We were actually only in school for a couple of hours this morning, for a ceremonial send off assembly. Almost everyone turned up dressed in nice clothes, all the younger students were geared up in frocks and suit jackets, even my mentor, Charlie, who wears the same black shirt and combat trousers every day, was dressed in suit and bow tie. I was sporting whatever punk t-shirt the system had picked out. It was a little emotional saying goodbye to everyone for the summer, it’s been an intense year at times. A lot of the guys were gathering down next to the lake for a picnic but I was meeting up with Jen, Polly and a couple of friends for some lunch at Färgfabriken, the art gallery/cafe where I work now and again. It was a glorious day, the sun beating down harder than it has done all year. Shame I had to leave so soon.
I walked back to the station with the girls after lunch where we would part ways, since they were going to Jen’s mum and I was heading home to pick up my suitcase and leave. The day then took a strange turn. First off we’re told the station at Liljeholmen is closed off due to a robbery and a bomb threat. And then we walk around the station as instructed to get the tram and find some old man has fallen down with his shopping and has a pretty bad nose bleed. A couple of students help me lift him up and they cause a bit of panic by suggesting we call an ambulance, to which the old boy is totally opposed. To be honest, it doesn’t look that bad once we get him lifted. But still, things like this can leave me with a lump in my stomach for a while afterwards. Strange way to say goodbye to the girls.
I meet up with Luc back at Central Station and we take the Arlanda Express out to the airport. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’m happy he now has to pay full price, now that he’s turned twenty six. The fucker used to like pointing out how it was a lot cheaper for him, he the youngster. As it is, they have a two for one deal in the summer anyway so we only paid half price. Vik was meeting us at the airport since he was working until three thirty. That had made me a little nervous since the flight was at five thirty but Vik was calm about it. Turns out not to be an issue anyway, the first thing we see once we get through security is that the flight is delayed an hour, or worse, estimated at an hour. I immediately get flashbacks to last summer when me and the girls were delayed all night and ended up staying at the airport hotel, weekend in London totally fucked. I’m relieved then when they change the message board from “Estimated six thirty” to “Delayed until six twenty-five”. And then Vik turns up shortly afterwards, gagging for a pint.
The flight is smooth, once we get going. The delay was caused by stormy weather in London earlier on in the day which had caused a backlog. The only bastard is that it’s fucked our plans for dinner tonight. We’d hoped to make it to Deptford in time for a meal at the Orient with some of the gang, as is tradition, but it’s almost eight when we land and those plans are now defunct. It’s nine thirty by the time we get off at New Cross station and walk along to Deptford High Street. Dinner ends up being a veggie sandwich from a Subway on New Cross Road. It’s not bad but I can’t help feeling disappointed. Funny thing is, all three of us order the same thing, and the guy serving asks all of us in turn if we want cheese, to which we all in turn reply, “Yes please, lots”. I don’t know if they have a policy or if the guy is just a dick but we all receive a measly two triangles of cheese which by the time it’s been melted in the nuclear grill has all but disappeared. We eat up and head to the Bird’s Nest, where Kev has said he’d meet us. He’s sat at the tables outside with Wayne and Miles and a whole load of other people. Pissed.
Kev, not knowing exactly when we’d arrive, had been holding out on dinner and ending up drinking four pints whilst in wait for us, enough to get him pretty sauced. He’s got that silly smirk on his face and is rapidly interchanging between hugging us and telling us he loves us to calling us a bunch of cunts. Wayne and Miles are enjoying a giggle at his expense. It’s good to see everyone and the first pint goes down a fucking treat. Kev says it’s been a scorcher of a day but now the sun has clocked out for the day there is a considerable nip in the air. We decide to head back to Kev’s to dump the bags so as to be able to squeeze into the busy pub and enjoy another couple of jars.
The Nest is pretty busy, as is usually is these days. The boy who runs the place, Joel, has really done a job in turning this place around, as has Kev and the Keep it in the Family crew, who have been steadily putting on decent shows here for the last few years. Kev tells me that they had Halshug on a couple of weeks ago, on a Monday night, and they all ended up battered and headed down to the New Cross Inn afterwards. There they’d made a nuisance of themselves by falling about on the pool table whilst these bikers guys were having a game. Fucking miracle they didn’t get their heads kicked in Kev admits. The Danes from Halshug didn’t know what to make of the Deptford crew I’m sure.
