Flying into the States is always a little nerve racking if you're in a band and you don't have a visa. It's actually nerve racking enough even if you are just a tourist, since the attitude the cops dish out at customs can be a little harsh. Not all of the cops are like this of course, it depends on your luck I guess, but the cop me and Andy talked to was a bit of an arsehole. It wasn't that he probed with any interrogating questions, just that he refused to look at you as he spoke to you and when he did look you he had contempt in his eyes. What the fuck is the problem really? They really do the superiority complex well. Anyway fuck it, we actually had no reason for concern this time around since we weren't getting paid any fee, our fee was the flights that had been booked for us. Still, no reason to rock the boat and make things hard for yourself by taking equipment with us and wearing clothes that scream, “We're in a band!”
I was astonished by Jon's effort all the same. When he'd arrived at my flat to sleep for a few hours before we flew out at seven am. he was dressed in a smart grey woollen sweater, new looking black trucker cap and his hair was washed and flowing down his back. Even with the wild beard he still looked pretty sharp. Of course, when we got to the hotel he'd transformed himself during the ten minutes I was in the shower. Gone was the sweater and cap and in their place a sleeveless Slayer t-shirt under his leather waistcoat and his hair was now pony tailed and tucked under a bandanna. Johan laughed and asked him, “That feel more comfortable now?” to which came his obvious, grinning reply.
We flew in on my birthday so we went out for dinner and drinks at night, as good an excuse as any to keep ourselves awake and ward off any jet-lag. It started well enough with a couple of pints of ale and some Mexican food down in the West Village but then a pitcher of Margarita got the ball rolling, hard to resist at sixteen dollars. The food was great too. From there we went looking for somewhere else to drink and for some reason ended up in a fancy jazz bar on 6th. Avenue. Without any discussion Jon ordered four shots of Jameson's and then turned a whiter shade of pale when they came in at over forty dollars. I felt bad for him but he didn't complain. The bartender was pretty cool though, I guess he could see the shock on our faces and he poured us another round for free. A few more beers and then we ended up back at the bar next to our hotel in Chelsea. The last thing I remember was Johan getting a round of Brooklyn EIPA in. May have some memory of the first sip but that's about it.
Hungover and jet-lagged is a shit state of affairs I can tell you...
I woke up at five am., sharing a double bed with Johan, head splitting. I kind of dazed in and out of sleep until nine, feeling just as bad every time I woke. Thankfully we have Jon in the band and he has pills for all your fucking needs, so when he woke he sorted me out with some ibuprofen. Apparently in my drunken state Johan had filmed me trying to sleep and put it up on Instagram, I had a slew of texts wishing me happy birthday and laughing about that. Funny how pictures can help you remember small details though, like a photo Johan had of me doing the Boston hardcore dance whilst waiting at a pedestrian crossing.. Somewhere a bell rang, deep down inside my foggy mind.
We spent most of Thursday walking around looking at shops, mainly shoes and jeans, first in Manhattan and then Brooklyn. At one point over in Williamsburg Johan, Andy and I were in a cool little kids clothing store, scanning the shelves, Jon was outside having a fag of course, poor bastard must have been bored off his tits, and I looked up at the three of us and thought to myself, “This scene used to take place in a record store”..
“How times have changed” we laughed. And then got out of there. With a couple of purchases.
We drank a shit load of coffee all day and had plenty of greasy American food, but it wasn't until we sat down for some late lunch and had a pint of Harpoon IPA that I started to feel normal again. Sometimes you just have to accept that the only cure for a hangover is that very stuff that caused it in the first place. It tasted amazing I have to say.
On the way back to the hotel we popped by Generation Records on Thompson Street, a must do when in the city. Surprisingly though I wasn't feeling it and didn't buy a single record. Must be a first. I must really have been hungover...Andy bought about ten items of course. One cool thing though, the guys from Ratos De Porao were there and we got talking to them. They were playing a show up in Queens the next night before heading down to Baltimore to play the Fest on Sunday. They were really nice guys and we had a good chat with them. They told us they'd been into Victims since the first album that Yellow Dog put out all those years ago. Always nice to hear stuff like that from legends of the scene. I wanted to mention that Lucas DB knew one of their guys from the scene back in Sao Paulo but I didn't really get the chance. I fancied going to their gig the next day but deep down I knew it wouldn't happen, there would be no chance of getting the guys to travel up to Queens for a show when we're here for such a short time and in all honesty I probably wouldn’t be arsed either when it came to it. Shame though that they'd be playing twice whilst we're here and we wouldn't get to see them on either occasion.
