Managed to get my ass out of bed and into town with Jen this morning. Felt pretty knackered when I woke up but it was worth it. Driving out to Skavsta airport in Nyköping today, or Stockholm if you’d be daft enough to believe Ryanair, so a couple of hours shaking of any potential hangover was probably required. We sat and had a really nice breakfast at this place Greasy Spoon, just down the road from Kafe 44 on Söder. Not often the two of us get to do this kind of thing with Polly running the show, I would have felt shit if I’d decided to stay in bed for an extra couple of hours.
Luc texts me in the morning to tell me that he and Kev ended up in some karaoke bar in Högdalen, pissed up with the Axe Rash guys, Kev getting all emotional, saying it was important for him to have other friends in Stockholm besides us lot. Can only imagine the scene… I meet Jon out at the practice space at midday. I find him sat outside on a bench, face red as Santa’s suit. “Late night last night?” I ask him. “Nah, not at all. We left around twelve”. Funny that, I left at one and they were still there then. Andy is already here so we pack the gear into the back of my car and get going. We’re leaving well early, our flight isn’t until five thirty but there has been a bit of chaos by Södertälje bridge, some numpty drive lorry driver ploughed straight into it, leaving the road closed for the summer, which has led to the traffic authorities warning that the journey to Skavsta could take four times as long as usual. Being Friday afternoon we’re taking no chances. As it happens, the journey is smooth. Only takes a couple of hours, Andy up front with me, Jon sleeping in the back, stinking of booze. Andy is laughing about last night, says he left a few songs into Forward because he couldn’t stand the piss sound anymore, says as he was heading home he found Marku the Finn cuddling the lamp post by the zebra crossing outside Cyklopen. Fuck knows how that journey up to Umeå is going to pan out for the guys today.
Johan is meeting us at the airport since he came out last night with the family for what will be the start of their holiday once we get back from Poland. Given that we’re well ahead of time, and given that we’ve already received a text from Wizz Air saying that the flight is delayed until seven pm, we drive into town to find an alternative to eating a shite lunch at the airport. As we’re walking through the small town centre of Nyköping, the birthplace of Victims itself, Andy remarks that he wouldn’t be surprised if we bumped into his dad. Literally two minutes later Andy points over to an old boy sat outside a Greek restaurant with a pint in his hand, “There he is!” We head over to say hello to him. Apparently this is his regular haunt. He’s retired now and does the odd job for the guys who run the place in exchange for the odd brew.
We head over to a kebab/pizza place called Campino’s. Well it’s called something else now, but as far as Nyköping legend goes it’s called Campino’s. This is where you hung out after closing hours back in the day, where the party continued, everyone bringing beer in with them. The pizza is good anyway, although I unintentionally commit blasphemy by not ordering the kebab sauce. A mistake Jon and Andy avoid, both being seasoned in the Nyköping scene.
By the time we get to the airport it’s just around four. Even though the flight is delayed we still have to check in at the regular time. It’s not until we’ve parked in the mid term parking lot that we remember that we have nine pieces of baggage and only three pairs of hands. We stuff the bass pedal into Jon’s big holdall along with the merch suitcase Uriah, and I crack up as he whips the thing onto his back and struggles along with it and a couple of other items. Thankfully some ignorant arse has left their luggage trolley in the car park and Jon is quickly relieved of his last. We meet up with Johan outside the airport entrance and he tells us that he’s already asked about check in and been told you have to do it online. Of course, we’re too late to now do that, being that the cutoff point for that is two hours before the scheduled departure. The guy working the desk if only too happy to tell us that it will cost five hundred fucking kronors per person. After some absolutely pointless arguing we head over to the service desk and pay the bill, although it actually comes to one thousand four, instead of two thousand. I guess that’s some sort of tactic to take the sting out of the price. The boy back at check in beaming again as we approach. I ask him if he knows why the flight is delayed, he jokes, “I’m not actually the pilot, how would I know?” Can’t work out if I like this guy or if I despise every last morsel of him.
