Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tijuana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Oakland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hamburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Berlin

Didn’t sleep all that much during the night, woke up a few times for a piss and my throat is starting to scratch. I had a mild pressure headache all day yesterday and now it’s moved on to the throat, so I guess I’m getting a cold or something. The moist, dusty room probably not helping. Still, glad I brought my sleeping bag. The other three guys must have been a bit chilly in the night. I wake up again around eight thirty and can’t back to sleep after that. The fact that I have to write to my seminar leader at uni and explain my absence today is playing on my mind a bit. I hate the fact that anything to do with school, or any type of authority leaves me feeling like a kid. Like I have a fear of being told off. Instead of just writing saying I’m away with my band and can’t make it I write that my daughter is sick and I have to stay home. I’m forty next year. Pathetic really.

I get up for a shower. There is no door and a huge cobweb hanging from the roof of it. Apart from that it’s a nice, warm shower. I don’t have a towel either but find a little polishing rag that is in a cleaning bucket in the hall and use that. We all begin to stir and ready ourselves to go downstairs for breakfast. I ask Johan how the sleeping bag he took from the pile on the floor was, “I tried not to think about it”, was his reply.

When we go downstairs Crust Frog is tidying up cables in the gig room and breakfast is waiting for us on the table. The coffee and rolls with assorted vegan pastes is most welcome. Feeling good today despite the sparse amount of sleep and my shoe which reeks of beer after getting drenched last night. We go pick up the car and then we make a trip over to the Buchenwald memorial museum which is the forest just outside of town. Froggy comes with us, he tells me he’s brought a lot of bands here.

I’ve never been to any of the concentration camp sites before, to say the feeling is heavy as we drive down the “Blood Road” leading through the forest up to the camp is an understatement. It’s hard to get your head around the sheer scale of the place, and the horror that has taken place here. The camp itself looks out over a huge valley, you can see for miles and miles, there is no possibility that the surrounding villages were blind to what happened here. We don’t talk much as we walk around the place, and Jon is holding back the tears as we look at the various reminders of horrifying murder. And to think Nazi’s are heiling on the streets again. Humankind certainly can get it horribly wrong, again and again it seems. As hard as it was to come here, I’m glad we did. It’s important that these places stand as a reminder of what happens when power turns the powerless against each other. Sad that that is relevant as much now as ever.

We drop Crust Frog back in town, his name still cracks me up, thank him for everything and head off to Berlin. The journey isn’t quite as bad for traffic today as it was on the way here, but it’s the exact same boring trip back as the way we came nonetheless. I must have played Berlin ten or eleven times throughout the years and I don’t think I’ve played the same venue twice. Tonight is no different. It’s a Jugendhaus place somewhere on the other side of Friedrichshain, right off of Karl Marx Allee hidden away behind some huge theatre. Behind the place is a wasteland with the S Bahn train running across on the other side of it. Really strange being in the middle of Berlin and finding a place this hidden and quiet. Our friend Eleanor from the band To What End? arrives a little while after we turn up, she’s been living here for nine years and she’s never heard of the place either. It’s a bit of a worry since it feels like a bit of a bigger club and the ticket price is set at 15 euros which feels pretty steep for a Victims show, at least from a crust punkers point of view. The guy booking us tonight, Tim, looks like a hardcore kid who doesn’t seem overly excited to have us here, but that’s maybe just his look, a bit dour you might say. He seems friendly enough, just doesn’t say much. We’ll see how this show turns out. I like the place itself though, there’s a pretty cosy little bar to the side of the gig room with worn out sofas and a beer garden outside, pity it’s not as warm as it was in Weimar last night.

The Ekranoplan guys were here when we got here, even if it’s only the second show of two we’re playing with them it’s still nice to be hang out with a familiar bunch of friendly faces. After dinner, which is not quite to the high standard of yesterday, a kind of soy meat mushroom soup with a shit load of marjoram in it, Andy, Johan and I go for walk to stretch the old legs. Jon hangs with Eleanor outside the venue where there are a few other people hanging out. We don’t really walk far, a few blocks down Karl Marx Allee and then turn back. With the venue being bigger tonight I don’t to miss Ekranoplan, not being sure how many people will come I feel it’s important to support them, plus I didn’t really get to see much of them last night.

