We've made the decision, now we have to stick with it. We're driving up to Syracuse to play the show tonight and then we're going to wait for the storm to pass and hopefully, all being well, we'll travel down to New York City on Monday.
It's been a weird couple of days. It seems all we've done is sit glued to the news channels, hoping to hear something positive. Johan and Andy have a flight to catch from JFK on Monday and as it is right now, the airline company is telling them their flight is still on schedule and that they have to be at the airport to catch it otherwise they'll have to pay for new tickets for another flight. With the looming menace of Hurricane Irene causing the city of New York to effectively close down, the chances of us being able to even get them to the airport on Monday night are rapidly diminishing. If we have to pay for new flights then financially, we're fucked on this tour. The problem is, the news on the hurricane is constantly changing and we just don't know what's going to happen. On top of all this is the very worrying thought that my wife is holed up in a hotel in Chinatown, just waiting it out. With the news coming through today that New York is closing all of it's bridges and tunnels, our choices are made slightly simpler. We either wait it out in Pittsburgh, long clear of the storm, or we drive to Syracuse and play the show we're booked to play. We know by travelling to up-state New York we're risking putting ourselves into the path of the storm, but it feels like it's worth it. If New York gets hit bad then Johan and Andy's flights are going to be cancelled anyway, and the show tonight in Syracuse is of great personal importance to us since it's our close friends, Another Breath's farewell show, in their home town. It really would have been gut wrenching to miss it.
We leave Ben and Aubrey's place around eleven am. and treat ourselves to a hearty breakfast before we leave Pittsburgh and drive the five hours to Syracuse in up-state New York. It's an early show tonight so we need to be there for six pm. We get some breakfast at this great vegetarian diner in the Bloomfield area of Pittsburgh which sets us up for the day. I attempt a country breakfast burrito but it's so huge that I only manage two thirds of it. Matt is shocked. He's always on my case about how much I eat, he's even changed my nickname for this tour from Tea Bag to Snacks. Snack is no match for this burrito though. When we get into the van and I'm so full I feel fucking weird.
We haven't even travelled five miles out of Pittsburgh before we hit a huge traffic jam. Totally backed up. We move three miles in just over two and a half hours. All of a sudden we're going to be very late for the show tonight. What amazes me is that when we actually creep up level with the cause of the traffic jam it turns out to be no more than a few workers re-painting lines on the side of the motorway. Matt loses his rag, “Fucking line painting?! Are you fucking kidding me? You choose the busiest travel day of the week to paint fucking lines on the road?” This brings a smile to my face for the first time today.
To add to the stress caused by the uncontrollable circumstances in New York, we're now going to have to load in and play as soon as we get to the venue tonight. Great. The next five hours roll on in near silence, disturbed only slightly by a chuffed snigger when I place Johan in check mate for the third time in as many days.
We pull into the car park at the venue in Syracuse just as the band before us on the bill starts their set. It's a dark and chilly night in the north east. We'd phoned Scotty earlier in the day, to let him know about our traffic situation and he seemed a bit pissed off, but when I talk to him on arrival I quickly understand that he's just in a delicate emotional place with this being the final ever Another Breath show. I know how he feels, I went through it all with Speedhorn. I remember High Whore, the last song in the last ever set list, me and Gordon crying our eyes out as we played it. We jump out of the van, relieved to finally be here, and we're greeted by hugs from all the AB guys. I feel guilty for even pondering the idea of blowing this show off.
It's been a while since I played a show right after hopping out of the van. There is a certain feeling you can take into such a show. For some, the stress of it all hinders them from being able to enjoy playing, but for me, and it happened a few times with Speedhorn, I'm just relieved to have made it and through that relief I get an extra energy once hitting the stage, even if setting up the gear and line checking is rushed.
Within thirty minutes of jumping out of the van, we're blasting into V5. It's a huge stage in a large nightclub, there are about four hundred kids filling the place out, the AB guys are all stood side stage with huge grins spread across their faces and the monitor sound is great. For the next thirty minutes all thoughts of Hurricane Fucking Irene are pushed to the back of my mind.
The show turns out to be one of the best of this tour. The crowd here tonight are in celebratory mood, the atmosphere is intense, very emotional. The crowd go for it from the start. It's as hot as the fucking Devil on stage but the energy from the crowd keeps me from waning. Jon is in great form between songs tonight. He cracks jokes about being Ted, the Another Breath singer's father, about how he fucked his mum and had to put a pillow over her head since she was so ugly. I don't really know where that comes from but it has the crowd and Ted side stage, cracking up. He gives a mention to to the fact that this will be our last show of the tour since the gig in New York tomorrow has been cancelled due to the storm. Somebody shouts in response, “Play here tomorrow!”, to which Jon just chuckles, responding, “Oh no, tomorrow I'm going bowling”. I love it when Jon is on this form.