Once sorted we head over to the bar for a much needed beer. As fucking cack as this tiny aiport is the patio outside looks inviting. “That they have the nerve to charge “real airport” prices at this place is a scandal!” grumbles Andy behind me as we’re stood in line for a pint. It is nice to sit down outside with a cold one and have a chat though. Still no message on the flight delay though, and longer and we’ll be cutting it a bit fine with set time, which is due for ten twenty. The flight in only short though, and the airport is supposedly a half hour from the venue so hopefully we’ll be fine. Have to say though, these last few trips with Victims haven’t exactly gone smoothly.
I’d almost forgotten how spine tinglingly rotten this airport is. At one time in my life I was through here as much as twice a month, when I’d first met Jen and still had Speedhorn in the UK. Then I had no other choice than Ryanair. I haven’t flown with that abomination of a company since Speedhorn finished, and this is the first time I’ve been back here in a passenger capacity since. Despite the fact that a few more airlines have started operating out of here and more and more departures with it, the building hasn’t grown any. It was always small but now it feels tiny and the place is fucking swarming. I don’t fancy the barman’s job much, fucking noise in here would be enough to drive you to a flamethrower. I therefore do nothing to stress the guy over the extremely long time it’s taking to pour my Guinness.
The flight leaves at seven and only takes forty five minutes. Filip is waiting for us on the other side of customs, a big old smile on his face. It’s been a while. Always good to see him. Filip is a real staple of the punk community in Europe. We tried to make this fest of his work last year but we just couldn’t work it out with our schedule. Glad to be here now anyway. Filip leads us out to his road worn punk van and as we throw our bags into the back Jon’s eyes light up at the stacks of beer crates inside. Warm or not Jon is no mood to haggle and he does the honours and pulls out four of the bastards. I abstain but Johan happily takes one, as does Andy who is sat up front.
We arrive at the festival which is at a venue the guys played with Rotten Sound back in 2008, the last proper tour before I joined. It’s a decent sized place with a high stage in a room that could probably hold around eight hundred with the narrow balcony open. There are a bunch of stalls out back in the parking lot selling merch, food and beer and plenty of punks hanging around. We dump our stuff in the backstage room as Misantropic from Umeå are onstage doing their thing. Sounds solid as fuck from the side of the stage and they seem to be having a great time playing to a room full of sweaty punks. One of the guys running the fest gives us an envelope of passes, beer and food tickets and then heads off again. Not really knowing where to set merch up Johan and I head off in search of somewhere to dump it once Misantropic have finished but can’t really find a decent location. The stalls outside are all distros and the couple of tables up on the balcony feel completely out of the way, where nobody will find them. We head back outside and see our fellow Swedes stood up against the wall, a t-shirt gaffa taped to said wall behind them, one of the guys selling shirts, the other holding them over their arm. We decide we’ll do the same after we’ve played, hopefully the rain that is just starting to drizzle down won’t get any heavier.
The guys from Torso are lying about backstage looking kind of bored. They’ve been out on the road in Europe for almost a month now and they’ve been hanging out here all day. We met them when they played with us in Oakland a couple of months ago and it’s really nice to see them again. Great people. The drummer Giacomo is very bubbly, full of energy, and seems to have a smile surgically implanted on his mug. He’s bouncing around behind the stage whilst the others lay about on the sofa in the backstage room. I’m really fucking hungry but it’s far too close to gig time to eat dinner now and not wanting to drink beer on an empty stomach I opt for coffee. Andy is good enough to head off into the crowd with an empty kettle in search of water. It would have been nice if we’d arrived on time and had time to eat before but what can you do. I do feel pretty weak from the lack of food though, thankfully Johan has some of his protein bars in his bag and he hands me one. It fucking saves me. Ten minutes later we’re up on stage setting up and I feel ready to kick the shit out of this gig. There is a good buzz in the room as we line check the gear and you just want to get going. Our old friend Milosz from Mourne appears just before we start and approaches us all separately wishing us a good show before we play. He looks a little tipsy, the smile and the cheeky eyes giving it away.
