I give sleeping another go but it’s no good. I give up and jump in the shower before heading downstairs to see if there’s anyone up for taking some air. The sun is shining and I could do with a brisk walk to brush off those remaining cobwebs that the shower missed. Karl and Alec are alive and up for it so we head down the road to see what’s about and end up in a café. There’s a rumour that Flash is cooking up some breakfast later but there’s no telling how long that will be, judging by the chorus of snores in the house it’s going to be a while. The café looks pretty decent and I order some poached eggs on toast. It’s pretty disappointing though. The toast is dry as sand and the eggs are petite, to say the least. Still, nice to get away for a bit.
We head back to Flash’s where people are beginning to stir. Kev looks fresh enough despite last night’s over indulgence. I head into the dining room where Flash has put a veggie buffet on, looks fucking amazing. Those who are awake are mulling around the table, picking it to pieces. Under the table lies Jon, fast asleep in his sleeping bag, completely oblivious. Even when he stirs a short while later he just lies there rubbing his beetroot red face for the best part of five minutes. Jamie catches me looking at him and smiles. He tells me that Jon was stoating about the house last night confused and he stood right on him before falling flat on his ass. He says he heard him later on in the kitchen taking what he imagines to be a slash into a can or a bottle; the sound of running liquid was interrupted by the sound of pouring every ten seconds or so explains Jamie. Jon eventually pulls himself to his feet and starts telling Jamie how he’d been sleep walking last night, says he always sleep walks when he’s had a drink and that if he doesn’t then he wakes up with an anxiety attack instead. Fuck knows. Jamie then points at his trainers and tells Jon how he’d also lent them in the middle of the night and fucked off into the back garden in them. Jon just looks at me with the usual look of confused amazement.
Out of politeness I help myself to a plate of food from Flash’s buffet but I can’t manage much. It’s far, far better than the eggs I’d eaten earlier. Wish I’d waited. Bad tour economics right there. We hang out for a while in the front room waiting for everyone to ready themselves, me, Karl and Kev talking about the great emo bands of the Nineties like Moss Icon and the scene in the UK at the time with brilliant bands like Bob Tilton, Baby Harp Seal and Karl’s old band Tribute. It’s soon time to get moving and we line up outside the van with the Link guys, Flash’s girlfriend and Skit, who Flash keeps shouting at in what sounds like Czech, but I’m not sure, and take a couple of pics. A permanent reminder of a very nice evening.
The drive up to Sheffield takes around four hours with a couple of stops. The weather is pretty schizophrenic, one second it’s sunny, the next the sky goes all fucking Mordor and the van is being pelted with hail and snow. It goes back and forth like this pretty much the whole journey. The van the guys have hired is a real top-end Sprinter, complete with TV and DVD player. Kev has brought some discs with him and I think mainly to shock the Swedes, Karl puts on a couple of episodes from the second season of the British cult classic Love Thy Neighbour. The racial humour in that show would simply not be tolerated today, even though the joke is of course on the racist character played by Jack Smethurst. It pretty much goes right over the heads of the Swedes. After a couple of episodes we switch to a documentary about the early years of Iron Maiden, something we can all fully appreciate. Someone mentions that Steve Harris is supposedly a right homophobic twat though. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is a bit of a cock since he’s openly admitted his hate for punk rock.
We pull up outside the venue around three pm, about three hours to spare until we load in. It’s as cold as a witch’s tit up North, the kind of chill that forces your shoulders to hunch up in knots. We sort the parking ticket out and head in to town in search of food. It’s a shame it’s so fucking freezing because it would have been nice with a walk otherwise. Jamie lived here for a couple of years so we follow his guide to a vegetarian café called the Blue Moon. It takes a bit of a while for him to pin the place down but it’s worth it when he eventually does. I opt for a mushroom and leak cheese bake which shows itself to be a superb choice. We’re sat around various tables in the café enjoying the warmth as much as the food. Jon takes a beer of course, as soon as I saw that they had Samuel Smiths Pale Ale on sale I knew Jon would be taking one, I was tempted myself in truth but decided that I needed some food in me before embarking on booze. Niki Nailbomb is sat at a table on his own when Jon approaches him and asks if he’s like some company. Before long they’re in to full flown conversation. Niki comes up to me afterwards, “Ee’s alright that boy, we ave a common love of Yoof ov Today!” Seems like the two of them have hot if off.
