I didn’t feel too bad as I sat in Johan’s car as we drove out to Arlanda. Weather was shite though, the dark sky emptying it’s clouds upon us. I hope it’s better in England. The airport was pretty dead, we were straight through without any hassle. Nothing worse than queuing at airports whilst keeping a nervous eye on the clock. I felt bad for this one poor sap that had missed his flight. We were sat at café in the departure lounge next to a gate that had just closed it’s flight to Helsinki. This young suit turns up looking flushed, totally baffled by the fact the gate is closed five minutes before his flight is due to lift. He stands there scanning the vicinity looking for anyone to offer an explanation. Jon mutters “good luck mate” on a few occasions, obviously finding the episode pretty amusing. The suit ends up asking the people working behind the counter at the café if they can call someone from personnel to the gate. What the fuck does he think that’s going to achieve?
Our flight is smooth, something I’m always extremely grateful for. I seem to get worse at handling the turbulence with age, or maybe it’s the whole being a dad thing the different perspective on your own mortality that having a small child at home gives you. The plane is half empty anyway so after taking a couple of obligatory snaps of the guys sleeping and sharing them on Instagram I find myself an empty row of seats to sleep on. I catch maybe a half hour or so. When I come to I notice a middle aged couple sat across the aisle from me, passionately petting. The guy, this Mediterranean looking old boy with a pencil moustache and a comb-over that consists of a few oiled strands of hair, he looks kind of like Poirot with a tan, catches my eye whilst he’s stroking his ladies face and putting his tongue into her cake hole. Feels awkward. I head back to Jon.
We get to Gatwick about a half hour ahead of Karl who’s picking us up, so we head for some coffee and watch the world go by for a bit. I was thinking Karl was bringing the van but it turns out he’s in his car. As we’re walking towards it pushing three trolleys of gear I wonder how the fuck everything is going to fit, I look back at Johan who is smiling through the doubt. Somehow we squeeze it all in though and we head off to Deptford. It’s great seeing Karl again, the whole basis of this trip is his 40th. birthday bash we’re playing in London on Saturday. Since we’re here anyway we thought we may as well make a weekend of it so we’re playing three shows with Disculpe. Will be weird travelling with Kev and playing in different bands. We sit in the car and talk about sociology almost the whole way to Deptford, being a lecturer in the subject I’m studying he was interested in how it was going for me in school. I love listening to Karl talk about this stuff, always got a lot of interesting things to say. We arrive in Deptford and chill out at the Waiting Room for an hour or so, drinking numerous cups of their fine coffee and munching on veggie bagels. Fucking wonderful.
Jamie and Kev turn up with the hire van, a brand new Mercedes Sprinter, and we head round to Marv’s practice studio to load in the gear. We joke about how this will do nothing to dismiss the image of us being rock stars that places like Köpi have of us. The drive to Bristol takes a few hours, half of which is spent travelling through London. Still, rather see that than the misery of the M25. The journey is pretty uneventful bar the constantly changing weather. One minute the sun is out the next it’s snowing. When we stop at a services for some snacks I note how raw it is. Raw in the way on England can be.
The venue in Bristol is tiny. It’s this little rough and ready pub called the Red Lion in one of the city’s suburbs that has a carpeted side room that probably hold surely hold no more than fifty comfortably. Kev tells me he saw Infernoh and Nomad here a while back and it was insane. The PA fell on Wayne’s head apparently, much to Kev’s amusement. Hoping for more of the same tonight. It’s already dark when we arrive but welcomingly enough the air is not as biting now. I haven’t got a sleeping bag with me, apart from the stupid big blue jacket I have on my back, so I’m hoping that Flash, the promoter’s house, has it’s pipes on the inside. Otherwise I’m in for a rough night. Or a very pissed one.
There is a Belgian band called Link playing these shows too, they’re waiting when we arrive. Seem like good guys. You can tell just by looking at them that they play epic crust ala Tragedy. We’re all sharing gear anyway which makes the night a lot easier. We get loaded in and I’m eyeing up the bar that seems to have an okay selection of ales but until I get some grub in me I can’t partake. Luckily there is a Chinese chippy right next door which takes care of that little conundrum. Chips down the hatch I head to the bar. Pint of Staro to wash the salt down.
Flash turns up once he’s finished work, carrying with him a huge IKEA plastic container box, within it about fifty pints of punk stew sloshing around. Even though I’m satisfied after the chips I feel it rude not to eat the free food. It tastes like ash, or bonfire, as Kev remarks, but somehow it’s quite compelling and I nosh it down. The punks are slowly filtering in as the first band goes on, some young guys playing a mesh of all kinds of manic stuff, a bit all over the place but they were okay. I get talking to Nicky Nailbomb who plays drums in Disculpe. Never met him before, funny really since he’s been a part of the scene for years. He’s a funny guy. Looks like a cheeky little builder, always got a sly smile on his coupon. “I tell you wot Gaz, I get omesick if I’m gone for more than a day. I facking lav Southend!” he laughs, but I can tell he’s not joking. I like Nicky Nailbomb immediately.
I have to laugh, whilst the first band is playing, me, Nicky, Karl, Johan and Andy, the punk rock dads, are all sat around showing each other pictures of our kids, lots of “Aaaaaah”ing going on. I look over at Jon who sat in a leather armchair in front of the fireplace in the bar, Arthur Daily sheepskin jacket on, lightly snoozing. Brilliant.
