We sit around on the steps of Scotty’s house, doing breakfast in the sun. Pretty chilled out start to the day. We have a drive of about six hours today, it’s not all that far to Eureka but the roads are small and winding. We leave Scotty’s around midday and head over to Berkeley to check out Amoeba Records. We figure that we don’t really need to stress getting to Eureka, rather hang out here. They told us that we should get there for eight at latest so we’re aiming for that. The plan is to get there play, hang out for a couple of hours and then drive a little longer afterwards and get a motel. It’s an early show tonight, has to be done for ten, and we have a long assed drive to Portland tomorrow.
As we’re driving along the avenue that leads to Berkeley Eric tells me about his experiences with Oakland. He says West Oakland is about as rough as it gets, and it’s there that a lot of the punk kids live since it’s a lot cheaper on the rent. Eric says that he was driving through there one time in a car with some friends and they’d stopped at an intersection. Eric was laughing about something and then he noticed some old guy in a string vest stood on his porch looking menacingly at him. Staring him straight in the eye he points and Eric and says, “I will execute you!” Eric, a little shocked, continues to laugh and then the old guy repeats the threat again whilst running his thumb across his throat. Shitting himself he burns out of there. I asked Eric what the fuck had he done to warrant that, “I didn’t do anything apart from being a white guy in his neighborhood I guess”. Scary shit. On many levels.
Oakland merges into Berkeley without announcement, the only reason you know you’re in Berkeley is that all of a sudden it feels like you’re driving through a theme park for tourists. It’s quite the contrast from it’s neighbour. There are tourists and students roaming the streets everywhere. We do a bit of shopping at Amoeba, I pick up a Hjertestop record as well as the last Violent Reaction lp. Once done we grab some pizza slice and sit around on the curb behind the bus, enjoying the sunshine, before boarding for the ride. Berkeley is a pretty little place, kind of place you feel you should be here on holiday with the family and enjoy it a little more. For now, all we get is a view from the bus as we make our way to highway. The views of the bay and the silhouette of San Francisco on the hazy horizon are pretty cool anyway.
We get to town around seven forty five, fifteen minutes before the deadline they’d given us, or on time as Eric sees it, and we’re hit with the anti climax that is the strip mall. I’m a little disappointed by the fact that it looks like any other new town in the US. There are some nice little spots along the oceanfront though and the place we’re playing is further into the residential area, which itself looks like a pretty normal grid system town, if not a little run down. We pull into the VFW hall carpark where there are a few young punk kids hanging out. We pile out of the van to find out what’s happening and some kid who looks like he knows what’s going on approaches us, “Are you from Sweden?”. This amuses Andy. The kid tells us to load in around the back where they have a ramp. We do that and find what I assume is the first band loading their gear out. We load into the hall where the second band are line checking, the girl who plays bass is Maria and she’s putting the show on tonight. Could be a really fun show. There are a handful of kids hanging about the room, not one of them looks to be a day older than eighteen. Maria’s band are checking their gear, they have a high drum riser where the kit and their backline is stood aloft on, whilst the Maria and the other girl on synth stand on the floor. Can’t really see Andy wanting be sat up there looking like a plum.
There are four bands on tonight, and the word is that it would be a good idea if we played third since that’s normally how they do it, leaving one local band to close out the show. Sounds like a fair enough idea to me. It’s probably a good tactic in these smaller towns that a lot of bands never make it through, since all the kids that come these shows will probably go to any show going, it’s not necessarily that the kids here are fans of Victims, they’re just chuffed there’s something going on at all. We dump the gear in the space to the side of the stage, behind a projector screen where they have images displaying as a backdrop to the bands. Andy starts setting up his drums, Johan and I decide to check out the bar on the other side of the corridor from this function room.
Jon is already sat there on a barstool, his brightly coloured Venom patch on the back of his leather jacket shining like a beacon amongst the young punks. He’s enjoying a can of PBR and in the process of beginning a conversation with some older woman beside him. The bartender is this old brick wall of a guy, trucker cap and long grey beard just about hiding a sly smile. In notice they have Lagunitas on tap, it’s the only tap they actually have, and by the look of it it’s only two dollars fifty a pint. Nice one. We order two of them and the guy asks us if we’re sure. We assure him and so tentatively he walks off to the tap and starts pouring foam into a big jug. He tells us it will take a little while, there’s something wrong with the barrel. No stress, I tell him. Five minutes or so later he comes with two plastic mugs full of beer and when we go to pay he just waves us away and winks at us. Nice one mate.
