Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The North West

Woke up feeling like absolute dog cack. Three hours sleep, still pissed probably. If my conscience would've allowed, I would have crawled down the aisle of the RV to Dutch in his bunk and told him to forget the sight-seeing trip into Frisco. But my conscience won me over.

It's always the way on tour. You have an early rise booked in, with plans to actually do something other than just travel in the van all day, something that is all to rare an occurrence, and you piss all over those plans by drinking until the sun comes up. I don't regret it on this particular day though. It's not every night you get to see your drummer mistakenly suck your merch guy's bobby. Everybody, except Gordon, was in a good mood today, sleep deprived or not.

Once we got out of the van and inhaled some Pacific air into our lungs, everything started to feel better. We only had an hour or so to look around the city, and so we had to choose what we wanted to see. I would have liked to have gone to Haight/Ashbury as well as check Amoeba Records out, but was content enough with the majority vote that decided we go down to the bay, look at the seals and have a glance at Alcatraz out on that island. We stopped for coffee first though, as functioning on any sort of level without a caffeine fix would have been impossible.

The seals were cute and it was fun watching them paddle about in the harbour waters, and Alcatraz was cool enough, although from our standpoint a little imagination was needed. By the time Dutch called time to leave, I was not for the first time on tour, left feeling that I wished I was here on holiday.

We made the short drive over to Sacramento, or actually Orangevale, which although Dutch said was Sacramento, was actually Orangevale. When we pulled up outside the venue, which was as usual in the middle of a nondescript nowhere, I asked Dutch how long it would take to journey into Sacramento. “Oh, well it's about twenty miles away.” Fuck sakes, sometimes this country gets on my tits. Twenty miles away in USA terms apparently equates to being in the same place. That's like me saying Corby is actually in Leicester. Although why I'd want to say that I don't know. So, that was that. We're stuck here in Orangevale, which isn't Sacramento, with nothing to do but wait for Nile to get soundcheck over and done with.

Today is the actually the first day we have any contact with the Nile guys. Fat Jeff actually came out to greet us on our bus. He seemed like a decent enough guy to be honest. He asked it was ok to come aboard the disco bus and then hung out for about ten minutes making half awkward small talk, referring now and again to his band's poor effort in the mingling stakes so far. He said something about them having a new bass player and some in-band issues that had been niggling away at them and that from here on in they'd be making a bit more of an effort to hang out with everyone. He then made a few comments about our band, saying he “digged it”, although it was painfully obvious that he didn't have a fucking clue about us. I doubt very much he'd even seen us in action yet. Still, nice enough of him to come over to us and make the effort. Funny thing is, this would turn out to be the one and only time any of us would have a conversation with Fat Jeff on the tour.

A little while after Jeff has left, and we're again going over the events of the night before, Chrissy walks on to the bus. Or, actually, I should say, she shuffles onto the bus, big duffel-coat wrapped around her but doing nothing to stop the apparent chill raging through her being, eyes sadly dipped towards the floor, looking like she's just been told she has a terminal disease. We laugh at first, assuming she's insanely hungover, which of course she is, but it turns out it's way worse than that. She asks us if we've seen her rucksack. “No..... why? What's happened?”

It turns out that she has lost/had her rucksack stolen somewhere between San Francisco and here. In that rucksack was her laptop and even worse, all of the takings from Decapitated and Hypocrisy's merch from the first week of the tour. About ten thousand dollars apparently. My first reaction is TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! Fucking hell, we must have sold about two hundred, tops. But that quickly subsides into a feeling of desperate sympathy for Chrissy, sickly almost. We tell her that we're sorry but we haven't seen it. She hangs out for a while, doing her best to hold back the tears. The worst thing is, she hasn't told the bands yet.. Dear Lord...

As soon as she's shuffled off again, Kev and Lasse agree that they recall a very drunken Chrissy the night before, opening her rucksack and showing them the bundles of cash inside, as they were sat partying at the merch stall. It's all to obvious that someone at the gig has been witness to this and taken the opportunity. Some fucker is considerably better off this morning, that's for sure!

I don't know how it plays out with Chrissy and the guys, but they obviously come to some understanding since Chrissy avoids getting the sack at least. Although the fact that she's seeing the Decapitated guitarist probably helps. That is, if she ever does indeed tell them. Whatever the case, we never hear word of it again.

The club in Orangevale is much more to our liking. It's a small club, the likes of which we played in San Antonio. I think it's sold out at about two hundred and fifty. The place looks more like a punk dive than most of the crap venues we've been playing so far, which suits us down to the ground. Thankfully for us, that actually translated to there being a healthy punk/hardcore contingent in the crowd and it ended up being one of the best, if not the best show of the tour. The place was packed, the stage was small, and the crowd went mental when we played. There was even stage diving and mosh pits at points and we sold a bit of merch afterwards. What a fucking contrast to last night, and the night before, and the night before that..