The gig room is pretty big and wide and then the stage is tucked into the corner in a sort of deep alcove with the drum riser set way back. It’s like playing inside a box within the room and when Ekranoplan start playing I can’t see Adrian because I’m stood to the side. There are maybe fifty or so people in the room, it looks okay but not great. Quite a difference to last night. They play one song and then there is a big pause after it. The drummer, who seems like a right joker is walking about the stage pissing about and I can’t figure out if they were just soundchecking or what. Only after about three or four minutes do I realise that Adrian must have broken a string and by the time I’ve ran around to the side stage he’s already done fixing his guitar. I feel like a right wanker since he lent me his guitar yesterday and asked me if it would be okay to lend mine as backup tonight and I’ve just been stood there dreaming. Sorry boss.
I stand and watch the rest of their set from the side of the stage. It’s fucking eardrum splittingly loud on stage. I don’t know what the crack is but they have the two guitar stacks facing inwards across the stage. Adrian seems to be suffering a bit from it, constantly looking back at the drummer to gage where the song is at. The drummer can certainly fucking play that being said. Little ADHD kid banging the fuck out of them. When they’re done Gunnar the singer comes walking off stage past me, “Loud on stage!”, I say to him, he doesn’t even stop, just walks past, “Extremely fucking loud!” he says, shaking his head. Then Christian the bass player comes off next, “Good luck”, he says with the same head shake.

It seems like there are a lot of people hanging outside in the beer garden as we set up and a good mix of people too. We turn the guitar cabs to face the front, assuring the sound guy it will be ok, and lower the volume considerably. It’s a big system so should be ok. Andy is way back in the box of a stage though, I can just make out his grin through the haze of the big assed backlights. I’m a little surprised, as well as a little relieved that the place is pretty full by the time we start the show. Not that it’s the end of the world but it would have been a shame to play a duffer in Berlin on a Friday night when it’s always really good here for Victims when we book it ourselves. This is the first run of shows we’ve had our good friend Luc booking for us and I must admit I was a little worried that we’d get caught in the trap of going for guarantee fee in a bigger venue instead of guarantee good gig in a squat. But it seems to have turned out alright.

The show itself is a lot of fun. And no broken strings tonight. The stage is a lot bigger and there’s a lot more room for me to throw myself around like a tit on. That being said, I still manage to get tangled up in Johan’s bass at one point during the set. But it’s all good. The crowd really go for it during the show and there are a lot of happy faces when we’re done. This one guy comes up to me and tells me he’s really thankful to us for the show. We’d signed a t-shirt for him earlier, well it was for his girlfriend who he told us was a really big fan of the band but was in hospital and that it would mean a lot to her. I said to him that I hoped she was going to be okay but he shook his head and said, “I don’t know”. Fucking downer. But I’m glad we could do something at least, even if it’s something that little.

There is an early curfew on the venue and by the time we’re packed down and cooled down the house lights are already on. We chat with Eleanor over by the merch table where Jon has been stood selling since the end of the gig. She tells us that she was holding herself to the back of the crowd during the gig since she’s still a bit shaken up after landing with a concussion after some asshole hardcore dickhead clashed heads with her at a show a while back, but said she couldn’t hold it when we played This is the End and flew to the front. Back in the side stage room we find the Ekranoplan drummer in full on ADHD mode. He’s extremely happy and talking a lot and loudly. He’s nice but a little much for our old heads. Cracks me up though, he tells us how much he respects us and how much he appreciates how friendly we are despite being a “big band”. Again, I think they have the wrong impression of us. Then he starts saying how he saw Disfear for the first time a while back and how it was amazing, that despite being really old guys and they were obviously suffering on stage they still played really hard. We’re all pissing ourselves by this point. The next thing he gets out his iphone and starts playing us a song that he and his friend have made on the Garage Band music programme, some spoof glam rock band called Burning Lips. All the music on it is synthetic, proper glam rock shit. Then the vocals come in, kinda Axl style, and it’s he himself who is the vocalist. He starts singing along really loudly to it. It goes on for ages and we’re trying our best to politely laugh but then I notice Christian the bass player stood shaking his head, embarrassed as fuck, “It’s not good, it’s not good” he mutters.