When we’re done at the café we walk over to the Crucible Theatre so Jon can have his picture taken in front of it, being a big snooker fan. He stands there in his big sheepskin coat and Bolt Thrower beanie hat with a glowing smile as Kev snaps away. As we’re waiting around Niki is talking with the other guys about his plans for getting home tomorrow after the gig, figuring out the earliest possible train he can take after Disculpe have played and when that will get him back to his beloved Southend. Karl, shaking his head, “It’s amazing that you actually like playing in bands!”
“I dan’t really! I just like the moosic.” We all crack up laughing. Kev points out that the main thing Niki is interested in is being on records and getting his hands on a copy. We head back to the venue; Bryan and Avi are there setting things up. It’s great to see them as always. Tonight’s lineup is really strong and it should be a great night. Link are playing again and then there is War All The Time and Bryan’s own band Skiplickers, both of which are really great. I tell Bryan that we had some food at the Blue Moon Café and he laughs, telling me that the food they’ve got for tonight is coming from the very same place. I think I’ve got room for more anyway. The space the guys have got here is really cool. It’s a unit on a little industrial backstreet just off the city center. There is a small narrow room with some sofas in it as you enter and then a larger, square room off to that with a low stage along the far wall and a bar off to the side. I think the guys have a studio upstairs since there is a white board in the first room with a recording schedule on it with all the guys bands booked in; Dry Heaves, Skiplickers, Detergents. What a great little scene they have here. We load in pretty quick anyway and then with not much more to do we decide to head for a beer. There is a pub, The Lord Nelson, right next door.
Bryan assured us the place was alright but I’m a little tentative after peaking in through the door. It’s a pretty small place and there’s a right rowdy crowd of middle aged chavs in there. I open the front door and, “Come on you fucking twat!” pours out. I hope they’re shouting at the horses on the box. We think about heading somewhere else because the last thing I can be arsed with is hassle, I just want to sit down with a pint, but on reflection we didn’t pass that many decent looking places on our excursion earlier so we decide to take the chance. Jamie leads the way without the slightest suggestion of hesitation. “I lived in Bermondsey for long enough,” he chirps.
The pissed up crowd at the one end of the bar don’t even register us as we walk in. There is a large, deserted alcove off to the side with a bunch of free tables so we head for there. The landlord is a friendly enough looking guy who seems to be doing a gallant job of humouring the rabble he’s been left with. There is plenty of good beer on tap and I go for a pint of Old Speckled Hen. Two quid seventy. Fucking dancer. It tastes like pure heaven too. We’re sat there for about half hour when Bryan comes in and tells us the food is ready. I’m just about to purchase another brew though, I really fucking fancy it, although I feel bad about not going to show my appreciation for the hot food. I decide to make the second pint a quick one. It’s really relaxed sitting there having a drink with everyone though, it’s warm in here, a lot warmer than the venue, and there is good cheap beer on tap. Johan seems to be pretty relaxed today, he’s on to his third and is wearing a sly smile. Jon and Niki are in full conversation about hardcore, new best mates, much to everyone else’s amusement. The jukebox is playing crappy songs from the Eighties, really loudly and the shower are singing along. And then a Bob Marley song comes on and they all start shouting along in diabolical Jamaican accents. And lo and behold a black guy comes in and they all start cheering, pure delight at the sight of him. “Jamaica!!!” one of them guffaws, holding his arms out to the guy for a hug. The guy just smiles uncomfortably. With that I decide it’s time to go see to that food.
