Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Paris

Crawled unwillingly out of bed and into the shower around nine thirty. We said we’d meet for breakfast at ten but I could happily fuck it off and stay here all day. Been having weird dreams all night, must be the lost equipment playing on my mind. With that thought rushing back, I head downstairs with the guys and inspect what the crack is with breakfast at this place. We’re greeted by a jovial French guy who appears to be the owner of the hotel and his shy dog. The guy seems absolutely delighted to speak English, kind of unusual in this country, and jokes with each of us as we pay the six euro fifty for the grub. Most of it goes over my groggy head though, never was much use in the morning.

Breakfast isn’t bad for one of these plastic hotel affairs, although the scrambled egg looks like it came straight out of a square box. And the toast is disgustingly sweet. The coffee and croissants work though. We sit around discussing the alternative outcomes with gear. How nice it would be to head over to the airport and find it there waiting for us. None of us truly believe that will be the case though, but you can always hope. We finish up and gather our bags together. Andy and I are stood downstairs by the parking lot for quite a while waiting for the other two. No doubt Johan is sat on the bog as usual. Whilst we’re waiting Rainy from Discharge comes strolling out with his wife. He asks us if we’re the shuttle that’s taking them to the festival. We explain that we’re not and then proceed with a pleasant chat. They’re both very friendly and it’s fun having a natter with them. We tell Rainy about the baggage situation and he scoffs in empathy with us. He tells us that one time they were out playing and their gear ended up in four different countries. He says they were playing this festival and they ended up loaning Jamiroquai’s gear. Funny as fuck thinking about Rainy playing Protest and Survive on some six string bass up around his neck. We talk about the upcoming punk boat gig they’re playing in Stockholm in March, Andy seems pretty psyched by the idea of trying to get Victims on it. Playing hungover on a ferry with no escape doesn’t seem like the best idea to me though.

We head over to the airport, it is indeed walking distance as the itinerary had promised. We head for the luggage claim department where we’re met by a very sweet, but stressed out girl working there. She’s got a lot of work on after the strike it seems and as the phone keeps ringing she rabbles off a load of French, the only word I can pick out of any of it being “Merde!” We go through the procedure of making the claim. She tells us the strike is now over and there is the slightest chance that our gear might be on the incoming flight from Nantes in half hours time. It doesn’t turn up though. As we’re waiting in hope, the Napalm Death guys come trudging off the plane. I spot the guitarist first. I go up to him to say hello and with a pained grin on his mug he tells me that their bags have been misplaced. They have their instruments but their other luggage is nowhere to be seen. After playing Hellfest today they’re flying to Brazil at six am tomorrow. I catch up with Barney for a while, but Embury is clearly in no mood to talk. Looks like the old miserable old Shane for a while, the one I haven’t really seen since he became a dad. He’s back in full force now though.

We leave them with a “good luck” and head through security once checked in, a little deflated that the gear is somewhere out there in the world. Jon fucks off for a fag before going through security. Johan and I are stood in line and Johan laughs, recalling yesterday when they went through security at Brussels airport. He says that Jon emptied his jeans pockets of his phone, wallet etc and then put them in his leather waistcoat pockets and walked through the metal detector with it all still on him. He gets really nervous around these situations and sort of goes into a silent lockdown. Johan had asked him what he was doing and he just vacantly replied that the cops had told him he didn’t need to take off his jacket. Brilliant.

Nantes airport is small and the food options are practically zero outside of one little cafe. We sit around and wait for our two thirty flight, watching the football highlights on the tv and reading the news about the British politician that has been murdered by some scumbag Britain First supporting nazi. Funny how this is guy is being portrayed as mentally deranged by the media and not as a racist biggot terrorist. And the American with Afghani parents who shot forty nine human beings at a gay club last week is a Muslim terrorist. Funny that.. I head to the bog and whilst I’m away Johan and Jon spot the singer from Offspring. Jon seems pretty chuffed to tell me the news when I return. Never could stand that fucking band.

The flight to Paris takes less than an hour, just and old up and down job. Third flight of four in four days, it’s been a while since I made a stretch like that. I’ve certainly become a more nervous flyer since becoming a parent. I wouldn’t call it fear, it certainly wouldn’t stop me getting on a plane, and once we’re up and in the cruise I’m fine, but if there’s any bumping around going on then I like to be next to the window. Don’t know why, makes me feel better. This has been the topic of conversation within the band recently, twice I’ve had to ask Johan if he would swap with me. The one place I don’t want to sit is the aisle if the plane is bumping around. I feel like a right cunt though as Andy ridicules me.

When we land, safe and sound, as always, we’re met at the airport by a young guy who looks like he plays in the Doors holding a sign with Victims on it. He takes us to the Fiat Punto he’ll be driving us to the gig in. Lucky we don’t have any gear with us since we would have had to have gaffa taped it to the roof. The ride only takes about twenty minutes though. Doors tells us that the venue we’re playing is in an area called Saint Ouen, which is a district in the north of the city famous for its flea market. The small street are indeed packed with cars and people as we snake our way through traffic to the venue.

We climb out of the car and head inside the venue for a deek around. We’re met by a crew of young people who are putting tonight’s show on. Some big guy called Viktor and then the main man, Vincent, who is the guy that’s been in touch with us the whole time. He’s a bit rushed at the minute since the first of the seven bands have just started and he has some things to take care of, but he soon leads us up the to the next floor where a large communal dressing room is. The Unsane guys are sat around stringing guitars and munching on chips. The place is buzzing with various band members. They have some snacks and coffee on the go and food will be coming around seven. Since we’re playing at eight we opt to eat afterwards and get tucked in to the snacks. Nice with an early show anyway, the whole thing is over by ten thirty.

We hang out with Vincent and the guys for a while, as well as Raphael and his band Bain De Sang. Raphael and Vincent between them have sorted equipment for us tonight. I’m told there is an SG I can borrow so I’m chuffed with that. Raphael is an old friend of the guys, he put out the In Blood album on cd years ago, in Europe, or in France at least I think. Really good guy. They all are. I devour what there is of the crisps on offer but decline the beer for now, although the others are supping away. The Unsane drummer catches my eye. He’s sat against the back wall of the room with some other old guy who reminds me of the American comedian Fred Willard. Looks just like him, has the same smirk and everything. They’re sat there gabbing away and checking out some lady who is in the room, seems to be a photographer. They’re not too subtle.

We decide to go for a walk around the area and see what’s happening. The market is still on so we check that out. This area is really cool. The streets are swarming with market sellers and open bars with lots of gypsy style jazz bands playing. It’s what I imagine New Orleans to be like. There are also lots of galleries with artwork and trinkets for sale. Really cool place, certainly somewhere you wouldn’t end up if you weren’t a well researched tourist. We walk around for an hour so, checking everything out, before heading back to the venue. It’s around six thirty and I decide it’s time for the first beer of the night.

We check out Raphael’s band who start just as we get back. The place downstairs is buzzing with people. There is a cafe area where we would be selling our merch if we had it with us. There is a bar there as well as little corner selling pieces of art. The gig room is to the side of the bar. It’s one of those completely sound proofed box rooms, it’s like walking into a vacuum when you go in. It’s hot as fuck in there too and the sound is kind of dense, like there’s nowhere for it to escape to. I’m sweating my ass off just watching Raphael and the guys. I enjoy their show nonetheless. The bass player is pretty frantic as he plays and I lose count of the times he comes within centimeters of smashing his bass on the pillar on his side of the stage. Really good show anyway.

I head off a little before the end thinking that we’re on next and that I need to get my leads and all that shit sorted but it turns out there’s been a swap around in the line up. Willard and his mate are still sat by the wall gabbing away, I swear they haven’t moved since we got here. With time to kill and no food in the stomach, and in need of a bit of a kick before we play I convince Johan to take a shot with me. Jon is right in on too, of course. Vincent comes up and asks if we’re sorted for the gear and all that stuff. We’re all good except Johan, who isn’t sure what bass he’s playing. Vincent tells him it would be an honour if he played his Rickenbacker. We laugh but Vincent appears serious, “If you’d told me ten years ago that Victims would be playing my bass live…”

Time to play, we head downstairs to the sweatbox. Hugo, the sound guy comes up to the stage and hands me his guitar case. I pull it out and to my delight find that it’s exactly the same model as my brown SG that is currently missing in action. Couldn’t be more chuffed. We take a little while setting up and as we do people gradually filter in from the cafe area and the room is full by the time we start. The sound on stage is great and I’m raring to go. Already this feels better than yesterday.

And so it is. I enjoy every second of the gig tonight. THe stage is the perfect size, it sounds great and the crowd are ripping the place up. It seems Andy isn’t having the same show as me though. I don’t notice until he tells us that we’re dropping Theft from the set. I ask him if he’s okay but he just shakes his head and says he’s pissed off. Fuck knows what’s going on. I try to encourage him but it doesn’t seem to be working. It’s only when we play the next song, Errors, that I notice something is weird. During the chorus when he goes to the crash there is nothing there. At first I think he’s dropped his stick but when I look over I see him hitting the fuck out of the cymbal but there is nothing coming out of it, as if it were made of rubber. Turns out that none of the cymbals he’s playing tonight are whole and it’s making things difficult for him. Thankfully, the longer the gig goes on the more the crowd kicks off the lighter Andy’s mood becomes. I’m surprised when we go back for two extra songs at the end of the set, I was sure Andy would have been straight off the stage. We play Your Life is Red and My Eyes as two last songs and then I walk off and lay down behind my amp on the floor, pissing sweat and totally fucked. Great show.

We hang out upstairs for a while, cooling off by the open window and enjoying a cold beer. The beer isn’t great, but it is cold and does the trick. Once back down to earth and non perspiring I tuck into the dinner the guys have sorted for us. Veggie quiche and tabbouleh salad. And cheese, always cheese. As I’m stood there devouring the brie Vincent comes up to me and says that he’s got some cheese in from his home town down on the Swiss border and we can tuck into it for breakfast in the morning since we’ll be staying at his place. Nice one.

