Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Oslo

Who turned the heat off in here? I’d fallen asleep instantly, it was warm and cosy then and although fully clothed, I’m now fucking freezing! I have no idea what the time is, it’s still dark out but then it will probably still be dark when we leave for the station too. Based upon absolutely nothing at all I decide it’s five am. I take a look at Johan, all cosy in his sleeping bag, fast asleep. Looks magic. I try to get back to sleep but it’s impossible. I lie there panicking, wondering what the fuck I’m going to do about this current cack situation. I’m so fucking tired and I lie there silently commanding myself to sleep, to no avail.

I head to the bathroom in search of a large towel to use as a blanket. I have to make do with two smaller towels. I head back to the bed, past Andy and Jon who are fast asleep. They too look cosy. Wankers. I lay back down beside Johan and try to position the two white towels on me so that they cover my whole body, one on my torso, the other on my legs. For a second I think I’ve cracked it, I’m covered. Just. But then the slightest flinch in my being and the towels slide. Not that they’re offering that much protection anyway, they’re pretty thin. I spend the next two hours trying to sleep like this, wondering why the fuck I put myself in these situations, every time I nod off for an instant, I then turn and awake from the cold and have to reposition the towels. It’s not until Oystein enters the kitchen around seven and starts to prepare breakfast and everyone slowly awakes that I have the bright idea of taking my bomber jacket and placing that over my torso as extra cover that I feel slightly warmer. By then it’s too late. I’ve had an absolutely cack night’s sleep.

To my surprise the first thing Johan and Andy say is how cold it was last night. Johan says that even though he had the sleeping bag he was still freezing and Andy, fucking Andy, says that he was so cold in his sleeping bag that he had taken a blanket he’d found in the living room and had placed that on top of him too. He laughs joyfully when he hears I’ve slept under a pair of towels.

Oystein puts on a really nice breakfast spread and the coffee is piping hot. We sit around gradually warming up and waking up and we take turns in the shower, except Jon. The sun is barely breaking through the cloud cover when we leave and it’s a cold and brisky morning. Oystein has been a bit stressed about getting us to the train station on time, although it’s only a short walk he says. We walk with the gear, feels heavy this morning, the short walk a little longer than preferred. It’s a relief to get to the station and know that we’ll be sat on the train now for the next seven and a half hours. That should leave me plenty of time to study for my presentation on Naturalism next week, plenty of time to have a nap and still some left over for viewing the glorious sights of the Norwegian Dovre Mountain range. There’s no sign of Jason this morning.

The train is in and waiting and we jump straight on board, thanking Oystein for last night and all the hospitality. It’s a shame they’re not coming with us for the gig in Oslo. The train slowly pulls out of Trondheim and starts the steady climb. The train is pretty full, a mixture of young and old, most of them though looking like they’re embarking on a skiing trip. Despite the early hour a lot of them seem to be drinking too. There are four younger girls opposite us, a right happy young bunch, passing a bottle of bubbly about. There is something about this train that doesn’t add up… I’m sure I heard the conductor announce that there was no restaurant carriage, although my Norwegian is far from up to the task of discerning that information. Every other time I’ve taken this trip the trains have been top class, and they usually have a large diner carriage with special viewing seats, the lot. I’ve been banging on about it to the guys for a while, hoping that would make up for the long trip. It soon becomes clear though that this train is made up of individual carriages, sets of two. There is no fucking restaurant carriage, only a coffee machine that requires coins for purchase since the card reader on it is broken. Andy texts Jason and receives a reply saying that he’s on one of the other parts of the train and that there is a bar there. I sincerely hope he’s taking the piss. Luckily for us Oystein’s kindness had seen to that we had some sarnies to take with us. I wish I’d bought something other from the store on the way to the station than nose spray though. Jon pulls out yet another stick thin, long Peperami sausage from the pocket of his suede Arthur Daley style coat and starts munching. Chuffed.

There’s not much for me to do than get crack on with studying. Nietzsche and social darwinism a little heavy for the sleep head I’ve got on, but I’m pretty impressed with myself that I manage to put down about four hours work on it. Studying on tour, who would ever have thought it? About halfway through the trip, on top of the range, most of the passengers alight, leaving a few empty bottles behind. Most of them actually seem to be trekking, not skiing. Jon inquires with the conductor about how long we’ll be stopped here and when told five minutes he hops off for a fag. He of course doesn’t think to tell us that he’s gone to the bog afterwards and causes slight panic amongst us when the whistle blows for departure and he’s nowhere to be seen. Not answering his phone either. The thought of leaving him in the middle of the plateau amuses me a little I must admit. We tell the train staff to wait up whilst we look for him and he eventually turns up wondering what the fuss is about. The train journey continues.. Johan said he’d met Jason whilst looking for Jon and he’s invited us back to his place for a bit once we’ve loaded the gear in at the venue. Will be nice to stretch the old legs a bit after this journey. At least we were able to sort out the coffee situation by changing in some merch money with the conductor.

One thing I have to say about this country, we noticed it last night when we got to the airport, is that everybody is so insanely friendly. The guards at the airport were really chatty and almost overly helpful with us when we went through security last night, they seemed genuinely chuffed to welcome us to their country. Quite the contrast to England or the US. It’s the same with this conductor fella today, he looks well fucking chuffed.

We’re informed, again with a very friendly voice, that three quarters of the way to Oslo we have to get off the train and take a bus for an hour, before getting another train for the last part of the journey. They’re doing maintenance work I guess. There is little fuss though, the bus is waiting outside the station of some little town, and we’re on that for around fifty minutes. Finally get to catch up with Jason too. We’re then dropped off onto a commuter train that takes us into Oslo central. Everything doesn’t go quite so smoothly though. Anne, who is booking the gig tonight at Blitz, phones me and tells me that the guy who was supposed to be picking us up from the station in his car can no longer do so since he’s drunk. Apparently it’s the drummer from Barn av Rengbågen, the main band tonight. They had said no to the gig in Trondheim last night as well, said they were worried about getting too fucked up there and being shot for tonight. Guess that hasn’t quite worked out.

This is a bit of a big deal tonight. It’s a gig marking the thirtieth anniversary of Barn av Rengbågen’s first ever show at Blitz, the legendary punk squat that has existed in Oslo for decades. Rengbågen are a much respected band in the Norwegian hardcore scene and don’t play that often so it should be fun. Plus the show is going to be in the smaller café bar, so should be packed. We take a cab to the venue from the station anyway, Anne tells us she’ll sort the money for it later. We’re met in the doorway around the back of the venue by a very friendly guy called Per. Either he’s Swedish or my Norwegian is picking up. We drop the gear and have a quick look about. Per shows us up to the band room above on the next floor where there are is a dormitory for the bands. I feel really guilty telling him that we’d made plans to stay at our friend’s place. They’d been expecting us to stay. Per assures me that the dormitory is really nice and clean. I feel like we’re a right bunch of rock star cunts now. I thank him kindly and explain that there’s been a bit of a mix up, that we’d arranged to stay at Jason’s since he’s a good friend that we don’t get to see that often. I knew the offer of accommodation was on, but didn’t realise that it was set in stone, more that it was there if we wanted it. He says it’s cool though.

We head back downstairs where we meet Anne. I’ve been mailing her a bit this last week and it’s been really easy. And it does indeed turn out that she’s really cool. I tell her also about the fuck up with the sleeping arrangement, and mention that we’re staying with a friend. “Ah yeah, Toby?” Fuck, of course! My old friend Toby from Kettering is coming tonight! He lives here now. Cool that Anne knows him. I explain that it’s someone else though and she’s cool too, tells us that she’s already sorted breakfast for us for the morning but that she can give us it to take with us tonight for the journey tomorrow. Again, feel like a right cunt.

Not as much as a cunt as when I make my next acquaintance. We walk back into the gig room and a young punk with a sleeveless denim jacket and a moustache approaches me and asks a question. Something about a train I think… “Yeah, we took the train, but then we had to get on a bus for an hour, and then back on a train again”, I explain. He looks at me confused and then moves on to Johan behind me. Turns out he’s the sound guy and had asked if we were two guitarists. The Swedish words for train (tåg) and two (två) sound pretty similar, especially if said in an Oslo dialect. Feeling like a complete turd, I decide it’s time for that walk to Jason’s place.

It really is inviting with the fresh air after being on the train all day. It’s a bit of a walk mind, a good twenty five minutes. Guess we’ll be taking a cab with the gear after the gig tonight. It’s nice walking and catching up with Jason though. We pass a couple of venues where he does some work along the way, and a few other places of interest he points out. Just by his place we make a stop at a convenience store to pick up a couple of things for breakfast, we wait outside while Jason and Jon go in. Jon comes out holding about Peparami sausages.

Sitting at Jason’s, drinking a can of beer and chatting is exactly what this day needed. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the venue and take yourself to a quieter place for a while. Andy seems very happy to be here, saying he’s very glad we’re staying here tonight, in a warm, tidy, modern flat. The beer goes down particularly easily and it’s very tempting to stay for another, I can tell the other guys are thinking the same. We peel ourselves away though, knowing we should get back to the venue in time to sort stuff out before they open. The walk back doesn’t seem to take half the time it did in the opposite direction. Isn’t that always the way?

When we get back to the venue we’re told dinner is in the kitchen and beers are in the bar. We head over and find that there is an awesome looking eggplant parmesan waiting for us. And it is truly fucking splendid. I lap it up as we sit at a long table in the bigger gig room where the bar and merch tables are. We end up sat next to some old punk guy, I say old, he’s probably in his forties, a few years older than me. He looks pretty sauced though. He was actually in one of the bands last night, I remember they sounded like Amebix, were totally okay from what I heard. This guy has been sat on the train drinking all day anyway. He’s banging on about the equipment we’ll be playing on tonight, saying this and that are fucking good bits of gear. In fact, he says “Fucking good” in relation to a great number of things during the ten minutes or so we’re stuck with him. Nice enough guy though, just a bit boats for my sober head. Jon and Jason do their best with him and I head off upstairs with Andy and Johan to see what’s going on.

The first band on the bill are up there, a chirpy bunch of young guys. One of them says they played with Victims in Oslo before and even though Andy is engaged in the conversation I can tell he’s feigning recognition. He obviously hasn’t got a fucking clue who the guy is. Not so strange, it was a while ago. In fact, I was at that gig, although playing in Speedhorn and not Victims. That was the tour where me and Kev decided we were leaving Speedhorn actually. Anyway, these guys are friendly enough and we sit and chat for a while. I notice this one kid sat with them, really young looking, I’d clocked him when we came in. He’d asked if we were Victims and when we said yes, he got really nervous looking and just sat there looking really awkward, like he was star struck or something. I felt kinda bad for the little guy. I wanted to engage him in conversation but couldn’t think of anything to say. Strange for me, that.

The guys in Regnbågen, keeping in line with the Norwegian standard, also really friendly. The guitarist looks a bit like Poffen from Totalitär and has a constant grin on his face. Johan was talking to him for a while about equipment and stuff. Me and Andy are up talking to the young guys for a while before we head down to grab a beer and hang out in the venue. The four of us and Jason sit around talking about this and that, enjoying a couple of cans.

