Monday, February 8, 2010

Ieper and Amsterdam

Nothing like going out with a bang.

Last day of the tour, two shows, 600 kilometers, 7am get up. We'd been offered a slot on the Ieper Fest, Winter Edition as the tour was being booked. We'd worked things out with Waste's agent and the people at the Melkweg in Amsterdam so that we could play the festival in the early afternoon and then drive straight to Amsterdam and play the final show with Waste. We'd be arriving to the second show late of course, but we'd make it. It felt like no big deal at the time but this morning it felt like a bit of a mistake.

We had initially intended to drive through the night after the Amsterdam show, so we would make it home to Stockholm for the Sunday night. There was no way that was happening now. Luckily, we're not short on options when it comes to places to stay in Amsterdam, we have plenty of friends there. We head off early to Belgium, not really decided where we're staying tonight, just that we're staying in Amsterdam, somewhere.

It takes around four hours for us to drive from Sneek to Ieper. We get to the venue around midday and meet up with Björn from Rise and Fall, as we creep out of the van. He's a really nice guy and we spend some time chatting with him. He's a really big fan of Victims and as he's chatting to Jon he says, ”Man, you guys are the only ray of sunshine to this whole day”. Jon, mistaking Björn's meaning, replies ”Yeah, it's been foggy all morning but it's pretty sunny now.” Andy and I smirk at each other but don't bother to correct him, Björn kinda looks confused for a second. Jon staggers off into the venue in his normal, shaky old man posture. That boy...

The venue is a sports hall. It's a pretty big place which is sure to be packed out later tonight when Rise and Fall play the headlining spot. I'm not sure how it's going to be for us. Due to the fact we're playing Amsterdam later, we could only manage an early slot, at 1.40pm. I doubt the place will be rocking by that time. Another thing is that a great deal of the bands, and the fans, seem to be these macho hardcore types. Not our crowd. At all. But fuck it, the people who run the festival are good, honest hardcore folk and it's fun to hang out with Rise and Fall for a while.

We're the second band of the day. The first band is a band called Gunshot, or Smackdown, or something silly like that. They're awful anyway. Already, parts of the small crowd watching them, are begining to kick and punch thin air. The old kung fu routine. Here we go then...

By the time we hit the stage, the place probably has a good two hundred people in it. I'm sure by the time Rise and Fall play later, that figure will be closer to a thousand, but the crowd we have still feels more than ok. Despite the early stage time and the fact we're all a bit knackered, I think we play a good show. The stage sound is good, we have a lot of energy, and despite the crowd not moving too much, there is still plenty of noise from them between songs. Björn is stood down front, watching the set and nodding away. Jon notes to the crowd that he hasn't noticed any kung fu rotuines during our set. Funny that.

We pack down, grab a quick, cold shower and then go to get some food before we head off to the next show. As we're selling the last of the merch, we happen to catch a bit of the band after us. Now, I'm sure they're all very nice people, but they are absoultely awful! It's not even that the music is so bad, it's not good, but it's not that bad. No, it's their demeanour on stage. The two guitarists and the bass player are fine. Just normal looking hardcore kids. The singer is a vomitous looking creature, struting around the stage doing his best to look hard and evil. As evil as one can look with a silly perm and a big baggy t-shirt, sleeves cut off to show off his crap tattoos. What a turd. He's not even the worst of the bunch though.

I head over to the merch stand to find Ronnie, Johan and Andy stood there, watching the stage with their jaws gaped open. The drummer. The fucking drummer. He's this big muscular dude, covered in tattoos. He's playing the drums in the most over the top manner I've ever seen. He's got his top off, to show of his physique. He's flalling his arms around like an idiot, and his face has an expression on it that makes you wonder if he's getting his dick sucked as he's playing. It's truly awful to watch his orgasmic expression as he throws his arms above his head for every drum hit. I swear, he's one step away from kissing his biceps as he plays. I'm sure he's a nice guy in person, but on stage he is nothing short of repulsive.