I head down to watch the end of the Unsane set. I’ve seen them a bunch of times so I’m not that fussed. I used to love them when I was younger but that period has passed somewhat. I still like the band but it’s been a long time since I put an Unsane record on at home. Just so happens when I get down there they’re just finishing up with four songs from the classic Scattered, Smothered, Covered album. Good timing. Chris Spencer’s famous baseball cap is dripping with sweat, literally dripping. He never takes the thing off either, I stand there sweating myself over a by now lukewarm Johnny Walker Red on the rocks wondering what his cap smells like. Andy comes over to me and says he’s got goose bumps, so good was the gig. He was stood over in the middle of the room so I guess it sounded better over there, where I was stood the sound didn’t quite carry and it was missing a bit of punch. Wish I’d gone over into the crowd now to listen from there now.

Afterwards we hang out upstairs and start getting stuck in to the bottles of booze the guys have now lined up on the bar. It’s only ten thirty, the night is but young. Being in France we do as the French do and get stuck into the bottle of pastis. I have a really nice chat with Raphael, he’s asking what we all do for work outside of the band, and from there we get talking about school, and kids, and life in general. I really enjoy chatting with him, the booze slowly but steadily going down. Doors appears and heads over to join the conversation. Both him and Vincent had been down the front of the crowd for the gig, huge smiles on their faces, hopping around with the crowd. We get talking about the gypsy music scene around this part of the city, Doors is an avid fan of it and tells us all about the legends of the scene and the history of the music. Fascinating stuff. Something I’ll have to check out more thoroughly.

The night rolls on and before I know it it’s one in the morning and most of the booze is gone. Still, I don’t feel too bad, just nice and warm. It’s been a good night. Chris from Unsane comes over to Jon and shakes his hand before leaving. They’d been chatting earlier. Jon knows every bugger. Chris had lead us downstairs to their merch and said we could have anything we wanted but as nice a gesture as that was I didn’t really fancy any of the designs they had. Still very kind though. I’ve come across him a few times, played with them with Speedhorn once. Always looked hard and serious, but he’s a friendly enough guy. “Respect”, says Jon as Chris approaches him. And that’s that.

We get our stuff together and head downstairs to the street. The people organising the gig are mulling around on the street outside and we stand there having one last chat. As we say goodbye Jon starts kissing everyone on each cheek, embracing the French custom. Cracks me up. We walk with Vincent a few blocks to his car. I thought he’d had a few drinks so I’d figured we’d be walking to his place but he unlocks the Punto and we climb inside. Maybe he hadn’t been drinking.. Or maybe he didn’t give a piss. Sometimes you just go along with things and don’t ask. We drive ten minutes or so to the Stalingrad area where he lives, just on the north side not far from Pigalle where me and Jen stayed on holiday after the last time we played Hellfest four years ago. He has a really cool attic conversion flat. There are two double beds, one in each of the rooms. Me and Jon are teaming up tonight. There are two beers in the fridge. A German pilsner and a can of piss that is 6.5%. “Woah, that’s a proper crust beer”, Vincent comments as Jon cracks it open. I’m not sure if it was here already or if Jon had it with him in his pocket. Either way, as we share the two beers around I end up with a drop of the crust beer and it is absolutely fucking disgusting. Maybe just as well, I really don’t need any more.

We stand around in the kitchen talking with Vincent for a while. He’s a really sweet person. He tells us that he’s sleeping at his girlfriends just a hundred meters away and with that we head to bed. Jon and I lie there talking away, telling old stories, Jon laughing hysterically and extremely loudly. I’d actually say he was screaming with laughter. I can only imagine what Andy and Johan are thinking in the other room. Gradually the stories turn to normal conversation and finally into some sort of pillow talk before slowly ebbing into sleep around four am.

The next day we’re woken by Vincent ringing the buzzer downstairs and when he arrives he apologises for waking us up whilst clutching baguettes and croissants. He had actually come twenty minutes after we’d agreed on so it was our bad sleeping in. We sit around tucking in to this delicious breakfast with his hometown cheese and jam, orange juice and tea. Vincent apologises again for the lack of coffee but explains that he doesn’t drink it. He really is the sweetest guy.

We have the day in Paris since we’re not flying home until nine tonight so we decide to spend the afternoon walking around. Jon stays at Vincent’s since he has to study, he has a deadline for the next day, and Vincent has things to sort out at the venue so Johan, Andy and I head off for the afternoon. We walk for around four hours. First down to Pere Lachaise cemetery, check out the Jim Morrison grave. It’s fucking tacky though, there are people hanging around drinking rum and listening to Break On Through on some small speakers. As we walk away Andy moans, “Overrated shite, one hit wonder”. The cemetery is amazing though, with all the cobbled streets and house like tombs, it likens a city of the dead. I’d been here before with Jen and really wanted to show the guys the place. I wanted to find August Comte’s grave too but unless you know where it is you could spend all day here looking for it. When Jen and I were here last we actually got lost and we started to panic a little as they announced over the tannoy system that they were closing and we couldn’t find our way out. Place is like a labyrinth.

It’s a gorgeous day and after leaving the cemetery we make for Sacre Coeur. When we get to the junction of Avenue de la Republique we hear screaming. There is some hysterical young guy, stood in the middle of traffic, screaming bloody murder at anyone and everyone. He is beyond pissed off. He’s walking around kicking everything and screaming. We walk along, feeling no need to make eye contact with him and for a moment it sounds like he’s following us. It’s a pretty fucking sketchy scene. He turns away and the screams quickly become more distant. I notice the faces of the people in the cafes and bars though, just staring at him with a blend of pity and disgust in their eyes.

Our walk takes us past the Bataclan where the massacre happened. Fucking weird feeling looking at the place. What hits me is what a normal, almost anonymous little music venue it is. It certainly doesn’t look like any kind of symbol for capitalist western society, just a normal little venue. It could easily be Debaser or anywhere else. Fucking horrible. We move on up past Place de Republique where they held the mass and then on to Sacre Coeur take in the views. It is of course, as we should have expected, full of football fans drinking and singing. We see some football trickster guy stood on a column at the top of the stairs juggling keepie ups. He’s pretty impressive to be fair. At one point he climbs to the top of a lamp post, ball wedged between his legs and then hangs there for fucking ages juggling the ball with his feet. There are men walking around selling beer and if I’m honest I could happily take one but we decide to leave it.

We stop for a spot of lunch back down on the corner of a cobbled streets in the back end of Pigalle. I realised this little hole-in-the-wall creperie place is somewhere me and Jen went to on the tip of it being one of the city’s finest. It was really good too. Makes me think of her and miss her, wishing she was here. As much fun as it is doing this stuff with the guys my absolute favourite holiday partner is my wife. We work great together as travelling companions. We sit down across the street from it at an Italian joint and tuck into a simple olive oil and garlic dish and now I can’t help myself and order a glass of cold rose wine. Fucking perfect.

We get back to Vincent’s around five. Jon has just finished up his studying and is pretty chuffed with himself. He reads through his work to me and Johan whilst chugging on a little bottle of red wine. Andy has gone to the other room and has fallen asleep. Vincent turns up around six and drives us to Orly airport in the south of the city, takes around an hour with traffic. We chat all the way with our new friend. When he drops us off we takes turns to hug him and thank him for everything, promising him we won’t leave it another eight years until we play Paris. He says, “Good! Although next time I won’t be organising the gig, I’ll just be there moshing and enjoying it”.

We leave and Jon tells me he’s a little sad to say goodbye to him, how it’s a wonderful thing meeting new friends through playing music but that it’s also kind of abstract because people just come and go. Jon says he was impressed with Vincent’s Frenchness when he’d left to head to his girlfriend’s earlier. As he was heading out the door with some croissants to take to his girl before heading to the venue to tidy up he’d winked at Jon and said, “I’m gonna take these to my girlfriend so she knows I’m a great boyfriend as well as a great lover”. I do love a piss taker.

Four flights in four days. I’m getting a little bored of airports now. I’m glad this one is the last one. I miss my girls. And my guitars...

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hellfest

Arriving at Hellfest is like checking in at a busy hotel. There is such a swarm of people and enormous amounts of staff attending to the arriving “artistes”. This is certainly a whole other ball game to the more intimate, personal DIY fests we normally play. With things being the way they have been today though, I’m very thankful for the professionalism and efficiency behind this huge production.

We only have about an hour until we play, so with that being the case, our personal welcoming committee, a pleasant chap who would fit in just as well at the concierge of the Hilton Hotel as he would Hellfest, gives us our passes and food tickets before showing us to our dressing room and then to the towel area. They have a guy working on the towel station backstage, each member of each band gets one stage towel and one shower towel, all have to be signed for and returned. As Jon points out though, the amount of bands on this fucking thing, and all those towels, it adds up to a bit when you think about it.

We drop our bags in the dressing room, take what we need and then wait for a shuttle bus to drive us over to our stage, the Warzone stage. Our friend Arvid meets us at the stage. He’s doing front of house sound for us today and he’s also been very helpful in getting some guitars and extras sorted for us at the last minute. He’s here doing Entombed AD’s, not the real Entombed, sound so is doing us as a bonus job. The stage crew working the show today are the epitome of efficiency too, although with that very friendly. That unfortunately isn’t always the case at festivals of this size. This one particularly happy chap has sorted us three guitars and he’s very happy to bring them to us and is eager to make sure we’re all good. They even have a drum set ready to go, cymbals and all, all set of to the side of the big stage. With not much else to do, we watch the latter half of All Pigs Must Die’s set, drinking Red Bull from the side stage room. It’s been a long time since I drunk that piss but today it’s needed. I drink two. Johan had also provided us with nutrition bars in the van earlier as Jon was changing clothes in the back seat, struggling with his tight jeans and cursing his choice of music career, lamenting over the fact that if he’d been a hip-hopper he could have worn baggier clothes.

