Monday, June 20, 2011


With three bands sharing the band apartment there is an almighty cue for the toilet and the shower, both located in the same room. By the time we stir from our beds it's almost eleven am. and it's time for breakfast in the club. I decide I'll leave the shower until after breakfast, the need for food and a piss being more important to me at this moment in time.

After breakfast, which takes place in the gig room of the club, I finally wash away last night's sweat and grease in the shower. And then we load out the gear. Whilst we're stood around on the street loading the van we make enquiries into what happened last night. Three things in particular need to be ratified.

One: Stachel wants to know who's leg he was grappling with in the club last night and indeed what lead to the “pushing incident”.

Two: How did Micha manage to climb over Johan and out of the bunk this morning without disturbing him. Johan is truly confused by it. Micha is a pretty big guy after all...

Three: Where did Micha go?

Stachel states that some guy in denim shorts from one of the other bands kicked him in the balls. I can't remember exactly how or why this happened but it did. I'm guessing Stachel must have been attempting to wrestle. Stachel took offence to the ping in the balls and grabbed a hold of the guys leg whilst deciding what to do with it. As he stood there considering his actions Johan then intervened and pushed him away, albeit a little too excitedly, catching Stachel off guard and sending him into a crowd of people stood behind him at the bar. What Johan hadn't realised is that the leg Stachel had been holding was guilty of kicking him in the balls. Johan had wrongly assumed Stachel was just being a drunken asshole. So that worked out, and all forgiven, we still don't know who's leg it was.

As we're pondering this riddle, the guitarist from Gust comes out of the venue wearing cut off jeans. Stachel asks him if it was his leg he was holding last night. The guy looks at Stachel and asks him what he means, “My leg?” Stachel tries explaining to him the trail of events and says he had someone's leg and was close to doing it some harm. The Gust guitarist is by now really confused, “What did you do to my leg?”. By now me and Andy are pissing ourselves laughing. That particular mystery no closer to being solved, we continue with the load out whilst Stachel mumbles something about his hangover.

After a while Micha appears and quickly clears up mysteries two and three.

After Johan had crawled into the double bunk besides Micha, pissed as a fart, he started snoring as loud as a mating gorilla. Micha quickly understood he wasn't going to able to get back to sleep in such circumstances and opted for the van instead. Johan asked him how he managed to climb over him and down from the bunk without disturbing him, to which Micha replied, “I woke you up and asked you to move!”. We once again piss ourselves laughing. When Micha has gone back into the venue Johan says he actually has a vague memory of crawling into the bunk and trying to watch his new favourite tv series that he's downloaded on to his Iphone, I can't remember what it's called but it's about knights and seems to have a lot of fucking in it, and he'd propped the phone up against Micha's feet in order to get a comfortable viewing position in which to watch said knight-porn. Poor Micha, now wonder he fucked off and slept in the van!

After we're done loading out, and with last night's mysteries kind of solved, and Stachel being in a far better mood today despite his hangover, we head off into town and meet up with Daniel. There is a big flea market in the St. Pauli area of the city which only takes place once a year. There are a lot of record stalls there as well as some other cool stuff.

As we're parking the van it starts to rain. Micha is attempting to pocket park the van into quite a tight space on a main road. There is a large truck behind us. He fails at the first attempt and then again at the second. You can sense he's getting annoyed when he shouts fuck off in English at the van. At the third attempt he makes it into the space but then there's a bit of bang at the rear of the van. We all go quiet, Micha simply puts the gear stick into first, as if he hasn't heard anything and straightens the van up. We get out and inspect the lorry behind us and Micha assures us it's nothing. I guess he hasn't seen that the lorry's bumper is cracked. Either that, or he simply doesn't give a piss. I find the whole thing thoroughly amusing.

We spend an hour or so walking around the street market, the atmosphere almost carnival like. It's really nice hanging out with Daniel for a little while. He seems pleased with the show last night, as are we. I pick up a couple of lp's of course, an original Gang Green lp released on Taang! and a Violent Femmes record I've been looking for for a while.

Whilst we've been walking around checking the flea market out, Stachel has met up with some friends who have their kids with them and they've been hanging out in the playground in the park which is in the middle of the market area. It's really fun to see how much the toddlers love Stachel. He would make a great infant school teacher. The kids just can't get enough of him and they all take turns in saying goodbye to him as we make to leave.

Just as we're heading back to the van the sky turns black and in turn starts to piss down on us. We run for cover under a marquee that belongs to a bar and we stand there waiting for the rain to pass. With the rain coming on so quickly and so strongly I guess a lot of the stuff at the market has been ruined... When it finally lightens up we carry on in the direction of the van. On the way there we meet Litty and his girlfriend who are stood taking cover under some shelter outside the door of a supermarket, each drinking what looks like a Caipirinha. I then remember that the last time I'd seen Litty was across the bar at the Cobra, he was stood with a ridiculously large looking shot in his hand, pissing himself laughing...