The highlight of the set is undoubtedly when Steve and John from Another Breath join us on stage and take over the vocals on We're Fucked. They do a brilliant job and the crowd goes berserk, Ted and Scotty side stage screaming along, Mayo, their bass player down front in the middle of the mosh pit. It's a great moment.
The Another Breath set is one of the most brutal, emotionally charged shows I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. The crowd go fucking insane from the first note and halfway through the first song Ted somersaults into the sea of outstretched hands in front of him. For forty minutes, it's just pure madness. The crowd sing along to almost every line, and the wave of stage divers simply never ceases. I stand behind John's amp, beer in hand, singing along. Ted, one of the most gifted public speakers in the world of hardcore, is on absolutely fine form and at one point in the set gives a long speech explaining what the friendship with Victims means to Another Breath. Call me emotional if you will but it's a beautiful moment. All the Victims guys are stood side stage, Jon half pissed and close to tears, waving our beer in the air and screaming along to our friend's songs. The guys couldn't have asked for a better way to go out, and as I'm stood there side stage looking on, I realise how glad I am that we've been a part of it. It would have been sit for us to bale out because of that fucking storm. Another Breath close their set and indeed, their era as a band with their song, God Complex. As soon as John plays the opening riff, a shit load of people jump up on stage and pile on top of Ted, who does his best to sing the words to the song, but before long his voice is lost to the herd of people on top of him who take over the mic. As the song comes to a close the stage is completely taken over by members of the crowd. I happen to catch a glimpse of Scotty who looks close to tears. I know exactly how he feels. I can't help thinking back to that last Speedhorn show in Yamaguchi, playing High Whore, both Gordon and I crying as we played out the long outro..
I speak to Jen after the show and she tells me that the storm hasn't quite arrived in New York yet and that when it does it's expected to hit as a tropical storm. It appears to be weakening all the time. For the first time in days I feel that everything is going to be ok. When I hang up the phone, Matt is stood out in the parking lot looking stressed. His house in Richmond got some damage from the storm and they've lost power there, leaving Sarah in sweltering heat and very stressed. It seems Virginia took a bit of a blow, as did New Jersey. I feel for Matt. It must be terrible being out here, knowing your wife is at home dealing with that shit.
I head back inside the club and make my way to the merch table where Johan is waiting with a round of shots.
By the time we pack down, get photos taken with the AB guys, load the van, hang out some more, drink some more shots and a couple of fine porter beers from the bar, we're all drunk and giggling like school girls. Steve AB tells us that we're staying at his parents house tonight since they have a big house and they're away for the weekend. Sounds great. Steve has to pack up his drums and take them back to the rehearsal space first though, so we decide we'll head to Denny's and grab some food whilst we wait.
When we pull up to Denny's it soon becomes apparent that Johan is pretty fucking drunk. He's up front, laughing at almost everything. It's great to see him like that. He's such a controlling element in the band, the pappa of the band if you will. The fact is, that every band needs one. I was that person in Speedhorn and after ten years, I was more than happy to let go of that responsibility. As was the case with me, when Johan lets go, he really lets go. Only natural that tonight, being the last night of the tour, no more to than to get back to the airport and fly home, is when Johan is more drunk than anyone else. Although, in truth, nobody, except Matt, is far behind him.
We take a large table for the five of us, and we're all giggling like idiots as we sit down and try to order. There are two waitresses attending us, one of them being a trainee, learning the ropes from the other girl. I've decided on fish and chips and a coffee, but Johan is having a hard time understanding the fact that there is no alcohol on the menu. “Do you have any beer we can order?” he enquires. The girl, to her credit, just laughs politely and shakes her head. “I want five shots!” Johan blurts out immediately, holding up the five digits off his right hand as if to clarify the matter. We all piss ourselves laughing, the two waitress girls included. They seem like nice people and for some reason, probably our weird accents, they seem to like us too. Johan eventually orders five shots of milk, but they never arrive.
The rest of us eventually get a chance at ordering some food once Johan is done. We're all laughing constantly though. Fucking after party at Denny's, who would have known that could be such a blast! As Matt is ordering his meal, Johan points his finger at an old couple, sat at the table behind us. The old lady has short, bright red hair... Johan says quite loudly, “She has a wig!”. Matt starts cracking up, “What's that buddy?”.
“I think they're going to make it...” is Johan's cryptic reply, nodding his head looking content. By now we're all holding our stomach's laughing.