Apart from the gig, something else great happened on this night.

I've never known a bigger toilet enthusiast than Bloody Kev. I mean, I've never known anyone who takes as much pleasure in the act of taking a shit as Kev. He fucking loves it. He claims that when he worked at Virgin Records, he could entice as many as seven a day out. He hated his job so lucky for him he could break the day up with constant, and productive, shit breaks. As well as he can seemingly produce a turd at will, he can also hold on to one for a great length of time, in anticipation of finding a worthy toilet to release it.

The problem/quite frankly absurd phenomenon with rest-rooms (as they call them) in that States is that a lot of the time the stalls don't have doors on, and if they do then they most likely don't have a lock to keep the door closed with. This is at least how I've experienced this matter on the touring circuit. Just another quirky detail in the make up of this generally insane country. Anyway, the toilet at the club in Orangevale, although by no means anything you'd describe as luxurious, did at least have a door with a lock. In fact, the toilet itself was one big room with a door and a lock. Which is a little weird in that the shitter and the urinal don't come as exclusive items.. you get one, you get the other. Strange design fault but there you go. Anyway, Kev, as is his routine, had checked out the bog on arrival and had been looking forward to his toilet visit since we'd got here, leaving it for a while to build up the anticipation. You can imagine his fury then when as soon as he finally calls time on it and sits down on the pan, some obnoxious metaller bangs on the door, telling him to hurry up.

“Alright yeah,” an annoyed Kev responds, “I've just sat down, gimme a minute.” Within twenty seconds the guy is banging on the door again, shouting at Kev to hurry up. Big mistake. You don't not fuck with Kev and his turd time. Kev responds in a way only he could. He decided to wipe his arse and save the first piece of paper. With this he plans to open the door and shove it into the annoying cunt at the door's face. The thing is, when he opens the door he's faced with some big heavy metal bastard who looks like he could eat Kev for breakfast. Luckily Kev has the piece of shit paper hidden behind his back. With what can only be described as an ingenious bit of quick thinking, he stands aside and and welcomes the big metaller in, “It's all yours mate”. As he does this he pats the guy on the back and sticks the piece of shit paper to the guys leather jacket. And with that he makes a sharp exit out of there.

Only Kev could possibly think of such an action, and justify it. The thing that gets me is that this is before the show and the guy being at the gig, he's bound to run into Kev again during the evening. And unless he's really is as thick as he no doubt looked, he's bound to realise that it was Kev who stuck the shit rag on his leather jacket. Amazingly, Kev receives absolutely no back lash on the matter.

Although there were a few drinks drunk after the show, the night was considerably calmer than that which preceded it. How could it not be? Dutch was leaving early in the morning for the trip to Portland. I had set my alarm to six am so I could get up and listen to the Liverpool – Man Utd game on Dutch's internet radio. We got beat by a late goal, robbed as usual. It was the game when that bastard Gary Neville ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the Liverpool fans at the end of the game, almost causing a riot in the process. Normally I'd complain that I wished I hadn't bothered getting up at such a ludicrous hour to listen to the game, but not this time. The scenery up in Northern Californian/Oregon was beautiful, really beautiful, like Twin Peaks landscape. It was soul soothing sitting up front with Dutch, having a deep conversation as the sun came up and we drove through the forest firs that the highway snaked through. I didn't even go back to bed after the game.

It was the first time I'd really sat down with Dutch and talked to him, and although I have to say he
definitely had his quirks (he probably still hates Lasse over Coffeegate), I got an insightful look into his life as we sat there and drank coffee together. It's a weird fucking life being a tour driver, or any kind of long distance driver for that matter. He told me about his wife and how much he was away from home, how he missed her. I could understand how it must have been for him... I enjoyed our long chat as everyone else slept. I still don't get the wresting thing though...

We arrived in Portland a few hours before doors and hung out with the Soilent guys for a while, again going through the events of the night in San Francisco. After hearing of Gordon's unfortunate act he had unanimously been elected their favourite person on tour. They were having problems with the Nile guys though, as were Hypocrisy. It seemed that Nile were kicking up a fuss about the amount of merch Soilent had with them on the road. They had told them that they weren't allowed to sell more than three different design of t-shirt, which is absolutely fucking ludicrous! It's bad enough that we all had to match their ridiculous t-shirt prices as it is, but this was just purely taking the piss! The Soilent guys were threatening to quit the tour. The Hypocrisy guys were fucked off too because Nile were clamping down on their set time, wanting them to cut ten minutes from it. This all seemed to be strangely coincidental with the fact Soilent were most likely selling more merch than Nile and a lot of people were leaving the venue's after Hypocrisy were done..

