It took a while to get going this morning. Woke up first around ten thirty, closed my eyes for a second and then it was eleven thirty and Andy was all showered and ready to go. It left me confused for a couple of seconds. We had big plans today since we had the afternoon to do what we pleased with. We’d spoken about walking over to Greenwich for a look about, maybe go to the Maritime Museum, or maybe head over to London Bridge and walk along the South Bank, take in the Tate Modern, fuck knows why but I’ve never been. Of course, we’d neglected one major issue. It’s January.
Once showered we head down to the High Street with Kev and make our way to Café Bianca for a sitting of English Breakfast. There’s a big gang of us, all of Victims and Disculpe, tucking into to various fried breakfasts. Jon is in his element here, mad for the fry up, “The tea actually is greasy too, I love it”
I go for the veggie breakfast of course and for once I don’t feel sick afterwards. You always get a ton of food and I usually spend the latter half of the meal bloated and nauseous but continuing onwards like wounded soldier marching stubbornly into no-man’s-land. Not today though. I actually leave half an egg and a hash brown. It’s tough though. It’s like the fuckers are staring at me, mocking my stomach. One moment of madness that catches my eye during breakfast is Niki, sat across from me pouring vinegar on his poached eggs. It’s as if he hasn’t a care in the world. Fully satisfied we head back outside, the icy rain dampening our commitment to our afternoon of sightseeing. We trudge back along the road to the Waiting Room and as soon as I take a seat and sup on a cup of London’s finest coffee I realize I’m going nowhere for the next little while. Andy and Jon head off for a wander but they’re back soon enough and we hang out in the warmth of the café with the gang.
We’re supposed to be at the venue for three and so with an hour to kill, we head back to Kev’s to chill out for a while. Cue everyone sitting around on their phones. Karl has headed off to practice with his other band Bad Meat, who he has together with Mad John, who are playing at the after party tonight. Yes, not only are there ten bands playing the gig in honour of Karl’s fortieth, there’s an after party at the Birds Nest starting around midnight with another four bands on the bill. The thing is, Karl gets in touch after a while and says to Kev he’s not going to make it for Disculpe’s set time of five thirty and wants to push it back a bit. Kev is flummoxed. He says they can’t put it back, it’s all organised. As soon as they decide the Disculpe gig is cancelled, Niki fucks off to catch the first train back to Southend, delighted. So that’s that, no Disculpe tonight.
We meet back down at Marv’s practice studio just after three to load the gear for tonight into the van. We need to bring drums and a few extras for tonight. Kev and Karl have warned about the potentially poor sound at the venue tonight, The Montague Arms in Peckham, having experienced some pissy sounding shows there previously, the problem being there’s nowhere else in south London that’s the right size for the show according to Kev, so they’re doing all they can to take precautions, one of which is bringing a decent drum kit.
It’s pretty fucking cold in the venue, although with doors opening shortly and the expected onslaught of punters through the door, that should change soon. The venue itself is a big old pub with an oblong room with the bar lining the back wall. The interior is very Maritime with wooden steering wheels here and antique globes there, as well as an array of dead animals about the walls, it’s quite a place. The high stage is in a separate room at the bottom end of the pub and although you can see through to the stage if you’re in the bar area the sound doesn’t make it through. Quite nice really, means you can stand and have a nice undisturbed chat with a beer if any of the ten bands on the bill don’t tickle your fancy.
We’re here early so we can soundcheck since Kev has concerns with the PA. It’s just as well we do and all since it turns out Kev’s bass head is fucked. Don’t know what’s up with it but it sounds like it’s under water. Johan plonks away on it for a bit, looking around for eye contact with somebody. The sound guy, some young Scottish bloke who looks a bit lost, asks when we’re ready to go... Jamie comes to the rescue with another head. Soundcheck goes smoothly otherwise and despite the concrete interior of the room it sounds pretty good up on stage.