After a while my mate Toby arrives. It’s great to see him. We figure it’s probably been ten years since we last met. Fucking crazy. Toby was this young kid from Kettering when I first met him, part of the scene with Jay and Dave Speedhorn and their old band Scurge. Toby was always playing in hardcore bands and an energetic part of the scene, one of those who seemed to know everyone. He was out touring Europe by the time he was sixteen, a real driver. He also played in the infamous Richard T. King and the Minstrels, which was my best mate Snitch’s Elvis tribute act, kind of. Snitch played Richard T. King, the bastard love child of Elvis. Dave Speedhorn and Cliff, the Scurge singer who Dave also played with were known as Dickie Dave Diamond and Clifford T. Justice respectively, Gordon Speedhorn was on drums and went under the pseudonym G.G. Le Thatch and his brother Sandy was the manager Ted Bobby Bovis. Toby or Tubs as we knew him then was Toe Tapping Tubs, he played trombone. They were quite the sight, all dressed up in ridiculous wigs and seventies garb. The Minstrels have been revived a few times over the years, a kind of collective if you will, with members flitting in and out. I’ve been there myself on one occasion, Gordon Speedhorn’s wedding, under the name Johnny Tofu.

Toby arrives just as the first band are finishing, so I only manage to catch a little bit of them. The dark room which probably could hold around two hundred is fairly well filled out, although it’s not packed by a long shot. Anne had said to me that there was another gig on tonight which a lot of people were hyped about. Can’t remember what they were called but they had a name like Avenger, or Enforcer or something daft. Some hard rock parody I’m guessing. Anne says that the gigs overlap so there will be a lot of people here by the end since Blitz always goes late but whether they’ll be here in time for Victims is another matter. To be fair, it looks ok as it is, I’m at the back and can’t be arsed squeezing through the crowd anyway. And gig clashes are something you’re going to get in pretty much any fair sized city.

Whilst we’re linechecking the room is pretty empty, with most people heading back to the big room where the hangout seems to be. It’s cool though that when the bands play they turn the lights on in there and the music off, forcing most people back into to see the bands. That doesn’t always happen. By the time we get started the room has maybe eighty people in it, maybe a few more, it’s hard to tell in the dark. Tubs and his mate, and Jason are stood comfortably up front anyway, just on the arc of the semicircle left in front of the stage for no one. The gig is okay. The sound is a lot better on stage tonight, and we play better, there are no hiccups or technical problems. But for some reason I don’t really feel it as much tonight. Sometimes it’s just like that. I find myself just ploughing through the set as opposed to raging through it. I still put as much energy as I can muster into it but it’s harder work tonight. One of those gigs that are simply, okay. Jason says afterwards that the sound was a lot better out front tonight and that’s cool, but for me, as I’ve always found, the energy within me and what happens out front aren’t always dependent of each other.

Afterwards, once packed down and sorted out I head back to the big room for a beer and to catch up with Tubs properly. I really wanted to check out Barn av Regnbågen but find myself skipping them for the most part to enjoy a natter with my old mate. The lights come on and the now considerably bigger crowd pack into to see the classic band leaving the big room peaceful, Tubs and I look at each other and decide we’d rather stay here than head into the loud, sweaty room. Although I do go in and catch a little bit of the band, who sound really on it. Really well played US style hardcore. Good to see the older generation still doing it. I aspire to follow their path.

Catching up with Tubs is a real joy though. We talk emigration, learning a second language, kids, Tubs too recently become a father. In fact, much of Tubs’ story mirror my own. He’s now working in a bar, was running one before he became a dad, still playing with his band Age of Taurus who are based in England. He says he’s pretty basic with the language but when some young pissed punk girl approaches him looking for money for beer or something he jumps right into it and I’m impressed with his pronunciation. He says he really wants to go back to university here but doesn’t feel comfortable enough with the lingo yet, I try to give him plenty of encouragement to do so. He laughs about how he has a degree in music management from the UK and about the little it’s done for him.

Soon enough we get talking about music. He tells me about a US tour they did a while back, just before he became a dad, that was booked by the infamous Andy Rice and was a complete disaster. I laugh at that. We’ve had that experience with Mr. Rice. Then we get talking about touring when they were younger, with his first hardcore bands. Tubs tells me that he’d met some Dutch guy a while back that shared a common friend with him. Whilst Tubs was trying to place where he knew his face from, Dutch informs Tubs that they’d met years back when they were through on tour, that he’d put them up for the night.

As it turns out, Dutch is this straight edge guy who’d been good enough to give them somewhere to sleep for the night. Tubs’ brother Leo was out with them on this particular tour. Tubs and Leo were a bit of a package at the time, right pair of cheeky lads. Tubs ends up getting wankered after the gig and wakes up in the middle of the night in dire need of a piss, not knowing where the fuck he is. He’s found by another member of the band stood pissing up one of the walls in the flat. Amongst the tumult of what follows Leo finds the whole thing so hilarious that he’s in an insane fit of laughter, crawling round on all fours. The laughter takes a hold of him to the point that he vomits all over the wooden floor. When Dutch points this out to Tubs years later, Tubs being the affable fellow he is apologies profusely and asks him if it was ok. “Not really”, Dutch says, “the vomit ran all between the floorboards and they had to be pulled up so we could sanitise the flat”. You couldn’t imagine two nice guys causing so much damage. Booze is the fucking devil.

I laugh my ass off at this story and a few others over the next hour or so. When the night is up it feels like we’ve had nowhere near enough time to catch up, and tell each other we’ll have to make sure it doesn’t go another ten years. Tubs insists on buying a shirt, even though we say his money is not required and then we get the gear and get ready to leave. Jason has sorted a cab and Anne has brought us the stuff for breakfast in the morning and sorted us out with the money to cover our costs. She’s been running around working all night but the occasions we’ve had to talk to her she’s proved herself to be a really nice person, just like everyone else we’ve met in this country. Would like to do another show with her in the future since she seems really concerned with making sure the bands feel welcome. That doesn’t always happen either.

We get back to Jason’s and he gets the veggie hot dogs on. A late night snack hits the fucking spot. We have a couple more beers whilst listening to music but as the clock gets later I find myself struggling to keep my eyes open. After last night I’d really welcome a bit of comfort and Jason tells me I can share his bed, being that his girlfriend is away. I’m gone within minutes, lights out. I had been going on earlier about how it would be nice to head out in the morning and go for a walk, going on about my plans repeatedly, as I tend to do on occasion. When I repeat the walking plan for the umpteenth time, Johan looks at me and enquires, “Go out for a walk in the morning? Instead of sleeping?” Good point.

I wake around ten and feel very rested. We’re flying around two so we have time to enjoy breakfast without having to stress. Jason joins us for the ride to Central Station, to see us right. You can tell Jason is an experienced tour hand. He’d be great to have out on the road with us in the future, something we all agree on as we wave to him when the train pulls out.

Looking forward to getting home now. It’s felt like a lot of travelling for just two shows, a lot of effort. Quite an intense weekend really. I’m sat on the plane next to Jon thinking about this and how nice it will be to get home for around four pm so I can enjoy a night with the family before the new week starts when the pilot comes on the speaker system and warns us that it’s going to be a rough flight, that we’ll be flying in extreme winds and that unfortunately there will be no refreshments service since the cabin staff will have to remain seated for the journey. “The good news is that it’s a very short flight today, thanks to the very strong tail wind, only forty minutes” he adds. Jon looks at me and says he wishes he’d taken his pill.

Due to the fact the pilot has just scared the piss out of me, I spend the majority of the flight looking at out the window, just waiting for the bumps to start. In actual fact, it really isn’t that bad. Next to nothing until we start to descend through the clouds above Arlanda. And even there it’s bumpy but I’ve experienced far worse. When we land safe and sound, Johan parps up from behind us, “I reckon they were just out of coffee”.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Trondheim

I was sat at school this morning, trying my utmost to concentrate on my maths book but all the while distracted by the sight of the trees flailing about in the wind. It was as gloomy as a Lars Noren play outside, the sky as dark as fucking Mordor. I’ve never really been a nervous flyer but I’m not that comfortable being thrown around at thirty five thousand feet. I’m certainly not too chuffed at the prospect of flying in a front of wind they’ve christened Helga. Storm Helga. I do my best to plough on through the second grade equations on the page in front of me but I’m constantly keeping a check on Arlanda’s website, seeing if the flights are being cancelled. I wouldn’t be too upset if the flight got canned, even if I have been looking forward to the show in Trondheim tonight. No word yet though.

Eirik from Mörkt Kapitel texted me first thing this morning, saying that our connecting flight from Oslo had been cancelled and rebooked for an hour later. Nothing to do with the storm apparently, something else, although no explanation was given. This means that whatever the case we’ll be arriving in Trondheim pretty late tonight.

I leave school around lunch, a couple of mates wishing me luck on the way out whilst smirking at the sky above and the rain pissing down from it. Johan and Jon are at the practice room picking up the gear and meeting Andy and I at Liljeholmen, just down the road from my school. I get there first and find shelter in a doorway. When the guys text to say they’re stuck in traffic I head into the second hand store to get warm. Find a Chomsky book there for eight kronors. Chuffed with that at least. Andy comes in not long after me, I can tell he’s thinking the same thing as me. Don’t fancy this fucking trip today. “It’s a short flight at least”, I say searching for some grain of positivity. “Yeah but even if it’s only an hour, I can’t be doing with an hour of hell!” True that. I think we’re all in the same boat. We’re parents to small kids and that if nothing else makes you understand your own mortality.

We’re out at the airport a couple of hours ahead of flight time. It’s at least comforting to see planes lifting every other minute, up into the grey. Seems like there’s a problem with the booking though. Eirik ordered extra luggage for us and although I have the receipt, the old lady at check in is saying it’s not showing up in the system. I had a feeling we’d get some shit like this. She checks the receipt though and makes a call and it gets sorted. Thing is, it’s been my contact on these two shows and when it’s on me I really don’t want any bumps in the road.

We grab the usual Max Burger before boarding, a new tradition since they opened up at Arlanda. I always think of Luc and his boycotting of them after the Moderaterna scandal. For a while he was pretty on it, and gave us grief if we were tempted by their veggie burger. It’s a good fucking veggie burger. And then one time Kev was over for practice and was wanting to go by Max for lunch, Luc started telling him about how the CEO was a right wing nut job who’d sent out a letter to his staff warning of the downsides of voting for the Social Democrats and how we should boycott them. Kev replied in typical fashion, “I couldn’t give a fuck if Hitler was frying the burgers, I fucking want one!” Luc’s boycott is now over anyway, although credit to him, he lasted a while. It was a pretty fucked up thing if the truth be told. Fucking Moderaterna...

