Thursday, March 31, 2016


Somewhere in the middle of the night I’m stirred by some sort of hushed commotion. I open my eyes a slither and from what I can make out Andy and Johan are guiding Jon back to bed. I hear something about the mess in the bathroom. I don’t want to know the details. When I wake next time it’s daylight and the guys are up and about, getting things ready to go. Dying for a piss I go to the toilet and find the bog blocked with a mush of toilet paper and the remnants of what I’m guessing is Jon’s handywork. There is even a sodden heap of toilet paper on the side of the bathtub. The toilet is fucked. Fuck knows what Jon was doing in here last night but the place is a mess. The lot of us have to make do with pissing in the shower. Amazingly, once Jon is up and about he doesn’t so bad. I was sure today was going to be rough as balls for the guy but he seems to be functioning. He’s pretty quiet though, hasn’t got much to say for himself.

After taking breakfast at the diner across the road and checking out the local pawn shop where they have both musical equipment and machine guns for sale, we get on the road. It’s another long journey today. We didn’t make too much progress in the dark last night so we still have about three quarters of the journey left. Like that punk kid told me last night though, “You don’t wanna make that journey in the dark, it’s some of the most beautiful scenery in the country”. He wasn’t lying.

It’s a glorious day, the sun shining proudly in the middle of a cobalt blue sky. We drive through the Jedediah Smith Redwood Park, following the Smith river all the way over to the I-5. The road through the national reserve is breathtaking. The Smith river streams forcefully alongside us, it’s crystal clear water frequently peppered with white water rapids. The road gets nervously narrow at points, crumbling rock faces on one side, sheer drops into the the river on the other. Eric can’t quite enjoy the view as much as myself for long parts of the journey. I’m sat up front with up, eyes wide and constantly gaping, “Woah shit! This is amazing!” The star of this particular show though are the magnificent redwood trees. Words can’t justify the majesty of these great beasts of the forest. We pull over at a layout at one point and get out of the van to enjoy a more intimate look at them. I could stand here all day, by the river, looking at them. We take some photos and breathe in the crisp river air. When you’re stood in the midst of nature’s finest like this you can’t help but feel that you’re place on this planet pales into insignificance. When we get back in the van and carry on with our journey towards Portland I sit there and think about how lucky to have the opportunity to travel to places such as these through simply playing punk rock.

The journey, although it’s as long as yesterday, isn’t anywhere near as draining. I guess the scenery helps, even back on the I-5 there are spectacular views of the Siskiyou Mountains. I have to say, I’m impressed with Jon, he’s been sat in the back of the bus studying all afternoon. How he survived last night unscathed I’ll never know. If I’d been in that state last night there isn’t a fucking chance I’d be studying economics today, I’d be sat here crying to myself. He’s obviously made of sterner stuff than he gets credit for. We make it to Portland in good time. We even take the time out to pop into an outlet centre, Vans shoes shopping on the agenda. I end up feeling like a right shit dad though since I realise that I don’t know what size shoes Polly has. Funny how your emotions swing when you’re on tour. Andy and I make an educated guess and I end up picking up some pretty cool shoes for her.

We arrive in Portland just before seven. The drive into the city is pretty cool. We drive over this huge double decker bridge that takes us across the Columbia RIver. There are loads of bridges crossing the river, all of different designs. The city’s surrounding horizon is decorated with monstrous white peaked mountains that stand alone. Some of them reaching as high as 14,000 feet. Absolutely incredible to look at. We pull into the low lying neighbourhood and park the bus right outside the Black Water Bar where we’re playing tonight. We’ve got a host of friends here so it should be a really fun show.

Strange thing, we were asked if we would be part of a documentary about this famous punk venue a while back and so there are two guys here who are going to film us loading the gear in and later interview some of us. Kind of strange lugging in gear and trying to pretend the cameras aren’t there. Once we’re done and set up on stage Andy asks me if I want to do the interview with him. We feel like a right pair of plums, stood outside the venue on the street, each with a mic in hand. The interview only takes about ten minutes. It’s mainly based on the Portland scene and our connection to it, which is mainly through our friends and the greater punk community in general. There are some questions about being vegetarian too, since this place is known for it’s all vegan menu. At the end of the interview they ask us if we would give a message in Swedish back to people back home. Not knowing what the fuck to say I just blurt out, “Hey Polly. Pappa misses you, home soon!” Andy does the same. When we walk back into the venue Andy says, “Fuck, we should have said fuck SD or something”.