The sun is shining, for now, and there are a lot of people watching All Pigs Must Die. The stage area here is built and decked out as an old fortress, they put a lot of work into the esthetic of this festival, it’s very unique in that sense. When the guys are done the field rapidly empties as everyone pisses off to another band on another stage somewhere. It’s a weird feeling setting up and soundchecking on a huge stage in front of a huge, empty field. Brian, our friend from Trap Them who is now playing in Pigs comes over to greet us, and he tells Jon he’s happy to lend him his guitar. The Kvelertak guys are also here and they’re equally as happy to help out, so I borrow a backup guitar Vidar. As we’re soundchecking you can hear the band on the next stage pretty loudly, it’s kind of off putting. Even more so the fact that they seems to be playing nothing but covers. At first I thought it was just the PA, Rock n’ Roll by Led Zepplin chugging along, but then when a stomach turning version of Smells Like Teen Spirit comes next, to the roar of a very satisfied crowd, I really begin to wonder what the fuck is going on. Fucking pub band playing next door and everyone seems to love it.

There aren’t a whole load of people here as Arvid starts up the intro track that Andy has sorted out. And it sounds a little weird on stage, always does on these huge joints, sound swirls around a bit depending on where you’re stood, and since I’m never stood still it makes it a bit difficult for me to get any kind of grip on the songs. The area fills up as we get a few songs in though and by the end of the gig there are a good couple of thousand watching and some mosh pits going off. But for some reason, I just don’t feel it. The buzz simply isn’t there, and by halfway through the set I’m looking forward to the end.  Last time we played here it was in a big tent and the atmosphere was amazing, today felt like a bit of an anti-climax although I have no idea what the audience's perception is, this is purely how I feel.  I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that we’ve pretty much come straight from the plane and I haven’t had time to get my head together before it’s time to play. And my head is still feeling the pressure of the plane, hasn’t quite let go yet. Or maybe it’s a hangover. And then playing on unfamiliar gear on top of that… It feels to me that we do a professional job, pretty standard, but nothing more than that. Brian who has been stood side stage watching us the whole time reckons it was good, but I’m not that enthused. I’m kind of just happy it’s done and we made it here. As I’m packing up the gear I hear some English accent shouting my name and when I turn around there is some old metaller guy waving at me and calling, I recognise him from somewhere, somewhere from the blurry past of Raging Speedhorn I’m sure. I shout a bit of a conversation with him as I’m packing up, trying my best to act like I know who he is.

Once we’re packed down and cooled off we head back over to the backstage area and chill out in the little dressing room for a while. There is a bottle of Hellfest wine on the table and Jon is eager to crack it open. We sit around with Arvid and sup on that for a while whilst trying to send off an email to the baggage company to make a claim for our gear. But the server seems to have crashed and the mail won’t go through, I’m sure they’ve got a lot of correspondance to get through today. We give up and head over to the catering hall and have a beer outside by the bar before heading in for food. I bump into a very old face on the way, one I haven’t seen for years. Paul Ryan, who was the original guitarist in Cradle of Filth and played bass in Enmity, who were out with Speedhorn on the second tour we ever did, playing to an average of twenty people a night. He then became an agent and was booking us for a while. He's’ now the top boy at The Agency Group in the UK. It’s weird talking to him, we’re obviously living in two completely different worlds nowadays.

The Turbonegro guys walk through, all dressed up as they do. It’s weird seeing my old mate Tony Sylvester dressed up in makeup and hot pants, now singing with them. Dream come true for him, he was always a huge fan. I say friend, but I guess Tony is more of an acquaintance. We hung out for a while when Dukes of Nothing played some shows with Speedhorn, and nowadays we see each other on social media but have no contact. He doesn’t spot me as he walks past with the entourage anyway.

The local beer they have here is really good, fruity and crisp, somewhere between an ale and a pilsner. It does the job perfectly, gives me an appetite for dinner. We head into the big dining hall and browse through the huge selection of buffet foods. There isn’t a whole lot of vegetarian options though, I scrape together some couscous and vegetables, a bit of hot sauce saving the day. It’s a great production they put on here though, I have to say. Large round tables, loads of food, bottle of wine to each table. Fucking luxury.

After dinner Arvid calls the luggage company for us, being brought up in France he knows the lingo and we’re hoping he can sort us out but they just tell us to write an email.. Marvelous. We’ll simply have to hope for the best at the airport in Nantes tomorrow before we fly to Paris. With fuck all else to do, we start to drink. The Kvelertak guys are hanging out with us, really nice people, although I have a hard time understanding the Norwegian accent. They seem to really like Victims for some reason, it’s funny. They played with us on their first ever tour at a Converge show in Hamburg and we’ve kept a bit of contact since. For all their success, they are still a very humble bunch of guys. We mull around for a while, drinking small glasses of beer, invariably eating cheese and crackers from the cold buffet, talking with different people like the Converge guys, but I feel myself just getting more tired with every beer when what I’m actually aiming for is to get a bit of a buzz. It’s just not happening tonight. And the constantly changing weather has now locked it’s setting to chilly and I wouldn’t be totally against heading to the hotel and lying in bed watching tv. I think I might have a little hangover from yesterday that’s just not budging, I’ve had a nagging headache all day. Sucks.

We decide to change scene anyway and actually go and take in a bit of the festival. Melvins are playing on one of the stages so we head over there with Vidar from Kvelertak, take a walk over and have a chat on the way. Dropkick Murphy’s are playing one of the stages and Jon gets pissed off with them and starts mouthing off. I think he’s a bit drunk, he’s been tanking the red wine all evening. He says anyone playing Irish tinged punk should be shot. Finding this a bit extreme Vidar remonstrates that as bad as the music is he’d rather just avoid it than have anyone murdered. “Näh, näh” Jon shakes his head, having none of it.

It’s always fun to see Melvins but in all honesty, as much as I love the band, after a while it gets a bit tiring. It’s like watching one long drum solo. As much as Crover is a great drummer, it bores me a bit after a while. There’s never any stop to it, and I’d rather just hear them go up and play a set of songs. Steve McDonald, whilst very cool for playing in Red Cross, is also a bit tiring, prancing around stage like a tit. All that aside, they’re still Melvins and I still have huge respect for them.

When they’re done the four of us go for a bit of a wander around the site. They’ve built a little mini town area, it looks like a film set. We walk around the hordes of people discussing the logistics of this insane festival. Mad to think that it started out as Fury Fest fifteen years ago, or whatever it was. It’s enough with ten minutes though, before you know it we head to the backstage area and sit down with cheese and crackers and a beer. Peace and quiet. Rock n’ roll. Fuck it.

I end up catching up with Sylvester as I head to the bar to get a drink for me and Jon. He’s surprised as fuck to see me. We chat for a while, catching up on old times and old friends. I can see Jon sat over in the corner, getting more and more anxious about his glass of wine I’m holding in my hand and after five minutes or so he cracks and heads over. Jon is happy enough to meet Tony though. Jake and Nath from Converge soon join us in mingle. Funny how these days we talk more about kids than music. How times have changed.

We have a lift taking us to the airport hotel at eleven thirty and Converge start at ten forty, so we head over to watch those guys from side stage for a half hour or so. It’s nice seeing them play in the dark of night, adds to the atmosphere. I’m talking to Nate just before they go on, the crowd baying for them. They’ve just flown in today and he says he’s knackered and too old for this shit, but then when hit the stage he flies around like a maniac, as always. It’s quite something to see. Me and Andy had been talking about how Nate had aged a little since last we met. The beard is getting greyer. We’re all getting on I guess. But it’s quite something to watch Converge deliver as they do, even if you don’t like the music you have to be impressed with their sheer brutal musicianship. Converge are one of those bands that just seem to steamroller on, they’re like an industry, a trademark in the hardcore world. I wonder if they will still be around in ten years time, when they’re in their fifties, still playing this brutally? Probably.

It’s time for us to head back and catch our lift. We walk along the road outside of the arena, past the big stage where Rammstein are playing. What a fucking daft band. It’s amazing really, the riff they’re playing as we pass wouldn’t have made it past the shit filter at a Morphine practice when we were thirteen, and here they are playing to twenty thousand people or something. Mind boggling.

There is a very friendly French girl waiting to drive us back to the airport hotel where we’re staying. We grab our bags and head off. I sit up front and talk with her along the way, always happy to chat to new people. We’re talking about the situation with our luggage, about the strike of the baggage handlers. She says that it’s typical France. I tell her that this strike was actually localised to Brussels airport, “Same shit”, she replies. Word. She tells me about the tradition of striking in France, how they normally go out and protests during specific days every week. Land of the revolution. I blame Napoleon. Joking aside, I do feel a sense of solidarity with the workers, I understand why they strike. I just wish they’d left it a day…

We get back to the hotel, right next to the airport. The reception is closed but we’d been sent door codes for the two rooms by the production staff at Hellfest. We find the rooms. Johan and Jon’s door opens, mine and Andy’s does not. Fuck… I have a horrible vision of sleeping on the floor in their room. I’m really longing for a bed, have been for hours. Andy notices that our code is missing a digit though, it’s one shorter than the other room. It’s simply a matter of testing the code with a new number from zero to nine. Thing is, the cunting door flashes red for about ten seconds after every failed attempt. We make our way through the digits, one by one. Eight turns out to be the magic number. It seems to be a recurring phenomenon, there is always some sort of hassle with hotels and festivals. Always. Thank fuck we’re in though. Getting under the cool white covers is absolute heaven. The thought of crashing out on the floor in their room was enough to make me weep, even if Jon had shouted down the hallway as he was going for a fag that he could take the floor himself. He’s pissed up and doesn’t seem arsed.

Time for bed, and it’s never felt so welcome. We fly for Paris tomorrow.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Brussels

It’s been a strange old start to this weekend. I’m starting to wonder if we’ve had some DIY curse bestowed upon us that is punishing us for taking slots on these big festivals..

