It’s nice with the lie in this morning. The train to Notts is at 1pm and we don’t have to leave the hotel until 12. Dancer. The lobby is still full of lads as we check out, different lads though. Same shite banter coming out of them though. They must advertise this place as lad friendly or something. There are a bunch of old Geordie boys checking out as well, we’d met the same crowd in the hallway last night, they’d spotted us carrying the guitars and lept on it immediately, “Oooh boys we’re ganna be rocking the night!” and “Sorry lads, ain’t got nae change on me”. Brilliant stuff. Kev just leaves the keys on the desk and we fuck off out of there. We find a pretty nice cafe on the way to the station, with some friendly woman serving us. She asks if we’re in a band and where we’re from and all and she’s really chatty with us the whole time we’re there. The food is decent too, I have avocado smash on toasted sourdough bread and a cappuccino. I’m feeling good again this morning. I could get used to this no hangover on tour lark.
The train to Nottingham takes around two hours and Kev tells us that our old mate Steve Heresy, who plays with Endless Grinning Skulls who we have the pleasure of playing with tonight, has booked us a table at the amazing Annie’s Burger Shack, which is a proper luxury since it’s almost impossible to get a booking at this late notice. Steve works there though and could sort us out. Thing is, as Kev tells us we have a table sorted it springs to mind that Henry, another friend involved in the show tonight, made really nice food for Victims last time we played, and literally not a minute later Henry texts Kev and tells him that he’s made food. Feel a bit bad about that. We apologise and assure him that the food will be eaten during the evening, no problem on that score.
We head straight to Annie’s from the station. The food here is fucking top. One of the best veggie burgers you’ll ever eat. Me and Vik have a Motörhead themed meal with a Lemmy Burger and a Road Crew Pale Ale, which has something to do with the Motörhead brand. Ace just sitting here relaxing with some good scran for a while. When we’re done we head down the road to drop the stuff off at the venue and I’m trying to decide what to do with the afternoon before things kick off tonight. I have a bunch of friends from Corby coming, Snitch and Bean, two of my oldest mates who I get to see not nearly enough these days, but also a few old friends from school who have been in touch and said they were coming. Will be really fun to see them. It’s literally been about twenty years and this is totally not their scene, it will probably freak them out a bit, but they’re great people and I’m looking forward to seeing them. I’m walking alongside Kev and he’s going on about Sean Duggan’s new pub, saying that he feels that he has to pop by and see him. Kev and Sean played in Hard to Swallow together and Sean thinks the world of Kev. He’s a bit fucking mental though and there’s always a danger of being intimidated into drinking booze when you go to his. He’s a difficult man to say no to. Kev asks me if I fancy a walk over there. I’m kinda doing my best to abstain from the event to be honest but Kev is doing his best to convince me. It’ll only be the one, and all that. I tell Kev I think I might just go for a walk about for a bit and then the truth comes out, “Come on Gaz, I need you there with me to keep me from getting fucked”. What can I do?
We drop the gear off, shoot the breeze with Boulty for a bit who is hanging like a soggy sock, says he had a bit of a bad’un last night and was up early recording a band this morning. He’s slowly getting things in order so we leave him to it and tell him we’ll be back in a bit. Andy EGS has some artwork up at this pub called the King Billy just down the road, part of an exhibition with some others that we’d like to check out, so we decide to head by there on the way back from Sean’s pub. When we locate Sean’s pub and aim towards it we spot him stood outside with a big smile on his face, waiting for Kev. We exchange pleasantries at the door and then head in and the first thing Sean does is bark an order at his bartender for five shots of Jager. I immediately decline the kind offer, although I have to stand my ground and politely say no a couple of times, but the others sheepily take the shot on order. Luc and Vik stand there banging on about how actually, Jagermeister is really good for the old digestion and it was actually just what they needed after the big meal. My arse.
Once that’s all done we sit take a table and a drink with Sean and face a barrage of old tales and anecdotes for the next forty minutes. Some of the old Nottingham stories from back in the 90’s, when a huge crowd of punks basically occupied an entire house of flats, are beyond fucking belief. We sit there pissing ourselves laughing as Sean and Kev recount the madness. One of my favourites being the one where they had a party in the backyard and they’d tied a tarpaulin sheet up as a roof from the rain, attached to the yard walls and house windows. Keväs old best mate, Bobby Vimto, jumped from a third storey window onto the sheet and took the fucker straight down, bringing a window and the entire window frame out of the wall with it. There was another one about Hard to Swallow being on tour in Europe and Gords had diagnosed himself with cancer, saying he had a hole in his throat. Sean being the only one with a vague grip on German took care of the situation and went with Gords to sort him out at the dentist. After forty minutes of this stuff we have to leave, although not before Sean tries to force another pint down Kev. Kev looks at me for support and insists that we have to go, gotta get back for soundcheck. As if.
