Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Philadelphia

We're in the van heading towards Albany in up-state New York. We've just been doing some shopping in a Wall Mart somewhere just outside of Philadelphia. Shopping with Victims is like shopping with a gang of old ladies. After a while Matt gave up and went and sat in the van, and we still took another forty five minutes... The journey today should take around four hours but now the chances of getting stuck in New York City traffic have significantly increased. We were only supposed to be buying socks and pillows for Christ sakes!

Quote of the day, Jon:  "If I buy these shorts am I a sell out?"

Yesterday was a really good day. It was a long day but it was a lot of fun. Two very different kind of shows.

I got a good sleep at the Greghans as they are collectively known. We had breakfast together at a diner somewhere in south Philly. Classic American. I ordered eggs on toast in a cheese mustard sauce with a side salad and a large cup of coffee. The “side” salad was insanely big and I was hardly able to make a dent in it. I love the coffee in the States. It's as weak as piss and you can drink bucket loads of it without getting the shakes and it tastes good. Old Joe. Whoever he was I salute him.

As were driving around looking for the diner we passed a restaurant that Meghan called the racist diner. Apparently they have a sign on the door saying, “This is America, order in English”. The funny thing is, Greg adds, is that the guys who work there who speak English sound like Rocky and even though they're speaking English, nobody can understand a fucking word they're saying. Cunts.

Isn't like thirty percent of the population of the USA Spanish speaking anyway?

So we headed into the city for the first of the two shows. First up was one of the two festivals we're playing on this tour. Today it was This Is Hardcore Fest. As I've experienced in the past, Hardcore isn't really the same thing in this country as it is on the other side of the pond. The crowd at this festival isn't really what you would call a normal Victims crowd. All the same, it's fun to play these shows now and again. And yesterday we weren't alone either, our dear friends From Ashes Rise were with us, playing both shows. Good times indeed! We hadn't seen those guys since Punk Illegal Fest in Göteborg last year.

I met up with the Touche Amore guys again. They'd also made the Trans Atlantic trip to be here, along with Strife. The Amore guys are a really sweet bunch of young guys. We hung out chatting for a good time and they're guitarist Eric was kind enough to lend me his guitar as a spare. I ended up not needing it thankfully, since the only string I broke during the set was the high E, which I don't need either...

The festival was set up in a really big concert venue, easily able to hold over a thousand people. It was sold out too. There was a big indoor parking garage across the road where we had our merch set up, along with FAR. It was pissing down all day, so we had to run across the road with an umbrella trying to protect the uncased amp heads. When it rains in this country it really fucking rains! It hardly let up all afternoon. It was even raining in the side stage dressing room that we were given for the half hour before our three pm.set! There was a crack somewhere in the ceiling and the rain was gushing in. Somebody had put a bucket on the seat directly below the leak but it was deflecting of the backboard of the benched sofa and just splashing everything in the room. I had to dry my amp off with a towel before Matt came in to take it to the stage.

The show itself was really good. The stage was huge and carpeted and had a great monitor sound all over. It was an absolute pleasure to play on. I didn't really see much of the crowd response in the big hall since the stage lights were so bright you couldn't see much beyond the first row. It felt good though. I guess there must have been some confused macho types around but those I couldn't give a fuck about anyway. I had a great time. We had our good friend Greg Daly, who booked our tour and is helping out with this festival, the FAR guys, Matt, Greg and Meghan and a bunch of other people, all gathered to my side of the stage, all of them smiling and having a good time, which is all the energy I need to have a really good show. And a good show it was. I played really hard and could have carried on for a lot longer than the ten songs we played. And this time, as opposed to the Ieper Fest, we all really enjoyed the show.

Matt just shouted to the back, “Tea Break”, as he always calls me, “Time for the first tea break of the tour!”. We just pulled into a service station somewhere. The clouds are pulling in again and apparently there are thunder storms up north where we're heading...I need tea.

Back on the road, sorted for tea...

So yeah, the first show went really well. We hung out across the road in the parking house for a few hours afterwards, the rain constantly coming down outside. We mainly just around with the FAR guys catching up over a couple of beers. The main guy running this fest is a guy called Joe Hardcore, I don't think that's his real name haha, but that's the title he goes by. He looks about as Hardcore as any person I've ever seen. He would intimidate most people. Tattoos on his face, the odd scar here and there and built like a brick shit house. He's a true gentleman though, despite the gruff exterior and he really looked after us. Thanks Joe.

We headed over to the second show for the day around six pm. I'd felt pretty fucked directly after our set, as we were carrying the amps back across the road in the pouring rain, but by now I was feeling good again. The venue for the second show was a bar called the Barbary. It's a fixture on the punk scene in Philly and a really nice place. It's actually a cop bar, although you wouldn't have really guessed that if you didn't know. Yesterday it was full of punk kids. The stage room downstairs has a smallish stage and the room itself could hold around one hundred people comfortably. My sort of place. Above the stage room was a cool bar area with some really good beer on tap. The Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale being my favourite.

Greg and Meghan hung with us in the van between the two shows, their comedy duo act keeping my laughing pretty much the entirety of the short journey. I was also introduced to another old friend of the band at the Barbary show, a really cool girl called China, who sings in the band Soma from Richmond. She's a really fun, larger than life girl with a really contagious laugh. We hung out all night and for the most part we were laughing at different stuff. Just her laugh is enough to get you going. I asked Jon when they'd first met, to which he told me the following. Now China is quite a broad girl. Apparently the first time she and Jon had met was at a Victims show in Philly in 2004, during their first tour. China had walked into the bar, making quite an entrance, and when Jon caught sight of her, shouted, “I love fat girls!”, and since then the two have them have been great friends! Only Jon could get away with that...