First off we were flying out of Bromma airport the night before we play Hellfest in Clisson, France. We had to take the night flight since we have a three pm slot at the festival and there were no reasonable flights to take the same day that would have gotten us to the gig in time. Given that the festival paid us three thousand euros in advance we can’t afford to miss the gig… That would be a bit of a fucking bummer having to pay that back. So we flew down to Brussels at night and booked a cheap hotel at the airport, to then get the ten am flight to Nantes the next day. All well and good, no problems.

It started off with me and Johan lugging three guitars, a huge bag of merch that is as heavy as a corpse, and then our own personal bags. Been fucking raining all day, total misery weather where the grey clouds seemingly hang just above your head. The plan was for me to drive over to Johan in my car, pick him up and then drop the car off at the tube, which Jen would pick up later. The thing is we’re flying home to Arlanda on Sunday so we have to take public transport. Of course, one of the two car keys I had at home decided to break, it’s one of these farty remote control things. So I had to get Jen’s mum to come along in the car with us, with Polly, and all the gear, for her to then drive our car back. Bit of a hiccup but no big deal.

Johan and I lugged all the gear on the tube to Alvik on the north side of the city where we met Jon, who texted saying he’d be smoking a cig on the platform waiting for us. It’s an above ground station.. So we get there, get off the back end of the train and I spot Jon stood at the other end of the platform. Well, I spot a hood, a beard and a cig. We trudge down the platform, staring at him the whole way as he just stares at us. With all this gear I’m thinking, fucking lazy cunt, could at least come help us. The fucker is just staring at us. It’s not until we get within about five meters of him that he starts to life, “Woah”, he’s just spotted us. I forgot, he’s been without contact lenses and glasses for a couple of weeks and the fucker is as blind as a bat without them…

We take the bus over to the city airport, right behind where me and Jon used to live. I used to love living so close to the airport, obviously it was a bit noisy but it was great walking the dog around the grounds watching the flights take off and land at such close proximity. Anyway, we get into the tiny airport, check in the gear, and to our pleasant surprise are told that the baggage will be checked in all the way to Nantes tomorrow. Nice one. As we’re leaving the oversized luggage some old rocker guy comes up to us, “Are you guys Victims?” Seems he knows us from somewhere but none of us can make out who he is. Seems to know the band pretty well anyway.
We head through security and watch a bit of football in the bar whilst we wait to board. Of course, being that the European Championships are currently being held in France there is a good bet that it’s going to be a bit crazy this weekend, with the country swarming with football twats. Rocker comes up to us in the bar again and strikes up a bit of conversation, says he’s heading back to Visby and is talking about the fact we should come and play there. Johan reckons he might be in Candlemass. Fuck knows. Nice guy anyway.

The flight takes off on time, and I take a quick view of the big field I used to walk Bonz to at the end of the runway, but we’re barely over it when the plane disappears into the clouds. The flight down to Brussels is smooth enough, it’s one of those planes that have the wings on top of the plane instead of out of the side of it, so it’s noisy as fuck the whole way, but despite the high clouds, the ride is fine. It’s been pissing down in Europe for the last couple of weeks and much of France has been under water, as was the case even in Southern Sweden this morning, so fuck knows what weather awaits us down there. And the thought of playing a festival in a big of mud isn’t the most appetising. I’m sat writing on the plane, on the back row, waiting to order a beer from the guy with the trolley. He seems to be taking an age. It’s finally my turn once we’re long into the decent, but I’ve had my mind set on a beer the entire flight so I’m not to be deterred. I order a can of Leffe. Turns out the card machine the guy has is fucked, well the zero button doesn’t work, and my pin code has two zeros in it. After numerous attempts the guy just takes it back and tells me it’s on the house. Dancer.

We land and make our way to the transfer busses. There is a fair bit of hustle and bustle here since the recent terror attacks have resulted in a big increase in security. There are machine guns everywhere. There are plenty of signs for the bus but none of them seem to make any sense. When we finally find the station we notice that the last bus went an hour ago. So it’s in a fucking Joe Baxi then. Some old cunt picks us up and drives us ten minutes and charges us twenty euros for the pleasure. We hadn’t even noticed the sticker on the window informing “No cards”, but as luck would have it Andy happened to have cash on him. Could have been a tricky situation. The old fucker refuses to give a receipt too. Feels like we’ve been had.

We head into the reception of the Ibis Budget hotel we’re staying at where we’re greeted by a rather tired looking receptionist and a rabble of what I immediately assume to be Brits. You can tell them a mile off. All old boys, shaved heads, crap tats and crap clothes, most of them half pissed up and talking loudly. Don’t miss them. As we’re checking in I notice the buzzer sounding from the door where some old boy is pressing repeatedly, not understanding why the door isn’t opening for him. When we come out of our rooms having dumped our bags we find the same old boy and his mate, slowly pressing in the code on the door for their room. The four of us instinctively know that they’re not going to figure it out. “It’s not facking workin’” moans one of them whilst the other nods at us one by one, “Alright. Alright. Alright,” he greets us as we pass him in the corridor trying not to laugh.

We head over to the larger Ibis hotel opposite, where they seem to have a bar and a restaurant. We walk in and find it’s full or football Brits, none of them under forty. We order a large Jupiler each and head to the beer garden where thankfully it’s a lot quieter. We enjoy a couple of pints and enjoy the garden. It’s nice to be halfway to the Fest with just a short flight to finish off the journey tomorrow. Johan had got talking to some guy by the bar who was on his way to Hellfest but had missed his connecting flight, he was now getting pissed and worried that he’s going to fuck up tomorrow’s journey. I imagine there will be a few rockers on the flight tomorrow.

It’s one thirty by the time Jon and I retire, a little too late maybe, but it had been a nice night and worth it. I’ve only had three beers but do feel a little mushy. We wake a little late and no time for breakfast, we head straight downstairs to the bus stop. In plenty of time we grab some expensive breakfast at the airport and then make our way to the gate. All going smoothly, until we board and step onto the transfer bus.

We’re stood there for twenty minutes with no driver. I look at the time, it’s already passed our allotted take off slot. No info, stood around on a packed bus, starting to get pissed off. When some guy finally comes he drives about the airport grounds looking lost, as if he doesn’t know what plane we’re supposed to be heading to. We finally pull up at the side of some small plane at the far end of the airport and there we wait a little longer, a stressed out looking stewardess stood in the doorway at the top of the stairs. When we finally board the flight we’re told that the ground staff at the airport have gone on strike this morning and by the looks of it no checked in luggage will be coming with us because there is simply nobody working to bring it to the flight. For that matter, they don’t even know where the luggage is.

Balls. This sucks. We have no equipment and no merch with us. And if this plane doesn’t take off soon we’re soon going to be in danger of even making our stage time.

We’re now in Nantes. The flight took off an hour late, but we’ve managed to contact the festival and they’ve sorted guitars and drums out for us. The stewardess on the flight was also really cool, and she’s given us some numbers to ring. We’ll have to try sorting our baggage out after the gig today though. The guys in Paris are a little less optimistic about finding all the gear we need to lend for the show tomorrow. Luckily an old friend of the band is playing with us tomorrow so hopefully we can work something out. Still, without the merch we’re losing a lot of money. We’ll see what we can do. We’re staying at a hotel by the aiport tonight and not flying until three pm tomorrow. Fucking hope the bastard gear turns up. Still, could be worse. There are a couple of festival goers on the plane that have lost their bags, one guy is looking pretty distraught, saying his tent and everything is in his bag. Another guy from Canada, comes up to us and wishes us luck for the show. He’s in the shit too. No tent, no clothes, no jacket. Fuck spending the weekend at a muddy festival without any of that lot. Fuck spending the weekend at a muddy festival full stop I guess.

Almost at the festival now, we’re on in an hour. It’s raining.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Notingham

I lie awake in Kev’s bed, watching the tv as Kev sleeps uneasily beside me. Thinking about the long day ahead, but pretty relaxed about it. After we play in Nottingham tonight we head straight for Heathrow airport for the seven am flight. Symsey and his gang had the same deal after they played London on Friday and I remember thinking how much that sucked for them then, knowing we’d be in the same position in a couple of days. It’s just sleep though, you can always handle more than you give yourself credit for. Sleep and playing shows are rarely on the same boat.

We take breakfast at the Waiting Room today, sat outside in the sun eating bagels and drinking black coffee. Miles is travelling with us in the van today, he’s coming to the show tonight and then continuing up to his home town of Barnsley for a few days. He’s been in Australia for a while and now he’s back he’s homeless, drifting from sofa to sofa whilst working a few different jobs. Not a situation I envy but he seems ok with it, he’s talking about moving up to Leeds. I’m amazed by the fact that he’s never been to Nottingham.

We can’t get into the Bird’s Nest until midday but we’re in no rush, we don’t have to be at the venue in Nottingham until six according to Andy EGS, although the guys have invited us to a garden barbeque at Jeremie’s place. That would have been really nice to attend, I was there last year with Polly, we had a punks and kids get together at his place with some friends from Nottingham, something that would be nice to make into a yearly tradition. Anyway, with a four hour drive and London traffic to navigate, making it for the barbeque is very unlikely. After picking up the gear from the Nest and dropping most of it off back at Marv’s studio, we say goodbye to the Deptford crew and head over to DIY Space with Kev to pick up a speaker cabinet that Steve from Molluch had left when they played here a few months ago. We’re punk DHSing it up to Nottingham for them, and using it at the gig tonight. We all help each other out, as it should be.

They’re having a clothes swap at DIY Space today, would have been fun to have a deek at, but time pressing we say bye to Kev and make our way north. Kev is looking forward to a well earned relaxing day at Ellie’s. He’s put shows on three nights in a row now and is understandably knackered. It takes a while to get out of London of course, and with me and Gordon sat up front nattering away we miss a couple of turns, which delays things a little. It’s great being able to catch up with Gordon properly though. I’ve kind of been looking forward to this journey today since I knew it would give us the chance to have a good talk, something we don’t get the chance to do all that much anymore. He’s still one of my best mates and we’ve been through so much together in Speedhorn, but life pulls you in different directions and that’s the way it is.

