Thursday, January 23, 2014


We were supposed to play in Malmö yesterday.  The show was cancelled.  Or should I say, the venue, Svalvet, was closed down.  Hårda Tider had their release party there a couple of months ago and according to hearsay the punks at the gig had pissed and puked all over the place afterwards, the landlord then received complaints the following day from neighbouring tenants and the punks running the place were duly kicked out.  This is just hearsay of course...

This was the first punk house the Malmö scene had owned since Utkanten.  Strangely enough, Kev and I were present when that place was raided by the pigs and closed down, we were there to play a show with Victims, Regimes and Pyramido and the cunts had raided the place like they were busting an Al Qaeda hiding hole, the whole thing was absolutely pathetic.  We were literally sat there eating cinnamon buns and drinking coffee when these idiots bust through the door with a battering ram and march in dressed in full riot gear.  It was fucking surreal.

Malmö doesn't seem to have much luck with housing it's punk scene.  I've always found it strange that a city with arguably the strongest scene in Sweden, with such a wide array of bands adhering to the DIY ethic has so little to offer in the way of gig venues.  When Svalvet closed we still had a couple of months to find something else but the efforts of an assortment of various friends in the city had failed to materialise into a gig, for one reason or another.  So we're just left with Göteborg and Stockholm for this little “tour”.  Shame, we have a few costs to cover, I'm hoping we can make that work from just two shows.  We've paid to play a few times with Diagnosis, by which I mean our costs have heavily outweighed our income, and we'll do it again if it feels worth it, but it would be nice to just have the money go round, just once...

It's also a shame that we couldn't make more of a weekend of it with the Desperat guys.  I'd been really looking forward to sharing a van with them for a few days but now with just the two shows, and with tomorrow's being Stockholm, we'll just have to make the most of hanging out tonight in Göteborg.

Something I love about being involved in punk rock is the friends you make along the way.  Jocke, the singer in Desperat and the man behind D Takt och Råpunk, the label that has been kind enough to release our records, has become a good friend of mine since I first got in touch with him via email about releasing our first seven inch, a little over a year ago. The thing is, today would be the first time we'd met in person.  I never had a pen friend as a kid but Jocke has become something of one to me in adulthood.  We first wrote back and forth about the record, but soon enough we started corresponding about a whole load of other stuff, personal stuff.  We just kind of clicked, realising we have a lot in common.  I was almost nervous as we drove over to their practice room to pick them up.  A strange situation meeting an already good friend for the very first time.

As it turns out, Jocke was just as easy to talk to as he is to write to and the other guys in the band, Chrille and Johan, we're just as easy going too.  I'd been mailing back and forth with Chrille this last week, just about the usual planning stuff for the shows and it turns out both he and Johan live down the road from me. Some people just give you a really good impression upon first meeting them, and that was definitely the case here.  As we set off in the van we'd barely gotten out of Stockholm before the laughter in the back of the van behind me erupted.  I really wish we were doing a few more shows with these guys...

So, everyone in the van, except Åke who plays guitar in Desperat and lives in Malmö and will meet us at the venue tonight, we head off on the four hundred and fifty kilometre journey towards Göteborg.  This is actually the first time I've driven a van, well, a van full of band members at least, and I'd been a little trepidatious about the whole thing, but by the time we stopped for the first coffee break, just after Södertälje, I felt like I'd been driving band vans all my life.  Piece of piss.  Except when it came to parking the fucking thing in a tight space at said coffee break, that got a bit sweaty.

At the start of a tour when you're sharing a van with another band the two bands usually stay segregated. One band sits up the front, the other at the back.  I remember thinking about this when Victims did a three week tour sharing a van with Tormented.  It was exactly that in the beginning.  After a week or so, a long time on tour, usually everyone has mixed, for the good of everyone's enjoyment.  If things go well that is. Can't actually imagine how shite sharing a van with a band you didn't get on with would be.  As it was today, Jocke, Chrille and Johan were occupying the back bench and Kev and Vik were in front of them, me and Luk up front.  Give it a few days and this would change but we only have tomorrow.  Shame because I know given the time we'd have a blast with these boys as Victims did with our now close friends, Tormented.

I'm sure every time I've travelled south by road in Sweden, towards Göteborg or to Europe, I've stopped at Max about half way there and eaten a veggie burger.  Today was no different.  It's almost like an unwritten rule.  We normally stop in Jönköping but today we went a little further and ended up in some sort of roadside burger emporium.  It had every burger joint Sweden had to offer and on the way in we were greeted by a huge sculpture of a potato in the middle of a roundabout.  The place looked more like Mid West United States than Swedish bible belt.  Really, we should have taken Sibylla, which has a soya burger and is way better than Max's deep fried vegetable patty, but unwritten rules are unwritten rules.  I can get a little tired of Max's veggie burger though.. At least they exist I guess, I shouldn't moan.  When I think back to the time I was in Stavanger with Santiago a while back and drunkenly ordered a veggie burger from “Burger King” only to receive a bun, some salad, onions and fucking ketchup, no sign of any sort of burger, and still had to pay about four fucking quid for this piece of shit, it still fries my piss!

