I was awoken by the alarm on my phone playing Wheel in the Sky by Journey. I'm getting pretty fucking sick of that song now. I've had it as my alarm for the last couple of years, it's time for a change. Anyway, when the alarm went off Johan and Pia's dog, Sigge, a very cute little chihuahua, came running through and jumped on my chest. I lay there for a couple of minutes enjoying the massage from Sigge's little paws before getting up and into the shower. After a coffee and some knäckebröd Johan and I left for the tube and off to Central Station to meet up with Andy and Jon.
We're playing Groningen tonight. To get there we're flying down to Hamburg via Copenhagen, which is actually a pain in the arse since it's two flights that are about an hour each and a direct flight from Stockholm to Hamburg is only an hour itself. Of course it's cheaper taking an in-direct flight and that's what we have to do, since the money we're making from these shows is going towards the flights for the US tour in August. Anyway, when we get to Hamburg Stachel and Micha are picking us up in the van and we're driving to Groningen and the infamous Crowbar pub, which is run by Esta from the band Fleas and Lice, to play what should be a really fun show.
We get to Hamburg airport and have a couple of hours to kill since Stachel had to work late today and he can't make it to the airport until three pm. Last time we were here, when we were going home from the Bremen show, we'd settled from some pretty shit airport pizza, that had so much grease on it you had to tip the pizza up to pour off the oil. As we sat there disappointed with our meal we spotted a sign advertising a sushi bar. And this time we would settle for nothing less.
The sushi was expensive, I worked it out as costing four lp's from Micha's distro, but it was worth it nonetheless. We sat there for a while, drinking green tea and chatting. By now I was feeling really tired. Last night's lack of sleep catching up with me. I felt tired in the way that you almost feel drun. I had a pain in my back too since yesterday at work was delivery day, which means lugging heavy kegs of beer around. Still, the green tea was helping my mood.
As we sat there at the sushi bar, which was just opposite the arrivals door, a young girl came running down the stairs towards a group of other young girls who were there to greet her. The group were waving both German and American flags, suggesting the girl who was running towards them with her arms out, tears running down her face as she was almost screaming with joy, had been away on an exchange program. When she reached the group she took the whole lot of them into her arms for one huge hug, before tending to them all individually, the screaming only barely dampening down into a long, squeaking sound. This scene of joy lasted for the best part of ten minutes. I found it quite heart rendering to see that sort of joy on other people's faces. Airport and train stations can indeed be both the happiest and saddest of places...
After having moved on to another airport café for some coffee, Stachel and Micha arrived for us in the van. Really great of them to have packed the van and have everything ready. We were on our way to Groningen, which is about a four hour drive.
A little way down the road I picked up the book I'm reading at the moment, The Story of Crass, but I barely got through a paragraph before my eye lids started sagging and I dozed off for an hour or so. It felt nice to get just a little sleep, even if it wasn't the most comfortable of rests. When I awake I'm feeling the better for it anyway and we spend the next hour packing records for the coming weekend. The four of in the back of the van, working in factory style, wrapping the limited editions of the A Dissident album that Stachel has pressed up for these European summer shows. They look really nice with a brown paper wrap around over the cover, which has the new version of the Victims logo that Richey designed for the album. Stachel has done a nice job on them. Packing your new lp with your band mates is a great way to pass time in the van.
We get set up and are treated to some vegan lasagne and spinach pastry pie, which we nosh down in the small back room behind the bar. It's not the tastiest meal I've ever eaten but with some cayenne pepper on top it more than fulfils it's purpose. And I'm always grateful for food.
After dinner we sit around drinking a beer next to our merch table. We're not really talking that much, just kind of starting off into space. It's been a long day for everyone. I'm gonna need to get some energy from somewhere before we play tonight. I decide to take it in the form of more beer. That first Grolsch didn't really do it for me, but as that's all we're getting for our beer tokens right now, I decide to throw back the second Grolsch in an attempt to kick start my system. I drink my way through the bottle in no time and it actually does the trick. I'm feeling better.
Sandcreek Massacre go on stage and I head down front to watch them with a third and final beer before we play. I'm now starting to feel good. I enjoy watching the band. They're a guy and girl on guitar, the two of them growling and screaming respectively, a guy on bass who also does the occasional grunting and a drummer who is hitting the shit out of our rented drum kit. They play a sludgy kind of d-beat, reminding me at times of Kylesa, although that might be more to do with the fact the girl playing guitar and screaming in a similar style to Laura. Anyway, they're good and after their show I arrange to swap a seven inch with them. A really nice bunch of guys.
After that I'm ready to play.
