Wednesday, November 4, 2015


The Famine Year guys asked us back in March about playing some shows in Finland. We had the Pyramido tour in the works then and with the planning required due to school, family and other bands we decided on October for the shows. Still, we were fucking chuffed. It was the first time someone random had contacted the band and asked us if we wanted to travel somewhere and play some shows. What’s more, all travel expenses would be covered. This opposed to us mailing around and hustling contacts through different acquaintances to book shows. Of course, that works too, although it requires a lot of energy. Having someone contact us felt like a big step. It turns out that the guys in the band weren’t complete strangers however, there rarely are any complete strangers within this scene, Niklas the bass player books for the Tuska Fest in Helsinki and had booked Victims last time around, and Petri the singer had toured with Nasum and driven Victims from the airport to Tuska Fest last time. I remember when he picked us up he told me that he felt like he already knew me, despite having never met, due to the fact he’d read my blog a lot.

When the idea for Finland was approached our first thought was to ask the Kylmä Sota guys if they’d be interested in playing too. Famine Year thought it would be a good idea, and make for a nice bill, so I mailed Marko the singer and within a day they’d confirmed. We were all really chuffed they were up for it. They’re a great band and great people. Absolute pissheads, very entertaining. The first time I saw Kylmä Sota was at Kafe 44 when they played with the Japanese noise punk band, D-Clone. The Finns had taken the overnight ferry from Finland and arrived early, absolutely wankered. Old Bengtsson from 44 had found them hanging outside the venue drinking miniature bottles of Jägermeister whilst he was on his way to work in the morning. They wondered if they could get into the venue, Bengtsson laughed and told them they were about eight hours early. Apparently they went to a park and had a sleep. I’ve never seen a band so pissed up on stage. Helena, the bass player, laughing her ass off the whole set, had to get Janne the guitarist to show her the riffs to each song before playing them. Thing is, when they got it going they were amazing. Quite some band. I was looking forward to hanging out with them and playing a few shows together.

We arrived at Helsinki airport just after four thirty. Kev had been in Stockholm for a couple of nights to practice the set. We almost got off to a pretty shit start in Finland since we deboarded the plane and walked straight out the exit without picking our guitars up. To be fair, the signs were pretty confusing. Niklas was stood waiting for us on the other side of the exit door and looked pretty surprised as we walked out carrying fuck all barr the stupid grins on our mugs. Total Spinal Tap start to the tour. Luckily for us, some woman at the help desk let us back inside to the luggage belts, which were right next to the exit door. She looked at us like we were a bunch of twats.

We head over to Niklas place first and swap Lucas’ surfboard sized hard case for a soft bag. We’re travelling in two cars, us and Famine Year, and wearing Lucas bass case as a table across our legs would have been cack. Niklas has a really nice house in the eastern suburbs, complete with garden and inside sauna. We’re staying here tonight. I’m thinking about that sauna and how nice it’s going to be steaming my hangover off in it tomorrow morning. Once sorted at Niklas’ place we head over to the venue, Leppakomies, the Bat Cave, which is this punk bar in the bohemian end of the city with a venue in the basement. Vik has played here with Nitad before and said it was really good. The place looks pretty cool, longish room downstairs with a small stage at the end of it, the other end of the room housing a bar and some tables. After loading in the gear, we turn around to find Marko and Hesu both smiling their asses off, we head upstairs and order some beer.

We hang out for a while in the bar, enjoying a couple of fairly priced pints of Karhu. Marko’s smile barely ever leaves his mug. His eyes are constantly squinted behind his glasses, mischief written all over him. He’s one of the biggest piss takers around. It’s good to see him again. I get talking to Niklas about some other stuff in the meantime, life and shit. He’s got a daughter who is a couple of months younger than Polly. Whilst the rest of the guys sit and talk punk, we’re discussing kid routines and sleeping patterns.

