We get some coffee to go from a diner just a few blocks away, it’s pretty good but expensive. I can’t really justify spending what works out close to fifty kronors on a cup of black filter coffee. LA is killing my minimal student budget. I remember Linus being shocked by the price of the beer at the gig last night too, “8 dollars for a bottle of Stella? Tja!” Couldn’t live in LA, wouldn’t want to either. It’s a fun place to visit for a few days but I’m getting to my fill of it. I couldn’t live in a place that has no viable public transport system in place, having to drive the car every day just to get from A to B would do my head in. And there are other aspects of LA that get to me a little as well, the whole place seems obsessed with celebrity. I much prefer the lifestyle in New York, although I couldn’t live there either, but I could maybe stick it out a little longer.
Anyway, we get going around twelve. I try Jen a couple of times, hoping to get to see Polly for a second but we can’t seem to sync things. Leaves me feeling a little homesick again, but I shake that off. It’s a little tough being in a completely different time zone from my little girl though. The first hour or so out of LA offers some decent scenery as we crawl over the hills of the Grapevine. It must have been raining a bit since the rolling hills are a lush green, Eric says it’s normally bone dry brown around here. I mention what a nice drive it is and he tells me to make the most of it since once we get past the Grapevine it’s pretty much one long, boring, straight road. It proves to be so. The only things of any note along the way are some citrus farms and the scatterings of tire debris that the cavernous roads have blown off trucks. Every now and again that bumps in the road rattle the bus so much you could swear the thing is going to fall apart but it turns out the bus is a sturdy old thing.
As I’m sat writing, listening to the Tom Petty records Eric is playing up front I’m hit by a wave of stench. Eric shouts back to us, “Yep, that’ll be Cowschwitz.” In the fields beside the road are thousands of cows stood about in what is by the smell of it their own shit. They just stand there looking bored. I wonder if they know that they’re next destination is the slaughter house. Fucking horrible. All these cows slaughtered for food and the fact is tens of tons of beef is left to spillage every year in this country alone, just thrown away. Whilst millions around the globe starve. Fuck humanity.
It’s getting late by the time we arrive on the outskirts of Oakland. Just as we’re coming up to the exit we need from the highway we come to a stop, cars are packed to a standstill and there is a fire truck coming up from behind weaving through. I call Scotty and tell him we’re near by but might be a little while since we’re stuck in traffic. He tells me that he’s stuck in traffic too so we should be there about the same time, there’s no stress anyway. Turns out there’s actually no block on the road but everyone has slowed down to check out the crash on the side of the road. The car is totally smashed and it’s side, thankfully it seems like there no injuries though. Just as we’re complaining about the assholes creating the traffic jam out of pure morbid curiosity, upon reaching the crash site Eric says, “Woah! That’s pretty fucked, I’d slow down to look at that as well to be fair”.
We’re about five minutes from the venue when Scotty drives up beside us, big beaming smile poking out of his window. We follow his car to the venue and do a round of hugs. Great to see him. Last time we hung out was when we did the Municipal Waste tour together. I’m chuffed he’s putting the new Victims record out, he’s really supporting us a lot with it and he works his ass off. We head into the venue and I get a bit of a shock. Eric said it was a warehouse venue but I didn't think it would be this big! It’s gigantic, probably holds around fifteen hundred or something. Thankfully I soon realise that we came in the back entrance and the stage is actually the other side of the black curtain behind the huge empty stage in this room. The other side of the curtain is more like it, a cordoned off little space with a decent sized stage and a bar. Scotty says there should be a couple of hundred people here tonight and if that’s the case it should be great. The line up is certainly top notch. Korrosive, Torso and Brainoil on before us. Nice when you play a gig and you want to see every band.
Scotty has brought a couple of cases of beer, some PBR’s and a six pack of IPA that is 7% strength. I decide that PBR will be more drinkable when you’re pissing sweat after the gig so go for the IPA, but having ate nothing but a Subway sandwich and some crisps all day it fuzzes my head up pretty quick. Jon has popped one too, he told me he needed a couple of beers to land since his head isn’t feeling too good, he’s got some shit going on. We lug all the gear up on stage and then he fucks off again. Johan talks down the mic, “Jon to that stage, Jon, to the stage please”. He comes stoating around the curtain looking like he’s seen a ghost, “Don’t fuck with my head like that!” Soppy sod.