We head to the King Billy to check out Andy’s artwork and bump into the very man himself and Henry, who is wearing a cracking pair of love heart shaped sunglasses and a cheeky smile. It’s great to see the boys, always is. Wonderful people. They’re just on their way back up to the venue though. We tell them we’ll be up in a bit and head inside. The stuff is all upstairs on the walls of the pool room, and some other stuff in a smaller room beside where they have a dartboard. There are a pair of old couples in there playing arrows though and they look at us like the circus just came to town.
We decide to play some pool. Vik helps himself to an IPA, 7% job. Don’t know where he puts the stuff away. When he orders it the old boy at the bar feels the need to warn him about the price. “Just so you know, this beer is five quid a pint. It’s the dearest beer we have”. Kev tells the old boy Vik is from Stockholm and Vik hands over a fiver, fucking chuffed. We have a couple of games of pool and then decide to have a look at Andy’s stuff in the other room, old cunts or not. This one old girl is sat right underneath a big frame of the original artwork for the new EGS record. Kev stands right in front of her to get a closer look. She looks at him like he’s just dipped his knob in her glass. Mardy old boot. Snitch has been on the blower anyway, tells me they’re at the pub next to the venue, so we head off there, leaving them to the darts.
The Vine, which my mate James whose place we’re staying at tonight tells me is a terrifying pub, although James is easily terrified to be fair, is literally right next door to the rehearsal rooms which is tonight’s venue. Right outside the pub is also the spot where some poor bastard got kicked to death the first time we played here. Fucking heavy night that was. Anyway, there is this knuckle dragger stood outside the pub smoking a cig, big fat bloke who looks like a character from the film ID, looks like he hates everyone. We breeze past him and find Snitch and Bean sat in the bar. It’s great to see the big pair of cheesy smiles that these two carry around with them wherever they go. We’re sat at a table cackling like witches before Vik is even back from the bar, chuffed as fuck that his pint only cost two pound forty. There are only a couple of other old codgers in the bar and apart from our howling laughter the place is silent. I get the feeling we’re not too appreciated. It’s bright as fuck in here as well. Vik said he got a couple of funny looks when he ordered a glass of water for me and all. It’s great catching up with two of my oldest and closest friends though. Before long ID walks back in and takes up a position behind a DJ board, looks at us with a face like thunder whilst trying to concentrate on the playlist he’s obviously setting up on his phone. I keep my eye on him for about ten minutes. He looks pure infuriated. When he finally starts the show he kicks off with the Muppets Theme Tune, and some cheap flashing disco lights kick into action to accompany it. Total surreal scene. We get the fuck out of there and head to the venue.
Jeremie is waiting at the top of the steep stairs for me with a big hug. It’s great to see him. And then I spot my old school friends from Corby, sat in the gig room, which is even smaller than it was last time played since they’ve basically built a box in the old foyer to get around it disturbing the other practice spaces. This place now only holds fifty and they’ve sold all thirty advance tickets out. It should be a great evening. Revenge for last night’s pants. Anyway, the guys are sat on the floor drinking tins of beer, saying they couldn’t believe there was no bar and it was bring your own booze. They have three bags full of tins and they seem intent on getting plastered tonight. It’s really great to see them though. Heg, John, Kerry and Lucy. Lucy and John I literally don’t know if I’ve seen since school. Lucy is this really beautiful person that we were all in love with at school, she was one of the popular girls but for some reason loved all us long haired “grungers” and our association with her saved us from various kick-ins I’m sure. It’s great to see her. And Heg is the guy I probably have to thank for being here since it was him who first started playing me Guns n’ Roses and Metallica records when we were eleven years old. I have no idea what they’ll make of tonight.