We board the plane and I text Jen as usual. When out travelling we always text each other to say when we’re boarding and again when we land. This time of instant information brings with it a deal of stress and worry and I find myself looking at the clock and waiting for the text when Jen is out and about flying with work or whatever. Funny to think that before the era of the mobile phone and the internet things were considerably different. Jen’s mum lived in Japan for a year at the end of the Sixties, it took her a few weeks to get there and then when she did there was no thought of letting her parents know she’d arrived safe and sound. In the end her parents got in touch with her through the Swedish Embassy, three months later, just to make sure she was ok. How times have changed.

We lift off, the pilot having made no mention of the weather conditions on route before hand. It’s dark as we bang and bump through the clouds on the way up to cruising altitude, Johan throwing me a nervous look coupled with an equally nervous laugh, “I can’t be doing with this”. We’re on the very last row of seats as well, where you hear all the weird engine noises, just to add to the tension. Thankfully once we’re through the clouds the turbulence diminishes and the rest of the short journey to Oslo is smooth. We land at Gardemoen and have a couple of hours to kill before we get the connecting flight to Trondheim. We head to the nearest bar.

A lot of people back home in England, actually, I take that back, a lot of people in my dad’s crew or members of his generation, scoff whenever he’s off to Sweden to visit me. “Phwah! Sweden? Eight pound a pint there init?” It’s literally every time. None of these people have been to Sweden of course, although the reputation the country has for being expensive runs far beyond my dad’s gang. And to a certain extent, it’s justified, Sweden is an expensive country, especially if you’re a tourist. But the fact that the international currency of the pint is always the first thing to be scoffed into the conversation cracks me up. I digress. Now Norway? Norway is expensive! Especially if you’re a tourist, like us. Even for us Swedes Norway is expensive. This place would make some heads explode back in Corby. We each order a pint, and they come in at a tenner a pop. Ninety nine fucking kronors! Given, this is an airport bar, but fuck me… We only have the one. We have another on the plane, a nice can of Mikkeller. One of the upsides of flying with SAS is that they serve Mikkeller.

We land at Trondheim after a very smooth forty minute flight and Fredrik from Mörkt Kapitel is waiting for us. It’s good to see him again, the last time was when DB was here last year. He’s since become a dad, like the rest of us, bar Jon. The gear comes out pretty quick and we head off to his car. The first thing that hits you is the crisp, clean air. We’ve been having a shitty winter back home so far, four or five degrees plus and grey and pissy rain. Here it’s a few degrees below and a lot drier, like winter should be. The second thing I notice as we walk to the car is that Jon is munching on a Peperami style sausage, it hits me that this must be about the fourth or fifth I’ve seen him devour today. It must be his new thing. He always has a thing.

We drive into Trondheim, too dark to enjoy the views on the way into the beautiful city. We arrive at the venue around eight thirty, a half hour or so before doors are due to open. The place has changed a little since we were last here in 2009. The gig room is a little smaller for one thing, which is nice, UFFA, the punk house, burned down not too long after we played back then, and it took them a while to rebuild the place. Oystein tells me that since then the scene has moved on a little and they’re trying to rebuild it. Hence we’re here. The guys in Mörkt Kapitel obtained a grant from the government to put on a weekend show at the house so they booked this little festival with us headlining tonight and Martyrdöd tomorrow. Oystein, who is my friend and the person I’ve been in main contact with for these shows tells me that he’s hoping this will wake a bit of life back into the Trondheim punk scene. It’s good to see the MK guys anyway, they seem very concerned with us enjoying our time here. Good lads.

They show us up to the band hang out rooms, behind the stage, out through a back door, up some wooden stairs and into the floor above. There are plenty of beers to tuck into and for the most part we sit around, catching up a little, and drinking a couple of cans. The beer is nice enough but I still feel myself forcing them down as opposed to simply enjoying them. Sometimes it’s like that. I thought I’d be gagging for a beer by the time I got here tonight but it’s not really flowing. I feel like I’ll need a shot of something before we play in a bit, just to get the blood flowing. Johan concurs. He like me, enjoys a bit of a dram before gig time.

There are a few punks milling around about the various rooms up here on the second floor, one guy has this big Victims tattoo on his arm. He’s one of the guys behind the booking of the shows, and seems chuffed we’re here. Nice guy. We head downstairs as soon as we’re told food is ready, all of us pretty hungry by this point. We head to the kitchen and help ourselves to some great vegan food, roasted potatoes and veg, and a lentil stew with soy meat. Tastes fucking great. We head to the cafe/bar area where our friend Jason is waiting for us. He lives in Oslo but has made the trip up on the train to hang out tonight. He’s taking the same train as us back tomorrow and we’re staying at his after the gig tomorrow. It’s fun to see him here, fun he made the trip up. He tells us the train broke down in the mountains for two hours and all of the passengers emptied the bar of booze whilst they waited. So he only just got here himself.

Whilst eating Atle turns up, the singer in MK. Always great to see him. The big friendly bear. Not long afterwards it’s time for MK to play and I run up and grab a beer to sip on whilst watching them. It’s still not going down all that smoothly but it’s nice just to have something in your hand whilst you watch the band. The sound is a little squiff, I can only really hear Fredrik’s guitar and Oystein’s bass but it’s fun watching them anyway. They have a lot more epic riffs going on in their sound these days, with screamo style blast parts played by Oyvind too. I really like it. But then again I like that stuff, and both Oyvind and Oystein played in the screamo band Dominic who were great. I feel in the mood to play by the time they’re done.

There are four bands on the bill, but I only manage to catch MK. I don’t manage to catch any booze before we play but I feel warm enough as we set up. In fact, before we even start the stage lights have put a sweat on me. I’ve had a shitty cold for the last few days, I’m hoping this gig will sweat most of that out. It takes a while to get going, usually the case when you’re lending almost all of the gear. When we finally do, we’re only halfway through the first song, Death Do Us Part, when Andy stops playing and the song falls apart. I look over and see that pissed off look on his face. Seems like his kick pedal has fallen apart. It takes a little while to get going again but when we do I can still feel the pissy energy coming from Andy. He’s fidgeting with the kick pedal between the first few blocks of songs and I can tell he’s not happy. I try to just get on with it and have a pretty good time of it nonetheless. There aren’t a huge amount of people here, maybe fifty or sixty, but the room is small and dark and it looks okay anyway. The sound from Fredrik’s amp is huge and it’s pretty much all I can hear as we play. It’s definitely one of those gigs you have to fight through a little, but I can feel that the crowd in here are enjoying it anyway.

Funny thing is, just as last time we played Trondheim with Victims, someone launches a can of beer at me during the gig. The first time here the fucker caught me right in the pan, this time I merely feel the can whizzing by my ear. Fuck knows what that’s about. Must be the punk thing to do up here in this part of the world. The punks are shouting for more as we finish This Is The End, but I don’t even have to look at Andy to know that we won’t be playing any extras. I take a peek in his direction anyway and as I suspected he’s stood there shaking his head. Looks well pissed off. I’m happy enough with that anyway, it’s hot as fuck on the stage and my face feels like it has a thousand burning hot needles stuck in it, like someone is pouring acid into every pore. It must be the head cold I’ve been suffering with, I’ve been blowing my nose constantly for the last and my face felt red raw before we even played. It’s quite a strange sensation. Eirik comes up to me straight after the gig and tells me it was awesome, but I can only thank him and then run out of the back door to get some freezing cold air on my face. It takes a while to calm down.

It’s good having Jason with us. Even if everyone else tells you the gig was great, he’s straight up and tells us the sound wasn’t that great. No bullshitting there. Not that that takes anything away from the rest of the guys enjoyment of the gig, or indeed their genuinity. The MK guys all seem totally chuffed which makes me happy. I don’t want them to feel let down by us. All in all though, a long way from the best gig we ever played but perfectly fine. Maybe not for Andy I guess but for the rest of us.

We’re sat up in the hangout room and I’m really hoping that someone has some booze. I have an incredible urge to drink booze. Andy laughs at my constant repeating of my inquiries, and subsequent delight when Oystein tells me he has some aquavit, albeit back at his place. Good thing we’re sleeping there then. We hang out and drink a couple more beers, Jon pulls out yet another sausage from his pocket and we all have a good chat. Most of the MK guys are parents too so the conversation revolves around that and music. Total middle aged punks. A couple of younger girls appear after a while and one of them sits next to me. The two of them are a little flirty, just drunk and a little cocky, as you are at that age. They’re nice enough though. The thing is, as they sit there babbling away the only thing I’m tuned into is the sound of my own thoughts and how old these two young girls are making me feel.

Just as it feels like the party up here is starting to kick off and there are more and more people swarming around we decide it’s time to get going back to Oysteins. It is one thirty am as it is and I’ve been up since six thirty. The old cunt in me is longing for a bit of quiet at Oysteins place and a little nightcap before bed. We head downstairs to pick up the gear and the merch, who we’d left with the venue to sell for us at their request. Not that they were taking a fee for it, they just wanted to help out. Very nice. I suggest we give the two young punks a free shirt each and the rest of the guys agree that would be a nice gesture, so I take the box back to the little room off the thin hallway between the bar and the gig room where they had merch and distros set up. The guy selling the shirts is a young street punk and he’s totally delighted when I ask him if he wants a shirt, genuinely made up. He gives me a hug and I pat him on the back whilst in his embrace, not noticing the rows of sharp studs on the back of his jacket before it’s too late. Proper fucking hurts my hand. There is this young girl beside him who then asks, “What about me? I really want a shirt too”. I tell her that of course she can have a shirt and then she asks, “What band is it anyway?” Cheeky little get.

We catch a cab back to Oystein’s place in the city, telling Jason we’ll see him in the morning. Jason is staying at a hotel right by the station. Oystein has this really nice, old flat, all wooden surfaces and floors. Looks like one of the houses at Skansen. He’s made some fresh bread, it’s roasting hot as we attempt to put butter on them. We sit around the coffee table on the floor and chat for a while, the beer in my hand the best tasting of the night. The aquavit is fucking spot on as well. I of course did not bring a sleeping bag, like Oystein had told me too. I made the decision not to because all I had at home was one of those big bulky fuckers that would have taken up the whole bag, and the zip was broke on it anyway. I don’t say anything to Oystein though, it’s pretty toasty in here anyway. By three am we decide to hit the hay and I crash out next to Johan on the double mattress that Oystein’s girlfriend had laid out for us earlier. Jon takes the sofa and Andy a camper bed or something. This will do me just fine, I think to myself. The only thing slightly bothering me as I fall off to sleep is the fact that we have to get up around seven thirty to catch the train to Oslo in the morning.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Turku

The first thing I thought about this morning was the fact that my mouth didn’t taste too bad, considering I’d forgone the option of brushing my teeth last night. Still, a good brushing was first on the list of things to do this morning. And after that would be the search for a headache pill. I wasn’t that drunk last night but my body is still feeling the effects of two days of slow, steady drinking. I look up from my low lying bed and see Vik making his way to the can. He’s quite a sight. Eyes puffy and barely open, hair a little ruffled. Are those silk bockies he’s wearing, they’ve certainly got a sheen to them. I look at the state of him and think what a lucky girl Bea is. He disappears into the bog with a groan.