Jay and Dave Speedhorn turn up during soundcheck, their usual mischievous grins firmly in place. It’s good to see them as always. I have to admit it’s been strange at times watching Speedhorn from afar, my band, the band I started and wrote a great deal of songs for, now out playing again. Of course, I declined the offer to reform many times over the six years since we called it a day in 2008, and I felt that I could no longer keep the other guys from doing it again if that’s what they really wanted. For me the band finished at the right time though. But who’s to say what’s the right time or wrong time? I’ve always been against this huge wave of reunions we’ve been witnessing this last decade, it’s almost like the new thing is the old thing. For me it really took the fucking biscuit when Refused reformed. But then, who am I to say? And isn’t it just entertainment, after all? If people are enjoying themselves then what’s the harm? Anyway, as much as I’ve supported the guys in their choice I’ve kept myself away from a lot of the press surrounding it, which hasn’t been so hard to do living in Sweden. It’s been a little strange... I’m therefore very happy about the fact that there’s no strained feelings with Jay and Dave, I don’t know if it’s because they come to the band a lot later and have a bit more distance to it or whether it’s just because they’ve always been easy to hang out with. Whatever. It’s good to see their smiling faces again. These guys were with the band when we toured with Victims and now here we all stand, chit chatting. Funny how things go.
Soundcheck is done just after four and we’re on at eleven, nine bands between now and then. Thing is we’re kind of stuck in the middle of nowhere and when I asked Alec earlier about going for a walk around Peckham he just laughed. Kev is manning the door for the night, he’s got a lot of work on. He tells me that he’s got around twenty tickets left to play with and within the first ten minutes most of them have gone. He tells me it’s looking like being about thirty of forty over the two hundred capacity for tonight. I’m tempted by one of the fine ales they’ve got on sale here but I don’t have much money left and have to spread it out over the night, plus I can’t really get started on the piss now when we’re not on for another seven hours or so. And Kev, bless him, has bought a hundred beer tickets for the bands, even if it’s Carlsberg, it’s at least free Carlsberg. Free for us anyway, not for Kev so much. Before any drinking takes place I need some food anyway, so we decide to take a walk down the road on the back of some tips from the pub manager and pick up some dinner.
It’s dark out and the rain is drizzling down miserably. There really isn’t much around and we take a kebab shop over a rather looking dodgy noodle place, that doesn’t have much in the way of vegetarian cuisine anyway. Falafel it is. And it’s fucking good. Really clean and fresh, the hummus is to die for. So glad we went for this. The place has a coal fire on the go where some guy is sat roasting meat on a stick, it looks pretty disgusting but there’s no denying it smells pretty good. We take a seat by the door and watch the take away clientele pass through the place as we tuck into our grub. Most of them are wearing jogging bottoms, real give up on life garb.
We head back to the venue, stomachs filled and satisfied. When we get back I’ve got two shocks in store. One is that the place is fucking rammed, the bottle neck that runs along the bar is jammed and I can see it’s going to take a long time to get served. The second shock is that our good friend Jos from Holland is here. I look across the mass of heads in confusion, he looks back with a wry smile. There are a whole load of other mates here too, the Deptford Crew of course and then there are some old mates from home who have travelled down with Jay and Dave, people like Dix from Scurge and Scott from Defenestration, people we’ve grown up with in the music scene in Corby and Kettering. It’s great to see everyone, this feels like it’s going to be a hell of a party. I slowly make my way through the crowd to Jos, “Well hello, what the hell are you doing here?”
I fight through the crowd back to the bar to get myself a beer and then check in on the band currently playing, Organised Death Machine, which has our mate Pablo and Kiwi Chris amongst its ranks. From where I’m stood, just near the door, the sound doesn’t travel to all that well and most of the bottom end on Pablo’s bass has drifted off somewhere into the ceiling. Seems like they’ve had a pretty good gig though, there’s plenty watching them. They’re the only band I even catch a glimpse of until Regimes play a couple of hours later. There are simply too many people in here, I can’t be arsed battling my way back and forth about the place so opt to station myself in the vicinity of Kev and catch people there for a chat. I hang out with Viv and Wayne for a while, and Misa is flying about the place like an atom, laughing her ass of as always. She comes powering through the crowd towards me with her compulsory two pints aloft, resting on her head. She gives me a big hug, “Gaaaaaaaaaaaz!!!” we spend about a minute just laughing without actually conveying anything to each other. After a while Misa laughs, “Gaz you are so…how do you say? Is cuddleable a word?” Cue more hysterical laughing. Misa is fucking crackers and I love her.
