Tuesday, July 9, 2013

D?B! In The UK Part Two

Woke up early. The thin curtains in Chris Skiplickers living room offered little resistance to the burning light of the sun. The sofa bed we were sleeping on had contorted into some weird shape that left my back arched above my head and feet. Lucas was sleeping soundly beside me, undisturbed by it all. Fuck, how I needed a piss.. I lay there for another half hour at least, convincing myself I was comfortable. It was as if the room itself was snoring..

A couple of hours later and most of us were on our feet having shaken off the cloud of sleep. Except Wayne, he lay still. I found Kev in the kitchen talking to his bass, “Alright Street Bass, 'ow are ya? You ok?” patting it as he did so. Kev is proud of his bass. He calls it Street Bass because it was found by our old friend Nigel, who used to play drums in Regimes, lying in the middle of the road in London. It was then Kev decided to start playing bass and formed I like BUGS. For something that was left discarded in the street, it's a pretty good bass. Kev will proudly read you the list of the different bands that have played on it since it came to him. His face lights up that little extra when he tells you of the time he booked D-Clone and Gords from Endless Grinning Skulls, who were supporting, offered the D-Clone bassist his beautiful Rickenbacker to play. “No no, I want that bass” he says, pointing to Street Bass, “Much better!”. Kev was fucking chuffed. Still is now.

Wayne was still out cold on the three-way mattress and Chris Skiplicker had not ascended from downstairs yet, “He looks like a bit of a sleeper” notes Kev. The rest of us decide to take a walk back down to Tesco's in the vain hope they have a café there and that the café has something half way decent and vegetarian. There was no café. Instead we bought some rather sickly cheese pastries and some pop and sat on a wall in the car park, lapping up the sun. Whilst we were sat there not particularly enjoying our breakfast, a trashy looking woman comes running out of the shop in our direction, face awash with panic. “Julie! Julie” she shouts, looking about the car park. For a moment my heart beats heavily with sadness, I can see Luk thinking the same thing. This poor lady has lost her child. There is nothing quite so sad as a terrified child that's lost it's parents. Then the woman's gaze fixes on a target somewhere behind where we're sat. “Julie! What juice do you want?” She's talking to an equally trashy looking woman who seems to be loitering about the car park. They erupt into a loud conversation about juice that we zone out. “I fucking hate your country” Luk says to me, not a hint of a smile in his eyes. A little while later the woman sits herself on the wall next to Pablo and asks us for a fag. We tell her that none of us smoke to which she replies, “You don't look like you smoke”. I don't know what she means by that.

We get back to Chris' place and phone for a couple of cabs. Chris comes down just as we're leaving, his hard rock curls all over the place. He looks out of it still and seems to be having a hard time adjusting his eyes to the glare of the sun. We thank him again for everything and leave him some merch before hopping in the cabs. Suspiciously enough they cost a couple of quid less than the ones we took yesterday. I guess we were pretty obvious about being from out of town, lugging around a few guitar cases and bags and pushing a phone displaying Chris' address in the drivers face..

We've got a half hour to kill so of course we head to the station pub. I'm pleasantly surprised by the wide selection of ales they have on tap.. It's fucking roasting in the sun, I've never experienced weather of this kind in Sheffield before, funny how a bit of sunshine can improve the appearance of a city. Despite feeling pretty tired the beer tastes superb and sets us up nicely for the train ride to Nottingham..

The journey is a short one and we're there with plenty of time to spare. We decide to walk from the station to the venue but this takes longer than expected. Or maybe the walk always feels longer when you're not exactly sure where you're going.. I played here last year with Victims but then we were in a van and I can't remember where it is now, just that it is an industrial area of the city. Kev has his phone as a guide though and so him we follow, everyone with two items each to carry. Kev reckons it's only a ten minute walk but in reality it's closer to thirty since we have to keep stopping to check the GPS. Amazing how a guitar case can grow in weight during that time, especially in this heat.

