I head to the bathroom in search of a large towel to use as a blanket. I have to make do with two smaller towels. I head back to the bed, past Andy and Jon who are fast asleep. They too look cosy. Wankers. I lay back down beside Johan and try to position the two white towels on me so that they cover my whole body, one on my torso, the other on my legs. For a second I think I’ve cracked it, I’m covered. Just. But then the slightest flinch in my being and the towels slide. Not that they’re offering that much protection anyway, they’re pretty thin. I spend the next two hours trying to sleep like this, wondering why the fuck I put myself in these situations, every time I nod off for an instant, I then turn and awake from the cold and have to reposition the towels. It’s not until Oystein enters the kitchen around seven and starts to prepare breakfast and everyone slowly awakes that I have the bright idea of taking my bomber jacket and placing that over my torso as extra cover that I feel slightly warmer. By then it’s too late. I’ve had an absolutely cack night’s sleep.
To my surprise the first thing Johan and Andy say is how cold it was last night. Johan says that even though he had the sleeping bag he was still freezing and Andy, fucking Andy, says that he was so cold in his sleeping bag that he had taken a blanket he’d found in the living room and had placed that on top of him too. He laughs joyfully when he hears I’ve slept under a pair of towels.
Oystein puts on a really nice breakfast spread and the coffee is piping hot. We sit around gradually warming up and waking up and we take turns in the shower, except Jon. The sun is barely breaking through the cloud cover when we leave and it’s a cold and brisky morning. Oystein has been a bit stressed about getting us to the train station on time, although it’s only a short walk he says. We walk with the gear, feels heavy this morning, the short walk a little longer than preferred. It’s a relief to get to the station and know that we’ll be sat on the train now for the next seven and a half hours. That should leave me plenty of time to study for my presentation on Naturalism next week, plenty of time to have a nap and still some left over for viewing the glorious sights of the Norwegian Dovre Mountain range. There’s no sign of Jason this morning.
There’s not much for me to do than get crack on with studying. Nietzsche and social darwinism a little heavy for the sleep head I’ve got on, but I’m pretty impressed with myself that I manage to put down about four hours work on it. Studying on tour, who would ever have thought it? About halfway through the trip, on top of the range, most of the passengers alight, leaving a few empty bottles behind. Most of them actually seem to be trekking, not skiing. Jon inquires with the conductor about how long we’ll be stopped here and when told five minutes he hops off for a fag. He of course doesn’t think to tell us that he’s gone to the bog afterwards and causes slight panic amongst us when the whistle blows for departure and he’s nowhere to be seen. Not answering his phone either. The thought of leaving him in the middle of the plateau amuses me a little I must admit. We tell the train staff to wait up whilst we look for him and he eventually turns up wondering what the fuss is about. The train journey continues.. Johan said he’d met Jason whilst looking for Jon and he’s invited us back to his place for a bit once we’ve loaded the gear in at the venue. Will be nice to stretch the old legs a bit after this journey. At least we were able to sort out the coffee situation by changing in some merch money with the conductor.
One thing I have to say about this country, we noticed it last night when we got to the airport, is that everybody is so insanely friendly. The guards at the airport were really chatty and almost overly helpful with us when we went through security last night, they seemed genuinely chuffed to welcome us to their country. Quite the contrast to England or the US. It’s the same with this conductor fella today, he looks well fucking chuffed.
We’re informed, again with a very friendly voice, that three quarters of the way to Oslo we have to get off the train and take a bus for an hour, before getting another train for the last part of the journey. They’re doing maintenance work I guess. There is little fuss though, the bus is waiting outside the station of some little town, and we’re on that for around fifty minutes. Finally get to catch up with Jason too. We’re then dropped off onto a commuter train that takes us into Oslo central. Everything doesn’t go quite so smoothly though. Anne, who is booking the gig tonight at Blitz, phones me and tells me that the guy who was supposed to be picking us up from the station in his car can no longer do so since he’s drunk. Apparently it’s the drummer from Barn av Rengbågen, the main band tonight. They had said no to the gig in Trondheim last night as well, said they were worried about getting too fucked up there and being shot for tonight. Guess that hasn’t quite worked out.