We hang around chatting with the guys a while longer, Gunnar tells me how he saw Speedhorn in Rudolstadt years back and how he can’t believe I played in that band, that he some friends who are huge fans. Funny little world. We make vague plans about meeting up at some bar once we’ve checked into our hostel, and I’m pretty up for it since I’ve only had the one beer all day and could do with a quiet bar and some chat but I can sense that there’s not a realistic chance of it happening.

We take a cab over to the hostel which is about ten minutes away, a fucking jobbie inducing death ride which can’t be over quick enough. The hostel is just by the East Side Gallery, right next to the bridge. It looks pretty cool, it’s some old industrial warehouse that’s been reformed into a six storey hostel. We approach the door and find it locked. I peek inside and get a shock as I see some monster skinhead approaching us from the other side. He must be almost seven foot with arms like fucking tree trunks. Looks like a right fucking mongo. Jon whispers in my ear, “Check out the tat on his arm”. I steal a look and there it is, a bulldog and a Union Jack. Fucking great… Mongo opens the door, and without saying a word ushers us into the foyer. It’s quite the surprise to be then met by a really friendly young woman working on the check in. And amazingly check in takes all of ten seconds. I’ve never experienced that at an after gig hostel before, there is normally always fifteen minutes of pissing around as they try to find our name on the list.

Chuffed we leave the gear in the room and head back out in search of a bar. We don’t get far though. We sit at a falafel place right next door to the hostel. They have beer there of course, it’s Germany. I order a halloumi box which is halloumi, french fries and an shit load of salad and sauce. It’s disgusting really, but kind of good at the same time. As I expected though, by the time the food is done everyone is slowly fading. It is one thirty am I guess, pretty late for a bunch of old farts like ourselves. I text Adrian and tell him we’re not going to make it. He writes back sounding kind of disappointed but there’s no way I can do a party now. I only really wanted a quiet bar. Still, we take the remainder of our beer and walk over to the East Side Gallery and check it out for a bit. The city is still buzzing, loads of people everywhere, all of them drinking beer as they go. I contemplate over the fact it’s been a pretty strange day. Started with Buchenwald, ended with the Berlin Wall.

We head back to the hostel and decide on one more beer in the bar there. It’s calm anyway, just us here. Nice way to end the night though, although the beer is in reality completely unnecessary, all it does is weigh my eyes down. It’s nice sitting there chatting with the guys though. I love the fact that when we’re abroad we can use Swedish as a code language. Jon is talking about the scary as fuck security skinhead, he calls him Thule Kompis, which for those who get the reference is funny as fuck. We just happened to be talking about Nyköping and the whole Nazi skinhead scene there when the guys were younger. I never realised Nyköping was such a dirty scene. It seems the guys lost a lot of their punk friends to heroin or related suicides. They go through a list and tote it up to six or seven drug related deaths from their old scene. Fucking tragic.

I can barely finish the bottle of beer, tiredness has taken me over now. We head upstairs to the fourth floor where our dormitory is and fuck me, we bump into Thule Kompis, slowly trudging along the corridor in the dark. Jon almost has a fucking heart attack. He doesn’t see us though, he’s just slowly walking ahead of us and then fucks off into a room. If there was ever a fucker you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley it’s him.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Weimar

It’s four fifteen and the alarm just went off. I’m supposed to be leaving in thirty minutes, biking over to Johan’s where we’re getting picked up by a cab that is starting at Jon’s place, which will then take us to the airport for a seven am flight to Berlin. And it’s fucking pissing down. Proper fucking biblical proportions of rain hammering the ground. Time for Plan B. Even if it costs more with the extra pickup there’s no way I’m sitting on a plane with my kecks glued to my ass. I call Jon to tell him to pick me up on the way but the fucker doesn’t answer. Strange, not like him. I try again, and again, before I start getting a bit worried. His phone just keeps ringing. I know he usually sleeps pretty hard but he’s always bang on when he has the responsibility of first call. I call Johan and then the next thing Ana, Jon’s girlfriend, is texting me asking if I’ve heard from him. She’s in Holland picking up a van for some band and Jon had asked her to call and wake him, which takes the piss in it’s own right, but the sod not sleeping through now three of us ringing him is another matter altogether. Eventually his phone just dies and with not much else to do, I call another cab and Johan and I head out to Arlanda to meet Andy who’s taken the bus.