The shower is lukewarm and of little immediate comfort but I do feel a little better once washed and dried. And the teeth are clean again, the day starts to take shape. I lie back down on the bed for a while and wait for the rest to stir into life. I hear Vik from the double bed he’s shared with Luc say, “It feels like we’re living in a Coke refrigerator”, and I’m struck by the accuracy of this observation. One could rightly assume that the hotel is indeed sponsored by that all encompassing conglomerate considering the interior design in the room. Whilst Vik is in the shower I get up and lie beside Luc on the bed, deciding to check out a bit of Finnish tv. Kev picks up the hotel room bible, hard to believe this practice still exists. Kev prepares to read us a passage, opens up the book and then slams it shut with a look of great sadness upon his face. “You won’t believe what I’ve just found in there..” I really have no idea. Kev opens it up again to confirm what he’d found and when he sees that his eyes weren’t deceiving him gives out a disgusted sigh. Some dirty bastard has left a soggy johnny in the Good Book. Kev admits that he can appreciate the action from a sacrilegious point of view but it’s not really what his hangover needed and has left him feeling sick. He’s worried too that if we leave it we’re going to get the blame for it. He puts it back where he found it, after much debating.

We decide to meet the Famine Year guys outside the hotel at noon. Niklas sent me a pic a while ago of Tumppi and Marko drinking beer for breakfast. Fuck that. It’s another grey day in the north. We wait a while for the guys to show up having left the room a little early. They tell us about this great pizza place, really well known in these parts, and we decide to head there. I haven’t eaten anything yet and maybe pizza is not really what I would have gone for for breakfast but I tell myself that it’s bread and cheese and in that respect breakfast like. The place is just down the street from the hotel and we get there just in time. The place is already busy but there is the one table that has enough seats for the eight of us. Not long after we’ve sat down a queue has formed that goes out of the door and onto the street. The pizza doesn’t lie though, it’s fucking bang on. Hence the queue. Tumppi and Marko take a beer to accompany the food, of course, but the rest of us abstain. I can’t even entertain the idea. Even Vik opts for Coke. There is free coffee and salad from a buffet bar and that acts as a quick breakfast before immediately diving into lunch. The pizza is great, but huge and I can only manage about two thirds of it. Here they have finely chopped garlic as a side topping, kind of like the Italians do with parmesan, comes in little bowls on the table. The Finns pile into it, not shy. Tumppi jokes that he’s married so he’s free to eat garlic. Petri absolutely hammers the stuff onto his pizza. I take a little and have to admit, it’s an ingenious idea. Not very sociable maybe but none of us have to care about that, it’s only Kev who is single, the rest of us are out of the game. I wrap up the remaining portion of pizza in tin foil and take it with me, determined that I’ll eat the rest later but knowing deep down it will most likely be left in the car.

We decide to split the group in two, with half going in one car to the venue to pack up and the other to stay in town and do what they will. Pub is my bet. Vik and I head off with Petri and Niklas back to the venue, having won a game of rock, scissors, stone that we’d never actually decided the consequences of victory on, but I’d kind of decided I wanted to go to the venue anyway, didn’t feel like going to the pub which I was pretty sure is where they were heading. If it was sunnier then maybe I’d have fancied a walk but the sky was as grey as concrete so fuck it.

It maybe wasn’t the best idea that me and Vik were responsible for picking up gear though, Luc told the pair of us to remember his gig bag and there are the two of us, back at the venue trying to work out what it was Luc had told us to remember. Then we almost forget his bass, and then we’re unsure if we’ve packed the merch. Pair of useless wankers. We get back to town and right enough, the other four have been to a karaoke bar, not that they’ve been participating, it just happened to be the nearest place selling beer. Yesterday we travelled keeping the bands together, none of the DB boys wanting to separate. Today I feel that it doesn’t matter so much, I feel that we’ve gotten to know the Famine Year guys a little better. Doesn’t really matter anyway, Petri comes to the passenger window of his car, where I’m sat, and says that today we have to mix it up. He’s not taking both Tumppi and Marko in his car, and either is Niklas. I can appreciate where he’s coming from.

We leave Tampere just after three pm, another two hour drive to the next show. Pretty easy on the gas, touring Finland. I wish we could have seen a little more of this city since the downtown area looked pretty pleasant. Playing punk gigs and sightseeing aren’t exactly mutually exclusive though. We stop halfway for some much needed coffee and a snack and then carry on to Turku. I’m sat with Petri up front, listening to Pink Floyd and talking about his work and the state of politics in Finland. Marko has fallen asleep in the back of the car, Kev is sat pretty quiet for the most part. We’d asked Marko about his old band Unkind, approached the subject of the old singer Janne, who sang in the great band Herätys later on, but there wasn’t much to get out of Marko on the matter. When we pulled up at a service station for petrol we spot a coffee advert with a slogan, the word Herätys catching mine and Kev’s attention, being the geeks that we are. Apparently Herätys means “wake up” in Finnish. Learn something new every day. Good name for a band.

The venue in Turku is just outside of town, as is so often the case. It’s in amongst some industry units, the place is called TVO and is another well known place in the Finnish punk scene. We load in the gear and have a gander, looks pretty nice. Clean and tidy, nice little bar, nice little room. Stage is in the corner of the room opposite the entrance, it has a pillar right in the middle of it. Kev is wondering where he is going to stand later. We head upstairs to the band area where they have a kitchen and hang out area, a bedroom and of course a sauna. Brilliant country. The smell of frying soya meat is filling the room and confirms my hunger. We’ve timed it just right though, the guy cooking, who is the guy booking the gig, starts serving up not long after we slump down on the sofas around the low table. It’s good too, although as always I’m the world’s worst food critic since I think everything is good. The food hits the spot anyway, aided by the Sriracha sauce admittedly.

The Kylmä Sota guys turn up shortly after us, smiles still firmly set in place. Helena tells us that it was just as well we didn’t follow them to Klubi yesterday since first off they got kicked out the cab for being too pissed and then the bouncers wouldn’t let them in the club either. Proper fucking steaming. Bullet dodged there. Helena is back on the sauce now anyway, as is Marko. Hesu isn’t around yet, he lives in this city I think so I guess he’s at home. Janne and Irene are playing foosball on a table I hadn’t even noticed until now, despite the fact I’ve been sat next to it for half hour. It’s the third day of three today, but it feels like I’ve been on tour for three weeks. Fucking knackered. We’re all the same too, the DB guys that is. The Finns are hacking the pace, indeed they’re setting it. The Hurriganes are back on again, their rock n’ roll sounds playing out of Helena’s phone, her and Marko chuffed. The same song keeps repeating, albeit in different versions, and Marko and Helena are equally as chuffed every time each version starts. Janne takes to the sofa after the game is finished and starts telling us about when he toured Japan with Selfish. The drummer from Forward was talking to him about music but Janne couldn’t understand what he was banging on about. “Remu. Remu biking.” Lemmy is a viking it turns out was the jist of it.

Helena says that when they got to Japan the punks there taking care of the tour had said to them that they would buy all of the drinks on tour, that they would be sorted. Helena laughs and says to them, “I don’t think you understand how much we’re going to drink”. By day two the kindly Japs had agreed, “Ok, yes, you buy your own drinks”. The Finns are pretty hardcore it has to be said. I thought the Swedes were mad for it but compared to the Finns and the Danes they’re tame. Janne tells us that when they were in Japan they mixed pure ethanol they’d bought from the chemist with Coke, just for the crack I guess. Their Japanese friend timidly tries it, puts the glass firmly back on the table, “No. Does not taste good”.

Whilst all this laughter and storytelling is going on Marko is playing air guitar to the Hurriganes song, asking us if we like it. Chuffed as fuck. As tired as I am I force back a couple of beers, more in the hope that it will wake me up than that I’m in the mood. Helena has a bottle of Salmiakki with her though and that gets a bit more oil on the chain. We have a couple of games of fussball with Ronnie and the exercise gets me properly going again, but a half hour or so later I start sagging again. I try the Salmiakki again.

We head downstairs to check out what’s going on and find Marko sat talking with some old crust punk. There is another band headlining tonight, something we’re glad for since we don’t want to play last, it’s our turn tonight. This band are supposed to be some old half known band from Turku that have a bit of a following from their heyday back in the Eighties/Nineties or whenever. They don’t play very often and it seems to me like a good way to pull the crowd in a bit. Marko introduces me to the guy, but he barely even looks at me, just sits there staring into space doing his best to look broken and apathetic. Fries my piss straight away. You should see him, total profile of what he thinks he should look like, it feels to me. Little dirty headband around a greasy pan, undercut hair, leather jacket and jeans falling apart. Seems to be sponsored by Volvo too, has a Volvo patch on his jacket and what I’m guessing is his amp is decked out in Volvo signs. He looks like the kind of guy that gives Victims shit for looking the way we do. Showered that is. Except for Jon. Jon doesn’t really shower. I’ve got nothing against crust punks of course, far from it. Just his face annoys me, and his attitude. What makes things worse is that he’s asked Marko to ask us if we mind playing last, after them. It feels very much as though the situation is already decided though. We really don’t want to play last, it feels like for starters the crowd might piss off after these local heroes and then there’s the fact that it’s always a pain in the ass to divide up the touring package when everyone is using the same gear. It’s a bit awkward whilst I say I don’t really want to play last and Volvo just stares off into space. Feels like he’s already told the promoter anyway though so last it is. My gut instinct tells me that if we play last then we’re going to play to an empty room. Marko says that the reason Volvo doesn’t want to play last is that he’s already on the sauce and won’t make it until the end of the night. How very fucking rock n’ roll. Give me a break. Funny that he very specifically wants to play third on the bill of four though, not first or second. Whatever. At first I assume that Marko has some sort of connection with this guy but I don’t think he actually does, think he just latched onto him since he was pissed.

Famine Year are first up tonight and at first I think it’s going to be a disaster gig. The sound is pretty good, not as good as last night but still pretty good. But there are around fifty people in the place, again, pretty good since it’s a small enough room, but quite a few of the people are sat at tables, and stay sat there when Famine Year start to play, and stay sat there for the duration, like they’re watching a fucking documentary. Hesu is sat a table next to the stage, hair all showered, looking fresh as a daisy. I will him to stand. This other naughty looking old boy, shaved head and tattooed bonce grabs my attention too, just sits there looking unimpressed. Makes me a little uneasy. The other guys in the touring party stand up close to the stage to give support and within time others in the place follow suite.

The guys impress me, they really put it all into their gig every night. I get a buzz during their set, a mixture watching them play, being annoyed with Volvo’s antics and the Salmiakki. Somewhere near the end of the show Petri’s vocals disappear from the PA. He hasn’t noticed since he’s hearing himself in the monitor but for a whole song he’s gone for the rest of us. Helena starts motioning annoyed to the sound guy who eventually turns up and gives him another mic. This works somewhat sporadically too, cutting in and out. After testing both and asking us in the audience which is the best of the two broken mics he decides to fuck it off and screams the end of the set with neither, just screaming as loud as he can above the music, first on stage and then into the crowd, grabbing people and screaming in their faces. You can hear him pretty good aswell. This impresses the shit out of me and the rest of our crew and buzzed by it we’re all shouting along and pumping fists. A great end to the set. What a fucking star.