In the evening our Australian friend Nath, who none of us bar Jon had ever met in person before, came by our hotel room to hang out. He's one of those guys who we share a mass of mutual friends with and he'd been in touch with us all via the internet a while back. It was fun meeting him at long last. He was of course a really nice guy. He's here doing web design for some huge management company who does all these daft bands like Fallout Boy and are closely related to Metallica's people, if I understood it right. Fuck knows. He took us over to his office down on the lower West Side anyway and told us a load of stories about different celebrities. Weird getting a glimpse into that insane world. Their office was next door to an apartment, or should I say floor that Leonardo Di Caprio had recently bought.
Our friend Affe, who plays in Obnoxious Youth and also in Jon's bowling team, Team Slayer, was here a few weeks ago hanging out with Nath. He'd won some award, also in the design field I believe, and been flown to New York for a week, all expenses paid. As well as telling us all about how much Affe ate, something you'd find hard to believe if you'd seen the skinny bastard, Nath told us about an occasion on his visit when they bumped in to Alec Baldwin in the street. Affe had gone up to him and asked him for a photo and Baldwin rushed off looking horrified saying he doesn't do photos, much to Affe's confusion. We all laughed at the thought and after a while came up with a great idea for a blog called photocredit.com where the idea is you approach a celebrity acting all star struck like, “Hey... You're Robert De Niro, I really love your work. Can you take a picture of me?” and then give them the camera and pose for a pic. So basically you end up with a load of pics of yourself from various places taken by different famous twats. Winner.
We went for dinner at a place called Five Napkins that made some amazing veggie burgers, made of red bean and beetroot I think. They had a load of regular burgers on the menu but they could be made vegetarian if so wished. It was one of the best burgers I've ever eaten. Andy was in agreement, getting all lyrical about it. Washed down with a couple of beers I was pretty fucking stuffed afterwards and could have easily gone back to the hotel and slept. Tiredness had gotten it's claws far deeper into the camp than it had done the night before. Our friend Aaron came down to have dinner with us too. He's a really great guy who used to play in a band called Defeatist that toured with Jon's old grind band Sayyadina. Jon had introduced him to us a few years back and we've gotten on great ever since. It was great to see him and catch up. He was heading off back to Brooklyn to catch a Birdflesh gig but we were in no mood. Instead we walked down to the Financial District via Nath's office to check out Wall Street by night, which Nath insisted had an entirely different appeal by moonlight. He wasn't wrong. I'd only been there in the daytime before but at night the place looks like Gotham City. We took the opportunity to snap some band photos. I really love this city and I could imagine maybe living here for an extended time, although not full time because one way or another, it's still the USA and you can't quite escape it's madness. For example, they have a square down by City Hall called People With A.I.D.S. Plaza. Now I know what they're trying to achieve here but that's fucking ridiculous. I think it's called over compensation.
Eventually we took the tube back up to Union Square and went to a bar for a couple of beers before bed time. We were all flagging, especially Johan and Andy, Jon can always drink a beer no matter the situation, and Nath had promised us a nice calm bar, rather like the one we'd been to in the West Village this afternoon on the way to Generation. That place was empty and quiet and had a shit load of good beer on tap, I was hoping for something along those lines. When we walked in to this place the first thing we faced was the most miserable fucking bouncer you've ever seen. He apparently hated us and everyone around him, although I can imagine nowhere near as much as he hated himself. I don't know, but if someone says hello to you how fucking hard is to it say hello back? Anyway, the second thing we all noticed is that it was pretty light in there and there was very bad music being played at high volume. I looked immediately to Andy's horrified coupon. Thankfully there were tables free at the back where it was a lot quieter and Nath led us straight there. We sat and had a couple of drinks, after one beer I couldn't stomach any more so moved on to a rum sour which hit the fucking bullseye. Andy had a rum with what looked like a dash of Coke and brightened up in an instant and even started talking about going somewhere else for another drink, which suddenly sounded like a great idea but Johan had the eyes of a man dying on his feet. We walked out into the night air and headed in the direction of the hotel and sure enough, within a couple of blocks time Andy and I had both decided we were knackered after all.