We all sit down to our meals, once I've timidly parked the van in a seemingly very tight parking space, and begin the process of getting to know each other, talking old times and other bands and different faces.  I always love talking to other punks about their experiences in the scene.  Meals eaten we're back in the van and heading down the last stretch of motorway towards Göteborg, the sky already darkening and it's only three pm.  We make one last coffee and piss stop around forty kilometres away and then Jocke takes over the wheel, I sit beside him and we chat our way to the venue.  

It's so easy these days, now that everybody has GPS on their phones.  This place would have been a classic victim for fucking Google Maps back in the day.  How many times I've been in a van on the way in to a big city, rabidly following the list of directions printed off the computer and then you miss that crucial exit on the motorway and you're fucked!  Had a horrible experience in Munich one time but that's another story.  Anyway, without GPS this place would have been a fucker to find, out in the middle of Hissingen in an industrial estate.  Viktor had warned us there would be no point in us turning up early as there was the sum total of fuck all to do in the area.  He wasn't joking.  As it is, we turned up bang on time, just as the guys running the place were getting some food ready for us.

The venue, named 128 A, is housed in a warehouse unit that they've done up into a very cool punk house.  The stage is a perfect size, the room is big but set up so that forty people in front of the band will give the place a good vibe.  There are sofas spread about the room, a kitchen area behind the bar where they do all the cooking, a free shop where people can leave and pick up clothes, books and whatever else and also a stall where information about the Punk Illegal movement is on display.  It's these people who are behind the running of the place.  A very good set up indeed, although one wonders if people can really be fucked coming all the way out here from town?  If this was Stockholm it wouldn't stand a chance!  No tube station, no go.

We walk in and Johan and Chrille's first priority is figuring out where the nearest off licence is.  They needn't worry, we're told there are more than enough beers in the backstage room and if we do manage to drink them then the beer is only twenty kronor a pop in the bar.  It turns out Chrille has a quart of whisky in his pocket anyway!  That cracks me up.  I already love this guy.  As we wait for the food the guys take beers to one of the sofa areas and quench their thirst whilst waiting for dinner to be served.  Even though Jocke doesn't drink it doesn't exactly feel fair to just assume he's going to want to drive the van after the gig to wherever we're staying so I hold off on the beer, weakly attempting to convince myself and everyone else that I'm not in the mood for a brew just yet.  When it turns out that we're actually sleeping at the venue tonight though, in a dormitory above the stage I crack a beer open immediately.  Guess I was thirsty.  We spend the next half hour or so sitting around having the crack, taking the piss out of each other.  I like Chrille, he has a constant, cheeky look on his coupon...

The Desperat guys head off to pick up Åke from the train station and when they return the food is ready.  And fuck me is it good!  A vegan potato granting with a smoked tofu salad.  Absolutely superb.  Nothing like great grub to get your night going.  I'm looking forward to playing tonight.  Not sure how many people are going to turn up but since Mob 47 are playing, which is everyone from Desperat bar Jocke, and they haven't played Göteborg for a very long time, I'm guessing it should be a healthy turn out.  Mob 47 are a legendary Swedish punk band who split up in the eighties and reformed a few years back, one of the fastest of the d-beat bands back in the day.  My first show with Victims was actually with Mob at Kafé 44. Another of the many things I love about punk rock is that there are no fucking rock stars, well, not in the scene we're involved in anyway, and even legends like these guys are easy going, humble people.  It's funny, Åke is one of Jon Victims' idols, not so much for his punk rock status but for his bowling skills.  Åke is right up there with the best and is a bowling freak just like Jon.  He actually moved down to Malmö to open his own alley. He's one of those people that just make you smile, he always looks absolutely chuffed and it's contagious.

After dinner we tuck into the twenty four pack of beer and gear up for the night ahead.  The other band playing tonight is an all girl band called Svärta, who are all really friendly.  The guitarist knows Viktor from the Stockholm scene and seems really easy to get along with, they all do.  It's their first show tonight and they're playing after us and before Mob, meaning Desperat play first.  Svärta are a completely different kettle of fish from the rest of us and it breaks the bill up nicely.  By the time Desperat start, about nine pm, there are a good lot of punks already in.

They play a blinding show.  Jocke is a great vocalist and frontman, going crazy on stage with his now liberated hair, which has been hidden under an Entombed beanie hat all day, flying about all over the place. The only downside is that his vocal mic sounds pretty muddy and it's a little hard to pick out what he's saying between songs but overall the sound when they play is great.  Jocke spends a good part of the show on the floor, which is just a low step down from the stage.  Always love seeing a singer right in the crowd.  They get a great reception and I get a real buzz watching them.  I love it when the band playing before you really gets you psyched up to play your own show.