A while later Vik arrives with Bea. Funny being with Vik and Kev in London and not doing a DB show. Vik turns to me, “There are far too many people here, it’s ridiculous!” It is actually starting to feel a bit crushed in here at times, if a fire kicked off right now we’d all be fucked. Kev has at least put a SOLD OUT sign on the window now, but with extra admission and band members its way too much in here. Kev looks chuffed.
Another friend that’s made the trip from Holland is Ester from Flees and Lice, she’s another real character and an old friend of Misa’s. Together they make quite the team. Ester doesn’t recognize me from being in Victims at first, I guess that’s the cross to bear as the “new guy”, I empathise with Ronnie Wood. Once me and Ester remake our acquaintances, the last time we met was when we played her place the Crowbar in Groningen, she’s into full flow. She tells me I look tired and says she has some stuff for that, if I’d like some. It’s a nice gesture but I’m good.
I make my way back through the bottleneck and up to the raised area where Johan and Andy are sitting with our merch. I catch Karl and his wife Jules sat beside them and take a seat myself. I get talking to Jules about kids TV shows and she gives me some good tips. We talk about Backyardigans, the Canadian TV show that Polly is insane about right now. Jules is Canadian and she smiles when I tell her how much Polly loves it. It’s funny when you’re a parent and you realise that the battle for the TV with your kid is a battle you have absolutely no chance of winning, and then before long you start to get into the shows yourself. All I can say is, Backyardigans has some brilliant tunes on the show. To be honest, Polly only really discovered the television a few months back and it’s easy enough to draw her attention away from it, all I have to do is put on a record, any record, and start dancing and she’s right there with me. Still, when you’re making dinner or the doing the laundry or whatever other chore there is constantly to attend to, the TV is a handy distraction.
Regimes are on and then there are two more before Victims are up. Regimes haven’t played for a long time, except the warm up show for this a few days back, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them. This will be their last show, I think. It’s fun seeing Mucky Marcus play guitar again, my SG come to that. I didn’t really know what to expect from their gig but as much as I always liked the band, I’m not sure I remember them ever being this good! It’s tight as shit, works great with Jamie on bass too, and the crowd are packed in and going mad. Kev is in great form too, I’m buzzed to shit watching them. When they play Chemical Cosh the mosh pit are all singing along to the chorus and a few stragglers make it up on to the high stage to launch themselves immediately off it. What a fucking bonus.
I catch up with the Victims guys and Vik afterwards and everyone is smiling, surprised by how good the set was. As soon as Kev is done he’s back to the door. The squeeze in here just seems to be getting tighter. I exchange glances with a few familiar faces around the crowd, all of them deflecting back the same sigh I send them. Kev tells me that the bouncers, who have been a bit freaked out and are acting like cunts, patting everyone down all the time, have said that’s it’s one in/one out, irrespective of whether you have a wristband. I look through the doorway to the smoking allotment and there is even a crush of people there, waiting to get back in. I happen to catch little Jay’s face in the mass, shaking his head and smiling. I hope he manages to get back in before Victims play. That would be ridiculous. One person who won’t be getting back in is Kyle, the old bass player from Scurge, who has been caught with a bag of the naughty stuff. As he’s being led out I ask his mate who is following him out what happened, “Only got himself to blame, fucking blatant!”