Disculpe play next. I’ve been really looking forward to seeing them. Really fun to see Alec back in a band again. They don’t disappoint either. The sound is great too, not rip-your-face-off loud but loud enough and you can hear everything really clearly. Kev plays bass pretty well too, he’s definitely improving. Me, Johan and Andy stand in the tiny room with about forty others the three of us cracking up every time Kev pushes his glasses back up his nose between riffs. But yeah, they were great. One of the best bands these guys have done for a while. Fun watching Nicky play drums too, he has this weird backwards hands style, kind of like Andy’s feet.
I don’t see much of Link but there are plenty in the room watching them, and I can see a little through the hole in the wall behind the bar. The old barmaid woman comes up to me asking if there’s any free merch for the barstaff, as in herself. Cheeky move really but what the hell, I help her out. She’s definitely at it though. I ask her what size and she’s all, “Ooooh I dunno, what size do you think I am?” Jesus… I’m not playing the game though. “Large?” I hazard a guess. “Cheeky bugger!” she replies. I sort her out with the shirt and move along. A while later she’s at it with the Disculpe lot. Kev is only too happy to help. “What size do you think I am?” again.. “You look like an extra small to me love, come on, lets sort ya owt!” he says, grabbing her by the arm and whisking her away.
I get talking to Nicky again who is telling me he thinks the band name is rubbish. “It’s like, Spanish for “excuse me” or summit. Bloody stupid name. Everyone’s taking the piss, saying we’re polite punks.” Nicky’s other band that he has together with Mad John is called Nasty Bastard. So I guess he has both ends of the spectrum covered.
We go on around eleven thirty, Link obviously playing for a good forty minutes or so. Goes with epic crust territory I guess. It takes us a while to get going since Andy’s drum pedal seems to be fucked. After ten minutes or so we’re set though, but chasing time since there’s a curfew set at midnight. Flash is doing the sound so he’s keeping a check on us. It’s a pretty good gig anyway. It’s not crazy rammed but the room is full enough. I have some issues with my lead that I eventually have to change, Jamie coming to my rescue as always, but amazingly I don’t break any strings. It feels like a very typical “first show” on tour. There’s plenty of energy being put in but it takes it’s toll. It’s tight enough although I do miss the start of Circles, thinking we were playing something else. I feel pretty cack by the last block. Totally knackered. Lack of sleep taking it’s toll. The crowd gets more enthusiastic as the set rolls on though and by the time we’re onto Scars the place starts to erupt. Karl is down front, singing along. Always makes me smile to see him in there having a good time.
I find Kev and Alec at the bar after the show. Both pretty pissed. Kev’s got that look in his eye, like he’s out to wind everyone up. “It got better towards the end dinit? When you started playing the old songs that people actually like.” Cheeky cunt. We sell a good lot of merch though, surprisingly so. You can never bank on selling much to the UK punks. There’s a good hang out at the bar, although I’m feeling a bit drained. I look over at Alec at one point who is wearing Jon’s jacket and doing impressions of Arthur Daley shouting at people. Kev is going mad because he’s heard that Peter Sutclifffe’s nephew is in the place, and he’s trying to track him down. He keeps telling everyone about it like it’s the best thing he’s ever heard. Apparently Sutcliffe’s nephew sings in some punk band down here. Kev’s never heard them but they’re already his favourite band.
I’ve only managed to battle through one bottle of beer when Flash comes around looking to start the process of shipping us back to his house where we’re staying. He’s bought a load of beer in and wants to get back. I’m only too happy to oblige. Me, Karl, Alec, Jon and Kev take the first ride. When we get back Kev tells me he’s got a few extra sleeping bags with him, so I’m out of having to sleep in my jacket, which is nice. Flash has bought a crate of lager and another of cider from Lidl, I opt for the Taurus cider. Jon is flying into the Gallahad Lager. His bloated little eyes alight with glee. Before long everyone is back and accounted for, except for Jamie, who was last seen chatting to some girl at the bar. Flash, being the gent he is makes a third trip back to pick him up. Kev starts cursing Jamie, going on about how he’s always in there with the birds.
Jamie not being here yet though, his pissed eyes turn to me and he starts giving me shit. Fuck knows what he’s going about, we just laugh the old sod’s drunken ramblings off. When Flash gets back with Jamie Kev starts back on him again. Flash tells Alec to put an LP on which causes Alec some panic, he claims he doesn’t know how to work a record player and he’s not the man to be charged with this task. He’s as pissed as Kev. He’s soon asleep and we’re taking pictures of him.
The Link guys are sleeping here tonight too, there’s plenty of rooms to choose from though. We all sit around in the dining room for a good while, chewing on Taurus Cider, chatting away with Flash and his girlfriend and playing with their dog Skit, I’m guessing he’s named after Skitsystem. We gradually emigrate to the kitchen as people start to drop off one by one. I’m up for a while longer, Kev still giving me shit, at least I think he’s looking at me. We end up drinking some David Beckham single malt whiskey, although for the life of me I can’t work out what Beckham’s got to do with it. Tastes alright anyway. At three-thirty Andy and I decide to call it a night, we’ve been up for almost twenty four hours now, not bad for a pair of dads. Flash points us in the direction of the back room upstairs which has a sofa bed in it. I go looking for one of Kev’s sleeping bags but not being able to work out which one of the three light switches will light the hallway, I paw away at all of them and end up starting a bit of a disco on the living room where a few of the guys are already sleeping. Flash tells me he has some other sleeping bags upstairs and I gladly head up there and crash out on the small double sofa bed with Andy beside me. It's a bit tight but it's warm. Fucking knackeredm I'm out like a light.