Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Coliseum, Hard Rockers, Sewergrooves

Sunday afternoon. I barely dare to utter it, knowing fine well that winter won't leave without at least one last fight, but spring seems to be here. The sun is shining bright in a clear blue sky and the snow is retreating. It's a beautiful day... and I don't feel like going to work.

It's amazing how quickly the weekend seems to disappear when your working the Sunday shift. My free Friday and Saturday gone in the blink of an eye. At least today, with it being the last Sunday before pay-day, it should be a quiet night. If all goes as I hope, the last of the customers will have left around midnight and I'll have the last hour of the night to myself, meaning I can have everything sorted by the time one am. comes around and I can get out of there and on the first night bus home. If spring really is here, then soon I'll be biking back and forth to work. Just as soon as the last of the snow has melted...

So fucking sick of the night bus.

The good thing about working Sunday, is that I'm off on Friday and Saturday. I can't really complain I know. Anyway, this weekend I went to shows each night. Two very different types of gig...both of which I've played on numerous occasions.

Last night, Coliseum played at Annexet, which is a pretty big arena. Big in that it holds about three thousand people. The guys in Coliseum are very good friends with Victims, having toured together in the States previously. Ryan, their singer, also designs shirts for us and sells them through his distro, Shirt Killer. He's a good friend to have. Coliseum are in Europe touring with a band called Rise Against, who are apparently fucking huge right now! Last time Coliseum were here they played Kafe 44, there were about 60 people at the show and they were great. Tonight Ryan and the guys played to a crowd closer to two thousand. It must have been a pretty wild feeling for them.

It was fun to watch them up there on the big stage. I've been there myself when Speedhorn have supported the likes of Slipknot, Slayer and horribly enough, Rammstein. There really wasn't a fucking gig in the world we said “no” to! Rammstein really is a gig I wish we'd declined... I wish I knew then what I know now. But that's life.

Anyway, these big arena shows are something else. The whole production, and a production it is, is a universe away from the punk rock world the likes of Victims and Coliseum come from. Not that it isn't fun to sample a bit of that universe now and again, if for nothing more than to experience how totally mind blowing it is to stand there and play to so many people. Even if ninety five percent of the people watching wishes you would go the fuck away. It was certainly like that when we played with Rammstein! Though on that particular occasion I was only too happy to oblige the audience, and get the fuck out of there...Last night Coliseum seemed to be having a lot better time of it though.

Of course, most of the adolescent crowd are there to see this band Rise Against. I hadn't even heard of them until Andy told me that Coliseum were coming back supporting them on this tour. I guess I'm not with the times any more, since the place is packed out with young kids. I'm assuming the band are shite but fair dos to them for bringing a band like Coliseum on tour with them.

Ryan comes on stage and announces, “We're Coliseum and this song is called Year of the Pig.” Andy and I are instantly chuffed! Great start to the set. Jon is stood with his beer in one hand, and playing air guitar with the other. I get the feeling Jon is going to get pretty sauced tonight.

We head down towards the front of the arena to check out the rest of their set. It sounds way better up here. They play a great show and at one point Ryan dedicates a song to Victims, whilst informing the crowd that they should check us out, that great bands like ours exist in their own cities and they should support the scene. We're all genuinely touched by this. Ryan really is a great champion of the underground music community.

The crowd are into the band and show their appreciation between songs, even if by the end sections of the public are getting restless and start calling for Rise Against. Ryan firmly puts them in their place. That is part and parcel of playing these tours though. You have to expect that almost the entire crowd are there to see the big superstar band and couldn't give a fuck about who is supporting. You're doing well if you manage to win over just ten percent of them. Even ten percent of such a big crowd is quite a large amount of people to have discover your small DIY band. And if you can achieve that then it's probably worth it. The Coliseum guys seem to have done a fair bit better than ten percent.

