Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Mexico City

Felt proper bollocks when I woke up. Head was completely mashed and stringing enough thoughts together just to get myself dressed was a struggle. I’d only slept around four hours, and even that was interrupted by a piss in the middle of it. I’d been having weird dreams the whole time too, those uncomfortable dreams, not exactly nightmares, but disturbing none the less, and just barely keeping you under the surface of sleep. I mention this to Johan and he replies, drearily, “I didn’t even manage to get below the surface”. The poor bastard looks completely fucked.

I pull myself off the mattress on the floor, glad that I decided to shower last night, I would never have been able to summon the motivation at this hour, and would have sadly gotten on the plane feeling like a tramp. I trudge through to the hallway where Jon is lying straight on his back with nothing but a quilt as cushioning on the tiled floor. Luzen is up and about, dressed and ready for work, looking a lot brighter than the rest of us. As we gather our shit together Luzen’s dog Misty sits on Andy’s bag as he’s trying to pack it, I can sense the irritation in him, “Please, not now”, he grumbles in Swedish. We stand around on the large terrace outside Luzen’s kitchen, with a view of the hills surrounding Tijuana, slowly coming to life, watching Jon smoke a cigarette as we wait for the Uber to turn up.

Luzen jumps in the cab with us and we drop him off outside the university where he works as an English teacher. The traffic to the airport is pretty jammed but thankfully Luzen’s estimated “ten minutes” isn’t far off the mark. We check in the gear and head through security in time to grab some much needed breakfast before we take off for Mexico City. Johan seems a bit down, he’s been really quiet since we left. The fact that he hasn’t slept a wink probably not helping, or the fact that he bought a baseball for Billy at the airport and had it confiscated at security. I feel really bad for him, I get all sensitive about that stuff, and can imagine how sad I would feel if I’d bought a present for Polly and some bastard took it from me. Johan heads to Starbucks on his own for some breakfast whilst the other three of us take in some huevos rancheros at some little taqueria, which is in some little hole in the wall a little way back down the passage between the gates and the security check. Fucking banging and all, I feel a lot better after consuming it.

The flight takes around three hours and is very comfortable. I try my hardest to sleep through it but give up after and hour and half or so and order some coffee, spending the rest of the flight writing. I really should be studying if I’m going to seriously consider taking an exam on this current module I’m doing but I have a hard time motivating myself since the course content is excruciatingly mind numbing. It’s the first module in three terms that I haven’t found fun in the slightest and my will to fight through it has been weak. On the other hand, if there was one module I was going to miss a couple of weeks of to go and play shows in Mexico then it may as well be this one. I decide there and then that I’ll take the exam at a later date and order more coffee. Now that I’ve accepted sleep is not happening I decide to power up on the old java.

I have my forehead glued to the window as we descend into Mexico City. The guitarist in Bio Crisis said to me last night that it was quite an experience and he wasn’t lying. The airport is in the middle of the huge city that seemingly has no end. There is sprawl as far as you can see. Even the mountains surrounding the centre of the city are a collage of different colours from the shacks plastered up the sides of them. I’ve never seen anything like it. We wait what seems like an age for our baggage once we get to the collection area. It says “Tijuana - bags arriving” on the monitor but after twenty minutes there is still no sign of them. Eventually the siren signals and the belt starts moving but only one of the bags shows up before the belt stops again. About twenty minutes later the signal goes again and the belt jolts into action, this time delivering the guitars but when it stops again we’re still missing the big suitcase with Andy’s drums in. Sighing and huffing and puffing about the manjana-manjana attitude we wait around for the belt start again. After another twenty minutes or so the monitor changes message to another flight. “For fuck sakes, there’s always something..” I moan. Honestly, I appreciate the laid back attitude of the latino people, until you’re affected by it yourself.. I’m stood there philosophising about how us Swedes complain about how uptight we are as a nation and people but when it comes to it, we can’t handle the whole easy going lifestyle so embraced by the…I drift back into focus at the sound of Andy’s voice, “It was a kind of dark grey colour, kinda looks like that one there”, he’s saying, pointing at a big case stood right in front of us on the stationary belt. “Fuck! That’s the case!” Fucking thing must have been stood there the whole time we’d been moaning.

We head for the exit laughing to ourselves but it’s soon cut short by a little Nazi cop/security guard by the exit. He stops us in our tracks and starts grunting at us in Spanish. Tired and confused I try to talk to him as politely as I can but he just points at a sign above the exit which says “No trolleys beyond this point”. Fair enough, hadn’t noticed it, but we’ve got three trolleys worth of gear. We turn back to dump the trolleys back in the baggage collection area when the morose little cunt grabs Johan by the arm and pulls him back. Johan is way more tired than I am and is totally scoobied as to what is going on. Ridiculously, Mini Nazi is now pointing at another sigm “No re-entry beyond this point”, and gesturing to an imaginary line on the floor where Johan has supposedly crossed. I explain to Johan who looks like he’s about to snap and usher him back out, telling him we’ll get the gear. Mini Nazi doesn’t even looked chuffed with himself, which in a way would have helped, he just stands there staring forward like he despises the world. Utter, utter prick. Now the three of us have a shit load of gear to shunt over the magic line knowing that we only have one shot at making it. Absolute nonsense situation. Jon heaves the huge merch bag over his shoulder and then picks up a couple of guitars as well as one of our cabin bags, face red as a ripe tomato and shaking like a leaf in the wind, he wheezes, “Are you ready?” I do my best to stifle the laugh bursting to get out but it’s not easy. Mini Nazi looks like he won’t even fart in our direction as we pass him like three overloaded donkeys on the way out. I laugh, a loud exaggerated laugh, as I pass but him but he doesn’t give a shit. Makes me feel a little better if nothing else.

The day picks up decidedly from here on in though. We’re met by a smiling guy wearing a cap and reddish beard who calls himself Moncho. He tells us he’ll be looking after us. We all present ourselves one by one, both to Moncho, his girlfriend Bianca and another guy with long hair. Moncho seems to be very excited about us being here and very keen to make sure that anything we need will be taken care of. We’re not really expecting anything, just happy to be in Mexico City. There is supposed to be a hotel and I’m hoping that we'll be able to go there before the gig and drop our bags, maybe Johan can rest up and get some kip for a bit. Having flown through two time zones we’ve gained a couple of hours back and it’s only two thirty pm. Moncho, almost hopping with enthusiasm, asks, “Yo bros, are you hungry? You wanna go get some food before we go to the hotel? Some tacos bros?” We give a synchronized nod and chuffed as shit climb into the back of one of the two cars they’ve brought to pick us up. Moncho, who addresses us as “bro” every time he talks to one us of, tells us that his friend Omar will be driving us whilst we’re here, and that they’ll be chaperoning us around the city tomorrow since we have an extra day here, say they’ll take us wherever we want, but they’ll keep us in the safe spots. Sounds good. And a little ominous. But mostly good.

We get taken to a restaurant not far from the airport where we tuck into some great tasting tacos. The food is amazing in this land, the produce is so fresh and I love how all the food joints are rough and ready looking, no frills or bollocks, just great food. On top of the grub this place serves up some quite superb freshly squeezed fruit juices, my cantaloupe smoothie tastes like heaven as it dampens the fire of the hot sauce I ignorantly threw all over my food. We sit around talking for a while and then when we’re done Moncho perks up, “OK bros, hotel now?” As we drive away I mention what a great restaurant it was and the guy with the long hair driving says, “Yeah it’s a really good place. Dangerous neighbourhood though. You don’t wanna come here at night on your own”.

The hotel is not that far away, about fifteen minutes in the car, which in this city I guess counts as the same neighbourhood. I try to get an understanding of how big the city is, but Omar just laughs, “It’s a monster”. We have a three star hotel with a big room housing two double beds. Moncho tells us that they’ll come and pick us up around six thirty, which gives us a couple of hours to chill out. “Anything else you need bros? You need weed? Porn?” he says totally matter of factly, pointing at the tv. “Nja, football will do”, I say. The thought of the four of us sitting around the box watching scud flicks is a bizarre one. Moncho just laughs and tells us he’ll see us in a bit. I jump in the shower and stand there for about twenty minutes, absorbing the heat of it. Feels absolutely wonderful. Afterwards I enjoy the coolness of the bedsheets as I lie there for the next hour or so watching whatever on tv. Johan has taken the other bed and pulled the sheets over his head.

When we head over to the venue with the guys, Johan and Jon jump in the one car and Andy and I in the other. We pull up outside the venue and there are already a few punks hanging around outside the door on the sidewalk. Sounds like a band is soundchecking upstairs in the venue. Andy and I stand around on the street, taking in the vibe of the place. Down the street is a hole in the wall taqueria, and there are a few other bars and convenience stores dotted about. There is some weasley looking, thin haired, middle aged guy with a sinister look in his eye on the door. He’s checking the few punks that are straggling through the door. He’s told by Moncho that we’re okay as Andy and I walk in. Andy says to me, “They’re checking for weapons”. I hadn’t caught that at all but now Andy says it, it seems obvious. We head up the steep stairs to the venue and into the backstage room, which is behind the stage, which you have to walk over to get to. I find Johan and Jon sat there with huge styrofoam cups of beer, proper two hands to hold them jobs, looking as guilty as a pair of puppies sat next to two piles of poo. Apparently they ordered a beer each and this is what they were given.

The venue, Salon Bolivar, is pretty big, kind of long, with the high stage taking up the entire back wall at one end of the long room. Moncho says that if they get one hundred and fifty people in here on a Monday night they’ll be pleased. So would we, but I do wonder how they do the math. I mean, they’re paying for our flights back to LA on Wednesday and a hotel for two nights. Maybe, I don’t know. A hundred fifty in here would look pretty good anyway, especially with the lights off.