The drive to Leipzig takes about four hours and we pull up outside the venue around six-thirty pm. The Zoro. One of the best, if not the best, squat venues that I've ever had the pleasure of spending my time in. This place is amazing, and as usual, ran by a wonderful group of people. The venue is huge, it looks like maybe it was a school previously, although they have been squatting this place for years now. There are three floors. The top floor is where the kitchen and eating area for the bands are, as well as the big sleeping dormitory. On the second floor they have a record shop where our friend Frank is working, and the bottom floor is where they have the gig room, which holds around four hundred people. Across the hallyway from the stageroom there is even a cellar which homes a cocktail bar. The bands merch as well as Micha's and some other distros will be set up on the lagre hall areas that are halfway up each stair case. The place is quite simply stunning.

There are two touring doom/sludge bands playing with us tonight. A band called Thou from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Moloch who are from Nottingham. It's a pleasant surprise to find a guy we know called Henry, who used to play in Army of Flying Robots and who booked a Victims show in Nottingham last year, is playing drums in Moloch. He's a really good guy as seemingly are the others in the bands and with of us all hitting it off straight away I know tonight is going to be a really fun show.

We all share gear for the night so there is no messing around with change overs. The Moloch and Thou guys are sharing guitar amps and we're all using our cabinets and drum kits. Simple and very easy. Whilst the Moloch guys are sound-checking we hang around upstairs in the band flat and the record shop. I pick up a vinyl copy of Gorilla Biscuits Start Today which for some reason I've never owned.

The food that the people at Zoro make for the bands is legendary on the touring circuit and this being my first time here, I'm dying to experience it. I'm absolutely starving by the time food is served, and I'm by no means disappointed. They have prepared a quite superb vegan buffet for us. I'm so hungry I make it through two plate-fulls and even have room for vegan chocolate cake afterwards. In the space of thirty minutes I go from being famished to so full that I feel sick. Thinking about the fact we're on stage in a couple of hours time, I quickly regret my gluttonous ways...

I go down to check out Moloch when I hear their set starting down below in a storm of feedback. The place is packed. There must be at least three hundred and fifty people here. It's also hot as fuck in here, the sweat almost dripping from the stone walls and ceilings. I flit in and out of the gig room during both Moloch and Thou sets since the heat is almost too much to take, I need to save some energy for our set. I also seem to need a shit about every thirty minutes. Tour guts are a real fucking nightmare. Of what I see of Thou, I'm really impressed, especially with their bass player who is phenomenal! It's nice to have a couple of doom bands on the band to mix it up with what we do. Playing a show with a bill full of crust bands can sometimes get a bit boring...although that seems to happen less these days.

I get on stage to tune up both my guitar and the guitar I've lent from Steve from Moluch and even before I'm done with that short task the sweat is dripping off of me. The room is packed out and there is a real buzz in the air, as well as a lot of condensation. A quick line-check and into V5 we go. It feels great from the get go tonight.

We blast through the set and although I feel my energy level dipping at points I seem to keep finding another wind from somewhere. We're all bang on tonight. I have to admit it's always a bit of a buzz for me to see members from the bands we're playing with amongst the spectators, it's a good feeling to have that support. Tonight the guys from Moloch and Thou are at the side of the stage and they seem to be enjoying themselves. Steve, the guitarist from Moloch who so kindly lent me his guitar as a back up, is right down the front of the crowd and he's really getting into it, he even seems to know the songs we're playing. I'm glad that the necessity to use his guitar doesn't arise. It's never comfortable to play on someone else's guitar, especially the way I normally play. If I use someone else's guitar then I have to be far more careful with what I'm doing on stage and that takes a lot of the fun out of it. I don't actually mean to throw myself around like a bollock on stage, it's just that playing this kind of music is such an outlet.

Anyway, the set goes through without any major hiccups and the crowd really move with us the whole way. When we're done with Circles and Scars I'm soaked to the core with sweat, but the buzz from the show is enough to overcome any tiredness I feel. We head upstairs when we're done and cool off, hanging out with the guys from the other bands and once I've had enough water in me, I enjoy a cold beer from the fridge.

Janne, our friend and singer from the brilliant band, Herätys, is here hanging out. He's actually together with girl who was doing the sound for the show. He's looking pretty pissed and has that look on his face that all Finnish people seem to get when they've had a few. It's good to see him. When we've wound down from the show we go downstairs to load out the gear into the van. We're leaving around eleven am. tomorrow to get to Bremen airport for our flight home so it's better that we spare any pissing around in the morning. We all agree that tonight probably shouldn't be a late night...