The next day we woke up bright and early and it was a treat to feel neither jet-lagged or hungover, which really is a shite combo. We headed over to a diner on 6th. for breakfast where we met up with Viv, who is over from London working on Off Broadway for ten days. Mad how New York is. It was really good to see her anyway and hear about her trip to Brazil where she'd just come from with the same theatre company. She never changes and she always makes me laugh. She started flirting with the Swedes, telling them if they started speaking in their mother tongue she'd slide off the seat. I think only Andy caught it but it cracked him up. That's Viv for you. Crude as a fart in a lift and at the same time one of the kindest people you're likely to meet. It was really nice to see her, even if only for a quick bite to eat.
After breakfast we went to Guitar Centre and looked at a load of guitars I could only dream of affording and then we went back over to Brooklyn to check out Academy Records. I actually found a couple of things I wanted here, like the Rational Animals album and a couple of Bill Bondsmen sevens. In constant need of coffee we stopped off at a café on the corner opposite the store. The coffee was grand and I washed it down with a peanut butter chocolate slice, which was basically a brick of peanut butter with a slab of chocolate on top. I was humming and ahhing over it until Nath just went ahead and ordered it for me. I've been banging on about finding a peanut butter milkshake since I got here and haven't found one, so this would have to do. Peanut butter milkshake and frozen maragrita are two things that everybody else has had to listen to me repeating since arriving. I guess I'm on the wrong coast if I want those things, at least if I want them done well.
I really liked the Green Point area of Brooklyn though, it's a cosy little area full of small shops, low rise buildings, cafés and bars. I'd never been there before and it's always fun to see somewhere new. We ended up walking back to Williamsburg after a while and met up with John from Baroness for a couple of beers at the Charleston on Bedford Avenue, where we played last time we toured here. Apparently they stopped putting shows a while back, which is too bad. Before meeting up with John we took a slice of pizza at the place across the road, this awesome little joint called Anna Maria's Pizza. The slices are huge and the tomato sauce fucking incredible. One slice and you're done. These two guys sat across from us had spotted John out in the street waiting for us and when we got up to leave they asked me if we were in Baroness. I didn't really catch what he was talking about at first and just replied “yes” as way of being polite. They then started probing me on whether we playing in the city that evening and the whole thing became very confusing until I just walked out.
It was nice to see John and also meet his mate Jimmy, who works with Guitar World Magazine or something. Good guy anyway. We had a common acquaintance in Ross Halfin, or at least, Jimmy works with Halfin and Halfin did a photo shoot with Speedhorn in Japan years back. Fucking nightmare it was, him being a rock star photographer, he's on both Maiden and Metallica's payroll, and us being hungover and generally useless. It was good to see John looking well after the crash anyway. He's obviously still pretty shaken both mentally and psychically but he's still alive and that's the main thing. Crazy how big Baroness have become too, listening to John recount stories from the Metallica tour was kind of a head fuck. Don't know if I'd handle that situation very well. On tour with Metallica. Fuck that.
John was asking us if we wanted to go to the Trans Am show at the Knitting Factory, their drummer is now playing in Baroness, but we'd already made plans to go down to the legendary Comedy Cellar. After freshening up at the hotel we made our way over to St. Marks for an amazing veggie hot dog that had jalapeño peppers, cheese and sauce flowing over the sides of the bun, and then we went to a cosy little dimly lit bar across the road and drank margaritas, (on the rocks not frozen) and IPA and played an intensive few rounds of Jenga, something I was new too but immediately taken with, the whole while it pissed down outside and we got crazy uber American sms warnings on our phones about impending flash floods.. It was dry when we eventually left. For a while.
We got to the Comedy Cellar around midnight for the twelve thirty show we'd booked tickets for, they were all that was left. It started pissing down again and the queue was around the corner with no sign of moving, the five of us stood there under Andy's umbrella. Fucking rubbish. We must have stood there for an hour before we finally got it. It was worth it though, I guess. I finally got a frozen maragarita but it was pretty cack, nothing but slushy ice and soon enough water. The guys pissed themselves laughing the entire hour and half the show was on, Jon making sure he laughed once everybody else had stopped.. He was getting to that level of drunk.. It was funny although some of the subjects were pretty raw and almost not ok, but I'd be a prick to say I didn't laugh because I did, a lot. It's safe to say Andy and Johan were ecstatic and I found myself laughing at Johan's bellowing as much as anything. It was cool to check out such a legendary place above all else though.