This is a bit of a big deal tonight. It’s a gig marking the thirtieth anniversary of Barn av Rengbågen’s first ever show at Blitz, the legendary punk squat that has existed in Oslo for decades. Rengbågen are a much respected band in the Norwegian hardcore scene and don’t play that often so it should be fun. Plus the show is going to be in the smaller café bar, so should be packed. We take a cab to the venue from the station anyway, Anne tells us she’ll sort the money for it later. We’re met in the doorway around the back of the venue by a very friendly guy called Per. Either he’s Swedish or my Norwegian is picking up. We drop the gear and have a quick look about. Per shows us up to the band room above on the next floor where there are is a dormitory for the bands. I feel really guilty telling him that we’d made plans to stay at our friend’s place. They’d been expecting us to stay. Per assures me that the dormitory is really nice and clean. I feel like we’re a right bunch of rock star cunts now. I thank him kindly and explain that there’s been a bit of a mix up, that we’d arranged to stay at Jason’s since he’s a good friend that we don’t get to see that often. I knew the offer of accommodation was on, but didn’t realise that it was set in stone, more that it was there if we wanted it. He says it’s cool though.
We head back downstairs where we meet Anne. I’ve been mailing her a bit this last week and it’s been really easy. And it does indeed turn out that she’s really cool. I tell her also about the fuck up with the sleeping arrangement, and mention that we’re staying with a friend. “Ah yeah, Toby?” Fuck, of course! My old friend Toby from Kettering is coming tonight! He lives here now. Cool that Anne knows him. I explain that it’s someone else though and she’s cool too, tells us that she’s already sorted breakfast for us for the morning but that she can give us it to take with us tonight for the journey tomorrow. Again, feel like a right cunt.
Not as much as a cunt as when I make my next acquaintance. We walk back into the gig room and a young punk with a sleeveless denim jacket and a moustache approaches me and asks a question. Something about a train I think… “Yeah, we took the train, but then we had to get on a bus for an hour, and then back on a train again”, I explain. He looks at me confused and then moves on to Johan behind me. Turns out he’s the sound guy and had asked if we were two guitarists. The Swedish words for train (tåg) and two (två) sound pretty similar, especially if said in an Oslo dialect. Feeling like a complete turd, I decide it’s time for that walk to Jason’s place.
It really is inviting with the fresh air after being on the train all day. It’s a bit of a walk mind, a good twenty five minutes. Guess we’ll be taking a cab with the gear after the gig tonight. It’s nice walking and catching up with Jason though. We pass a couple of venues where he does some work along the way, and a few other places of interest he points out. Just by his place we make a stop at a convenience store to pick up a couple of things for breakfast, we wait outside while Jason and Jon go in. Jon comes out holding about Peparami sausages.
Sitting at Jason’s, drinking a can of beer and chatting is exactly what this day needed. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the venue and take yourself to a quieter place for a while. Andy seems very happy to be here, saying he’s very glad we’re staying here tonight, in a warm, tidy, modern flat. The beer goes down particularly easily and it’s very tempting to stay for another, I can tell the other guys are thinking the same. We peel ourselves away though, knowing we should get back to the venue in time to sort stuff out before they open. The walk back doesn’t seem to take half the time it did in the opposite direction. Isn’t that always the way?
When we get back to the venue we’re told dinner is in the kitchen and beers are in the bar. We head over and find that there is an awesome looking eggplant parmesan waiting for us. And it is truly fucking splendid. I lap it up as we sit at a long table in the bigger gig room where the bar and merch tables are. We end up sat next to some old punk guy, I say old, he’s probably in his forties, a few years older than me. He looks pretty sauced though. He was actually in one of the bands last night, I remember they sounded like Amebix, were totally okay from what I heard. This guy has been sat on the train drinking all day anyway. He’s banging on about the equipment we’ll be playing on tonight, saying this and that are fucking good bits of gear. In fact, he says “Fucking good” in relation to a great number of things during the ten minutes or so we’re stuck with him. Nice enough guy though, just a bit boats for my sober head. Jon and Jason do their best with him and I head off upstairs with Andy and Johan to see what’s going on.
The first band on the bill are up there, a chirpy bunch of young guys. One of them says they played with Victims in Oslo before and even though Andy is engaged in the conversation I can tell he’s feigning recognition. He obviously hasn’t got a fucking clue who the guy is. Not so strange, it was a while ago. In fact, I was at that gig, although playing in Speedhorn and not Victims. That was the tour where me and Kev decided we were leaving Speedhorn actually. Anyway, these guys are friendly enough and we sit and chat for a while. I notice this one kid sat with them, really young looking, I’d clocked him when we came in. He’d asked if we were Victims and when we said yes, he got really nervous looking and just sat there looking really awkward, like he was star struck or something. I felt kinda bad for the little guy. I wanted to engage him in conversation but couldn’t think of anything to say. Strange for me, that.
