking around in the heat for a couple of hours I feel myself dramatically starting to flag again and I know I need to go back to Nath’s. I really want to chill out at his place for at least an hour before we have to head to the venue. I’m happy to head back to Nath’s on my own but it seems like most people are done with the walking. Johan is really in the mood for a pint though so him and Jon hit some bar that if I’m honest, looks really appealing, but I can’t do it. The rest of us head back down the road, Andy and I grab a coffee not far from Nath’s place, I go for an espresso which hits the spot perfectly and I’m feeling better for it. When we get back to Nath’s Scott says to me that he didn’t realise I was in Raging Speedhorn, I guess maybe Nath mentioned it to him, anyway, he tells me that he remembers meeting us in a bar somewhere in Europe way back, I don’t really recall it to be honest but then there were a lot of hazy times back then. Nice that he has fond memories of us anyway, not everyone always does. It was really cool hanging out with him this last couple of hours, it’s a shame he can’t make it to the show tonight but he has prior commitments.

It’s pure heaven sitting on my arse in the shade of Nath’s living room. I sit down and begin to write, helping myself to a can of the Ballast Point that the venue in San Diego gave is for the trip last night. Fucking beautiful tasting IPA, I only notice that it’s 7% when I get to the end of the can. Jon and Johan come back not long afterwards and JOn treats himself to a couple. He’s proper on it today, he’s going to have to chill a bit when we get to the venue, although the fucker can certainly take more than I can.

We take the drive across Santa Monica over to Sunset in Silver Lake to the venue. It takes about half hour in evening traffic. Jon is wondering aloud if we’ll be getting any beers on the rider tonight and then Johan says to him that he won’t be drinking anymore anyway. Jon’s smile turns a little but he takes it well, sometimes he just needs someone else to reel him in. It doesn’t take long for the smile to reappear on his mug. Under Pressure comes on the radio and he turns to me and says, “Whenever one of us are little down at home, Wembley 86”, whilst making a gesture with his finger pressing an imaginary play button.

The venue tonight is a place called Los Globos, an old three story nightclub which traditionally is a predominantly hispanic hangout. It’s a bit of hassle with the bus since there is no parking and we’re stuck on the corner of the street that the venue stands on, full on traffic. Whilst we’re trying to work out how to go about things some young street punk comes walking up to the van, doing his best impression of a zombie, tongue hanging out to the side and presses his face up against the passenger seat window. “That’s impressive”, remarks Eric. He stands there faced pressed against the glass just long enough to get on my tits before shuffling off. What an utter tosser.

We decide to simply leave the van on the corner and load in from there, fuck the traffic. We get it all in as fast as we can. The venue is a strange old place. We’re playing in a room directly into the right after the entrance, it’s a big room with tiled floor and bar lit up in red on the other wall. The stage is in the middle of the long wall to the left. It’s big open room baring the odd pillar here and there. The room reminds me of the ballroom from the Overlook Hotel in the Shining. I can’t help feeling that the place is a little too big for a Victims gig, even if the band hasn’t been to LA for ten years.

Once loaded in a space opens up right in front of the venue and we’re able to park the bus right there. Perfect. We set up the merch, talk a bit with the guy putting the show on, this young guy called Zane. He’s a really good guy, he’s been in touch with us for a long time hoping to put a show on, really big fan of the band. He tells us that if there’s anything we need just to ask. Unfortunately that doesn’t stretch to food, but that’s not an all too common occurrence in the punk scene in this part of the world. That being said he’s paying us a good chunk of money for the show tonight, which isn’t either an all too common occurrence. We head across the road for some pizza. Cookie is here again, he’s been to every show so far. He’s based in Long Beach so all the shows have been pretty close for him. Been fun hanging out with him. This will be his last show though. He joins us for some pizza. The pizza is good, what we’d call luxury Italian pizza back home. I’m in two minds over whether to have a beer with it but decide to leave it. I make a fuss humming and hawing over the decision though, much to the amusement of Andy and Johan.

