Saturday, June 21, 2014


The drive to Baltimore was a bit of a chore.  The bus was fucking freezing.  The thing is, it was roasting hot outside and the half hour walk from our hotel to the station put a bit of a sweat on, and then when we took our seats on-board and waited for the engine to turn over and it was uncomfortably muggy on the packed bus, I actually joked with Andy, “I hope the air conditioning works..” And then I literally sat there shivering for the next three hours with nothing but a thin jacket and t-shirt to keep out the chill.

I felt exhausted by the time we were dropped off at some park and ride station just outside the city.  There was no sign of our pick up but I couldn't have cared less, I just lay down on the pavement with my bag as a pillow in the baking sun.  I could easily have fallen asleep.  The ride turned up a half hour later, some Californian woman called Lisa, who had apparently been there the whole time, just sat at the other end of the enormous car park.

When we arrived at the venue it was just after three pm.  Pretty good timing really, just long enough before we play to allow us to get sorted, eat and relax and not too long as to have to watch a load of bands I didn't want to see.  Our dear friend Matt Sachs and the boys from Black Breath were stood outside waiting for us.  A smile came to my face upon sighting them.  Good to be around such great people again.  It took a while getting out of the car though since Jon was sorting our lift for later with Lisa and the conversation seemed to drag on forever.

Matt had brought my guitar with him, plus a load of Victims merch.  And in true Sachs style he'd already set the merch up at the stall inside.  I bought this brown Gibson SG on Ebay over here the last time Victims toured the East Coast.  The idea was to buy a guitar, being that the dollar was/is on it's arse it was extremely cheap compared to back home, use it on tour, take it home and sell it for a lot more than I bought it for, therefore basically renting a guitar for free for the tour and then making a profit out of it at the end.  The flaw in the plan was that as soon as I played it I realised I wanted to keep it.  The other problem was that during the tour I bought a load of lp's and ended up being way overweight for the journey home, so I decided to leave the guitar with Sachs since we'd be touring the States again within the year.  And then Andy and Kristin got pregnant again and the tour got cancelled.  And then Polly came along and we had to bin the next tour too.  So today I finally got it back.  It was good to see it, and looking well.  I'd jokingly made Sachs promise me he'd write the next Parasytic record on it but he didn't get around to it due to the fact that he, like the rest of us, became a dad too.

It was great to see the Black Breath guys.  They are some of the friendliest people I've ever had the pleasure to meet.  Elijah and Erik were telling me that they've been in Baltimore for five days now, since they played a show here on Wednesday and they're not leaving until tomorrow, when they start a small tour.  “Fucking great, my first holiday in ages and I spend it in Baltimore” complained Erik, although with a smile on his face as he did so.  I have to say, a day in this city is more than enough for me.

Anyway, I was glad to see Jamie up on his feet, albeit with the aid of a crutch.  He had a bad accident a while back where he was hit by a car and had his leg smashed.  I can only imagine the horror that is his medical bills after a hefty amount of time in hospital.  He's still pretty shaken by the whole ordeal, which is understandable.  I had a pretty lengthy chat with him about it and considering how fucked up the situation is he's staying incredibly strong.  These are the first shows he's done since then.  He said the first one the other night went ok anyway.  Strange that we'd met two friends in the last couple of days who are both recovering from road accidents...

After getting into the back stage room and sorted with the necessary passes and drink tickets we ordered some food.  I restrung my guitar whilst waiting, always a boring job but it had to be done,  the strings on my SG looked diseased.  The food didn't take long to arrive and it hit the spot nicely on the way down.  Another veggie burger, not on par with Five Napkins but chuffed all the same.  There was this big guy sat in our room who I'd never met before, I wondered at first if he was the guy from Iron Lung.  Kind of looked like him.  Turns out his name is John and he was doing sound for Nasum when they toured here a couple of years ago.  Also turns out that Sachs had fixed it with him to do our sound for the show tonight, despite the fact he had to rush off afterwards to catch a flight.  Really nice guy.  It's a big bonus having someone like John do your sound when you're playing in a large, concrete room.  Without him our sound would be truly hit and miss, with him it was guaranteed.