It’s time to get try out the vegan cuisine anyway. Jamie, our good friend who plays in Black Breath with Eric is here. He actually works in the kitchen here but today he’s free. He has arrived with the legend that is Bengtsson. Really weird to be hanging out Portland with him. He’s here for Andrew Loomis’ funeral, been here for a couple of weeks. Always fun to see him. He goes back home to Stockholm a couple of days after us. He’s in his usual comical grumpy mood, it’s his thing. Totally deadpan, he plays it up big time. Always fun to hang out with him. The food is indeed superb. I go for a crispy chicken and bacon sandwich. It’s a bit tight on the hospitality tonight, we get four drink tickets each but food can be purchased for three of those tickets. One ticket is good for a PBR, two for an IPA from the tap. Johan comments with that sarcastic self amused look on his face, “So the band can either eat food or have a beer? You get one or the other?” The girl working the bar had explained the beer ticket situation, tipping me on going for the PBR since we’d get more of them. I laugh with her and say that my days of more is better have long gone. I go for an IPA.

Keith who is putting the show on is an old friend of the band but I have a bit of a hard time working him out. He’s pretty quiet. I think it sucks that he won’t give Eric any tickets, he says that he already give the band one ticket extra each. I guess this is the usual way in the US. We’re pretty spoiled in Europe as far as hospitality goes. Or are we? Maybe that’s the way it should be. Keith tells him that he’ll try and work out some more tickets later but it doesn’t sound too convincing. The beer from the bar is both good and cheap though and everyone here is really friendly, it could be worse. Could be way worse when you think about it. Fuck it.

John from From Ashes Rise is playing with his other band tonight, Pressing On, which also has people from the great band Talk is Poison. They’re first on the show tonight. Great to see him. We catch up on dad life and share pics and all the usual stuff. He looks totally chuffed with things. Pressing On are bang on it too. So fast and tight it’s unreal. I’m filled with envy as I stand there watching John play seemingly effortlessly at a hundred miles an hour, riffs all over the place, solos thrown in almost nonchalantly. Bastard. I’m ridiculously limited as a guitar player considering I’ve been doing it for twenty five years. Anyway, they blast through the set and there a good few people in. The bar is set up with a stage on one wall, a floor space in front of it and then dining tables behind that. Everyone gets up and stands to watch them though. I’m a little surprised by the dampened response between their songs but then looking at the crowd you notice that almost everyone here is over thirty and plays in bands. Derek from From Ashes is here, Billy from Tragedy, who is wearing a Bengtsson t-shirt, the Long Knife guys, a host of others.

When they’re finished Keith comes up to me at the merch table with some guy kitted out in a leather jacket, bandana around the neck and rockstar shades resting on top of his head. Looks a right fucking poseur. Keith asks tells me this is the other band, who flew in from Texas, and they have no drumkit, is it okay if they borrow ours? I check with Johan and we figure it works. Only then does Shades, who has been stood behind Keith smiling nervously, come forward and talk, just to say thanks. Seems nice enough I guess. They go off and double check with Andy who is stood outside and he comes back in and shows them the gear. When he comes back to me he says, “I hate this band!” He can’t work out why they didn’t contact anyone beforehand, since they were flying in from Texas without any gear. Fair enough point I guess. What the fuck would they do if we were assholes and just told them no. Turns out they need to borrow a whole load more too. Shades needs an amp, they need to borrow the snare and drum pedal too, bass amp needed too. Andy is well pissed off, “Seems like they didn’t forget to bring their fucking candles for the merch table but actual equipment is less of a priority”.

The best bit is that once they’re sorted with our gear on stage this Bigfoot looking fucker walks out from the side room of the stage and starts tinkling with the drums. They kept that fucker hidden well. He must be about seven foot and wide as a house, long greasy hair and a goatee beard. I say to Andy that the typical thing will be that after all this it will turn out they’re great. It doesn’t really work out that way as it turns out. The bass player, clad in low lying bandana and Totalitär t-shirt, he looks like the character Dave from Flight of the Conchords, starts playing some driving plink plonk riff. Then Shades and Bigfoot join in and the girl singing starts chirping into her mic through a reverb pedal. It’s kind of new wave punk, a bit like some of the stuff that has been coming out of places like Barcelona and London. I don’t mind that style at all but this isn’t that shit hot. The only thing that keeps me amused throughout it is watching Bigfoot play two handed on the hi-hat, he’s getting funky as shit. Then of course he puts the front skin of the bass drum through and the amusement turns to annoyance. Glad you could play tonight guys.