The first band soundchecks and then plays their set not long after, doors obviously opening somewhere in between. It’s pretty tame grindcore, enhanced most likely by the fact that the fifty or so people in the place are all stood at the back leaving a huge gulf between themselves and the band. Feel a bit bad for them, they look a bit lonely. Andy and I head outside, he says he needs to eat something before it’s too close to showtime. We walk down to the street and there are quite a few punks hanging around outside, just chilling. I’m a bit surprised by how many there are and think to myself that if everyone goes inside later on then we’ll have a pretty fucking good gig. Or is this a London Scum Punk carry on, where the punx turn up to the gig only to sit outside and complain about beer prices in the venue, boycotting most of the night. Anyway, Andy spots that little taqueria on the corner of the big junction at the end of the block and so we both start walking towards it. Out of nowhere Moncho comes running up behind us, “Yo bros! Where are you going?” I innocently answer that we’re just gonna go for a walk around the block, stretch the old pegs, get some grub. “No, no bros, you can’t go walking around here. It’s not safe”. Fuck me. Would’ve been typical of me walking into the middle of Gangland looking for a fucking taco. Fucking clueless.

We assure Moncho we won’t go anywhere and when he tentatively walks back to the club, keeping an eye on us, the two of us discuss the risk factor and probability of being murdered somewhere during the twenty meters or so to the taqueria. We decide it’s probably safe. We also decide not to mention any of this to Johan as it will freak him out. I skip the taco and enjoy watching Andy trying to converse with the old boy and his wife in the little Spanish he knows. He gets there in the end anyway. The old couple seem pretty entertained by us.

I grab a pack of cookies and some Doritos for dinner and take them with me back into the club. There is this young d-beat band from El Salvador on stage now, Distrust. They’re in Mexico on a nine date tour. Their first time outside of El Salvador. Really cool to meet them. They’re pretty rudimentary but have a certain charm about them. As we’re stood by the merch stand watching them this punk comes up to us with his little boy, can’t be any more than four years old, cute as anything. His dad wants him to meet us. He’s so sweet, big brown eyes on him, we shake his hand, he even gives me a little fist pump. I could properly melt. Andy smiles and looks over at me, “Can really make you homesick when you meet cute kids on tour”. No shit.

It’s getting hot in here as the venue gradually fills, the amount of people in here soon making it impossible for them all to be crammed in together at the back if the room, they’ll have to move forward towards the stage sooner or later. Andy and I head out for a little air again, and find Jon there smoking a cig. “Fuuuuck. I just came out here and saw about thirty cops, all gunned up, charge into the house opposite! Fucking mental. Nobody here even seemed to give a shit, just stood around smoking”. “Don’t tell Johan!” Andy and I reply in chorus.

The third band of the night are called Sacrificio. I’m attracted to them straight away. The guitarist/singer looks like a Mexican Andy Dahlström and the bass player looks like a Mexican Christoffer Röstlund. One wearing a Barcelona shirt, the other wearing an army beret and a white Wretched shirt. They look the biz. And sound it. Totally chaotic punk, sounding at times indeed like Barcelona, but ten times faster. So fucking good. Halfway through the first song and Andy has joined me in front of the stage, looking chuffed. I enjoy every minute of them, the singer guy has so much energy, beating the shit out of his guitar the entire set. Now I’m really pumped up to play myself. Only thing is, there is another grind band on before we get to do that. Nice guys, certainly, I’d chatted to them earlier, but not really my thing. Jon is sat at the merch, nodding his head in appreciation though. Much more his thing. Moncho asks him if he likes them, saying they’re his friends. “I once was a grind freak”, answers Jon. Moncho is friends with the Sacrificio guys too and he arranges us to swap shirts and records, although we buy the records.

We stand and linecheck a while in front of the crowd which has now nicely filled out this place. It’s not always great sorting sound out in front of a crowd but they don’t seem to mind, patiently waiting for us and cheering when Andy occasionally goes into a d-beat. There are people right up against a barrier in front of the stage now. We’re ready. I have a feeling this is going to be good. The feeling proves to be correct.

Everything on stage, at least for me, sounds great. I’m blasting through the first couple of songs, hot as hell up here, don’t know how long I’m going to be able to keep that level up, but I just go with it whilst it lasts. Have to laugh when during the third song my sound dies and I assume the cable from my pedal has been ripped lose but then I notice that a hi-hat cymbal has landed on the tuning pedal and turned it on, cutting the sound. I’d noticed the cymbal innocently leaning against the wall by my pedals before we started but hadn’t really questioned it. Bianca, Moncho’s girlfriend, is also stood on stage taking photos for the first few songs, caught up in the buzz of it, she doesn’t notice Johan trying to tune his bass between songs, too polite to say that she’s kind of stood in the pedals. She heads to the side after four or five songs though and stands next to Moncho, the two of them looking happy as pigs in shit.

The whole set is an absolute blast, the crowd getting more and more riled up as the set develops. And me too. When Johan actually does rip a cable out of his pedal, just as the first verse to Killing is about to start, I spontaneously grab the mic and take over the vocals for the first verse and chorus. It’s totally without thought. I’ve never, ever sung on stage before, didn’t know I could. It just happened, got caught up in the buzz of it. It seemed like it sounded okay as well. Jon and Andy have huge smiles on their faces after the song. We end the set with My Eyes, to a vicious circle pit and we’re then called back on for one more and finish with Your Life is Red. Great show. Everyone made up with it. In the back room after the gig, after the usual high five from Jon and cracking open a bottle of beer that Moncho has come running in with, I look to the guys, “Well guys, we’ve now played Mexico City. Fuck me. Never thought I’d say that”.

We spend the best part of the next hour taking photos with punks and signing their records. It starts to feel ridiculous after a while. But there are so many cool people who are a pleasure to meet and talk to. It’s been a long time since I felt a buzz like this after a show. Andy and I hang out for a while with the Sacrificio and Distrust guys in the back stage too, talking shit and finding out more about the Mexico City scene as well as the Salvador one, which the Distrust guys tells me barely exists, that it's fighting for attention in the shadow of bad metal. When the venue closes Moncho is buzzing around, “Yo bros, you want some beer, or back to the hotel? The venue is closing soon but you can stay and drink for a little while bros”. With the venue starting to empty and the house lights on, all of a sudden the thought of heading back to the hotel, grabbing a couple of beers and some crisps on the way back from 7 Eleven and having our own little party seems very appealing.

Omar gives us a lift back and waits for us whilst we buy booze and snacks and then drops us off at the hotel around midnight. Perfect. He’s coming to pick us up tomorrow at eleven for a day of sightseeing, whilst Jon has actually arranged a travel day to the pyramids with some Slovenian guy he met at the gig tonight. He’s off early in the morning. I’ve never been to Mexico City though, and as much as I’m sure the pyramids will be mind blowing, I don’t want a day of sitting in the car tomorrow. We have a long enough journey home the day after, and besides, I love checking out big cities.

When we get back to the hotel room I grab a quick shower, and then all clean and cosy, just like when I was a kid in pyjamas after Sunday night bath, I settle down onto the couch. We bought a couple of six packs and an array of crisps. We toast each other and tuck in whilst watching a bit of tv. It could have been something to head out in town tonight and get in to some crazy party or scene or something, but those situations don't really appeal that much to me anymore, not like they did fifteen years ago, and quite honestly, it’s perfectly nice just sitting here with the guys enjoying a couple of beers in front of the box. Just the four of us. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tijuana

We slept past noon and still had time to spare. Funny how sleep patterns have flipped over this last couple of weeks ago. The first couple of night in LA a couple of weeks ago we were struggling to keep our eyes open after eight pm, and the first morning we took Polly for breakfast at Caster’s all night diner at five am. Soon it will be time to turn it all back around again. Anyway, it was nice with the seven hour sleep, even if it did commence at five in the morning. Most of the rest of the guys are already up and Big Jon has popped out in the car to buy the Victims guys coffee, which is warmly appreciated by us. What a diamond.

I enjoy the coffee on Bruce’s backyard patio with Johan and Jon and Kyle. We spend almost a good hour talking American politics, with that putrid orange wanker Trump at the top of the bill, obviously. Kyle seems quite fucking destroyed over the state of his country at the minute. I feel for him. There are a lot of amazing things about this place, a lot of fucked up things too, and a lot of wonderful people, It’s just as shame that most of those in power are either thick as shit or pure evil. Or both. Isn’t that usually the way though? Still, it’s a very nice way to start the day and I thank Kyle for the company and the chat as we get our gear in order, ready for the next trip and the next gig.

The DIS guys have booked another van today with Rob, an old road dog and professional roadie at the helm. Rob’s van has a big trailer with it too and he’s an old hand when it comes to crossing the Mexican border in Tijuana, today’s destination. First time playing Mexico, can’t wait. We stop on the way out of town for some pretty rank quesadillas at Del Taco before carrying on to the border. It’s pretty fucking hot out today, if it’s like this in Tijuana it’s going to be a sweaty gig. The journey south doesn’t take much more than a couple of hours, a chunk of it is spent watching some old animated Superman cartoon on the tv screen in the van. It must be from the 80’s, it’s a film length episode featuring two Supermen; the original chisel jawed hero we all know and love, and then another alter ego who is all blue in the face and yellow eyed, Big Jon dubs him Partyman since he looks like a crack addict. There is no sound on the monitor so to the delight of us all Big Jon provides hilarious dubbing. We spend most of the way to the Mexican border laughing. When the laughter dies down Big Jon and I discover that we share a love of Twin Peaks and spend the rest of the way talking about the new series.

The border is a piece of piss. Rob knows a quieter crossing than the main one from San Diego which saves us a lot of time. The sight of Tijuana on the other side of the border as you approach it coming down the hill from San Diego always gets me. On the one side you’ve got a big open highway and on the other just a sprawl of houses and that huge Mexican flag in the middle of it. The crossing we take is indeed calm and we drive right up to it, no queue ahead. We stop and Rob gets out and has a quick chat with the cops. They ask him what we have in the boxes and I think for a minute we’re going to get busted for a carne on the shirts and records but they’re not arsed. A cop opens the back door and asks us all to turn around, then she takes a quick photo of us, smiles and closes the door, and with that we’re off. On the other side of the road there is an endless line of cars stood still, queueing to get into the States. Quite the contrast.

As we drive into the outskirts of Tijuana about ten minutes later the DIS guys are pointing things out on the streets and generally taking the piss, much to our amusement. In the middle of it all, Big Jon, who is in the middle of most of the banter, points at a huge billboard on a hill and shouts gleefully, “Is that Brad Pitt?!” In unison our eyes cast to where Jon’s finger is pointing and sure enough there is a chuffed looking Brad Pitt, with the cheapest looking photoshop of a huge moustache and sombrero on his bonnet. Doubt they sought old Brad’s permission for that fucker. We all piss ourselves laughing and the two Jon’s laughter tickle the fuck out of me and have me cracking up for the next ten minutes.

