Why the fuck is the music so loud? What is that, a Kate Nash song? Lilly Allen? I don't know what it is but it's fucking loud and it's doing my head in! I open my eyes. Broad daylight fills Pelle's living room, Stachel is asleep on the sofa beside me, or at least, his eyes are closed. I'd be amazed if he's sleeping. I put the pillow over my head and try to drown it all out.
I lie there in for another song or two before realising that I need a piss. I struggle up to my feet and make my way to the stairwell towards the toilet, checking the time as I go. It's seven am. Jon and Pelle are sat at the dining table, drinking beer and talking. Jon looks like he's in quite a state.
After taking a piss I head back downstairs to the sofa bed, put the pillow back over my head and try to regain the ignorant bliss of sleep. It's not happening. Another couple of songs go by before that stupid song by Shaggy comes on the stereo, Mr. Bombastic, or whatever the fuck it's called. That's fucking enough! I can't take any more of this shite. I get up again and walk over to the table where Jon and Pelle are sat drinking. Pelle tells me that he doesn't understand why I'm not sleeping in one of the bedrooms upstairs. I don't really know what the fuck he’s talking about. He tells me there is a bed upstairs with nobody sleeping in it and I'm more than welcome to it. Ok, thanks, I will take that offer gladly. As I leave the living room, Pelle explains to me that he's having a very interesting and intense conversation with Jon. - “I bet you fucking are!” I tell him as I head upstairs.
I get up to the bedroom and there is indeed an empty bed waiting for me. For some reason, Andy is stretched out on the floor beside the bed. It's all very confusing. I lay down in the bed and breathe a sigh of relief. Within minutes Stachel has joined me. He grumbles something and goes to sleep.
I wake up a few hours later, and apart from a slight headache, feel pretty good. My alarm goes off just as I'm stirring, Journey as usual heralding the new day. After only a few seconds Stachel starts moaning at me to turn it off. This is all the encouragement I need. I sit beside him on the bed playing air drums to the song and singing along to the words. I finally turn the song off but then sit there talking to Stachel for the next ten minutes, trying to get a rise out of him. It's easy enough. He continously tells me to fuck off.
After a shower, an Ipren and a antihistamine I feel ready for the day. I head back downstairs. Jon is passed out on the sofa previously occupied by Stachel. I head to the kitchen in search of coffee and am surprised to find Pelle there, still awake. - Do you ever sleep? He tells me he got his head down for an hour. Amazingly, he looks no worse for wear. He's still wearing the impish little grin that he's had on his face since I first met him. He insists on making me a cup of tea and giving me some oat cookies to eat, since I'm an Englishman. Who I am to argue? The Earl Grey goes down a treat.
Within the space of ten minutes, Jon rises from the sofa looking like he's been pulled through a hedge backwards, sits down at the table, smokes a cig, has a clunk of beer from an open bottle left on the kitchen table and then heads back to the sofa and passes out again.
Pelle then kicks the stereo back on and starts a relentless barrage of various punk and crust songs. After about five minutes, Jon, now hidden under a blanket of quilts on the sofa, shouts aloud “I fucking hate hardcore punk!” This is followed by a series of other randomly spaced exclamations. I guess he's not feeling too clever...
Michel, the promoter from last night's show, turns up around eleven- forty five with some breakfast for everyone. We hang out for a while, eating and drinking some pretty foul instant coffee before heading back to the venue to load out the gear. When we get there and start packing out, we soon realise that the jeans Johan had on during the show last night, that he'd left hanging on his amp to dry off with the promise that they would be safe, are gone. We pack out everything whilst searching for the missing jeans. They're nowhere to be seen. Fucking weird. Of all the stuff on stage that the punk piece of shit could have stolen, why take a pair of sweat sodden jeans? The real bastard for Johan is that he had his specialised ear-plugs in one of the pockets. Michel feels understandably bad about the situation. Not that it's his fault. I'm just happy that they didn't take a pedal, or worse, an instrument.
Not the best start to the day. Stachel is pretty pissed off about everything this morning it seems. He's in a real grumpy mood. Lack of sleep and hungover probably the reason being. Not to mind though, he has plans for today before we head off to Hamburg. He's been told about a micro brewery that is in town somewhere and we're going to pay it a visit. Michel has given him the address and with that we head off. I like that Stachel always plans some extra tour-curricular activities for us.
Unfortunately it seems that there is construction throughout the entire city of Groningen, so the GPS is being outwitted at every turn. After the fourth or fifth attempted route we think we've finally cracked it, only to be confronted by a closed road bridge. We decide to get out and walk, since the brewery is supposedly close, and some fresh air wouldn't do anyone any harm.