We have a really nice chat during the four hour journey whilst most of the guys snooze wearily in the back of the van. There is a lot of talk about Speedhorn, of course, but not only that, about life in general. About work, ambitions and what we’re hoping to do with the next few years, kids, marriage, the lot. I was Gordon’s best man at his wedding a couple of years ago, and he and Katy are very important people in my life, it’s too bad we don’t get to see each other more than we do. Gords tells me certain things about Speedhorn today that don’t come as any surprise, but it’s nice to hear that in general he’s really happy with how it’s going. We talk about the last record we made, and how in hindsight maybe we should have started a new witha new name before releasing that album. I’m kind of torn on that one. We’re both really proud of that album, and it was a bit of a departure from Speedhorn’s past, but at the same time we finally got the band to where I wanted it to be musically and I’m kind of glad that we put that out as our last album. At the same time, Gordon is right in suggesting that had we started with a new name then then the album would probably have had a bigger lift and we might have carried on longer. But I don’t know, it was probably time to call it a day anyway. As soon as we’d released that album I knew I didn’t want to write an album long distance again, it was far too demanding flying fucking Ryanair to practice over a the period of a year.

Gordon tells me that as much as he’s enjoying Speedhorn again, he still wants to start a new band, do something different. Something which he doesn’t have to run, where he can just play. I totally get that. That’s how I felt when I first started playing in Victims. It felt like such a relief to just play in a band. But of course, after a couple of years of just being a passenger it’s time to step up, and Victims is a band that demands at least a little from everyone. As it should be.

With all this gabbing, we miss the turn for Nottingham off the A14 and get stuck behind a horse transporter on a small narrow lane for about twenty minutes. It’s a bit of a pain in the balls but we get to see some of the English countryside up close. We get to Nottingham just before six, although it takes a while to localise the venue. We played here in 2009 on my first trip to the UK with Victims, but the venue is very anonymous, hidden above a pub on a one way street. We get to the right address anyway and I jump out of the van to find the place when I hear Jeremie shouting me from down the street, big smile on his face as always. Andy, Gords and Steve are just behind him beginning the load out into the small alleyway beside the venue. It’s good to see these guys again. It’s a great feeling organising shows with friends. I’ve said it fuck knows how many times but the thing I love more than anything about playing DIY shows is that in every town you get to meet good friends. And tonight that is very much the case with EGS and Skiplickers playing, plus a bunch of other friends who live in Nottingham coming to the show. Shame we’ll have to leave right after the gig…

We load the gear up three flights of stairs to the small function room above the cafe/bar above the pub. Henry Molluch from the 539 Collective who booked the show tonight has tubs of warm kale stew with him and Jeremie has brought a bag with a few leftover beers from the barbeque. The food is great, and this bottle of Hot Mint sauce takes the fucker over the edge. Absolutely stunning. I hadn’t planned on drinking at all tonight, the thought of feeling booze groggy at the airport in the middle of the night not particularly appealing, but it’s pretty balmy in here and the early evening sun is shining through the windows of the cafe. A bottle of San Miguel hits the sweet spot, it turns out. There’s even room for a second.

My old childhood friend James turns up and we catch up for a bit, always great to see him. We had our first band together, Morphine. We’ve both come a long way since then. James tells me that his band Grey Hairs has just recorded a new record. Looking forward to that. Steve Molluch is also here, he’s very happy about his cab being returned. He’s always smiling anyway, always got a cheeky look on his face.

After eating we take a walk around the city centre in the last of the daylight. It’s a very pleasant June evening here in Robin Hood town. There are people sat at tables outside of all the pubs and I could easily take a place at any one of them. How I now wish we were flying back later tomorrow. I’d seen Gords and Steve outside the pub beside the venue earlier drinking two of the most gorgeous looking pints of pilsner I’ve ever seen. Fucking gagging. But with two in the system already I knew I’d have to leave it. Gords follows us as we stroll around, we take a deek at the castle where of course there is a pub with a load of people sat outside enjoying themselves. We went to this very pub when we were here with DB a couple of years ago. It claims it’s the oldest pub in Nottingham, almost nine hundred years old. That’s quite amazing really. Funny, I swear the pub beside the venue had the same claim written on it’s facade too..

Anyway, time getting on, we head back to the venue, I don’t want to miss any of the bands tonight. Gords heads back to his van for a bit of kip so he’s rested up enough to catch us play later and then drive us three hours to Heathrow. When we get back the Skiplickers guys are hanging outside, I clock Weird Chris first in the gang mulling around outside. It’s good to see him and Bry. They ask how the London shows were, I tell them they were good. The DIY Space show was really fun, lots of people I tell them. “Did you enjoy some cucumber water?” snorts Weird Chris. He’s an outspoken critic of London in general and has previously made his feeling clear about DIY Space. God knows. To my amusement Bry says that he’s played there a few times and really liked the venue, Chris doesn’t look convinced. We head inside just as the first band start playing. You wouldn’t have known it since the cafe bar still has music playing, which seems a bit cack but then I guess there isn’t a bar upstairs and they want to keep people here drinking. I head up at the faint sound of drums and I’m a little surprised to see EGS already into their set. The small room is almost full. Henry sat by the door gives me a satisfied nod as I shuffle into the room.

EGS are absolutely superb tonight. The majority of the material they play is from their newly recorded album. It sounds fucking brilliant! Can’t wait to hear it when it’s out. Sometimes you forget what a fucking drummer Steve is. I mean, you don’t forget, he’s Steve from Heresy, an absolute legend, but he’s so unassuming, at least when he’s sober. I can’t take my eyes of him whilst they play, just a phenomenal drummer. But then Andy and Gords are both pretty fucking masterful on their instruments too. It’s an absolute pleasure watching them play, I wanting to just get up on stage and play now. Andy takes time out between songs to mention the seven inch they’re selling to help fund Victims, and then he speaks about how the song from it is about testosterone foaming bullies who infringe people’s lives with violence. He notes that this very town has it’s fair share of scum who thrive on making other’s lives miserable. “Fuck em, just fuck em”, he shakes his head solemly before furiously screaming the lyrics to the song whilst playing at breakneck speed. Blows me away, and at the same time leaves me pondering what he’d said.

Gords also takes some time later in the set to touch upon a poignant subject, namely the sudden passing of an absolute legend of the scene, Brandon Ferrell. Brandon was really young and suddenly, heartbreakingly left the world, leaving young twins and a wife behind. Vik was friends with him and he’s been really down about it. A lot of people have. It’s so sad. Brandon was an amazingly talented musician and songwriter, leaving a superb catalogue behind him with bands like Direct Control, Wasted Time and Government Warning, to name but a few. Nobody seems to really know what happened yet but it’s left a lot of people gutted, he’s one of those who had friends all over the world, many of my friends among them. Gords gives a heartfelt speech about how horrible it is to lose someone so important from the scene, people our age who just, die. After some gentle applause EGS go into their last song, a longish song from the new record that has a hint of Killing Joke about it. Brilliant way to end the set.

I’d been really looking forward to seeing Obstuct, who were added quite late to the bill, I really like their lp. But unfortunately their set is hindered by various technical problems tonight. The crowd is in full attendance and willing but it doesn’t quite get going. First off the one guitarist breaks a string, and not having a spare guitar takes a painfully long time changing a string, which drags out over three or four songs. He doesn’t look rushed in the slightest. It’s not too bad since they have two guitars anyway, but then the singer’s mic lead starts cutting out without him seeming to notice so they do a couple of songs with only three of the five members playing. They are really good though and the songs they do all play together sound great. The bass player has a great Totalitär t-shirt too. The thing that surprises me is how young they all look. And they also have a young kid with them, obviously a mate travelling with them, who is done up in all the right skinhead attire. I must be at least fifteen years older than this crew. Weird, I always assume everyone is the same age as me. Before they started I’d caught up with Avi, the Dry Heaves singer a little. Always a pleasure. He’s driving Obstruct and he tells me they’d came down from a Glasgow show the night before. That’s a good old drive.

Skiplickers, and Bry in particular, are as spot on as ever. Just a really solid d-beat band, but Bry’s persona gives them something extra. What a great fucking line up tonight is, a pleasure to be involved. Bry says between songs that the first time they played this venue was in 2008, which surprises me a little since I didn’t realise they’d been going that long. I think they’ve only released two seven inches in that time! “We probably played this song that night anyway,” says Bry as they blast into the last banger of the set. Proper fucking good!

We get set up as quickly as possible once Skiplickers are done. The room isn’t all the full by the time we start with Death Do Us Part, I’d suspected this would be the case, but by the time we get a few songs into the set the room is absolutely full. I love floor shows. I can only see the front row of people, where Jeremie is stood in the middle, watching Johan’s mic stand, as is Steve Molluch who is clenching his fist, lapping it up. I spot James just hidden in the second row, keeping a solid eye on me, as well as Gords Speedhorn stood up on a stool near the back as well as Gords EGS who is stood up high at the back taking photos. It sounds absolutely perfect when we play, the set just plays itself and leaves me the freedom to just flail around and enjoy every second of it. About half way through the set, as people are rolling around on hands holding them aloft, a wave of people come crashing on the “stage” and fall into Johan. I notice Jeremie picking them all up and placing his foot at the bottom of Johan’s mic stand to try and prevent Johan getting any teeth knocked out during the rest of the set. It’s a really, really fun show. I’m a little disappointed when I see Andy giving me the cutthroat sign afterwards as people are shouting for more, I guess he’s feeling fucked.

Jon is chuffed afterwards, he comes up and says some old boy had approached him as he was packing up and said, “I saw Discharge five times before they were shit and they blew me away. Tonight, you guys blew me away”. Strong words. As I head downstairs to take care of merch I pass Henry in the doorway looking chuffed, “Sold out on a Sunday night, can’t ask for more than that!”