Of course, the crowd are lapping it up. It's like watching the current in the sea build up into a white foam as the waves break. Most of the crowd are pushed far back from the stage, leaving a big gaping hole at the front. On the perimeters of this hole are people who are standing there, shaking themseleves up into a gradual frenzy. And then, at certain parts of a song, as if feeding off each other, they break out into a crazed kung fu routine. They literally stand there doing roundhouse kicks and windmill punches, into thin air, like they're fucking Bruce Lee or something. To me, it's absolutely bizarre to watch. The other people in the crowd, have to stand back and keep an eye on these idiots, for fear of being kicked in the head, instead of watching the shite band on stage. It annoys me that these kung fu dickheads actually become the show. It would have been fun to hang out and drink the wonderful Belgian beer we'd been supplied with in the dressing room, and to watch Rise and Fall tonight, but not if that meant having to suffer this nonsense for the rest of the day. We pack up our merch, say goodbye to the guys we know at the festival and then head off for Amsterdam.

It's another three hours in the van. We pull into Amsterdam around rush hour but luckily, make our way smoothly through the narrow streets to the Melkweg. This place has to be one of my favourite venues in Europe. Again, Dutch venues are always top notch. Proffesional. We're greetred by some rather stressed stage hands though, who help us load in directly from the street, through the crowd outside and onto the stage to do an immediate sound check. There is going to be a lot of people in this place tonight. Our show is almost sold out and in the bigger room next door, Mastodon are playing. Quite a night for the Melkweg.

We get through soundcheck pretty smoothly and the sound is excellent. As we're soundchecking with Lies, Lies, Lies, something really funny happens. Jon is a huge Mastodon fan and is really psyched about seeing them play later on for what will be his first time. Even better, he might get the chance to meet them since the Waste guys are good friends with them. As we're playing through the song, the Mastodon guitarist happens to walk through the room. He stands by the stage for a while, watching us, nodding his head in approval. When Jon notices him, on pure instinct, he turns off the volume on his guitar and then carries on miming along to the rest of us. We all piss ourselves laughing. He has no idea why he reacted in such a way, he just didn't want the guy to hear him playing. He really is a special boy, our Jon.

After soundcheck we head back to the shared dressing room we have with Waste, and sure enough, two of the Mastodon guys are there hanging out. Dave introduces them to us. As I shake the hands with the guitarist, he looks at me like he recognises me, but I don't say anything. Speedhorn had played one show with them in London a few years ago, and then they had hung out for a while at a show on the US tour. Sometimes, I'm a bit too shy to say, ”Hey, yeah we met before..” so I leave it. I'm not a superfan like Jon is, so I leave him to chat away to them, which he does. Albeit a little nervously.

It's a good enough end to the tour tonight, as far as the show goes. It's not the best show of the tour and it's the only show where it's only been us and Waste playing. So we play first and pretty early, but the room is filling out and we play well enough to get a good reaction from them. The Reproach guys have all come down to the show tonight. It's great to see them afterwards. They're down the front cheering us throughout the set. Nearly every night when Jon sings his song, Et Svart År, he always screams something at the crowd, in correspondance to where we are, during his solo part of the song. I crack up tonight when I hear him screaming, ”Kom igen era jävla hashtomtar!” tonight. It's only funny in Swedish though...

I hang out with the Reproach guys for a while after the show. They were supposed to play these last two shows on the tour, which would have been great, but they've had some hard times. First off, one of their good friends had commited suicide last week, so they were at the funeral yesterday. They had planned to play tonight anyway, but then Tim, the guitar player, broke his hand at work. Unreal. We hang out for a while afterwards and I don't even know how to tell them how sorry I am.

I meet some other old friends tonight too. The guys from My City Burning are all here. They played with Speedhorn on our final European dates before we split. It's fun seeing them again. We hang out for a while and watch Waste together, drinking a couple of beers. My other two friends, Martine and Lotje are also here tonight. They were part of Carnivore's crew when we toured with them a couple of years ago. Martine is working here at the venue, so I meet up with her after the show and give her a big hug. She's also had a really hard time this last couple of years. Soon after we toured together, she found out that she had a brain tumour. It was awful for her and everyone who knew her. The courage she displayed at that time truly inspired me. I have never witnessed such bravery. Thankfully she made it through those hard times and she was here tonight. It was great to see her looking so well.