Kev gives us a guided tour of the city as we make the walk, he lived here for a long time and was a big part of the scene. We pass through the Broadway Shopping Mall next to the train station, a mall that looks like it's trapped in the seventies, it surely hasn't had a lick of paint since then, it even has a Wimpy Burger restaurant! It also has the entrance to the Nottingham caves, a guided tour to the vast tunnelled network under the city. Weird mall. I murmur the idea to Kev that maybe we should check the caves out in the morning but Kev just smirks. There is of course no chance we'll be getting up in the morning and exploring caves before we head to London, not with the hangover we're likely to have after a night in Nottingham. Being his old estate, Kev has little chance of getting away with being sober tonight..

As we make our way to the venue, Kev points out the different places that have seen some legendary shows over the years. Played with Hard to Swallow and John Holmes there, The Narrow Boat where all the great bands like Iron Monkey et all used to practice there, the pub where Kev put on the final Bob Tilton show just there, and the Old Angel, one of the legendary venues of the British scene where Sean Hard To Swallow now resided as landlord and where we'd surely end up later after the show. Nottingham is a city that's always had a good scene, I was really looking forward to the show tonight, I knew there would be a good turn out and there would be a lot of old friends in attendance. And the venue itself is brilliant, a DIY practice/recording studio ran in part by our friend Boulty, where they put gigs on in the foyer, nice and small. Tonight was going to be good.

We arrive at the venue which is housed on the third floor of an old brick building that from the outside could fool you into thinking it's falling apart, but in reality the practice rooms and studio Boulty has set up are pretty tidy. As well as Boulty there is another guy who runs a t-shirt printing company, although he seems to keep himself to himself. Boulty is in the middle of recording a band when we get there and he's running around like a blue arsed fly, but we assure him that we're only dumping the stuff and heading off for a while. There isn't much stuff to dump anyway..

We walk back the same way we came and go for some food at Annie's Burger Shack, which these days is being run out of a pub next to the river. It used to be at the Old Angel but moved a while ago. Annie, an American woman who has been living here for years, runs the kitchen where they have an absurdly good burger menu, each burger coming with an option of meat, vegetarian or vegan, and she makes everything herself, even down to the vegan barbecue pulled pork. With her in the kitchen is Stu Toolin who used to play guitar in Pitchshifter and Steve who played drums in the legendary band Heresy and these days plays in Geriatric Unit and Endless Grinning Skulls, who are playing with us tomorrow in London. Steve also used to play in a band with Kev called 666Dead which also had Sean Hard to Swallow as well as Kalv from Heresy. Like I say, Nottingham has always had a good scene.

Annie's burgers are pretty fucking popular and there is a forty five minute wait, but since we have absolutely no rush this isn't a problem. Kev pops up to the kitchen to say hello to the guys whilst we get some pints in and take a table. The food is more than worth the wait. I have a veggie Lemny Burger which is topped with their home-made jalapeño cheese and a side of Cajun fries. It's beyond superb and the portion fills me for the rest of the day. Before we leave, Annie comes down to say hello and with her she brings some new recipes she's working on. She's a lovely lady and it's great to meet her.

We head back to the venue via the country's oldest pub, the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which is built into the walls of the old castle and is pretty fucking cool. On our way back to the venue the air temperature has dropped a little and Kev tries to find us a path back that keeps us in the sun, but it's not really happening. It's not that bad to be fair, it's just fun amusing Kev.

When we arrive back at the venue Boulty has set most of the backline up and is sound-checking. Our friends Jeremie and Henry are there, Henry we'd bumped into at the off-licence on the way back, as well as Andy who used to play in Army of Flying Robots with Henry and who now plays guitar in EGS. Andy has his distro with him and we sell him a few copies of the seven inch, myself taking the new Glam album as well as a Brno hardcore punk compilation featuring exclusively bands from that Czech city. We catch up with everyone over a can of beer, always nice to see these guys. Before long Jay and Dave who used to play in Speedhorn turn up. In all honesty I'm a little surprised since they've said on many occasion that they're coming to a show and then don't, but tonight they do and it's great to see them again. We were at Gordon Speedhorn's stag party a few weeks ago and that was the first time we'd met in far too long. We should really stay in touch more. Jay told me shortly after the stag party that he's going to be a dad too, which was brilliant to hear. I'm really happy for him. There are a bunch of other friends here and it's great hanging out and chatting whilst the night takes shape. This is without doubt, my favourite part of playing shows.