A wave of nostalgia washes over me when at some point near the end of the Coliseum set, I notice a bunch of young kids who are elated by the fact that the security guys have let them through into the sectioned off mosh pit area. The arena has a fenced off area right at the front, where the young moshers are at. I notice these kids running into it like they've just won the lottery, they're hopping up and down and screaming with joy about the fact they're going get so close to their idols in Rise Against. Like I said, I have no idea what Rise Against are, but I feel a genuine happiness when I see how glad these kids are. They're probably no older than fourteen and seeing them reminds me of when my dad took me to see Metallica at the NEC Arena in Birmingham when I was thirteen. I was ecstatic that night and I know how those kids feel, I just hope that one day they'll check out the bands that Rise Against probably grew up listening to as well. As I'm watching these kids hopping around with joy, I catch a glimpse at Jon, who is watching Coliseum play their last song and the tit is crying. He's obviously pissed because that's when he gets emotional. As we head off back to the bar I laugh at the silly sod and say, “And you lot call me Emo Boy”. “You're not even close” he says, drying the tears from his eyes.

We catch up with Ryan after the show and he brings us back stage to their dressing room. We hang out and chat with the guys for a couple of hours. Jon is chatting at an extremely slow pace, as he does after a few beers. It's great to see them. They say that although some of the drives have been torturous, the shows have been far better than they expected. They're staying at Andy's place tonight and then tomorrow they're leaving first thing for Copenhagen. It sucks balls touring in a van when you're supporting a band travelling in a night liner.

Another downside to these tours is the merchandise situation. The venue tonight being a typical example. The venue doesn't allow you to sell your own shirts. You have to count them in and leave them with the venues staff to sell, only for the cunts to then take thirty percent of your sales money. It's completely fucking sick! As if the venue doesn't make enough money fleecing the public of their money by selling shite beer in plastic mugs at ridiculous prices. The fact they openly rob the band makes me ill. Is if that's not bad enough, they than put a steep price on your merch so nobody wants to buy it anyway. On top of that you have a gang of thieving cunts outside the venue selling bootleg t-shirts of your band. It's like you're being fucked in both ends.

Ryan tells us that the merch sales have been unsurprisingly low...

When Speedhorn used to play these big shows of our own, not this size, but big enough for the venue to take a percentage of our merchandise, we just used to bootleg our shirts ourselves and sell them out the back of the van after the show, for our usual low prices. Frank would openly address the crowd from the stage and tell them exactly how they should buy their Speedhorn merch. Some nights it was ridiculous, we'd have a queue out the back of the venue, buying shirts out the back of our van. Frank doing his best Del Boy impression. Fuck knows how we got away with that?

Despite the merch situation situation and the drives, everything else seems to be going well. I'm glad for them. The Rise Against crew have been really helpful to them, and that in itself is incredibly unusual on these types of tours. I've done tours like this where the crew of the headlining band have treated us like vermin. There are exceptions of course, but again, Rammstein's crew weren't one of them...

It really was a great sight to see so many people clapping along to Coliseum. Maybe there is still hope for the music scene after all? After saying goodbye to the guys, I head off through the arena looking for a way out. I happen to catch a glimpse of Rise Against as I leave. It's as I thought. Not my cup of tea...the kids seem to love them though. Hopefully within a few years those kids will be listening to Black Flag too.

The night before had indeed been a very different type of show.

One of the things that really attracted me to Stockholm when I first started coming here to visit Jenny, before I made the move over, was that everyone we knew and socialised with seemed to play in a band. And it wasn't all bands belonging to just one type of scene, it was bands of all sorts. Punk, hardcore, metal, prog, doom, garage rock, stoner rock, blues, sixties girlie pop, you name it. Stockholm had a real vibrant scene. And it seemed that everyone helped and supported each other, no matter what genre you belonged to. I think Entombed have to take a lot of credit for that. And so it is today, almost everyone I know here plays in at least one band. If somebody put together a Stockholm music family tree, its branches would seemingly go on forever.

Kurt and his band the Sewergrooves are close friends of ours. Kurt is together with Jempa, who played bass in Jen's old band, Misdemeanor. He's one of the first people I met over here. Sewergrooves have been around for a long time now. Although I'm not massive on garage rock, I've always been into Sewergrooves. To my mind, they are Sweden's finest when it comes to that type of music. Their third album, Revelation Time, is in my opinion, the best album to come out of that whole scene.