There were five bands playing this evening show. I still seem to be escaping the jet-lag but even so, I couldn't really be bothered watching five bands, even if they were all good. The first band I watched with Jon though, and they were actually fucking amazing! They were a three piece from Philly called Sickoids, and they played a really raging, almost power-violence style hardcore at times. What really made them for me though was the guitarist/vocalist. He was phenomenal and amidst all the craziness came the odd riff hook now and again, really clever stuff. Me and Jon stood there watching them with our jaws literally dropping. We tried hanging out with them after the show, but I think we came across as a pair of over impressed idiots and I think the praise we were languishing upon them started getting on their tits in the end! Oh well, I bought a t-shirt anyway and I await their first album with baited breath.

For most of the second and third bands, I hung outside on the street by the van with the guys. It was another hot and humid night and the rain had stopped by then, leaving not a trace of fresh air behind it. I kind of wish I'd gone in and checked out a little of the other bands because from the street, it sounded pretty decent too. But there is only so much you can take and it had been a long day.

I'd been worried about this show beforehand, assuming I was going to feel pretty beat after the first show, we're not puppies any more after all. But in actual fact I felt really good going on stage. And the energy stayed with all of us for the entire set. It was good fun too, since we changed it up from the earlier show. Since we'd only gotten about half way through the set at the festival, we decided to start from the back and make our up from the bottom. So we ended up in fact playing two totally different sets. We even started tonight's set with We're Dead, which isn't normally part of the set. We threw that one in for China since it's her favourite Victims song. It went well. The only song that appeared at both sets was This Is The End, which is funnily enough the song Andy had been complaining about all day. It's the Victims hit song, if such a thing exists, but he's sick of it. He's been grumbling all day that the set should be fun for us first and foremost, and fuck the crowd. I agree with him in actual fact, but as it is, as Jon said in response, I still think it's fun even playing the song in the rehearsal space. Sorry Andy.

Jon was pretty chuffed after the show when John Bazely from Baroness came up to him to talk and tell him he thought it was a great show. Looking forward to seeing them on our day off at Best Friends Day next weekend.

The FAR guys turned up to the venue when we had about four songs left of our set. They were playing right after us as last on the bill. I thought we had it bad but those guys only had about forty minutes between sets. It seemed like they didn't have the best time at the festival either. They were all grumbling about it upon arrival. I don't know whether they were just being modest or what, but at the Barbary they tore it up. They really are one of the best live bands I've ever seen and I get the same buzz every time I see them.

As it had been for us, the place was pretty packed when they played, although there was the usual gaping hole in the middle of the dance floor, left by the moshers beating the fuck out of each other. It's kind of a shame I think when the place is packed, but half of the crowd are pressed up against the back wall and spend more time watching out for flying fists rather than the band on stage. There was one incident though that had me bent over double, pissing myself laughing. I'd been standing behind Jon and China, enjoying the show when From Ashes kicked into one of their classic songs and the whole place erupted, taking Jon and China with it. The pair of them got a moment of excitement, and with an one arm around each, and the other pumping the air, ran forward towards the stage. They lasted all of two seconds before they were batted back out like a fucking home run. The pair of them went down and hit the ground hard, Jon landing on China and taking a large looking macho hardcore guy with them! As soon as I realised they were both ok, I pissed myself laughing. Because that's the kind of friend I am...

From Ashes really did put on a great show and they seemed far happier with their second performance of the day. Afterwards we hung out with them and Grey upstairs in the bar. It was Greg's birthday and we all had a beer or two in his honour, the old Yards going down a treat. After we'd loaded out we went back into the stage room which had by then been converted into a karaoke club. Most of the people there were young, hip alternative types, doing sickeningly serious versions of middle of the road piss. But then up steps Derek, the FAR bass player. For being a supposedly shy guy, he did an amazing version of Creedence's classic, Have You Ever Seen The Rain? He was brilliant. Brad FAR and Jon signed up immediately!

We waited around for ages for their turns. As tired as I was becoming there was not a fucking chance I was gonna miss a drunk Jon doing karaoke! So taking the bull by the horns, Johan and I switched to booze and ordered some Captain Morgan sours, something I'd first drank in Texas when a bartender refused to serve me the Captain any other way! In time honoured tradition when I'm State side, that's just how I drank it. It was good too. Brad's turn eventually came around and he did ZZ's brilliant, Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers. Brad, although not possessing the same natural sweet pipes that Derek has, gave a hearty performance. He was all energy and his rendition kept veering into FAR territory. He was pretty damn drunk and it was great fun to watch. His dance moves were quite something too.

We hung around for the best part of two hours and somehow, Jon's turn never came around. Gutted! I think there must have been some confusion between him and the girl running the karaoke running order. He's hard to understand at the best of times...Despite not getting to see Jon, we had a great night with our friends. At one point Andy and I decided we were starting a band with Bloody Kev and Mucky Marcus called Lynyrd Skinhead. We thought it was a great idea and I texted Kev immediately to let him know. Despite the fact that it must have been six am. in London, Kev texted back within a minute to let me know he was in! I love Kev.

They actually picked out some finalists and scandalously enough, Derek's performance was overlooked. Instead the five finalists were made up of the other poseurs in the club. Derek was gutted, walking around shaking his head informing all of us of his total disbelief.

As an end of night bonus, China sang a Pat Benetar song. I mean, she belted it out! She was great and we all cheered her on. Apparently she used to sing in a PB tribute band in college. We ended up saying goodbye to the FAR guys around two am. and we headed back to the Greghans with China in tow, picking up some gigantic pizzas on the way back. It was four before I had a shower and went to bed with a belly full of cheese pizza.

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