Saturday, April 2, 2016

Portland (again)

Woke up sweating my ass off on Eric’s couch. We’re heading off early to Portland today so there wasn’t a whole lot of sleep last night. With one foul swoop you’re back to feeling knackered again. Yesterday’s day of rest already forgotten. Seems like Johan is getting sick now too. With my luck it will come to me just as we’re about to fly home on Saturday. Two shows left now. It’s been fun but I’m ready to go home. We have the stress of going in and out of Canada to deal with too. But one thing at a time.

We get some coffee and breakfast for the road and double back on the route we took yesterday. Three hours back to Portland. Eric and I sit up front listening to records and talking about how the poor are kept down by the rich and turned against one another, about the prison labour system here in the States, British colonialism and how we’re not really taught that stuff in school when we’re kids. And then Eric gets into 9/11 conspiracy theories, or facts as he puts it. Time flies by when you’re putting the world to rights.

We get to Portland a couple of hours before load in time so we do a bit of mall shopping and then head over to the venue. The place is fucking huge tonight and when we walk in through the back door and into the concert room we’re met by a lot of serious looking metalheads going about their jobs. The stage is gigantic and there is amps and drums all over the place. Quite the fucking contrast from the Veteran’s Hall in Eugene. I know where I’d rather be. Eric is walking about looking for anyone who might be in charge and this big, long haired, old in-house stage hand who is walking about with a lamp on his head like a zombie shouts at Eric, “Get the fuck out of my way! We’re trying to work here!” I don’t know if he’s joking, I guess he could be Portland’s answer to Bengtsson, but it compounds the feeling that we don’t really belong here.

Thankfully there are some friendly faces and old friends in the building too. Henry, a friend from New York is here tour managing Tribulation, a Swedish band some of whose members I recognise. Then there is Jeff from High on Fire, an old friend of ours, their tour manager John is also a friend of ours. And then there’s Olle, one of Jon’s closest friends who is doing sound for Tribulation. I get talking to Henry for a while and ask how the tour is going. They were in a van crash a while back but they seem to have recovered. Apart from that and one of the bands on the package he said it’s going good. I ask what the deal is with the band he mentions and he says, “Awful band. Terrible people”. Pretty scatching review.

None of the rest of our friends are here yet so we sort things out with the venue staff, most of whom are actually friendly, I guess it was maybe just a bad start with old grumpy bollocks, before heading off in search of food. We’re getting nothing from the show tonight. Not even paid. It was Scotty who wanted us to play the show if the truth is told. But fair enough, I could see why he thinks it’s a good idea.

The venue staff seem to like the cut of our jib, turning up in the green and white bus, and they stand around talking with us for a while. High on Fire’s driver comes up to me as I’m stood there waiting for the rest of the guys and asks if he can have a look onboard, seems to make his day.

It’s fucking roasting in Portland. We go by some food trucks and sit around on a curb in a parking lot, eating burritos in the baking sun. It’s not exactly enjoyable. After a quick walk around we head back to the venue for line check. John has kindly offered to do sound for us for free, he’s only tour managing High on Fire on this tour so he thought it would be fun anyway. John was out with Nasum when Jon was over here a couple of years ago. The huge stage provides a massive sound anyway, not used to hearing Andy’s drums pounding at me through big side fills. We finish up and they open doors right after. With forty five minutes to spare, Jon ducks off with Olle for a quick beer. We haven’t got wristbands yet though and the thought of him not getting back into the venue through the tight security here makes me smirk to myself. Turns out to be no problem though.

Feels like Johan is a mixture of nerves and sick today and not long before we go on stage his nose starts bleeding. We’re stood in the wings waiting for the sign to go on and Jon tells everyone to not stress the gig. I don’t feel the slightest bit stressed. I’ve done a hundred gigs like this with Speedhorn over the years and they were normally pants. All very well doing a big gig but if you’re first on and playing to nobody then it is in fact just a small gig in a big venue, which is just cack. And pointless. We walk out on to the stage and I swear there are less people in the room than there was at the Eugene gig the other night. Total pants. Just as we’re about to get going Jeff from High on Fire runs on to stage and hugs everyone, and then he heads out on to the floor to stand and watch with Henry, Eric and Olle.