The first band is called Beast As God and has Jeremie on vocals, Boulty on bass and another old friend Steve on guitar, who plays in the band Molluch with Henry. The other guitarist is an old friend of Kev's who used to sell shirts for HTS on tour. They're right up my street, all crushing melodic hardcore, heavy as fuck with some intricate mellower parts thrown in. Jeremie is an absolute mammoth on vocals. There is a good crowd in watching them and I really enjoy their set. Looking forward to hearing some recordings. The next band King of Pigs, has another old friend, Andy on vocals, who used to play in Jesus of Spazzareth. Andy is a really nice guy. I didn't realise he was singing in this band. Again, it's a lot fun watching them play their old school fast punk, tight as fuck, getting through about twenty songs in as many minutes.

As Slow Plague are setting up gear most of the punks at the show are downstairs out on the street, enjoying the warmth of the evening and drinking cans of beer. I head down to catch some air and to see who's about when I find Kev and Dave Speedhorn hastily recounting the events of something that's just happened down there. With him is an old friend, Gords, who also used to play in HTS and now sings in GU and plays bass in EGS, who's there with his fourteen year old daughter who tonight is attending her first DIY show. It turns out to be quite an introduction...

Apparently when they'd gone downstairs they found a lot of cop cars on the street. Obviously the first thought is punks and cops don't mix so well and maybe their presence had something to do with the gig but then Kev noticed the ambulance and the guy lying in a heap in the middle of the road, just by the corner of the street a few yards away. It turns out some guy, either fucked up on drugs or mentally ill, or indeed both, had beaten up some guy pretty fucking bad. Kev had seen the cops shoving the psycho guy, handcuffed, into the back of the car and the guy muttering “Maybe I went a bit far there. I know what I've done is wrong”. Kev said he saw the guy sat in the back of the car, all wide eyed and manic. As Kev is describing this I hadn't noticed but Dave has gone off to check what's happening with the beat up guy. When he comes back he looks like he's just seen a ghost. He tells us he just saw the cops placing a sheet over the guy. “He's fucking dead...” Fuck.

Everyone is a little shocked as we go back inside. I find myself hoping that the guy had not just been some poor random fucker that had been jumped, that he had been himself a bastard who had it coming to him, but of course, either way it's fucking awful. Word spreads quickly inside but the common response from everyone seems to be the same. “Welcome to Nottingham”.

It's a strange setting for Slow Plague to take the stage, or the floor, to. The room is a little emptier than it has been, I guess a lot of people are hanging around outside checking out what's going on. The mood is sombre and Slow Plague's music seems to encapsulate the tone. The room does gradually fill up as their twenty minute set rumbles on. The mood gets a little lighter too. At one point, right at the start of a song, just as Wayne has begun to scream the vocals, those slow tortured black metal style vocals, his bass drum shifts forward causing Wayne to cut the song off and sort it out. I crack up as he goes from Fenriz to an apologetic, “Sorry, sorry” in his broad Dublin accent.

When Slow Plague are done again the room empties. It's a balmy night and the venue is boiling hot. Kev says to me, a bit worried, that we need to make sure we play plenty of feedback in the beginning of the set, before we go into the first song. He notes, correctly, that if we do indeed just blast into the first song then by the time the punks make it up the three flights of stairs our set will be as good as over.

We do just that and by the time we're ready to kick into to D?B! the room is pretty buzzing. Another old friend of mine, James, is here with a couple of the guys from Bob Tilton, who he is now playing in a band with. It's great to see him as always. It feels fucking loud from where I'm standing and the eighty or so people in the small room are looking up for it. Despite the fucked up shit that happened earlier, I'm really looking forward to this show.

It doesn't disappoint.

From the very start people kick off. Me and Kev are flying back and forth into the crowd, moshing and playing at the same time. What a fucking rush. It hits me just how intense it is when we play. I mean, I'm fucking exhausted after about seven minutes, still five to go. Or maybe I'm just not as fit as I used to be.. I have a minor disaster at the end of No Exit though. Jamie's guitar, my new best friend, the Epiphone SG, flies up in the air and the strap comes off, the guitar crashing to the floor, landing face down. I shit myself for a second, but the guitar seems to have survived. Although a screw holding the neck pick-up in place has come loose and I have to remove it so as to save my hand getting shredded for the rest of the gig. This causes the pick up to sink into the guitar but since it's not being used I hope it will be ok. I forget about this when during the next song, Boulty and a few of the other guys form a pretty spectacular four storey human pyramid, the drummer from Beast As God at the top of it, necking a can of beer with the one hand, pumping the air with the other. I look at Viktor and he's pissing himself laughing, absolutely chuffed. The gig is over before I know it, but the buzz is still in the air. Dave and Jay come up to me and simply say, “Fuck-ing hell! That was mental!” Sweating like fuck, I check out Jamie's guitar and make a mental note to tell Kev about it later. Feel pretty bad about it now.

