As soon as my head clears, my thoughts return to Jenny. She's due to land at one pm. We have some big decisions to make today.
We all eventually stir and take turns in the shower and then hang out for a while on the side porch of the house with a couple of the guys from the house and the girl, Sarah, who lives here too. They're all really friendly people. They have a couple of absolutely beautiful pitbulls too and we spend a while playing with them. The people at the Masakari house are all huge dog lovers, and the dogs they have all come from rescue centres. The youngest one, who is still a puppy and a little wild in her playfulness, was due to be put down the day after the guys had found her. Looking into her eyes makes me wonder how anybody could even consider closing them forever. As usual when I'm around dogs, it makes me think of Bonzo and of home and I start to long to be back there.
We have a short drive today, only two hours. We leave the house around midday and search for a Panera Bread, something we have had no luck in finding so far on this tour, which sucks, since everyone in the band loves the place. We have no luck today either and instead end up at a roadside diner, which is actually pretty good. As we're sat around drinking coffee, as is always the case, the phones come out and everyone goes silent. On this occasion though, everybody is checking the same thing...
We have to start making a serious plan. We start off by calling the airline to find out what's going on with Johan and Andy's flights. There is a long wait on the phones but we're eventually told that as of now, the flight is still on time and that they'll have to be at the airport to make sure they get their flight! Fucking unbelievable. We have three options:
One: Play Pittsburgh tonight and then head straight to New York City and try and get there before the city closes.
Two: Play both tonight and the show in Syracuse tomorrow and wait it out there, and then try and make it into New York somehow, sometime during Sunday or Monday.
Three: Call and end to the tour now and make our way to New York.
Cancelling shows is the last thing we ever want to do, but as it turns out, the decision is made for us shortly after we get back in the van. First off we get a call from our friend Bill, who owns the club in New York, confirming the show there on Sunday is cancelled. And then we get some news through telling us that even as of now, it's almost impossible to get into the city. So that's that. We'll play these next two shows and wait things out in Syracuse. Now my next mission is to get Jenny on a train from New York to Syracuse.
We're just pulling into the outer limits of Pittsburgh when Jen texts me saying she's landed at JFK. The news concerning Hurricane Irene just seems to be getting worse, I have to get in touch with her and tell her to get out of there is she can. One agonising hour goes by before I get to speak to her. I'm surprised to hear she's in calm and positive mood. She's got to the hotel and she's going out for a couple of hours to do some shopping! That's my girl..
After a bit of a strained conversation, where I'll be honest, I got pretty stressed out, we decide to try and get a train booked. Of course, when Jen had checked into the hotel, the people working there in reception were very calm about everything and she obviously hadn't had a chance to see the news yet, so it's not surprising that she was calm. Of course, I'd rather that than have her really scared on the other end of the phone. She tells me she's going to go out for a while and get some food and then she's going to book the train for Syracuse that leaves at 1pm. tomorrow. I feel a little relived but won't feel completely happy until she has that ticket confirmed.
We arrive at our friend's, Ben and Aubrey’s house up in the Polish Hills in Pittsburgh. I've never been to this city before and therefore had no idea that the city was situated in a huge valley. It kind of reminds me of Stuttgart, and indeed there are a lot of German settlers here and that has greatly influenced the architecture. It's a very characteristic and to my eye, beautiful place.
We hang out with Ben and Aubrey for a while. It's there wedding anniversary today so I feel a little bad about crashing here tonight, but they're only too happy to have us. We meet so many kind, accommodating people on our travels that it genuinely humbles you. We're staying here tonight, but with tonight being a late show, we're going to a barbecue with a gang of their friends, before heading to the venue. Jimmy Annihilation Time, whose girlfriend Christina is putting on the show tonight, is meeting up with us there too.
Ben and Aubrey’s kid, Axel. is four years old and quite mental. He's also extremely cute. The whole time we're there, he doesn't stop talking. Showing us demonstrations with his shoes, his sleeping bag (he's staying at a friends tonight on a sleepover), his magic penny that turns green in vinegar, explaining for us every step of what he's doing. We end up hanging on the street for a few minutes, whilst Ben and Aubrey get ready to follow us. Axel continues his running shoes demonstration by running back and forth and showing us how suddenly he can stop in his super sneekers. He also seems to be very fond of the word “penis”, and keeps saying it over and over in his cute little accent. Great kid.
We drive over to the house where the barbecue is at and hang out there for an hour, sitting around in the back yard with some of the Pittsburgh punk scenes finest. Ben has made some superb vegan bean burgers, and the beer is readily available. The back yard we're in is full of characters, including the likes of Jimmy and his friend, Sam Wicks, who is a character completely in his own right. He turns up in a suit, since he's been at a seminar about, from what I can gather, sliding screen doors? When he turns up in his attire, the other punks all piss themselves laughing. He takes it all in his stride though. Really mellow guy, he would fit right into a Kevin Smith movie. He seems to love Swedish punk rock too and latches on to Jon, firing a barrage of questions at him. The camaraderie between these people is a great thing to witness and I sit there, with a can of beer, slowly warming in my hand, wishing I could enjoy the experience. But I still haven't heard back from my wife yet.
