Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wermelskirchen

I wake up shivering. It's seven-thirty am. I look over at Micha who is fast asleep on the mattress next to mine. Where am I? Why am I so fucking cold? It takes a few seconds for the groggy haze to lift before I remember where I am. I'm at Ronald's place. I'm lying in just a t-shirt and boxer shorts and all I have for a cover is a small hand towel. No matter how I pull at it, try and arrange it in to some sort of position, I can't get it to cover my legs and bring me warmth...

I wake up shivering. It's eight-fifteen am. I look over at Micha who is fast asleep on the mattress next to mine. Where am I? Why am I so fucking cold?....

This happens at least another three times.

Eventually I awake dying for a piss and thus, after much deliberation, I slumber off in search of a toilet. My head is thumping again. I'm still fucking freezing. I make my way downstairs in search of both somewhere to piss and something to use as a cover. My decision against bringing a sleeping bag with me for this trip now something of great regret to me. With all my experience of touring I can't believe how stupid I've been. That doesn't matter right now though. I need to piss so much that my stomach hurts.

The guys are spread about Ronald's living room, fast asleep the lot of them. I step over a few bodies and reach the asylum of the toilet, making sure I avoid the mirror as I relieve my self. Christ, my mouth is as dry as a nun's fadge. Still, after pissing I feel about a stone lighter. Relief. I head back upstairs and back to the mattress and the hand towel.

I wake up shivering...

It's only when I'm awoken by Micha getting up for a shower around ten am. that the idea hits me. I see my jeans lying on the floor beside me. Ahhhh...warm legs at last. I sleep for another half an hour and then it's time to get up. I head for the shower. As the warm water hits me and my head begins to clear, the headache now subsided, I wonder if all that fighting with the hand towel had actually happened, or if it was just a drunken dream...

After some breakfast at Ronald's place and everyone is showered, except Jon who declines, we are back in the van. I'm starting to think these weekend trips are the way to go. Or more to the point, Stachel's planning is the way forward. When Stachel books a show with a promoter, he doesn't ask them what time we have to be at the venue, he asks them what the latest possible time we can arrive will be. Very smart. That way we avoid hanging around at a venue doing nothing for hours on end, and thus wasting a perfectly good day. If you ask a venue what time you need to be there, they'll inevitable tell you to be there at three pm. or something equally unnecessary. If that happens, nine times out of ten you'll be waiting outside the venue before the sound guy even turns up. Thanks to Stachel's meticulous planning, today would be no such occasion. Today would be the perfect day on tour...

The drive from Ronald's place, just outside of Amsterdam, to Wermelskirchen is somewhere between two and three hours. In tour terms, nothing at all. A breeze. We decided we would travel to Amersfoort and visit an old friend of the guys, Jos, who plays in the band Seein' Red as well as many others. I'd never met Jos before but I was looking forward to doing so.

Unfortunately, a couple of days ago we'd heard some very sad news concerning Jos. Nobody seems to be quite sure why or how, but he'd lost a large part of his hearing. Whether it was an infection or playing loud music for so many years, his ear drums had burst, leaving him with only twenty percent left in his right ear and as yet, an undetermined amount in his left, pending examination. Really tragic news.
We arrived at Jos's place around one thirty pm. The first thing that struck me was what a giant of a man he is. He's as big as a bear. The second thing that struck me was what an absolute gentleman he is. We sat around at his place drinking superb black coffee and talking with him about what had happened. Despite the circumstances, he seemed in good spirits. His ability to hear what we were talking about, even with my mumbling accent, was surprisingly good. Jos is one of those people deeply embedded in the scene. One of those people everybody knows. We talk about what's going on in the community right now, old friends, old records, what's happening in Japan and friends that are over there, everything. He tells us that he's waiting on finding out how damaged his left ear is and the possibility of performing an operation to mend his hearing. Best case scenario, he can play music again in a few months time. Worst case scenario doesn't even bear thinking about.

We spend a couple of hours at Jos's place, just catching up and shooting the breeze. He has a really nice house and an even nicer record collection. There must be at least a few thousand on the shelves. There is nothing more fun than viewing someone else's collection.