There were a bunch of friends in the place that we hadn't seen for a while so I spent the next hour or so catching up with everyone.  The Greghans were in town, as well as our friend China from Richmond.  Matt's wife Sarah was around too.  I was hoping they'd bring their boy, Jasper, who we haven't met yet but he was still just a little too young for this gig.  Sarah and I spent a while talking kids, funny how things have changed this last couple of years.  I also met a guy called Lee who played in a band called Theories from Seattle, they're out here doing the dates with Black Breath and are old friends of theirs.  He was a really good guy, we had a good gab after he'd lent me his string clippers.  The Dropdead guys were around too, Ben as always, manning the merch table.  And to add to the festivities we were sharing our room with Extinction of Mankind, although they didn't arrive until later.

Suitably relaxed I decided to take my first beer of the evening whilst watching Black Breath's set.  They killed it as always.  Whether you like what they do or not, you can't but help be impressed with the way they go about it.  They're so fucking tight and play their instruments so well it's ridiculous.  I learned a thing or two from watching Eric every night on tour, that's for fucking sure.  They just make everything look so effortless.  Felt bad for Elijah though, he was playing this silly looking bass that he'd lent from a friend.  He'd told me earlier that he'd had his old Gibson Ripper stolen from the boot of his car a while back.  Totally gutted.  Now he had this BC Rich monstrosity with him.  Still, if anyone can pull it off, he can.

The crowd were pretty crazy for them too.  This one young guy in particular, a right fucking knob, caught mine and Andy's eye.  He'd taken his top off before the guys even started playing, flexing his muscle tits and pacing around the big open space in the middle of the floor, making sure everyone could see him.  He then raises his arms in the air and starts shouting things like, “Come on!  Let's fucking do this!”  And then during the set he was down the front and kept picking up Neil's monitor and lifting it above his head and then bringing it down on to his face and screaming in to it.  The guy was a first class tit in other words.  I had to laugh, in fact, it was a pity laugh, I did actually start to feel a little sorry for him when between songs he was shouting at Neil, begging for his attention, and shouting, “I really love your band!  I love your music!  I believe in you!”.  Kid was fucking hyper!

The whole while this kid was at it the crowd was going nuts around him, with big circle pits erupting every now and again and swallowing up the floor like a maelstrom.  I clock these two huge bouncers walking into the crowd and making their way to the front about half way through their set and I get the feeling we could be in for some trouble.  I've seen this before at home in clubs when the bouncers walk in to the mosh pit and just stand there, daring anyone to bang into them, itching for an excuse to throw some kid out the hard way.  I can barely believe my eyes then when these two crack a huge smile and the next thing they're moshing away, throwing kids about and pumping their fists in the air to the music.  After the gig the two of them rush backstage to get photos with the band.  Have to be the coolest bouncers I've ever met.

It was the first time I'd played a Victims show in eighteen months.  The guys had done four shows in Finland without me at the start of last year when I'd hopped off a couple of weeks before, getting cold feet because Polly was due just three weeks later.  I knew she wouldn't arrive if I'd gone but I didn't want to leave Jen, as calm as she was, and I knew I wouldn't have been able to relax anyway.  Johan just faced the same situation now with a couple of festivals we had booked in Europe that we've just cancelled.  Anyway, it was the first show for a while and I had no idea how it was going to go.  The last time we played this festival it was great but that didn't necessarily mean anything.  I got a confidence boost though when Neil gave a shout out to us and a large section of the crowd cheered boisterously, arms aloft.

As it is, the show went really well.  It sounded as good as it could do on such a large stage, and the crowd were really into it, and pretty packed all the way to the back of the room.  I felt a bit of stiffness the first song or two but that soon disappeared.  I had Greg from the Greghans right in front of me, huge smile on his face the whole way through.  Always gives you an extra buzz to spot friends in the crowd, having a good time.  I may have got a little bit carried away at one point though.  During a break Johan turned to me and told me in no uncertain terms to watch his pedals.  I hadn't really noticed that I'd been on them but then again I was kind of flying all over the stage for a while.  What can I say?  I was just really getting into it.  I must have gotten my lead tangled up in his Rat pedal and somehow wound the distortion down to zero because apparently his bass was just plonking along towards the end of the second block of songs, not that I'd heard it.  Johan gets pretty nervous before shows, I guess because he really cares about how the band sounds and performs.  Not that I don't but Johan is the guy that makes sure this band ticks.  The pappa.  I've been there before myself so I know how he feels..