We take a seat at table and some crust punk comes up to me and starts talking, tells me he’s really grateful to us for coming through his town. He can’t believe that we’re here from Sweden, to just play nine shows and that one of those shows is Eureka. I can’t really believe that either, if I’m being honest. He’s a really nice kid anyway, I ask him for tips and travelling to Portland from here, tell him we’re looking to do a couple of hours and then get a motel at the next town, Crescent City. After there the roads aren’t anything you want to be driving on in the dark, he warns us, and besides, it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and you want to see it in the daylight, he smiles.
It’s time for us to start setting up for the gig and we grab Jon from the bar who has just ordered another beer and a shot of Jameson. Brick Wall enthusiastically pours Jon a huge double, probably a treble, and then pours one for himself. Brick Wall downs it like it’s water and patiently waits for Jon to finish his, which takes a couple of swigs. We push the riser back and set everything up on the floor. Maria proudly loads the VIctims logo onto the screen as a backdrop for us, really cute. Some other young kid stands just beside me on his own, looking on as we set up the gear. I say hello to him and a big smile beams across his face. He says he’s looking forward to seeing us. I tell him I’m looking forward to playing. It takes us about ten minutes to set up and during that time the dark room has started to fill with kids, there must be fifty or sixty or so, it’s more than I thought it would be, I wouldn’t have imagined there with this many punk/alternative kids in Eureka.
We dry off in the kitchen beside the gig hall and tuck into some bean tacos that they’ve sorted for us. Afterwards we watch most of the last band, Pervert, young kids playing sludgy hardcore, reminds me of the old band Molehill. Pretty good stuff. There aren’t a whole load of kids left but those who remain having a whale of a time. Towards the end I motion to Johan and we head over to the bar. Jon is there with another huge glass of whisky and a beer, chatting away to Brick Wall. I order another couple of Lagunitas but he shakes his head and tells us we should have some Downtown Brown, and hands us each a bottle of the locally brewed Brown Ale. I have a sip and find myself pleasantly surprised, it’s really light on the gut and booming in taste. I put my hand in my pocket and the big smiling Brick Wall barks in his best English accent, “Fuck off! You conts!” Fucking love this guy. We leave Jon to his mates and take seats at the other end of the bar and watch a bit of the baseball on tv. Brick Wall comes over to us after a while and makes a loud gesture, “All you travelling band motherfuckers, shots on the house!” Somehow I get the feeling he’s not going to take no for an answer. He pours three huge shots of whisky and asks where the drummer is, Johan tells him that he doesn’t think he will drink it, he’s not really in that place today. Brick Wall shrugs his shoulders and drinks Andy’s shot. We follow suit and the burn in the chest is immediate. Not really how I envisioned this going. Turns out Brick Wall is a really nice guy, he leans over the bar and starts chatting away to us, telling us about the town and how he thinks it’s great that these young kids are trying to get something going with a music scene here. I can only agree. It warms the heart. These veteran halls may have a bit of a hard exterior but in my experience they’re always really welcoming. It’s a pleasure to be here tonight.
Shortly afterwards Andy’s turns up and tells us that Eric is ready to go and it’s time to pack up. That’s the end of that then. I rush down the rest of my beer and we grab Jon on the way out, who is on whisky number I don’t know fucking what. Don’t want to know… As we make trips back and forth to the van there seems to be a small bit of drama going on. One of the young punk kids is wasted and is making a bit of a scene. Brick Wall is telling him in no uncertain terms that it’s time to go. The kid obviously feels insulted by this. It goes on for a while and I catch little snippets of it as I pass by with various bits of gear. Andy cracks up outside, telling me he heard Brick Wall finally losing his rag with the kid’s refusal to leave, “Right that’s it asshole, time to get your mom down here!” Seems like this community takes care of itself.
