Saturday, December 1, 2012

New York/New England

Rochester, New York... One of those places I'd never heard of before coming here, and if it wasn't for this tour then I'd probably have spent the rest of my days ignorant of it's presence on this planet of ours.

Americans often get the piss taken out of them for their geographical ineptitude, for that they don't know things like Sweden and Switzerland aren't the same place, or what the name of the capital city of Belarus is, as an example... But in truth, such piss taking is a little unfair. A little.. Obviously not all Americans are this inept, at the same time it's not like all Europeans know what the state capital of Kentucky is, or where Rochester, New York is on the map, as an example.. One thing I've learnt to appreciate more and more each day on this tour is that the USA is a big fucking country! Indeed, it is almost the same size as the entire continent of Europe so maybe it's not so weird that a lot of it's inhabitants horizons don't expand past their own borders. To be fair, a lot of people I went to school with probably couldn't tell you what the capital of Belarus is either...

Anyway, I'd never fucking of heard of Rochester, New York before. And that's shameful in itself since apparently after New York City and Buffalo, it's the third largest city in the state...

Of course, when we pulled up to the venue in the van, we could have been anywhere. It was mid afternoon, it was grey and it was cold. We were on the shore of the lake, it's water so still and dark it looked like it was in the throes of depression. The city must have been far from wherever we were right now. All there was here was the lake and a few lonely streets lined with houses in varying degrees of regress.

We were a little early so we decided to go down to the lake and check out the views from a closer vantage point. We didn't last much longer than five minutes though, such was the cold. We headed back inside the venue and “hung out”, by which I mean we sat around and did the sum of nothing for about an hour. All this free time on tour and all you do is sit around and wait for the fun of loading in the gear. The venue was basically a large bar with a high stage up against the back wall. It was a good size place. If experience was anything to go by then it should make for a good show tonight.

Nile and the other bands turned up in dribs and drabs over the course of the late afternoon and by the time we were loaded in and set up there was still another couple of hours to kill before doors. There was no food on offer at the venue so we decided to go to a local bar for some grub, check in with the locals. There happened to be a place only a couple of hundred meters down the road, so most of us headed there.

It was an old wooden building and the door creaked as we walked in. It was like a scene from many a film, where the out-of-towner's walk into the room and meet the glaring eyes of the three locals sat at the bar as the music abruptly grinds to a halt. Well, it was almost like that. At least, that's how it felt under the weight of the hangover we were all carrying on our backs. We shuffled to the bar and were taken a little by surprise at the friendly tone of the old guy I assume was the landlord. We ordered some beer and some food, all of us taking burger and chips. To the delight of Lasse and Kev, they actually had a veggie burger on the menu. As we paid the man and took our beer to a table against the opposing wall, the gaze of a haggard, middle aged looking woman who was sat at the bar, followed us all the way to our destination, and stayed with us for quite some time afterwards. The two bikers playing pool couldn't give much of a shit about us, thankfully...

We sat there drinking the standard American lager and chatted over the hushed tones of the standard hard rock on the jukebox, the lady at the bar looking over and smiling every once in a while. When the friendly old landlord came with the grub, the woman followed him and sat down at our table, cosying up to Kev. She was fucking boats. We all grinned as Kev got a chatter-full of bad teeth in his ear. She was cackling whilst babbling something barely comprehensible, the whole while her hand flirting with Kev's thigh. Kev's laughter barely disguised how nervous he was, ours barely disguised how chuffed we were. Eventually the landlord came to Kev's rescue and ushered the old drunk back to the bar, where he duly poured her another drink. Weird scene.

The food was good anyway, just what the hangover needed. Everyone seemed to be in better spirits by the time the plates were taken from the table, except Lasse, who's hangover seemed to have a tighter grip on him than the rest of us. He was complaining of having a pain in his guts, that he was desperate for a turd but dared not go to the toilet in this place. By the time the second and third beer had been drunk he could no longer hold out and so he slurked off to the bog. He was gone a while, maybe ten minutes or so. I imagined how he must be suffering in there and needing a piss myself, I decided to go see how he was getting on.

I walked past the bikers at the pool table to the door with “Gents” scribbled on it. I almost pissed my jeans with laughter when I walked in to find Lasse sat on the toilet in the middle of the room, kecks around his ankles, a woefully sad expression on his coupon. After a quick glance, I realised that it was one of those classic American set ups. The toilet was in the middle of the room, completely in the open, no door or even cubicle around it. On the wall beside it was a single urinal and there was of course no lock on the one and only door, the door I was presently holding open as I pissed myself laughing at his sad, little face. I scurried back to the lads and assured them they had to go check Lasse out.

By the time Lasse was back with us, the lady had rejoined the group, and she was now working her way on to Daz. It soon came to the fore that we were a band, playing down the road. She obviously wanted to come along. Daz told her he'd put her on the list as we were fucking off out of there. She never turned up. Well, maybe she did but she didn't make it past the beef head security guards on the door at any rate.

The place was pretty packed by the time we played, maybe three hundred people in the place. It was certainly more people than I ever imagined I'd be playing to in Rochester, New York. It's amazing really, because I never thought we'd end up here with this band. We never thought this far ahead in the beginning. I certainly never thought we'd ever play outside of the UK. So to be stood there on stage to three hundred people in a city in the States I'd never heard of before was really quite mind blowing. Shame that almost everyone in there hated us.

It was a bastard as well because it was one of those high stages which made the crowd feel all the more comfortable in giving us shit. We played as hard as we could, which with our short hair and non-death metal clothing really seemed to piss the crowd off all the more. One great thing happened on stage tonight though. Actually two great things happened, although they spawned from the same incident. Brian from Soilent Green/Eyehategod got up on stage and played EHG's 30$ Bag with us. The same song we would later do a cover of on the tribute record Chris was releasing. I've rarely been so buzzed. I felt like a fucking kid up on that stage, a kid getting to play with one of his heroes.