Andy says that he’s not feeling great at the minute, feels like he’s got some sort of fever on the go. Said he got a cold chill when Pressing On were playing and had to go sit down. He’s been coughing like a chimney at times during this tour, a bit worried about the old boy. As Texas are packing down the gear they actually brought with them I ask Johan if he fancies a shot before the gig, he said he was feeling tired as shit today again. He seems to think it’s a good idea, we decide on rum. I man the merch as Johan pops off. He asks Andy if wants a shot before the gig, Andy replies in shock, “Do I want a shot? Are you joking?” Johan looks at me and smiles and then fucks off to the bar. The shot of Captain Morgan goes down well enough but doesn’t really give me the injection of energy I was hoping for.

Just as we’re about to start setting up our old friend Dispeter arrives. He’s been living here for a while. He’s another pappa in the crew, they’ve just had their second a couple of months ago. Great to see him, he looks chuffed with his lot. We get set up pretty quick and try to get on with things. It’s an early curfew tonight of eleven pm. Suits us old fuckers just fine. Sounds pretty good on stage we get going. During the second song I’m hit by a putrid smell of electricity burning. It’s a pretty sickening smell that I can even taste in my mouth, turns my fucking stomach. The rest of the gig is for my part a fight against that. The show tonight feels a bit like Oakland the other night, pretty good crowd but not much of a response. People just stood about with their arms crossed. Kinda exactly like I was during Pressing On. I guess that’s the way it is when you play to a room of people like me, namely over thirty and in bands. There are a few people stood up front watching intently but that almost puts you more on your guard. It’s quite the comparison to last nights show. Play to young kids in a small town where not much happens, play to old fuckers like myself in Portland. It’s not rocket science really.

After the show we pack down quick and then stand around chatting for a bit whilst shifting a bit of merch. I get talking to Jonathan the bass player in Pressing On, he tells me he booked the Victims show in Portland last time they were here, ten years ago. Good guy. He says that he’d love to book a tour with us and them, the two bands sharing a van and doing the West Coast. Johan books it in for 2026.

Some young girl from Sweden comes up to me afterwards and starts chatting away. She’d caught me during the show and told me to turn up my amp since you couldn’t hear it. I don’t know how it affected things out front when I compiled, it felt overall really loud in here tonight. We stand there and chat for about ten minutes anyway, she’s really cool. Ana is her name, a real Gothenburger. I love the accent, cracks me up. Always makes me think if Nitad’s old roadie, Mats. Once sorted we take off in the bus with Jamie, Bengtsson and an old friend of the guys called Ryan, who had put them up when they played last time. We’re staying at Kelly from Problems house tonight. Jamie is living there for a couple of months whilst Kelly is on tour, and Bengtsson is staying there too whilst he’s here. THe thought of those two hanging out in the house for a couple of weeks is an amusing one. Jamie has been been to the store and bought a case of beer and some cider. When leaving the venue I’d been really in the mood for a chilled out bar, of which Jamie said there were plenty within ten minutes walk of the house, but once we get here that pepp has well and truly gone. I sink into the couch and start tucking into some nachos and salsa and get into conversation with Bengtsson and Johan. Andy has the one beer before bedding himself down at the other end of the room, Bengtsson doing his best to taunt him and get a rise out of him as he does so.

After a couple of beers I feel the need of sleep coming to me too. Jamie and Jon are sat out on the back porch talking guitars and riffs whilst the rest of us bed down for the night. I’m lying on this long, soft couch adjacent to another couch that Bengtsson is on. Bengtsson is loudly commending my choice of sleeping spot, saying I’ve got the best spot in the house. “Fucking good couch that! This one too, we’ve got it sorted! Look at these guys on the floor.” I fall asleep to the sound of Bengtsson laughing at some tv show he’s watching on his phone.

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