We head downstairs for soundcheck, Famine Year go first and then us. We’re using their entire backline, we’ve only brought guitars, so it may seem a little pointless but it’s nice to get a feel for the stage and the place. The Kylmä guys couldn’t give a fuck though and decline. The other guys in Famine Year have arrived, one with a cheeky grin across a red face and the other guys with the beard of a lion, he seems particularly friendly, when he laughs his whole face opens as he spreads his mouth to jaw cracking distance. I don’t catch their names properly or what they do in the band but I do get the impression that they are very nice chaps. A lot more humble than our piss taking friend in Kylmä Sota. As we’re sorting out merch, at least, whilst Kev and Luc are sorting out merch and I’m stood there trying to look busy, I notice Petri sorting out Famine Year’s gear. “Hey Gareth”. It’s good to see him again. I might not have remembered quite as quick had it not been for Andy tipping me off last week. I’m good with faces, terrible with names. We get right into it though. Petri leads us off to get some veggie food from a place around the back of the venue.

You go out the venue, take a left and then left again, past a pretty dank looking plaza they call Speed Square, named so for obvious reasons, and then onto the parallel street behind the venue. There is this veggie burger joint called Soi Soi which is next door to the Combat Rock record store. We don’t have to leave until late tomorrow so we’ll be back here for some shopping. Tonight is all about Soi Soi though. We order in some veggie burgers which hit the bull square in the fucking eye. Magic. They’re pretty heavy though, I have a feeling that they might come back to haunt us during the gig, being that it’s not that long until we play. Made that mistake a few times before. The worst being this one occasion in Bristol when Speedhorn were supporting Napalm Death, we went for an Indian and had a right slap up meal, thinking we had a few hours until gig time. When we got back to the venue we were horrified to find that we were supposed to be on stage half hour later. Most painful fucking gig I’ve ever played. Could hardly move, just stood there sweating curry. Stage stank and all.

Once the grub is done we head back to Lepakkomies for a couple of beers before the show. When we arrive this drunk punk is sat at the door to the basement taking money for the gig. Hadn’t seen him before and I hadn’t got stamped before I left. The others go in and I tell him I’m in one of the bands, he doesn’t say fuck all, so I carry on past when he grabs me. “Hey! You pay!” Fucker is steamboats. Petri just laughs and explains the situation to him, I can’t make it out but I hear Petri say “Diagnosis Bastard” in Finnish. Drunk Punk stamps my wrist and that’s that sorted. Until he grabs me again and repeats the process ten minutes later.

We hang out for a while at the bar. Marko’s wife is here and he’s eager to introduce us. Really nice girl. Marko’s chuffed eyes grin through his glasses. A friend of Vik’s, a guy called Ronnie, and his girlfriend are here too. Also really good people. Ronnie plays in a great band called Armless Children and he and Vik first met a few years back in the States. Ronnie is driving Kylmä about for these few shows. They brought a couple of Armless Children seven inches for us, great start to the weekend.

Kylmä Sota are up first tonight. There are about fifty people in the place and most of them are stood up front to watch this great raw d-beat band. Kylmä are the most known of the three bands playing these three shows. I’m glad they’re with us since it’s always fun to watch them. And they don’t disappoint tonight. Helena has a huge grin on her face, she always does, it stays with her the whole show. She’s drunk I guess, but fuck me can she play bass. Marko is his usual self, pissed and doing the Madchester strut between screaming sections, always grinning, always looking for who’s grinning back. They’re a fucking brutal band though, even if it looks like they’re pissing about, the music says different. The ceiling above the stage is pretty low and in the middle there is this little hole where parts of the ceiling are flaking away. At one point Marko picks bits of it off and starts eating it, this whilst he’s doing the Ian Brown dance. Fucking piss myself at that. What a tit. I love him.