We spend the best part of the next hour walking through an industry estate that is under construction. We finally find the address that has been given to us by Michel. Nothing. Just warehouses and units. There are a couple of old boys driving forklift trucks around. Stachel stops them to ask about this mystery fucking brewery. They look at him confused, although they kindly offer to go in to their office and check it out on the internet. We wait around for a few minutes before one of the old boys comes out laughing, telling us that there is no brewery anywhere near here. Never has been. Great. We head back to the van. Waste of fucking time.
The drive to Hamburg takes about four hours. It's raining and dull and Stachel seems to be in an even worse mood now. He doesn't like it when his plans don't pan out. It's not like we really care, he's more bothered about it than we are. The failed brewery expedition just offers up a good chance to take the piss, but he's not taking it too well. We leave him be, sat up front in the navigator seat, feeding his fish on his aquarium app on his Iphone (no shit!) in silence.
I sleep in fits and starts during the journey and by the time we get to the wonderful Haffenklang in Hamburg I'm feeling pretty good. This venue has to be one of my favourite places to play in Europe. The atmosphere is always really good, there's always a good party afterwards and the place has it's own band apartment. And most importantly, the people here are fantastic. Daniel, the promoter, is one of the scenes real good guys and it's always a pleasure to meet him.
We load in the gear and say hello to the other bands, who tonight are Gust, a young band from Sweden and a metallic hardcore band from Dortmund called Remember. They're out playing some shows together in Germany. They seem like nice group of chaps. We decide that Gust can sound-check and we'll just have a line check before we play. The sound-girl here always does a great job so it's no worries. Perfect. Dinner time. Today it's a vegetarian curry with soya meat. It's spot on.
We spend the next couple of hours hanging out, drinking a couple of beers, hanging both inside the club and outside. The venue is right next to the docks and there is a square across the road on the water-front where you can sit and have a drink. Some other punks are hanging out there. Whilst hanging out in the venue I'm inevitably drawn to Micha’s distro. If there is a table with boxes of lp's on it in front of me then I will end up flicking through them, out of habit as much as anything else. Nothing like browsing through a box of records. I pick out a few for purchase, a Ripcord and a Lärm record amongst others.
Besides looking through Micha's distro, I help Jon start his own blog. I was telling him about a funny email interview Jay Speedhorn did once, where when asked the question, “Which band are you currently listening to the most?”, he had written, “Not your band, baby!” Jon thought this was absolutely wonderful and told me that that would be the perfect name for the blog he was considering starting, a blog which would be solely based on explaining the wrongs of every band out there today.
By the time Gust go on stage the place is filling out. They play a good set, kind of old school hardcore. Jon seems chuffed, especially when they do a cover of Strife's song, Overthrow. I don't know if Jon is getting drunk again but he seems to be in that special mood of his. I stand in the crowd with him and Andy watching Gust and Jon is chuffed as fuck with the Strife cover. And then at some point between songs, he shouts at the stage, enquiring of the boys in Gust if they've cracked open a can of deodorant. The singer in the band looks at Jon confused, as do Andy and I. Jon then proceeds to start sniffing the girl in front of him. Time to get the man some water.
I watch the Remember set from the back of the room. The place is by now pretty full and the sound from stage is big. Remember play a solid show with a lot of energy. They play metallic hardcore and do it well and dersvedly get a good reaction from the crowd.
By the time we get up on stage it's around eleven pm. I'm once again feeling a bit jaded and in need of some energy from somewhere. It takes a while to line-check and I'm not feeling my normal self. Something tells me this gig is going to be a bit of a shift.
After about ten minutes of line-checking in front of a full room, we kick into the set. I can feel it straight away. The energy isn't there tonight, I'm going to have to work at this. The first block doesn't really kick off. Whereas normally we go straight from VIB #5 into Rewind and Forward, tonight there is a pause because we have to get some more guitar into Andy's drum monitor. We do get through the first block but I can tell Andy is struggling to hear. The second block continues in the same vain. There are a couple of dropped sticks and then Andy goes into the wrong drum fill half way through Lifetaker. It's nothing major and we recover it. It's one of those things that the we probabl notice more than the crowd. In fact, the crowd seem to be having a good time. Maybe this is going to be one of those gigs that is more about the public than the performance. I've had plenty of them over the years...