Nonetheless Johan and I decide we'll head down to the cocktail bar for one drink. Another friend of ours, Helene, has travelled down from Berlin and we hang out with her for a while. Her friend lives in an apartment in the same house as the squat, which she has pretty much built herself. Helene asks us to come along and check it out since there's a bit of an after party going on there. In all honesty, I'm not in the mood but it would be rude not to at least go and have one drink with Helene since she's travelled a way to come and see us.

We all head over, along with Steve, and hang out with the Helene and her girlfriends for a while. I just have the one beer, although the girls are drinking some really good cocktail made up of fresh raspberries and white chocolate liqueur. I have a taste and I could easily be tempted to have one but I hold strong. Steve, Andy and I stand over in one corner of the living room, allowing space for the girls who have started a dance floor, to do their thing. It turns out Steve and I know a bunch of the same people from Nottingham and Boston and we stand there chatting about things back home, and what's going on in the scene right now.

When the beer bottle empties, the clock is nearing four am. Fuck, only six hours of sleep as it stands right now. I could really have done with more. Andy has been saying to me all night that he'll most likely be taking it easy tonight, but he's had a few by now anyway. The three of us head back to the band flat, leaving Johan, Jon and Stachel at the party. When we get back we bump into Andy from Thou who has just blagged a crate of Budvar beer. We start chatting in the kitchen and before I know it, it's almost five am. and we've all drank a few more beers. I'm far from drunk though, and even the the hour is so late, I'm not really that bothered since it's been really nice hanging out and chatting with the other guys tonight. And besides, I can sleep in the van for a few hours in the van later on.

The four of us head to the dormitory. I've only been lying in bed five minutes when the rest of our lot come back. Johan is kind of giggling a lot and looking mischievous so I'm guessing he's had a few drinks.

Micha, most wisely, has decided to sleep in the van tonight.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Why the fuck is the music so loud? What is that, a Kate Nash song? Lilly Allen? I don't know what it is but it's fucking loud and it's doing my head in! I open my eyes. Broad daylight fills Pelle's living room, Stachel is asleep on the sofa beside me, or at least, his eyes are closed. I'd be amazed if he's sleeping. I put the pillow over my head and try to drown it all out.

I lie there in for another song or two before realising that I need a piss. I struggle up to my feet and make my way to the stairwell towards the toilet, checking the time as I go. It's seven am. Jon and Pelle are sat at the dining table, drinking beer and talking. Jon looks like he's in quite a state.

After taking a piss I head back downstairs to the sofa bed, put the pillow back over my head and try to regain the ignorant bliss of sleep. It's not happening. Another couple of songs go by before that stupid song by Shaggy comes on the stereo, Mr. Bombastic, or whatever the fuck it's called. That's fucking enough! I can't take any more of this shite. I get up again and walk over to the table where Jon and Pelle are sat drinking. Pelle tells me that he doesn't understand why I'm not sleeping in one of the bedrooms upstairs. I don't really know what the fuck he’s talking about. He tells me there is a bed upstairs with nobody sleeping in it and I'm more than welcome to it. Ok, thanks, I will take that offer gladly. As I leave the living room, Pelle explains to me that he's having a very interesting and intense conversation with Jon. - “I bet you fucking are!” I tell him as I head upstairs.

I get up to the bedroom and there is indeed an empty bed waiting for me. For some reason, Andy is stretched out on the floor beside the bed. It's all very confusing. I lay down in the bed and breathe a sigh of relief. Within minutes Stachel has joined me. He grumbles something and goes to sleep.

I wake up a few hours later, and apart from a slight headache, feel pretty good. My alarm goes off just as I'm stirring, Journey as usual heralding the new day. After only a few seconds Stachel starts moaning at me to turn it off. This is all the encouragement I need. I sit beside him on the bed playing air drums to the song and singing along to the words. I finally turn the song off but then sit there talking to Stachel for the next ten minutes, trying to get a rise out of him. It's easy enough. He continously tells me to fuck off.

After a shower, an Ipren and a antihistamine I feel ready for the day. I head back downstairs. Jon is passed out on the sofa previously occupied by Stachel. I head to the kitchen in search of coffee and am surprised to find Pelle there, still awake. - Do you ever sleep? He tells me he got his head down for an hour. Amazingly, he looks no worse for wear. He's still wearing the impish little grin that he's had on his face since I first met him. He insists on making me a cup of tea and giving me some oat cookies to eat, since I'm an Englishman. Who I am to argue? The Earl Grey goes down a treat.