Rob locates the venue, which by all accounts is a small bar, and then parks the van and trailer in a parking lot across the road, saying he’ll stay with the van during our stay in the city. As soon as you get out of the van the smell of heavenly food hits you. It seems to be everywhere. We walk over to the bar, which is called Mous Tache, and find it closed, so we head into the bar beside, which is some small, rustic, sports bar with a few tables outside and we order a few beers. I feel a bit bad for Johan because I get the feeling he’s not entirely comfortable. He has a hard time dealing with situations and places he’s not in control of. Hopefully it will ease up for him. The beer tastes pretty good anyway. Well, no, it doesn’t really taste of that much at all, but being sat in the sun drinking the cold beverage is still a pretty decent gig. Shaun order a plate of cheesy fries and everyone piles in, it’s literally a plate of fries swimming in a runny cheese sauce. Disgustingly marvelous.

After the beer we take a walk up to the famous Revolution Street, which is parallel to the one we’re on. I say famous, I’d never heard of it, but Bruce had been giddily telling me all about it, saying about some of the things you see up there that you wouldn’t believe. Most of it sounds like stuff none of us would either want to believe or see. The tamest of it are the donkeys painted as zebras and being paraded for money. We see a couple of them and the Swedish contingency gather in pity for the poor things. Revolution Street is fucking nuts though. Just the fucking noise is intense, there are sounds blasting out of every single establishment along length of it. It’s not just music, it’s whistles and cars, police sirens, people shouting. Just fucking mental. And it’s early Sunday evening. Can’t imagine what this place is like on a Saturday night. It probably doesn’t make any difference what day of the week it is.

We’re all up for another beer and some snacks so after a lap up and down the street we end up getting sucked into a place by some old boy with a menu, shouting something in a mix of English and Spanish at us. Luckily Henry is of El Salvadorian heritage and can speak the lingo and he sorts things out. The bar is a big club that actually resembles a building site. The ground floor is simply a dancefloor in a state of decomposition and obviously not in use, and the upper floor where we’re lead to is pretty much the same story, but with an open veranda with high tables on the edge overlooking the street. There is some manic little guy with a squint eye serving tables, which is only our table and one other, running around with a whistle in his mouth, which is his way of communicating over the music that is blasting out of the sound system in here. We order some beers and nachos from him and we’ve barely got the order done before he runs off. Right nutter. The food, and even more so the cold bottles of Pacifico’s are banging. I enjoy chatting with Henry as we chow down, he tells me about his upbringing with El Salvadoran parents and life in LA, and also about his job. He’s been on the booze since I met him a couple of days ago basically and doesn’t seem to be letting up. “Oh man, tomorrow at work is gonna suck man! And I sell marijuana for a living!” Turns out he’s the main driver for a medical marijuana company.

Whilst we’re sat up on the veranda we spot our friend Luzen, the singer of Bio Crisis, who played with us last night and are also playing tonight. They’re from here and Luzen is the guy booking the show. One of the DIS guys shouts across the street to him and when he turns around and spots us up on the veranda just smirks to himself. “Of all the places in Tijuana you guys choose this place!” he laughs when he arrives at our table. He tells us that we can load into the venue now anyway so when we’re done with the drinks we call Whistler over and he comes running across with the bill.

We walk back down to the venue where Rob meets us with the van and we load in. The bar is tiny, and just as I’m wondering where the fuck we’re going to play Luzen opens up the door to the back yard where there is a low stage set up in a little space under the open sky. It looks ace. Basically playing in the little back garden of the bar. There is a staircase leading up the wall of the building behind the stage and up there we climb and take a bird's eye view of the city, ample opportunity for some nice band pics. This is quite a place. Even up here, the noise from Revolution Street is pounding. I ask Luzen how many people he’s expecting tonight and he says for a Sunday night he’ll be happy with fifty, sixty people. That would be enough to create a good enough atmosphere here in this little space. Luzen tells me that a big band on a weekend would pull around one hundred fifty people here, which I guess is about the size of the Tijuana scene. Still, when you think about it, playing to fifty people in Tijuana is fifty more than I ever thought I’d play to.

The first band of the night is a two piece d-beat band called Cánidos. They play pretty straight forward but do it really good, they just have that something extra about them that’s hard to pinpoint. The vocals are super aggressive and the guitarist/vocalist stands on the ground in front of the stage and just fucking kills it. Real fun to watch, and everyone in Victims has a good time doing so. They have the odd sludgy riff thrown in here and there too which they work into it really well. Nice start to the night simply put. Andy and I go up to the guitarist afterwards and ask him what the name of the band is and tell him how much we liked it and he looks totally chuffed.

It’s that time of the night when it’s time to decide whether or not to eat before the gig. Andy is thinking the same thing and we decide to go grab a quick bite somewhere. I ask Johan if he wants to come with and he nods, but says maybe we should get one of the locals to come with us. I tell him I think it will be okay and we’ll go somewhere nearby. I ask Luzen and he tells us about a place that does good veggie tacos just back up on Revolution Street so we head there, it’s only a five minute walk away. I have a couple of tofu tacos which hit the spot. The girl working there gets talking to us and after asking where we’re from starts telling us how much she loves Sweden, says she’s been there a bunch of times. Really friendly girl. We walk back down to the venue and laugh at the fact that the taxis here beep at you as they pass, as way of telling you they’re free. Everything in this town seems to be competing in the din of noise.

We miss the second band Bonebreaker, which Jon says were amazing and keeps banging on about how good looking the bass player was, “He was one of those fuckers that make you ashamed of yourself”. Don’t know how many times he tells me this. That and how the band were a cross between Terror and Trash Talk. He also nods to a big buff guys stood behind him, he’s set up shop just behind our merch table, selling an array of bootleg punk shirts, among them a couple of proper shit looking Victims shirts. He says to us, “I don’t know what we should do about that?” I take a look at the size of the big bastard and conclude that there is fuck all we can do about it.

Luzen’s band Bio Crisis play third on the bill and again I really enjoy watching them. I missed them last night, missed all the bands last night due to the size of the tiny room the gig was in, and Cooky was telling me afterwards how much he liked them. I can see why. Again no bassist, just two guitars, a drummer and Luzen on vocals. The one guitarist has a double amp set up though, I think anyway, and some pedals that take care of the bass sound in the band. They play epic d-beat, kinda like Envy playing hardcore punk, which is not always my bag but I really enjoy this. It’s really well executed with a ton of killer riffs and Luzen has a great voice. It’s set off really nicely by the dark blue and red stage lighting under the night sky too. And there are indeed about fifty or sixty people here now and it looks decent enough.

The DIS boys are on before us and I crack up as soon as I see them setting up. They’re all there except Henry who appears a couple of minutes later, walking across the stage grinning and letting out a, “Whoooooooo!” I haven’t seen him for a few hours but he’s obviously been hitting the sauce. I think maybe a couple of the others have too, they all seem pretty chuffed anyway. Big Jon gives the nod and they start. Henry is stood in the middle of the stage, Jon off it in the crowd. Henry has one of those chuffed faces that just kinda looks wasted all the time, his eyes half closed and his grin barely able to contain itself. He does all the guitar soloing in the band and goes sporadically nuts on the old whammy bar, giving it the full on Slayer treatment. Even pissed up he pulls it off pretty well. We all piss ourselves though at one point during a song when we look up and see he’s stopped playing and is just stood there taking a huge swig of beer from a forty bottle while the rest of the band play on, not giving a piss. When he finally joins back in with the rest the band there’s only another thirty seconds or so of the song left. Fucking love him. It’s fun watching the guys play in this very cool venue and for a while I climb up the rickety steel staircase above the stage and watch them from up there, taking photos, trying to get both the stage and the city backdrop on the other side of the surrounding walls in the frame. Can’t say I’ve ever played in a venue like this before.

We set up as quick as we can after DIS are done. It’s an early show tonight, Luzen wants it over by eleven, which suits us fine since we have to get up at six to catch a flight to Mexico City in the morning, and Luzen is starting work at seven. We’re staying at his place so it all works out well. Anyway, a little with that in mind we’re eager to get on with things. It’s a very fun stage to play and the small Sunday night crowd get more and more lively as the set progresses. Jon gives a shout out to the Mexican president for taking the piss out of Donald Trump, tonight’s intro for We’re Fucked. He cracks me up too when near the end of the set he thanks everyone for coming out on a Sunday night to see us and tells them that we have “official merch” for sale at the back of the yard. I have a good time playing tonight, have lots of energy. It’s great to see the two brand new songs in the set are going down really well, especially the slower one of the two. Before we played it tonight I was contemplating whether we should leave it out as the crowd hadn’t been all that lively up until that point but that song ended up being the one the seemed to kick the crowd off. It is pretty driving I guess, even if it is a lot slower than the rest of the set. Right at the end of the gig, before the last two, I spot some boots and braces skinhead in the crowd who is shouting “Tijuana skins” at Andy. At first I think there’s trouble on the go but it seems more like he sees Andy as a compatriot, much to my amusement. The skinhead goes mental in the mosh as we end with Killing and This is the End.

After the gig we stand around chatting with people for a while, cooling off in the night air. I get talking to a couple of different people from San Diego who tell me that they come down to shows in Tijuana pretty regularly. They just leave their cars at the border and walk over the bridge. Simple as shit. One of the guys is English, from Plymouth and he’s shocked to hear I’m a Brit too. We chat for a good while, he tells me he hates England and never wants to go back. I’ve heard it, and said it before, probably a lot around the time I was his age, but it’s mellowed in me now. I know where he’s coming from though. Plymouth is a nice enough town, but it’s not exactly San Diego.

When everything is packed up we do a photo session with the DIS guys. It’s been really fun hanging out with them and they’ve been so great to us arranging the vans and lending us their equipment. Truly lovely guys and it’s been an absolute pleasure. We stand around chatting for a bit, laughing at Big Jon barking at us, calling us Dad-beat as the three of us and Shaun from DIS show each other photos of our kids. Big Jon, who is in the process of splitting up with his wife contemplates, “Better than fucking Divorce-beat I guess,” and we all laugh together for one last time before they head off into the Tijuana night to do whatever they’re going to do before heading home back across the border. Gonna miss those guys.