I hang out downstairs with Gords and James, sweating my ass off whilst trying to participate in the conversation. Jon arrives with a perfectly chilled can of Bulmer’s cider in his paw. It’s about the best thing I’ve ever tasted. It’s enough with a sip though, we’re leaving soon and I can’t be arsed stopping for constant piss breaks on the way to the airport. The night seems to end very suddnenly and I don’t really get the chance to hang out with the Nottingham crew afterwards. I chat a little while to Kellp Apple, who has moved here from London since we last met, she seems to be doing well, seems happy. It’s quite nice to stand and talk about other things than just punk. She’s asking about how the family are and things went with school. She does take the time to bash the whole Temples thing though, she’s been an active combatant to the whole sham online, calling the asshole out who has fucked over a lot of people. Good on her. We, like many other friends, have been shafted by that guys ego. Although hopefully this weekend has gone some way to making us some of that lost money back. I really can’t afford to do this and lose money, which I do simply by coming away since most of the extra work available to me being a student, is at the weekends. So I’m double fucked. On that note, Andy EGS gives me fifty quid from sales of the limited seven inch he did for tonight. By that, I am truly, truly humbled. What a beautiful gesture.

It feels like it’s been a little too brief, Nottingham. It feels like before we know it everyone is packed up and ready to go. Gords EGS has made us some of his infamous keyrings, custom Victims ones. With that as a parting gift we get the van around to the venue and make to go. I’m still wearing my soaked through Paranoid t-shirt when we leave, I make a mental note to change that when we make a stop for petrol. I sit up front with Gords and chat for a while. He tells me it’s weird seeing me playing in another band, but at the same time he really loves it. He’s raving about this weekend, he says he’s had a really good time watching us every night. It’s been great hanging out with him. I’m so grateful to him for helping us out.

When we pull over for a gas stop I change tops, it’s fucking cold now and I’m freezing as I switch. I head into the garage shop and pick up a couple of packets of crisps for supper. We chat for a little while longer once back on the M1 until Gords kindly tells me to get my head down and kip. There’s a pillow laying on the front seat that Gords tells me belongs to Paul Cook, the Sex Pistols drummer. He’s been out in Gords’ van recently. Funny that. Cookie’s pillow comes in just handy. I close my eyes and the next time I open them time has moved on three hours and we’re pulling into Heathrow airport. It’s now three am. Check in for our flight begins at five. We line up to give Gords some hugs and thank him again. He says he’s going to give heading straight back to Cardiff a go since Katy is home for the night before heading off to Leeds for her next job.

I’m fucking freezing as we walk towards the departure hall. It’s the tiredness more than the temperature itself I think, although the we’re all shivering as we walk across the road. With not much to do, we print out our boarding cards and find some floor to sleep on. The lights in the hall were dimmed just nicely as we entered but of course, as soon as we lay down they brighten. I’m not sure if I get any more sleep, it’s hard to tell. The others seem to be clocked out though.

We wake at five and head through security after dropping our bags and we’re on the flight to Oslo at seven. I sleep pretty much the whole way. We have only a short stop there of forty five minutes and we’re on the short flight from Oslo to Stockholm at ten am. I decide from there on in there is no point in sleeping any more and order the first coffee of the day, the first of many that will be needed for the day ahead. It’s Sweden National Day today and everyone is off, including Polly, who will want to play when I get home.

I sit by the window next to a couple of women. The middle aged woman sat in the middle seat pulls out her laptop and begins to type furiously, she’s completely immersed in her work. She doesn’t look up once during the entire flight, not during take off, not as the wheels touch back down. I can’t help but look what is so engrossing. I’m a bit taken aback by it all. It seems very much like she’s writing a letter to her husband, Gustav, telling him that their marriage is over. It’s a very depressing letter, full of self loathing. I notice the woman in the aisle seat has put her book to rest and is now looking horrified at the woman’s laptop. The letter writer is hardly being bashful about writing this thing. Poor Gustav.

Fucking weird end to a hazy journey home.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

London - Day Two

Sleeping on a hard floor is fine as long as you lie on your back. It’s actually quite nice for someone like myself who has a back that constantly aches. It’s only when you roll onto your shoulder that the floor becomes less comfortable. Which I’m constantly compulsed to do. Other things that make sleeping on a floor less fun is a nipping head. At eight am and after five hours sleep I’d woken and had been lying there trying to get myself back off but to no avail. I look over at Jon who is bent almost double on the small sofa, completely out, and wonder how he does it. Realising it’s no good, I have to find a cure for this headache. As usual, I forgot paracetamol.. But thankfully Kev is up and pottering about and the coffee is on the go. He doesn’t seem to be displaying any signs of last night’s over indulgence. Another one of life’s great fucking mysteries staring me in the face.

Ellie has gone off to work now so me and Kev laze around on his bed, sipping coffee and listening through the rough mixes of the DB album on his laptop. There’s still a bit to do with the record but I’m chuffed with how it’s sounding. Kev has done a great job on the vocals and lyrics. He seems to be really happy with it too. Really looking forward to getting it out and playing some shows again. Once everyone is up and showered and Gordon has came in from his bed in the van outside we head down the High Street to to Bianca’s Cafe for a fry up. Jon has been looking forward to this since we booked the trip. The veggie sausage and mushroom sarnie on crusty white bread with a side of greasy tea hits the spot. Kev now seems to be feeling the wear from last nights booze. Afterwards we head back down to the Waiting Room for some more coffee and catch up with the Deptford crew who have this and the tattoo studio as their hub. When I meet Alex I remember I’d been banging on about getting a tattoo done, but my fuzzy head is now saying fuck no! It would have been nice, I’ve got a few things I want doing, but I’m in no condition. Alex has plenty of other work on anyway. I sheepishly tell him that I’ll see how I feel later, knowing fine well it’s a no go.

We head over to the Nest around midday to load in the gear for the gig tonight, after which the day is ours to do with what we will. We’re all feeling sluggish after the fry up breakfast and feel that a walk will do us well. I ask Gordon if he’s coming along but his priority is finding a belt. He’s been walking around in his shorts all morning after his belt gave way last night. Said he can’t walk around looking like a tit all day so heads off up to Deptford market in search of something. The rest of us walk along the river up to Greenwich. Kev stays behind to chill out. I get a pang of longing for Polly as we walk along the river. Last time I was here it was just me and her, we’d stayed at Kev’s and she’d been sick in the night. We’d had the day together the day after chilling out and I was taking pictures of her by the statue of Peter The Great. I’m finding it harder to leave Polly the older she gets. And I’m feeling pretty guilty about being away from Jen when it’s our ten year wedding anniversary. All this amplified all the more by the hangover of course.

We get to Greenwich and walk about the place for a while, it’s buzzing as always. It’s certainly a nice day for it. We walk about the market and I pick up a couple of presents for the girls, easing my conscience a tad. Afterwards we head Observatory Hill in Greenwich Park and sit around on the grass with some coffee, taking in the views of the misty skyline on the other side of the Thames. Starting to feel better now, the headache subsiding. We sit there for a good while, idly chatting away, watching the folks go about their Saturday in the park.

We head back over to Kev’s in Deptford around four pm and chill out for a while at his watching crap tv before going to the Nest at five. I have no idea how tonight’s show is going to be. I know that if we played here and announced it in plenty of time then it would be absolutely insane but it’s hard to tell given tonight’s circumstances. It’s still by the far the best option we could have chosen for tonight anyway. There’s a Fest on over at T Chances called Play Fast Or Slow Fest, which offered us a spot but no money. A lot of friends are going there and others are working. Goy is away on his stag-do in Portugal, Kev miffed about that. Says that Goy is having a couple of do’s, one for his rich mates and another for his punk mates. Fucking wanker, Kev snorts with a sly grin on his coupon.

We grab some grub at the Nest with Karl and Jules and a friend of theirs called Tom. They have a pretty decent burger menu here and all options are available as vegan or vegetarian, the seitan burgers themselves have been made by Jules. We tuck in enthusiastically as the robust burgers are placed on the table. Gordon arrives shortly after, wearing jeans and looking chuffed. He says he’s been taking it easy on the beer recently but he’s off to the bar and when he comes back he has a smile on his face that says he’s going to relax tonight. There is some middle aged guy spinning records over by the stage on the other side of the bar, total brain numbing dance fair, and the pub is filling up with people who look like a Victims gig would scare the piss out of them. Could be interesting.

Nasty Bastard, Niki Nailbomb and Mad John’s new Oi! Band, or post-Oi! as Kev called it, POi!, are nowhere to be seen. They’re supposed to be playing at seven fifteen but it’s now almost seven and they haven’t showed up. And there still aren’t that many punks in the place. I’m starting to wonder if this “secret gig” isn’t going to be a disaster. We’re sat outside drinking a pint with Bram from Restarts, talking about the Temples fiasco and a similar situation both are bands were in with Cruststock in California last year where both our bands were booked. That fell apart for all the travelling bands since the guy booking it, having offered everyone flights, simply never bought them. At least we didn’t lose any money on that one. Bram tells me that there was some band from Texas booked at Cruststock that actually got their tickets mailed to them but when they turned up at the airport and tried to check-in were told that the tickets had never been paid for so they couldn’t travel anyway. What a fucking joker! Bram hands Kev a fiver and tells him to put in the donation jar for tonight’s gig.

Niki turns up alone just after seven, same old grin on his face. Guess the others are still lost somewhere between Southend and here. Given that there is another gig on after we play tonight, and that the pub was kind enough to squeeze our gig in as a bonus, Kev can’t let the curfew go over, so if the rest of Nasty Bastard turn up too late they won’t be able to play. Which is a scenario that gives Kev a little chuckle. Mad John turns up bang on seven fifteen and they’re up and running about five minutes later. There are about twenty people gathered in the tiny space between the bar and the stage, John introduces them, “This is a secret gig, so keep your voices down” he smirks making a shushing motion. When they start playing I can’t help but smile, and I realise that no matter how this turns out it’s going to be a laugh anyway. The play for about half hour, chirping out songs like Everyone’s a Cunt and Do One. John infrequently asking the others in the band what song’s next. It’s great to see Niki banging the beat with that smile on his face the whole gig.