Anyway, apart from that little discrepancy, the show was great.  We ended with This Is The End, fittingly, and sure enough a big circle pit engulfed the room.  Always gives me a buzz playing that song.  When we're done there are some kids who have been down the front the whole time that have stuck around to ask for picks and set lists.  I'm only too happy to oblige of course.  It's kind of weird being in that position though.  I remember what it was like to be that age and the rush I got from watching bands when they came to my home town.  I remember being completely made up this one time when I got a set list from this band called Naked Truth.  I thought the singer in the band who had handed it to me was an absolute legend for taking the time to do so.  And now I'm here doing the same thing for a young kid, it blows my mind.  And of course, I now know that the singer in Naked Truth wasn't this big famous rock star who lived off of his band, he was just like I am now, a regular sap who has to work on the side to pay the bills, just like ninety nine percent of the rest of us.  Anyway, I couldn't find a set list on my side of the stage since I had been peeking at Johan's the whole time and that was most likely already folded up neatly back in his case, so I went and grabbed Jon's, which was written on the inside of the Styrofoam box that our veggie burgers had come in.  The kid looked at me when I handed it to him as if to ask me if I was for real, and then he smiled, grabbed it, shook my hand and went about his business, chuffed.

Soon enough it was my turn to feel like the fifteen year old fan kid again though, when Dropdead took to the stage right after us.  It was the first time I'd ever seen them play live, despite being a fan for a long time, and I was delighted that we were playing with these legends.  I know the word “legend” gets bandied around a lot but in my eyes, these guys really are.  And fuck me did they destroy the gig!  The singer, Bob Otis, looks like he's been lifted straight out of the film ID.  If you put a Millwall scarf around his neck you wouldn't know the difference.  When he walks on stage to join the rest of the band, bomber jacket, number one crop and a look on his face that suggests he'll kick the shit out of you if you even dare glance in his direction, you'd be forgiven for wondering what the fuck is going on when he signals to the rest of the band to wait up whilst he preaches to the crowd about animal rights for five minutes.  And then when they do blast in to the first song it's just fucking magic.  I'm close to running on stage and diving into the crowd a couple of times but I contain myself.  They tear it up for the next twenty minutes or so, playing a bunch of songs from the first seven inch as an added bonus, Otis signalling every now and again to the rest of the guys that he would like quiet so he can give another lecture.  The thing is, it doesn't come across as a pose, as it can do so easily, you know he means it, every single word of it.

And then, as if seeing Dropdead wasn't enough, something unbelievable happens.  George, the bassist, suddenly takes off his guitar and hands it to the drummer Brian before stepping down in to the crowd and turning back towards the stage with his arms folded across his chest.  Just as I'm wondering what the fuck is going on, some old, kind of shaky looking bloke runs up on stage and sits behind the kit.  Bob introduces Robert from the band Siege and tells the crowd they're about to play a few songs by his band.  Fuck me!  Robert sits there, sort of fidgeting for a moment or two, not looking completely sure of himself until he counts in on his sticks, one, two, three, four and all hell breaks loose.  Considering how fast he's playing, the force with which he's belting the snare is nothing short of phenomenal.  Three songs, fast as you like, and then it's over and Robert runs back off stage and hides in the shadows.  Andy is straight over to him and when he comes back to me a few minutes later he's almost drooling, “He told me he really liked our set and he's going to buy the records from our merch table later.  The Siege drummer just said that to me!”

I hadn't really been in the mood for beer up to now, the one I'd had earlier hadn't done much for me and I was still feeling the burn from the few days in New York, but after witnessing that I felt like having a couple.  The trouble is, our drink tickets were only good for piss like Miller or Yeungling.  One was enough for me, or maybe two.. Anyway, we were all in very good spirits as the night rolled in and we hung out up by the merch stands with our friends and the Dropdead guys, who I've only really met in passing before but the other guys have known for a long time.  A couple of cans of piss was more than enough for me and Johan though and when we went back to the bar the third time Johan started negotiating drink tickets and money with the bartender.  Turns out that one drink ticket plus two dollars fifty would get us a rum and coke.  Deal.