By the time we’re set up with merch doors are already open. We head off in search of a quick bit of food before it gets too late. Johan stays to man the merch whilst the rest of us head out. Coming in through the back entrance it looked like we were in the middle of some induatrial area but going out the front door brings us out into the streets of downtown Oakland. As we walk out the door some girl working security asks if we’re in the band, I say that I am and show here my wristband, she says nothing and just looks the other way, at nothing. Just turns her head and lets me know she’s not interested in any kind of conversation I guess. Downtown Oakland looks pretty nice anyway, a few cosy and restaurants about. Eric tells me that there a lot of poor areas on the flipside of this city though. In fact, the guys from the venue sorted out parking for the bus on the front side of the venue since a few weeks back some band had their van robbed out back.
I head back over to the merch and bump into Erika, an old friend of ours who hung out on tour with us on the East Coast one time. She plays in a bunch of bands. We first met her when she was with Saviours in England and we played together. Good to see her. She tells me she’s been reading my diary. “You did?” I ask. “Well yeah, you put it online”. The guitarist in Saviours, Sonny, is doing sound here tonight. He was talking telling me earlier about the night we played Nottingham together. It was at the Old Angel, which has sadly just closed. He says that they slept in the flat upstairs and he’d fallen asleep in his denim jacket and when he woke up in the morning some fucker had stolen a bunch of patches from his jacket! “Funny thing is they’d only taken the punk patches and left all the metal ones”. Fucking punks.
After Korrosive are done I have to face up to the fact that Eric’s Les Paul needs restringing. I may be a lazy bastard I don’t know, but stringing a guitar is the most boring task there is. Eric keeps me company whilst I get to work but I’m not done by the time Torso starts up on the other side of the curtain. I’ve only seen the name about before so I had no idea how they sounded but I soon learn they sound shit hot. Full on raging d-beat hardcore. I rush through the restringing bullshit and manage to catch the second half of their set. They are absolutely vicious. Two girls, two guys. The crowd are pretty psyched too, there is the horseshoe thing going on and every now and again one of the crowd members run from one side to the other doing a roly poly on the floor halfway across. No fucking idea what that’s about. The girl on vocals doesn’t give a fuck though, she paces back and forth across the empty stage blasting out the lyrics. One of the best bands I’ve seen for a while. It’s loud as shit as well, and I’ve made my way down to the front. I stand there like a dad, hands covering my ears, nodding my head up and down in appreciation.
I catch my mate Andy Gibbs during the show, I met him when his band Thou played with Victims in Leipzig. He asks me where we’re playing tomorrow and when I tell him Eureka in Northern California he laughs, saying they played there a while back. “Weird town”. Funny, seems to be a running commentary on the place this last few days. Apparently it’s this little hippie town on the coast up there that has a bit of an enclosed vibe about it, they petitioned to the government to make their town a free state so they say, they were denied though. Andy says that it’s just got this weird feel to the whole place, it’s surrounded by trees in the bay and there is a weird mist that hangs about the place. Sounds like The Goonies or something. Should make for an interesting show tomorrow.
I’m kneeled down behind the merch stall stretching in the strings on the guitar when some big guy wearing a Victims shirt comes up to Johan to buy another shirt, and starts telling how much he loves Victims, going on about how he saw them here the last time around on the West Coast. He starts going through the history of the band and then he says, “And yeah, now you’ve got the dude from Raging Speedhorn in the band too”, Johan points at me squatted by the table, “Yeah, this dude”. Oh boy.. To my amazement he says he loved that band. I tell him that he’s one of a minority in this country. “Yeah man, that band was killer. Like, Victims is fast as shit and ripping and stuff, and then you guys were more like, groooove man. Hold that riff… Fuck man, I love Victims, sick that you guys are in town tonight. I told my old lady, I ain’t staying in watching no film girl, I’m going to see Victims!” Quite a guy.
Brainoil are up next. I was talking to Greg earlier in the night, a really nice old guy with long hippie hair, a very mellow dude with a friendly voice. He said he was recording the new Lecherous Gaze album at the minute. He looks totally chuffed all the time. My kind of guy. During the set he quips, “Hey everybody, we’re Korrosive, thanks for coming”, whilst pointing to the back wall where there is a Korrosive backdrop hanging. Everyone cracks up. “Nah fuck that, we’re actually Torso. That one is bigger”, pointing at the indeed larger Torso backdrop hanging above it. Seems like a right character. Brainoil sound heavy as shit, play a lot slower than the other bands, I can’t help thinking that’s nice since Victims would have looked like a bunch of old dad’s playing mid tempo punk had we gone on straight after Torso. Maybe we did anyway.