We take a quick beer with Luzen in the bar, enjoying the quiet, kind of quiet, before sharing an Uber back to his place. He lives in one of the cheaper parts of town with his roommate, the street his house is on is more of a dirt road back alley. His house is nice and spacious though, all stone floors. He has a really cute dog called Misty, some reddish brown Staffordshire mix maybe, who is really happy to see us. I open my bag to get my pyjama bottoms out and she plonks herself in my open bag, panting at me. Doesn’t look like the smartest dog but she’s absolutely lovely.

Early show or not, it’s still gone one by the time we get to lay ourselves down in the backroom of Luzen’s place, three of take mattresses on the floor whilst Jon lays himself down on some quilts in the hallway. I feel knackered. I wish we weren’t flying so early in the morning.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Los Angeles

I woke around eight am and there was no sign or signal from the DIS guys yet. They weren’t knocking on the door and I hadn’t got any message from them. I didn’t have any internet on my phone though so I guess messaging me would have been hard since Kyle didn’t have my phone number. I head downstairs to the reception area in search of coffee, which I’d been told yesterday would be available. And it was. The only trouble was it tasted like water and had was a mild shade of brown in colour. I poured myself a styrofoam cup of the piss and went outside to look around. I parked myself on a bench on a lawn out the back the hotel that stood beside the Oakland estuary. Quite a nice view and peaceful just being sat there on my own. The coffee got thrown after a couple of sips though. I love weak American coffee but this stuff was taking the piss.

I walked back along the water in search of a Starbucks or anything that would serve me something that at least pretended to have been infused with a coffee bean but found nothing and headed back. Still no sign of the DIS guys. I stand there looking at the tiny pool in front of the hotel, it has to be the least inviting tub I’ve ever seen. It’s tiny, you could swim the length of it in a few strokes and it’s about as deep as a puddle. “No Diving” a sign says on the wall beside it. I’m not sure if that’s a joke or not. I can’t help thinking back to the holiday we just had and how even Polly would have had a hard time entertaining herself in this thing. As I’m stood there looking at it some hungover looking lady comes stoating across to me and seems to be asking me why the back light on her car keeps flashing. I tell her I’m no mechanic and woefully ill equipped to help her in such matters. She walks off saying she’ll just get in the thing and drive it, talking to herself the whole way to her car. On the way back up to the room some skinny, disheveled young guy with a big scar across his eyebrow asks me if I’m from the metal festival in town and asks me how many people were at it. I tell him that I was there yesterday and that it was good fun. He smiles, a little guilt in it, and says, “Nah man, I’m just needing to sell some weed”. I tell him I’m sure he’ll find some customers there.

The DIS guys turn up in the van around nine. Henry, the cheeky looking guitarist, looks hungover to piss, he’s still smiling though. The van is a long minibus although there are eleven of us travelling in it and there is barely any room for all of our gear and cases. It takes us a good while to cram everything into the van although it’s on the point of bursting, there are guitar cases under feet and drums in the aisles. Everything packed and us with it, like a can of sardines, Kyle asks where Bruce, the other guitarist is. He was sleeping here apparently. Kyle calls him and I can tell there is some grumbling going on. Bruce appears about five minutes later carrying two guitar cases, a bag, a pair of sunglasses and what is obviously a stinker of a hangover. When he approaches the open side door of the van he barrels into Kyle who sat nearest, “What happened to my warning? You were supposed to call when you were on your way!” He’s seems pretty pissed, maybe a bit embarrassed. Then he grunts, “Pack my shit in the van and I’ll be back in a minute”. Kyle looks at him and there is silence for a few seconds, and then simply says, almost laughing, “No”. “Alright I’ll be back in a minute”, Bruce mumbles and walks off. The van bursts into laughter at that. Jon, the singer, is a jovial big guy, full of bluster and a bit of a comic by the impression I get, “What the fuck? Who the fuck does he thing he is, Bruce Trump?!” Again more laughter. Takes me back to the Speedhorn days the way these guys take the piss out of each other. Fuck knows how we’re getting Bruce’s guitars in the van though.

When he comes back a few minutes later carrying another smaller bag the tone has changed a little and we help him tetris his stuff into the van. He turns to us and apologies for being late. We head off onto the highway, or freeway, or whatever the fuck it is, and begin the six hour journey to Los Angeles. Within five minutes exited and stopped in a parking lot because Henry needs to get out and puke. As he’s doing so Bruce moves up front, pinching Henry’s shotgun position. When Henry comes back he’s smiling but that soon dilutes when he sees Bruce in his seat. They bicker over that for a while as we drive off, Henry finally concluding, “Well alright man, if you want me to be sick in here then it’s up to you”. Five minutes later he’s chugging a huge quart of Coors Lite. I’m really starting to like these guys.

We pull up again a while later for a breakfast/lunch stop at a Denny’s. When we get out of the van I ask Henry if he’s feeling better now. “Ah yeah dude, now I’m drunk again”, he says, looking totally chuffed. There is something about that grin on his podgy latino face that just makes you want to laugh. I love people who are as chuffed as he is. The eleven of us sit down to some pretty standard Denny’s grub, but the girl serving us is great, running around taking the eleven of us on, sharing in the banter with us the whole time. It’s nice sitting down to eat with the guys, feels like a proper breaking of the ice since last night there wasn’t really much chance for that. I met Kyle last week in LA so we’ve had a but of contact but the other guys I had no idea about. When we leave Denny’s Kyle takes over the wheel and Shaun the drummer takes his seat in the back next to Henry. A while down the road Henry starts mumbling that he’s lost the top from his beer bottle and they start looking around for it, Shaun helping him. Shaun looks up at Henry as he’s helping him rummage around on the floor and laughs, “Dude! Your eyes aren’t even open!” The whole van erupts into laughter, except Bruce, who sat up front with his cap over his face, trying to sleep.

We arrive in Los Angeles a few hours, and a few stops later and head to Shaun’s house in the valley. It’s around five pm and we don’t have to be at the venue until nine. The plan is to hang around here for a way and relax before heading off. Shaun has a really nice house on a quiet street, he even has a pool in the back. He tells us that he shares it with his dad but it’s a pretty good setup they have going on here. Andy, Johan and I feel the need to stretch our legs so we decide to take a walk and grab some beers and snacks. We walk for quite a way along Oxnard eventually stopping at a liquor store. It’s nice with the walk. I grab a six pack of Session IPA and a three pack of kecks, since I’d miscalculated how many I’d need and was almost out. Never ceases to amaze me, how items of consumption seamlessly cross barriers between different outlets in the US. You can buy booze at the chemist, kecks at the liquor store, and guns at the clothes store. Weird fucking country.

We head back to Shaun’s place and find the two Jon’s on their way out to buy some weed. Our Jon says he’ll meet us later. We head inside and see the other guys out back lounging around at a table by the pool. I walk through the living room to make my out to the backyard and find a heavy set woman sat on a sofa looking at the tv. I say hello to her, but she just stares at me. I repeat myself but still get nothing back. She has a weird look on her face, kind of feel like I’m in a Lynch film for a second. I realise that the woman is Shaun’s dad. She finally gives me a welcoming smile and I carry on through to the patio. The pool is covered, which is a little disappointing, but it’s getting dark anyway and it’s not all that warm if I’m being realistic. There is a definite drop in temperature here when the sun goes down. I sit down to a beer and spot Johan coming through the living room. He walks straight into the screen door, bang, right in the fucking coupon. I stifle a scream of laughter as he staggers back a little stunned, “It was closed”, is all he can muster. Given the go ahead of Johan himself smiling, I burst out laughing. The screen door has proper come of it’s rails though, it’s just kinda hanging there. Right fucking brass. Shaun and his dad assist him as he puts the thing back in place.

Kyle’s girlfriend Adrienne is here and she’s telling us all the fires up in NoCal. Her hometown Santa Rosa has been all over the news and it’s devastating hearing her tell us about how her family and their homes have been fucked by it. She had a motorbike shop up there and she lost a few bikes. And plenty of others have lost their homes, and their lives. The scenes on the news are a fucking horror show. I came pretty close up to it last week, when me, Jen and Polly were driving from Orange County over to Joshua Tree. There was a brush fire there we got caught right in the middle of it. The interstate we were on was closed down and we ended up getting sucked right into it. Needing to fill the car with petrol we had no choice but to stop at a gas station. As Jen was inside paying for the gas, I was stood there filling the car up whilst the sky above was black and there were ashes falling on the car roof. The staff from the garage came and told us we had to get out and by the time we exited the place the fire was in the fields opposite us. It was truly fucking bizarre. They were evacuating people from the town as well as animals from the local zoo. It was a tough fucking task hiding my fear from Polly who was sat in the back wondering what the fuck was going on.

After a couple of beers and taste of rum that Henry has pulled from Shaun’s garage we head off to the gig. First we have to swing by DIS’s practice space, which is in a huge complex of practice rooms owned by former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland. Kyle tells me it’s the biggest practice room complex in LA. There are about four or five floors of rooms and there must be about fifty or so rooms per floor. Anyway, after loading the gear into a couple of cars we head off to the gig. We take a lift in Shaun’s SUV, white knuckling it at times as he tears up the road. Just seems to be the way they drive over here but there are points along the journey where I can feel my arsehole properly tensing up. The tension is tamed at least by the chat we have with Shaun as he drives, telling us about his job and his family situation with his dad and his own kid, who he gets to see at weekends. He seems like a really good guy and it’s nice chatting about our kids and stuff, even if I’m sat there at times hoping to fuck I’ll see mine again.

We get to the venue which is in a residential area of Pasadena. The place is an old barbershop that has been converted into a punk compound. The actual shop space now acts as the gig room, which is pretty tiny with only the floor for a stage. In the backyard area they have a hangout area where bands are selling merch, with another little room between the yard and gig room where a record player is spinning and punks are smoking weed. I wonder how the hell they get away with putting gigs on here, since there are houses just behind the place but Gerzain tells me the first band is already playing and amazingly you can’t hear a peep. Some pretty bizarre sound insulation going on there.