I got a hit immediately.  You certainly get your moneys worth when you buy drinks in this country, the booze to mixer ratio is off the fucking chart!  A couple of these and I could see Johan's eyes starting to narrow, the way they do when he's beginning to get pissed.  He was back and forth to the bar at a hefty rate for a while.  The others were keeping the pace too.  Andy seemed to be in a really good mood, never without a can in his hand and Jon was stood with his arm around Matt, banging on in his ear about fuck knows what.  Ben Dropdead seemed to constantly have a drink in his hand too, one side of his mouth sucking on a straw, the other side grinning.  The drummer from Dropdead is a class act as well.  He looks more Grateful than Drop, really has the Tommy Chong thing going on.  Really chilled “dude”, always smiling.   Johan had been speaking to him and had asked if he enjoyed the gig today, “It's a hardcore show” was his simple, smiling answer.

Anyway, after a few drinks, hunger had struck.  Johan and I took off in search of some grub, with Andy initially following but soon giving up after a walk around the block and deciding he was heading back to the venue for more booze instead.  Baltimore really is a pretty depressing place I have to say.  Given that it was Saturday night and we were in the cleaned up touristy area of the city, it was decidedly hard to find something to eat.  A lot of places were closed and those that were open were very non vegetarian.  We ended up eating a plate of uninspired veggie noodles in some Chinese place next to the water, only the two of us there.  Not exactly what I had in mind but it did the job.  By the time we got back to the venue the band Noothgrush was playing, although I paid little attention to them.  The only thing that I noticed was that the singer had this yellow tube through his nose and looked ridiculous and they had this little woman playing drums who looked pretty cool.

We were sharing our room with Extinction of Mankind.  They'd arrived at some point whilst we were gone and I could hear their broad northern accents booming from the room all the way from side stage.  We were greeted with the usual, “Waheey boys!” as we entered the room.  They crack me up, it's the same routine every time.  Steve their singer was already looking a few sheets to the wind, and this an hour or so before they played.  Jim Whitby is now playing bass with them and he was sat in the corner quietly smirking as the rest of the guys in his band held court.  Jim played bass in one of the most important UK hardcore bands, Ripcord, back in the 80´s. If Jim wasn't such a gentleman I'd have been too in awe to speak to him, but Jim is a very humble guy and conversation with him was easy, even amongst the northern cacophony.

I felt pretty bad for Extinction since there was an hour break between Noothgrush and them and a lot of people pissed off instead of hanging around the empty venue.  They didn't even put music on to fill the void so the atmosphere kind of died.  I think Dark Angel were playing the main stage at the same time they were on too so they were up against it.  The place was not even half full when they went on but by the end of their rather lengthy set quite a few crusties had made it back.  We were stood at the back watching them when Johan put another rum coke in my hand.  I took one sip and knew that I had to stop right there.  I wasn't anywhere near drunk, not even tipsy really, the drink had just made me feel sick and I knew if I carried on I was going to regret it.  I spent about five minutes trying to palm if off on Andy, under the weight of Johan's disapproving eyes.  The big guy finally took it off me, it's like he didn't trust me or something, and then near enough necked it.  It was like I'd hit a wall, three days of relatively mild drinking catching up on me.  I was knackered and ready for bed.

The sound from the stage didn't really make it all the way back to where we stood, it was at a mere chatting level by the time it reached us.  As Steve trounced around the stage grunting into the mic all I could hear was Jon, a few feet away from me with Matt and China, pissed as a fart doing his Brit impression to the music.  “Oi oi oi, oi oi oi” over and over, his eyes glazed above his stupid grin.  Me, Johan and Andy headed outside to catch some air and before long Johan had completely flaked too.  He looked like he'd been hit by a steamroller.  I was relieved since now there would be two of us lobbying to head back to the hotel.  We decided to start making moves and headed back to the dressing room where we walked into a scene of carnage.  Steve Extinction was fucking boats, and shouting about how the band on stage after them were fucking shite.  He could barely keep his eyes open.  Jim was sat beside him, calmly sipping on a beer, smirking at him and us.  Steve is falling about the place, rumbling on in a barely decipherable accent by this point and then someone hands him an almost empty bottle of Jim Beam.  I'd say it had about fifteen centilitres of whisky swishing around the bottom.  Steve just takes it and in one fucking gulp it's gone.  Me and Johan are sat on the couch opposite him, both a little whoah!  That was still a hefty swig of booze that just disappeared.  Andy is sat on a chair between Steve and Jim, mainly talking to Jim about Ripcord but breaking every now and again to laugh at Steve.  I knew it was in the post but it still takes us a little by surprise when Steve puts his hand to his mouth and pukes through his fingers.  We all lurch forward to move any bags that might be in the way.  He then continues to swig on beer and puke for the next ten minutes before Dave, this cool American guy who is driving them, convinces him to follow him out of the room.  He doesn't quite make it out the door without falling face first into the wall.  As soon as Steve has gone, swearing and cursing Excruciating Terror as he does so, Scoot the guitarist appears in the doorway, looking almost as boats as poor Steve was.  “Andehh!” he shouts at Andy before lumbering over to give him a hug.  I crack up listening to him tell Andy, “You guys are like famleh to us, you know that?” his arm around Andy's shoulder the whole time.  After a while the tide turns and he starts taking the piss out of our hair instead, “You guys have all got such nice haircuts”.  Jim chirps up and asks Scoot when the last time he had a trim was, and suggests his hair could do with a wash.  And so it continues for the next little while until we finally round up our gear and declare enough is enough.  We need bed.