And then it’s time for Kylmä Sota, one last time. Brown is in a great mood, buzzing off of Hurriganes and booze. With the help of Stix he gets the sound guy to play I Wanna Be Adored by the Stone Roses as an intro. The punks don’t really seem to get it but we love it. He walks up from the crowd, shuffling onto the stage with the Manc walk. Absolutely brilliant. Before the show starts we move aside for this man and woman in wheelchairs, who sit in front of us, right up next to the stage, each with a beer in hand. They look to be suffering from some harrowing degenerative disease of some sort. Marko hasn’t noticed them yet, too busy with his dance, but Janne spots them and explodes with joy at the sight of the two guys. He barges past Marko and starts waving at them, really happy to see them. I figure they’re old friends. Marko looks a bit confused at first, and I must admit, I fearing the worst, but then he bends over and shakes the man’s hand. And then they start their set and the band explode into life, Helena laughing from the very first second. She’s always happy but I think right now she’s mainly laughing at the crap and very clean bass sound she’s got coming out of the combo amp the venue owns that we’re all having to use tonight.
After the first song is done, Janne signals over and tells Helena to sort the sound out. It seems she’s having problems with her lead so she’d disconnected her distortion pedal. Luc goes to help and fetches a lead, which causes a bit of delay, a delay which Marko fills be singing the opening lines to I Wanna Be Adored, over and over, always looking at us for laughs. He does this at every opportunity during tonight’s set. They finally get things going again and before you know it Helena’s strap has come off the bottom of her bass, so she’s crouched down playing whilst Luc helps put it back on. She gets sorted and stands up, manages one shout into the backing vocals mic, timing it just right, before the strap comes off the top end of the bass. After that she stays crouched for the rest of the song, laughing her ass and still playing like a demon. What a girl.

The Kylmä Sota set is spot on though, they’re a great d-beat band, and of course Marko is very entertaining. If he’s not singing Stone Roses songs between their own, then he’s playing air tambourine Ian Brown style, or doing Elvis style karate shunts, at one point he does a really quick drop to the knee and then up again, “Oh, that’s a new one”, notes Kev. It nearly all goes very wrong at one point though. He does a kick out into the crowd, timing it with a stop/start in one of their songs and comes really close to booting the woman in the wheelchair in the mug. She doesn’t seem to be that bothered but both me and Kev are reeling in anguish. I don’t even think Marko noticed. When they’re done I’m totally buzzing and really wishing that we were up next.

And then everything comes to a temporary halt.
Volvo and his lot are up next. To be fair the drummer is up on stage relatively quickly, although changing his cymbals is done with extreme care. The young girl on bass seems nice enough, a lot younger than the other guys and happy looking. She’s sorted within minutes. But Volvo hasn’t even looked at the stage a good ten minutes after Kylmä Sota have played. I get the sinking feeling they’re going to play for an hour once they finally get going. Annoyed I head upstairs and find Stix looking very relaxed with the Finns, drinking beer and having a chat. Ronnie’s girlfriend has a bottle of some bizarre booze, this creamy pink stuff. The label describes its contents as premium white wine with cream and flavour of peach. It’s not totally disgusting despite that. I have a swig, and then another. Feeling a little better I go back down to find Luc pretty stressed out. Volvo still hasn’t even been on stage to sort his guitar yet, and it’s been twenty minutes. The cunt is just stood there chatting to some young girl in the corner of the room. Doesn’t look that pissed either. Both Luc and I are pretty pissed off now. And then would you believe it, the fucker leaves his conversation and heads outside for a fag! With that I go up to the sound guy, promoter, and tell him that he needs to get things moving. We could have played our fucking set by now! To be fair sound guy goes out to fetch Volvo straight away and he’s up on stage within a minute unpacking his guitar and huge pedalboard. I walk up onstage to put my lead bag behind the amp and tell him he’s taking the piss. He looks at me with that same, trained vacant look, and I say to him, “We could have played our set by now, what’s the problem?” He just mumbles some sort of apology and I walk off. I head back upstairs to the sound of their set finally starting, I stay up there as a sort of private protest, refusing to watch them, fearing I’ll be stuck up there for the next hour.

To be totally honest, they sound pretty good. Kind of early Nineties UK crust, reminds me of Disaster a little bit. And they only play for twenty minutes or so. None of our crew have watched them but it sounds like they have an okay gig, not loads of people, there is a death metal fest happening just across the courtyard in another venue which has taken a bit of a hit on this gig, but it seems alright. As soon as they’re done we’re on stage and ready to go in under ten minutes, straight on with it tonight, no fucking around. All fired up, we blast into Good Strong Hand and immediately into Am I Stupid? Or Idiot! and when the first block comes to a dead end I slam my guitar into Kev’s shoulder, totally aiming for him. A bit out of order. When I do this I hear some voice in the crowd, “Hey, be careful with the amp”. I assume it’s Volvo. I just laugh to myself. I’m not even playing his amp but I guess he’s worried about me slamming into it behind me. Later on during the gig Luc bangs heads with Kev too, poor old bugger, not that he seems to care.

We have a really good show anyway. It doesn’t seem like anyone has left the building and our friends are down the front having a dance, Helena, her friend and Irene all enjoying themselves in particular. We play really tight and by the end of the set the annoyance I took into the gig has faded into happiness. Before the end of the gig Stix asks for the mic to thank the other bands for sorting us out this weekend, proclaiming we’ve had three really great shows in Sweden. I assume he’s taking the piss at first but he’s simply made a tit of it. Must be the peach cream wine. He corrects himself, to our amusement and then we finish the set. There’s a good cheer at the end and for the first time ever we decide to play a couple of extra songs., a new one from the upcoming lp called Black Christmas and Hypnotic Eye. It’s a fun way to end a very fun show.

Afterwards we chill out by the bar, enjoying a couple of cold pints of Finnish lager. It’s the best thing I’ve tasted all day. Vik tells me the drummer from the old band came up to him afterwards and said he really loved our gig. It seems to be going well at the merch too, we’ve sold all the copies of the first seven inch that we had with us, meaning there are none left for the Combat Rock shop. Oh well. It’s pretty nice just hanging out by the bar enjoying a couple of beers and chatting to our new Finnish friends. Marko grabs me when I’m on my way upstairs, looking kind of serious. “The people in the roller coasters, you know?” I don’t really catch it at first but then I figure out he means the guys in the wheelchairs. For a second I think he’s taking the piss, in a way only he dares, but he’s not. He’s been really sweet. “The guy used to play in a band with us, way back, he got sick though”. Fuck, that sucks.
Marko leaves not long after that, gives me a big hug and says he has to leave now, he can’t drink anymore beer, he needs other things, he says this whilst licking his hand. I figure what he’s talking about. He’s staying with some other friend tonight anyway, so that’s it for this time. It’s been great hanging out with him. We talk now and again online, and then we have normal, personal conversations. He’s this whole other profile when he’s out with the band though. An entertainer for sure, but you can tell he laps it up. Kind of like Brit Gaz, the guy Luc hates, who appears now and again when I’m on the island. I give Marko a hug and we say we joke again about getting the screamo band together when he moves to Stockholm.

We were originally supposed to be staying here at the venue tonight but the sound guy couldn’t stick around and we can’t stay here alone, so we’re staying somewhere else. The problem is that the somewhere else is with this punk guy called Sammy, who’d arrived earlier and introduced himself, seemed like a nice bloke, but is now sat upstairs in some sort of booze coma. I go up to him, put my arm around his shoulder and ask if we’re still staying with him, but he just sits there starting blankly at the wall. Absolutely gone. Guess we’re looking for somewhere else.

The Famine Year guys worry that we’re left high and dry, and when it’s starting to looked fucked they say we can come with them. Thing is the friend’s place they’re staying at is supposed to be really small. But they start to play it down, saying it will work. They obviously have no intention of leaving us without a roof. But then Helena approaches and tells us we’re staying with them tonight. The place they’re staying is this punk house with plenty of room. Niklas looks at me and says it’s okay for us to follow them, if we don’t feel like partying with the Kylmä Sota guys. Tonight though we decide to risk and and go with the party. We tell the Famine Year guys that we’ll see them back here at noon tomorrow. Kev’s flight is at five pm so that should be plenty.

Of course, there’s a bit of fucking around before we leave. A cab has been called, it takes it time arriving and when it does there are too many of us to all get in. Beside the DB guys, Helena, Janne and Irene, Ronnie and his girlfriend, there are another four or five friends, one punk who is completely boats, can hardly stand, and some other violent looking fucker who seems a bit aggro. The cab is a big people carrier as well, really big, tour bus cab we call it. Helena says to everyone that she’ll take this cab with the DB guys but everyone piles in anyway. I’m the last in of our lot and have nowhere to put myself except for the floor at the back. It’s all very confusing, amongst everyone saying to me to lie down and others fucking around at the door. I’m far too sober for this. I lie there waiting for the cab to go until I realise that the reason it isn’t is because the drive has spotted me lying there. Before I understand what’s going on Stix says it looks like I’ll have to get up and Aggro is telling me to fuck off. I’m tired and I don’t need this shit. Really pisses me off. I don't need this guy talking to me like that and I kind of wish one of our other guys would stay with me when I’m kicked out of the cab. Helena get’s out with me though, and together with Ronnie, his girlfriend, Insanely Drunk Guy and another friend, we wait for another cab.

I’m feeling a little pissed off as we wait there but I shake it off soon enough, I don’t really blame the other DB guys it’s not like they’re thinking they’re leaving me to sleep somewhere else. And plus, Helena has some chocolate milk she’s spiked with booze and that starts getting passed around. We actually have a nice chat whilst waiting for the next cab. Although Drunk Guy can barely stand and keeps falling into Helena. We get to the place a half hour later and I can tell the guys are feeling a bit bad, they all come up to me straight away and ask if I’m okay. Yeah, it’s all good again.
Luc says he got into an argument with Aggro after I’d been kicked out the cab, saying it should have been he that fucked off. Apparently when they arrived and were being shown to the room we would be sleeping someone dropped a bottle of beer on the floor, smashing glass everywhere, and that caused a bit of a scene. And then this little dog that lives in the house attacked Stix, going for his balls. Seems like I missed a bit. The actually place is great anyway. It’s in this little industrial area, right next to some posher looking houses on the outskirts of town. It’s actually two old brick buildings, adjacent to each other, in the one building a big house with loads of rooms, one of which we’re staying in, and in the other a little venue with a stage and a bar area. Helena says the place is getting demolished and the land developed soon, which is a great shame since they’ve had some brilliant nights and gigs here. I can well imagine.