Even though it’s lukewarm the veggie lasagna hits the spot, even if the spot is pretty small. Karl has come with since he was also feeling guilty about not eating the grub. Besides the food Bryan has got a couple of crates of beer in for the bands. I’m sure it’s getting better in the country, free beer and food on the DIY scene wasn’t always a given, at least not beer. It’s still pretty cold in the venue though since it’s not open yet so the cold beer takes a while to go down. I think about heading back to the pub but decide against because it’s going to be another three or four hours until we play and I’m already on three beers, which is closing in on my limit. I decide I’ll have another when Disculpe play.
The venue fills up pretty quick. There must be a good two hundred people. The first band is some doom/post metal/punk three piece whatever from Holland. They’re not bad in all fairness but they don’t really hold my attention. The main thing I notice is that the sound from the PA is pretty strong. My friend Jeremié who sings in the band Beast as God has made the trip up from Nottingham and I spend most of the Dutch band’s set talking to him. I’m shocked when I notice he attaches a couple of hearing aids to his ears, before I can form the question he nods his head in resignation. Fuck. He tells me all about it, how he’s been through the emotional ringer with it. I can’t fucking believe it. It’s a bit of a wake-up call to be honest, is this what lies in store for me too? First Jos, now Jeremié, our friends in the scene are succumbing to it. My tinnitus is constant these days but it’s still at a level I can zone out. After speaking to Jeremié it makes me wonder how much longer that will be. I don’t have ear plugs with me on this trip either.. I thought I’d made an adult step a few years ago by making sure I always have them in at the practice space since that is the most punishing environment we work in. Still, Jeremié seems to be dealing with it pretty well now and we’re soon on to discussing happier topics, like our kids.
Disculpe are up next, and there I am, stood right in front of the PA stack on the left, no ear plugs. It’s great watching them play, this is one of the best bands Kev has done in a while. Funny watching Karl prowl around the floor in front of the stage, he looks like an enraged bin man on steroids. Fucking awesome. There is great energy on the stage from Alec and Jamie too which looks ace with Kev stood there concentrating on the numbers on the back of his bass neck, he’s getting better all the time though, he actually looks the part now. Some of Niki’s mates are in the crowd, shouting at him between songs, they look like a right crowd of piss takers.
Skiplickers are up next and being the home town kings the place is packed for them. But fuck me, they fucking destroy. Bryan is a great front man, full of energy. The band are tight as a duck’s arse and they simply tear the place up. I met Weird Chris right before he went on stage, he showed me his chest and the one straggly little hair sticking out the middle of it, placed right in the centre of a tattoo of stars and clouds, “I’ve been growing this out for tonight” he says. Weird Chris…The crowd really kick off for Skiplickers, who are one of the best bands doing this style I've see for a while. Boulty, our mate from Stuck on a Name in Nottingham, is here, towering above the crowd, fucking streamboats chugging on a bottle of Buckfast or something. At one point he sprays the fucker all over the place and soaks every fucker around him. I see that white foam spray heading right at me but it lands in Russ Stalingrad's eye which is blocking it's path towards me. Boulty carries on, oblivious.
I have to say I’m a little disappointed by War All the Time. I mean, I really like the LP they put out a few years ago, real nice Totalitär vibe on it, but live it’s a bit still. Rob, the singer who used to be in the legendary band Kito, looks like a fucking monster with a wide eyed stare partnered with a menacing smile, daring anyone to take him on, but he doesn’t do much else. To be fair, the sound isn’t the best, very muddy, which doesn’t help. I laugh to Johan just before they start, you’d be hard pushed to find a more British looking band. Don’t get me wrong, their set is fine, I was just expecting something else I guess. Bryan Skiplickers is right down front dancing away the whole set, encouraging others to join him. That warms my heart somewhat.
