Tuesday, September 4, 2012
It didn't start too well. We'd applied and paid for work visas that would keep us on the sweet side of the authorities whilst we were in the old US of A. Not something we'd usually do, but since it was a big tour that travelled right around the land and there'd been a fair amount of national advertising for it, we thought it might be a bit risky to chance it. We shouldn't have bothered!
The visas cost a small fucking fortune for the six of us, as well as a lot of energy obtaining them. They don't just let anyone into their precious country. After a month or so of pissing around with the authorities we finally received conformation that our applications were approved. This was sometime in November. The tour was to start on January 12th in New Orleans.
With the green light finally given, we set about putting the tour into action. We got flights booked from Heathrow to Houston, via Chicago. There was the six of us in the band as well as my mate Lasse, who was coming along for the trip. He'd broken his leg whilst waiting for a blind date just a few weeks before, and feeling sorry for him I asked him to come along and sell shirts for us. I told him we couldn't afford to pay him for the actual work but that we'd cover his flight, giving him a working holiday in effect. We didn't have a visa for him but he could just enter the country as a tourist.
Bianchi had sorted us a van for the tour. He found some guy online by the name of Dutch, actually his name was Job but he was Dutch. Dutch had an RV camper van that he'd kitted out into a tour bus and he had a decent price on a deal that included him as driver. Bianchi had also been in touch with the Soilent Green guys and fixed us a pretty cheap deal to hire their backline. It seemed like we were all set.
Then in December we got a call telling us our visa applications had been pulled from the system on a routine check. Ok, we thought, typical, but hopefully it will only mean a week or two delay, tops. Two weeks came and went and still there was no fucking sign of the visas in the post. Bianchi tried calling the American Embassy, stressing that we needed them for the start of January. That of course, did not impress the cunts. They simply refused to give us a time-scale or guarantee that we'd have the visas in time. I could barely fucking believe it. They cost around seven hundred quid each and it looked like that money was about to get shat down the drain. The embassy took great pleasure in telling us that there would be no refund in any case.
They simply never came. We never had sight nor sound of them ever again, or the four grand we'd paid for them. I wonder how much money the wankers make that way each year. Completely gutted but none the less determined that the tour would go ahead as planned, we decided we'd simply travel in to the country as Lasse intended to, as tourists. Hell, we were going on tour after all. Of course, this made things pretty nervy for us. The US customs authorities were bad enough before 9/11, they were fascistic now.
To add to the drama, the night before we head off to the UK, where we'd be playing a couple of shows before leaving for the States, Lasse rings me and tells me he'd totally missed that his passport has gone past it's validity date. Unfuckingbelievable! He has to take the train out to Arlanda airport and fix a last minute temporary passport. I go to bed that night wondering if we've just blown another four hundred quid on that gammy-legged twat. In true Lasse style though, he managed to sort it out, although it was tense there for a while. I wake up the next morning to his text message telling me that he's sorted and he's coming along.
So it's off to the UK we go.
We had a couple of small, local shows, local to Corby that is, booked to warm up for the tour. One at the Attic in Rushden and one at Sawyer's in Kettering. The Rushden gig was great. It was in a carpeted function room above a pub and it was packed. We played on the floor and the crowd was wild. The thing I remember the most is this one huge skinhead guy in the middle of the crowd. He seemed a little out of place at the show, since most of the people there were young metal kids and then there's this guy, who must have been a foot taller than everyone else in the crowd and at least fifteen years older. I don't know if he was pissed or drugged up or what, but he definitely had a huge excess of misplaced energy. The kids moshed around him as he stood there staring at the band, kids simply bouncing off of his considerable bulk. After a while he starts throwing random kids about the place like rag dolls, at one point almost toppling the PA speakers with one poor kid. No one dared utter a fucking word of complaint to this bear of a man though, including us, and everyone just got on with it. Didn't stop the kids from moshing though. Weird show.
The second show in Kettering was a tamer affair, as far as crowd violence goes anyway. There were still a lot of people in the small venue and it was a good gig. It was the first show Frank had been to since he'd quit the band six months earlier. It was a bit strange at first but the night ended with him getting up and singing the lyrics to Knives and Faces with Bloody Kev. It was a nice touch. It still felt awkward afterwards though because we were going to the States for a full on tour, something we'd never got around to doing with Frank in the band, and I could sense that he regretted his decision to leave. At least at that moment in time anyway.
We'd arrived in the UK a couple of days before the Rushden show to practice. The first night, after practice, we'd gone over to the Sawyer's for a drink. Rich, the landlord was a big Speedhorn fan and by now a friend of ours. We were gagging for a pint after practice and Gords had rung him telling him we were coming over, in typical Gords style, having the cheek to tell him instead of ask him if it was ok. Rich had just closed up for the night and was on his way to bed but Gords was having none of it and Rich eventually agreed to let us in for a sneaky pint. We'd turned up around half eleven, a tired looking Rich cursing us for being cheeky cunts as we traipsed in to the pub. One sneaky pint became a few, and then a few more and eventually turned into shots and then five am. We all left there feeling pretty fucked. When we'd arrived I'd introduced a quiet, shy Lasse to Rich, his wife Leanne and the other bartender who had also been unlucky enough to have been trapped at work by us. Well they weren't really working any more I guess since the three of them were drinking as much as we were. Lasse was a little quiet then, before you got to know him, or before he had a drink in him at least. It didn't take long for the fucker to loosen up though. Within a couple of hours he had his balls out at the bar, zapping them with an electric buzzer that belonged to a quiz board-game, much to the amusement of everyone else.
The other funny thing with Lasse, something I'd never really experienced before, was hearing him speak English. We'd always conversed in Swedish until this point. He seemed to have no concept of the gravity of swearing in the Queen's, or at least when it was and was not appropriate to do so. We'd sat at dinner with my parent's the first night, my mum having made a slap up meal for us all. Lasse was overjoyed with the food and the hospitality that my parents are infamous for, and he also seemed to be embracing the opportunity to practice his English. He kept saying stuff to my parent's like “Oh, this food is so fucking good” and “this is fucking great”. He literally said fuck in every sentence. My parents thought it was hilarious though and they took a real shine to him. He helped my dad tune in his new tv too, and then bought him a pint at the Rock afterwards, after which my dad was totally sold on the buffoon.
So after one practice and a couple of shows, we were off to the States. Considering that the situation had been made a little nervous thanks to the whole work visa débâcle, you'd think we would have thought about being extra pre cautious with customs. You'd think we'd have put some effort into maybe not so obviously looking like a band going on tour without work visas. You'd think. Unbelievably, not only did we take all our guitars as luggage, as well as a suit case full of albums, we even had Daz's Ampeg bass amp with us which was packed in a cardboard box. What the fuck were we thinking really? We had printed the merch in the States, but only because it was cheaper to do so, so the only precaution we'd taken in going through the notoriously paranoid US border customs was to make sure we split up in the queue. Our lackadaisical approach to the matter almost fucked the whole tour up before it even started..