The three of us check in, we have Jon’s guitar with us and the guy at the desk let’s us check it in too. Would have been a major pain in the balls to have to leave Jon’s guitar at the airport, even if it is ugly. Already stressed for time, we make our way to security and my stomach convulses when I see the size of the queue, snaking it’s way along the entire terminal. Flight is boarding in half hour, we could be in trouble here. Luckily, I bump into some old guy who works at the airport and he tells us to head to Fast Track, which we do, and with that we’re through. I can imagine there are a lot of squeeky arses stood in that queue that we just waltzed past… Andy’s bag gets stopped on the way through and he enquires with the woman what the crack is with the queues, wondering if the machines are down or something. “It’s always like this on Thursdays”, she matter of factly replies. Note for future reference.

Whilst on route down to Berlin Jon texts us on Messenger, completely engulfed in panic and anxiety. Tells us he slept in. No shit. He’s frantically texting and then it’s him, we’re on the plane already. He asks us if he should book a new flight, I tell him I think that’s good idea. Poor bugger, I can only imagine the horror of waking up and realising your band mates are already up in the air. To his credit, he books himself on the next flight and we tell him we’ll wait for him at the airport. Only thing is he’s flying to the other place, Tegel, so we have to pick up the rental car and head over there, which is on the total opposite of the city and not the direction we’re going.

We had grand plans of arriving in Weimar today and spending the afternoon checking the place out, by all accounts it’s a very picturesque little town with lots of sightseeing opportunities, lots of museums etc, like the Nietzsche and Göthe museums, Franz Liszt school amongst them, but it’s looking like those plans are now fucked. Thing is, you can’t really be hard on Jon, he’s taking care of that himself. And the main thing is, after he royally fucked up, he got on with things. As long as the cunt doesn’t climb into the car stinking of booze we’ll go easy on him.

Jon arrives around one, we’ve been sat there for about an hour and a half. He’s pretty emotional but doesn’t seem to be hungover. He says he can’t understand how he slept through all his alarm clocks, and that he’d spoken to Ana at three am and asked her to wake him. Now I’m confused… I ask him if he woke up at three and spoke to Ana. No he tells me, he went to bed at three, he’d been to the Viagra Boys show. Unbelievable. That was a pretty expensive little lie in he had...

After first getting sucked into Berlin city by the rental car’s very confused GPS and then a couple of traffic jams on the old autobahn, we get in to Weimar around seven pm. Fucking knackered and dying for a cup of java. The place looks great anyway, an old squat with a bar and a small room in the back with a tight stage, looks like our very own Kafe 44 back home. There are already a bunch of punks outside who look happy to see us, if not a little shocked by the flashy car we’ve just rocked up in. I have to explain that it’s not ours. An older guy, with a very friendly smile on his coupon shakes my hand and tells me he’s the promoter for tonight. I don’t catch his name at first and have to ask him again, it’s Crustfrosch apparently. I ask him one more time, and he repeats again, “It means Crust Frog”. I like him immediately. We lug the gear in, which isn’t much, since we’re playing with a band called Ekranoplan both tonight and tomorrow in Berlin and they’ve been kind enough to lend us their backline. The mug of coffee is welcomely received and I gulp into it with vigour, only to be shocked by a mouthful or powder. I forgot about the old east european way of making coffee. Once the powder sinks to the bottom the coffee flies down the hatch and I’m feeling better.