We also need a ride.  Jon is stood on the other side of the door, eyes now completely gone.  The grin he was wearing earlier has inverted into a confused crescent.  Johan and I ask him numerous times if he can call Lisa, since he was the one with her number, but it's slow going.  Jon is in his famous Ozzy mode by now and every little action takes the longest time to complete.  When we ask him to call Lisa, he says nothing, just slowly pulls his phone out, looking completely vacant, and then puts the phone to his ear.  I'm not sure I actually see him dialling any number and I'm not convinced he's actually talked to anyone when he puts his phone back in his pocket and shrugs his shoulders and tells us Lisa has finished work for the night.  Great...

It's tough wading through a sea of drunkenness when you're stone cold sober and in desperate need of some Z's.  The short little woman who plays drums from Noothgrush has now appeared and she makes Jon look as straight as Ian Mackaye, or Outlast Jon... She's completely fucking legless, quite literally.  She seems chuffed all the same, constantly laughing as she falls on her arse.  Sarah is doing her best to look after her but she's pretty beyond.  We all piss ourselves laughing as this little lady then stumbles into Jon who in turn falls backwards into a pile of bags behind him, too pissed to even throw his arms out to brace his fall.  Sarah finally manages to guide her to the toilet.  

We ask around a little but it seems nobody has much idea about what's going on with rides.  We have the hotel address anyway, some Red Roof Inn out by the airport apparently.  Too fucked to care what it costs we decide to take a cab.  We sold a good amount of merch tonight anyway so fuck it.  We say our goodbye's to everyone, which takes time, and then finally head out in to the street to look for a Joe Baxi.  There are plenty around thankfully.   We throw our gear in the boot and as I'm climbing into the back seat Jon takes another tumble.  He's fallen forwards onto his hands and knees, looking like a decrepit old man in a bandanna and Watain waistcoat.  You can't help but laugh.  We finally make it back to the hotel where we find Ben Dropdead in reception, still with that grin on his face.  We talk about getting up early to share breakfast with them but we don't have to checkout until one pm. and I know the chances of us rising earlier than absolutely necessary are slim.

We ended up getting out of bed around eleven this morning by which time the Dropdead guys were long gone.  They had an eight hour drive back up to Providence so most likely left as early as possible.  We went for breakfast at a Chili's just over the road, which was pretty awful but literally the only alternative around.  A shuttle cab came for us at two pm and drove us to the airport, via a Hindu temple for another pick up.  The cab driver seemed to have no idea what was going on though and we drove slowly around this temple for about half hour looking for whoever had booked him.  Strange little detour.

Anyway, we've been at the airport for a couple of hours now and we'll be boarding shortly.  Looking forward to going home now.  This is the furthest I've been away from Polly and it felt a little weird.  Not sure how I'd handle a few weeks away from her if and when the time comes... Had a slightly better meal here at the airport anyway, a passable bowl of tomato soup and a veggie flat bread.  Hardly gourmet stuff but better than the slop we ate this morning. Dulles airport is a much nicer place than JFK too, far more relaxed here.  Funny how the airport staff are much friendlier to you on the way out of the land than on the way in.  The cop checking my passport even wished me a belated happy birthday.  Doesn't take much effort does it?

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