When we get back to the venue the first band of five has played and the second band, Destroyed in Seconds, are setting up. We’re already a half hour behind schedule but I guess they put the first band back at bit, waiting for a few more people to show up. There’s an okay amount in now anyway, maybe a hundred. Double that and we’ll be on for a good gig.

I have a couple of friends coming tonight, at least so they say. Two of them are Speedhorn’s old managers. Andrew, who lives here and is a true disciple of all things heavy, I’m sure will make it. Bianchi, not so much. He’d texted me earlier asking what the venue was, but since he’s literally just flown in today from Austria I’m doubtful to whether he’ll make it. Joe is working in the studio, he has a big deadline on Monday so I doubt he’ll make it.

D.I.S. play for about twenty minutes. I was wary of it being one of those gigs that runs really late and everyone plays fifteen minutes over time but D.I.S. thankfully seem to know the score. They’re pretty good too, play a brutal kind of Converge tinged punk. Heavy as shit that’s for sure. The sound is a bit overbearing though, there are speakers hanging from the ceiling all over the venue and it makes you feel like you’re stood in a whirlwind, gets a bit disorientating after a while. Just as I’m sat by our merch table on the far side of the room next to the bar thinking about taking a breather my good friend Linus turns up. His happy face is always a sight for sore eyes, he’s one of those contagiously happy people. It’s great to see him. Linus and I used to work at Snotty together, we had a lot of fun times working behind the bar. We recorded A Dissident in Linus’ studio on Södermalm so he has a connection to Victims beyond just me. He’s been here in LA working with writing pop music, seems to be going really well for him. Johan and I head to the bar by the entrance and take a beer with him, it’s a lot quieter there and we can catch up properly. This punk kid comes over and takes me to the side as I’m talking to Linus, he was at the show in Santa Ana the other day. He seems friendly enough but I wish I was asshole enough to tell him that I’m trying to catch up with my friend. The guy tells me that his friend is here and that he’s brought a few copies of their lp and that maybe we could trade some records. I tell him I’m sorry and try to explain that we can’t really afford to trade since we have to make money back to pay for our flights out here, given that we’ve only got nine shows we’re up against it a little. “Yeah I get that but I thought maybe you could support us too, we support you by coming to the show”. I don’t really know what to say to that. Well I do, get fucked would maybe be an appropriate response, but I’m too nice so I just tell him I’m sorry again. He shakes my hand and heads off again when I make it obvious that I need to get back to my friend I was talking to.
After a while Andrew turns up, I’m stood right by the bar opposite the door when he walks in. Last time we saw each other was when me and Jen were here on holiday a few years ago. We had some intense times together trying to make Speedhorn work, it’s nice to see him in a purely friendship capacity these days. It’s so good to see him. He’s also doing really well, working as a lawyer for Sony. We have a quick chat before Phobia start playing. I want to catch a bit of them so we head inside. It’s enough with fifteen minutes or so, most of their set anyway. But we’re on next and I want to catch up with Andrew properly before we have to start setting up. There’s a good crowd in now anyway, although a lot of them are pressed up together leaving the big empty horseshoe space in the middle of the floor where a few punks are knocking the shit out of anyone in their vicinity, Zombie Punk trudging about in the middle of it all. There must be two hundred here by now, should be really good. This gig was originally planned as a backyard show, I can only imagine how crazy that would have been. Apparently the cops closed the place down a few weeks ago so it got moved to here.

Phobia finish and we get loaded up on stage pretty quick, get plenty of help from Eric, Nath and Cookie. It’s before midnight by the time we get started so not too bad, I’m still on course for a decent night's sleep. The room is nicely filled out by the time we bust into Death Do Us Part and people seem to be really into it. What a difference a couple of shows can make. Santa Ana feels like a long time ago now, I have a lot of energy on stage again, although the Les Paul’s weight is restraining. Maybe just as well.