Our good friend Cooky, a fellow expat and former cog in the Boston Indian Queen scene is here. He’s been here for a couple of hours apparently, sat in his car looking at his phone. He didn’t expect to arrive so early and says that the area is a bit sketchy. It’s great to see his big friendly face as always anyway. He helps us load the gear in and when we’re done he drives me, Andy and Johan to get some food. Jon stays by the merch, having a drink and chatting away. The short trip and meal with Cooky gives us a bit of a chance to catch up. As we’re sat there finishing up the last of our food at the Panda Express, another old friend, Joe, texts me and says he’s heading to the venue, says he’ll be there in five minutes. I’m pretty surprised since he was going to a wedding today and I didn’t think he’d make it, or that this would really be his scene. Not wanting to leave him there stranded we head off to meet him outside the venue.

When we get back Joe is waiting around outside. You would never know that the place was a punk venue since there is no sign on the completely anonymous door with white paint peeling off it. Joe meets us with that same old, mellow smile of his, the New Yorker in him smothered by years of the easy going Californian lifestyle. We all hang outside chatting for a little while until three punks walk up to us and start enthusiastically telling us how much they like the band. Tell us they’ve driven over from Compton. They almost seem a bit star struck, which feels pretty weird for us. Joe just stands there smiling broadly. We decide to head into the backyard of the gig and hang out there instead. As soon as I walk in I clock Jon’s smile, it’s almost screaming at me with excitement. He comes up to me, “That’s Pinkerton, right?” referring to Joe. By which he means the Weezer record which Joe recorded. Jon is almost hopping with excitement, “He came in a while ago asking for you, and I told him you’d gone for food. I hope I didn’t sound like an asshole!” Jon has been waiting to meet my friend Joe for a long time and can barely contain himself. For all of Joe’s status in the music business, at least to those in the know, he’s the sweetest, most humble guy you could meet. He’d met Jen long before I met him when he recorded and mixed a couple of Speedhorn records. I’ll never forget the first meeting with him at the studio, “So who’s the guy who’s together with Jen from Misdemeanor?” When I told him that that was me he hugged me and said, “Your girlfriend's band rules man!” I’ve had a great affection for the guy ever since.

I spend most of the next couple of hours chatting with him over a couple of beers. He shows me a couple of pics of Polly from when he took the girls out for some sushi last night on what was their last night of holiday before heading home today, tells me he had a great time hanging out with them. I see Jon tentatively inching his way towards us through the crowd, rubbing his hands with glee. “I’m really sorry, but I’ve been dying to meet you”, he tells Joe and the next thing he has his camera out and shunts it at me. I take a pic of them, Joe grinning, Jon with gaping open mouth pointing at him. Jon settles down a little and we stand around telling stories for a while before Jon starts grilling him on all the records he worked on. “Sorry, but am I right, did you work on Action is Go by Fu Manchu?” Joe tells him he worked in both that and King of the Road, at which Jon turns his back and strides away a couple of feet before stopping and standing there with his back to us, “Jag orrrrrkaaaaar inte!” he screams. I give Joe a look to assure him this is standard fare with the tit.

As the night creeps along and our scheduled eleven pm slot time becomes a thing of distant memory I can tell Joe is starting to become a little pensive of the time, I know he’s up early tomorrow. I tell him it’s okay if he has to go but he says he’ll stick around for a few songs at least. It’s almost one by the time we’re ready to start. I give him a hug and tell him I’ll catch him next time and when the feedback comes on the small room fills up like a decompression tank and I see Joe no more.

The gig is an absolute blast. There is barely any room to move and I have Gerzain, our good friend who has booked the show practically hanging on my back the entire show. What can you say, from playing a huge stage yesterday to eight hundred people to playing a tiny room of one hundred and twenty, packed to the walls, today. I know which of these two scenarios I prefer. Andy seems to be having a shit time of it for some reason though, I can’t figure that one out. Half way through the set I shout over to him, “Andy, smile for fuck sakes!” but he just shakes his head. The crazier the crowd get the more the gloom lifts on his face though and we power through the rest of the set. By the time we end with This is the End, Gerzain is beyond me and in a pile with a bunch of other, Cooky amongst them, screaming along with Johan to the choruses. Andy has cheered up enough to even play an extra song, even if Jon almost fucks it by shouting over to him about not fucking it up, since Andy has had a couple of whoopsies with this song the last couple of shows, but Andy barrels through it and it’s a great end to the gig. When we’re done Andy tells me that he’s stretched something in his back at the start of the set and he’s been in pain with it the whole time. I feel pretty bad for telling him to smile now. Poor Tallsy, he’s had some grief with his back through drumming all these years.

We hang out for a while, taking photos with chuffed punks and signing records. But as nice as it is hanging out, time is running away with us. It’s almost two and we still have to take the gear back to the studio before driving an hour or so over to Bruce’s place where we’re sleeping tonight. His place is about halfway to the show in Tijuana tomorrow, which is decent, but it’s still going to be fuck knows o’clock by the time we get to bed. Bruce had been hyping up hard rock karaoke at his place to me yesterday, can’t see that happening somehow. We pack the gear into the cars and me and Jon take a ride with Jon DIS and Bruce. Straight away Bruce starts lobbying to head back to his place direct, since the car is full with stuff that is coming with us tomorrow anyway but it turns out that Jon has the keys to the practice space and the other guys can’t get in. Bummed out, they head off in the direction of the practice space, Jon driving fast as fuck saying he needs weed. He doesn’t drink and he’s dying to get back to Bruce’s place for a smoke.

After dropping the gear we head off down the highway to Bruce’s place. Not long into the journey we hit stand still traffic on the interstate. Even at this fucking time of the morning there’s no escaping it. Seems like there’s been an accident and the cops have closed all the lanes. We’re right at the front of it though so by the time Jon, our Jon, has gotten out and taken a gigantic piss on the side of the road, much to the amusement of Jon DIS, Big Jon, and Bruce, we’re moving again as soon as the police have cleared the road. As we fly along the highway Jon and I chat away in the back, Jon laughing hysterically at times, and it’s almost five by the time we get back to Bruce’s place. Which is fucking huge. I find the first available spot and lay myself down in it. I’m glad we’re not leaving until early afternoon tomorrow.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Oakland

I’ve been in the States for just over a week, starting this whole Victims trip off with a holiday with the family. I’ve had a great week with girls hanging around LA and SoCal, it was a bit hard to readjust my head into band mode this morning, saying bye to Polly and Jen. We’ve been staying in some really nice hotels. hanging with friends in the desert and taking Polly to Disneyland. I can feel the times a changing, maybe I’m getting to the point in my life where I’d rather concentrate my travels solely on holidays. After twenty years of touring maybe roughing it is starting to take it’s toll. Or maybe this feeling is just being over inflated by the feelings of saying bye to my little girl this morning on the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Orange, so far away from home and not travelling back together. Things certainly have changed though, there’s no denying that. When we were kids the actual show was almost an afterthought of touring, the least fun part of the whole package, coming in long behind the partying and the travelling, the socialising. Nowadays that has pretty much turned on it’s head. I know I sound like an asshole, but leaving the family by the pool of our swanky hotel in Hollywood for someone’s floor, right at this minute, didn’t feel great. And that sucks, because it’s a fucking privilege to play so far away from home, to get the chance to do this shit. I anger myself feeling this way. As I sat in the cab, watching Polly ran off back into the hotel, I told myself to get a grip and get my head into gear.

The flight from LA up to Oakland was pain free. Nice flying domestic in this country, and not having to deal with customs and passport control. It was pretty much straight through on both sides. I sat on the plane, trying to use most of the short journey to get some studying done but ended up speaking to this middle aged couple sat beside me for most of the way. The lady was telling me about her job as a teacher and her kids who have all grown up now. She said that her eldest daughter was around my age, twenty six apparently. Well chuffed with that. Don’t know if she was being kind or just blind, I’ll take it anyway. We’ve all flown in separately to the States. Jon came in a few days after me and has been hanging out with Anton in San Francisco for three of four days, he’d been saying they were going to write a new Accursed record whilst they were here together but I can’t see that happening. Andy and Johan came in the day before yesterday. It makes us a lot more inconspicuous flying into the country doing it this way since we’re here as tourists. Trying to explain to the customs police at the airport that we’re a punk band and not really getting paid that much for the shows would be a far too risky truth to explain. The stories of bands being turned away and sent home always puts the shits up you.

When I get to Oakland airport I head outside and look around for some metaller holding a piece of paper with “Victims” on it but I don’t find anyone. There are a few darkly clad long hairs hanging around who are obviously going to the festival we’re playing tonight, California Deathfest, and I toy with approaching them asking if any of them are in a band and expecting a shuttle when I notice on the email Andy sent that I actually have a receipt for a pre paid cab of my own and head over to the pick up point stated on the bottom of the mail. I find some African guy lying back in the seat of a minibus that is sat where I’m supposed to be getting picked up, he’s talking loudly into his phone in a language I can’t begin to pinpoint, and waves me into the bus. Not totally sure I’m in the right van when he speeds off, continuing to shout his conversation whilst gesticulating wildly at the wheel. I’d figured I’d be getting dropped off at the venue since we’re playing in three hours time but instead he drops me off at a Motel 6 next to the highway. I ask him if this is the right place and he just says, “Yes, yes”, and ushers me out of the van. There are a few obvious band types mulling around in the reception so I figure this is where we’re staying and go to see about our room.

As is so often the case with festivals and hotels, there is a problem with the booking. The girl behind the desk can’t find my name, all she has is a room booked for two people with Andy and Jon’s name on it. I have no number for production, and the girl won’t let me into the room. I have no choice but to head to the venue in a cab and try and sort it there. I have a bad feeling about this. We’re leaving early tomorrow to go back to LA and I can envision us stood around without a room in the middle of the night with nobody to call, Andy and Johan still fighting jetlag. Wouldn’t be the first time.