I get talking to Kelly Apple for a while, I don’t know if she’s boats or what but she’s going on about Jon, “your guitar player”, she says she’s thinks he’s really hot. She recalls the last time she saw Victims play, must have been the Grosvenor a few years back, my first tour with Victims, she says that she approached Jon, really nervous and really drunk, and told him that she thought he was really attractive and then threw up on her shoes. When she repeats the story a few times I begin to understand that she is pretty steaming. She keeps saying to me that I can’t let her go near him tonight. I look over at Jon, flummoxed by the whole affair. I catch up with the guys later and tell them what Kelly said, Jon eyes light up, it’s actually really sweet, I’ve never seen Jon flattered in this way before. “What can I say? The ladies love Jonny” he says. He just about pulled it off.
The set times are running late, how could they fucking not be with all these bands? I was thinking that it was covered, that the music curfew was midnight and with Kev setting the Victims set time at a very ambitious ten fifteen we were ok. It turns out in fact that the curfew is eleven, and there are still two bands to go before we play. I can tell Kev is for the first time, starting to get a little nervous. He says we’ll get things moving along and he’s cursing one of the earlier bands who took ages at change over. Well go figure.. Paco Mus’s band, The Lowest Form is up next. I’ve been looking for him since he has some records for me that I ordered a while back. The first time I clock him is when he’s up on stage setting up. I don’t see much of their set, I simply can’t be arsed fighting my way through. The sound is pretty bad from where I’m standing though, the bass amp sounds like a wet fart. Shame.
I catch Paco afterwards anyway and he tells me he’s given the package of records to Andy. It’s nice to finally meet him, to put a face to someone you’ve been corresponding with. Kluster Fuck are now on stage, and we’re after them. These are good friends of Kev, good people, we’ve met them before at Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen where they’re involved. Kluster Fuck are the first band that have played today that you can trust when they say they’ve got a fifteen minute set. Most of their songs average out at thirty seconds. It’s not totally my thing but what they do, they do really well. Anos, who’ve I’ve only ever seen sing, blasts the fuck out of the kit and Kristine has an insane set of lungs and is absolutely manic on stage. She sounds like a pit-bull being tortured. Fifteen minutes and it is indeed done.
We get up on stage as quick as we can, knowing time is against us. The room is packed, the anticipation almost boiling over, I am fucking ready for this. And then I hear this little Scottish voice, almost apologetic, as if excusing itself for existing, it’s coming out of the monitors somewhere. “There’s nothing from the bass drum.” Johan and I look at each other and then together in the direction of the sound guy in his little hut at the back of the room. Johan asks if we should change the mic but gets nothing in response bar a shrug of the shoulders, the guy looks completely fucking scoobied. He mumbles something about us just starting and he’ll sort it but somehow I don’t trust that. When we start looking to address the problem ourselves, amidst shouts from the crowd of “Just get on with it”, we‘ve been stood here a while now and it’s getting uncomfortable, the sound guy appears on stage. Johan suggests he swaps the mic with the hang tom, he does as told. He tries the broken mic lead, blows in it a little, Andy shakes his head but Johan confirms that’s actually a valid course of action since moisture can cause glitches and blowing it away can work. Eventually he gets things sorted and with bass drum now sounding we launch into Death Do Us Part. The wait was worth it. The crowd kick off from the very start.
It’s one of those gigs where you feel like a fucking King up on stage. The place is packed, the crowd is swathing about the dance floor, I clock Jay and Dave in the middle of it all, getting tossed about and loving every second of it, people are stage diving, Kev amongst them, kicking the mic into Johan’s mouth, he doesn’t care. The gig flies by, it’s one of the most fun shows I’ve played in ages, and last night was no cack affair either. We drop one of the more mid tempo songs, weighing the feeling in the crowd, we just keep it going. We’ve got four songs left and I hear that little voice again, coming out of the monitors. “Last song.” I can’t work out if it’s a question or a demand although I couldn’t give a fuck either way. I know the other guys haven’t heard him, even when he repeats himself, so I just carry on. We finish with This is the End again and it feels like I spend more time pumping my fist in the air than playing guitar, I look over to the right hand side of the room and see Kev and Misa, raised above the crowd with one arm around each other, the other lofted in the air, singing along to the chorus. Feel like fucking AC/DC up here. Magic, pure fucking magic.