There is a fussball game going on, Aggro is playing on the one team and apparently he’s lost his rag, disputing a goal. Really making a bit of a scene. Seems like a bit of a tit. Kev and Helena are up on the raised DJ booth, taking turns at spinning old hard rocks vinyls. Both of them in their element. Luc has fallen asleep on a couch at the other end of the room. Vik and I have a beer, and then one more after that, which feels unnecessary, it was time to go to bed after the first one, we spend the second beer yawning for the most part. We wake Luc and leave Kev and Helena to it.

We head over to the house, wary of the little dog. The coast is clear. Helena’s friend who lives here, this friendly long haired guy, shows me the kitchen and the bathroom and then escorts us to the large living room where we’ll stay. I grab a mattress on the floor and I’m gone almost immediately. I wake up in the morning with Kev lying next to me, bare chested and without any pillow or mattress. He must be freezing. It’s not that warm in here. He wakes later and I ask him how late he was up last night. “Until about five. I looked up at one point and there was no one left, it was just me and Helena playing records”.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Tampere

Woke up unnecessarily early this morning. It was around seven. Polly time. Classic parent syndrome, no matter where you are and how late you went to bed you’re set to wake up at breakfast. I lay there for a while, needing a piss, thinking that I wouldn’t get back to sleep again. It was light in the room and Kev was sleeping beside me, I think. I was hungry too. Fuck this, I have to sleep a little longer. After an hour or so I drifted back off again, slight pain in the stomach from the need to piss. I wake up again around ten, feeling much better. The slightest hint of a headache somewhere in there but nothing that needs medicating. Kev has some pink pills though so I take a couple. If there’s an easy way out of a hangover I’ll take it.

Niklas is working from home today, taking care of bookings for the Tuska Fest. He laughs, saying that some management type is on their case about a wrong logo being used somewhere. First world problems. We sit down for some breakfast together, strong black coffee and this superb dark, rye bread for sandwiches. Feels healthy. We get to talking about what we do in our “normal lives”, work and stuff. Niklas tells us that his family moved to Moscow when he was a kid, between eleven and fourteen. This spikes my interest immediately. He lived there in the late Eighties, before the fall of the Iron Curtain, tells us that life there then was pretty fucked up, corrupt as shit. Still is he says, at least it was when he returned there a few years back. For the most part he spent his time skateboarding the streets of the Soviet capital, not bothering to fit in or learn the language, says he wish he had of now. We get to talking about the punk scene in Russia, about the problems they have with Nazi skinheads there. I’m planning to write about the history of racism within the punk scene for my end of term paper next spring, looking at places like Russia and East Europe, but even South America. The fuckers are everywhere it seems. Niklas recalls the story of the punk gig in Russia a few years back where out of nowhere a plastic bag appears on stage whilst the band are playing. Someone from the band picks the bag up to look inside and in a moment of shitpanting shock discovers a nailbomb inside. Luckily it had malfunctioned and didn’t go off. Some Nazi bastard had infiltrated the gig though. What the fuck is that all about?

After an hour or so of breakfast and chat we start to make a beeline for the sauna upstairs. Lucas is amazed by it, actually I am too. A full on professional sauna in the bathroom. Not too unusual for this country. Kev is in first and then Luc and I sit together in the little steam room. It’s absolute heaven. The perfect way to start the day. Feel so clean when you’re done showering afterwards. Imagine beginning every day on tour in this manner.

We get ready and head into town, Niklas dropping us off before heading back home to work some more. The plan is to meet at Lepakkomies at three. We head off to Combat Rock record shop where we’re supposed to meet Brown. I could spend a small fortune in the record shop if I wasn’t a student. There are a lot of great pieces in there. The guy behind the counter keeps an curios eye on the four of us as we flick through the stalls. Luc and Kev get a couple of things each. Whilst paying up the guy says something about the band, he must have seen us last night. We talk about dropping some seven inches off to him later, says he’ll take five. Nice one. Brown has texted and says he’s sat in a bar called B-12, just a little down the road. Of course he is.

We walk in and find Brown, Hesu and some other friend of theirs, chuffed the lot of them, supping on pints of Koff for breakfast For a second I think to myself that there’s no way I’m ordering a beer at this time of day, but to be fair, the Koff’s look fucking tempting. Vik is right on it obviously, that fucker is never shy of an early beer when out and about. The rest of us follow his lead and sit down with the guys. Brown is looking exactly the same as when we left him. I wonder how long he’s been here drinking, how long he was up last night. Despite the fact you never see him without a drink in his hand, he always looks totally fresh. These Finns have a different makeup than the rest of us, they must have. We’re all squeezed into this booth and we’re talking about different things, Brown is chuffed with the blue Some Girls t-shirt I’m wearing, much to my joy and Vik and Luc’s disgust. They were offering to buy me a new t-shirt today if I’d wear it for the gig tonight. What can I say, the system is not to be fucked with. Brown starts talking about Some Girls being his favorite band, saying he wants to move to Stockholm and start a screamo band with me. Says he has two hands too, so we’ll be even better than Some Girls, taking the piss out of the one handed singer who sang with Some Girls. Hesu is saying something to Kev about how he has one hundred girls on his case, from an array of different places they’ve been on tour, and that the problem is there are so many of them he can’t be bothered, and so he’s single. The friend of theirs, this guy who looks like he could be British, sits there smiling.

Brown heads off to the bar and comes back with a tray of Salmiakki shots, one for each of the four DB guys. Fuck… I can see this getting out of hand today. Again I hesitate, but the booze is really fucking good and I get the feeling Brown won’t be taking no for an answer. It goes down far too smoothly. Brown squeezes back into his position in the booth and the next thing I know some woman has appeared, positioned herself very close to Luc on the end, almost sat on his knee. She looks pretty wasted. At first she’s ignored but then she starts getting a little too pushy with Luc, places her hand on his thigh. Brown decides to address the situation, in the only way he knows how, by brazenly taking the piss out of her. “Are you Whitney Houston ?”. She doesn’t really look like Whitney Houston, only her skin tone and slightly voluminous hair of any likeness. She ignores Brown for a second but he continues. Things go from light hearted, to a little aggressive as the woman asks him what his problem is, Brown tells her to go back to her table. It’s getting uncomfortable now. And then she reaches to flop on of her tits out, we all hinder her. This is pretty tragic and I feel really sorry for her. To be fair to Brown, he sees the situation is getting a little out of control and goes into charm mode, bringing the whole thing away from boiling point. Hesu just sits there shaking his head at his band mate and gives off a resigned grin. He’s seen this all before I guess.

The woman briefly turns her attention back to Luc’s thigh before we decide it’s time to leave. Brown says he’s has a little bit of food left for us from last night’s dinner they’d had, all we have to do is pick up some bread from the store. I think he really wants us to come check his place out. We follow him down the street and into a supermarket. He and Vik grab a loaf of bread and then some cans of beer, the rest of us picking up some crisps. We follow Marko along the street and through the middle of a skate park, he’s completely oblivious to the guys skating around him, couldn’t give a toss. They have to move out of his way, not vice versa. Marko’s flat is up on the sixth floor of an apartment building overlooking a lower division football ground, a one stand kind of job, just down the road from the venue. The lift up to his place is this little boneshaker of a contraption that stops with a jolt when it reaches it’s destination. Frightens the fuck out of me and Luc. Brown tells us that a while back they’d squeezed six in, it’s only supposed to take three, and that’s pushing it. The lift had stopped halfway up and the six of them, pissed up, were stuck there for half hour. Sod that.

His flat is pretty cool, loads of records, books and artifacts everywhere. It has a really big balcony that stretches the length of the flat. Hesu lies down on the mattresses on the living room floor, I guess this is where he slept last night. Janne and his girfriend, our mate Irene from Leeds, are in the other room, not fully awake yet. They must be knackered, they’d had an all night journey from Leeds to Helsinki via a bus trip to the airport in London. The leftover food Marko serves up is fucking great. These veggie bangers that are out of this world and some soy stew, awesome stuff. He plays through a selection of Hurriganes records, some Finnish rock n’ roll band from way back that were huge apparently, even in Sweden. Pretty good to be fair. Then he puts on Duran Duran, the song about Rio, and he’s off. Just stands there dancing in the middle of the living room between swigs of beer. We get back on to talking amongst ourselves after laughing at him for a bit but he carries on for a good while, in his own world. Giving it the old saucy dance moves. Says it’s his favourite song of all time. What a guy. Vik is drinking this good Pale Ale which I have a sip of but I feel like I need to leave it now until we get to the next destination. It’s time for us to get a move on down to the venue to meet Niklas, don’t want to keep him waiting. We say bye to the guys and say we’ll see them at the venue in Tampere.
It’s cold out now. I’m glad I brought my big blue puffy down jacket with me, even if it’s a pain in the ass since as soon as you walk inside you start sweating your asss off. It’s filthy as well, totally black around all the edges. Luc laughs at me ands says I look like a bum. I guess I do. Thing is, I felt myself entering a new era of my life as I pondered over what jacket to bring with me on tour. I knew the blue jacket was dirty as fuck and probably didn’t look so cool, but it would keep me warm. Opting for practicality over estetic, I must be getting old, entering the period of life where you don’t give a piss. Soon I’ll be wearing stretchy waist jeans…
Niklas arrives back at the venue shortly after us and we pack the gear into the boot of his car. I’m glad Luc got to lend that soft case for his bass. The other Famine Year guys turn up in Petri’s car and Vik heads off with a couple of them to pick up a couple of cans for the short journey. Luc get’s in front beside Niklas whilst the three of us squeeze in the back. Petri appears and says they have spare seat in the back of his car, that we don’t need to squeeze. I feel a bit bad but we decide to stick together. That typical early tour segregation. Petri looks a little confused by it but let’s it go.

The trip to Tampere is only two hours, as are the other legs of this little tour. We stop halfway at a service station and pick up some snacks. Petri tucks into this garlic loaf thing, that looks great but maybe a little overpowering. We buy a crate of beer for later, since you don’t know how much we’ll get for free. Kev buys one of those plastic eggs that have a toy inside, hoping for something pleasing on the eye, he receives a gold AK47 key ring. Not all the pleased he chances again and gets a little diamond like skull ring. Much happier.
We arrive in Tampere around five and it’s already been dark for a couple of hours. The sky has been heavy all day though to be fair. Niklas has sorted us out with a cheap hotel for tonight, in the middle of the city. We drive around looking for it for a bit, getting a bit of free sightseeing whilst we’re at it. Looks like a really pretty place. The venue is a little outside the city so I’m happy that we’re staying more central. We get to the hotel, one of those receptionless jobs that you find quite often in Europe, and dump our bags, sorting out the beds before we leave. This is obviously a solid idea. Making beds at three in the morning wouldn’t be practical. The hotel room is pretty nice though, the interior is red and white, kind of plastic, but nice and fresh. Nice to have a hotel room. The other guys are staying with friends, so it’s only us staying here. Niklas doesn’t seem to think it will affect the tour budget much. He’s already said that the first priority from the tour money is covering our flights, even before the gas. What a great bunch of blokes they are. Such solidarity within the scene makes me really proud to be involved.