Sometimes the sound on stage is so good it’s like you’re miming to a record. It’s like the guitar just plays itself it’s so easy. What a difference from this time yesterday! The room is full and the crowd are going crazy. Jon acknowledges them and says, “It’s good to be back in Gdynia”. It truly is. The only thing holding me back tonight is the fact that we have promised an extra special forty minute set. Given the fact that we’re headlining we couldn’t really get away with twenty five minutes, considering they’re paying for flights, hotel and fee on top of that and given the fact that Doom are headlining tomorrow and playing for an hour. We buffed up the set with four songs making it an eighteen song setlist, must be some sort of record for us. To think that we regularly played an hour with Speedhorn back in the day. How the fuck did we not bore everyone including ourselves to sleep? Anyway, even holding back a little, I feel a crick in my fucking neck about five songs in and it gives me hassle the rest of the set. The lamps on stage are hot as fucking lava aswell and I swear I can feel my bonce burning. That aside, it’s a fucking great gig. Even at forty minutes I feel I could do another couple of songs but when we leave the stage the lights come on and people start to shuffle off. Apart from a couple down front who are pleading for Andy’s drumsticks. All in all, a nice way to finish off this run of shows we’ve been playing since April.
I cool down and then enjoy watching Torso from the side of the stage, just in front of the PA. They sound great and are tight as fuck. Giacomo is an extremely entertaining drummer, full of energy and bouncing all over the kit. The guitarist full of moves, doing the high kick thing made famous by the hardcore crowd. I can’t help but admire him with his moves whilst at the same time playing fast and tight as fuck. Being straight edge and not an unfit twat like myself must make playing that way a lot easier. I wonder if I’ll ever pack in drinking completely and get a bit healthier, it’s something I think about more the older I get. Saying that, it’s something I’ve thought about many times over the years, especially on the back of a hangover. Once when we were young kids in Corby we decided to quit drinking for a while. We actually lasted a few weeks but then when we gave in and started up again my mate Slaven reasoned whilst carressing his pint, “It’s who we are Gaz, there’s no point denying our heritage”, as he looked round the Ev’s at the crowd of old boys long since defeated by it.
After Torso I head outside and decide it’s time to cash in some tickets and get some grub, and a beer to wash it down. I find the other three guys stood outside shifting some merch and talking to a punters. There is still a drizzle in the night air but it’s far from cold. Milosz finds us, looking even more pissed by this point, the cheeky smile all but faded away and his usual hardened look back in place. Part of Milosz charm is undoubtedbly his bleak outlook on life. He fingers Jon’s t-shirt and snorts, “What’s this?” Before Jon can answer he continues, “I get it. Stoner rock”. Jon is actually wearing a Morbid Angel “Altars of Madness” t-shirt, leaving Jon all the more confused. He then turns his stare on me, “What are you going to write about me this time?” referring to when we last met on tour in the States. Milosz had recently cut his dreadlocks off, something that gave our driver and Milosz old friend Matt cause to berate him. It all got taken the wrong way, things were said and written. What I found the funniest was Matt’s reaction to Milosz new hair cut, which I personally found very dashing. Anyway, things have moved on since then and last time I saw Matt he was wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans. I’d like to think we had a positive influence on him.
We miss the first chance of a ride back to Fillip’s place where we’re sleeping since he’s headed off to pick the Doom guys up from the airport. We’re all staying at the holiday resort he ownes and lives at. I could honestly have taken the ride but the other guys seem to be in the mood for anohter beer. Oscar from Ursut and some other Swedes come up and say heloo, he’s playing here with his other band tomorrow. He’s obviously had a few to drink and keeps bangning on about how good we were, but it’s really over the top. “I walked in when you were playing and you were so good I was embarrassed!” His girlfriend rightly points out that that makes no sense. It’s fun hanging out with them for a while though. This other punk girl who is with them introduces herself to me as Moa. She tells me she works with K-Town Hardcore Fest and would love to have us play. That makes two of us, I tell her. We chat for a while and say we’ll stay in touch. Who knows, I might be able to get both DB and Victims on. That would be a hoot to say the least.
