Thursday, June 9, 2016

London - Day One

Three days ago I wasn’t sure we were going to make this trip. The rumours going around about Temples Fest were gaining momentum, it seemed like more and more friends who had previously played there were coming out and accusing the guy who runs the fest of being a rip-off merchant. Johan Walin had told me the week before that Martyrdöd had played the year before and it took them about six months to get paid and even then only half of the agreed fee arrived. I’d been worried about this situation, saying to the guys that we should get a written confirmation that we’d get paid in cash on the day of the show. Andy said he’d write to the organiser.. I was fully prepared to go Speedhorn on the guy and simply take musical equipment the festival had hired as payment if the guy pulled any crap. We’d paid out about a grand on flights that were going to be covered by the Temples Fest gig. As it turns out, the situation was way worse than we could have imagined. I was stood at work on the Monday, working some corporate champagne event for a bunch of stiffs, with some asshole event manager talking to me and my friend Fanny like we were a pair of twats, when I saw on the internet that Temples had been cancelled. Fucking cancelled. Three days before the festival was due to begin, one day after receiving an email telling us what time to be at the venue, thousands of ticket buyers up the spout and dozens of bands from all over the world shafted. I felt like lobbing the tray of champagne glasses I was poncing around with into the event managers smug coupon.

We were in quite the shitty situation. Out of pocket and trying to weigh up if we could risk losing even more by still going ahead with the weekend of shows. The personal loss was one thing, being a student/dad my budget is pretty fucking lame. But more than that there were other people, good people and dear friends, standing to lose a deal of money and time wasted if we cancelled. Kev had booked a show at DIY Space For London on the Friday for which he would have to pay the rent on the venue at this late notice no matter the outcome, plus he’d sold over a hundred tickets through the internet that he would lose a percentage on when paying everyone back. The guys from the 593 Collective in Nottingham had put effort and time into booking a great show for us with Skiplickers, Endless Grinning Skulls and Obstruct, a gig I didn’t want to fucking miss. And my old mate Gordon Speedhorn was booked to drive us in his van, meaning if we cancelled now then he’d be losing valuable business. Cancelling wasn’t an option for me. But without a decent replacement gig in place for Saturday I’d have a hard time convincing the other guys to go ahead and piss even more money away. I was very fucking doubtful that we’d ever see the money from that cunt running Temples…

I skipped the afternoon at school on the Tuesday to spend the afternoon mailing people and trying to fix the mess. The response was heartwarming. Gordon called and said that he’d blow off any rent for the Saturday if we didn’t get a gig for that day and that he’d cut the cost for the other days down. More than anything he was looking forward to hanging out, he assured me. I was in constant touch with about four other friends and acquaintances who offered help with gigs, some very kind offers, it turns out there were a lot of bands stranded with booked flights, looking for shows. The DIY community was in full stride, helping out everyone they could. As it is, Kev managed to sort out a show at the Bird’s Nest in Deptford which meant our costs would be practically nil for the Saturday and Andy from EGS messaged me saying he was making a special limited edition cover for their last seven inch that would only be sold on Sunday and all the proceeds he would give to us to help out with the money we’d lost. I was truly touched. From despair at some asshole playing Billy Big Balls and booking a big festival his ego couldn’t handle to being humbled by the coming together of the DIY community to help us out. I was extremely relieved when we decided to go ahead with the weekend. The guilt of putting my friends out of pocket for helping us out was weighing me down big fucking time. The knock on effect of this asshole and his festival was far reaching. When Andy mailed the guy he got a personalised “Out of Office” automatic reply stating that, “Due to the pain of cancelling the festival I need some time out to get my headspace sorted before I can start emailing people”. What a fucking cretin.

It had been a strange few days. The weekend saved, and with us now in with a chance of regaining some of the money we’d lost on flights, not to mention the fact we had three very fun shows booked, I found myself sat on the flight over to the island with mixed emotions. Not only was I missing my graduation party from school that day, having passed my A-levels second time of asking, and in my second language, but I was missing mine and Jen’s ten year wedding anniversary. All on the same day we were playing a punk show in London. I’m amazed sometimes that she puts up with me. We’d made a celebration of it a few weeks ago when we had a Polly free weekend in London ourselves, but I felt like a complete asshole now. Ten years? She deserves a medal.