As I’m stood waiting to order a pint from the bar I haven’t really noticed the band playing, I’m fully zoned in on attempting to order a pint. There seems to be a lot of people watching them though. They come in to focus when I notice this slowly shuffling blues rock type riff, just kind of rolling away in the background. Then I hear the singer, in uber Cockney, “Pinky and Perky-ah, Peter O’Toole”. This grabs me immediately. What a fucking lyric. I hear nothing after that, I’m straight in Stix’s ear, relaying it. The pair of us crack up and continue to repeat this line for the rest of the evening. Stix asks me for a sample of my pint, a Shoreditch Triangle IPA, and makes a grimace as it contacts his lips. “Ooh ya fucker, that’s lovely!” He’s now gutted with his pint. I must admit, as good as the pint is, I know I’m taking a risk due to the fact it’s six and half percent and all I’ve had is a measly sarnie for dinner. By the end of what it this, my second pint of the night, I’m already feeling drunk. That kind of drunk where your mouth feels numb as you try to converse. Seems like everyone else is in the same boat, and Kev is now saying he doesn’t care anymore, what about, I’m not sure.
In thoroughly predictable fashion we end up buying chips and cheese from the kebab shop on Deptford High Street on the way home. This is the kind of thing I would only ever dream of eating in England, or maybe Holland. For some reason it seems like the most delicious thing in the world as you’re ordering it pissed, a craving running through every morsel of your body for the fucker, and then as soon as you’ve licked the last slither of cheap, grated cheese from the styrofoam box, you feel sick and disgusted with yourself. We pop in the store on the way back to Kev’s and pick up some crisps for dessert and scoff them down in front of the tv in his living room, some rubbish film on the Horror Channel. I leave Stix and Luc to debate what spot they’re claiming to sleep and head for Kev’s bed, not really bothered whether he’s happy to share it or not.
We wake in the morning and we’re all feeling the effects of last night. Four pints is all it took for me to achieve a hangover. Great… We’re practising at midday at Overdrive, just round the corner from the cafe. We head to Bianca for a fry-up where Karl and his daughter Kali come along to meet us. Greasy food always champion in these situations. Afterwards we head to get some much needed coffee from London’s finest, the Waiting Room. It’s pretty packed but Miles is outside collecting dishes and he takes our order and comes out with the beverages in express time. Feel like one of those creeps you see cruising past the lines at the horrific nightclub on Östermalm. Still, the coffee is much needed and very thankfully received.
Practice is no great success to be fair, at least not for me. It sounds pretty chaotic in the small carpeted room, my red SG that now lives in Deptford struggling to make any kind of decent sound. Also, I’m not sure how, even though the strap is fully extended, the guitar is sitting very high up my body, feel like one of those toughguy hardcore tits. This red SG of mine really does need to be put out of it’s misery. If I had the money and the will I’d give it a service, change the pick up which now has a crust of filth on it, but I don’t. The poor thing has done a lot of gigs in the time I’ve had it. The neck has been off it twice and there are holes all over the place in the body. “Bride of Frankenstein,” Speedhorn’s old tour manager Doug used to call it. Anyway, the rest of the guys seem satisfied enough with practice, despite the hangovers. When we’re done we go and sit outside with Big John, who runs the studio and have a chat. Vik asks him about Paco, his best mate and old Conflict partner, who recently died fairly suddenly. John tells us he’s heartbroken about it and you can see that he’s holding back the emotion. Sad to see the old boy like that. Life, what a cunt it can be at times.
We meet up with Karl, Jules and their daughter Kali and head to the Nest for some refreshments. The sun is fucking blazing so we take one of the benches outside. Kev got a call a while ago from one of the people organising the fest we’re playing tonight up in Tottenham. They’d said originally that we should be there at four in the afternoon but we’d declined that request. What the fuck are we going to do in Tottenham between four and when we play at midnight? Balls to that. Apparently though some girl who is picking up merch for the organisers is swinging by Deptford to pick us up in a cab. Spot on. Beats taking the tube all the way with the guitars. But now as we’re sat there outside the Nest Kev gets a text saying that the cab isn’t happening, that the girl ended up getting a lift off someone else so we’ll have to make our own way. We tell Kev to get on the blower and call but he seems resistant. Karl laughs, saying Kev doesn’t like talking on the phone. Kev dodges around the subject for a while and then finally says he doesn’t want to call the guy from the gig because he speaks weird and he can’t understand what he’s saying. Looks like we’re doing the tube after all.