I spent a couple of hours walking about the nearby Portland streets. It seemed like a really cool place, very laid back. Portland is of course drenched in punk and hardcore history, with so many great bands coming from here. I'd found a pretty cool record shop on my travels that sold mostly indie stuff. I picked up a Trans Am record as well as the first Set Fire To Flames lp. Ben from Soilent found this to be funny. I was pleased with my purchases though. To be honest, it was just as well I hadn't found a punk store since I would've most likely pissed away all my money in it.

The show tonight was a rather chilled affair. The club was on the smaller side, the crowd of three hundred or so not quite filling it out. We'd been taking the piss out of the young guys in With Passion since they'd been having a laugh at Gords' AC/DC t-shirt. Both our crew and the Soilent crew had slaughtered them for that. It was all good fun, the little bastards. There was quite an obvious clique appearing within the touring ranks. Compared to the show the night before in Orangevale you'd have to say this gig was a tame affair. We had a few people down the front that were into it and there were no signs of aggravation from anyone. But considering the crowd had a greater contingent of punk and hardcore kids than most nights, it didn't kick off like I maybe hoped it would. I guess it was an early night and most likely somewhere in the beginning of the week. Who knows?

The funny thing is, Nile's stage manager, who was this rowdy little guy who reminded me of Gords' dad Moggy, had approached us before our set, a little sheepishly, and asked if we'd mind cutting our thirty minute set to twenty five. You could tell he felt bad and he was obviously getting shit from his employers about stage schedules. We laughed when he asked, telling him we'd be more than happy to oblige. Fuck, we'd cut it to twenty, fifteen if he wanted! “Really? Are you sure?” he asked, taken a back. “No fucking problems! The shorter the better mate, as long as we're still getting paid the same!” we happily confirmed. “You guys are fucking great! I love you!” And he did and all. From there on in we became his favourite band on the tour, he just loved the attitude. He shared with us his sacred nightly bottle of whisky later on that evening, which was happily accepted. We'd just made a new friend. And a pretty handy one at that. Not only that, their tour manager, this quiet guy with a pony tail who seemed to lurk in the shadows for the most part, offered us a crate of beer after the show, straight from the belly of the Nile tour bus. “They get loads and they never drink it anyway”.. Fuck me, what a winner! Somehow we'd managed to swindle ten minutes off our set, and at the same time set ourselves up with a steady supply of free booze and beer from the Nile guys. Win-fucking-win!

We arrived early the next day in Seattle, in the usual hungover state. We'd gone from the glaring dessert sun of Arizona to the grey, chilled sky of the north west in the space of a week. We must have experienced a drop of about fifteen degrees in that time. The chilly Seattle air was exactly what the doctor ordered though and Kev, John and I took a walk down town to check out the Space Needle and some other sights. Again it seemed like a nice place, kind of European somehow. We spent a couple of hours walking around. I was impressed with John since he isn't usually the type for long strolls. We had a good time walking about though, just the three of us. It's nice to break away from the bigger pack sometimes.

The venue tonight was another small place, which always suited us down to the ground. It had a low stage too, so there'd be a good chance of some crowd “interaction” if anyone gave us shit. The in-house cuisine at this place was fucking superb, as far as fat American junk-food goes. I ate the largest, and tastiest jalapeño poppers I've ever had in my life at this place. I swear I could fly back to Seattle just to taste them again!

It turns out it was a fun show anyway. Jeff from Zeke had come down to hang out with us, I'd met him a few years ago in Sweden and we'd been friends since. It was good to see him, down the front, drunk and going for it with the rest of the mosh pit. Good times. It was definitely one of the better shows on the tour. Again, the smaller the crowd the better the show seemed to be for us. There were probably no more than two hundred in tonight. It's strange, for Nile the headlining band, that must have seemed like a disaster but we were in our element. In all honesty though, I even watched a bit of Nile later on, the first time for a while, and they had a good show themselves. I even might say I enjoyed their set, although that probably had a lot to do with the fact Lasse was sharing a bottle of Captain Morgan with me and Jeff.

We ended the night back on the disco bus with Jeff, passing around a bottle of Jager he'd bought for us. It was one of those nights that we could have easily sat up until the sun rose, getting pissed on anything we could find but we had to call it curtains at around two am, unfortunately. Dutch was eager to leave since we had a long journey ahead. I'd asked Dutch a few days ago where we'd be spending our “day off” between the Seattle and Denver shows. “In the van dude, it's like a thirty hour journey!” came his exasperated response...

We said farewell to Jeff and the Soilent Green guys, and headed east, into the early hours of the morning. We'd be spending the next two days in the van...Luckily, we had enough booze to see us through...

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