The six hour drive in the van didn't feel too bad to be honest. We have longer drives ahead over the next few days, so we may as well get used to it anyhow. Asheville is set pretty high in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the climb up to the city along the highway offered some beautiful scenery. We arrived at Jason, the promoter's house around six thirty pm. We hung out there for a while on his front porch, drinking PBR and watching the sun go down. Jason, a really good guy that the rest of the band have met on previous tours, made us all an incredible pot of vegan curry. As usual, the hospitality of friends on the road blew me away. There were another couple of guys there, friends of Jason's, who were practising downstairs in the basement. Seems like most people we meet out here have bands practising in their basements. At Matt's place, as well as his band Parasytic rehearsing there, both Vulture and Direct Control used the space too. That simply would not be able to happen in Stockholm..
We drove down to the venue around nine, Asheville being a late town apparently. When we arrived the first thing we saw was a marquee with Victims Tonight on it. It's not every day on tour you see that. We stood in front whilst Matt took band photos, of course. When we'd jumped out of the van in front of the club, we got to small talking with a lady who was stood there with her young infant daughter for a couple of minutes. Before they left the cute little girl gave Jon a hug around the waist. It really touched Jon. He had tears welling up in his eyes for a moment there.
The venue itself was a great little bar with a floor space and a low stage off to the corner. There was a small beer garden out back, where Jon and I retreated to with a pint. I had a good feeling about the night ahead as we sat there in the warm night air, watching a steady stream of people paying in to the club.
We'd been sitting there a while when a scruffy looking guy in a top hot approaches the guy working the door, who is sat at a small table with an old lamp on it in front of the entrance. I hear Top Hat asking something about getting hooked up with some power for a couple of spot lamps, whilst also mentioning something about a side show... As I'm wondering who the fuck this guy is, Jon spots an old school bus parked over in the lot. Jon wants to go check it, so I follow with him.
Top Hat is there along with another guy, who is your more typical crust punker. We ask if we can have a look around there bus, which they're more than happy to oblige. Top Hat introduces himself to us as Mux, his friend as Chris. They tell us they're a travelling side show, that live in this bus of theirs that they bought for three hundred bucks. They've been out on the road, living in this thing for over three months now. Apparently they've arranged to perform out in the beer garden between each of the bands tonight, doing all sorts of nonsense like hammering nails into their nostrils, all for nothing but tips. The night just took an interesting and unexpected turn, I thought to myself. Mux and Chris turned out to be really nice guys and it was really cool of them to let us see their travelling home.
The guys were really interested in Victims and were asking us a lot of questions about what it's like touring overseas. They told us that they'd never even been out to the west coast of the States, nevermind abroad. It makes you realised how privileged we are to be doing what we're doing, even when the going is tough at times, we're still out here at the end of the day, thousands of miles from home, playing our music to punk kids. I know people who would give anything to do what we do. I'm grateful to be here.
Jason's band, Otark, were first up tonight and by the time they went on there was a good crowd in the place. They've only been playing for five months and haven’t' recorded yet, but they sounded great. They played a real epic, dark style of hardcore, kind of mixing up the sounds of bands like Fall of Efrafa and Tragedy. I stood down front with Matt and enjoyed every minute of it. Great to have such a good crowd in on a Monday night too. Matt had insured us that Jason always put on great shows and it seemed like tonight would be no exception.
Right on cue, Mux starts his side show out in the garden. I had to check it out. Sure enough, he's there hammering a nail into his nostril with a bean can. There has to be easier fucking ways of making a living! There were a good load of people gathered round, watching him as he entertained the punks with this madness. Earlier on, Mux had mentioned something about having a pig's head in a jar for his final act of the night. That was something I could happily skip looking at, thanks all the same Mux.