By the time we’re ready to go there are a few more in, Misa amongst them with a huge smile on as usual. Of course, it turns out to be a really fun show. I feel a great surge of joy as I stand on the floor in the small crowd, it really is like a drug, playing this music. There are a couple of faces from yesterday mixed in with the crowd of the familiar Deptford crew, everyone smiling. It feels like it’s going great, but then I notice Andy looking distressed between songs. The lanky bugger is so cramped in on the tiny stage that his elbow keep banging off the back wall when he’s playing. When he clocks the smirk on my face he cracks a smile himself. What are you gonna do?

The small crowd gets livelier the longer the set goes on before the end there are a couple rolling around above heads and others falling into Johan as he sings. Kev gets up and sings We’re Fucked with us, he’d been saying earlier that he wanted to but it seems he’d really been practicing, sounded absolutely great. Karl, not to be left out, spontaneously sings along to the choruses on This Is The End. This gig turns out to be exactly what was needed after the downer of Temples Fest, a small party show amongst great friends. Karl grabs me afterwards, all emotional like he tends to get, “This really meant a lot to me, seeing you boys here. Fucking history mate! I’m welling up here”. I love this man, truly love him.

Afterwards Kev walks about the pub with a beer glass asking for donations to help us out and he comes up to where we’re stood selling merch afterwards with it full of notes. Some other guy grabs me, totally chuffed, “You guys were amazing both last night and tonight. I bought a shirt yesterday, but here, take this,” and gives me a twenty pound note. I ask him if he wants to buy merch but he insists that he doesn’t, he just wants to help out. I’m truly touched by the sense of community in our beautiful little scene. A few others come up to us afterwards and offer support, it’s a great feeling. Niki Nailbomb is chuffed as fuck, says he can’t believe he saw Victims in this tiny place. We chat for a while before he tells me has to head back to Southend. Of course. Nailbomb is only away from his beloved town as long as is absolutely necessary. Gordon is stood there with a big smile on his face, saying how he really wants to play here with Speedhorn, telling me how it’s these kind of gigs he really wants to do. I know exactly how he feels. As much as Hellfest, or Download, or fucking Temples are an experience, there’s nothing like playing these shows. Nothing.

Once packed down and all the gear is back in the basement we dust off and decide to head over to the Waiting Room which is serving drinks until ten pm. There is some bizarre band now playing the next gig, two old guys dressed who looks like Old Father Time and a Wizard, playing weird droning folk music. Mad John is encapsulated by them. The rest of us head to the Waiting Room for cocktails. I walk ahead with Misa and Jules. I don’t notice him at first, but some guy is silently tagging along, just kind of starring into nothingness as we walk along the road. I come to understand that he’s an old fling of Misa’s. Jules, who is pretty streamboats, makes no secret of her dislike for him to Misa, who is also pretty steamboats. The pair of them shouting and laughing hysterically as the guy just trapses along beside us. “I don’t trust him Misa, get rid of him!” It’s a pretty painful ten minute walk as this continues the whole way, me just kind of nervously laughing. The guy doesn’t seem affected in the slightest though, gives me the creeps. He looks like the kind of fucker that would slit your throat in the middle of the night.

We pile into to the Waiting Room, it’s a balmy night and the tiny cafe is like a sauna. Colm, the young skinhead who works at the tattoo shop is behind the bar with Viv, making drinks. He really puts his back into shaking the cocktails, I’ve never seen such a boisterous cocktail shake. We all order drinks, the rest of the gang now having caught up. Andy and Gordon go for an Espresso Martini, which looks and tastes superb. I go for a Plantation Punch which is the strongest cocktail I have ever tasted, the volume of rum in the fucker hits you like a poke in the eye. Johan and Jon have similarly strong beverages.

We hang out on the street, must be around fifteen of us. Good times. Serial Killer is still stood there on the periphery, spectating. Andy has also noticed that he’s a bit odd, really clingy. Andy is probably also a little bit tipsy, he’s starring at him and repeating the fact he doesn’t trust him. Misa and Jules, still insanely loud, are back over, drinks in their hands. Jules asks Misa why she’s hanging out with him again, says he’s weird. “But I like weird people… Like Kev!” she says, bursting into a fit of Japanese laughter. Doubt Kev would be too chuffed with being compared to this guy. Normally I’d feel a bit of sympathy for this guy but he’s making it hard. When I happen to cross his path he says to me in a horridly childish tone, “Hey maaaan, you’re that guy in the band!” He has hate in his eyes.

We end up back at the Nest, I’m hoping the pub is going to be quiet, it’s one of those second nights where no matter how much you drink it doesn’t affect you. I really fancy just sitting down with a quiet pint. No luck though, there is some eye gougingly boring ska band playing. They’re on their last song as we arrive but it goes on for about twenty fucking minutes. We take a table at the back. Gordon has disappeared, back to his van I assume. Kev is looking shoddy again. I take advantage and coerce him into buying a round of shots for me, him and Johan. I’m quite taken aback by the price, six fucking quid! You wouldn’t get one for that in Stockholm. The cost of booze at him really is fucking scandalous. We sit down and go to neck them, but Andy notices what we’re up to and insists we wait whilst he purchases one himself. Love it when Andy is in this mood.

We sit around and natter for a while, Colm and I, a little drunk himself, talking about bar jobs. We’ve both been in the game for a good few years. There is some guy walking around dressed as an axe wielding executioner. Random. Someone subtly mentions in my ear that they think Mad John might be getting a bit freaked out by Jon. They’ve been talking all night apparently. I hadn’t noticed. When I go for a piss I find the two of them in there, immersed in conversation. To be fair, it’s Mad John doing most of the talking. They barely notice my presence. I leave them to it.

There will be no Meistros tonight. I’m far too tired and don’t need the hangover tomorrow. We leave when the Nest closes and head back to Kev’s. Ellie is not home tonight so I have my mind set on the right half of Kev’s bed. We hang out in the kitchen talking with Karl for a bit, munching away on Marmite on toast. Kev has fallen asleep, sat perfectly upright, making bizarre sounds that Karl feels the need to film.. We head to bed around half one, the guys making their beds in the living room and myself striding towards the bedroom. Kev shuffles groggily to his room, “Oops, condom,” he mutters as he scuffs the rubber away with his foot. I try my best not to think about that as I settle into bed beside him.

Dagens Fel:

According to Kev, Goy was not away on his stag do, other than it was Graham's 50th. birthday party.  Although Kev definitely said it was Goy's stag do, no matter what he says now.  He was obviously very drunk.  I'm not usually wrong about these things...

That being said, Karl claims to have not been anywhere near Kev's place after the Nest.  So fuck knows who I was talking to in his kitchen.  I have a clear memory of talking to Karl in Kev's kitchen.  I guess I was more drunk than I realised.  Either that or Karl was there and obviously very drunk.  Fuck it, as my dad says, don't let the details get in the way of the story...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

London - Day One

Three days ago I wasn’t sure we were going to make this trip. The rumours going around about Temples Fest were gaining momentum, it seemed like more and more friends who had previously played there were coming out and accusing the guy who runs the fest of being a rip-off merchant. Johan Walin had told me the week before that Martyrdöd had played the year before and it took them about six months to get paid and even then only half of the agreed fee arrived. I’d been worried about this situation, saying to the guys that we should get a written confirmation that we’d get paid in cash on the day of the show. Andy said he’d write to the organiser.. I was fully prepared to go Speedhorn on the guy and simply take musical equipment the festival had hired as payment if the guy pulled any crap. We’d paid out about a grand on flights that were going to be covered by the Temples Fest gig. As it turns out, the situation was way worse than we could have imagined. I was stood at work on the Monday, working some corporate champagne event for a bunch of stiffs, with some asshole event manager talking to me and my friend Fanny like we were a pair of twats, when I saw on the internet that Temples had been cancelled. Fucking cancelled. Three days before the festival was due to begin, one day after receiving an email telling us what time to be at the venue, thousands of ticket buyers up the spout and dozens of bands from all over the world shafted. I felt like lobbing the tray of champagne glasses I was poncing around with into the event managers smug coupon.

We were in quite the shitty situation. Out of pocket and trying to weigh up if we could risk losing even more by still going ahead with the weekend of shows. The personal loss was one thing, being a student/dad my budget is pretty fucking lame. But more than that there were other people, good people and dear friends, standing to lose a deal of money and time wasted if we cancelled. Kev had booked a show at DIY Space For London on the Friday for which he would have to pay the rent on the venue at this late notice no matter the outcome, plus he’d sold over a hundred tickets through the internet that he would lose a percentage on when paying everyone back. The guys from the 593 Collective in Nottingham had put effort and time into booking a great show for us with Skiplickers, Endless Grinning Skulls and Obstruct, a gig I didn’t want to fucking miss. And my old mate Gordon Speedhorn was booked to drive us in his van, meaning if we cancelled now then he’d be losing valuable business. Cancelling wasn’t an option for me. But without a decent replacement gig in place for Saturday I’d have a hard time convincing the other guys to go ahead and piss even more money away. I was very fucking doubtful that we’d ever see the money from that cunt running Temples…

I skipped the afternoon at school on the Tuesday to spend the afternoon mailing people and trying to fix the mess. The response was heartwarming. Gordon called and said that he’d blow off any rent for the Saturday if we didn’t get a gig for that day and that he’d cut the cost for the other days down. More than anything he was looking forward to hanging out, he assured me. I was in constant touch with about four other friends and acquaintances who offered help with gigs, some very kind offers, it turns out there were a lot of bands stranded with booked flights, looking for shows. The DIY community was in full stride, helping out everyone they could. As it is, Kev managed to sort out a show at the Bird’s Nest in Deptford which meant our costs would be practically nil for the Saturday and Andy from EGS messaged me saying he was making a special limited edition cover for their last seven inch that would only be sold on Sunday and all the proceeds he would give to us to help out with the money we’d lost. I was truly touched. From despair at some asshole playing Billy Big Balls and booking a big festival his ego couldn’t handle to being humbled by the coming together of the DIY community to help us out. I was extremely relieved when we decided to go ahead with the weekend. The guilt of putting my friends out of pocket for helping us out was weighing me down big fucking time. The knock on effect of this asshole and his festival was far reaching. When Andy mailed the guy he got a personalised “Out of Office” automatic reply stating that, “Due to the pain of cancelling the festival I need some time out to get my headspace sorted before I can start emailing people”. What a fucking cretin.