I’d been tempted by a pint at the Nest but knew deep down that I didn’t really need one. I was planning to take it easy tonight since I’m supposed to be getting tattooed by Marcus tomorrow and I can’t be arsed feeling like shit for that. Plus tomorrow is the start of my four day holiday in London and I don’t want to start that with a hangover. I go for what Kev’s drinking, a Deptford Sunrise, which is basically a virgin Sex on the Beach, we had a variation of it at Snotty once called Snog on the Beach, which I thought was genius on my part. Anyway, it’s good and I’m glad I made this particular choice, even if Vik’s Shoreditch Triangle does look very satisfying… Vik ends up tanking three of the fuckers in the hour and a bit we’re there and is well on his way to tipsy by the time we make our way to the train. We say bye to Karl and the girls and tell him we’ll see him later at the gig, if he makes it that is.
We get up to T Chances, the German community center which was the same venue that held the Fuck Reddin’ Fest we played a couple of years ago, around seven. Perfect timing. This time it’s Bastard Fair though. And we’re playing last. And it’s on the big stage. And apart from our friends Hello Bastards, I’ve never heard of any of the bands. Joe, who is running the show, says he has a good feeling about tonight since he’s been getting a lot of good feedback about it. I can’t say I share his optimism. For the life of me I can’t understand why they’re not putting it on as a floor show in the small room. We get stuff sorted and then head off in search of some dinner. They’re providing the usual punk stew here, which I’m sure is fine and I’d happily nosh down if we were on tour right now, but being this is a one off and I’m on holiday I feel the urge to find a somewhere else, a little calmer, where we can sit, eat and chat and maybe have a drink.
We make our way up Seven Sisters Road towards the football ground in search of a spot. I’m in the mood for Chinese since we missed out on The Orient yesterday but it’s not happening. All we pass is a couple of kebab shops and some Fried Chicken places. It seems like shitty Fried Chicken is taking over this city, it feels like I’ve felt the scent of it since I got here. We pass a couple of terrifying looking pubs whilst gandering about, the two of them wall to wall. The first is just the usual chav bar, footy on the screens, wankers looking angrily at them. The other pub looks like National Front HQ. Fuck this place.
We end up a little further down the road in Manor House where all of a sudden everything looks a little hip. We decide on some cosy looking Italian place on the corner, just under the rail bridge. Everything looks relatively cheap on the menu, which I guess should have served as some sort of warning. We sit there quite a while before being served, Lucas eventually catching their attention by waving the menu in the air, much to Kev’s horror. The pasta looks and tastes like it’s straight out of a packet, the pint of Moretti hits the spot though. Stix, feeling a bit saucy goes for a glass of the house red and receives a large glass of acid. He manages to get through it though, before announcing that he’ll now be taking a break until we play. Kev wins this round with his pizza, by far the best purchase.
We head back to the venue in time to see what is the second band of the night. Petrol Bastard from Leeds. For a second I stand there in shock at the sight of it, not knowing whether to laugh, not knowing whether it’s any good or not. Twenty minutes later I’m wishing a slow, painful demise on the two cunts on stage. They’re basically a piss poor version of Sleaford Mods doing their best to be shocking. THe one guy is dressed in a sleazy blue suit and is wearing cyclops sunglasses, the other is a boots and braces skinhead doing his best to look thick as fuck. They’re ranting something about, “My girlfriend’s a bastard” and other such shocking statements over weak techno beats. It’s very light in the large room and there are about thirty punks watching them, some of them are dancing. There are about another hundred punks outside in the car park, but my gut instinct tells me well they’ll be there the rest of the night. I don’t get the whole scum punk thing to be honest. They flock down to the gig and then refuse to go inside, instead sitting in the car park drinking cheap cans from the offy in some sort of protest. Watching Petrol Bastard I get the first inkling of how this is all going to be a huge miss. Kev and I spoke about the concept of Bastard Fest ages ago, thinking the likes of the Japanese legends Bastard, or Bastard Noise, or an array of others. And then someone else, in this case Little Joe, goes and does it, but it’s called Bastard Fair instead. And if Petrol Bastard is anything to go by then the whole concept is fucked. For a second there is a spark of excitement when a guy stood with a small crowd by the bar at the back shouts, “Stop being so fucking shit!” at the band but it soon becomes clear that he’s friends with the band.
