My throat is feeling worse today. I can sense the full blown cold in the post. Johan gave me these sucking tablets in the car yesterday that are supposed to stave off potential illnesses but they don’t seem to have done fuck all. It’s still early when I first awake but with no real stress to get going today I decide not to stress about the fact I can’t get back to sleep and just enjoy lying in bed listening to the symphony of farts.
Johan, Andy and I head down for breakfast before it finishes at eleven, leaving Jon in bed who says he’ll get up later. The breakfast isn’t much to write home about but being that it’s free it gets the thumbs up. Wouldn’t have been too chuffed to pay the advertised six euros for it otherwise. The coffee from the machine tastes like it’s never seen a bean for one thing. We’ve got an hour before we need to head back to the venue and pick up the gear and the car so we decide to take a walk over the river to Kreuzberg and go for a wander, hoping to find some decent java and maybe a record shop on the way.
We don’t find any stores but we do come across a trendy looking vegan cafe next to Görlitzer Park. I’m in the mood for sitting down in the sun at a table outside and people watching for a bit but Andy wants to walk. I would be most happy to sit and enjoy my coffee but I can sense it’s a no go trying to persuade Andy otherwise. As it turns out, we’re better off getting the drinks to go. The staff are pretty stressed out and bickering with each other and it becomes apparent that we would have been waiting ages had we sat outside. The coffee hits the fucking bullseye though. We walk a few more blocks and then turn back towards the hostel. We meet Jon outside who has been down to the shop to get some Club Mate. He’s looking pretty fresh considering he’s back on the booze again after a two month pause but he’s apparently forgotten his toothbrush, his breath is humming.
The Ekranoplan guys are sat outside the Jugendhaus drinking coffee with the girl running the place today. For some reason there is some math rock band blasting out of the PA in the venue. Nobody in there listening to it, it’s just blaring for no apparent reason. Does my head in as we load out the gear. Thankfully there isn’t much of it and it doesn’t take long. I mention it to Christian the Ekranoplan bassist and he just smiles, “What were you expecting? Jazz?” A bit of Coltrane would have been just the ticket I tell him. I sit around talking to Adrian for a while over a cup of coffee about music and upcoming shows and stuff, he books a festival in Jena that sounds like it would be a fun thing to play on, maybe next year. Last time I was in Jena was with Jen’s old band Misdemeanor, nice place if I remember right. We drink up and exchange goodbye hugs and thank them again for lending us all of their gear and then get going. Nice bunch of guys. I hope we get to cross paths with them again.
Johan drives us out of the city which I’m glad for since I feel a bit too tired to deal with the stress of driving in Berlin traffic, but it turns out it’s actually not too bad today. The only time we get held up is by some old age pensioner on a kick bike in the middle of the road, she must be about ninety years old. Some of the avenues in the city just seem to head straight into the horizon, huge straight roads. We take Prenzlauer Allee pretty much all the way out of the city on to the autobahn and then I take over and drive the rest of the way to the Hafenklang in Hamburg.
We arrive early hoping to find our dear friend Daniel waiting for us but he’s not working tonight. It was he who booked us on this show and it’s this show we planned the weekend around. He’s taking the night off today though and coming down later to hang out instead. We dump the gear in the venue and then take the car over to the hotel we’ve had booked for us tonight. We assumed we’d be staying in the band flat above the venue but a hotel will do, and it’s only a ten minute walk away. We drive over and find that the hotel, which is called the Kogge is just a couple of doors down from Bar Otto, the infamous rowdy punk bar just a couple of streets south of the Reeperbahn. When we pull up outside we find the hotel is actually another punk pub with some rooms above it and sat outside drinking beer are an array of punks wearing various American punk t-shirts, “What is this? Hardcore Hotel?” Andy scoffs. We park up, trying our best to avoid the piles of broken glass in the road and then head inside to find a friendly young woman behind the bar. Jon takes care of the check in papers whilst the rest of us take a look around outside at potential eating establishments. Dinner at the club isn’t for another three and half hours and we could do with a snack. When we go back inside Jon has the keys and we start to head off in search of the rooms. The bartender says to Jon to not forget to tell his bandmates about the free schnapps, Jon looks at us all chuffed “Yeah there’s a complimentary shot upon arrival boys”, he’s obviously put his away already. The rest of us politely decline.