Within the space of ten minutes, Jon rises from the sofa looking like he's been pulled through a hedge backwards, sits down at the table, smokes a cig, has a clunk of beer from an open bottle left on the kitchen table and then heads back to the sofa and passes out again.

Pelle then kicks the stereo back on and starts a relentless barrage of various punk and crust songs. After about five minutes, Jon, now hidden under a blanket of quilts on the sofa, shouts aloud “I fucking hate hardcore punk!” This is followed by a series of other randomly spaced exclamations. I guess he's not feeling too clever...

Michel, the promoter from last night's show, turns up around eleven- forty five with some breakfast for everyone. We hang out for a while, eating and drinking some pretty foul instant coffee before heading back to the venue to load out the gear. When we get there and start packing out, we soon realise that the jeans Johan had on during the show last night, that he'd left hanging on his amp to dry off with the promise that they would be safe, are gone. We pack out everything whilst searching for the missing jeans. They're nowhere to be seen. Fucking weird. Of all the stuff on stage that the punk piece of shit could have stolen, why take a pair of sweat sodden jeans? The real bastard for Johan is that he had his specialised ear-plugs in one of the pockets. Michel feels understandably bad about the situation. Not that it's his fault. I'm just happy that they didn't take a pedal, or worse, an instrument.

Not the best start to the day. Stachel is pretty pissed off about everything this morning it seems. He's in a real grumpy mood. Lack of sleep and hungover probably the reason being. Not to mind though, he has plans for today before we head off to Hamburg. He's been told about a micro brewery that is in town somewhere and we're going to pay it a visit. Michel has given him the address and with that we head off. I like that Stachel always plans some extra tour-curricular activities for us.

Unfortunately it seems that there is construction throughout the entire city of Groningen, so the GPS is being outwitted at every turn. After the fourth or fifth attempted route we think we've finally cracked it, only to be confronted by a closed road bridge. We decide to get out and walk, since the brewery is supposedly close, and some fresh air wouldn't do anyone any harm.

We spend the best part of the next hour walking through an industry estate that is under construction. We finally find the address that has been given to us by Michel. Nothing. Just warehouses and units. There are a couple of old boys driving forklift trucks around. Stachel stops them to ask about this mystery fucking brewery. They look at him confused, although they kindly offer to go in to their office and check it out on the internet. We wait around for a few minutes before one of the old boys comes out laughing, telling us that there is no brewery anywhere near here. Never has been. Great. We head back to the van. Waste of fucking time.

The drive to Hamburg takes about four hours. It's raining and dull and Stachel seems to be in an even worse mood now. He doesn't like it when his plans don't pan out. It's not like we really care, he's more bothered about it than we are. The failed brewery expedition just offers up a good chance to take the piss, but he's not taking it too well. We leave him be, sat up front in the navigator seat, feeding his fish on his aquarium app on his Iphone (no shit!) in silence.

I sleep in fits and starts during the journey and by the time we get to the wonderful Haffenklang in Hamburg I'm feeling pretty good. This venue has to be one of my favourite places to play in Europe. The atmosphere is always really good, there's always a good party afterwards and the place has it's own band apartment. And most importantly, the people here are fantastic. Daniel, the promoter, is one of the scenes real good guys and it's always a pleasure to meet him.

We load in the gear and say hello to the other bands, who tonight are Gust, a young band from Sweden and a metallic hardcore band from Dortmund called Remember. They're out playing some shows together in Germany. They seem like nice group of chaps. We decide that Gust can sound-check and we'll just have a line check before we play. The sound-girl here always does a great job so it's no worries. Perfect. Dinner time. Today it's a vegetarian curry with soya meat. It's spot on.

We spend the next couple of hours hanging out, drinking a couple of beers, hanging both inside the club and outside. The venue is right next to the docks and there is a square across the road on the water-front where you can sit and have a drink. Some other punks are hanging out there. Whilst hanging out in the venue I'm inevitably drawn to Micha’s distro. If there is a table with boxes of lp's on it in front of me then I will end up flicking through them, out of habit as much as anything else. Nothing like browsing through a box of records. I pick out a few for purchase, a Ripcord and a Lärm record amongst others.

Besides looking through Micha's distro, I help Jon start his own blog. I was telling him about a funny email interview Jay Speedhorn did once, where when asked the question, “Which band are you currently listening to the most?”, he had written, “Not your band, baby!” Jon thought this was absolutely wonderful and told me that that would be the perfect name for the blog he was considering starting, a blog which would be solely based on explaining the wrongs of every band out there today.