I can feel myself that I'm not playing as tight as I can do. There are some missed notes here and there where I'm just landing wrong on the guitar. I think I'm most likely over-compensating with trying to put too much energy into the performance, instead of worrying about hitting the right notes. When we get to the third block, where normally we go straight from VIB #6 into This is the End, I end up standing on the power socket that my pedals are connected to and in doing so pulling the power on my sound. It takes me a few seconds to work out what is going on before we get going again. Fuck! The momentum is refusing to build it seems...
Thankfully after that, the set finally gets going. Nowhere in Time is really solid and from there on in I start playing like I should. The rest of the set feels good and the crowd continue to voice their approval. By the time we get to the end of the set, Andy tells us that he wants to just go straight into Circles and Scars, instead of doing the normal going off stage and coming back on routine. We do just that and we end the set with a strong climax. We head off to the toilet area beside the stage to cool off. I don't think we should play another song. After a while Stachel comes back to us and tells us to get back up there. He seems to be in a far better mood now that he's had a few drinks. We head back to the stage and it feels to me like we've left it a bit late, that the crowd is sagging, but to my surprise, when we kick into We Are Dead, the crowd kicks off and there are even some people up on stage diving into the crowd. It turns out to be a really strong end to the show.
We remain on stage after the song is done and start to pack down. Overall the show feels like a success, although we had to work for it. I can see there are plenty of people over by the merch table buying shirts and records, so I guess we did a good job. After packing down we head over to Micha and Stachel and hang out for a while. A couple come over to us and ask us if we'll sign records. I tell them that of course we will. They take some photos with us too. We hang out talking for a while, they seem like a really nice couple.
Later on, Jon tells me he thinks they're are getting around to suggesting a three-way to him, which is an image I do not wish to have in my head. Although I'm not sure if he's all that far wide of the mark, the way they seem to be looking in his direction. Saucy buggers.
After hanging out at the club, drinking our way through the beer tickets we have, Johan and I trading in two each for a very strong Jim Beam and Coke, something I very rarely drink, we head off to another bar with the other bands. I'm starting to feel tipsy again.
We end up in a place called the Cobra Bar, although Stachel first takes me to a bar called Uncle Otto's. He wants to show me the place, since he used to hang here a lot when he lived in Hamburg. It's pretty dead though and we don't stay for a drink. When we get to the Cobra Bar which is right next to the Reeperbahn, it's packed out. The rest of the boys are there, as are some of the guys from Gust and our old friend Litty, who we always seem to bump into somewhere along the way when we're on the road in Germany. The bartender is a friend of Stachel's of course, he really does know people everywhere, and he tells me that we all get the first beer for free. Chuffed, I order a Staropramen. It doesn't go down all that well though and I have to concede I won't be able to handle that many more.
Stachel is drunk by now and it seems that as usual he's in the wrestling mood. The place is packed and the music is loud. There is an incident with Johan and Stachel and one of the guys from Gust, at least I think. It's all a bit hazy.. I'm not really sure what happens, but one minute Stachel has the guy from Gust's leg in some sort of hold, and the next minute Johan has pushed Stachel really hard into some people behind him. It's quite a fucking push and I'm not sure it's all that playful. Johan seems pretty drunk too. They seem to work it out, whatever it is, or at least I think they do. I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of that in the light of day tomorrow. Stachel looks a bit sad though. I think it's getting to the point where everyone is getting a bit boats. I know that this second bottle of Staro will be my last. We drink up and head out of the club in search of some falafel. Stachel is leading the way and he's drunk and grumpy again. The rest of us are laughing about the leg incident although Stachel doesn't seem to think it's so funny.
We stop at a vegan falafel place on the way back to the band apartment, drunkenly nosh down some food, Stachel saying something about refusing to come in, although when Andy asks him if he wants some food, he tells Andy that yes he'll have something to eat. When Andy asks him what he wants him to order, he just drunkenly grunts that he wants “something”. We just laugh and order him some falafel. Drunk, grumpy Stachel is quite entertaining.
The food, at this late, drunken hour tastes fucking great. That taken care of, we continue down the road, laughing again about how Stachel flew when Johan pushed him. Stachel is up ahead ignoring us.
By the time we make it back to the apartment, we all stand in line in the hallway, waiting to brush our teeth. That done, I crawl into the double bunk I'm sharing with Stachel. I'm using the rolled up sleeping bag he has lent me as a pillow, but then then he refuses to share the quilt with me. My final foggy memories are the two us drunkenly pulling the quilt back and forth and Johan snoring like a fucking elephant in the bunk above us. He's sharing that bunk with Micha, who at the moment is going through a non-drinking period and had not been in attendance at the bar with us...I'm sure he's chuffed.
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