Jon and Ana were picking me up in the van at ten past eight. I knew they'd be bang on time too, Jon is impeccably fucking punctual.
Despite only sleeping for five hours, I felt pretty good when I woke up. After a shower, a cup of tea and some marmalade on toast, I took Bonzo out for a quick piss. It was a beautiful morning. Tonight we would be playing the first Victims show in almost a year. I can't believe it's been so long. Seems crazy. This is the longest I've been without playing a show, since I started playing shows. The only gig I've played in the last nine months was when Battle of Santiago performed with Stig Larsson at an antique book store, and that was in November. I'm looking forward to getting things going again with Victims, now that we have a new record out.
I'm not sure how the gig is going to be tonight, though we're sure to be a bit rusty. The venue we're playing, Truckstop Alaska, is absolutely great. Last time we played there it was with Regimes, AC4 and We Live in Trenches. It was a fun night. This time around though, the show has been arranged at short notice. Martin At The Gates only asked us a few weeks ago, so that coupled with the fact that it's Valborg tonight (which seems to be a big deal here in Sweden), makes tonight's turn out hard to predict.
Jon calls me at ten to eight. I'm still out with Bonzo. He tells me he's on his way. We have to be at the venue for three pm and besides the other guys in the band, we're picking up Viktor Nitad and Stachel who runs our European label, La Familia. They're two great friends and it's really fun to have them along. I'm always happy to have extra faces in the van, and with Jon's girlfriend Ana driving, we have a good little crew today.
The van journey down to Gothenburg takes around six hours including the compulsory stop for a veggie burger at Max in Jönköping. We'd picked up Stachel from Björn Disfear's place, just outside of Nyköping. Stachel had flown in from Bremen last night to hang out and drink beer with Björn and Markus, who are really into brewing their own beer. It was good to see them and chat for a short while. Things have been pretty fucked up the last few weeks, since Henrik, the Disfear bass player, passed away. I'm sure the three of them had a toast or two in his name last night.
We arrive at the wonderful Truckstop Alaska on Hisingen Island, which Jon informs me is Sweden's third largest, just after three pm. This is one of the few times I've been to Gothenburg and seen the sun shining in the sky. Even though we're in the middle of an industrial estate, baked in the sun, the place right now looks beautiful. I'm looking forward to tonight.
We load in and then hang out for a while in the beer and grill garden they have out back. The guys who run this place should be really proud of what they have created here. They have put a lot of hard work into it. The venue itself is awesome. Really good stage, loads of sofas and lamps spread around the venue, a great selection of beer by the bottle that they keep at very cheap prices and some great food. They have a band apartment in the back with around seven beds, a kitchen and a shower, even a tv and a bunch of DVDs. As soon as you turn up here, you feel welcome. I wish we'd played more places like this with Speedhorn.
Whilst waiting to soundcheck, we hang out in the back garden, sitting on a sofa in the sun, drinking a cold bottle of Oppigård's wonderful Golden Ale. I have barely drunk a drop during the last two months. I took what we call a “white month” in Sweden, but when I got to four weeks, just carried on. No special reason, I just haven't felt like drinking for a while. It does me good to take these periods at least once a year. It's always healthy to have a little inner certification that you can go a month without drinking, not that I drink that much any more anyway... I'm happy to leave the partying for touring. There is nothing worse than being really hungover at home, and these days I get hungover after four beers. I don't even have to be drunk to get hungover any more! I must be getting old...
Whilst waiting around for soundcheck, Johan and I witness something that dampens the mood of this most glorious afternoon. We're sat on the steps that lead from the club down to the grill garden at the back, drinking black coffee. There are a couple of denim vest-wearing hard rocker guys (everybody in Gothenburg looks like they're in Graveyard right now) hanging around in the yard messing around with an air rifle. At first, we just chuckle to ourselves, since it's the perfect picture of the classic hard rock stereotype... dudes with beers, firing guns at shit. We soon notice though, to our horror, that they're firing at a wounded seagull that is flapping around on the ground over by the fence. We wonder what the fuck is going on! We sit there, getting wound up, when one of the guys from the club tells us they'd found the bird with a broken wing, and they were performing the humane necessity. I feel bad for even doubting the guys, I had thought that it seemed weird for people at this place to be acting like cunts. The image of that poor bird makes me pretty sad. Eventually they have to break its neck, since they can't get a shot on it. I hear the bird screaming in panic as they grab it and I have to take a deep breath. What a fucking downer. The guy who had explained to us what was going on, manages to lighten the mood ever so slightly with the comment, “Could this scene look more white trash!?”, and even though we snigger, the mood is a little sombre for a while.