I get to the venue and there is no sign of the other guys yet. I ask the guy at the door sorting passes and bands out if he knows anything about our hotel situation and our missing room, he tells me that the promoter is in charge of all that but he hasn’t seen him for a while and there’s nothing he can do, although he tells me he’ll send him my way when he sees him. The promoter, Ryan, is friendly with Jon since Jon has played his various Deathfest festivals a bunch, so we’ll have to get him on the case as soon as possible. With nothing really happening I head out for a walk and look for some food, the best I manage to find is a shitty grilled cheese sandwich and fries. I can’t really work this part of Oakland out, it seems to be a pretty rough area down by the water that the city is doing it’s best to invigorate with restaurants and bistros, but most of the places seem to be closed, there are pockets of gangs hanging around and the air stinks of weed. Add to that the lingering scent of the forest fires breezing in on the wind from the north and it’s a pretty strange vibe. Another strange thing is that the huge Amtrak trains come through here, right down the middle of the street, hollering their sirens, noisy as fuck. I decide to head back to the venue, not entirely satisfied and hoping to find the guys there when I get there.

I walk in and hear, “Garrrretttt”, in a voice that can only be Jon’s. I turn around to find him stood at the bar with Anton. The pair of them smiling, both with drinks in their hands. I walk up and give them a hug and a picture starts to reveal itself. Anton is drinking soda water and up close his smile is genuine and happy, Jon is drinking a beer and I realise that his smile isn’t actually a smile at all, but rather a look of despair. “I feel physically awful!” is the first thing that comes out of his mouth. He goes on into a ramble about how he’s suffering terribly from the jetlag, which is a little surprising since he’s been here for four days. I ask Anton how things have been and ask if Jon has been waking him up early all week but he tells me, “No, Jon’s been sleeping like a log”. Jon is just staring blankly with a glowing red face, telling me how much anxiety the lag is giving him and that I couldn’t possibly understand it. It’s painfully obvious that he’s both drunk and stoned. I’m battling to tell him about the hotel situation and that we need to sort it but it just turns into two separate conversations butting heads with each other so I head off to catch up with the other two.

Johan and Andy seem in good spirits, Andy is sat chatting with our friend Zane who is booking the show in LA tomorrow and is travelling with the DIS guys who are playing with us tonight and the next two shows. We’ll be travelling with them. I met up with Kyle the bass player last week in LA and left my guitar with them since they were driving up in the van which we’ll be riding in with them. They had offered to give me a ride up to Oakland but they said they were driving up through the night and sleeping in the van since they were on early today. As kind an offer as that was I’m glad I took a flight today. Andy and Johan grab a beer and we go to watch a bit of DIS. They’re playing first up on the big stage and there are a few people in but it’s pretty sparse. The guys expected as much though, fucking tough going on first at these kind of gigs. It sounds really good through the PA though, which is surprising for such a big room. We played this place a couple of years ago, the Metro Operahouse, but then we played in a smaller room and a lot smaller stage. It will be a different vibe tonight.

The three of us head out for a walk for a while whilst Jon takes the merch. When we come back the place is getting busier. I get stopped by some woman on security on the way in, I don’t catch it at first, Andy and Johan just walk in but I get a big arsey, “Step back”. I don’t really hear her or understand she’s talking to me and then again, “Step back now. Sir.” Fuck this country. I hate the way authority figures talk to you like shit whilst still calling you Sir. I’m looking forward to playing a proper punk show in LA tomorrow. No security assholes on the doors. This is the show that’s paying for the bulk of the flights though, best just get through it. The place is pretty packed now, full of metal. The front room where the bar is is decked ceiling to floor in bootleg metal shirts, all over. I’ve never seen such a gathering of ugliness. There is some silly gore death metal band playing, although the extent of the gore is the singer’s apron with a bit of fake blood on it. The rest of them all just look like miserable bald men. After them it’s Diocletian from Canada. They’re pretty good actually, although have a silly image where they’re trying to look all tough by wearing hoods and staring menacingly at the crowd. Silly look, pretty good band though.

We’re up next and I’m trying to get my head into playing a gig, I think I’m still stuck on holiday mode. It sounds good up on the big stage when we soundcheck though and before we start I see our old friend Jeff Matz from Zeke/High on Fire stood at the front of the stage waving at me. I’d put him on the list and glad to see he made it in time. I have a quick chat with him and arrange to meet up afterwards at the bar. The room is pretty full when we play, although with a big open circular space near the front making way for people doing karate in the pit. Jeff is stood right in front of Johan in his Victims shirt, smiling and nodding his head gleefully. Johan jokes to me afterwards that it was really off-putting, that he didn’t want to Jeff to see his bass playing up close. The gig is okay throughout, the crowd response is pretty good considering the clientele, it’s a pretty standard big stage gig. The biggest problem is that I can’t really get much energy up, can’t find a flow in the music, and when you don’t have much energy yourself you miss that natural buzz that comes from playing a tiny room. Still, it’s ok. Apart from the monitors blowing out about half way through for three songs..

As I’m packing up my leads on stage this big friendly Peruvian guy from the metal band on next starts talking to me, telling me how it was really fun to see a hardcore band and that we should come down to South America and play. Funny how in the punk scene Victims is considered a crust band and in the death metal scene we’re a hardcore band. I’m trying to get my stuff packed up to let him get set up but the big smiling guy just seems to want to chat. When I finally get away I head back to the room behind the stage and find Jon staring into space, “I’m never crossing a time zone again! You don’t understand how bad I feel. Next time you wanna book the US you’ll have to practice in someone else on guitar”. Johan walks past us, looks at Jon and says, “Shit you’re drunk”, and carries on, Jon plants his arms down by his sides and takes it all the way from his stomach, “I’m not drunk!!” Ten minutes later he’s sat sleeping.

We’re told our friends in Merciless are having a bit of a nightmare journey from Stockholm. They were supposed to play next from last tonight but they missed their connecting flight in Salt Lake City and all their gear has ended up on route somewhere else. So now they’ll be swapping with S.O.B. from Japan and playing last, on our gear. Shitty situation for them, reminds me of our show at Hellfest last year. The poor bastards have flown via Paris first as well so they’ve been on the go for about twenty four hours for this show, and now they’ll be pretty much going straight onto the stage. Feel sorry for them but I have to say, I’m kinda bummed that we can’t head off to the hotel a bit earlier. Getting tired myself and a bit of bed and tv would be nice before our early journey to LA tomorrow. How fucking old am I really? Thinking of the hotel reminds me of our problem with the room so I head back into Jon and ask him if he’s spoken to Ryan yet. He mumbles that Ryan is aware of the situation. I ask him if he can talk to him and make sure he phones the motel ahead so we’re not stuck without a room when we arrive. “He’s got long hair and a cap”. That’s his fucking answer. He’s starting to fry my piss now.

It’s really nice catching up with Jeff though. Always is. I can’t really remember how we first met now, I think it was at a Zeke gig in Örebro, it’s been years anyway. He’s one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. Johan and I take a drink at the bar with him and he’s telling us that he’s started his own speaker cab buisness and should be getting some stuff out in the next year. Johan’s ears pricked up immediately at that. Jeff is taking it easy tonight and wanting to say bye to Jon we head through to the gig room where our merch is set up. Jon has now roused himself out of his slump and is laughing his tits off with some crust punker.

The Norwegian black metal band Tsjuder play to a big crowd, minus their drummer. They play to a pre recorded backing drum track, the whole thing looks bizarre. Andy says it’s like back metal Milli Vanilli. Looks fucking daft with the drum kit set up on stage and no one playing it as the drums thunder out of the PA. Somehow the whole evil look they’re trying to pull off doesn’t really make it. Still, parts of their set are pretty good, I liked their first record, a lot of good fiffs on it. S.O.B. is a lot more fun though. The crowd go fucking crazy for them, they’re obviously the biggest hype of the day. It’s always fun watching Japanese bands go mental on stage, they have a certain charm about them. It’s really fun watching them. The Merciless guys turn up about half way through the S.O.B. set, looking a little shell shocked. We help them out with gear, I was hoping to fob them off with Jon’s guitar but Erik has eyes on my SG. The guys recount their journey to us, smiling at the agony of it all. Joseph the bass player, a real good looking hard rocker asks us what the crack is with playing times and we tell him they’re on next. “Ok, is that band Sob now then? We’re on after that?” “S.O.B.? Yeah after them” Johan answers. We smile to each other afterwards, “Haha Sob, noll koll alltså” I say to Johan. “Så jävla härligt!” he laughs back. With the Merciless guys all set, we head up to the side of the stage to watch them. Jon is sat back on the same seat in the back room, once again asleep.

The crowd for Merciless has somewhat thinned out after S.O.B., it’s painfully clear that it would have been a better show for the boys to go on before them. Still, they play a fucking blinder. Stipen, the drummer, is absolutely immense. For the first time in hours I feel energised again, and even though it’s almost one am and we’re supposed to be leaving at seven, and we don’t know if we have a room yet, it’s the happiest I’ve felt all day. Just watching the guys play really solid, grooving death metal in the way only classic Swedish bands can, and making it look so effortless, gives you a real buzz. After the show, I talk for a while with a couple of the DIS guys who have stuck around, two or three of them have gone back to their motel. Henry, Kyle and Bruce are still around though and they’re all fucking wasted. I take a shine to Henry straight away, he’s this young faced Latin American who is constantly smiling, and drinking by the seems of it. Bruce starts telling me about how they’re looking forward to going down to Tijuana and bigging up some of the things we’re going to see there, drugs, hookers, donkey bestiality… It doesn’t take him long to figure out that that scene really isn’t our bag. He’s drunk as hell though and I have a feeling he won’t remember this conversation tomorrow.

Eveything packed up, and desperate once again for bed, we attempt to find the promoter and work out the hotel situation. Of course, he’s fucked off already. Jay, the stage manager who has been really friendly all night with us, tries to get in touch with him but there’s no answer. He calls the motel and surprise sur-fucking-prise there are no rooms available. Jay feels pretty bad about it, looks kind of embarrased. It’s not his fault obviously, but it sucks that during the whole time we’ve been here we haven’t met the promoter once, not even just to check in on us and see how we’re doing. And now we can’t get in touch with him by phone. Pretty shit style if you ask me. There’s a lot of nonsense with all of us trying to talk at the same time, Jon walking around trying his best to find someone to ask for help and me being really pissy. Andy and Johan must feel fucked with the jetlag.

We have no choice but to get in the shuttle and head to the motel and see what we can do. Andy and Jon go inside and sort their room out and when they get their key we help them up with all the gear, with the plan of just staying in the room and sleeping. Lo and fucking behold the room has two double beds. I feel both huge relief since the floor was really not appealing to me, and annoyance that the right room was obviously booked all along, they’d just missed to put all of our names on the list.