The venue is this punk bar on one of the main roads out of town, overlooking this big lake. I imagine it would be great sitting here drinking beer in the little garden outside during the summer time. The walls inside the venue are covered in old gig posters, Victims and Nitad amongst them. The Victims gig was before my time though. The room is long and at one end there is a high stage and at the other a slightly raised area with tables where we can set our merch up. Whilst setting up we realise that we forgot to leave the records with Combat Rock. We’ll have to leave them with the other guys. It’s fairly big in here but the set up is such that it wouldn’t crave too many people to make it look okay. Seems that this place is a bit of a classic on the circuit.
Just as we’re wondering where the Kylmä Sota guys are and concurring that they’ll most likely be fucking soundcheck off, they turn up. Helena has the same huge smile on her face that she left with yesterday. We greet them and ask how the journey was. “It was chaos! I’m very happy”, laughs Helena. Marko comes in after her doing the Manchester swagger. Ronnie is in after them, smirking and shaking his head at the four pissed up compatriots he’s driven here. We hang out for a while in the backstage room, drinking cans of Karhu and the odd shot of Salmiakki, watching the Finns reach ever so steadily a higher level of pissed.

Tumppi comes up to us after we’ve eaten a very reasonable lentil stew provided by the venue with a troubled look on his normally cheerful face. “I have some very bad news guys. There is apparently no deal with the place about beer. All we get is a discount”. He looks truly gutted, embarrassed even. We chuckle and tell him it’s ok. The crack is we can buy a beer for two and half Euros which is pretty cheap anyway, especially compared to home. With that we head to the bar and each order a pint of Sandalls. Never heard of it before, some mainstream Norwegian pilsner. Hits the spot perfectly.
The place is pretty dead and it’s getting closer to gig time. We’re first on tonight. We’re doing a rotating bill for these three shows so that each band takes a different position every night. Feels like a good way to do things. I guess tonight might be our turn to play to no one, but Vik says that he remembers that the punks turned up right before the first band last time he was here. Guess that’s why the Famine Year guys published the stage times a while in advance. We have a little time left and we decide to kill it by playing foosball in the little room to the side of the stage. The game seems to get the blood flowing, even get a sweat on, which says a lot about the state of my condition. Me and Stix play Tumppi and Marko Beard, the two of them pretty sauced up and making a lot of noise during the game. It’s pretty tight. It comes down to the last goal and Marko is lining his keeper up for a big hoof up field, got the ball trapped under him. Swing and it’s in the back of his own net. We all piss ourselves laughing.

With that I’m ready to get up on stage and do this thing. Vik was right too, there are a few punks coming in through the door. The PA speakers are hanging dangerously low from the ceiling at either side of the stage. I make a mental note to myself not butt the fucker. I got a bit of a nick from my guitar last night, just a little scratch though, no glory blood. I look over to the other side of the stage just in time to see Luc crack the top of his nugget off the bottom of the speaker. Looked well fucking sore.
The punks that are here take to the dance floor and make us feel welcome. It’s a really good sound on stage tonight. The sound guy has a bit of reputation for being a knob, he had indeed flat out blanked me when I introduced myself earlier, but he can certainly do his job. The full bodied stage sound gives me a lot of energy and I spend the entirety of the set flailing around the stage. Brown and Helena are in front of the stage. The gig feels a lot better tonight than yesterday, both crowd wise and playing wise. Feels really tight tonight. Afterwards some big guy, a little older, comes up to me as I’m packing down and says he thought it was great. He asks me about my stance whilst playing guitar, wonders how much lower I can go. Says something about looking like the Ramones. Can’t totally work it out.

I watch the start of Famine Year’s set from the front but I’m still sweating from our gig so I head back to the merch tables, take a cold pint of Sandals and listen to them from there. It’s a really good sound in here tonight. Niklas had said to me that he’d gotten goosebumps when we blasted into the first sound, so good was the sound. Seems like they’re having a good show too. Helena is having a good night, she’s got a distro on the go and she’s shifting gear at a good rate. She has these unisex football socks with different words on them, like Beer, Bimbo and other such slogans. Luc buys a pair for PB. Helena stands there flicking a modest wad of Euros, chuffed. Before Kylmä Sota start their set Vik and I decide we need a shot of something, lighten the load a little, guts feeling heavy from the pilsner. We order a shot of the house’s homemade liquorice booze, goes down a treat.

Kylmä take to the stage, the last band of the night, and you can tell Brown is in the mood to fuck with people. This one kid, stood dancing on his own in the middle takes his eye immediately. Second song in and Brown has pulled his t-shirt off over his head and is now shuffling about the stage bare chested, his chest tattoo that simply says “BROWN”, done in the style of the Venom logo, on full show. The punk kid nears the stage and Brown grabs him, forcing the mic into his mouth and holding the kids head into his crotch, looking away to the side of the stage for laughs. This ends up with him being pulled off stage and then being feebly carried around by the kid and a few others, first crashing to the ground and then up again and then landing pretty roughly on the stage. His shirt has made the journey with him and the kid throws it back at him. Brown takes exception to this and kicks a beer glass full pelt off the stage in his direction, “Watch it boy, watch it!” he warns him, speaking English. I get the feeling this could get nasty. There’s an ongoing interaction between the two for the rest of the set. It takes Marko three songs to manage to get his shirt back on fully, much to our amusement. No sooner has he got his shirt on that he’s got his arse out and mooning the kid. At one point he holds the mic out for the kid to sing into, without grabbing him, and the kid obliges by singing along. And then it’s “donk”, Marko has bopped him on the top of the head. Just about the right side of piss taking. Funny thing is the kid doesn’t seem bothered, in fact he seems chuffed. Marko looks like he wants a fight though, the kid is oblivious. After the gig I get talking to the kid who has made it into the backstage room, tells me he loved the gig. Marko seems to have chilled out a bit with it and soon enough they’re friends. Marko’s smile is back.

We’re wondering what to do after the show. There is talk of a party at some club in town, there is also some confusion as to whether there is a bar upstairs, and if there is it seems the consensus is that everyone is there. Niklas comes up to me with money from the gig and says he was about to give it to Luc but Luc is standing there with a small plastic carrier bag containing DB badges hanging from his ears and under his chin, Niklas says he’ll give him the money tomorrow. Some woman, a friend of Helena’s is talking to Kev, seems really friendly. She says upstairs is the place to be. Myself, I kind of feel like heading back into town and sitting in a bar, chilling out. There seemed to be plenty of places around the hotel and I wouldn’t mind having a deek. After tidying the gear up in the backstage room, making sure everything is in order, and Luc standing on a chair and giving a speech to everyone about how happy he is to be here, first in Swedish and then in Portuguese, we follow him to the exit. Luc has commanded us to party. We head upstairs to have a peek and it becomes immediately obvious that this is where we’ll be staying. The place is great. Looks like a big living room and it’s packed with people from the gig and a few others, really buzzing atmosphere, really friendly.
We hang out for a few beers, chatting away with everyone. Brown is pretty boats, as are Marko and Tumppi from Famine Year. Luc and Vik are in good spirits too. I stand chatting to Petri and Niklas for a good while. There was a workshop on here earlier this evening about mental health issues. I thought it was actually taking place downstairs before the gig but turns out it was up here. Petri and I agree that was probably a good thing. This place is really buzzing now and by the time the last orders bell goes I feel like I’m starting to get a really buzz on, I could easily stay here another couple of hours. I look over at Luc, who is sat talking to some kind looking old lady, she looks like an old lefty, Brown sat dazed beside them. Kev is over at the bar with Helena and four of her friends, all girls, Kev in the there getting pics taken with them all, loving it. Old charmer, they seem to be lapping the fucker up.

Unfortunately I seem to have missed the first bell because the bar closes right after and the chance for further drinks has passed. Maybe just as well. Now I really am in the mood for heading back to the hotel and maybe grabbing a beer in a bar in the vicinity before heading to bed. Helena is talking about going to some club, “Klubi” she keeps saying, pissed as a fart, with all her friends. Kev is up for following but I’m subtly suggesting my plan. Turns out there’s a bit of a balls up with cabs anyway and the club thing gets canned. Well, Helena is still going but the four of us decide against it. The Famine Year guys head off to a friends place to sleep and we decide we’ll do breakfast in the morning. Fuck knows where Brown and the others are.

We get out of the cab by the hotel and the four of us head into the bar next door. Looks like a bit of a posh place, very quiet by this time of night, only a few left in. We take four beers out of the band money. The beers at the punk bar cost us two and half Euros, these four cost twenty six in total. Probably just as well we hung out at the venue until two am. Still, it’s nice being sat here on a big antique style sofa, just the four of us to end the night, having a little drink. Vik and Luc are both pretty boats, me and Kev more monged than anything. Vik is in lively mood though. The bouncer comes up to us and in Finnish politely tells us that it’s soon time to drink up. Vik starts babbling back to him in Finnish, totally flowing. The three of us are sat there talking to amongst ourselves and don’t notice it at first, but then Luc asks what’s happened to Vik and we’re all amazed to hear him having a full on conversation with the bouncer in Finnish. This is something we did not previously know about Vik. Apparently it’s some sort of skill he picks up when pissed. Vik then asks the barman who comes to clear up our empty glasses if he can take a few picks. There’s no stopping Finnish Vik now, Luc just keeps shaking his head confused, “What’s going on with Stix?”. After the pics it’s time to leave and we plod out, had more than enough now. Vik is last in line, banging on some more with the bouncer on the way out, clearly loving it now.
From the bar it’s straight to bed. It’s late, closer to four than three. I lie there thinking that I really should get up and brush my teeth, that I’ll be glad for it in the morning. I hardly ever go to bed without brushing the gads but once laid down on the sofa bed I simply can’t be arsed getting back up. I’ll deal with the morning when it arrives.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Helsinki

The Famine Year guys asked us back in March about playing some shows in Finland. We had the Pyramido tour in the works then and with the planning required due to school, family and other bands we decided on October for the shows. Still, we were fucking chuffed. It was the first time someone random had contacted the band and asked us if we wanted to travel somewhere and play some shows. What’s more, all travel expenses would be covered. This opposed to us mailing around and hustling contacts through different acquaintances to book shows. Of course, that works too, although it requires a lot of energy. Having someone contact us felt like a big step. It turns out that the guys in the band weren’t complete strangers however, there rarely are any complete strangers within this scene, Niklas the bass player books for the Tuska Fest in Helsinki and had booked Victims last time around, and Petri the singer had toured with Nasum and driven Victims from the airport to Tuska Fest last time. I remember when he picked us up he told me that he felt like he already knew me, despite having never met, due to the fact he’d read my blog a lot.