We head down the stairs next to Bar Otto to the harbour front and look for somewhere to eat. With the sun shining and there being about five hours to go until we play I decide I’ll have a beer with the guys, feels like too nice an opportunity to waste. We find a beer garden bar looking out over the water that is selling pizza and an assortment of locally brewed ales and decide that this is the spot. As Andy says, it’s dangerously tempting to just sit here the rest of the night and forget about the fact we have a gig to play later. But time soon catches up with us and it is indeed time for us to head back to the venue and find out what equipment we’re going to be borrowing tonight. We’ve been lucky to have the Ekranoplan guys with us this last couple of days but I don’t know what we’re going to end up with tonight or what the show is even going to be like. It’s part of some town festival or something and the line up is deliberately diverse. We’ve been told that there is a techno punk band opening up, then us in the middle and then a well known Deutsche Punk band playing last. Andy checked them out on Wikipedia earlier and the Swedish translation of the members names from the German page was brilliant. On vocals, Handsome John Köln, guitar Kompanjonen and on bass Räkna Disco. That’s particularly funny in Swedish.
The Deutschepunk guys are there when we get back and they seem really nice, a bit older and they look like they are going to play for an hour and half, as we’ve been warned by the in-house manager earlier, but they’re happy to lend us their gear. It looks good at first glance. On Jon’s side of the stage there’s a Marshall stack, there’s a decent looking Mapex drumkit, an Ampeg head with mini cab. But I have a hard time locating the amp on my side of the stage. And then I realise the little brown box that looks like a satchel is mine. To be honest, it’s a beautiful little thing, some old Ampeg speaker box, but it’s fifteen watts. There is an Orange Tiny Terror to go through it but I can not see for the life of me how I’m going to get a sound out of this piddly little thing. A little worried I head upstairs and look for some coffee.
We tuck into dinner when it arrives around seven. The Deutschepunk fellas certainly have a jovial way about them and they seem to spend most of their time laughing. Räkna Disco looks like he’s in Dexy’s Midnight Runners and he comes over for some chit chat. He tells us that their set is about and hour and half long, but then that’s without all the stage talk. I can’t really imagine how I’m going to be able to hack listening to them for that long. Any band for that long.. Indeed when I head downstairs after dinner I find the drummer writing their set list out and it’s so long he’s had to gaffa tape two pieces of paper together to get them all on. “Forty songs! And they’re not all thirty seconds long”, he laughs. Fuck me…
I head out into the main room looking for wifi info so I can sit somewhere and finish writing for the day. There is this tough looking short lady who works behind the bar, I decide to ask her for the password. “Wifi? Are you in the band?” I confirm that I am indeed in the band. “Noooo”, she says taken aback but laughing, “Really?”. Do I not look like a punk or something? When she realises I’m not some random customer trying to scam free wifi she gives me the info, still laughing. Next time I see her she’s throwing some old punk, some silly looking sod with big sideburns and a pork pie hat, out of the venue for being too pissed.
Jon and I decide to leave the merch and head out for some air before the show. It’s dark out now and we walk along the harbour to the Submarine which is a museum and permanently docked. One time we played here and Stachel was with us and we all took a look around onboard. There is something strangely ominous looking about it in the dark. We carry on walking and get talking to some guy who is running a sightseeing service where you drive around in custom made mini hotrods that are the size of go-carts. He tells us they can get up to 100 kilometers an hour. We just happened to spot them and go check out what the cars were, we hadn’t seen the guy in the garage and didn’t mean to get sucked into a conversation with him about them. He was nice enough though. Thanking him for the chat we walk back along the street towards the venue and when we pass the dark steps up to Bar Otto we hear a dog barking and some woman screaming, as well as what sounds like a fight going on between a bunch of guys. We decide we’ll take the other route back to the hotel later.