We crawl into bed, check the time. Two am. Leaving at seven my fucking balls. What time shall we set the alarm, I ask Andy. We decide on eight and turn the phones off. The DIS guys will have to find us. I’m pretty confident though that they won’t be knocking on the door at seven, not by the look of them an hour ago. Of course, lights go off and we can’t get off to sleep. In the dark, I hear Andy and Jon talking in the other bed, for some reason they’re talking about Metallica. “Anyone else could have died on that fucking bass, why him?” That’s the last thing I remember before drifting off.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hamburg

I have to admit it, the sound of a fart cracks me up. Properly cracks me up. I’m not proud of it, I’m almost forty years old and the sound of human beings releasing wind tickles the shit out of me. So the fart orchestra in the room this morning had me giggling like a school child, especially when Jon got up for a piss and let off a proper comedy trombone style trump that echoed off the bathroom wall tiles. Of course, Johan lying in the bed opposite laughing only got me going all the more. It must have been the hot sauce on the grub last night I guess.

My throat is feeling worse today. I can sense the full blown cold in the post. Johan gave me these sucking tablets in the car yesterday that are supposed to stave off potential illnesses but they don’t seem to have done fuck all. It’s still early when I first awake but with no real stress to get going today I decide not to stress about the fact I can’t get back to sleep and just enjoy lying in bed listening to the symphony of farts.

Johan, Andy and I head down for breakfast before it finishes at eleven, leaving Jon in bed who says he’ll get up later. The breakfast isn’t much to write home about but being that it’s free it gets the thumbs up. Wouldn’t have been too chuffed to pay the advertised six euros for it otherwise. The coffee from the machine tastes like it’s never seen a bean for one thing. We’ve got an hour before we need to head back to the venue and pick up the gear and the car so we decide to take a walk over the river to Kreuzberg and go for a wander, hoping to find some decent java and maybe a record shop on the way.

We don’t find any stores but we do come across a trendy looking vegan cafe next to Görlitzer Park. I’m in the mood for sitting down in the sun at a table outside and people watching for a bit but Andy wants to walk. I would be most happy to sit and enjoy my coffee but I can sense it’s a no go trying to persuade Andy otherwise. As it turns out, we’re better off getting the drinks to go. The staff are pretty stressed out and bickering with each other and it becomes apparent that we would have been waiting ages had we sat outside. The coffee hits the fucking bullseye though. We walk a few more blocks and then turn back towards the hostel. We meet Jon outside who has been down to the shop to get some Club Mate. He’s looking pretty fresh considering he’s back on the booze again after a two month pause but he’s apparently forgotten his toothbrush, his breath is humming.

The Ekranoplan guys are sat outside the Jugendhaus drinking coffee with the girl running the place today. For some reason there is some math rock band blasting out of the PA in the venue. Nobody in there listening to it, it’s just blaring for no apparent reason. Does my head in as we load out the gear. Thankfully there isn’t much of it and it doesn’t take long. I mention it to Christian the Ekranoplan bassist and he just smiles, “What were you expecting? Jazz?” A bit of Coltrane would have been just the ticket I tell him. I sit around talking to Adrian for a while over a cup of coffee about music and upcoming shows and stuff, he books a festival in Jena that sounds like it would be a fun thing to play on, maybe next year. Last time I was in Jena was with Jen’s old band Misdemeanor, nice place if I remember right. We drink up and exchange goodbye hugs and thank them again for lending us all of their gear and then get going. Nice bunch of guys. I hope we get to cross paths with them again.

Johan drives us out of the city which I’m glad for since I feel a bit too tired to deal with the stress of driving in Berlin traffic, but it turns out it’s actually not too bad today. The only time we get held up is by some old age pensioner on a kick bike in the middle of the road, she must be about ninety years old. Some of the avenues in the city just seem to head straight into the horizon, huge straight roads. We take Prenzlauer Allee pretty much all the way out of the city on to the autobahn and then I take over and drive the rest of the way to the Hafenklang in Hamburg.

We arrive early hoping to find our dear friend Daniel waiting for us but he’s not working tonight. It was he who booked us on this show and it’s this show we planned the weekend around. He’s taking the night off today though and coming down later to hang out instead. We dump the gear in the venue and then take the car over to the hotel we’ve had booked for us tonight. We assumed we’d be staying in the band flat above the venue but a hotel will do, and it’s only a ten minute walk away. We drive over and find that the hotel, which is called the Kogge is just a couple of doors down from Bar Otto, the infamous rowdy punk bar just a couple of streets south of the Reeperbahn. When we pull up outside we find the hotel is actually another punk pub with some rooms above it and sat outside drinking beer are an array of punks wearing various American punk t-shirts, “What is this? Hardcore Hotel?” Andy scoffs. We park up, trying our best to avoid the piles of broken glass in the road and then head inside to find a friendly young woman behind the bar. Jon takes care of the check in papers whilst the rest of us take a look around outside at potential eating establishments. Dinner at the club isn’t for another three and half hours and we could do with a snack. When we go back inside Jon has the keys and we start to head off in search of the rooms. The bartender says to Jon to not forget to tell his bandmates about the free schnapps, Jon looks at us all chuffed “Yeah there’s a complimentary shot upon arrival boys”, he’s obviously put his away already. The rest of us politely decline.

Andy takes a single room upstairs leaving the rest of us with a choice of rooms on the ground floor, which are through a door to right of the bar just next to the stairs going down to the bogs. Pre-room inspection I’d agreed to share a double with Jon and Johan would take the other room and when we open the door I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s nice and light and the interior is pretty cool, they have an old Marshall top as a side table next to the bed. When we open the door a little more and walk in we find that there isn’t much more to walk in to though. The rest of the room is the double bed and it’s lying right up next to a big window with the curtains drawn wide open and there are punters from the pub sat eating at tables just a few centimeters away on the other side of the thin glass. It’s basically a knocking shop converted into a hotel bedroom. We piss ourselves laughing at it but whilst I’m laughing I’m thinking that I’ll probably end up taking the top bunk in Johan’s room, which is a grey, dark cupboard on the other other side of the wall from this one. We start talking about how much money Jon would require to sleep naked in the bed with the curtains open tonight. The thought of breakfast eating punters being confronted by that sight is just beautiful.

We head down the stairs next to Bar Otto to the harbour front and look for somewhere to eat. With the sun shining and there being about five hours to go until we play I decide I’ll have a beer with the guys, feels like too nice an opportunity to waste. We find a beer garden bar looking out over the water that is selling pizza and an assortment of locally brewed ales and decide that this is the spot. As Andy says, it’s dangerously tempting to just sit here the rest of the night and forget about the fact we have a gig to play later. But time soon catches up with us and it is indeed time for us to head back to the venue and find out what equipment we’re going to be borrowing tonight. We’ve been lucky to have the Ekranoplan guys with us this last couple of days but I don’t know what we’re going to end up with tonight or what the show is even going to be like. It’s part of some town festival or something and the line up is deliberately diverse. We’ve been told that there is a techno punk band opening up, then us in the middle and then a well known Deutsche Punk band playing last. Andy checked them out on Wikipedia earlier and the Swedish translation of the members names from the German page was brilliant. On vocals, Handsome John Köln, guitar Kompanjonen and on bass Räkna Disco. That’s particularly funny in Swedish.

The Deutschepunk guys are there when we get back and they seem really nice, a bit older and they look like they are going to play for an hour and half, as we’ve been warned by the in-house manager earlier, but they’re happy to lend us their gear. It looks good at first glance. On Jon’s side of the stage there’s a Marshall stack, there’s a decent looking Mapex drumkit, an Ampeg head with mini cab. But I have a hard time locating the amp on my side of the stage. And then I realise the little brown box that looks like a satchel is mine. To be honest, it’s a beautiful little thing, some old Ampeg speaker box, but it’s fifteen watts. There is an Orange Tiny Terror to go through it but I can not see for the life of me how I’m going to get a sound out of this piddly little thing. A little worried I head upstairs and look for some coffee.

We tuck into dinner when it arrives around seven. The Deutschepunk fellas certainly have a jovial way about them and they seem to spend most of their time laughing. Räkna Disco looks like he’s in Dexy’s Midnight Runners and he comes over for some chit chat. He tells us that their set is about and hour and half long, but then that’s without all the stage talk. I can’t really imagine how I’m going to be able to hack listening to them for that long. Any band for that long.. Indeed when I head downstairs after dinner I find the drummer writing their set list out and it’s so long he’s had to gaffa tape two pieces of paper together to get them all on. “Forty songs! And they’re not all thirty seconds long”, he laughs. Fuck me…

I head out into the main room looking for wifi info so I can sit somewhere and finish writing for the day. There is this tough looking short lady who works behind the bar, I decide to ask her for the password. “Wifi? Are you in the band?” I confirm that I am indeed in the band. “Noooo”, she says taken aback but laughing, “Really?”. Do I not look like a punk or something? When she realises I’m not some random customer trying to scam free wifi she gives me the info, still laughing. Next time I see her she’s throwing some old punk, some silly looking sod with big sideburns and a pork pie hat, out of the venue for being too pissed.

Jon and I decide to leave the merch and head out for some air before the show. It’s dark out now and we walk along the harbour to the Submarine which is a museum and permanently docked. One time we played here and Stachel was with us and we all took a look around onboard. There is something strangely ominous looking about it in the dark. We carry on walking and get talking to some guy who is running a sightseeing service where you drive around in custom made mini hotrods that are the size of go-carts. He tells us they can get up to 100 kilometers an hour. We just happened to spot them and go check out what the cars were, we hadn’t seen the guy in the garage and didn’t mean to get sucked into a conversation with him about them. He was nice enough though. Thanking him for the chat we walk back along the street towards the venue and when we pass the dark steps up to Bar Otto we hear a dog barking and some woman screaming, as well as what sounds like a fight going on between a bunch of guys. We decide we’ll take the other route back to the hotel later.