We get our shit together and everything is sounding good. Nice to be playing my Telecaster again. Jon has arranged with Sandcreek to loan a guitar from them as back-up, which I have a strange feeling I'm going to need tonight. Jon seems to be having trouble with his tuner pedal so while he deals with that I tune up the spare guitar, which is a jagged, metal looking type of guitar, something like a BC Rich Expolrer, but not. The strings are all wound up different from each other, half of them seem to be on backwards, so with the three beers I've drank and the lack of sleep from last night, it takes me a while to get my head around tuning the thing up. We finally get everything sorted though and we kick into VIB #5. The small place is now pretty full and the atmosphere is really good. It's also pretty fucking hot on stage.
We're playing tight and controlled but by the time we get to the end of the second block I'm already feeling the burn. I guzzle water down between blocks but I sense that I'm not feeling totally right. Still, Stachel is down the front enjoying himself, as are the guys from Sandcreek Massacre, and beyond that lot are a load of other Groningen punks and everyone seems to be into it. It sounds good up on stage too. It's hard work but it's a really enjoyable gig. There must be around sixty to seventy people in the place which is enough to make it look pretty packed. Good first show for the weekend.
Despite the exhaustion creeping into my system I'm really enjoying playing. And then just as we get to the break in This is the End, my bottom string goes. Pretty good timing if you're going to break a string though. I quickly whip off my guitar and grab the Metal guitar. I hadn't really noticed before when I was trying to tune it, but the strap is set pretty high and as I play out the rest of the song, coming back in just exactly in time for the last chorus of the song, I realise I must look like Dave fucking Mustaine! I can't help but crack up. The funny thing is, as soon as I put the guitar on, the young guys in Sandcreek all run at me cheering and bowing in front of me as I play their guitar. They all look really chuffed.
I get through the rest of the set without breaking another string. By the time we're done with Your Life is Red, I'm off stage and into the marginally cooler corridor behind the stage to gasp for some air. I really don't feel that great now. I stand there guzzling water as fast as I can feeling dizzy. The rest of the guys come back and I'm happy to hear Andy is thinking along the same lines as me, as in fuck playing another couple of songs! Before we really get around to talking about it though, Johan and Jon are heading back to the stage to appease the crowd and their calls for more songs. Fuck. I follow behind, glad at least the Circles and Scars are only about a minute each. I think I can get through that.
Before we kick in to the two encores I manage to readjust the strap on the Mustaine guitar making it much easier to play. We blast through the two songs, finding the energy from fuck knows where. When Scars comes to an end I grab the bottle of water, turn my amp on to stand by and head for the exit again, politely telling someone to fuck off when they shout for another song. This time I'm not coming back. I run out of the back door and into the side alley beside the venue. It's absolutely pissing down outside. It feels fucking wonderful. I throw up the lasagne all over the pavement...
I stand in the pouring rain for about five minutes, thanking the heavens for their kind blessing. By the time I head back into the club I'm so wet it feels like I've stood in a shower. I don't feel one hundred percent right, but after throwing up I do at least feel a lot better. I guess it must have been a mixture of the heat in the club and the lack of sleep. And probably the throwing myself around on stage like a twat. By the time we've packed our gear down I really do feel a lot better. There is a girl who has been taking photos during the gig who now wants to take a band shot of us in front of the stage. She wants us to give the big shout on the count of three, so you know, we look all metal and stuff. God how I can't be fucked with this right now. I feel like a right twat stood there in front of the crowd. We try it once and the girl tells us it was really lame, that we have to shout louder. She's a nice girl and all but come on...I want to get the fuck away. One more attempt, we all shout a bit louder on the count of three and the girl is happy. She shows us the photo, I look like a right berk as usual. We thank her and then I head for the bar...
After a while Andy comes over to us with a big glass of Weiss beer in his hand. It seems that we're now allowed to drink whatever we want from the bar, such is the good atmosphere in the place. I guess that people from the venue are happy with the show.
At some point during the night a guy starts talking to Johan telling him he's a big fan of the band. He says that he'd never seen us before and that we didn't look like he'd imagined. I guess he thought we'd all have dreadlocks or something. I guess the only person who actually looks like he belongs in a crust d-beat band is Jon. Maybe...
When we get back we hang out in Pelle's living room drinking cider. I really don't need it by this point. I know that, but it goes down all the same. Pelle is explaining something about the sleeping arrangements but I'm not really taking it in. He says there are rooms upstairs and we can sleep there. He says to Johan not to sleep on the floor by the computer since he will be walking back and forward there. The computer is in the corner of the room so I figure he means he'll be up in the morning working at the computer desk. Johan heads upstairs with his sleeping bag. I decide that the fold out sofa I'm lying on in the living room will do just fine. After half-assedly brushing my teeth, I tuck up into the sleeping bag Stachel has lent me and close my eyes. Pelle has some loud crust punk on the stereo, and he and Jon are sat at the table drinking, immersed in loud, nonsensical conversation, but it's not enough to disturb me.
This long day is finally coming to an end.