The second band of the night were called Just Die. Really nice guys it seemed. At one point during their set they mentioned that they had a record for sale at their merch table, but then urged the crowd to buy our merch ahead of anyone else's. “If you're going to buy anything tonight, buy Victims merch. Do you know where those guys come from? Sweden! Can you drive here from there? No you fucking can't!”. I thought this was a superb gesture. It is a lot harder for us to make money from shows here in the States, compared to how it is in Europe, we come to the States mainly because it's fun and it's a privilege that we're lucky enough to have. It's amazing to get that sort of support from local bands here, just as the other night with the Furnace guys. In Europe, you make good money from shows, but the downside there is that the local bands are notorious for playing way over their allotted stage time, often playing encore after encore. Local heroes I call them. To be honest, it's not so common in the hardcore scene, but I've witnessed some bullshit whilst out on tour with other bands.
There was another local band, called Megahurz, who shared a guitarist with Just Die, that were going to play after us tonight. It made sense for us, since they're a renowned local party metal band and a lot of people where in all probability in attendance to see them as well as us. So we went on ahead of them to a packed room. It turned out that we had a big support from the crowd anyway, the show was an absolute blast!
We belted through the set and the crowd kicked off from the get go. Even old Mux was down front, seemingly having a great time! I belted a guy in the elbow with the head of my guitar, but thankfully both guitar and elbow were fine. The crowd constantly surged back and forth, now and again spilling onto the stage, so it was hard to avoid keeping people out of the firing line. At one point near the middle of the set, the girl working behind the bar appeared on stage with shots of whiskey for us. It was a real party atmosphere. The barmaid and another friend then stood side stage, over on Jon's side, chanting something about Sweden. Before the set was over, she came once again with another round, as well as another at the end of the set, although by then she was just filling the whole glass straight from the bottle. In that heat it actually tasted pretty foul and I had to put it aside, I was gasping for water not bourbon. Appreciated it all the same though. We played the Avail cover again, since it had been requested (news travels fast on the net it seems) and when we were done there were long shouts for more. The barmaid and her friend, both of who were by then pretty boats, were chanting “Take us with you to Sweden!”. At one point during the set, such was the party atmosphere, Jon asked the crowd if this was really Monday night. Needless to say, we were all buzzing from the show as we cooled off in the car park outside before loading the van.
Megahurz were indeed a party!. And something I totally had not got, until they went on stage, was that the pissed up barmaid was actually their bass player. They brought a real fun end to a great show. Afterwards we hung out by the merch, refilling pitcher after pitcher of complimentary beer from the bar. It was really good ale too. What more could you ask for? At one point I spilled Andy's whiskey all over the merch table since he was a fool enough to leave it there. Only minutes after clearing it up pissed barmaid girl comes over with another pitcher. She's pretty grabby by now and looking for hugs. She plonks the pitcher on our merch table, goes to hug Johan and in doing so knocks the pitcher over our merch table again, this time Johan's trucker cap taking most of the hit. Johan looked pretty gutted but I thought it was hilarious! I guess I was feeling pretty tipsy myself by that point...
Before we left Matt proved to us that he actually does like pickled eggs. I don't know how we got to talking about them the other day but it turns out Matt is the only person I know who likes them. And of course, they had them in a glass jar behind the bar. We all stood around and watched him eat one, as if he himself was performing in a touring side show. If only Mux knew it was this easy! Jon was the only one of us who dared try one of the disgusting little bastards, but after one solitary chew, he walked calmly to the toilet, albeit with a look of horror on his face, and spat the thing out. Credit to him for trying it, all for the cause of our amusement.
We ended up getting back to Jason's place around two am. There was more beer on offer on the porch and we had some Sam Adams in the cooler in the van, but I could barely manage one before I had to go to bed. One of the last things I remember before hitting the hay was Jon coming out of the shower and the rest of us looking at each other in amazement. It's not something he does that often on tour...
Jason had a few dogs around the house, all of which were really cute, and I remember trying to get one to lie on the mattress with me where Johan was going to sleep later, but the little pooch was having none of it. He lay there for a while but when Johan came stumbling towards the back bedroom where I'd crashed a little while before, he hopped up and left. So as usual, it was Johan and I sharing a bed. Seems to be a common occurrence on this trip.