It had been a strange few days. The weekend saved, and with us now in with a chance of regaining some of the money we’d lost on flights, not to mention the fact we had three very fun shows booked, I found myself sat on the flight over to the island with mixed emotions. Not only was I missing my graduation party from school that day, having passed my A-levels second time of asking, and in my second language, but I was missing mine and Jen’s ten year wedding anniversary. All on the same day we were playing a punk show in London. I’m amazed sometimes that she puts up with me. We’d made a celebration of it a few weeks ago when we had a Polly free weekend in London ourselves, but I felt like a complete asshole now. Ten years? She deserves a medal.

We arrived at Heathrow around two thirty Friday afternoon and made our way via the tube across London to Deptford. Kev was a bit stressed since Gordon hadn’t arrived yet and we had to be at the venue for five thirty. There was still no sign of him when we arrived in Deptford, starving, at four thirty. Gordon had said he was stuck in traffic. I was quietly relieved since I was aching for some grub from the Waiting Room. We sat there and tucked into some veggie burgers and Johan bought a round of beers in. You know when you drink that first beer and it just magically hits the spot? Well, that. Gordon could take another couple of hours and I could happily sit here whilst we waited. Poor Kev was pretty stressed though. Gordon turned up just after five, looking disgusted with London. We all cracked up at his face as he crawled past us on Deptford High Street looking like he was about to kill someone. We loaded the gear in from Overdrive Rehearsal Studio around the corner which Marv Varukers and John Conflict own. Marv was busy on his phone as we were loading gear but he pointed at an Ampeg bass cab and told me to take that, proclaiming it was, “Fucking brilliant!” It broke down after the second band...

The venue was only a ten minute drive away and Karl and Tobs had walked over earlier to meet Jamie and set up the drums so everything would move smoothly when we arrived. Their new band, I Piss In Your Mouth, along with Kev on bass, was playing tonight. They’d played their first show last night with Symsey’s band Crossfirefuckinghurricane at the Nest last night and now both were playing tonight. Kev told me that him, Karl and Jamie had been making some noise and after only a couple of practices they were playing their first show. I asked him who was singing. “Whoever gets up from the crowd and screams”, Kev replied, not an ounce of irony in his tone. Turns out it was Tobs, who hasn’t played a gig since Narwhal finished ten years ago. I was looking forward to seeing them.

Tobs was hungover to fuck and his voice had almost disappeared after last nights gig. Tobs is a real classic when pissed, some of the best steamboats stories I’ve ever have Tobs in the starring roll. He’s always got a cheeky look on his face, even when miserably hungover. Love the guy. Kev wasn’t even sure if they were going to play since we arrived late and they were on right after doors but things got worked out and they went on and played ten minutes of screaming noise, Kev with his back to the crowd trickling into the gig room, the numbers on the back of his bass and his lips gupping along to the songs like a goldfish devouring food capturing my attention for the best part of it. That and Tobs screaming along to the racket whilst wearing his wooly ski hat.. Good stuff.

The venue is pretty cool. Although by all accounts it has caused a bit of division in the punk scene in the UK. The fact they charge two quid membership fee seems enough to piss some people off. Fuck knows. I really can’t be bothered. I’ve played shows in London where there have been more punks sat outside drinking cans of beer than watching the bands inside where the beer costs a quid more than they do at the offy. Kev had mentioned that a few people in the scene had said they weren’t coming to the show because they don’t like this venue. Politics… Although ticket sales had been going slow it seems to have picked up in the last week and Kev tells me at the start of the night that he has thirty tickets left. By the time Cult Syndrome go on in second slot the tickets are pretty much gone. I hang out over by the door with Kev and Karl, as well as Miles who is back from Australia. Karl whips his beanie hat off after a while, embarrassedly revealing his newly shaved bonnet. He’s finally succumbed to the inevitable like my good self.

I spend the night flitting between the gig room which has a waist high stage and enough room for a hundred and sixty people, and the cafe area where the bar and record shop area situated. I find Johan and Jon sat at a bench drinking a can of IPA, sat amongst the buzz of the punks swarming around the place. Gordon points out the guy working in the record shop, says he recognises him. It takes a while but then I realise it’s this guy who used to hang out at with his mega rich American girlfriend at Speedhorn shows back in the day. Nikolaj I think was his name. Fucking blast from the past! They used to come to all the London shows. There was a bit of a weird vibe going on between her and the band which in turn made the vibe with Nikolaj equally weird. Fucking hell. There’s someone that I would never ever have thought about again had I not seen him here tonight. Funny how people enter and exit your life.

I miss most of Cult Syndrome’s set, which is a shame because I like the little I hear. The room is really fucking hot though and I need a breather. Symesy’s band Crossfirefuckinghurricane are on third. DB played with them in Prague last year but they’ve since changed singer. The new guy seems to fit the band a lot better. Marv’s bass cab and gone on the fritz just as they were warming up so just as the crowd filters into the room and Symsey is ready to go it goes silent. Dav, the bass player looks mildly amused/confused as Jamie and some of the venue crew wheel on a four by twelve cab. When they finally get going it’s loud as fuck. So loud it’s hard to pick out a lot of Symsey’s great guitar playing, which is a shame, but then the bass playing is also punishing so it’s pretty cool just listening to that anyway. The singer kind of reminds me of Milo from Descendents for some reason, and I smile as he sarcastically makes shout outs to Donald Trump in a heavy Czech accent between songs.

Agnosy are on before us but I skip it, I need a break from the volume before we play. Jamie was fretting a bit beforehand since after the delay we’re now running behind schedule, so he told them to make it a shorter one tonight. The singer announces to the crowd that they’re keeping it short and sweet tonight and then play a half hour set. Can only imagine what a normal set would clock in at. “German warning with these guys”, Jon comments, referring to the notorious local hero crust bands we’ve regularly encountered over the years whilst touring over there.

We have a pretty good show, the place is pretty packed and there are people flying around above the crowds heads, some others down the front screaming along to the songs. I’m pretty chuffed to see one guy chanting along to the chorus of Errors from the new record. The sound on stage is pretty hard work though, all I can hear is myself and Johan’s vocals. But it doesn’t make the gig any less enjoyable. Everyone seems pretty chuffed after the gig. Whilst packing up I look over to the corner of the room where Gordon is selling merch with a big smile on his face. Great to have him out with us. Feels very strange though, to be on tour with him but not playing together.

I enjoy a beer whilst taking over on the merch, seems like it’s going pretty well. Shifting a few copies of the new album. I ask Kev what the crack is, fancying a pint at the Nest afterwards, but he tells me they have to clean the venue after everyone has left. It doesn’t take long though. And somehow Kev seems to be pissed all of a sudden, shouting abuse at anyone within earshot as he takes to the floor with a mop, after Viv has kindly done the first round with a broom. As we load out I get talking to Dav who tells me that my energy on stage really inspires him. He says watching me play makes him very happy. I remember when we played with them last year and he stood there pounding my back through the entire set, totally chuffed. Very fun guy. He asks me if we can stay in touch and if me and Kev can mail him some tips for classic, noisy Swedish bands. I remember then that Symsey had said he was mainly into techno.

Once the van is packed Gordon drives over to Kev’s where we park the van and head around to the Nest. To my relief it is quiet and there are plenty of tables free to sit at. Just what I need. We have a couple of pints each, the Bird’s Nest IPA actually smells like puke. I can’t work out if it’s the plastic glass or the beer itself. It tastes fine, but it’s pretty disturbing that every time you lift the pint to your mouth it smells like you’re drinking it out of a nightclub urinal. Johan has clocked me suspiciously sniffing at my beer and concurs that his has the same issue.

Since we're doing a secret/last minute gig here tomorrow Kev decides to film a little promotional film advertising.  Karl films Kev with his phone whilst Kev rants pissed into the camera, sounding like a cross between Bruce Forsyth and Hulk Hogan.  He'd started to hand out flyers for it once the doors had opened earlier but now he was putting the campaign for the gig into full effect.  

Andy seems to be enjoying himself anyway, the pints are flowing and he has that look in his eye. That look is normally there on the first night away, just as it is long gone by the last night. Karl suggest we head over to another place when the Nest closes at one. We head up Deptford High Street to a place called Meistros, some weird little restaurant on New Cross Road where we’re the only people there who obviously aren’t part of the owner’s inner circle. In fact, there is barely anyone there at all and it’s sleepily quiet until around ten of us walk in and sit ourselves down. Apparently this place is Mucky Marcus’ favourite haunt. Karl tells us that Mucky has a tab here. Can just imagine him sat here gabbing along with the bar staff. After two of the most pointless Heineken’s I’ve ever drunk we decide to call it a night. Kev has already fallen asleep at the table. It’s nice chatting away with everyone but I’m goosed too, only barely managing to keep myself going the same way as Kev. Those two beers pushed me into fuzzy pissed aswell. Time to go home.

We pile into a LFC, London Fried Chicken, the options are fucking dire at this time, and mass order chips and cheese. When in the UK… They’re disgustingly good and instantly regrettable. We get back to Kev’s place and make room about the living room. Normally I’d crash beside Kev in his bed but his girlfriend is already there so I make myself a little den of blankets in the corner of the floor next to Andy. The effects of those two Heineken’s suddenly have a new appeal. A floor has never felt so welcoming.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Vancouver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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