Tonight they were playing a club show, which they were doubling up as a release party for their new album. When I heard the show was at a bar called Harry B. James', I have to admit, I feared the worst.

The place used to be an ok American style bar. I remember back in the early days they had a pretty great veggie nacho dish. Those days are long past though. Today it's a rock bar. A pretty fucking horrible one at that. I don't like to generalise, but my problem with “rock bars” is that they're usually patronised by idiots.

I can't stand the term “rock 'n' roll “ as it's used today. The actual 1950's Jerry Lee Lewis/Little Richard kind I have no problem at all with, but the Motley Crue kind makes me fucking sick. And for the record, there was nothing funny whatsoever about The Darkness. To be fair, Hard-Rockers in general get on my tits, be it your Jack Daniels, hairspray wearing sleaze rocker, or your Pantera t-shirt wearing metal-head, who, no matter what part of the world they actually come from, believe they're from fucking Texas.

Of course, I don't mean to say that everybody who likes this music is thick as shit, it's just that the scene is often poorly represented.

As we're waiting in line to get into the bar, Sewergrooves start in to a song. At first we assume that we're late, but it soon becomes apparent that they're only sound checking. This in itself tells you all you need to know about this gig. Playing a rock bar that doesn't close doors to let the band sound check is fucking horrible. It means there is a good chance that a large percentage of the crowd hang out at the place no matter what, and they're not particularly bothered as to what band is playing.

We get eventually get inside. It's exactly as I imagined. Hot, loud and full of drunks in rubbish band t-shirts. We meet up with some other friends and head directly to the bar. The stage is set up on the other side of the bar, next to the bogs. I'm not exaggerating, the smell of sweat as I'm stood there, crushed at the bar, is enough to knock you over. At least they have Brooklyn Lager on tap...

A large part of the decision to split Speedhorn up was that we felt we could no longer relate to the vast majority of our fans. Of course, when I was sixteen years old, I used to hang out in the woods, drinking cheap cider and listening to Metallica on a portable stereo, but I was sixteen. By the time we finished the band we were thirty years old and had moved on. I grew tired of metal-heads that were my age, coming up to me and belching in my face, screaming “Metaaaaaal!”, when I was sat there trying to enjoy a pint with some friends before a gig. I still love some of that music, but I've discovered a lot of other stuff since then too. You can actually listen to more than one type of music without being a traitor to what you grew up on. This type of snobbery actually exists in all types of underground music scenes though, not just metal. The punk-hardcore scene can be every bit as close minded in certain areas.

One particular episode from the Speedhorn touring days stays with me to this day. We'd played a show in Manchester, whilst touring our third album, and we were having a pint in the pub with one of my best mates who I hadn't seen for a while. A couple of metalers who had been at the show came over and invited themselves to sit down with us. Kind of rude, but not particularly a problem, the table was big enough. I said hello and thanks for coming to the show and they seemed happy enough. But then every time I tried to talk to my mate, one of these guys kept butting in with some inane question, one such cracker being, “What do you reckon is best band in t'world?” I couldn't be arsed with this! As they were both wearing XL Pantera t-shirts, I had a feeling they wanted me to answer the question and then reciprocate it. I wonder what their answer would be? I tried to politely tell them that that particular question is impossible to answer. “But if you had to say? One band? What band would it be?” Fuck sakes, I could tell that I wasn't going to be able to get back to talking to my mate until I appeased them. “I don't know, Fugazi maybe? Pavement? Black Flag, Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band? I don't know...”

Their faces gaped in amazement. “Pantera man! Fuck sakes, best in t'world wi-out doubt!” “I can't believe they're not your favourite band!”. Yeah, go fucking figure! They piped on like this for about another ten minutes. Luckily, Darren, our bass player came along, pissed out of his mind, and I was able to palm them off on to him. He had a fucking field day with them!