By the time Gust go on stage the place is filling out. They play a good set, kind of old school hardcore. Jon seems chuffed, especially when they do a cover of Strife's song, Overthrow. I don't know if Jon is getting drunk again but he seems to be in that special mood of his. I stand in the crowd with him and Andy watching Gust and Jon is chuffed as fuck with the Strife cover. And then at some point between songs, he shouts at the stage, enquiring of the boys in Gust if they've cracked open a can of deodorant. The singer in the band looks at Jon confused, as do Andy and I. Jon then proceeds to start sniffing the girl in front of him. Time to get the man some water.

I watch the Remember set from the back of the room. The place is by now pretty full and the sound from stage is big. Remember play a solid show with a lot of energy. They play metallic hardcore and do it well and dersvedly get a good reaction from the crowd.

By the time we get up on stage it's around eleven pm. I'm once again feeling a bit jaded and in need of some energy from somewhere. It takes a while to line-check and I'm not feeling my normal self. Something tells me this gig is going to be a bit of a shift.

After about ten minutes of line-checking in front of a full room, we kick into the set. I can feel it straight away. The energy isn't there tonight, I'm going to have to work at this. The first block doesn't really kick off. Whereas normally we go straight from VIB #5 into Rewind and Forward, tonight there is a pause because we have to get some more guitar into Andy's drum monitor. We do get through the first block but I can tell Andy is struggling to hear. The second block continues in the same vain. There are a couple of dropped sticks and then Andy goes into the wrong drum fill half way through Lifetaker. It's nothing major and we recover it. It's one of those things that the we probabl notice more than the crowd. In fact, the crowd seem to be having a good time. Maybe this is going to be one of those gigs that is more about the public than the performance. I've had plenty of them over the years...

I can feel myself that I'm not playing as tight as I can do. There are some missed notes here and there where I'm just landing wrong on the guitar. I think I'm most likely over-compensating with trying to put too much energy into the performance, instead of worrying about hitting the right notes. When we get to the third block, where normally we go straight from VIB #6 into This is the End, I end up standing on the power socket that my pedals are connected to and in doing so pulling the power on my sound. It takes me a few seconds to work out what is going on before we get going again. Fuck! The momentum is refusing to build it seems...

Thankfully after that, the set finally gets going. Nowhere in Time is really solid and from there on in I start playing like I should. The rest of the set feels good and the crowd continue to voice their approval. By the time we get to the end of the set, Andy tells us that he wants to just go straight into Circles and Scars, instead of doing the normal going off stage and coming back on routine. We do just that and we end the set with a strong climax. We head off to the toilet area beside the stage to cool off. I don't think we should play another song. After a while Stachel comes back to us and tells us to get back up there. He seems to be in a far better mood now that he's had a few drinks. We head back to the stage and it feels to me like we've left it a bit late, that the crowd is sagging, but to my surprise, when we kick into We Are Dead, the crowd kicks off and there are even some people up on stage diving into the crowd. It turns out to be a really strong end to the show.

We remain on stage after the song is done and start to pack down. Overall the show feels like a success, although we had to work for it. I can see there are plenty of people over by the merch table buying shirts and records, so I guess we did a good job. After packing down we head over to Micha and Stachel and hang out for a while. A couple come over to us and ask us if we'll sign records. I tell them that of course we will. They take some photos with us too. We hang out talking for a while, they seem like a really nice couple.

Later on, Jon tells me he thinks they're are getting around to suggesting a three-way to him, which is an image I do not wish to have in my head. Although I'm not sure if he's all that far wide of the mark, the way they seem to be looking in his direction. Saucy buggers.

After hanging out at the club, drinking our way through the beer tickets we have, Johan and I trading in two each for a very strong Jim Beam and Coke, something I very rarely drink, we head off to another bar with the other bands. I'm starting to feel tipsy again.

We end up in a place called the Cobra Bar, although Stachel first takes me to a bar called Uncle Otto's. He wants to show me the place, since he used to hang here a lot when he lived in Hamburg. It's pretty dead though and we don't stay for a drink. When we get to the Cobra Bar which is right next to the Reeperbahn, it's packed out. The rest of the boys are there, as are some of the guys from Gust and our old friend Litty, who we always seem to bump into somewhere along the way when we're on the road in Germany. The bartender is a friend of Stachel's of course, he really does know people everywhere, and he tells me that we all get the first beer for free. Chuffed, I order a Staropramen. It doesn't go down all that well though and I have to concede I won't be able to handle that many more.