The guys in Regnbågen, keeping in line with the Norwegian standard, also really friendly. The guitarist looks a bit like Poffen from Totalitär and has a constant grin on his face. Johan was talking to him for a while about equipment and stuff. Me and Andy are up talking to the young guys for a while before we head down to grab a beer and hang out in the venue. The four of us and Jason sit around talking about this and that, enjoying a couple of cans.
After a while my mate Toby arrives. It’s great to see him. We figure it’s probably been ten years since we last met. Fucking crazy. Toby was this young kid from Kettering when I first met him, part of the scene with Jay and Dave Speedhorn and their old band Scurge. Toby was always playing in hardcore bands and an energetic part of the scene, one of those who seemed to know everyone. He was out touring Europe by the time he was sixteen, a real driver. He also played in the infamous Richard T. King and the Minstrels, which was my best mate Snitch’s Elvis tribute act, kind of. Snitch played Richard T. King, the bastard love child of Elvis. Dave Speedhorn and Cliff, the Scurge singer who Dave also played with were known as Dickie Dave Diamond and Clifford T. Justice respectively, Gordon Speedhorn was on drums and went under the pseudonym G.G. Le Thatch and his brother Sandy was the manager Ted Bobby Bovis. Toby or Tubs as we knew him then was Toe Tapping Tubs, he played trombone. They were quite the sight, all dressed up in ridiculous wigs and seventies garb. The Minstrels have been revived a few times over the years, a kind of collective if you will, with members flitting in and out. I’ve been there myself on one occasion, Gordon Speedhorn’s wedding, under the name Johnny Tofu.
Toby arrives just as the first band are finishing, so I only manage to catch a little bit of them. The dark room which probably could hold around two hundred is fairly well filled out, although it’s not packed by a long shot. Anne had said to me that there was another gig on tonight which a lot of people were hyped about. Can’t remember what they were called but they had a name like Avenger, or Enforcer or something daft. Some hard rock parody I’m guessing. Anne says that the gigs overlap so there will be a lot of people here by the end since Blitz always goes late but whether they’ll be here in time for Victims is another matter. To be fair, it looks ok as it is, I’m at the back and can’t be arsed squeezing through the crowd anyway. And gig clashes are something you’re going to get in pretty much any fair sized city.
Whilst we’re linechecking the room is pretty empty, with most people heading back to the big room where the hangout seems to be. It’s cool though that when the bands play they turn the lights on in there and the music off, forcing most people back into to see the bands. That doesn’t always happen. By the time we get started the room has maybe eighty people in it, maybe a few more, it’s hard to tell in the dark. Tubs and his mate, and Jason are stood comfortably up front anyway, just on the arc of the semicircle left in front of the stage for no one. The gig is okay. The sound is a lot better on stage tonight, and we play better, there are no hiccups or technical problems. But for some reason I don’t really feel it as much tonight. Sometimes it’s just like that. I find myself just ploughing through the set as opposed to raging through it. I still put as much energy as I can muster into it but it’s harder work tonight. One of those gigs that are simply, okay. Jason says afterwards that the sound was a lot better out front tonight and that’s cool, but for me, as I’ve always found, the energy within me and what happens out front aren’t always dependent of each other.
Afterwards, once packed down and sorted out I head back to the big room for a beer and to catch up with Tubs properly. I really wanted to check out Barn av Regnbågen but find myself skipping them for the most part to enjoy a natter with my old mate. The lights come on and the now considerably bigger crowd pack into to see the classic band leaving the big room peaceful, Tubs and I look at each other and decide we’d rather stay here than head into the loud, sweaty room. Although I do go in and catch a little bit of the band, who sound really on it. Really well played US style hardcore. Good to see the older generation still doing it. I aspire to follow their path.