I spot Hanna Trash stood beside them and head over to catch up with her. Nice to see a friendly face. Hanna has just taken over on drums from Niki Nailbomb in Kev’s other band Disculpe. She played in his old band I Like BUGS through which I first met her. She’s a great girl and an amazing drummer. We stand there chatting over the din from the two pillocks on stage, throwing the occasional glance at the spectacle and laughing. After a while I head over to our merch and restring my guitar, almost having forgotten that it had to be done, sitting there praying for the band to finish. Relief finally comes. It can’t get any worse than that tonight, can it?
Vik has been sitting watching the Champions League Final in the small bar with Jeff from Hello Bastards and I’ve been floating back and forth between there and the car park for a while. The human typhoon that is Misa has turned up and she’s laughing hysterically as always, two pints on the go, jumping all over everyone. I can’t be arsed watching the football, it’s so fucking boring anyway, so head back in and find Anti Bastard on stage. Again, I’m not sure if it’s a joke. Although, this joke isn’t as offensive as the last lot. I can’t really work out what it is they’re supposed to be playing or what they are. There is this anarcho punk guy on the one guitar who looks like a bit of a plonker, the singer looks like a bit of a Smiths geek, the other guitarist looks like he’s in the Levellers and the other two kind of just fade into the background. When I walk in they’re in the middle of some song that is clean picking guitar verse with Smiths doing his best to sing, like sing sing, and making a painful mess of it/crap distortion chorus with Smiths doing his best to scream, like scream scream, and making a painful mess of it. It sounds like the kind of thing you produced when you were thirteen in your mate’s parents garage, the trouble being these guys must be in their forties. And to make matters worse the sound from the PA is absolutely awful, just a blithering mess of reverb. When they go back into clean picking guitar verse I notice Anarcho stood there, eyes closed, head lifted to the ceiling poignantly, really feeling it. I catch Luc’s eye and we piss ourselves laughing. When the song comes to an end Anarcho takes care of proceedings, obviously wanting to deliver some important political message to the handful of punks who have been arsed enough to come in a watch. The problem is though that there is so much delay on his mic that you can’t make anything out, it’s just a cloud of noise, the only thing I can pick out is the word “Tories” now and then as he stands there with his hand on his hips looking like a complete tool. By this point I’m actually crying with laughter.
Surely it can’t get any worse, can it? It can.
Although thankfully there is some respite in the form of Hello Bastards set. Of the six or seven bands on the bill tonight it’s only ourselves and HB that are even remotely in the same ballpark as each other. It’s become obvious that there has been a vast mishandling of this event. It was a fun concept, to have a Fest where all the bands on the bill have the word Bastard in their name, but unfortunately that seems to have been the only criteria required. I can’t help thinking how much better this would have been if Kev had booked it. Maybe next year.
Hello Bastards blast through their set in about fifteen minutes and for the first time tonight there is a pretty good crowd in to watch the band, at least sixty of seventy people, and all of a sudden it doesn’t feel so bad. Plus Miles has turned up, and Sean, and some other friends, not Karl though. But still, it feels like it could be a fun show after all. Fuck it, playing is always fun anyway, no matter what the crowd. It is after all the reason we’re here.
When Hello Bastards are done normal service resumes and we’re tortured for the next half hour by a seven piece ska punk band. As much as ska punk makes me feel nauseous I can still tell when it’s played well, A Fish Called Bastard unfortunately don’t achieve this, not that this music played well makes things much better, but still. I hate to sound like a snob, and there are people out there of course who think the bands I play in are crap, and that’s anyone’s right to feel that way, just as it is of course everyone’s right to get up on stage and play. We all like different things and that’s a good thing. It’s just a bit of a bummer when you’re stood there waiting to go on and play a gig that you wouldn’t, not in a million years, ever pay to go to yourself. All that said, the guys who put the gig on are paying for our flights which I’m very thankful for, I can’t imagine they’re making the money back to cover them though.