We arrived at Heathrow around two thirty Friday afternoon and made our way via the tube across London to Deptford. Kev was a bit stressed since Gordon hadn’t arrived yet and we had to be at the venue for five thirty. There was still no sign of him when we arrived in Deptford, starving, at four thirty. Gordon had said he was stuck in traffic. I was quietly relieved since I was aching for some grub from the Waiting Room. We sat there and tucked into some veggie burgers and Johan bought a round of beers in. You know when you drink that first beer and it just magically hits the spot? Well, that. Gordon could take another couple of hours and I could happily sit here whilst we waited. Poor Kev was pretty stressed though. Gordon turned up just after five, looking disgusted with London. We all cracked up at his face as he crawled past us on Deptford High Street looking like he was about to kill someone. We loaded the gear in from Overdrive Rehearsal Studio around the corner which Marv Varukers and John Conflict own. Marv was busy on his phone as we were loading gear but he pointed at an Ampeg bass cab and told me to take that, proclaiming it was, “Fucking brilliant!” It broke down after the second band...

The venue was only a ten minute drive away and Karl and Tobs had walked over earlier to meet Jamie and set up the drums so everything would move smoothly when we arrived. Their new band, I Piss In Your Mouth, along with Kev on bass, was playing tonight. They’d played their first show last night with Symsey’s band Crossfirefuckinghurricane at the Nest last night and now both were playing tonight. Kev told me that him, Karl and Jamie had been making some noise and after only a couple of practices they were playing their first show. I asked him who was singing. “Whoever gets up from the crowd and screams”, Kev replied, not an ounce of irony in his tone. Turns out it was Tobs, who hasn’t played a gig since Narwhal finished ten years ago. I was looking forward to seeing them.

Tobs was hungover to fuck and his voice had almost disappeared after last nights gig. Tobs is a real classic when pissed, some of the best steamboats stories I’ve ever have Tobs in the starring roll. He’s always got a cheeky look on his face, even when miserably hungover. Love the guy. Kev wasn’t even sure if they were going to play since we arrived late and they were on right after doors but things got worked out and they went on and played ten minutes of screaming noise, Kev with his back to the crowd trickling into the gig room, the numbers on the back of his bass and his lips gupping along to the songs like a goldfish devouring food capturing my attention for the best part of it. That and Tobs screaming along to the racket whilst wearing his wooly ski hat.. Good stuff.

The venue is pretty cool. Although by all accounts it has caused a bit of division in the punk scene in the UK. The fact they charge two quid membership fee seems enough to piss some people off. Fuck knows. I really can’t be bothered. I’ve played shows in London where there have been more punks sat outside drinking cans of beer than watching the bands inside where the beer costs a quid more than they do at the offy. Kev had mentioned that a few people in the scene had said they weren’t coming to the show because they don’t like this venue. Politics… Although ticket sales had been going slow it seems to have picked up in the last week and Kev tells me at the start of the night that he has thirty tickets left. By the time Cult Syndrome go on in second slot the tickets are pretty much gone. I hang out over by the door with Kev and Karl, as well as Miles who is back from Australia. Karl whips his beanie hat off after a while, embarrassedly revealing his newly shaved bonnet. He’s finally succumbed to the inevitable like my good self.

I spend the night flitting between the gig room which has a waist high stage and enough room for a hundred and sixty people, and the cafe area where the bar and record shop area situated. I find Johan and Jon sat at a bench drinking a can of IPA, sat amongst the buzz of the punks swarming around the place. Gordon points out the guy working in the record shop, says he recognises him. It takes a while but then I realise it’s this guy who used to hang out at with his mega rich American girlfriend at Speedhorn shows back in the day. Nikolaj I think was his name. Fucking blast from the past! They used to come to all the London shows. There was a bit of a weird vibe going on between her and the band which in turn made the vibe with Nikolaj equally weird. Fucking hell. There’s someone that I would never ever have thought about again had I not seen him here tonight. Funny how people enter and exit your life.

I miss most of Cult Syndrome’s set, which is a shame because I like the little I hear. The room is really fucking hot though and I need a breather. Symesy’s band Crossfirefuckinghurricane are on third. DB played with them in Prague last year but they’ve since changed singer. The new guy seems to fit the band a lot better. Marv’s bass cab and gone on the fritz just as they were warming up so just as the crowd filters into the room and Symsey is ready to go it goes silent. Dav, the bass player looks mildly amused/confused as Jamie and some of the venue crew wheel on a four by twelve cab. When they finally get going it’s loud as fuck. So loud it’s hard to pick out a lot of Symsey’s great guitar playing, which is a shame, but then the bass playing is also punishing so it’s pretty cool just listening to that anyway. The singer kind of reminds me of Milo from Descendents for some reason, and I smile as he sarcastically makes shout outs to Donald Trump in a heavy Czech accent between songs.