We hang out with everyone for a while afterwards, enjoying a couple of beers. Always good seeing old friends. There had been talk that EGS wouldn't be making the show tomorrow after all since Pat, their singer has a daughter in hospital, having just suffered and asthma attack. Gords and Andy have decided they'll do it as a three piece though since they both sing anyway. I feel bad about Pat's daughter but I'm glad they're still playing. I've brought a couple of Victims t-shirts along for Gords and we're hanging out in the back room where we have our bags, talking about EGS and the Notts scene right now, but mostly we talk about the murder. He can't believe that this has happened the first time he brings his daughter to a show. He was looking forward to showing her what a real gig is all about, the energy, the community spirit.. and this happens. She's a really sweet girl though and she doesn't seem too put off.

When Gords leaves we head back out to the foyer where the gig was and the numbers have dwindled considerably. There are a few punks left, one of which, an older guy, has latched onto Vik. He's bought a shirt and a record and looks chuffed. He's pretty drunk but seems like a nice guy. Weird scene though. He's with this young Swedish girl who from what I can gather is his son's ex girlfriend. Apparently they split up but she's stuck and living with dad now. She's talking to Luk for a while, in Swedish, but she keeps making a point of not being able to speak her mother tongue very well any more, something I can empathise with..until she tells me she's been living in the UK for six months..

I don't know where Kev has been for the last half hour but when Wayne puts Chas and Dave's Gertcha on the PA he's back like a shot, dancing around the floor, singing along. This Chas and Dave thing had actually started last night in Sheffield as we were setting the gear up for the show and it now seems it will become a common theme. The other punks that are still around join in with the dance and before you know it there's a party going on. All of dancing to the Rockney rhymes of Chas and Dave.

Whilst this is going on, Boulty is stomping about looking pissed off, which is something quite unusual. The thing is, it seems some dickheads have left off a fire extinguisher downstairs and have sprayed the fucking place with foam. Boulty is stressed because this could potentially mean him getting landed with a big bill from his landlord, or worse, he could have the shows he puts on here stopped. I find it hard to believe that any of the punks who were at the show tonight would have done this. It soon turns out that it was in fact some cunts from town who had stumbled past and thought they'd fuck with the place. Boulty is soon back to his placid self, saying he'll just put a fund raiser on if he gets hit with a bill..

It's past twelve and I start to feel that if we're going to go to the Angel for a pint then we should go soon. Kev is stoating about pissed, saying something about a door code. We're sleeping here tonight and we need a code to get back into the venue since Boulty will be gone when we get back, as will everyone else. The thing is, every time Kev tells me the code he comes up with a different combination of numbers. Cue mass confusion and the word “code” being said a lot.

I write down the four digits Kev finally settles on and we head off. As we exit through the corridor which takes you out to the back door of the building we pass the Swedish girl who is sat in a heap crying, some punks doing their best to console her. It feels best that we steer clear. When we leave through the back door, we try the code, just to be safe. The thing is, the door doesn't seem to lock at all. After a few moments hesitation we conclude that this should be fine and we leave for the Angel.

When we arrive they're just closing up the bar. Sean lurched in front of it, looking rowdy, as he always does. As soon as he spots Kev his face lights up though and he turns to his bartender and barks orders at him. “You! Bring a bottle of Jager and seven shot glasses to that table!” Ah fuck, I can't be arsed with this..I fucking hate Jagermeister! Seven years of being sponsored by it when we were in Speedhorn seeing to that. The bartender looks pissed off but what can he do? He dutifully sorts the bottle out as we apologetically order pints from the bar.