As we sit there talking, somehow the topic of Stachel's fear of sharks comes into conversation. At first I don't really catch what he's saying. I mean, isn't everyone kind of scared of sharks? Everyone should be at least. It soon becomes apparent though that Stachel's fear is on a whole other level.

He tells us that watching Jaws as a nine year old had really put the shits up him. It was so bad that after seeing the film that one time, even though he was only in the local swimming baths, when another kid had joked that there was a shark in the water, he'd swam out of the pool, fast as fuck, shitting himself. We all burst out laughing at this. He explains that in Jaws 3 the shark had gotten into the pool somehow, so in his nine year old mind, a shark being in his local swimming baths was perfectly plausible. Again, we burst out laughing. He tells us that this fear has now developed into a general fear of swimming in murky water, be it lake or ocean. At one point he actually says the following: “I don't like it when I'm swimming in water and I can't see what beneath my feet. It could be sharks or whales or submarines, I don't know. Scary shit!” Now we're really fucking pissing ourselves! The thought of Stachel paddling around in the water worried about a submarine creeping up on him is a quite brilliant image...

When we're all done laughing at our good friend, we decide to take a walk around the town of Amersfoort with Jos as our guide, a trip to the local micro-brewery being top of the agenda. Now this truly beats hanging around at a venue all day.

Amersfoort is a beautiful old city encased by ancient parameter walls. It reminds me a little of York. Jos takes us to this little brewery situated next to the river, which is a working micro-brewery and bar in one. Between the lot of us, we sample all they have to offer. The beer is superb. After a glass of Bock which is 5,9% and another beer named Triple, which weighs in at 6,8%, I'm feeling that warm, cosy afternoon hit. We all are. I buy a few bottles of the Triple to take home. I certainly won't be needing any more this afternoon.

We walk around the ancient town with Jos as our guide, all pleasantly toasted. It's a good thing we're not playing for another eight hours or so. Before we leave for Wermelskirchen, Jos introduces us to one of Amersfoort's proudest delicacies. Hand cut chips with spicy peanut butter sauce. There is a great little shop which exclusively sells these chips, with an assortment of different sauces. Although there is quite a choice, I'm totally sold on the spicy peanut butter. As strange as it sounds, it's absolutely wonderful.

After thanking Jos for a great afternoon, we drive the rest of the way to Wermelskirchen. We get there just in time to load in and sound-check. The couple of hours in the van being enough time to let the effects of Amersfoort's beer wear off. The guy who does sound at the venue tonight, Frank Bolz, is another good friend of Stachel's. He does the mastering for all of the records Stachel puts out on his label, as well as recording a lot of bands himself. He's very serious about his job and he's very fucking good at it. The sound we get on stage is one of the best I've ever played with. It's very rare that sound-checking is this enjoyable.

The venue itself is a great place, with great people running it. It reminds me a little of Truckstop Alaska. The room where the stage is at is just the right size, it can probably hold about one hundred and fifty people. The stage is about five feet high and has plenty of room on it to make a show of yourself. The room next door is where the bar is at and on the back side of that is a garden area where there are sofas and tables and a food bar where they are grilling some amazing looking vegan burgers. Above the venue is a band apartment where there are beds for everyone and a kitchen and dining room. The two people running the place are called Daniel and Ellen, two of the friendliest people you could wish to meet. As is often the case when out on tour with Victims, I find myself wondering why we couldn't have played more places like this with Speedhorn.

There are plenty of people at the show tonight and a really good band supporting us called Patsy O'Hara, who are kind of German screamo style mixed with some d-beat and instrumental parts that remind me of Fall of Efrafa in their quieter moments. They are really nice guys too and I enjoy watching their show, all the while getting pumped up to play after them.

In keeping with the smooth flowing operation that today has been, we're on stage by eleven-twenty. I'm buzzing as the room starts to fill up with people filtering in from the bar and garden area as we let the feedback ring. It sounds amazing. I'm ready.

Tonight's show falls into a category of show I've played down the years. The room is pretty full, the energy on-stage is buzzing, we play really hard and despite the heat don't ever feel like tiring. It's that magical third gig. After warming up with a couple of shows it's now back at the level where you can bounce your guitar of the wall mid riff, catch it and still land on the right note. It's a truly great feeling. I feel like we're killing this show tonight. The crowd on the other hand is another matter. It's one of those that even though they're not kicking off and going crazy, somehow you still feel a really good energy from them, which is confirmed with the generous applause and shouting between song blocks. When we leave the stage at the end of the set, the calling for an encore is in full unified voice. We go back out and play Circles and Scars, no discussion this time.