The Ekranoplan guys arrive and we help them with the gear. The first guy I meet is wearing a Regimes t-shirt. “I like your shirt! That’s one of my best mates bands”. “Yes, Bloody Kev. Great guy,” he says. “Raging Speedhorn,” he continues. I smirk to myself, thinking about how Kev would be gutted to hear that’s the first band the guy associated with him. The guys in Ekranoplan seem like a really friendly bunch, and they’re very helpful with sorting their gear out for us, setting it all up for us to soundcheck. The bass player, a cheeky looking type, says it’s a big honour to play with us. Another guy from the squat is talking to Jon, asking us if we had a driver with us, and when Jon says that we’re driving ourselves the guy seems surprised. He then tells him he can’t believe we’re playing a place this small. I think he has the wrong impression of us.

Adrian from Ekranoplan is helping us out during soundcheck, guiding us through it, since old Froggy who is doing the sound seems to be looking at his phone more than the mixing desk. Every time we speak to him, he simply gives us a friendly smile. Anyway, it sounds good by the time we’re done. Adrian’s amp I’m lending is a Russian tank of a thing, called a Petersburg. Never heard of them before but it sounds great. After soundcheck we tuck into the food one of the punks from the squat has made for us, and it’s banging! Really good thai style potato and zucchini soup. I’m feeling so much better now, despite the tiredness. We set the merch up and people start buying straight away, Jon gets stuck there with it but he seems happy enough so the three of us head off for a stroll around Weimar. It really is a beautiful little town, and there seems to be some culture festival going on. We come across some beer garden, really cosy, and there is some three piece instrumental band who sound like a cross between Mogwai and Trans Am playing to a half interested spattering of spectators. We head inside and grab a seat. I still have to move the car to the parking place later but I’m happy enough to stay whilst Johan and Andy have a pint and watch the band for a bit. I’m making a new habit of not drinking before shows anyway, not drinking too much afterwards and all for that matter. The band are really good and it’s so nice to sit here and chill out, listening to something completely different for a bit before we head back to the squat.

We get back just as Ekranoplan have started playing but you can’t get in through the door to the small gig room, which is a good sign. I give it a try but can feel the heat of the place just from the small doorway and decide to leave it. I watch for a bit and then decide to go move the car. One of the squatters comes along with me and we walk back through town once the car is parked up and he tells me all about life in Weimar. I didn’t really know much about it before bar the connection with the old Weimar Republic and it being the place where Nietzsche died. It seems like there is a lot of art and culture happening here though. Cool place.

I get back to the squat and hang out at the merch table with Jon and some others, drinking bubbly water and munching away on Erdnuss Flips, which are a German joy to the tastebuds, like little peanut butter Wotsits. I’d asked Adrian earlier if I could lend his guitar as backup as I had planned to restring mine earlier but arriving late didn’t have the time. He has a nice Les Paul Studio he’s only too happy to lend me. I tell him that I’m sure having it there as a backup will safeguard me breaking any strings during the gig.

Andy asks Frog if he can get a beer somewhere and Frog runs off, returning shortly with a crate of beer. Andy looks at me and laughs, “Typical Germany, you ask for one beer and you get given a crate”. Besides that, there are already two full crates stacked up behind the merch tables which we hadn’t even seen. The thing is, they’re a little on the tepid side and I’m really hoping for a cold beer after we’re done playing. I try to ask Frog if the band flat upstairs where we’re sleeping has a fridge, but the language barrier is a little tough since he’s a little drunk and finds the English, at least my joke of an accent, a little tough. I’m holding a crate of beer in my hands and motioning to upstairs. Froggy nods and says, “Ok, yeah it’s fine” but he looks a little put out. I head upstairs with the crate but find no fridge to put them in. And then I realise that Frog must have thought that I wanted to take a crate to hamster away from the other bands. I feel like a right twat. I head back downstairs with the crate again and find Frog looking really confused now. Jon tells me what the German is for fridge and then Froggy twigs on, “Ahhh, no it’s ok, you can just take a bottle and swap it for a cold one from the bar later”.