I realised there and then that I couldn't relate to these people. Towards the end, we did everything we could to annoy these people, and when you're doing that to your own fans I guess it's time to call it a day.

As if to reaffirm that these types still exist, I came across another pair of ball-bags just last week. I was out on a driving lesson and had just pulled up at a red light. A van pulls up in the lane beside me and starts revving it's engine. I look over and of course, there sit a pair of metal heads in the van, laughing, thinking they're hilarious. They want me to race them. My driving instructor waves at them whilst hissing through gritted teeth, “fucking idiots..”. They keep revving their engine, all the harder and louder, whilst I sit there like a right chump. They fucking love it. The light goes green and they whiz off, obviously chuffed with themselves. I'm happy to see nothing has changed.

Anyway, we're in this pub and it looks like Headbanger's Ball. Thankfully there are a few old friends here and we catch up over a beer. By the time Sewergrooves go on stage, there are a crowd of friends down front, and mingling in and out of us are droves of Harry B. James regulars, who are all fucking boats, and couldn't give a fuck who is on stage. I feel bad for Kurt and the guys but they don't seem bothered. They've done it all before. They play great anyway and it's fun to see them on stage again. It's been ages since I last saw them. I can't help but observe the crowd as they play though.

Strangely enough, tonight the band have a girl with them who I fail to recognise, playing percussion and doing backing vocals. There is one guy who must be in his fifties, who is out of his mind, playing air guitar right in front of her, practically drooling over her. He obviously feels that he has a chance. The bouncer who works at the place is giving a pissed off vibe and telling the drunk guy to take it down a notch, the guy doesn't seem to care, or simply he can't see the bouncer, but he carries on regardless. The bouncer just walks off shaking his head.

There is also a woman, again in her fifties, dressed in what looks like dirty underwear, make up smeared across her face from drunken tears, making out with a guy who must be at least half her age. In fact, they're practically fucking each other in front of the stage. I continue to watch the band play a great set, albeit with this pair disturbing the periphery of my vision. Am I just a prude? A fuddy-duddy? Maybe, but this woman fills me with equal parts pity and nausea.

And then a trio of young chumps arrive in front of the stage. A geeky looking guy and two girls. They're no more than eighteen and the guy is obviously following the girls around like a lost shadow. I almost want to give the guy a hug. They stand in front of the band, hanging on to the stage, ready to bang their heads. The guy shouts to the girls, “Nu kör vi!”, roughly translated meaning, “Let's go!” They dance for the remaining thirty seconds of the song the guys are playing, banging their heads and doing whatever else it is they think they should be doing. The song soon ends and the girls look bored. One of the girls motions to the other, suggesting they go for a smoke. The guy catches this and quickly suggests, “Yeah, shall we go for a smoke”. Poor bastard. He follows them away. It's not easy being eighteen and full of hormones.

If the band are disturbed by the piss-poorness of the venue and it's crowd, like the professionals they are, they show no sign of it. They play a great set. They are so tight it's unreal. I almost forgot what a great singer and guitarist Kurt is. I hear the reason they're playing this place tonight is that an old friend of theirs has a club night here, and he wanted to put them on. And as Speedhorn did, they just love to play.

I used to get frustrated with the guys in Victims, when I would read offer after offer that came in to our email account, only for the guys to reject them. Offers from Greece, Russia, Italy, all over. I was always the guy in the band that was willing to say yes to everything. But now I realise why the guys are so cautious when it comes to booking shows. They've been there and done all that. Gone are the days where we can go off on tour only hoping to break even. If it isn't set up properly, we don't do it. I now understand why you have to be like that, even if secretly I harbour hope that one day we'll take up on an offer to play Russia. I'll most likely have to go there as a tourist though.

By the time Sewergrooves are done, we're all dying to get out of there. Kurt seems happy enough though, throwing down his well earned beer after the show. I'm looking forward to hearing their new record. The few songs they played from it tonight sounded great. One thing I have to give to the bar is that the sound system was pretty good, or maybe it's just that the band know how to handle their gear. Either way, I won't be going back in a hurry, even if they do still make great nachos...

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