We do manage to get through the meals, and by the time we're done, Matt is desperate to get back to Steve's, park the van for the night, and crack open a beer. He certainly deserves it. And for the record, the fish and chips were superb.
We get back to Steve's parent's place which is in a suburb just outside of downtown Syracuse. The house is huge. I walk directly in to a living room area to the left of the hallway, only to be told by Steve that that room is never really used by anyone, it's the other living room to the right of the hallway where we'll hang out. As I said, huge..
As per usual, Johan and I head for the nearest available of the four bedrooms and bagsie the bed. We hang out in the kitchen for a while, drink a couple of beers with some other friends that have come back to the house, people like Colin and Heike, as well as some others. After a couple of cans I'm ready to call it a night though and I head upstairs, wondering how it's going for Jenny.
I awake around ten am. It's absolutely pissing down outside and the wind is gathering pace too. It seems the outer bands of the storm have reached us. I check my phone and see that Jen has messaged me. She tells me that she's slept all night and that the storm seems to have passed without major incident. I can't describe how happy I am to wake up to this news. I check CNN's weather report and it seems that the storm has weakened considerably now, although it has wreaked some havoc on New Jersey where there has been a lot of flooding. The storm has indeed reached us here in Syracuse, but it will only be the outer rim of the storm that touches us.
Matt comes into the room after a while and confirms the weather report I've just read. I'm hoping that he'll tell me we can make the journey into New York City today, but it's not to be. We'll leave tomorrow. I can't blame him for not wanting to chance driving through the storm, even if it has passed New York, we'd still have to drive through a large part of it to get there..
Steve tells us that we're more than welcome to stay another night, in fact, he's happy about it. The guys in AB are playing with their various side projects at a DIY space in town, so we'll head down to that in the afternoon. It's an early show, which suits me just fine.
When all is decided and the mood is markedly happier than it was a couple of days ago, a smile spreads across Matt's face as he remembers what he'd laid his eyes on as he passed through the living room on his way up to us. We go down to check Jon out.
There is a girl, a friend of Steve's I think, sat on the one chair, watching the news. There are a couple of guys who are also friends of AB's, sitting around playing with their phones whilst Andy is sat on a armchair on the other side of the room, shaking his head. Jon is curled up on the sofa, fast asleep. He has no t-shirt, or indeed, leather vest on, his sweatpants (the give up on life pants as our friend Scuba calls them) are down around his ankles, his sleeping bag is on the floor and his hand is inside his boxing shorts, with a firm grasp on his balls. To add to this, he's farting like a fucking trooper! The lot of us line up to take photos.
As much as I'd rather be in New York with Jen, it turns out to be a really good day with our friends in Syracuse. We go to the gig in the afternoon, which is a lot of fun. It's a tiny place and it's packed out, the crowd go absolutely wild. The bands are great too, all of them, although I'm completely blown away by John's acoustic project, Whiskey. Kind of reminds me of William Elliot Whitmore, but better. John sings quite brilliantly. He's one of those talented fuckers that really makes you sick.
Steve arranges a chilled out party for us back at his parents for the evening time. None of us are in the mood for a piss up but it turns out that it isn't like that. Steve buys in a load of food for the grill and some beers, and we all sit around in the living room, chatting and recounting stories. Ted is there, as well as a few others. It's a bit sad at the end of the night when Ted leaves, it feels like we'll never see these guys again. I hope that isn't the case. We end the night early, since we're leaving at six in the morning.
I head up to bed and try to get a few hours sleep, although funnily enough, sleep doesn't come easy. The tour is over and tomorrow we're going to New York. Johan and Andy are flying home, Jon is heading back to Philly to hang out with the Greghans for a week and I'm meeting Jen for a short holiday in New York. Matt will be trying his best to make it back to Richmond and take care of his home and family.
As is always the case, time seems to have it's own schedule on tour. What was the first show two and half weeks ago seems like yesterday but at the same time years ago. All in all, it was a good tour. We didn't make as much money as we'd hoped and if it wasn't for the European dates we played during the summer we wouldn't have covered our flight costs. But that's how it is over here, when you play this kind of music. Even though most of the shows were well attended, shows that in Europe would easily make you five hundred euros, here you're lucky to get two hundred dollars. At the same time, I'm grateful that we do well enough in Europe to cover a tour like this. I know many bands that would do envy us for that.
So that's almost that for this year. We have one show left, which is at the Bloodshed Fest in Holland in April. Otherwise we won't be out playing show until next year due to work commitments and other stuff. We're not twenty years old living with our parents any more, we have bills to pay and jobs to hold on to. And besides, I'm totally fucked from these three weeks, I'm only too happy for the break.
I'm sure that feeling will subside after a few weeks back at work though...