The gig room is packed and moist with sweat as we start the show with Death Do Us Part. As it happens, a fucking string goes during the first verse of the first song… there is a bit of a break whilst I swap guitar and straps before we start the second song. I’d thought that I would have just put up with having the guitar higher up if I’d broke a string near the end of the set but there’s no way I can do a whole set playing like Bob Marley. A minute or so later I’m ready to go and we get back on with things. The stage is really tight and it’s hard to keep your feet at times, especially when the punks fall on to the stage every now and again. The atmosphere is great and it sounds banging on stage. It’s all going well, although I’m a little wary of breaking another string so hold back slightly, that and my back is twinging a bit. And then at one point I puke a bit of Erdnuss flip in my mouth. Not the most rock n’ roll way to go.. And then Jon breaks a string in the middle of the set. It’s really dark on his side of the stage and he doesn’t have any spare strings but Adrian has a bunch so whilst they fart around sorting that, and then Jon stands in the light in the middle of the stage restringing his guitar I start playing a couple of doomy notes whilst the sweat drips from my forehead and nose. Johan and Andy join in and we strum along for what feels like five minutes. When Jon is finally sorted he says, “This song appropriately is called We’re Fucked” and the crowd erupts.

I like the set we have at the minute. The front end of the set is speckled with songs from the latest albums and then a couple of brand new songs from the new album we haven’t recorded yet. But we end with five or six classics from the early records and it feels like the set ends with a real burst of energy, both from the crowd and us. When we finish with This is the End a bunch of punks jump up onto the tiny stage and take over the vocals for the chorus, Johan taking a step back with a big smile on his face. Great feeling. The punks won’t let us leave the stage when we’re done and so we stay up for one more. Jon thanks the crowd dearly and then says, “This is our Wind of Change”, before going into the guitar intro of Killing. It’s a great way to end things. And the punks let us leave when we’re done this time.

Jon heads straight to the merch table whilst we pack up. Andy looks chuffed as fuck, “I’ve been thinking a few times during this long fucking day, thinking it’s not worth it, but then you play a gig like that and you remember exactly why we’re doing this”. I couldn’t agree more. We sit around on the stage chatting to a few punks for a while and then Froggy arrives with an ice bucket and a couple of bottles of bright green booze called Peppe, or something. It’s alcoholic mouth wash basically. Apparently we “have” to drink it. I don’t want to be rude but this is not the cold after beer gig I’ve been looking forward to all night. But what the hell, when in Weimar. I only have the one though. Andy and Johan are up for a second though, and a third.

We hang out in the bar for a couple of hours afterwards, the place is still pretty full and there’s loads of chat and banter. My friend and neighbour Johan Walin had told me in the week that he’d played at this squat with both Bombstrike and General Surgery and that it was a pretty cool place. I’m chatting to Frog who keeps looking at me with a drunk smile on his face and asking me if we had a good time and then wrapping his arm around my shoulder. I tell him my friend from home played here, must have been around 2006 or so. “Bombstrike?” Frog guesses immediately. Yeah! I say, “Very crazy people..” Frog smiles. I’ve never really known Walin as crazy… I’ll have to ask him what that was all about when I get home.

It’s one am and two bottles of Weimar’s finest when the gig high starts wearing off and tiredness starts hitting like a brick wall. I can see Johan is flaking too, he’s had a few glasses of the mouthwash booze and all. Originally we were supposed to sleep somewhere else but having heard about the band flat upstairs I’d told Frog we’d like to sleep here, which was fine. The Rock n’ Roll flat Frog called it. It looks like a hundred other sleeping rooms we’ve slept in at squats all over Europe. Bunk beds and dirty wooden floors. I’m glad we’re staying here though, otherwise we’d have run the risk of being kept up listening to loud crust music with drunk punks until the early hours. And I couldn’t have dealt with that tonight, we’ve been on the go for almost twenty four hours as it is.

We head upstairs and I climb into the middle bunk of three. The top bunk is really fucking high up, must be about twelve, thirteen foot or so. Fucking die if you rolled out of that in your sleep. Amazingly, I’m the only one of the four of us who has brought a sleeping bag. The one that Johan and Andy bought me as a birthday present as a laugh earlier this year. Chuffed as fuck with it now. There is definitely a cool draught in the room somewhere. As well as a slight whiff of puke.