We soundcheck. It sounds good on stage, although we're playing the songs a little too fast. Viktor tells us that it sounds good out front, which is the most important thing. Satisfied, the whole gang heads of for a walk around the area. It's either a bus or a boat journey into the city, which feels like too much of an effort, given the time of day, so we head down to the waterside and sit there in the sun, whilst Jon points out the different landmarks of Gothenburg situated across the water. He lived here as a kid and still feels a big connection with the place. We sit there in the sun for a good hour. It's nice just to change the scene for a little while. It would have been kinda fun to head over on the short ferry to the city centre for a while, but nobody bothers even suggesting it. We're happy just sat there chatting away.
I limit myself to just two more beers before we go on stage at midnight. The coffee continues to flow though. The guys make a really great veggie lasagne that we gratefully tuck in to as well. We sit around at the venue on one of the sofas for the next three hours or so. Viktor is happily letting the beers fly, Andy is sticking to his hard disciplined ways of not touching a drop before we play, although he admits around ten pm. that he's “fucking thirsty!”. Stachel has had a few and in his usual mischievous manner, has decided a sofa wrestle with Viktor is in order. Samsa and Ulf from We Live in Trenches are here hanging out, it's good to see those guys. Jon has gone off exploring his old neighbourhood with his good friend, Robban, who was the guy who did all the poetry stuff on the second Acursed record. Jon had actually brought his bowling ball bag (he's fucking obsessed right now), but a game hadn't panned out. The night is casually flowing along and by about ten pm. people slowly start steadily trickling through the doors.
Miasmal are playing before us tonight, which is Pontus from Martyrdöd's other band. They're pretty good, kind of trashy death metal with elements of crust. The bass player looks like Cliff Burton and plays fast as fuck with his fingers. I spend most of their set watching him, very impressed with his style. The drummer plays the first few songs wearing sunglasses, which looks a bit silly. I'm glad when he takes them off. I enjoy watching Miasmal although I'm starting to feel like my energy is seeping away. More coffee. There are quite a lot of people here now. I head over to Andy who's stood on the other side of the room, and from there I notice for the first time, that the drums don't sound too good. I don't know who's kit it is, and I don't know if it's the kit or the PA, but the drums sound like cardboard boxes. As I'm thinking about this, Andy leans in to my ear and shares the very same concern. We can only hope for better when we play...
With all the coffee that's being flying down my throat, I constantly have to piss. Just as Miasmal finish, I decide that I should go one last time before it's time to play. Nothing worse than being on stage dying for a slash. When I get to the Gents, there is a space between the two guys stood at the urinal. One is a Graveyard type, the other is some drunk idiot I noticed walking around the dance floor doing silly moves whilst Miasmal were playing. He's now stood there pissing, singing full blast with his eyes closed. He has this really weird, squeaky voice. I sigh, unzip and try and squeeze out a piss. I takes a while. In fact, it doesn't seem to be happening. Graveyard is looking at me. The idiot is still singing. Graveyard looks down at my knob and then asks me, “Are you just standing here holding your balls for no reason?”
“Why yes, it appears I am,” I say, “I must have some sort of stage fright.” The idiot is still singing and Graveyard is now grinning at me. Well this is fucking awkward. I wonder why the fuck I didn't go to the toilet in the band apartment. I joke with Graveyard, “I normally hang out in the bogs actually, it's a good way to meet people, since I don't smoke”. This raises a laugh. The piss finally starts coming, although it's nothing more than a dribble. Graveyard walks off laughing, I zip up and wash my hands, leaving the idiot to his merry tune.
We're finally ready to play the show. Our first show since July 2010. All of sudden, I feel a little nervous. There are at least a hundred people in tonight. It's not as many as last time, but under the circumstances, I feel the turn out is pretty good.
Andy starts the drum fill into Death Do Us Part from the new album, and we're on our way. We're actually on our way pretty fucking fast! I'd almost forgotten that there are three tempos to every Victims song. Album tempo. Practice room tempo. Stage tempo. Stage tempo tonight feels very fucking fast! We go straight into Lifetaker and I'm already feeling the burn. I don't know if it's lack of actual gig practice, nerves or what, but it doesn't feel very tight. I guess that was to be expected though, it has been a while. The first gig of any tour is always the same. It takes a few gigs to find your stride, for the tempo of the set to find itself, until everything magically goes on to auto-pilot. That's what makes these one-off shows all the more difficult.
