We had the day off on Saturday. We woke up at Matt's place, where there are a bunch of other friends staying, people like Mark and Christina who made the trip down from Boston, amongst others. Matt's wife, Sarah, made us all breakfast in the morning and we sat on the sofa in front of the tv, eating scrambled eggs, drinking coffee and watching Liverpool beat Arsenal. Superb start to the day.
We headed over to the Best Friends Day Fest in the van around two pm. What can I say about this event? Simply put, it's absolutely insane! The festival is staged over four days at different venues around the city of Richmond. On Saturday, the event was held at a water park, a very basic water park I must add, with a stage set up next to the pool. We arrived at around two-thirty pm, by which time most people there were steamboats. It's basically like spring break for punks. The pool was were most of the action was at. Hundreds of pissed punk guys and girls, half naked, some completely naked, diving off boards, jumping off rope swings, drinking all sorts of booze. It was pretty chaotic and probably slightly dangerous. They'd actually dyed the colour of the water in the pool a deep blue, the rumours being the reason for that was to hide all the hard-ons, but in reality the more likely reason being an overdose of chlorine. I can only imagine how much drunken piss was in that pool. When the bands were playing there were girls stage diving wearing nothing but bikinis, some wearing less than that. It was quite a sight. And it was hot. Very fucking hot.
It must have been around thirty five degrees Celsius. At times it was unbearable, standing around in the heat. I drank a couple of beers when we arrived, but it just made me feel weird so I switched to water. Jon, being Jon, spent the entire day wearing his leather waistcoat vest over a hooded top, bandanna and sunglasses, hood pulled up over his head. How the fuck he could stand it I'll never know!
It was great seeing everyone. There are so many people who we know here. It reminds me of Stockholm in the sense that it's a small musical community where everyone plays in bands. We hung out with Witte and the Municipal guys, Tony Waste being one of the main guys behind the festival, the Baroness people as well as our old friend Erik Larson and his wife Chris. Best Friends Day really is the perfect name for this festival since that's exactly what it is.
There were some great shows during the day, 7 Seconds were great as well as Against Me, although Baroness completely stole the show. What an amazing group of musicians they are. I spotted Jon from the side of the stage, stood in the crowd in the blazing hot sunshine, hood still pulled up over his head, leather vest still on, fist passionately clenched, punching the air. He'd been looking forward to this show for ages. He told me later that he “only” cried three times during their set...
When we'd arrived in the van, we'd been forced into leaving our cooler box with the security people, since there was no glass allowed into the water park. We had a lengthy discussion about it, but the security people weren't budging. Fair enough, rules are rules, but we were pretty pissed off when we collected our cooler box at the end of the day, only to find that the cunts had drunk a load of our beer.
Another weird thing I saw when we arrived was a group of hobo punks, hanging around outside the festival entrance. I don't get these fucking guys. We're waiting to drive into the festival whilst discussing the cooler box problem with the security, when one of these dirty punk guys walks up to Matt's open window and says, “Give me some money”. Matt curtly informs him that he's not giving him shit. The cunt just stands there staring at him like he's been wronged in some way. Matt politely tells him to fuck off. These guys apparently are quite a common sight in the US. And they're always trouble, starting fights and robbing people and the like. Matt tells us you just have to be firm with them and they'll piss off. Only a few minutes later, whilst we're still trying to resolve the cooler issue, one comes around to my side where the door is open and starts demanding something from us. He asks me what band we're in, to which I tell him we're in no band. He stands there calling us liars for a few seconds before mooching off to where he came from. Seriously, what the fuck is the deal with these people?
The day was over by about eight pm, right after the Against Me show was finished. We were about to leave in the van when a big scuffle kicked off on the road right outside the main gate. Within seconds there were a load or police cars and ambulances and everything was dispersed. Apparently what had happened was that an old guy had come driving along the road in his jeep and had been confronted by a herd of punk kids, refusing to get out of his way. Eventually the old boy just puts his foot on the gas and runs over some girls foot. I don't think the old boy really meant to hurt anyone, I think he was most likely just scared. Anyway, as soon as this happens everyone goes crazy and starts attacking the poor old guy in his car. Real angry mob stuff. The police soon broke it all up, but the old guy was really shaken. I felt bad for him. The police then had to divert us and everybody else towards the other exit. Weird end to the day. Tony told me the day after that they'd actually found a body in the river, right next to the festival site, although the police thought it had nothing to do with the festival. As nice a place as Richmond is, it is still America at the end of the day, and in that, such a very different place to where we come from.