At the end of the set proper, we thank the crowd and crawl off to the corridor at the side of the stage. Frank seems to take an age putting the disco music back on, apparently wanting more from us himself. As we sit there waiting for the music to come on the crowd continues to chant for us to come back on. One voice, pleading it's way through the drone particularly cracking me up. - One more sooooong! And then a few moments later... - Pleeease! And then... - Halllo! Brilliant stuff.

Frank eventually comes into us and asks us if we're done. We are. He nods and heads back to the sound desk and puts some music on. We sit around chilling out and discussing the show. We're all really satisfied, although Jon says he had some boring looking bird stood in front of him looking like she was falling asleep during the entire show. Haha, why do some people bother? It turns out she was there with her boyfriend, who was enjoying the show somewhat more.

I'm not sure but I think Jon was playing the show in a t-shirt tonight...I know this is nothing out of the ordinary for most people but Jon has been going bare-top ever since I joined the band, in itself stemming back to when he saw High on Fire, and in particular Matt Pike, one of his idols, playing without a top on. This is the theory according to Andy and Johan at least. I ask Jon if he had indeed played in his t-shirt tonight, to which he replies shaking his head, “Yeah. I saw a picture of myself on-stage a while ago...You can't go up there with tits for fuck sakes!” I love the self-distance Jon has from himself.

When we're packed down on stage, leaving the gear there for the night, we chill out upstairs with the guys from Patsy O'Hara and a couple of bottles of local beer. It's not Amersfoort Triple, but it will do.  Jon's friend Luc is also hanging out with us.  He's got a pretty cool Victims tattoo on his leg.  We talk with him about the possibility of playing his festival, Bloodshed, later on in the year.  I hope that is something we can work out.  After a while we head downstairs to the bar area where we hang out with Stachel and Micha and Andy and I slowly go about dissecting their distros. I pick up around twelve records, as well as Yaphet Kotto lp from another distro the Patsy guys have.

We spend a couple of very enjoyable hours drinking beer, telling stories and hanging out with Daniel and Ellen, who's birthday it is today. Jon hangs out by the fuss-ball table with a big smile on his face, watching some German punk kids play a game. He's at the point where his brain is disconnected and he's barking Swedish at nobody in particular.

This has truly been the perfect day on tour. I feel a little tipsy when we head to bed, although far from steaming. Just good. Me and Jon have been laughing about this English actor named Danny Dyer, who did a documentary series about football hooliganism called The Real Football Factories a while back. He's this really over the top cockney actor, who in truth, can't act for shit. The documentary series was great though. Well, really funny anyway, full of stupid people. It was actually Viktor from Nitad who had started going on about it on the Gothenburg trip a couple of weeks ago. Jon has been obsessed ever since.

We go to bed in the dormitory we're sharing, me and Jon laughing about that. A few muffled giggles soon turn into a wave of hysteria. It's fucking weird. It's like being back in school. Andy, Johan and Stachel are lying in bed sleeping and every time I hear Jon start laughing I burst into a fit of my own. At one point I'm lying on my stomach with my face in the pillow in order to stifle the laughter. Absolutely ridiculous. This goes on for about fifteen minutes.

When I fall asleep tonight it's not with a headache, it's my stomach that hurts.

4 comments:

  1. Oi Gery
    The sharks in the pool was a James Bond movie you idiot. And the bottom of our pool in school was adjustable so there definitely was enough space underneath for sharks ;-) By the way i am over it and even swim in open sea sometimes, if there are no sharks in sight!
    Fuck Off - I love you Gery

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  2. Haha! Yes sorry, it was Bond. Must be Thunderball of course. I remember now... Still don't get the submarine thing though...

    I love you too buddy.

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  3. Whatever you said sounded Swedish to me anyways!

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  4. Haha ok! Thank you for a very pleasant afternoon Jos! The chips and peanut butter thing has changed my life just a little...

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