When the idea for Finland was approached our first thought was to ask the Kylmä Sota guys if they’d be interested in playing too. Famine Year thought it would be a good idea, and make for a nice bill, so I mailed Marko the singer and within a day they’d confirmed. We were all really chuffed they were up for it. They’re a great band and great people. Absolute pissheads, very entertaining. The first time I saw Kylmä Sota was at Kafe 44 when they played with the Japanese noise punk band, D-Clone. The Finns had taken the overnight ferry from Finland and arrived early, absolutely wankered. Old Bengtsson from 44 had found them hanging outside the venue drinking miniature bottles of Jägermeister whilst he was on his way to work in the morning. They wondered if they could get into the venue, Bengtsson laughed and told them they were about eight hours early. Apparently they went to a park and had a sleep. I’ve never seen a band so pissed up on stage. Helena, the bass player, laughing her ass off the whole set, had to get Janne the guitarist to show her the riffs to each song before playing them. Thing is, when they got it going they were amazing. Quite some band. I was looking forward to hanging out with them and playing a few shows together.

We arrived at Helsinki airport just after four thirty. Kev had been in Stockholm for a couple of nights to practice the set. We almost got off to a pretty shit start in Finland since we deboarded the plane and walked straight out the exit without picking our guitars up. To be fair, the signs were pretty confusing. Niklas was stood waiting for us on the other side of the exit door and looked pretty surprised as we walked out carrying fuck all barr the stupid grins on our mugs. Total Spinal Tap start to the tour. Luckily for us, some woman at the help desk let us back inside to the luggage belts, which were right next to the exit door. She looked at us like we were a bunch of twats.

We head over to Niklas place first and swap Lucas’ surfboard sized hard case for a soft bag. We’re travelling in two cars, us and Famine Year, and wearing Lucas bass case as a table across our legs would have been cack. Niklas has a really nice house in the eastern suburbs, complete with garden and inside sauna. We’re staying here tonight. I’m thinking about that sauna and how nice it’s going to be steaming my hangover off in it tomorrow morning. Once sorted at Niklas’ place we head over to the venue, Leppakomies, the Bat Cave, which is this punk bar in the bohemian end of the city with a venue in the basement. Vik has played here with Nitad before and said it was really good. The place looks pretty cool, longish room downstairs with a small stage at the end of it, the other end of the room housing a bar and some tables. After loading in the gear, we turn around to find Marko and Hesu both smiling their asses off, we head upstairs and order some beer.

We hang out for a while in the bar, enjoying a couple of fairly priced pints of Karhu. Marko’s smile barely ever leaves his mug. His eyes are constantly squinted behind his glasses, mischief written all over him. He’s one of the biggest piss takers around. It’s good to see him again. I get talking to Niklas about some other stuff in the meantime, life and shit. He’s got a daughter who is a couple of months younger than Polly. Whilst the rest of the guys sit and talk punk, we’re discussing kid routines and sleeping patterns.

We head downstairs for soundcheck, Famine Year go first and then us. We’re using their entire backline, we’ve only brought guitars, so it may seem a little pointless but it’s nice to get a feel for the stage and the place. The Kylmä guys couldn’t give a fuck though and decline. The other guys in Famine Year have arrived, one with a cheeky grin across a red face and the other guys with the beard of a lion, he seems particularly friendly, when he laughs his whole face opens as he spreads his mouth to jaw cracking distance. I don’t catch their names properly or what they do in the band but I do get the impression that they are very nice chaps. A lot more humble than our piss taking friend in Kylmä Sota. As we’re sorting out merch, at least, whilst Kev and Luc are sorting out merch and I’m stood there trying to look busy, I notice Petri sorting out Famine Year’s gear. “Hey Gareth”. It’s good to see him again. I might not have remembered quite as quick had it not been for Andy tipping me off last week. I’m good with faces, terrible with names. We get right into it though. Petri leads us off to get some veggie food from a place around the back of the venue.

You go out the venue, take a left and then left again, past a pretty dank looking plaza they call Speed Square, named so for obvious reasons, and then onto the parallel street behind the venue. There is this veggie burger joint called Soi Soi which is next door to the Combat Rock record store. We don’t have to leave until late tomorrow so we’ll be back here for some shopping. Tonight is all about Soi Soi though. We order in some veggie burgers which hit the bull square in the fucking eye. Magic. They’re pretty heavy though, I have a feeling that they might come back to haunt us during the gig, being that it’s not that long until we play. Made that mistake a few times before. The worst being this one occasion in Bristol when Speedhorn were supporting Napalm Death, we went for an Indian and had a right slap up meal, thinking we had a few hours until gig time. When we got back to the venue we were horrified to find that we were supposed to be on stage half hour later. Most painful fucking gig I’ve ever played. Could hardly move, just stood there sweating curry. Stage stank and all.

Once the grub is done we head back to Lepakkomies for a couple of beers before the show. When we arrive this drunk punk is sat at the door to the basement taking money for the gig. Hadn’t seen him before and I hadn’t got stamped before I left. The others go in and I tell him I’m in one of the bands, he doesn’t say fuck all, so I carry on past when he grabs me. “Hey! You pay!” Fucker is steamboats. Petri just laughs and explains the situation to him, I can’t make it out but I hear Petri say “Diagnosis Bastard” in Finnish. Drunk Punk stamps my wrist and that’s that sorted. Until he grabs me again and repeats the process ten minutes later.

We hang out for a while at the bar. Marko’s wife is here and he’s eager to introduce us. Really nice girl. Marko’s chuffed eyes grin through his glasses. A friend of Vik’s, a guy called Ronnie, and his girlfriend are here too. Also really good people. Ronnie plays in a great band called Armless Children and he and Vik first met a few years back in the States. Ronnie is driving Kylmä about for these few shows. They brought a couple of Armless Children seven inches for us, great start to the weekend.

Kylmä Sota are up first tonight. There are about fifty people in the place and most of them are stood up front to watch this great raw d-beat band. Kylmä are the most known of the three bands playing these three shows. I’m glad they’re with us since it’s always fun to watch them. And they don’t disappoint tonight. Helena has a huge grin on her face, she always does, it stays with her the whole show. She’s drunk I guess, but fuck me can she play bass. Marko is his usual self, pissed and doing the Madchester strut between screaming sections, always grinning, always looking for who’s grinning back. They’re a fucking brutal band though, even if it looks like they’re pissing about, the music says different. The ceiling above the stage is pretty low and in the middle there is this little hole where parts of the ceiling are flaking away. At one point Marko picks bits of it off and starts eating it, this whilst he’s doing the Ian Brown dance. Fucking piss myself at that. What a tit. I love him.

When they’re done I’m more than ready to follow. We’re set up pretty quick since all the bands are sharing Famine Year’s gear. There aren’t as many people as close to the stage when we play, I guess they don’t know us and they’re a bit wary. We’re probably a bit of a hard band to work out too. And then Kev takes the floor instead of the stage which only seems to result in the crowd backing away tentatively. They seem to be liking it anyway, they just don’t want to get too close. At one point Luc lets out this sneaky burp, stinks of the garlic sauce from the Soi Soi burger, it hits me in the face like a slap from Grandma. Fucking rancid. I’m soon down on the floor with Kev, deciding to take the gig to the punks and get the fuck out of the way of Luc. My guitar comes close to hitting some smiling guy in the face and over the noise of the gig I hear him shouting, “Woah woah, take it easy!” Might have got a bit carried away there… Overall, for a first show, I’m happy anyway. The small crowd watching seemed to enjoy it. Apparently we’re competing with a Misfits cover band as well as another punk gig tonight, plus it’s Thursday, so I’m more than happy with the turnout. Not that the amount of people at a gig affects me much, unless it’s nobody. Still, we played to more people in Helsinki than we had before tonight. And I’m chuffed with how we played, good gig for a first show, plenty of energy. At least I felt it, Kev and Luc are complaining about the burgers.

As I’m packing up some guy approaches me and asks if I used to play in Dead Inside. I point him in Kev’s direction. Apparently his old band played with Kev at the Club in Bradford years back. Kev doesn’t remember the guy but he’s chuffed all the same. The guy was a big fan, even of Hard to Swallow it turns out, although he didn’t know that Kev was in them too. We sit there hanging with Ronnie and his girlfriend for a while, talking about common mates from the scene, until Famine Year start.

The fifty or so people in the room stand a little back, just like they had with us. Two things to consider here. One, Kylmä Sota had the best crowd and most people into them. Two, maybe band members playing on the floor instead of the stage when the crowd is small makes people back up even further. The second point is one Kev made to be fair. Whatever, as Luc said the fact we’re a little band from Stockholm playing in Helsinki is success in itself. He’s referring to this great interview with Ian MacKaye that we’ve both been enthusing about recently. Anyway, Famine Year seem to enjoy themselves, and they play tight as fuck. Real ferocious hardcore stuff. Talented as shit. The sound is a little low, which I guess it was for us too since it certainly was for Kylmä Sota, but you can still hear everything well, even if it’s not ripping your head off. They blast through their set, occasionally slowing it down a little and pounding out a riff, Marko, the fabulously bearded guitar player shaking his head enthusiastically. He’s playing a really nice black Fender Jaguar too. Beautiful thing. I’d asked him earlier if it would be possible to lend it as a backup in case of me snapping a string and he’d been very kind to oblige. Gladly there was no need, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I had a mishap on stage tomorrow. Not sure how Marko now feels about it though having seen me flailing my cheap old SG around tonight.

Drunk Punk arrives halfway through the Famine Year set and starts dancing around a bit. He doesn’t last long. He bangs into Petri and ends up getting fucked into the PA speaker. After the gig Kev spots him sitting disheveled, holding an ice pack to his elbow. A while later he’s passed out asleep on the floor in the little corridor behind the stage where we’re keeping our gear. We pack up the gear and leave it ready to pick up tomorrow. Niklas seems happy enough with the turnout tonight. Totally okay for a Thursday. We hang out a little more by the bar, enjoy another couple of pints of Koff lager. Marko Brown is hoping we’ll join him to check out the Misfits cover band at some other venue but I’m knackered, been up since half seven this morning with Polly, and plus I think Niklas is hoping we’ll join him back at his place. He hasn’t been able to drink all night since he’s driving us, and I think Brown is hoping we’ll stay at his place too. We don’t really know Niklas that well and it’s a little tempting to head back to our mates place but we feel it would be rude to leave Niklas hanging. And I suspect that things will be a lot calmer at Niklas place.

My suspicions are confirmed. Absolutely perfect. His place is really beautiful, and he’s arranged with his wife and daughter to stay at the in-laws tonight so they won’t be disturbed by us. Really nice of him and his family. I’m very glad we chose this option tonight. I have a feeling the next two nights won’t be as calm. We sit around on the wooden living room floor, talking over some beers that Niklas brought with him, and then open a bottle of red wine. All very civilized. It’s not even too late, only around midnight when we got back here. Luc falls asleep sitting upright on the couch after a while, snoring gently as the rest of us talk. Me and Kev eventually call it a night and head up to the spare room where a couple of clean mattresses await us. Vik takes some pillows on the living room floor. Turned out to be a very night end to a perfectly decent first show in Finland. I’m looking forward to getting in the sauna in the morning.