Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stockholm

Mixed Emotions...

It's always like this on the final day of a tour. For me at least.. On one hand I'm happy to be going home to my wife and my dog, my sofa and my record collection.. On the other hand I'm sad that the tour is over, I'm saying goodbye to friends that I've been living with day in, day out for the last few weeks, and, worst of all, reality is right around the fucking corner. Back to work...

This time around it's even stranger though. This is only the final day of the tour for us. Black Breath and Tormented are carrying on for another ten days or so. And to throw another spanner in the works, Claes' last show was yesterday. It feels weird enough for me that we're saying goodbye to the other two bands who are carrying on without us. It must be a total mind-fuck for Claes who is waving off his own band, his boys, as they leave him at home to play ten shows without him, especially as he's the pappa of the band.

And then, just to add a final spicy ingredient into the already punchy mix, the final show of the tour for us is in Stockholm. We just play the show, pack up our gear, say goodbye and head home. No fourteen hour journey home from the mainland, no arriving back at the rehearsal space at four am and emptying the van, just taxi, home.

Home town shows always create a certain tension in the band as well, due mainly to the fact that Johan gets really nervous, especially when the show is at the club he and I worked at for so many years, which in turn spreads to Jon and Andy. I usually succeed in ignoring it, but today I'm feeling it for some reason. Today is going to be a strange day..

We're woken by Robban around eleven am. He's just came back home, having left us to his place whilst he went to visit a “friend” for the night. He delightedly tells us he hasn't slept a wink. We get up, get showered, and take the van over to Claes' house where the Black Breath boys slept and where we're going to have a farewell breakfast with our friends.

When we arrive I ask Claes if it's nice to be home. He's feeling exactly as I am. Of course he's happy to be back with his girlfriend and kids, but he's sad to be staying behind whilst the guys complete the rest of the tour. We sit down to a breakfast of sandwiches and strong, black coffee and enjoy the camaraderie that we've struck up over the previous weeks. After breakfast I pick up some Tormented records and other gear from Claes' basement, adding to the already heavy load I've accumulated on tour, and then it's time to go. We have another couple of hours drive to Stockholm and Johan is adamant that we will be at the venue on time and that we'll be sound checking. Funny that we haven't bothered with sound check at any other point until now. Claes waves us off from his doorstep like a mother waving goodbye to her kids as they leave home for pastures new. I've seen that look on my own mum's face on many an occasion and it always makes me sad. As we head off Jocke tells me that it feels fucked up, both carrying on without Claes and being home for the night with his girlfriend only to leave again the next morning, knowing that in a week's time he'll be as far away as Italy again. When I think about what it would be like to have to get up from my own bed tomorrow, tired and exhausted as I currently am, and leave for a seven hour trip to Oslo, I'm hit by a wave of relief that today is the final day. Mixed emotions indeed...

We arrive in Stockholm at four pm, right on schedule for load in. I had previously toyed with the idea of going home for a while to see Bonzo and drop my bags off, but as it turns out we're short on time and when I think about it, going home before the show would have only added to the weirdness of today. I worked at Debaser for five years yet I barely know anyone here nowadays. The bar manager Simon is a friend, but he's not here today. Strange, but I feel no connection to this place any more, shame considering the great times I've had here.

We load in and set up on stage. Rikard, who usually plays guitar in Gadget and a bunch of other bands, who also works with Jenny my wife, is already here. It's his first show with Tormented tonight. They've only had the one practice together but Rikard tells me he's been listening to the songs at home and he's got it fixed. He's understandably a little nervous but he'll be fine, he's an awesome guitar player. Must be weird for him joining a tour this late in.. I feel a little guilty that we're poncing around with a sound check tonight, which leaves little time for Rikard and Tormented to go through some songs or whatever.

The nerves are spreading into my thoughts like a heavy, dark cloud by the time we sound check.  I've had a weird feeling in my stomach all day, but I've figured that was down to the emotions of the last day on tour. In actual fact, it's Johan nerves contaminating me. I'm almost shaky as we stand there on stage and play through a couple of songs. This could be a result of three weeks of boozing but I don't think it is.. As we play through Nowhere in Time, I completely forget the verse riff. And as we're sorting out monitors, whilst the rest of the guys tell Arvid, the sound engineer, what they need, I keep saying that I don't need anything, even though in reality I do. I think it's some sort of over compensation, like I'm trying to spread an air of calmness, like, everything is fine here. It's not working particularly. Once we're done with sound check though the nerves almost immediately disperse and I realise that I can sort out any little adjustments I need in my monitors during the show..

I watch Tormented sound check and Rikard seems fine. Looking forward to seeing the show with him later on. We sit down to dinner and enjoy a quiet chat with the Black Breath guys for what is most likely the last time. At least for now. I'm sure our paths with cross again. We've spoken briefly about doing a west coast tour in the States at some point, so it would be great to hook up with the guys whilst we're over there, if and when that happens. Who knows.. After this tour we're done for a while. We have a couple of summer festivals but then that's it. Andy and Kristin are having another baby in August so things will be on hold for a while. I guess maybe we'll start writing some new songs, although Jon is going to be gone for large chunks of the rest of the year with Nasum.. What I'm looking forward to more than anything right now is a real holiday with Jen. No phone, no work, no travelling in a van for hours on end.. People at work seem to think that this is a holiday I'm on right now but they are wrong.. very wrong.