I break the first string of the tour during Errors, but Eric is straight on hand to help me out. He takes the guitar from me and sorts a new string out, in the meantime I play the SG. It’s like a new lease of life, it’s like playing air guitar compared to the slab of wood that is the Les Paul. It doesn’t sound anywhere near as good though and after next break the Les Paul goes back on. Andy laughs afterwards saying that as soon as I had the SG I started flying about the stage like a lunatic and that I when I swapped it back for the Les Paul it almost looked like I was saying, “Please, take this guitar away from me, I can’t handle it”.

We play through the rest of the set and the crowd are really going for it, circle pits flying around the room. This is the End finishes the set off as usual. When we’re done people start shouting for more, coaxed on by Zane who is up on stage chanting down the mic. Andy has scarpered quick smart though and doesn’t look interested, just keeps shaking his head. I laugh to Andrew who is stood to my side of the stage, “Miserable old bastard”, he laughs and shouts back, “Well I remember managing a band of six miserable young bastards”. Word. The crowd starts chanting all the louder and the three of us, who have stayed on stage, convince Andy to come back. We decide on Your Life is Red and My Eyes. The first of the two goes off without a hitch by when Jon starts into the intro to My Eyes Andy is looking about in confusion. To be fair, all you can hear from Jon’s guitar is a buzzsaw sound, almost impossible to pick out what he’s playing. We make him stop. I shout over to Jon, who is stood there with a scoobied look on his mug, to turn to Andy when he plays the intro, Andy is shouting at him that he can’t hear shit. Jon the daft bastard turns his head over his shoulder to Andy and starts the intro again, his guitar still facing the crowd. As if that’s going to fucking help any. Eventually Jon gets it and turns his actual self around and plays the intro facing Andy. Doesn’t help much, it’s spectacularly sloppy, all of us coming in at different times. Thankfully once the song gets going properly we reign it in.

Done for good, we start to pack up whilst various punks come up to shake hands and ask for pics and setlists. There seem to be a lot of satisfied punks in the place, I look over to the merch where Eric and Nath are turning over shirts and records at pace. Andrew tells me that it was really strange seeing me playing with someone other than Speedhorn. It’s the first time for him. Linus comes up shortly after, totally ecstatic. He says it was fucking mental being out in the crowd, watching us play and seeing everybody kick off. This isn’t really his scene but he loved every minute of it. Totally random seeing each other in LA in this scene. Once packed up I grab myself a beer with a slice of lime in it. It’s the best thing I’ve tasted all day. It’s like liquid gold. I’ve been looking forward to the aftershow buzz all day, that energy you get that only a gig can give you. Oh how I’ve needed it today. Andrew heads off since he’s got a lot on and Linus has to get going after a beer too, he’s been hungover all day and says he needs his bed. His girlfriend Jonna, who he is here working with too, had to skip the gig due to a vicious headache, he explained. I give him an almighty hug and we promise to catch up when we’re both back home. We only live a couple of stations from each other but I know fine well how life skewers the perception of time. Still, I’ll make an effort to grab a hold of him when I’m home.

They’re emptying the place to make way for a club night so once the van is loaded we’re on our way home. Eric runs over to a taco wagon on the street so I follow him to check it out but I’m not really that hungry. I get talking to some friend of Zane’s whilst Eric is waiting though, he tells me the show was great. He says it’s a shame we couldn’t have done it at the backyard gig they had planned though, apparently that was over in South Central. That would have been insane I’m sure. He tells me that whereas the East Coast does basement shows, over here they do back yards, but the punks do have a tendency to draw attention from the cops by drinking in the streets and pissing about. Next time hopefully, I tell him.

By the time we get back to Nath’s it’s about two thirty. There are two of those IPA’s left in the fridge, ice cold, as well as bit of that cherry pie. I enjoy both before heading to bed. The alarm is set for ten, hopefully I’ll still be asleep when it goes off.