Agnosy are on before us but I skip it, I need a break from the volume before we play. Jamie was fretting a bit beforehand since after the delay we’re now running behind schedule, so he told them to make it a shorter one tonight. The singer announces to the crowd that they’re keeping it short and sweet tonight and then play a half hour set. Can only imagine what a normal set would clock in at. “German warning with these guys”, Jon comments, referring to the notorious local hero crust bands we’ve regularly encountered over the years whilst touring over there.

We have a pretty good show, the place is pretty packed and there are people flying around above the crowds heads, some others down the front screaming along to the songs. I’m pretty chuffed to see one guy chanting along to the chorus of Errors from the new record. The sound on stage is pretty hard work though, all I can hear is myself and Johan’s vocals. But it doesn’t make the gig any less enjoyable. Everyone seems pretty chuffed after the gig. Whilst packing up I look over to the corner of the room where Gordon is selling merch with a big smile on his face. Great to have him out with us. Feels very strange though, to be on tour with him but not playing together.

I enjoy a beer whilst taking over on the merch, seems like it’s going pretty well. Shifting a few copies of the new album. I ask Kev what the crack is, fancying a pint at the Nest afterwards, but he tells me they have to clean the venue after everyone has left. It doesn’t take long though. And somehow Kev seems to be pissed all of a sudden, shouting abuse at anyone within earshot as he takes to the floor with a mop, after Viv has kindly done the first round with a broom. As we load out I get talking to Dav who tells me that my energy on stage really inspires him. He says watching me play makes him very happy. I remember when we played with them last year and he stood there pounding my back through the entire set, totally chuffed. Very fun guy. He asks me if we can stay in touch and if me and Kev can mail him some tips for classic, noisy Swedish bands. I remember then that Symsey had said he was mainly into techno.

Once the van is packed Gordon drives over to Kev’s where we park the van and head around to the Nest. To my relief it is quiet and there are plenty of tables free to sit at. Just what I need. We have a couple of pints each, the Bird’s Nest IPA actually smells like puke. I can’t work out if it’s the plastic glass or the beer itself. It tastes fine, but it’s pretty disturbing that every time you lift the pint to your mouth it smells like you’re drinking it out of a nightclub urinal. Johan has clocked me suspiciously sniffing at my beer and concurs that his has the same issue.

Since we're doing a secret/last minute gig here tomorrow Kev decides to film a little promotional film advertising.  Karl films Kev with his phone whilst Kev rants pissed into the camera, sounding like a cross between Bruce Forsyth and Hulk Hogan.  He'd started to hand out flyers for it once the doors had opened earlier but now he was putting the campaign for the gig into full effect.  

Andy seems to be enjoying himself anyway, the pints are flowing and he has that look in his eye. That look is normally there on the first night away, just as it is long gone by the last night. Karl suggest we head over to another place when the Nest closes at one. We head up Deptford High Street to a place called Meistros, some weird little restaurant on New Cross Road where we’re the only people there who obviously aren’t part of the owner’s inner circle. In fact, there is barely anyone there at all and it’s sleepily quiet until around ten of us walk in and sit ourselves down. Apparently this place is Mucky Marcus’ favourite haunt. Karl tells us that Mucky has a tab here. Can just imagine him sat here gabbing along with the bar staff. After two of the most pointless Heineken’s I’ve ever drunk we decide to call it a night. Kev has already fallen asleep at the table. It’s nice chatting away with everyone but I’m goosed too, only barely managing to keep myself going the same way as Kev. Those two beers pushed me into fuzzy pissed aswell. Time to go home.

We pile into a LFC, London Fried Chicken, the options are fucking dire at this time, and mass order chips and cheese. When in the UK… They’re disgustingly good and instantly regrettable. We get back to Kev’s place and make room about the living room. Normally I’d crash beside Kev in his bed but his girlfriend is already there so I make myself a little den of blankets in the corner of the floor next to Andy. The effects of those two Heineken’s suddenly have a new appeal. A floor has never felt so welcoming.

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