I know horrible stuff happens back home now and again, but here a body in the river is just an everyday occurrence. For instance, when we drive back to Matt's place, we stop at at a garage to pick up some beer and snacks. There is an armed sheriff guy guarding the place. Matt tells us that only a few weeks ago, he'd came in here in the middle of the day and walked right into an ongoing armed robbery. They put a gun to his head, robbed him of the seventeen dollars he had in his wallet, and told him to leave. Since then they've had the sheriff guarding the place. If that happened to me I'd most likely be scarred for fucking life, to Matt, it's just life. I don't get it. I don't really want to get it.
Anyway, we ended the night sat on Matt's porch drinking beer. A fine way to end the night. John and the Baroness guys as well as the No Tomorrow people were hanging out too. Jon had John showing him Baroness guitar riffs at one point. I've never seen Jon so happy. Apparently he also got to hear a couple of demos from the new Baroness record, which John played for him upstairs in secret. They had played a couple of new songs during their set and they sounded great. Really looking forward to hearing the new album.
One by one, everybody flaked off, leaving Johan, Andy, Matt and myself left on the porch. It was one of those nights where every beer we opened was the “last beer”. I love the whole porch thing. I wish we had that back home. By the time it really was the “last beer” we were all pretty drunk. Andy was at the point where he was slurring his words, his English getting less and less decipherable and he kept stumbling down the steps to the yard. We've all been taking it relatively easy on this tour though, except Jon, so we were due a late night and a few drinks.
The next day, yesterday, it was our turn to play.
If Saturday was the party day, then Sunday was definitely the hangover day. That was the overall feeling submerging the entire day. I didn't feel to sharp myself, although one look at Andy in the morning made me feel a lot better.
The venue for our show was at a biker's lot, or in English, a row of garages in an industrial estate on the south side of Richmond. All of our friends were there again, the likes of Witte and Erik, as well as the Waste guys. Tony had a bit of a go at us when we arrived since we were a bit late. We had to load in through the already building crowd at the front gates. It's not so usual to see Tony stressed out. The same security guards, the fuckers who drunk our beer, were there again. Matt had a go at them later on in the day, they didn't deny an charges thrown at them either.
We set up our merch alongside the Jesuit and COC guys, underneath a small tent near the entrance. It was nice to good Nate again, he's such a chilled out, humble guy and always fun to be around. It was the last ever Jesuit show yesterday, so it was fun to be a part of that. They, by all accounts, didn't enjoy the best of shows though. The sound out front was pretty bad, as it was for every band. It's hard to get a decent sound from an outdoor stage though, you just have to make the most of it.
We hung out for the afternoon with the Jesuit guys, sharing beers and having a laugh. Their bass player is a real character. He's a big, strong looking fucker who constantly takes the piss out of everybody around him. I didn't know what the fuck to make of him at first but within a short while realised that I really liked the guy.
I thought Saturday was hot, but yesterday was something else. It was all you could do to find a slither of shade somewhere in that parking lot. At one point during the afternoon, Woody from COC was standing next to our merch and we were indulging in a bit of small talk, when this geeky looking metaller walks up to Woody with a notepad and pen and asks him he minds answering a few questions. Sure enough, he starts firing all these real train spotter type questions at him, going into minute detail about certain solos from COC records and so on. I've truly never heard anything like it. The guy goes on for a good fifteen minutes, the whole time, Woody, in an admirable show of patience and understanding, doing his best to answer the guy. Respect to you for that Woody.