We drive over to the venue around seven pm. and hang outside the venue, chilling out before we have to load in. Tonight is going to be another wild show by all accounts. There is this old guy hanging out on the steps outside the venue, which is a function room above a pub called Kopec's, who is absolutely off his fucking tits! He comes over and looks into the van and starts mumbling something, but only Matt can understand enough of what he's saying to be able to form any sort of reply. He's apparently telling us that we can load in whenever we want, and where to do it. Matt tells him the score, that we're in no rush and we're waiting for Jimmy to turn up, but the guys continues to babble on. I have to admit, I like the guy.
As he stoats off, Matt tells us that he is what they call a Yinzer. They're local to the city of Pittsburgh apparently. No sooner has the old boy stumbled off than is back at the van again, and the nonsense continues. And it continues, for the next thirty minutes, until we give up and decide to load in.
The load in is a bit of a bastard, since it's up a narrow flight of carpeted stairs. And it's already hot inside the room we're playing. The room itself looks great though. There is a small wooden dance floor in the middle of the room, which is no larger than sixty square meters. The rest of the room is carpeted floors, and there's no stage. Everything is set up in front of the wooden area of the floor. There is a small bar at the back of the room and beside that, a door leading out to a small balcony area, where we'll spend most of the night until it's our turn to go on. There are seven bands total tonight, so we're playing late.
After load in is done, I finally hear back from Jen. She hasn't been able to book a train ticket since all the trains are full. My heart almost stops for a second. I call her and do the only thing I can, which is to try and comfort her. She's in good spirits though, she's mainly upset about the fact that as it stands, we don't know when we're going to able to see each other again. My wife is an incredibly strong person, she amazes me really. I feel like a weak, panic stricken child compared to her.
It seems like the only to do now, is for Jen to get supplies and stay in her hotel room when the storm hits. I would do anything to be there with her now, or even swap our positions. I'll be making my way there as soon as the access into the city has opened again, whether we travel in the van or I take a train. We talk for a long while on the phone and there are times where I feel myself close to tears. The positive thing is that the storm does seem to be weakening a little, it's went from a category three to a two, and the signs are that it will continue to weaken. I just hope it weakens enough.
When we get to the end of the call, Jen tells me that she wishes I was there with her, but that I should have a good night and enjoy the show. I hope she knows how much I love her. We tell each other we'll stay in touch as much as possible and I'll call in the morning. The storm is due to hit New York City tomorrow night. They've told her that it is highly unlikely they'll evacuate the area the hotel is in, but they'll keep them up to date with everything. I know she'll be safe, I just hope the damage to the city isn't so bad that it hinders me getting to her at some point on Monday. Despite the shite situation we're in, I feel better having spoken to her. I always do.
The seven band event seems to go on for an eternity. There are a lot of punk kids turning up though, and it should be a good show for us. I spend most of the time hanging out on the balcony drinking beer, or in the van sharing sips of Johan's whisky. Pentagram are playing in the city tonight and Jimmy has been at the show to check them out. He gets back to the venue as we're sat outside in the van and he tells us that all the punks who were at the show know we're playing at midnight and they're coming down. We hang out in the street with Jimmy for a while. Jon's girlfriend, Ana, has been on tour with Annihilation Time in the past and Jon and Jimmy know each other through that. They're quite a pair, they really get on with each other. Jon ended up going on that tour with them for five days and claims that he shaved off five years of his life in that time. I guess there was a lot of drinking involved...
The show tonight is basically two tours combined, since there are four grind core bands who are out travelling together. The funny thing is they're all in the same van since three of the four bands are two-pieces, the other has three members. So there's those bands and then a couple of locals, one of which, Killer of Sheep, are awesome. They played rough, old New York hardcore style, punk rock, with the guitarist pulling out the odd Greg Ginn style guitar hooks. It was fun watching them. The crowd was getting pretty wild and to adding a little surrealism to things, there were even a couple of drunk crack-head ladies in the middle of it all. They were brilliant, just stood there going crazy shaking their tits to the music in their mini skirts and tight, leopard print tops. They turn up to a lot of the shows, according to Jimmy. Apparently when they really get into it, one of them in particular is known to latch on to the singer and start dry humping their leg. I'm not going anywhere near a fucking microphone tonight.
As is par for the course, there is no door on the cubicle of the shitter. I'd spotted it earlier and had been relieved that I hadn't needed a shit. I cracked up therefore on one occasion when I walk into the bog for a piss and find Johan sitting there doing a shit and Matt stood beside him taking a leak in the urinal. What the fuck can you do really? The attitude towards shitting in this country seems to be far more liberal than back home...
We end up playing a little before midnight. The place is pretty packed, and it kicks off the second we blast into V5. I notice that Matt is crouched down over by Jon, waiting to pounce if the crowd starts piling into the space in which we're playing. As I'm tuning up after the first block, I hear Matt on the mic, telling the crowd that if they keep smashing the mic into Johan's face, he's not going to be able to sing. They heed Matt's warning and manage to withhold themselves from doing Johan any damage, but sure enough, at one point during the show Matt receives a flailing boot in the jaw, sending his spinning. I honestly don't know any other driver who would put themselves in that position for the band hiring his van. He really is a legend, and luckily for us, he loves driving Victims on tour.