We gather around the table and await our shots. Sean seems to be shouting a lot. He pours us each a horrendously large shot and passes them around. Within seconds Luk has knocked my glass over and I have Jagermeister all over my fucking jeans. “Argh Ga-aaz!!!” shouts Luk. Cheeky cunt. Sean is not amused. He pours another shot. Luk, sat next to me whispers in my ear, pleading, “Please tell them it was you. I'm an immigrant, I won't stand a chance!” I piss myself laughing.

The bottle is done in two rounds of shots. As fucking disgusting as they were, the second one went down a lot easier than the first. It normally does.. I assure myself I won't be drinking any more. No need to worry though since by now everyone seems to be boats and they're all dancing to the loud as fuck AC/DC that Sean has put on the speakers. Luk is well away, as is Kev, dancing and head banging with Sean and some dangerous looking skinhead mate of his, who seems to have appeared from nowhere.

Me and Pablo sit and watch the entertainment unfold before us. Wayne is playing guitar on a bar stool, Kev and Sean are headlocking each other when they're not playing air guitar and shouting the words to Highway to Hell, Luk is all over the shop, going from crawling under a table to standing at the window, singing at girls passing by on the street, trying to get them to come inside. Vik is having a good old natter with Skinhead, no doubt talking about the old days when Vik used to clip it to the bone and turn his jeans up over his shiny boots.

A couple of hours of this and I'm done. We all are, except Kev, who still seems to be going strong, although he's sat himself down by the DJ booth and is controlling the tunes. His eyes are on the way out though. We receive confirmation it's time to leave when Wayne asks the bartender, who is now sat in the back yard looking thoroughly bored, if he can get another pint. A simple “no” is the reply. We head out to the street but Kev has disappeared. We wait for him for a while, passing the time with a shitty bag of chips and cheese from the shop next door. A half hour later and still no Kev, so Wayne goes to check on him. He returns shortly afterwards, led by Sean to the door. Sean lets us know that Kev will be staying with him tonight. Who the fuck are we to argue with that? As we walk back down the road Wayne tells us he'd found Kev sat back by the DJ booth, steamboats, ranting on about the fact he'd lost his glasses and his cap. Wayne had tried to explain that they were in fact beside him on the seat but to no avail. And then Sean led him away.. Fuck knows what state we'll find Kev in tomorrow...

We arrive back at the rear door of the venue. It's cold now and we're all tired. A collective deep breath before we try the door. It's locked. Another deep breath and then the code. It of course, does not work. Fuck...

Before panic can spread, Wayne, confident as you like, assures us he can jimmie the lock using a bank card, going on about the things you learn on the streets of Dublin.. I have full faith in him and expect to be inside within a matter of minutes.


It's cold and Vik is now moaning like a bastard. We ring Kev, the fucker doesn't answer. Vik insists we try again, or that we call a cab, or that we kick the door in. Wayne politely tells him to shut the fuck up. We go around to the intercom at the front door, in the vain, vain hope that someone will still be around.

Nothing. It's cold.

We head back around, try Kev again, still no answer. Vik is now talking loudly about a cab and a hotel. My mind rushes back to my teens when I was in a similar situation with Tony and Frank from Speedhorn after a night at Rock City and we ended up sleeping in the lift in the train station, the fucker travelling up and down all night, the doors opening at the end of each journey. Fuck doing that again. Me and Wayne decide to try the door, see how resistant it is to a bit of pressure. We start to yank it back and forth. At first it seems like we're getting nowhere but then there is the slightest bit of give. This is all the encouragement we need. We start to pull the fucker with everything we have, not really thinking about how we'll explain this to Boulty in the morning. And then, it flies open. We're in. Relief hits us like a wave.

We head up the stairs and along the corridor, back to the door that leads to the foyer where the gig was. There is another code pad. My first thought is that at least we can sleep indoors now, even if it is to be in this corridor, but Wayne is already typing in Kev's code and this time it works.

We head to the rehearsal room at the back, where we'll be sleeping. It's carpeted and it's warm. Vik takes the sofa but it looks small. I'm happy with a quilt on the floor. I've never been so comfortable in my entire life. I wonder how Kev is doing at the Angel, I wonder how he'll be feeling in the morning. But it's just a passing concern. I'm soon fast asleep.

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