I woke up and Skyped the girls, sat on the deck of Eric’s houseboat in the sun with a cup of black coffee. Jen assured me Polly is missing me despite the fact her attention was mostly drawn to her favourite kids show on the iPad. Polly does take the time out to tell me that she’s coming with mum to pick me up from the airport soon though. When I hang up I feel a longing to be back home with them but put it to the back of my mind. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover over the next two days before I’m back home in the comfort of my home. First off, we have to get across the border, which although Greg has assured us has slackened a lot this last year or so, and the fact that we have paperwork from the venue in Vancouver, Eric has a criminal record that requires a bit of navigating around when he crosses the border. If we get into the country then after the show we’re basically heading straight to the airport for a seven am flight out of Vancouver back to Los Angeles and then we’ve got an eight hour stop over there before flying back to Stockholm at six pm. It’s going to be a long, sleep depraved couple of days.
We grab some breakfast at a diner by the marina where the guys live before hitting the road around midday. Jude is coming along too since they’re going to go camping in Canada for the weekend. As we’re stood at the door waiting for a table I spot a young girl with a bit of a hard rock vibe stood at the counter looking our way. Eric says under his breath that last time he ate here she kept banging on about his Venom t-shirt. She’s a bit of a local eccentric by the sounds of it. Sure enough, she spots Jon and shouts over, “Hey man! Nice Motörhead t-shirt!” And then barks across at us for the next few minutes whilst we wait for someone to seat us. After we’ve eaten she comes over to our table and asks if we’re a band and then starts taking details. She tells us how her friends band are supporting Mushroomhead in a couple of weeks and that she’s going with them to help carry gear and that she’s getting in for free. Fucking Mushroomhead? Are those tits still around?
Stuffed on a huge breakfast we head back to the bus and make the two hour trip to the border. Like I say, we’ve got paperwork that Greg assures us will ease our passage into the country by stepping into the unknown it’s still a bit unnerving. The last time Victims played Canada was before I was in the band and on that occasion they left the van in the US and took a Greyhound bus into Canada, returning a few days later by foot over the Niagara Falls bridge. Must have been quite the sight for our friend Matt who was waiting with the van Stateside.
Not really sure where to go Eric pulls up into the bus lane and there we wait. There are cops in the other booths dealing with car passengers and most of them look our way but make no gesture to us as to direct us. Eventually some G.I. Joe looking asshole, complete with crew cut hair and shades, struts over. Eric leans out of the window to greet him and G.I. barks “Shut off the engine!” What a prize fucking dick! For one, does he really look at himself in the mirror every morning before leaving work and think, “Yeah man, I look fucking good!”, and secondly, is there really a need to talk to everyone like they’re a cunt? Johan remarks that it’s as if they’re trained to talk down to people and make them feel uncomfortable. Nothing like an abuse of power. Joe enquires about the purpose of the trip and what us guys are doing in the back and then orders us into the building with our passports. Here we go then…
It’s not all that bad though. They don’t seem to give a fuck about us, they’re mainly concerned with Eric. He’s been through this route a bunch of times with Black Breath and got through due to the fact that being a member of the band he was then seen as essential to the travelling party but now they’re wondering why he has to be travelling through with us if he’s not in the band. He points out that he’s still pretty essential to the travelling party since if he doesn’t travel with us then we won’t get anywhere. After an hour or so and a two hundred dollar fine we’re let through the border. We split the bill with Eric.
It’s only another forty miles or so to Vancouver and we arrive at the venue a little ahead of time. Vancouver seems like an interesting place. It’s beautiful for one thing, surrounded by snow tipped mountains, a real breathtaking horizon in all directions. And Eric assures us that there are some really beautiful parts of the city, some really affluent parts of the city, but the area we’re playing into tonight, East Hastings Ave, does not belong to that particular part of Vancouver. East Hastings is a long straight road that seems to go on forever. When we start along it we seem to be in a pretty trendy part of town but as we get closer to the venue the area seems to get poorer and poorer. The venue itself is still on a pretty safe block but Eric tells us that a few more blocks and you want to be emptying the bus of anything valuable when you leave it. Eric tells us to bring in our most valued items anyway.