One of the highlights of the day was undoubtedly the second band of the day, Little Ozzy. Yes, they were exactly what it sounds like. A band of rocker guys with a dwarf/midget/little person (I'm not sure what the term is), dressed as Ozzy singing Ozzy songs. Fucking brilliant! Matt thought it was the best thing he'd ever seen. He loved every second of it. I had to go down the front to check it out, it's not every day you see something like that. I passed Jon who was stood near the back of the lot, with his jaw hanging in amazement. I asked him if he was coming down the front to check it out properly, to which he replied, “I'm not taking one fucking step closer!”. I forgot he's scared of dwarves/midgets/little people...
As Jesuit took to the stage the sky was turning a menacing shade of black. Tony was starting to worry since there wasn't even a marquee covering the stage. There was rumour that if it started pissing down they'd have to move the show to a club in town but in actual fact there was no such Plan B, such is the relaxed atmosphere of this event. Indeed, as Jesuit finished their set and Iron Lung were setting up to go on, the heavens opened up and it started to piss down! Jon and I were at the merch stand, the tent covering it not being rain proof in the slightest, packing up the gear as quickly as possible and hiding it under the table. Johan and Matt were on stage with a few others, doing their best to cover the stage with a tarpaulin, Andy covering up our gear that was out in the open backstage. A thunder and lighting storm broke out right above us and everyone at the show ran for the cover of their cars, the place emptying out in minutes. Jon and I stood at the merch stand, soaked to the fucking bone. Jon was panicking about his leather vest being damaged due to it being wet.
Luckily the storm soon passed, although not before a couple of huge thunder claps. I got quite nervous when the Jesuit guitarist noted that we were in fact stood under what was principally a lightning rod. If anyone was really in danger though, it was Matt, who was stood on the middle of the stage, holding a metal bar which the tarpaulin was hanging from, doing his best to save the stage and it's gear. He laughed about it later, wondering what the fuck he was doing. Surely, your dedication to the cause has to have some sort of limit.
When the rain stopped, the place was bone dry again within fifteen minutes such was the heat. Iron Lung got up and played and they were fucking great! For a two piece, they are a hell of a grind band. The singer has a bit of Paul Bearer about him, taking the piss out of certain members of the crowd. It was great fun watching them.
And then it was our turn. I could sense the guys were a little nervous. We'd been planning to play an Avail cover in Erik Larson's honour. Of course, Avail were a classic Richmond band and it was a little nerve racking playing one of their songs on their home turf. There had been rumours that Avail would perform a special one off reunion for this show, but it wasn't to be, so instead we'd represent on their behalf.
The sound on stage was surprisingly good, but I knew fine well the sound out front, at least anything past the first ten meters, would be dogshit. Something Matt was sad to confirm after the show. I think we played really well though. I really enjoyed the set and the crowd were very receptive. The only thing that pissed me off was this one big, stupid twat who was throwing beer cans at the stage for the entirety of the set. I'd noticed him earlier in the day, hard not to really since he'd been loudly making his presence known to everyone around him, just shouting his mouth off all the time. A boring twat basically.
Apart from him, the show went down a storm though. We had some friends side stage who seemed to be really enjoying the show, which as always, makes me play all the harder. It was a fun time up there. And the Avail song went better than we could have hoped for. Jon gave a really nice speech beforehand, explaining what an influence Avail had been on Victims, and dedicated the song to Erik. It was a hell of a buzz playing that song as the crowd went nuts. I caught a glimpse of Erik who looked quite moved, according to Jon,his wife Chris was down the front taking photos with a tear in her eye. I'm glad it came off so well.
After we played we had to wait around until COC were finished up with their set before we could load out. I felt bad in a sense because Jen is a huge COC fan and she was really disappointed that she couldn't make it out here for these shows. I felt obliged to watch them in her honour. I'd heard the rumours that they weren't that great live any more and I'm afraid those rumours proved to be true. Not even when they played Kiss of Death did it arise much of a stir within me. It was cool to see that classic, original line-up playing together again, and it was nice to see how happy Reed Mullin looked when I told him Blind is one of my wife's favourite records, but the live show just seemed to drag on and on. It was like the party was over but they were refusing to accept it. By the time they were done I was dying to get out of there. I have a huge amount of respect for COC and their records, but if they'd played a half hour instead of their marathon set I probably would have enjoyed it a little more. Quite sad really. They really were a good bunch of guys too.