I don’t catch much of the Link set again, I’m out in the van for a chunk of it, talking with Karl who is wrapped up in his sleeping bag, lying there in the dark. It is fucking freezing here in Sheffield. Living in Sweden you’d think we’d be used to this but the cold on this island is a different beast. Even if it’s technically warmer here than it is back home, the rawness of the moist island air tears you to fucking shreds. I head back into the venue and catch up with Gords from EGS/Geriatric Unit, he’d managed to find a lift up here. He’s telling me it was touch and go whether he’d make it because his neck is fucked and he can’t drive. I have to crack up, we’re all falling apart at the seams, us old punks. I catch the end of the Link set, sounds pretty good, plenty loud enough anyway. Niki is hanging out with his mates, cider can in hand, looking chuffed. “Ad a bit more to drink tonight, getting’ pissed!” he laughs.
So it’s time for us to play. The place is full, it sounds good up on stage, I’ve had a few beers but, not too many, just enough to loosen me up, and I feel ready for this. Once we’re set we give Andy the nod and he counts us into the AC/DC style rumble we begin the set with. It’s met with a big cheer and a feeling of impending crowd participation. We blast into Death Do Us Part and about ten seconds in I notice, just out of the corner of my eye, a wave of punks flooding towards the stage, I can see they’re going to land on Johan but it happens so fast I don’t have time to react. Johan goes down under a pile of bodies and with them the drum kit. Me and Jon are left feedbacking and looking on in amazement as Bryan and Jeremié rush to Johan’s aid and Andy pieces his kit back together. So this is how it’s going to be? Fuck me! Johan pulls himself and the mic stand upright again, he’s got a slight cut above the eye but he’s wearing a smile, and we let the feedback ring until Andy starts the song again. For the rest of the gig Bryan and Jeremié are right in front of the stage, dancing and fist pumping whilst simultaneously acting as a barrier to block inrushing punks from hitting the stage. They succeed for the most part but a few get through now and again. Fuck knows how many times during the thirty minutes Johan gets the mic fucked off his mouth. Quite simply, it’s a great fucking gig.
As soon as Avi realizes we’re not playing any extra songs he puts the disco into action, now playing cheesy pop/dance songs which suit the situation perfectly. Everyone immediately starts to dance. We chill out with a couple of beers after the gig but the whole time we have in mind the fact that we’re driving back to London tonight. Bryan had asked me a couple of weeks ago if we wanted to stay at his and party, something I would have happily agreed to, but Kev is insistent that we have to head back to London tonight. It is he who is putting the show on tomorrow and being that he’s booked about a hundred bands to play with us he has to be there relatively early to arrange everything. Except now Kev is pissed up and mingling away. Jamie comes over around one am and tells me it’s time to move. Jamie’s the poor bastard who has to drive tonight. As it is, Avi brings the disco to an end anyway, “That was the last song for tonight folks, thanks for coming down now fuck off!” Brilliant.
Of course, the last in the van is Kev. I was leaving with him and he got stuck talking to some old bird on the way out. When he finally arrives he’s met with a piss taking jeer from the rest of us. “Well fucking excuse me for trying to have some fun!” he moans, and then continues to mumble under his breath about how he thought playing in a band was supposed to be fun, until we reach the city limits.
We hit the motorway and the van turns quiet, except for Alec’s hard rock classics mix on his phone, which he has playing up front beside Jamie. A couple of hours in I can tell Niki, who is sat behind Alec, is getting twitchy, “Are you gonna be playing that fucking music all night?” Alec just looks at him, totally baffled by the question.
We stop a couple of times on the way back, each time the door opens the cold sends the body into shock. I waste some money on a putrid portion of French Fries from McDonalds on one occasion but for the most part I just sit in the back, not sure whether I’m sleeping or not, somewhere in the haze I hear Jon's voice beside me going on about how's he's starting an Oi band with Niki. I start to life around five am when we get back into London. Jamie must be fucking knackered, you can tell by the way he’s throwing the van around the deserted streets of London like a rally car. It’s five fifteen when we get to Kev’s, my knees are aching from the strained position I’ve been sat semi-sleeping in for the last four hours. Kev’s hard living room floor has rarely been so inviting.