Catching up with Tubs is a real joy though. We talk emigration, learning a second language, kids, Tubs too recently become a father. In fact, much of Tubs’ story mirror my own. He’s now working in a bar, was running one before he became a dad, still playing with his band Age of Taurus who are based in England. He says he’s pretty basic with the language but when some young pissed punk girl approaches him looking for money for beer or something he jumps right into it and I’m impressed with his pronunciation. He says he really wants to go back to university here but doesn’t feel comfortable enough with the lingo yet, I try to give him plenty of encouragement to do so. He laughs about how he has a degree in music management from the UK and about the little it’s done for him.
Soon enough we get talking about music. He tells me about a US tour they did a while back, just before he became a dad, that was booked by the infamous Andy Rice and was a complete disaster. I laugh at that. We’ve had that experience with Mr. Rice. Then we get talking about touring when they were younger, with his first hardcore bands. Tubs tells me that he’d met some Dutch guy a while back that shared a common friend with him. Whilst Tubs was trying to place where he knew his face from, Dutch informs Tubs that they’d met years back when they were through on tour, that he’d put them up for the night.
As it turns out, Dutch is this straight edge guy who’d been good enough to give them somewhere to sleep for the night. Tubs’ brother Leo was out with them on this particular tour. Tubs and Leo were a bit of a package at the time, right pair of cheeky lads. Tubs ends up getting wankered after the gig and wakes up in the middle of the night in dire need of a piss, not knowing where the fuck he is. He’s found by another member of the band stood pissing up one of the walls in the flat. Amongst the tumult of what follows Leo finds the whole thing so hilarious that he’s in an insane fit of laughter, crawling round on all fours. The laughter takes a hold of him to the point that he vomits all over the wooden floor. When Dutch points this out to Tubs years later, Tubs being the affable fellow he is apologies profusely and asks him if it was ok. “Not really”, Dutch says, “the vomit ran all between the floorboards and they had to be pulled up so we could sanitise the flat”. You couldn’t imagine two nice guys causing so much damage. Booze is the fucking devil.
I laugh my ass off at this story and a few others over the next hour or so. When the night is up it feels like we’ve had nowhere near enough time to catch up, and tell each other we’ll have to make sure it doesn’t go another ten years. Tubs insists on buying a shirt, even though we say his money is not required and then we get the gear and get ready to leave. Jason has sorted a cab and Anne has brought us the stuff for breakfast in the morning and sorted us out with the money to cover our costs. She’s been running around working all night but the occasions we’ve had to talk to her she’s proved herself to be a really nice person, just like everyone else we’ve met in this country. Would like to do another show with her in the future since she seems really concerned with making sure the bands feel welcome. That doesn’t always happen either.
We get back to Jason’s and he gets the veggie hot dogs on. A late night snack hits the fucking spot. We have a couple more beers whilst listening to music but as the clock gets later I find myself struggling to keep my eyes open. After last night I’d really welcome a bit of comfort and Jason tells me I can share his bed, being that his girlfriend is away. I’m gone within minutes, lights out. I had been going on earlier about how it would be nice to head out in the morning and go for a walk, going on about my plans repeatedly, as I tend to do on occasion. When I repeat the walking plan for the umpteenth time, Johan looks at me and enquires, “Go out for a walk in the morning? Instead of sleeping?” Good point.
I wake around ten and feel very rested. We’re flying around two so we have time to enjoy breakfast without having to stress. Jason joins us for the ride to Central Station, to see us right. You can tell Jason is an experienced tour hand. He’d be great to have out on the road with us in the future, something we all agree on as we wave to him when the train pulls out.
Looking forward to getting home now. It’s felt like a lot of travelling for just two shows, a lot of effort. Quite an intense weekend really. I’m sat on the plane next to Jon thinking about this and how nice it will be to get home for around four pm so I can enjoy a night with the family before the new week starts when the pilot comes on the speaker system and warns us that it’s going to be a rough flight, that we’ll be flying in extreme winds and that unfortunately there will be no refreshments service since the cabin staff will have to remain seated for the journey. “The good news is that it’s a very short flight today, thanks to the very strong tail wind, only forty minutes” he adds. Jon looks at me and says he wishes he’d taken his pill.
Due to the fact the pilot has just scared the piss out of me, I spend the majority of the flight looking at out the window, just waiting for the bumps to start. In actual fact, it really isn’t that bad. Next to nothing until we start to descend through the clouds above Arlanda. And even there it’s bumpy but I’ve experienced far worse. When we land safe and sound, Johan parps up from behind us, “I reckon they were just out of coffee”.