I get the feeling that the sound out front is not the best. I can here it from the stage even. The crowd are enthusiastic enough between songs, but there isn't much movement during them. The set feels long tonight too, and I feel that maybe we're playing too many songs from the new album. This is all stuff that comes to you during the set though. There are certain things you can only measure from gig experience.
The show is by no means shit, but it's not one that will go down in history either. It has more the feeling of a pre-season football match. A couple of things go down with Jon's gear, which takes time to get going again. Simple stuff like a lead cutting out. It all conspires to kill any momentum we're building up though. It's not until we get to about the halfway point of the set, when we play Nowhere In Time, another new one, that things start to feel like they're settling down, at least musically. But it's not long after that song that my body lets me know it's starting to tire. It needs more training, simple as that.
We get to the end of the set, not even entertaining the crowds calls for an encore. I'd snapped a string at the start of the final block, Circles/Scars, which although easily manageable, serves as a good enough excuse for everyone to call it a night. Besides, I don't think encores should be an automatic part of the set. You should go back up and play a couple more if the mood fits, and tonight it didn't.
I'd almost forgotten how fucked up I can feel after a show. I'd followed through with my new rule of not having beer on stage tonight. It's a complete waste of time in every aspect. The trouble is, I'd forgotten to take any water on stage. I'm sitting backstage, flaked out on the sofa, with Samsa and Ulf hanging out, telling me that they thought the show was really good. I can hardly focus on what they're saying for the first few minutes, and my neck feels like jelly, making it difficult for me to hold my head upright. My head eventually comes back to me though, and when it does it's nice to sit there and talk with our friends. As is often the case, people standing in the crowd have a different perspective of the show than the people standing on stage. I'm glad they enjoyed the gig. For me, it felt like hard work.
We chat some more, cool off, and then pack up. Samsa and Ulf have to leave for the night, so we say goodbye to them and then chat amongst ourselves about the gig. We decide we have to cut the set down and most likely a couple of the new songs. It's healthy to sit and dissect the gig afterwards. I'm already looking forward to getting back into the practice room, tweaking a few things, and then getting back on stage in Amsterdam in a couple of weeks time.
When I've finally cooled off and my head feels stable again, I head out to the bar with Johan. Andy is already there with Viktor and Jon, Stachel is floating about somewhere. Andy is now happily getting stuck into a few beers. I exchange one of the tickets I have for a beer of Oppigård's but it doesn't taste as good now as it did this afternoon. I think I'm too fucked to appreciate it. I end up leaving half of it. Stachel decides to start wrestling with Andy, usual Stachel behaviour when he's bored. It's funny watching the little bugger trying to pick Andy up off the floor.
We're getting up at nine in the morning, with the aim of leaving for ten. I'm working tomorrow night. The gear is packed down, but still on stage. I look at the clock and it reads three am. Johan and I decide to head back to the apartment and get some sleep. Today has been a long day. We leave Andy, Viktor and Jon at the bar who are happily getting stuck into their beer. They look chuffed.
The camping bed in the apartment doesn't look like much cop, but at that moment it feels like the most comfortable bed I've ever lay in. My body aches. The gig took a lot out of me. I give a lot to each show and my body certainly pays more for it now than it used to. I think after a few shows I'll start building up a resistance again.
When I wake the next day to the sound of my alarm, my neck is fucking killing. We all eventually stir, one by one. I ask Viktor what time they went to bed, he mumbles something about six am. Andy rolls over, looking pretty fucking tired. He asks me the time. When I tell him it's nine thirty, he moans that he thought we were leaving at nine. Brilliant. The ambitious bastard only went to bed three hours ago. He lies in bed grumbling about that whilst I sit there wondering why he didn't set his alarm.
After a quick shower we load the van, down some strong, black coffee and then we're actually on our way by ten. Ana at the wheel again. She's driven this whole trip and sold merch for us. She's a really great girl, always willing to help out. The journey home is considerably quieter than the journey here. I sleep long sections of the six hour journey home. Every time I wake I tell myself that I really should be getting on with school work. I've only got three weeks left and with a trip to Barcelona next weekend with my family, followed by a weekend of gigs with Victims the week after, I don't have much time left to get my assignments completed. I just can't keep my eyes open though. I'll have to crack down during the week and get some work done.
We get back to the Bunker at around four pm. Johan drops me off at home when we're done loading out.. Before I go to work, I'm going to need a bath and a cup of tea or two...