Our ride is ready to take us to Fillip’s around one am. It’s about a half hour ride and there are warm beers to pass around in the dark. I abstain again, waiting for the cold stuff that Fillip has on tap at his place. When we arrive Fillip takes us to our challet and then we head back to his house where the Doom guys are already drinking. Last time we were here it was after our own gig iN Gdynia and Jen and Stachel were with us, we had a fantastic night chilling out in the bar, Jon playing bartender behind the pump. I’d hoped that’s where we would be hanging out tonight but I guess with all the people here it’s easier for Fillip to keep us at his house, away from the other guests. Apart from the Doom guys, baring Dennis, there are a bunch of other punks hanging aroud drinking beer that is regularly arriving on trays and tucking into the grub laid out on the dining table.
Johan, Jon and I are stood over in the kitchen area when some long haired guys wearing glasses approaches me and asks if I like hot food, he’s carrying a little bowl of sauce with him. Only too happy I tuck in. He tells me that he’s branching out into the hot sauce business and this is his own recipe. I soon come to realise that this friendly chap I’m talking too is the infamous Mike Champagne, a name I’ve heard many times about the scene and a friend of many of my own. It’s a pleasure to finally meet him. We spend the next hour or so chatting away, mainly about hot sauce and a little on other subjects, like Andy’s old band Suicide Blitz, it seems Mike is one of the few people who liked that band…
There is another guy here tonight, some English guy, who knows Andy from way back it seems. Andy tells me that they were talking about me a while before, the guy obviously curious as to the story with the English guy in Victims. Andy says when he told him I used to be in Speedhorn the guy looked absolutely shocked, or even horrified. Speedhorn isn’t always too good for my punk rock credentials, especially since the band was often ignorantly thrown in with the nu-metal crowd, which is our own fault in essence since we did indeed tour and play a bunch of shows with a bunch of horrible bands back in the day. Andy assured him that I was okay, though, says to me, “I told him you were the most hardcore of the lot of us”. Me and English barely say a word to each other though, I feel too embarrassed to approach him. Silly really.
Obviously having comfortable beds and a late afternoon flight home tomorrow we make the most of a good night’s sleep and head to bed around four thirty. As I said, time off from our kids is never spent catching up on sleep…
I sleep solidly through unttil eleven thirty, feeling pretty damn good when I wake up. I’m the first to rise too. I make the most of it and jump in the shower. When the rest awake we head back over to Fillip’s and sit down to breakfast with Scoot and Bry from Doom. They really are the nicest bunch of people you could meet. Just as we’re finishing up Dennis arrives, usual tired look on his face. He asks us when we’re playing and when Andy says we already played last night and we’re soon heading home Dennis moans, “Aaargh, you guys are the only reason to be here!” Sweet he is. We say our goodbyes to the guys and head back to the room to get our gear. We pass Stick on the way who is looking giddish, don’t know if he’s stoned or what. “Byeeee” he says, giving a clown like wave and giggling like a child up to no good.
This is the last trip for a while. We’ve been busier since April than we have for the last four years. It’s been good to be out playing with the guys again, and the gigs have been a lot of fun, even if getting to them, with all our gear, has been entirely free of hassle. Still, I’m looking forward to a bit of a break now. I’m enjoying working at the homeless shelter, more than I’ve enjoyed any job for a long time, and I’m looking forward to going down to Italy on holiday with the girls in a couple of weeks. Summer is already half way done and before I know it I’ll be starting university for the first time in my life. Twenty years after my mates in Corby took the plunge. I’m really looking forward to studying sociology at Stockholm University. As much as it will be a challenge it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. I think I will be okay.
Next time we play with Victims will be at the end of August, just before I start uni, at Cyklopen. If our demands over using our own gear are met. Otherwise the next show will be in September, with DB, at Cyklopen. We’ll play whatever the deal, although it would be nice to play with a good sound, we’not going to cancel the gig if not. Unlike Victims, who will. I guess the difference is, Victims have been around almost twenty years and have done fuck knows how many gigs of that type. After that amount of time I think you’ve earned the right to have expectations from a show. We’ll see what happens with it. Like Johan said on the way home, “We’ll turn up at the venue with our gear. If they refuse to let us load it up on stage, we’ll leave”. Can’t get much clearer than that.