Stachel is drunk by now and it seems that as usual he's in the wrestling mood. The place is packed and the music is loud. There is an incident with Johan and Stachel and one of the guys from Gust, at least I think. It's all a bit hazy.. I'm not really sure what happens, but one minute Stachel has the guy from Gust's leg in some sort of hold, and the next minute Johan has pushed Stachel really hard into some people behind him. It's quite a fucking push and I'm not sure it's all that playful. Johan seems pretty drunk too. They seem to work it out, whatever it is, or at least I think they do. I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of that in the light of day tomorrow. Stachel looks a bit sad though. I think it's getting to the point where everyone is getting a bit boats. I know that this second bottle of Staro will be my last. We drink up and head out of the club in search of some falafel. Stachel is leading the way and he's drunk and grumpy again. The rest of us are laughing about the leg incident although Stachel doesn't seem to think it's so funny.

We stop at a vegan falafel place on the way back to the band apartment, drunkenly nosh down some food, Stachel saying something about refusing to come in, although when Andy asks him if he wants some food, he tells Andy that yes he'll have something to eat. When Andy asks him what he wants him to order, he just drunkenly grunts that he wants “something”. We just laugh and order him some falafel. Drunk, grumpy Stachel is quite entertaining.

The food, at this late, drunken hour tastes fucking great. That taken care of, we continue down the road, laughing again about how Stachel flew when Johan pushed him. Stachel is up ahead ignoring us.

By the time we make it back to the apartment, we all stand in line in the hallway, waiting to brush our teeth. That done, I crawl into the double bunk I'm sharing with Stachel. I'm using the rolled up sleeping bag he has lent me as a pillow, but then then he refuses to share the quilt with me. My final foggy memories are the two us drunkenly pulling the quilt back and forth and Johan snoring like a fucking elephant in the bunk above us. He's sharing that bunk with Micha, who at the moment is going through a non-drinking period and had not been in attendance at the bar with us...I'm sure he's chuffed.


Friday, June 17, 2011


I didn't feel as tired as I thought I would. I'd only had a few hours sleep on a mattress on Johan's floor since I worked a twelve hour shift in the bar last night, finishing at two am. By the time I got my head down at Johan's place it was two-thirty and the alarm clock was set for six-thirty. We had to be at the airport for eight-thirty. It was going to be a long day.

I was awoken by the alarm on my phone playing Wheel in the Sky by Journey. I'm getting pretty fucking sick of that song now. I've had it as my alarm for the last couple of years, it's time for a change. Anyway, when the alarm went off Johan and Pia's dog, Sigge, a very cute little chihuahua, came running through and jumped on my chest. I lay there for a couple of minutes enjoying the massage from Sigge's little paws before getting up and into the shower. After a coffee and some knäckebröd Johan and I left for the tube and off to Central Station to meet up with Andy and Jon.

We're playing Groningen tonight. To get there we're flying down to Hamburg via Copenhagen, which is actually a pain in the arse since it's two flights that  are about an hour each and a direct flight from Stockholm to Hamburg is only an hour itself. Of course it's cheaper taking an in-direct flight and that's what we have to do, since the money we're making from these shows is going towards the flights for the US tour in August. Anyway, when we get to Hamburg Stachel and Micha are picking us up in the van and we're driving to Groningen and the infamous Crowbar pub, which is run by Esta from the band Fleas and Lice, to play what should be a really fun show.

We get to Hamburg airport and have a couple of hours to kill since Stachel had to work late today and he can't make it to the airport until three pm. Last time we were here, when we were going home from the Bremen show, we'd settled from some pretty shit airport pizza, that had so much grease on it you had to tip the pizza up to pour off the oil. As we sat there disappointed with our meal we spotted a sign advertising a sushi bar. And this time we would settle for nothing less.

The sushi was expensive, I worked it out as costing four lp's from Micha's distro, but it was worth it nonetheless. We sat there for a while, drinking green tea and chatting. By now I was feeling really tired. Last night's lack of sleep catching up with me. I felt tired in the way that you almost feel drun. I had a pain in my back too since yesterday at work was delivery day, which means lugging heavy kegs of beer around. Still, the green tea was helping my mood.

As we sat there at the sushi bar, which was just opposite the arrivals door, a young girl came running down the stairs towards a group of other young girls who were there to greet her. The group were waving both German and American flags, suggesting the girl who was running towards them with her arms out, tears running down her face as she was almost screaming with joy, had been away on an exchange program. When she reached the group she took the whole lot of them into her arms for one huge hug, before tending to them all individually, the screaming only barely dampening down into a long, squeaking sound. This scene of joy lasted for the best part of ten minutes.  I found it quite heart rendering to see that sort of joy on other people's faces. Airport and train stations can indeed be both the happiest and saddest of places...