The other great thing that happened is that what I was thinking John said aloud as he introduced Brian on stage, namely that we'd stick it to the crowd, who obviously were into Soilent Green but hated us. With great pride John announced that we had a “very good friend” coming up on stage with us and then he grandly gestures the arrival of Brian from Soilent Green. If we were expecting this to win us over a few punters, we were sadly mistaken. “Yeah, you're still shit though!” comes an immediate reply from some wise ass. Most of the band cracked up laughing, partly due to the cheek of the bastard in the crowd and the genuine appreciation of the quick wit with which he delivered his response and partly because we usually found it funny when one of us was made to look a cunt.

Still, it was amazing playing 30$ Bag with Brian... After the show we actually found one guy who was a massive fan of the band and he insisted on buying us all a drink. We happily accepted his offer, of course. He went on to apologise for the gig and explained that it's the wrong scene for us tonight. We explained that we'd gotten used to it by now and that it was usually a good crack anyway. The funny thing was, this guy was really into the latest record, which at the time was How The Great Have Fallen, a record that we weren't that pleased with. By the time we released the following album we were no longer playing any songs from HTGHF, such was our disdain for it. Still, it was nice to meet a genuine fan for a change. “Man, the song Slay The Coward, it's a fucking masterpiece!” Ok buddy, I don't know if I'd go that far but mine's a IPA if you're buying...

The next day we were in Poughkeepsie, which is a place I'd heard of, although all I knew of the place is that it had a funny sounding name. I'd always had the impression that upstate New York was a rich area, I don't know why exactly, I guess I'd assumed it was like the “countryside” in England, where the “elite” had their summer homes. I was in for somewhat of a surprise when we jumped out of the van in Poughkeepsie. We literally fell right into a scene from that horrible tv show, Cops. A young, “African American” in ludicrously baggy tracksuit pants and a basketball top as long as a frock was bent over a cop car with his hands cuffed, shouting at some mean looking “European American” cop who was roughing him up across the car's bonnet. Everyone stood around staring at the scene in shock for a minute or so before Dutch ushered us inside the venue. “Yeah, upstate New York isn't a great place to hang out...”

I don't remember much of the show, it was probably shit. The only thing I remember is the lot of us going for a walk after soundcheck, before the sun went down, and only getting as far as the back of the block that the club belonged to. We got to a big roundabout, which was a peculiar site in the USA, looked at that for a minute and then walked back. I also remember watching Nile from the closed off balcony in the venue, the lot of us taking the piss out of Ghost Tramp's hair... And that's about it.

The next day we were in Worcester, Massachusetts. We were there early and the venue was huge, probably the biggest of the entire tour. Aside from the venue, the part of town we were in seemed to offer nothing but a typically long, faceless street that's main point of interest seemed to be a kebab shop. Fuck that! With the whole day to kill, Lasse, Kev and I decided we'd take the train into Boston, which was about a half hour ride away. I was literally stunned when everyone else decided they couldn't be arsed...

So the three of us took off for the day. The journey was actually closer to an hour than the thirty minutes advertised but it was pretty cool riding the train all the same. It really was just like you see on tv, with the old guy in the hat and the ticket machine hung over his shoulder, shouting the stations out as we approached them. It was a gorgeously sunny day when we arrived in Boston. One day you're walking around in a thick jacket, shoulders hunched over in an attempt to keep out the cold air of Lake Ontario, a couple of days later you're walking beside the Charles River in a t-shirt...

We had a great day walking around the beautiful city of Boston, the three of us doing our best impression of the European tourist. We checked out the harbour and then went to the Cheers bar, both a tourist theme version of it and the original façade they used for the show's title credits. We had some amazing vegetarian food in China town and we took a coffee at some cosy place by City Square Park. The only thing I didn't get to check off the list was a visit to Newbury Comics, the famous record shop, but there's a limit to what you can fit into four hours. All the same, it turned out to be a relief just to break away from the rest of the pack.

We returned to Worcester around five pm, it was already getting dark by the time we made it back to the huge venue we were playing. There was a large communal dressing room where we found our boys sitting about looking bored. I asked Gords what they'd done with the day, not wanting to go full on about our pleasant excursion to Boston. “We went to that kebab shop,” was Gords' sullen reply. I left the conversation there...

The venue was a weird one. It was this gigantic town hall looking building, all tired white concrete on the outside. Inside it was basically just a large, brightly lit, elongated room that must have held about three thousand people. There was a massive stage at the far end and a bar area at the back and that was about the only features I remember.

The venue was no more than half full all night though, and even then it was another one of those occasions where the punters left in droves after Hypocrisy finished. Our show was just another nothing affair, neither good nor particularly bad, it just seemed to melt in with the rest of them. There were probably a good six hundred people watching as we played as hard as we could up on that big, high stage, but there was plenty of space for each one of those six hundred to swing the proverbial cat. Playing big, half empty venues is always a weird experience. I'd rather play a basement show to sixty people any day of the week. It doesn't help things when the huge venue you're playing seemingly refuses to turn the fucking house lights off. What can I say? We got up on stage, got the odd head nodding, the odd face sneering, kicked the fuck out of the set list for twenty minutes and fucked off again.

I remember later on in the night, being stuck in a stairwell side stage with Ghost Tramp and one of Nile's techs before they went on to play. Ghost Tramp was sucking on a cig and looked at me and grinned, “Fucking Worcester, tough crowd!” I just nodded in agreement. You don't know the half of it mate, I thought to myself. He went on stage shortly afterwards, I went over to that kebab shop to see if they had any falafel...

No comments:

Post a Comment