It’s good to see Daniel when we get back. He’s sat on the door helping stamp people’s wrists since there is now quite a current of people flowing into the place. Jon walks past and Daniel grabs him at first without realising who it is. The next second they’re embraced in a friendly hug. Our merch is set up right next to the door so we can steal a bit of a chat with him when things calm down a bit. The techno punk band, 100 Blumen, are playing now. It’s not what I thought, or what that description had led me to think anyway, I actually like the sound of it. It’s heavy and dark and the singer who looks like Jerry A has a great scream on him. It sounds a bit like Killing Joke at times and other times full on heavy punk. There room is packed full though so I can’t really get into the crowd to see much of the band so make my way back to the merch to hang out with the guys.

There are people constantly going in and out of the venue and Andy is stood to the side of our merch table stretching his arms back and forth, elbows out straight, getting ready to play, without really noticing the people behind him. At one point the bartender lady walks right behind him just as he thrust his elbows out and I lurch over to stop him hitting her in the face, but as it turns out his elbows would have wafted above her head anyway.

As the punters stream out of the venue for air when the opening band are done we fight against the current to get through to the backstage room. I’m a bit nervous about what kind of sound I’m going to have tonight and want to get up on stage as quickly as possible to try and work it out. Johan helps me with it but from the second we turn it on I can tell it’s going to be a struggle. You can get a distortion sound of it, my Blues Driver giving it all it’s got to push it towards my usual Victims sound, but there is just zero bottom end or body to the thing. We speak to the sound guy and agree that we’ll just have to try and push it through the monitors as much as we can. When line check is done I give the guitar one last blast and shout to Johan who is stood with his back to the crowd facing Andy, “Sounds alright I guess”. Johan just laughs. Who the fuck am I trying to kid really?

Despite the satchel amp I’m still pumped for the show, or maybe it’s having that little thing on stage with me that is actually spurring me to give it that little extra tonight. The crowd is packed in. It’s a lot of people. Jerry A is stood right beside me and he seems psyched as fuck about us. The first two songs go off with a blast and it really does feel like we’ll be ok. It sounds good, my guitar sounds okay when it’s in the mix of everything else and although the crowd looks like it’s mainly here for the Deutschepunk lot they seem to be digging us anyway. And then everything starts to go to shit. Proper fucking shit.

We’ve had two great shows so far this weekend. When we start playing the second block of the set tonight I start getting the distinct feeling we’re not going to be putting tonight’s show in the same category. We’re playing Victims in Blood Part 5, which is the first time my guitar goes solo in the set. Bare naked with just Andy playing the drums behind me the guitar, which is supposed to be chugging along during the breakdown section of song before the big end comes in sounds thin as fuck. It sounds like I’m playing reggae up there. To make matters worse Andy’s floor tom has inexplicably fell over so there’s none of the bass from that either, he’s just tapping along on his hi-hat with a worried smile on his coupon and obviously being distracted he forgets to do the big cymbal hit that marks the end section of the song and it just kind of carries on plodding along, confusing the fuck out of all of us. Okay so it’s a fuck up, but we recover for the next song as I play the intro to the new song in the set, seamlessly from the end of V5. My guitar still sounds like a transistor radio but when it all comes back in it sounds heavy and the crowd are going for it. What I’m hoping is just one little blip is soon forgotten and we carry on pounding through the set. It sounds good too and I’m really going for it on stage. When I snap a string during the first verse V6 about half way through the set though it slowly continues to go tits up from that point on.

For a start the broken string is just buzzing along through the rest of V6, sounds like wind. And then I have to change a string to the side of the stage whilst Jon gently strums along an AC/DC riff whilst talking to the crowd, country style like. Oh how I miss Adrian’s backup guitar now. Obviously stressed for time, I don’t want to spend five minutes stretching the new string in so somewhere in the ballpark of acceptable I signal that I’m ready. Of course, after a long break the worst thing we can now do is play the other new song, which is by far the slowest song of the set. As soon as we start playing it I realise we should have just skipped it and played We’re Fucked. And of course, my guitar detunes and it sounds like a bag of bollocks.

We’re Fucked and Scars are next and they go okay and then Jon introduces the last set of songs, presenting an old one from the first record, Rewind and Forward. The crowd cheer at this and I start the opening riff, only to have missed that Johan was still tuning his bass and is nowhere near the mic. Johan motions with his hand that he’s not ready so I stop, assuming Andy has seen him, but he hasn’t and starts banging away on the d-beat oblivious. Johan has to go up to the kit and wave in his face to make him stop. Fucking right brass. Still, it happens. We start again and get through the thirty second song. Then Andy goes straight into the big tom roll that starts Your Life is Red and stops at the end of the first chorus. Just stops. We stand there ringing out as Andy looks completely scoobied and not knowing what’s about to happen I just wait for him. He starts the big drum roll again and we all come back in, none of us sure what we’re doing. We kind of stumble back into the next chorus, skipping the second verse completely until we come to the stop again.. Cue another big drum roll and the exact same thing again. We’re basically just playing the chorus, stopping, and playing it all over again. On repeat as if we’re stuck on a loop. It must sound ridiculous.

Thankfully My Eyes and This is the End go by without any more fuck ups and we can just get off stage. Normally even during the slackest of gigs Jon will come over and try to be positive but he just comes running over as fast as he can with an embarrassed “Whooo-hooo-hoooooo”. Thank fuck that is over is all I can think. We pack down and hide in the backstage room.

As we’re sat there cooling down with a beer, performing an autopsy of the gig some guy walks in holding a Sirens lp and asks if we can sign it for him. Johan asks, “What do you want us to write? “Sorry”?” We all laugh but it seems to go over the guy’s head and he starts telling us how good it was to see us again after five years. I know most of the time you’re a lot more sensitive to the fuck ups on stage as a band member committing the fuck ups but surely he couldn’t have missed the train wreck of the second half of the gig? Perception is a peculiar thing indeed.

After the guy leaves I decide to make my way out into the venue and keep Jon company at the merch table. Before reaching him some guy wearing sunglasses blocks my path, some older pissed up guy who is laughing his tits off and obviously steamboats, “Hey man great show!” I thank him and then try to carry on but he persists, “Do you like Brutal Truth? I love em, yeaaaaah!!!” and with that walks off laughing. Fuck knows. Jon is sat there with a couple of bottles of beer and before long Johan and Andy have joined us and we sit there having a drink and a laugh. Sometimes you just gotta. Before long Jon is pissed up and he’s sitting at the now vacant entrance table, stopping every punter that comes in to check their stamp, laughing his ass off every time.

Jerry A and the gang are stood selling merch beside us and we get on with them just fine. Turns out Jerry is a big fan. He says it looked really strange me up on stage going wild with as he called it, “A little radio behind you”. Never thought about that, must have looked like a right tool. The tit with the sideburns and pork pie hat has somehow found his way back in here and he’s stood dancing with his eyes closed in front of the merch table. The Deutsche Punk band do indeed play for almost two hours, they’re not all that bad, pretty good to be fair, a lot of their songs and especially the singer reminds me of Leatherface, which is a very good thing in my book. But still, two hours. When they finally finish and we head to the backstage room to get our gear and head off somewhere else I bump into the singer and he asks me, genuinely confused, “So you fly to Germany from Sweden just to play for thirty minutes?” Fuck knows what he’d make of DB…

We chat with the guys for a bit and then get our stuff together and leave. We head back to Hardcore Hotel and the bar is buzzing. Some dj playing garage rock loudly and plenty of drunk people. It’s around one am but there is absolutely no point in trying to get to sleep in the room next door right now. Besides, we’re hungry. We walk up to the Reeperbahn in search of falafel again, thinking that’s probably our best bet since the food joints next to the hotel were all closed. I remember when I first came to Hamburg as a twenty year old I thought the Reeperbahn was really fascinating and exotic but it is in fact fucking horrible. It’s dirty and full of bright lights, misery and drunk tourists shouting. There are some great bars and music places to find in the streets above and below it though. For now we just make our way as quick as we can to the first falafel place we can find. It’s quiet enough when we do find somewhere and the food is pretty good although impossible to keep in one piece and I end up covered in sauce. Somehow Jon ends up not paying for his grub and just saunters out of the place after eating.

We’re heading back to hotel thinking we’ll grab a last beer in there, it’s two thirty and I figure it would be nice to be able to literally crawl to bed from the barstool when the time comes. But just as we turn the corner onto our street we bump into Jerry A and the gang and they convince us to come with them to another place called The Gun Club. They promise us it’s a chilled out bar but I’m wary of the name, can’t be arsed with any club at this point in the evening, I’ve only had a couple of beers and I’m getting tired. Turns out though that it is one of those great bars of St. Pauli, set in the cellar and pretty anonymous from the outside, you’d never find it without an insider tip. And when we walk in we find the Hafenklang crew there and a long narrow smoky bar filled with punks and lots of great stoner rock being played by the dj. Johan orders some beers in for us with the band cash and I get my lips around a beautiful bottle of IPA. Jon is sat there waiting for the White Russian he’s ordered and I clock the barmaid making three of them. I ask him if he’s ordered drinks for us, knowing fine well I don’t want to start drinking spirits but he looks non plussed. “She just asked me if I wanted cream or milk is all”, he shouts over the music. She places the three drinks in front of him and totally baffled he makes his way through them. Amazingly she figures by our reactions that she’d made a mistake with the order and she only charges him for the one drink, despite the fact he’s banged the other two down anyway. The fucker is on a roll today!

The beer is good but I’m struggling to get it down, tiredness taking over me. I can tell Andy is a bit sauced up though by the amount he’s talking. We have a good chat stood up against the wall facing the bar though. One of the guys from the Hafenklang crew orders a round of shots in for us and few others but I shy away from it knowing fine well my head will pay for it in the morning. I feel like a twat for declining but I know someone will drink it anyway. The other guys happily oblige though. Me and Johan crack up when Andy takes the shot in his hand and asks what is, and then we he goes to sniff it he ends up dipping his nose right in it.

It’s not long after that we decide to call it a night. It’s gone three and I need to get closer to bed. We head back to the hotel and I’m contemplating sitting with Jon in the bar for one last one as it’s a lot calmer in here now, although the music is still loud, but sense prevails and I realise that the reality of that beer won’t live up to the idea of it. We walk through the door to our rooms and I tell Jon sorry, but I’m crashing in the other room with Johan, knowing fine well I’ll be awoken by the breakfast guests sat a couple of feet away from the bed in about four hours time. Jon understands and it doesn’t matter to him. That fucker could sleep through an atomic bomb...