After having  moved on to another airport café for some coffee, Stachel and Micha arrived for us in the van. Really great of them to have packed the van and have everything ready. We were on our way to Groningen, which is about a four hour drive.  

A little way down the road I picked up the book I'm reading at the moment, The Story of Crass, but I barely got through a paragraph before my eye lids started sagging and I dozed off for an hour or so.  It felt nice to get just a little sleep, even if it wasn't the most comfortable of rests. When I awake I'm feeling the better for it anyway and we spend the next hour packing records for the coming weekend. The four of in the back of the van, working in factory style, wrapping the limited editions of the A Dissident album that Stachel has pressed up for these European summer shows. They look really nice with a brown paper wrap around over the cover, which has the new version of the Victims logo that Richey designed for the album. Stachel has done a nice job on them. Packing your new lp with your band mates is a great way to pass time in the van.

We get to Groningen around eight-thirty pm. which makes us kinda late but it doesn't seem to be a problem. Stachel had sorted it in advance. We're only two bands tonight, a young Dutch band, Sandcreek Massacre, being the opening act.  According to the original schedule they were supposed to be going on stage at nine, but there's no stress with that since the place has a curfew at midnight. We park the van up outside the venue, which is a small bar in the middle of a small one way street in the middle of town. Bloody Kev and the Regimes boys were here a while ago and they'd told me that it had been a great show, so I was looking forward to playing tonight.

We load in through a small door which leads into a thin passageway which in turn leads to both a curtain at the back of the stage and the bogs just a little further ahead. It's a tight squeeze for load in but it works. The stage is small and Johan will probably have to stand on the floor during the show. The room itself is narrow with the bar running most of the way down the left hand wall, leaving a small floor area in front of the stage that would probably fit around twenty people.  I love playing these tiny places.

We get set up and are treated to some vegan lasagne and spinach pastry pie, which we nosh down in the small back room behind the bar. It's not the tastiest meal I've ever eaten but with some cayenne pepper on top it more than fulfils it's purpose.  And I'm always grateful for food.

After dinner we sit around drinking a beer next to our merch table. We're not really talking that much, just kind of starting off into space. It's been a long day for everyone. I'm gonna need to get some energy from somewhere before we play tonight. I decide to take it in the form of more beer. That first Grolsch didn't really do it for me, but as that's all we're getting for our beer tokens right now, I decide to throw back the second Grolsch in an attempt to kick start my system. I drink my way through the bottle in no time and it actually does the trick. I'm feeling better.

Sandcreek Massacre go on stage and I head down front to watch them with a third and final beer before we play. I'm now starting to feel good. I enjoy watching the band. They're a guy and girl on guitar, the two of them growling and screaming respectively, a guy on bass who also does the occasional grunting and a drummer who is hitting the shit out of our rented drum kit. They play a sludgy kind of d-beat, reminding me at times of Kylesa, although that might be more to do with the fact the girl playing guitar and screaming in a similar style to Laura. Anyway, they're good and after their show  I arrange to swap a seven inch with them.  A really nice bunch of guys.

After that I'm ready to play.

We get our shit together and everything is sounding good. Nice to be playing my Telecaster again. Jon has arranged with Sandcreek to loan a guitar from them as back-up, which I have a strange feeling I'm going to need tonight. Jon seems to be having trouble with his tuner pedal so while he deals with that I tune up the spare guitar, which is a jagged, metal looking type of guitar, something like a BC Rich Expolrer, but not. The strings are all wound up different from each other, half of them seem to be on backwards, so with the three beers I've drank and the lack of sleep from last night, it takes me a while to get my head around tuning the thing up. We finally get everything sorted though and we kick into VIB #5. The small place is now pretty full and the atmosphere is really good. It's also pretty fucking hot on stage.

We're playing tight and controlled but by the time we get to the end of the second block I'm already feeling the burn. I guzzle water down between blocks but I sense that I'm not feeling totally right. Still, Stachel is down the front enjoying himself, as are the guys from Sandcreek Massacre, and beyond that lot are a load of other Groningen punks and everyone seems to be into it. It sounds good up on stage too. It's hard work but it's a really enjoyable gig. There must be around sixty to seventy people in the place which is enough to make it look pretty packed. Good first show for the weekend.

Despite the exhaustion creeping into my system I'm really enjoying playing. And then just as we get to the break in This is the End, my bottom string goes. Pretty good timing if you're going to break a string though. I quickly whip off my guitar and grab the Metal guitar. I hadn't really noticed before when I was trying to tune it, but the strap is set pretty high and as I play out the rest of the song, coming back in just exactly in time for the last chorus of the song, I realise I must look like Dave fucking Mustaine! I can't help but crack up. The funny thing is, as soon as I put the guitar on, the young guys in Sandcreek all run at me cheering and bowing in front of me as I play their guitar.  They all look really chuffed.