The gig actually isn’t that bad. As the set goes on people filter in and the crowd gradually inflates to around a couple of hundred. There are actually quite a few sat up on the balcony that goes around three quarters of the room. At one point during the gig a small most pit even starts up, although it only consists of about four people running around a large space of open floor. And then when Jon announces, “Okay, we’re gonna play two more and then leave you alone” someone shouts back, “Play three!” I don’t know if they’re taking the piss.

We pack down immediately and the helpful venue crew help us down to the loading bay with everything. Jon appears with a six pack of Pale Ale that Jeff had given him from High on Fire’s rider. Nice one. Sweating my ass off, sat in the breeze by the door to the parking lot, the beer goes down a treat. Once the van is packed I go back up to the stage to watch a bit of Tribulation. It’s not really my thing but it’s actually pretty fun watching them. They put on a great show, very choreographed maybe, but that’s a big part of the package I guess. The guitarist on the side of the stage I’m wearing catches my eye and I can’t take my eyes off him afterwards. He’s wearing high heels and an open see through blouse, really skinny guy wearing make up, effeminately dancing about the stage as he plays. It’s almost like watching a ballet dancer. There is incense burning on either side of the stage and as much as the music isn’t my cup of tea I can’t help but appreciate the art in their performance.

Towards the end of Tribulation Brad from From Ashes arrives, he’s gutted he just missed us, he tells us he was on parent duty. It’s okay, it’s great to see him. He mastered the new record and it’s fun to have a copy to give him. Ridiculously he insists on paying for it. I laugh when Tribulation finish their set. The house lights come on and the four in the band link arms at the front of the stage and take a bow, and then stand there waving arms in the air and thanking the crowd. The venue is maybe no more than a third full but they’re stood there looking like the back of that Alice Cooper band record. I don’t know if they’re taking the piss.

We head over the road to this games arcade that has a bar with Brad and Olle. It’s nice to sit and chat with them, we talk mainly about kids and the joys and tribulations, no pun intended, of being a parent. A little bit of punk rock gets thrown into the conversation of course, but it’s mainly kid stuff we cover. We get talking about Canada since we’re heading there next. I tell him I’ve never been there before. Brad says, “It takes a couple of hours to go through all that border control shit and then you drive five miles into the country and you realise, it’s exactly the same thing. And then some punk comes up to you at the show and says, “It’s great that you guys could come oot”, and you realise, that’s different”. Brad has to head off early tonight, he’s got a big evening on with his wife tomorrow for her birthday party. Something about a Price is Right theme night or something. Fuck knows.. It was great to see him for a little while anyway.

We head back over the road and catch most of the High on Fire set. Always fun to see those guys play even if don’t really listen to their records all that much. Watching Jon’s big idol Matt Pike play guitar is always entertaining though. I’m surprised that there are still pretty big gaps at the back end of the room though. Might be that this venue was a little too big for this package. The room doesn’t fill up any more when that fat sausage Abbath goes on afterwards to close out the show. Two songs into that we pack up the merch, think we sold around eighty dollars tonight, half of which came from Brad and Jeff, and head out to the van. Andy and I go to meet up with Joe from Long Knife whose drumkit we’ve rented on this tour, he’s stood outside the venue. We spend most of the time talking about GISM and Deathside playing again, and how he’s heading over to Europe to see them play. Before we leave we pop into the High on Fire bus to say bye to the guys and hang out there for a few minutes. Joe Preston from The Melvins is here too, he stands there smiling broadly without saying much. Always looked like a nice old dude did Joe, proves to be the case. We’ve certainly caught up with a lot of people on this little trip.

The drive back to Seattle seems to take forever though. From the beginning I’m fighting like hell to stay awake, but about halfway through the journey I get a second wind. We continue with Eric’s Teenage Fanclub education whilst the others sleep in the back. It’s three am when we get back to Eric’s. I’m out almost as soon as I hit the couch.

1 comment:

  1. Your set was a pleasant surprise! I'm glad I showed up early (I was bummed to have missed the Black Water gig). You guys were great. Safe travels!