The venue, the Astoria Hotel, is closed when we arrive anyway. Whilst Eric and Andy are checking it out I step outside for a bit of air and as I walk down to the street corner I spot some young guy with a smile that’s just a tad menacing looking my way. “Hey, do you drink Labatt's?” A bit confused by the question at first I tell him that no, I do not drink Labbatt’s. “So you’re not a yuppie then? You’re not a hipster either. That’s good”. I have no idea where this is going back head back to the van before finding out. He’s chirping on after me but it turns to an incoherent babbling. He starts on the next person, a younger girl, who in no subtle terms walks across to the other side of the street.
With some time to spare we drive back up the road to some sushi grill place Jude had spotted. Fuck do I need something a little healthier in me. The place is absolutely top notch. They have such delicious vegetarian sushi in North America, makes you realise how boring and unimaginative the stuff we get back home is. Despite sushi being by far the most common “ethnic food” in Stockholm, it’s all the same boring shit wherever you go. We’ve had some great Mexican grub during the last week but this is by far the best food I’ve had all tour.
We make our way back down to the venue and it’s time to load in. The first band Last Kaste are soundchecking and it’s loud as hell. Andy comes walking out with a pained expression on his face. The venue is cool though, a big spacious bar with pool tables and flipper machines and a cordoned off gig space. The girl who booked the show, Vanessa, seems delighted to have us here. She’s super friendly. Load in is interesting. Eric parks the van a little way down the block so we have a bit of a walk with the gear back and forth. As we’re opening up the back of the van some chuffed looking homeless woman comes up to us enthusing about the bus, saying she’s never seen one like it before. And then there is some crazed homeless guy sat right outside the venue holding a cup in his hand shouting, “Quarter!”, as we load in the gear. I tell him that I’m sorry but I don’t have any money on me, every time I walk past. I feel sorry for the guy. He reminds me of so many of the people I work with at the homeless shelter back home.
Once loaded in we set up by the side of the stage and then hang out by the pool tables. Seems like someone has left one of the tables mid game whilst the other is taken by the local street punks. Andy comes walking out of the toilet laughing, saying that he thinks tonight might be a bit of a wild one, apparently there is a couple fucking in the toilet. Ten minutes later Jon comes out and says he just did a shit in the cubicle beside the one the romantic couple are in. “Someone just came all over the place whilst I was taking a dump”. Seems that the couple in question are the holders of the second pool table and the fuckers have taken the cues with them. Want a fucking game here! I ask Vanessa if there are any more cues and she laughs and says, “Well… This random wasted couple came in a while back and started a game and then went into the toilet together and have been gone for quite some time, I don’t know where the cues are though”. Right enough the couple finally emerge from the bogs, the two of them looking rough as shit. They sit down to a table where a half drunk pitcher of beer stands. They finish up and fuck off. Eventually the pool cues turn up and me and Jon finish the game.
Last Kaste start just before ten and indeed quite a few punks have arrived. And also two random old guys, not together, pushing walking frames. One looks like he’s wearing pajama bottoms and is sat right at the front of the crowd in front of the band. Some punks start moshing and this big punk with a mohican wearing a Kaaos t-shirt stands in front of the old guy to protect him from being fallen on. I notice the old guy patting him on the back and asking him to move out of the way. Brilliant.
Last Kaste are pretty good. Total snotty punk with this girl on vocals who stands on the floor in the crowd for the entire set. Really enjoy the show. The second band, Chapel, seems to grab the attention of the rest of the guys. They’re a three piece wearing corpse paint and the singer/guitarist plays with a hood over his head the whole gig. Sounds more like High on Fire. I think they’re pretty good but, and I’m glad the line up of the show is a good mix, but I lose interest after a few songs. I stand by the merch and drink the second and last beer of the night, really tired and hoping to find some energy from somewhere for the show. There is a steady stream of people entering the venue so it should be a good gig anyway. This one guy catches my eye, he’s stood lingering just to the side of our merch table, looking over now and again. He’s wearing a denim jacket full of patches of which every one is Swedish in origin. There are also a few Wolfpack and Anti Cimex patches in amongst the the mohicans and studded leather jackets.