I get through the rest of the set without breaking another string. By the time we're done with Your Life is Red, I'm off stage and into the marginally cooler corridor behind the stage to gasp for some air. I really don't feel that great now. I stand there guzzling water as fast as I can feeling dizzy. The rest of the guys come back and I'm happy to hear Andy is thinking along the same lines as me, as in fuck playing another couple of songs!   Before we really get around to talking about it though, Johan and Jon are heading back to the stage to appease the crowd and their calls for more songs. Fuck. I follow behind, glad at least the Circles and Scars are only about a minute each. I think I can get through that.

Before we kick in to the two encores I manage to readjust the strap on the Mustaine guitar making it much easier to play. We blast through the two songs, finding the energy from fuck knows where. When Scars comes to an end I grab the bottle of water, turn my amp on to stand by and head for the exit again, politely telling someone to fuck off when they shout for another song. This time I'm not coming back. I run out of the back door and into the side alley beside the venue. It's absolutely pissing down outside. It feels fucking wonderful. I throw up the lasagne all over the pavement...

I stand in the pouring rain for about five minutes, thanking the heavens for their kind blessing. By the time I head back into the club I'm so wet it feels like I've stood in a shower. I don't feel one hundred percent right, but after throwing up I do at least feel a lot better. I guess it must have been a mixture of the heat in the club and the lack of sleep. And probably the throwing myself around on stage like a twat.   By the time we've packed our gear down I really do feel a lot better. There is a girl who has been taking photos during the gig who now wants to take a band shot of us in front of the stage. She wants us to give the big shout on the count of three, so you know, we look all metal and stuff. God how I can't be fucked with this right now. I feel like a right twat stood there in front of the crowd. We try it once and the girl tells us it was really lame, that we have to shout louder. She's a nice girl and all but come on...I want to get the fuck away. One more attempt, we all shout a bit louder on the count of three and the girl is happy. She shows us the photo, I look like a right berk as usual.  We thank her and then I head for the bar...

We hang out for a good while, drinking some beers and hanging out with the friendly punks in Groningen and the guys from Sandcreek Massacre. I now feel really good. This Finnish girl called Jenny comes up and introduces herself, saying that she'd heard that I was a big Liverpool fan. I tell her I am, as is Johan who is stood beside me. She shows me a big Liverpool tattoo on her arm. We become good friends very quickly. It comes to light after a little while that we're both friends with Bloody Kev. Kev, like Andy, seems to know people all over the world. Jenny and her boyfriend, Johan and I hang out drinking beer and chatting about football for a while. Jenny buys me and Johan a shot which is apparently called Dropshot. It's black and tastes like Salmiac. It's actually pretty friendly and goes down well. Although, I'm glad we only have to drink the one.

After a while Andy comes over to us with a big glass of Weiss beer in his hand. It seems that we're now allowed to drink whatever we want from the bar, such is the good atmosphere in the place. I guess that people from the venue are happy with the show.

At some point during the night a guy starts talking to Johan telling him he's a big fan of the band. He says that he'd never seen us before and that we didn't look like he'd imagined. I guess he thought we'd all have dreadlocks or something. I guess the only person who actually looks like he belongs in a crust d-beat band is Jon. Maybe...

After a couple of hours we decide it's time to head off to the place we're sleeping at tonight, which is the flat of a friend of Stachel's, called Pelle. I think.. He used to play drums in Fleas and Lice. He seems to be a very friendly crust punker type of chap. Before we leave the club, we stuff some bottles of Strongbow into Jon's bowling bag (which doubles up as his suitcase) and head for Pelle's place. I'm now feeling pretty drunk. Jon and I spend the best part of the trip back to Pelle's flat laughing about Danny Dyer...

When we get back we hang out in Pelle's living room drinking cider. I really don't need it by this point. I know that, but it goes down all the same. Pelle is explaining something about the sleeping arrangements but I'm not really taking it in. He says there are rooms upstairs and we can sleep there. He says to Johan not to sleep on the floor by the computer since he will be walking back and forward there. The computer is in the corner of the room so I figure he means he'll be up in the morning working at the computer desk. Johan heads upstairs with his sleeping bag. I decide that the fold out sofa I'm lying on in the living room will do just fine. After half-assedly brushing my teeth, I tuck up into the sleeping bag Stachel has lent me and close my eyes. Pelle has some loud crust punk on the stereo, and he and Jon are sat at the table drinking, immersed in loud, nonsensical conversation, but it's not enough to disturb me.

This long day is finally coming to an end.