It’s a good sound on stage tonight, and Jon seems to have sorted his amp out since last night. Andy can hear what he’s playing at least. Don’t know why but the show feels a little tougher again tonight. Maybe it’s the whole Sunday thing. There is a good crowd, the place is pretty full, but there isn’t much movement. Speedhorn is up the front shaking my hand between songs but the others kind of stand there observing. They’re up close to the stage though. One of those Sunday night gigs I suppose. I enjoy playing all the same.
The venue closes shop pretty much as soon as we’re done. The security are eager to move everyone on. We shift a bit more merch after the show and then pack our stuff down. Jon has disappeared, fuck knows where he’s gone. Greg from Brainoil grabs a shirt from us just before we leave. He asks where we’re going tomorrow, I tell him Eureka. “Woah.” I’m starting to get really fucking intrigued by this place.
We pack the van up outside and stand around talking to Mark who used to play in Black Breath who is now living here. One of the staff from the venue is hanging outside the venue and is looking for conversation. He tells us he plays in Verbal Abuse. That pricks Andy’s ears up. He’s a nice guy, telling us about how the guitarist from the band wanted to come down to the gig tonight but he’s on house arrest and can’t leave his house because of this foot bracelet thing. He’s saying about how Verbal Abuse want to get over to Europe, but they need to get a new record done, says they can’t keep touring that one album from thirty years ago. I think to myself that he looks a little on the young side to have been in the band the whole time and it turns out he joined in 2005. For a second, I have to admit, I feel a little bit, argh, like, this isn’t the real deal, he’s a new guy. And then I catch my inner self being an asshole and realise that I’m that guy in Victims.
Scotty has gone ahead to his place to walk his dog Chico. It was a while back now so we have to cut the talk and get moving. Scotty gave us his address and instructions to a garage so we can pick up some beers. We get to the garage and find that it’s one of those order through the window deals. There are a few other cars parked up and people hanging around, it’s pretty obvious to everyone here that we’re not from these parts, and judging by the looks we’re getting we should probably make this pretty snappy. The guy working in the shop is sat there fast asleep though. I apologetically wake him through the speak box thing and he stirs to life. Ordering turns out to be a bit of a struggle. Six Sierra Nevada’s doesn’t seem to cause any problems but before I can get the rest of the order out he’s off to the other side of the shop to the beer fridge. When he comes back I order a pack of the Jalapeno Jack Kettle Chips and six bottles of water. He comes back with the wrong crisps. I know I should just let it go but I really fancied those fucking Jalapeno Jack’s. Johan and I stand there doing our best to point him in the right direction but the sleepy fucker just walks around picking up random items and wafting them hopefully in our direction. We finally crack it and when he comes back I have to ask him again for the water. He comes back with one bottle. Andy is getting pretty pissy behind me, and the other people hanging about are starting to look a little bored by us. I say to Andy and Johan that we should just get the fuck out of here but Andy is adamant this guy is going to get the order right. I say that I feel sorry for the guy, “Yeah but you’ve always been weak for an idiot”, cracks Johan. It’s good having a foreign language to use as code. Whilst Sleepy is off looking for water Andy gets annoyed because he’s spotted a six pack of water lying on the floor on the other side of the shop and Sleepy is coming back with six larger individual bottles. Seriously Andy, lets fucking wrap this up now. He comes back and we pay the man and gratefully walk off from the window. I hear Jon behind me as we leave, “Hey! Can I have a bottle of red wine please?”
The fucking tool is making an order of his own.
We finally get back to Scotty is out waiting for us in the street with little Chico. Great little dog. He’s getting old and has pretty bad arthritis, Scotty tells us he’s trying some alternative medicine treatment on him. Scotty loves that dog, he’s pretty concerned about him. Scotty lives on a pretty calm street not far from where Oakland merges into Berkley. Eric tells me not to leave anything in the van all the same. Scotty has got a mattress laid out for us and there are two sofas, a long one and a short one, or should I say an Andy one and a Jon one. The Jon one is only a two seater but that fucker can sleep anywhere. We sit around and chat for a while, Scotty shows us a review of the album in Decibel magazine. Gave us 8 out of 10 which apparently is pretty generous for that mag. Not that that matters, but it’s good for Scotty who is putting the record out I guess.
Nobody seems to be claiming the last bottle of Sierra Nevada so I sip on that as a last little nightcap before bed. The Jalapeno Jack crisps were fucking beautiful too. Well worth the hassle.