When they’re done I’m more than ready to follow. We’re set up pretty quick since all the bands are sharing Famine Year’s gear. There aren’t as many people as close to the stage when we play, I guess they don’t know us and they’re a bit wary. We’re probably a bit of a hard band to work out too. And then Kev takes the floor instead of the stage which only seems to result in the crowd backing away tentatively. They seem to be liking it anyway, they just don’t want to get too close. At one point Luc lets out this sneaky burp, stinks of the garlic sauce from the Soi Soi burger, it hits me in the face like a slap from Grandma. Fucking rancid. I’m soon down on the floor with Kev, deciding to take the gig to the punks and get the fuck out of the way of Luc. My guitar comes close to hitting some smiling guy in the face and over the noise of the gig I hear him shouting, “Woah woah, take it easy!” Might have got a bit carried away there… Overall, for a first show, I’m happy anyway. The small crowd watching seemed to enjoy it. Apparently we’re competing with a Misfits cover band as well as another punk gig tonight, plus it’s Thursday, so I’m more than happy with the turnout. Not that the amount of people at a gig affects me much, unless it’s nobody. Still, we played to more people in Helsinki than we had before tonight. And I’m chuffed with how we played, good gig for a first show, plenty of energy. At least I felt it, Kev and Luc are complaining about the burgers.

As I’m packing up some guy approaches me and asks if I used to play in Dead Inside. I point him in Kev’s direction. Apparently his old band played with Kev at the Club in Bradford years back. Kev doesn’t remember the guy but he’s chuffed all the same. The guy was a big fan, even of Hard to Swallow it turns out, although he didn’t know that Kev was in them too. We sit there hanging with Ronnie and his girlfriend for a while, talking about common mates from the scene, until Famine Year start.

The fifty or so people in the room stand a little back, just like they had with us. Two things to consider here. One, Kylmä Sota had the best crowd and most people into them. Two, maybe band members playing on the floor instead of the stage when the crowd is small makes people back up even further. The second point is one Kev made to be fair. Whatever, as Luc said the fact we’re a little band from Stockholm playing in Helsinki is success in itself. He’s referring to this great interview with Ian MacKaye that we’ve both been enthusing about recently. Anyway, Famine Year seem to enjoy themselves, and they play tight as fuck. Real ferocious hardcore stuff. Talented as shit. The sound is a little low, which I guess it was for us too since it certainly was for Kylmä Sota, but you can still hear everything well, even if it’s not ripping your head off. They blast through their set, occasionally slowing it down a little and pounding out a riff, Marko, the fabulously bearded guitar player shaking his head enthusiastically. He’s playing a really nice black Fender Jaguar too. Beautiful thing. I’d asked him earlier if it would be possible to lend it as a backup in case of me snapping a string and he’d been very kind to oblige. Gladly there was no need, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I had a mishap on stage tomorrow. Not sure how Marko now feels about it though having seen me flailing my cheap old SG around tonight.

Drunk Punk arrives halfway through the Famine Year set and starts dancing around a bit. He doesn’t last long. He bangs into Petri and ends up getting fucked into the PA speaker. After the gig Kev spots him sitting disheveled, holding an ice pack to his elbow. A while later he’s passed out asleep on the floor in the little corridor behind the stage where we’re keeping our gear. We pack up the gear and leave it ready to pick up tomorrow. Niklas seems happy enough with the turnout tonight. Totally okay for a Thursday. We hang out a little more by the bar, enjoy another couple of pints of Koff lager. Marko Brown is hoping we’ll join him to check out the Misfits cover band at some other venue but I’m knackered, been up since half seven this morning with Polly, and plus I think Niklas is hoping we’ll join him back at his place. He hasn’t been able to drink all night since he’s driving us, and I think Brown is hoping we’ll stay at his place too. We don’t really know Niklas that well and it’s a little tempting to head back to our mates place but we feel it would be rude to leave Niklas hanging. And I suspect that things will be a lot calmer at Niklas place.

My suspicions are confirmed. Absolutely perfect. His place is really beautiful, and he’s arranged with his wife and daughter to stay at the in-laws tonight so they won’t be disturbed by us. Really nice of him and his family. I’m very glad we chose this option tonight. I have a feeling the next two nights won’t be as calm. We sit around on the wooden living room floor, talking over some beers that Niklas brought with him, and then open a bottle of red wine. All very civilized. It’s not even too late, only around midnight when we got back here. Luc falls asleep sitting upright on the couch after a while, snoring gently as the rest of us talk. Me and Kev eventually call it a night and head up to the spare room where a couple of clean mattresses await us. Vik takes some pillows on the living room floor. Turned out to be a very night end to a perfectly decent first show in Finland. I’m looking forward to getting in the sauna in the morning.

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