It’s around half twelve by the time we start setting up. I love it when you can feel a show is already buzzing as you’re stood setting up on stage. People are coming up close to the stage even as we line check. By the time we start the floor is pretty packed and by the third song, Victims in Blood part 5, the punks are really going for it. The show feels great, loads of energy on stage and in the crowd. The stage is quite high and squared off with room down either side of it so we’re surrounded as we play, giving it an all the more intimate feel. It’s a great feeling playing your ass off and seeing punks flying into each other, and those who aren’t are stood with broad smiles enjoying the gig. By the time we finish up with This is the End, we’ve got people on stage. We play Your Life is Red and My Eyes as extra songs and leave the stage to great applause. It’s a fantastic end to what has been a really fun tour.
As we’re packing up after the show lots of people are coming up and thanking us, shaking hands and saying “Wow” a lot. This one guy says he drove over from Calgary to see some show tomorrow night and dropped in tonight just on the off chance and that we blew him away. Another guy tells me he’s been waiting to see Victims since 2001 and that it meant so much to him that we came, he’s pretty emotional about the gig. Amazing how music connects people. What a wonderful thing. The drummer from Last Kaste, who has been taking photos the whole gig asks me if one of us can do a quick five minute interview, I tell him sure and send Jon his way.
And then it’s time to go. It’s a shame, it would have been great to hang out with Vanessa and the crew and I would have liked to see more of this city. My first ever trip to Canada has been all too brief. Hopefully we’ll be back again sometime. Once packed up Vanessa comes over and gives us all big individual hugs, we thank her from the bottom of our hearts and then we head off. Eric and Jude have booked a four star hotel by the airport for the night and they’re taking us there so we can shower off before Eric drops us at the terminal.
It’s about two by the time we get to their hotel and we have to be at the airport for check in at five. What I wouldn’t have done for a direct flight home from Vancouver at say, noon. I’m so jealous of the guys staying at the hotel. I love hotel rooms. Eric has done a monster job for us this tour though and he’s certainly earned a bit of luxury. I think ahead to the end of April when me and Jen are going to London for the weekend, just the two of us for a couple of nights, and have a nice hotel booked. We’re actually going to watch Speedhorn play one of the nights, Kev is coming along too. That will be fun.
Anyway, we take it in pairs to sneak up to their room and shower off. Jon and I head up first whilst Johan and Andy sort their bags out and then we swap. We say goodbye to Jude. It’s been great hanging out with her too. She’s coming over to Europe with the Black Breath guys in July and Stockholm is the last show so they’re going to hang out for a few days. Really looking forward to that.
Whilst Johan and Andy are up showering Jon and I sort our bags out and arrange the rest of the merch. We’ve got a bit left over so we’re bring an extra bag home. Going to cost a bit I guess but we made way more from tonight’s show than we imagined we would so it paid off. We’ve got a release party for the new album coming up in a couple of weeks at Kafe 44 with Bengtsson, so it’ll be good to have some extra merch to sell. Once packed Jon pulls out a bottle of Canadian Club and demands I take a swig with him, just to toast the end of a successful tour. I take the mildest of swigs.. Jon takes a somewhat larger mouthful and by the time Andy and Johan return he’s drunk.
Eric drops us at the airport around three thirty and with some time to kill we get our heads down for an hour or so. I wake up to the vibration of my phone alarm going off in my pocket. Five am, time to check in. I’m so tired I feel fucking stoned. Jon too by the looks of it. Either that or he’s sat drinking his whiskey while the rest of us slept. Either way he’s acting weird.