How do you top that? The crowd moves out quickly after the show, everybody I’m sure desperate for a bit of legroom. I’m fucking desperate for a good pint now but Jamie are Kev and wanting to get moving since they have to take the gear and the van back to the practice room where it will be safe for the night. We contemplate walking, I could certainly do with the brisk air, but it seems stupid to blow off a lift, and plus, there’s an after party to get to. Everyone seems to be heading there and up early or not, I need a couple of pints. I just hope the Birds Nest isn’t as stupidly packed as this place was. We all squeeze into the van, making space for Vik and Bea as well as Goy, who spends the entire trip laid up behind the back seats on the luggage shelf, pissed up and moaning about the state of music, saying he missed UFO. Love him.
If it’s even possible, to my horror, The Nest is more crammed than the earlier show. Fuck. I’d envisioned sitting down for one thing, with a pint and a nice easy catch up with some mates. It’s not happening. It takes about half hour to get served and you can forget sitting, there’s barely room to stand. Wayne’s band Nembutal are playing, as is Karl, Mad John and Nige’s hard rock band Bad Meat, and Kluster Fuck are on again and our travelling partners Link. I barely see anything of any of them, you can’t see fuck all in here. I’m on the other end of the bar with Jos and his mate, Andy and Johan, Vik, Bea and Viv. The others fleet about but we station ourselves here. Alec is with us for a while but leaves early, stating he can’t be fucked with the crush in here. Can’t say I blame him. Jon is over by the left hand side of the bar, he’s made a connection with Misa. When I was on my way to the bogs I catch Misa trying to pronounce Jon’s name, it goes on for ages, “Jo? Joe? Joon?” ad infinitum. The two make a great match.
We hang out for a couple of hours, I’m surprised we make it that long. Jos is taking the piss out me and my beanie hat. I have to admit, I’m going for the Ian MacKaye look, I figure you gotta go with the flow, roll with the punches a thinning hairline throws you. Karl, suffering with the same problem, age and thin hair, tells me I look prime, bless him. Jos calls me on it though, takes my hat off me, starts pissing around with his own flat cap, turning it backwards and making faces at me. Piss taking fucker. Point taken big guy. We cuddle up for a photo together.
Another piss taker arrives, Kiwi Chris, although is piss taking is a little more venomous. He says he saw the gig and thought we were shit. This is his usual approach. Don’t know if he has a really small penis or what but there is definitely some insecurity issues there. Funny, I clocked him down the front when we were on, huge smile on his face. Viv lambasts him but I can take it, I know where it’s coming from and I know he doesn’t mean any harm, although his tongue constantly purchases him black eyes. He asks me if I saw his band. I could easily say that I did and that I thought they were shit but that’s just not me. He doesn’t believe me at first when I say what I saw I thought was good but when I repeat myself a little smile appears on his coupon. Kiwi Chris…
We leave around two, we’ve managed to say hello and hang out with most people, although I wish I could have made more of it. One of those occasions where you’ve talked to loads of people and really haven’t spoken to anyone. I meet Jay before he leaves, he’s heading off to the Amersham Arms for some drunken debauchery, the rest of that crew are there. He cracks up, tells me Dave is wearing a boot print on his cheek that he received during our set. The only person I haven’t really managed to hang out with tonight is Wayne, but we catch each other on the way out. I’m sure we’ll be back with DB at some point, otherwise I’ll have to make a private trip over with the family.
We get back to Kev’s just after two. The alarm is set for eight, six hours of sleep on the floor. I like a hard bed though, good for this shit old back of mine. I hear Kev coming back sometime around three with what sounds like Kiwi Chris’s voice behind him. It sounds like Kiwi is boats. I get up for a piss once they’ve gone to bed and find the bathroom mirror has been taken down from the wall and laid on the floor and various plastic bottles have fallen into the tub. I wonder if Kev will need waking in the morning…probably not. He always seems to make it through somehow.
I retake my position on the floor between Andy and Jon, glad we’re on the afternoon flight.