My other friend Lotje, had kindly offered her place for us to stay at, which we happily accept. She misses our show but makes it down in time for the party afterwards. I'm by the merch stall as I notice her checking in to the building. Just as I'm about to go over and say hello I get stopped by some guy who comes over to me with a can of Guinness in each hand. He hands me one and then says, ”Thanks for a great show and thanks for the Speedhorn years”. I'm knocked back by this. I say thanks, feeling a bit confused by everything. I chat to him for a little while until Lotje comes over and gives me a hug. I guess Speedhorn left a mark in some way or another...

We hang out with a bunch of friends for a while after the show, the beer starting to flow. I go watch a little bit of Mastodon but the sound is so bad in that big room, that I only handle a song before I leave. I'm not really a big fan of their latest stuff, it's a bit too prog for me. I was never the biggest fan as it is. Jon is huge on them though, so I feel bad for him when he comes back absolutely deflated by what he'd seen. He mumbles that you should never watch your favourtie band play live...

Apparently the main guitar/singer guy had been pretty out of it on stage. Jon came into the room just as they're playing an instrumental part from the next to last song on their new album. This part is about four minutes long apparently. About half way through it the singer storms off stage to blast his guitar tech, for about five minutes, leaving the rest of the band on stage looking embarrased. He eventually comes back on stage and starts up the same song part again. They play through it, almost until the end, until the singer stops playing his guitar, telling the audience his guitar is in the wrong tuning. He storms off again and comes back with a new guitar. They play the same part again! Not only that, they have projected images that show behind them, that fit with each specific song. So they have to fix that each time they start the song again. I guess it's not a good night for those guys. Jon leaves gutted, the only thing he'd seen being the same song part three times.

Before we load out tonight and leave the venue, Andy and I share a last beer with Dave for this tour. Once again, he's been brought gifts from some friend. He shares his wickedly strong, chocolate stout with us. I'm going to miss Dave and the guys, they have been great tour companions.

Unfortuntaely, we don't really get the chance say goodbye to Dave, Lewis or Scotty properly. We load out the van and from there everything turns in to a drunken blur. When the van is done, packed out again through the busy street outside the venue, myslef and Tony head around the corner to a small, smoky bar which is pretty packed. I message the other gus where we're at and tuck into a beer. We're talking about doing a US tour together at some point in the future, I hope that is something we can work out time for.

I don't really remember much more. I remember the other Victims guys turning up along with Ryan and Phil. I remember drinking quite a few beers and then something about a shot of whisky with Johan...

I don't remember dancing with Jon and Andy whilst Johan played air piano intensely on the bar for five minutes. I don't remember Johan climbing on to the dashboard of the van and lying there, tucked in front of the steering wheel, whilst Ronnie is trying to drive us to Lotje's place. In fact, I don't remember driving to Lotje's place, or indeed, leaving the bar, whatsoever. I don't remember having my head out of the passenger window as we crept out of the small city streets, screaming at random people, ”Good job Amsterdam! Love your work!”, whilst high-fiving various pedestrians. I don't remember Andy being so drunk that he could hardly walk when we got to Lotje's place, bouncing off the walls of the apartment building's corridors like a ping pong ball.

I don't remember any of this. It's Ronnie who tells me, the next day. As he laughs and re-counts the stories of the night before, I'm slouched in the van feeling complete and utter dog-shit, proclaiming I'm never drinking again. The worst hangover for this tour has been saved until last, saved for the two day journey home.

It's been an amazing tour for us though. We couldn't have asked to have a nicer bunch of guys than Municipal Waste to tour with. I'm looking forward to re-uniting with them at some point in the future on the other side of the pond. That would be an amazing experience.

Right now though, I'm just looking forward to going home.


  1. Great writing Gaz I've really enjoyed reading every word of it. Hopefully see you soon man


  2. ah Ronnie i feel his pain, many a time i wondered whether i should even bother telling you silly sods what you got up to the night before! and as the BK says great writing Gareth, makes me sad that wwe dont have those times anymore

    puss puss