The doors open around seven and at first it's slow, but by the time Tormented hit the stage at eight the place is full of friends and familiar faces, and a lot of other people I don't know. It's great to see everyone. Some of the guys from work come along. It's really not their thing but they're nice enough to come and see us play. I get hugs from them all followed by, “It's so nice that you're home again, it's been chaos at work!”. Oh no.. That's the last thing I need to hear.. All of a sudden I wish I was heading off with the rest of the guys to Oslo again... But then Jen walks through the door and everything feels balanced again. It is good to be home. And work can wait until Thursday. Tomorrow I have a day off with my dog and a night in with my wife. Bliss.

Rikard does a great job off his first show with Tormented. If he had any nerves then it didn't show. They sound great and a lot of people are at the front, some even banging their heads. It's weird seeing them for the last time. Drette dedicates a song to us and then calls of a bunch of tits for leaving the tour. It's almost like I wish the Stockholm show wasn't the last, it would have been nice to have a proper send off with the guys, just us lot hanging out for one last time. The show being in Stockholm, there are loads of other friends to talk to and it ends up being the case that I hardly see the Tormented or Black Breath guys at all. I look back now and realise that we already had that night, a couple of days ago in Hamburg, I just didn't realise it at the time.

By the time Tormented are done I'm absolutely buzzing about playing our show. We set up on stage behind the big curtain that covers it, out of sight of the waiting crowd. All seems to be good. I check my Telecaster through the amp and it sounds good. And then it turns to panic again. Arvid is stood beside my amp pulling some leads, when he knocks into my SG and it falls to the floor. He looks mortified. I pick it up and give it a quick check. It seems like it's ok. I joke with him telling him that it's ok, the guitar has been through far worse in the past. He leaves feeling relieved. I put the SG on and give it a blast and one of the tuning heads fall to the floor. Shite...it is fucked after all. I calmly take the keys from Johan and run to the van in search of my other Telecaster. Tonight will be the first time I've played it. I was thinking that it had been a waste of time having this third guitar on tour but it has saved me tonight..

We're finally ready to go and the curtain pulls back, we blast into Theft. It sounds pretty good on stage and there are a lot of people in the room. I have no idea how it sounds out front but people seem to be in to it. I'm feeling the energy on stage. One last show, let's give it all you've got Smith. Three songs in and of course I break a fucking string on my black Tele. Par for the fucking course! It wouldn't be a fitting end to the tour without breaking a string. It's time for my other Tele's début appearance... I put it on, praying that the strings will hold out for the rest of the show. It's always nervy when you're on to your back up guitar so early on. The strings are new though so it should hold up, right? One thing is for sure, it sounds fucking great!

Apart from the strap coming loose a couple of songs later, meaning I spend the best part of Lifetaker playing on my knees, the rest of the set goes really well and the reaction from the crowd is great. I think this could possibly be the best Stockholm show I've had. As soon as we're done I'm hit by a wave of relief that the last show is done, that this time tomorrow I'll be lying on my couch watching football instead of breaking my back on stage. The cold beer in my hand tastes particularly good as I stand with Jen and watch the Black Breath set from the merch table, in between selling the last of the shirts and records we have.

I feel a swell of emotion when Neil dedicates the last two songs of their set to us, blowing us a big, dramatic kiss as he does so. I'm going to miss them. The show is over by eleven and most people move on into the night, heading for home and work tomorrow. The dressing room seems to be packed out with a lot of people I don't know and I barely see any of the other guys from the bands. Our old friend Victor from Section 8 is back stage, steamboats! He'd spent the entire BB set side stage, screaming elatedly at the guys as they played, swirling a bottle of beer around his head. He's still wearing his work trousers having come straight here after clocking out. I guess he's going to have a heavy head in the morning. He tells me that it will be no different to this morning in that case.

The night winds down and when the place finally clears out, we get to say our goodbyes to the guys from the band. It's hard. We all hug each other and give the usual promises of next time. The Black Breath guys look gutted by the time we leave. I feel as they do. Touring is a fucked up thing, it really is. Even saying goodbye to the Victims guys causes a lump in the throat and we all live in the same town! Jen has long since gone home since she's up at six am for work. I share a cab home with Jon and Anna, my bag weighed down with records I've acquired on tour.

When I walk through the door Jen is fast asleep in our bed. Oh how I've missed our bed. I look forward to sleeping in it tonight. But before I do that I have a something else that requires my attention.. my little four legged friend. I can't see him in the dark of the living room, I can only hear the sound of his wagging tail, banging against the back cushions of our sofa.

It is good to be home.

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