Fuck it, it’s time to play and as I’m looking for some sort of sound out of the Marshall combo amp propped up on a chair on the high, brightly lit stage, the words of Chuck Dukowski come back to me, as they have done many times over the years, “You play your ass off or you don’t play at all”. Those words have stuck with me ever since the first time I read Get In The Van. They made me realise that it doesn’t matter how many people aren’t at the show, all that matters is the people that are and they’re here watching your band play and you don’t rip them off. As it is, there is a pretty okay crowd in by the time we start anyway, maybe sixty or so, although the room holds maybe four hundred. I see that our good mate Wayne has made it here, having darted across London after finishing his shift. And our mate Jamie has arrived too. That’s the last little lift I need before blasting into the opening riff of Hypnotic Eye.
It ends up being a fun show, although I’m struggling with the equipment, my guitar sounds like piss and is sat so high that I have to arch the legs pretty low to be able to play comfortably which ends up giving me achy thighs, and the lead I’m using is cutting out now and again, not to mention the balls sound from the little amp, but the punks watching us are having a good enough time and they all move about for the duration of the gig. Wayne ends up floating about on the crowd at one point. This is our punk rock. And I love it. Despite everything, no matter the circumstances, I still love playing.
After the gig there really isn’t much to do but pack up and figure out how we’re getting back down to South London. Kev had put out the money for our flights and Little Joe tells him he doesn’t have the cash on him for them tonight since they had a bad one but he’ll get the money to him in the coming days. Kev has no qualms though, he says they’re good people and they’ll sort it. I think we sold two shirts and a couple of sevens, that ain’t going to cover any flights… We pile out into the car park and discuss the options. There had been talk of a cab but that has been dismissed, too expensive considering there’s a night bus that goes from here all the way to London Bridge. As we’re discussing this a cop van pulls up and a herd of them jump out and roughly grab some punter from the gig saying they got a call about someone matching his description brandishing a knife. It seems like a right load of bollocks to me. Some other punks are milling about, protesting the cops actions and it all gets a bit silly. The whole time Vik, who is pissed and hasn’t understood what is going on is shouting at us, “Are we taking a cab or what?” Disappointed, he follows the rest of us to the bus stop, telling me how he steers clear of the cops since he got busted in the States. He tells me this a few times.
We’re waiting for the bus and I’m eating a bag of crisps, some punk kid looks at me and snorts, “Gimme one of them!” Absolutely. You twat. He seems surprised when I kindly pass him the bag. You don’t need to talk to others like a cunt just because you’re a punk. Luc is getting nervous because there are a crowd of tough looking types hanging out at the bus stop and he’s convinced we’re going to get robbed. No one else in our crowd seems to have noticed or cares. I think Luc is just tired and a little bit anxious about his flight that takes off in about six hours, poor bastard. The bus finally comes and we head back to the south, along with Misa, Sean and some girl who is a girlfriend of someone the guys know, who wanted company. The bus takes a while to weave through the weekend nighttime traffic and by the time we get to Hoxton Kev has gone pale in the face, desperate for a slash. Vik is soon with him. Luc is sleeping beside Vik obvlious to Vik rocking back and forth. I’m glad I chose to stay sober tonight. Misa is punching Kev in the stomach and laughing her ass off, Kev is begging her to stop, saying he’ll end up pissing in her face. When we alight at London Bridge Kev and Vik run and piss in the nearest shadow, crying as they do so, knowing fine well they risk problems with the cops if they turn up.
We end up back at Kev’s around three am. Sean and Vik are passing a bottle between them, something out of the drinks cabinet that Kev inherited from his mum. Me, Kev and Misa are searching online for the best cab options to get Luc to the airport. Luc heads into Kev’s room to get some sleep around four, his cab is at five. Sucks. For the money you save booking the early flight, you lose it on the cab to the airport being that there are no trains running at this time. I feel bad for him, but being sober I’m desperately tired and by the look of things here in the living room the lights won’t be going out any time soon. I risk pissing Luc off and lay down beside him on the double bed in Kev’s room. He’s rolled himself up in the duvet, which I’ll be needing. I’m in my jammy bottoms and it’s cold. Sorry buddy. He probably thinks I’m a right selfish cunt. I wake up a few hours later and in Luc’s place now lies Kev. I wonder how his journey was. Well actually, I know, I’ve done it myself. I try and get back to sleep for a couple more hours. My holiday in London starts for real today, three days here hanging out before Jen comes over with Polly. I’m hoping to start the holiday with a lie in.