We're set up and ready to go a short while after they finish and I'm chuffed with the amount people stood in front of the stage.  First time in Göteborg with DB, well, most places we play are our first time, but this is a perfect first gig in the country's second city.  It sounds great on stage and I'm exploding with energy as we rake through the first two songs.  So this is what it feels like to play a show non-hungover?  I'll have to try it more often.

The set goes off without a hitch, well I break the one string, but that's a given, and the carpet underneath Viktor's drums, which takes up a large area of the stage, is sliding all over the floor every time I stamp on it, causing my thigh muscles to tense up and giving them a good work out in the process, and my tuner pedal is still on the piss, but everything else is great.  I love looking across the stage and seeing my buddies having a great time.  And the large amount of punks down the front seem to be enjoying it as much as we are.  There is another DB first tonight.. When I start the guitar intro to No Exit this one punk kid pumps his fist in the air and shouts “Yes!!!” and then proceeds to sing along to all of the words, or at least, scream along to Kev's indecipherable howls.  It's a great feeling having a record out and somebody recognises one of the songs when you play it live.

Fifteen minutes later and we're done.  We pack up immediately, sweaty and out of breath.  Some young punk kid grabs me as I'm coiling leads and asks me the name of the band.  He tells me he loved it and seemingly he wants to talk for a while.  Always a tricky business trying to be polite to an enthusiast whilst at the same time doing your best to clear the stage for the next band.  When we're packed down me and Viktor head outside to get some fresh air whilst Lucas and Kev take the merch table.  It's a cold night and for about five minutes it feels fucking heavenly standing in just a t-shirt, beer in hand, cooling off.  This must be the gig equivalent of a sportsman’s post event, ice bath.  Åke and the other boys are all outside, as is a large contingent of punks from inside.  I get talking to Åke, who has a beaming smile across his face and a can in his hand, about the Mob 47/Desperat tour of the US west coast they did in September.  It was the first time either band had been there.  It blows me away that Åke, Chrille and Johan, all boys in the vintage years of their lives, can go and play two shows a night for a couple of weeks without a break.  No tour bus, no hotels, no fucking frills, they just do it because they love it.  Fucking inspiring.

There are shit loads of people in the house now, and the beers are flowing down my neck like a triumphant river.  Svärta play a good show, taking the pace down for a half hour or so, playing a droning, progged out style of punk, kinda like Black Angels meets later Crass, and then Mob take the stage.  By now we're all well on the way to pissed and in the mood to get down the front and have a sing along with the boys.  Magic. The crowd of predominantly young punks go wild, bouncing on and off the stage, grabbing Åke's mic and taking over the vocals for him.  It's a hell of a feeling seeing punk rock when it's done like this.  By the time they're done we're in overdrive and intent on doing our very best to empty the bar.  To add a bit of spice to the proceedings Chrille has got his bottle of Grouse on the go and with it a little metal cup that he apparently always carries with him.  It doesn't take long for Chrille's Cup to become a thing of legend amongst us. Lucas gets particularly friendly with it.

The whole place is buzzing and the music is blaring, punks are dancing, the bar is being bombarded and we're stuffing ourselves with these mushroom toasties they have on sale, munchied up to fuck as we'd say in Corby.  Loving life right now.  Before long I realise Luk is pretty fucking boats, the fact that he has found a white, frilly blouse from the Free Shop and is wearing it proudly giving it away somewhat.  He's bouncing about the place telling anyone who'll listen that Chrille's Cup is evil and that “It's a really beautiful blouse”.  In all honesty I'm pretty pissed myself but compared to my little brother here I feel positively dapper.  About an hour later Luk has passed out on an arm chair and there is no moving him.  Everybody lines up to take photos with him.

Due to Luk stealing the show I haven't quite noticed how pissed Viktor is, until, that is, I find him wondering about the place in a haze, looking for somewhere quiet and spacious to sit himself and eventually choosing the stage as just the spot for this.  He just plonks himself on his arse and sinks his head into his chest, closing his eyes for a nap.  I get my camera out...

At some point in the night Kev comes stumbling up to me and tells me he just met some guy in the bog queue who asked him if he wanted to see photos of his girlfriend and then proceeds to show him lewd pics of said girlfriend dressed in Nazi regalia.  Kev tells me he intends to find the guy and head home with him.  He doesn't see him again though..

The night rolls in to early morning, people are flaking out one after one, I spend some time upstairs in the dormitory hanging out with Jocke, thinking now is a good time to catch up properly but obviously it's not because he's sober and I'm slurring the majority of my words.  Vik is awake again and hammering down beers with the Desperat/Mob boys until like me they finally give up the ghost.  Last up is Kev, who calls it a night around five thirty, about a half hour after the rest of us have passed out.  Apparently the final straw for Kev was when he'd been stood talking alone with a girl at the bar, by which time there was only a handful of people left in the building, broken off the conversation to go for a piss and when he'd come back found that there was now two girls at the bar.  He couldn't remember which one he was talking too so he just went to bed instead.

Goodnight Göteborg.  Good night indeed.

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