The entire evening is pretty much spent chatting and catching up with various people. Dave Speedhorn and another friend Sean are here, always fun getting in on the latest Speedhorn gossip. Weird Chris has come down from Sheffield, he’s telling about how things didn’t really work out for him in Gothenburg, which is a shame since he was psyched about moving there. Says he loves Sheff too much to stay away though. I miss the first couple of bands since I’m out on the street chatting for most of them. I’m only waiting for EGS tonight anyway. By the time they start I’ve taken my position into the tightly packed room, right in front of Gords. Andy introduces the show, “Hi we’re Endless Grinning Skulls and we have a new record out. And we’re gonna play it for you now”. I love Andy’s style. They rip through the whole record and I’m doing my best not to tamp on Gords toes, but the crowd behind is nudging me ever slowly forward. I look over at Luc on the other side, banging his fist the whole set, big smile on his face. Kev and our mate Kelly Apple are stood beside me, big smiles. Kev is loving every second of it, eyes closed in ecstasy of the EGS thunderbastard. He’s probably a bit pissed too. The thing is, they’re so fucking good, all three of them super talented. Weird Chris is stood behind the band banging his head with a huge smile on his face. And watching Steve play those drums is a pleasure anyone can indulge in, even my old mate Kerry from school who is stood at the front having a little dance. I think all the four of them are pretty boats, Heg had caught me on the way in and told me he was wankered, apparently he’d fallen over a bollard on the way back from the pub here. Anyway, I enjoy every last second of the EGS set and I’m dying to get up and play, fearful that everyone will fuck off now they’re done. James turns to me and laughs, “Good luck following that!” No shit…
We get set up pretty quick since we’re using all of EGS gear but of course the punks have gone for a quick breather between bands and it’s not that full by the time we’re ready. But we start making noise and the room quickly fills again. Stone cold sober and full of energy, I’m ready for this fucker. Sixteen songs fly by, I don’t think I stop moving and dancing around during the entire set, just totally fucking buzzed. Jeremie and Henry, still in his heart shaped shades, stood right in front of me, big smiles across their faces. Weird Chris behind Vik fistbanging. Even Annie, from the legendary Burger Shack, a very old friend of the scene is in the middle of the crowd headbanging. It’s just one of the immensely fun shows and the energy doesn’t drop for a second. I have one bizarre moment when Lucy grabs me between songs at one point, obviously pretty sauced and shouts something along the lines of, “This is fucking mental!” and then John taps me on the shoulder during the next song and stands there headbanging in front of me for a few seconds. I just crack up and carry on. Feels like everyone has a great show, even Luc who was having trouble with his Rat pedal which I saw him kicking a few times seems to be chuffed as shit.
After the show I stand there sweating my ass off trying to wrap a lead up whilst talking to a pissed up Beany and Snitch who is driving back. It takes about ten minutes to untangle that fucking lead for some reason, Beany telling me he’s disappointed in my lack of skills. James approaches and tells me that if we can make it back to the King Billy for midnight we’ll get a lock in. We have forty five minutes to get there, time to get into action. Boulty gives me a bunch of codes for different doors to the building and asks me not to kick the doors in again like we did the first time we played here. On that occasion Kev had taken the code and then fell asleep pissed in the Old Angel and left the rest of us up the creek. This time I’m totally straight although have little phone battery so give them to Luc to store in his. It’s a bit of a faff fest getting everyone on the move but eventually we manage to move about thirty of us to the King Billy, pretty much half of the gig in essence. James is a bit panicky about the amount of people in tow but seems pretty sure that we’ll be okay.
Happy to have a cold pint of IPA in my hand I take a table with Jeremie, James and Chris who plays with James in Grey Hairs and was also in a great band before called Wolves! Of Greece. He’s really nice and is bubbling about the gig, talking over and over about the energy I had whilst playing. Fucking chuffed to meet him, I really liked his band. In the hour or so we’re there I manage to get around to most people for a chat, and apparently Luc, Vik and Kev have managed to get pretty smashed. Even Boulty is here, dreading yet another hangover tomorrow. By one am it’s time to go and we head back to the venue for our bags and gear. Boulty tells me that we can use the main door since there are still people there and James has the code. We get to the venue and James does not have the code. At least not one for this door. Vik and Luc are very confused, saying they have the codes and whilst I’m trying to explain to them that we have to go around to the back door they’re stood there punching different combinations on the panel. I manage to steer them round to the back door and we take ourselves in that way with the code I have from Boulty, the first of which was easy to remember. The second door is already open which leads us straight back into the venue but I’ve locked our gear inside EGS room. Queue Vik and Luc standing with phones in hand shouting codes at me. Getting on my fucking tits by this point I tell them to shut it and let open the door with another code to this room that Jeremie gave me earlier. They get a bit arsey now, reckon I’m being a cunt. For the first time this weekend I wish I was drunk so I could deal with this pair of jokers. Luc insists I apologise for my attitude, which I do, but he doesn’t accept it as sincere. Fuck this.
As James calls an Uber cab, something he apologises for directly, saying he knows it’s not very punk rock, the guys spot tubs of Henry’s food in the kitchen. A couple of different curry dishes, some bhajis of some sort and naan breads. Everyone happy again we tuck, making curry sarnies from the bread. We stuff it down before the cab arrives and head back to James’ place, talking with the driver about Irish folk music the whole way back. It’s almost two when we get back but we sit up for a while for a bit of a chat before bed time. The guys head off to crash out after drinking a couple of sips of beer but James and I have a glass of wine each and stay up a little longer. James is pretty fucking wankered himself though and when I notice his eyes closing as I talk I tell him it’s time we hit the hay. It’s almost three and we have to get up just before eight, have an early train to London tomorrow. I head upstairs to the top floor and lie down on the mattress on the floor, head clear and wired, thoughts won’t stand still to allow sleep to take me. I lie there for an hour, getting more and more pissed off. “I can’t get no sleep..” Gords line from the old Geriatric Unit comes to mind. Going to be fucking knackered in the morning. At least I won’t be hungover though. Is this the start of a new era? I wonder..