We’re almost done with the pack, just a couple of guitars and merch left. Me and Jon head back in. I turn into the gig hall, Jon takes a left into the bar saying something about one last for the road. When all is packed Johan and I go inside to thank Maria for everything and then pick up Jon. He’s stood there drinking another massive glass of Irish, talking to some young kid in a bandana, “Listen to this kids story!” Before we get the chance to politely decline the kid starts up with his tale of how Lemmy kidnapped him for four days, frequently peppering his story with pauses for effect. We have to stand there and listen to him for close to ten minutes whilst Jon stands beside him eagerly egging him on. Finally a friend of Bandana grabs him and says he’s needed outside to deal with his pissed up friend. Before he leaves he says, “Long story short, I spent four days on tour with Motörhead carrying Mickey D’s drums, getting 500 dollars in the process. Sex. Drugs (at this he pauses and exaggeratedly wipes his nose with his thumb). And rock n’ roll.”
Finally able to get the fuck out there, we pass Brick Wall sat under a tree with his arm around the pissed kid, “I like you”, I hear him saying. Think Brick Wall is pretty sauced up himself. We get in the van and head back to the highway, now shrouded in darkness, and set our sights on Crescent City and a motel.
I sit up front with Eric, playing music and chatting away. He’s not too psyched about this drive but we’re told that the road is pretty decent most of the way. It’s pitch black though. At one point we pull over on the side of the road and gaze up at the stars. The stars are magnificent, feels like we’re stood in a planetarium. We continue down the road, hoping that we’ll make it to Crescent City before two so we can purchase a couple of beers. I told Eric I have a vision of lying in a motel bed, watching tv and drinking a beer. Eric tells me he likes that vision. The road starts to snake the closer we get to our destination. It’s so fucking dark. To make matters worse, the fuse on the dashboard has gone so Eric can’t see how the temperature gauge is doing and every time we hit one of the many hills he has to turn the cabin lights on to check the needle. It’s a bit of a strange scene, all to the sounds of Teenage Fanclub on the stereo.
Jon comes up and plonks himself beside me. He’s fucking wankered. He keeps cuddling me really tightly and all I can make out is that he loves Ana. He’s really sweet but it’s hard to deal with and I think Eric could do without it at the present time. I tell him numerous times to go back to his seat, that it’s not safe. Eventually he listens and shuffles off into the darkness of the back of the van. A moment later I look round and in the light of Johan’s iPhone lamp I can see him and Andy picking Jon up off the floor. They finally get him sat down and I look over my shoulder and find Jon looking at me directly, his face kind of distorted by the blueish tint of the lamp, hair hanging down in front of his face. It’s a bit of a dark scene. Minutes later he’s back, grabs me again and says, “Well have you heard? I’m out of the band…” He’s put back to his seat again and thankfully he falls asleep.
We get to Crescent City, which isn’t much of a city by the looks of it, and check out a few different motels once we’ve stopped at a garage for beer and crisps. We end up at a Super 8. Two double beds. Andy and I walk over to the room first, the usual routine, since we’re doing it on the sly. From the door of the ground floor room I see Jon exit the van carrying his big sports bag. He seems to be putting one foot in front of the other but he’s somehow moving sideways. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. The weight of the bag and the booze in his legs gets the better of him and with nobody to save him he falls and hits the ground hard. Andy runs over, pulls him up and leads him by the arm to the room.
We’re all inside and Jon is sat there on the edge of one of the beds, eyes empty. He starts making a move to crawl into bed fully clothed, shoes and all. I tell Jon that he should sleep on the floor because a) I don’t want him to fall out of the bed in the night and b) it seems like it will be me that has to share a bed with him. I ask Eric if it’s okay for him to share the bed with me, I know he normally likes to sleep on the floor on his little camping mattress but he understands the deal tonight. “As long as you keep your legs to yourself!” he jokes, he’s obviously heard about me sleep spooning various members of my band.
Explaining to Jon that he’s on Eric’s mattress on the floor is a pretty taxing process since he’s completely off his tits, but eventually he grasps it, “Ah ok, ja ja”, and slumps down beside the bed. We crack open a beer each and Jon mumbles wonderingly if there is a beer for him. His question is met with group disdain. When we look over at him we see that he’s taken Eric’s pillow from the bed and has his head on that, lying on the floor in the small space between the bed and the camping mattress… We shuffle him over to the bed and leave him there to sleep. You can’t help but love the daft bastard. We’ll have to put a stop on the hard liquor though.