It’s good to see Daniel when we get back. He’s sat on the door helping stamp people’s wrists since there is now quite a current of people flowing into the place. Jon walks past and Daniel grabs him at first without realising who it is. The next second they’re embraced in a friendly hug. Our merch is set up right next to the door so we can steal a bit of a chat with him when things calm down a bit. The techno punk band, 100 Blumen, are playing now. It’s not what I thought, or what that description had led me to think anyway, I actually like the sound of it. It’s heavy and dark and the singer who looks like Jerry A has a great scream on him. It sounds a bit like Killing Joke at times and other times full on heavy punk. There room is packed full though so I can’t really get into the crowd to see much of the band so make my way back to the merch to hang out with the guys.
There are people constantly going in and out of the venue and Andy is stood to the side of our merch table stretching his arms back and forth, elbows out straight, getting ready to play, without really noticing the people behind him. At one point the bartender lady walks right behind him just as he thrust his elbows out and I lurch over to stop him hitting her in the face, but as it turns out his elbows would have wafted above her head anyway.
As the punters stream out of the venue for air when the opening band are done we fight against the current to get through to the backstage room. I’m a bit nervous about what kind of sound I’m going to have tonight and want to get up on stage as quickly as possible to try and work it out. Johan helps me with it but from the second we turn it on I can tell it’s going to be a struggle. You can get a distortion sound of it, my Blues Driver giving it all it’s got to push it towards my usual Victims sound, but there is just zero bottom end or body to the thing. We speak to the sound guy and agree that we’ll just have to try and push it through the monitors as much as we can. When line check is done I give the guitar one last blast and shout to Johan who is stood with his back to the crowd facing Andy, “Sounds alright I guess”. Johan just laughs. Who the fuck am I trying to kid really?
Despite the satchel amp I’m still pumped for the show, or maybe it’s having that little thing on stage with me that is actually spurring me to give it that little extra tonight. The crowd is packed in. It’s a lot of people. Jerry A is stood right beside me and he seems psyched as fuck about us. The first two songs go off with a blast and it really does feel like we’ll be ok. It sounds good, my guitar sounds okay when it’s in the mix of everything else and although the crowd looks like it’s mainly here for the Deutschepunk lot they seem to be digging us anyway. And then everything starts to go to shit. Proper fucking shit.
We’ve had two great shows so far this weekend. When we start playing the second block of the set tonight I start getting the distinct feeling we’re not going to be putting tonight’s show in the same category. We’re playing Victims in Blood Part 5, which is the first time my guitar goes solo in the set. Bare naked with just Andy playing the drums behind me the guitar, which is supposed to be chugging along during the breakdown section of song before the big end comes in sounds thin as fuck. It sounds like I’m playing reggae up there. To make matters worse Andy’s floor tom has inexplicably fell over so there’s none of the bass from that either, he’s just tapping along on his hi-hat with a worried smile on his coupon and obviously being distracted he forgets to do the big cymbal hit that marks the end section of the song and it just kind of carries on plodding along, confusing the fuck out of all of us. Okay so it’s a fuck up, but we recover for the next song as I play the intro to the new song in the set, seamlessly from the end of V5. My guitar still sounds like a transistor radio but when it all comes back in it sounds heavy and the crowd are going for it. What I’m hoping is just one little blip is soon forgotten and we carry on pounding through the set. It sounds good too and I’m really going for it on stage. When I snap a string during the first verse V6 about half way through the set though it slowly continues to go tits up from that point on.
For a start the broken string is just buzzing along through the rest of V6, sounds like wind. And then I have to change a string to the side of the stage whilst Jon gently strums along an AC/DC riff whilst talking to the crowd, country style like. Oh how I miss Adrian’s backup guitar now. Obviously stressed for time, I don’t want to spend five minutes stretching the new string in so somewhere in the ballpark of acceptable I signal that I’m ready. Of course, after a long break the worst thing we can now do is play the other new song, which is by far the slowest song of the set. As soon as we start playing it I realise we should have just skipped it and played We’re Fucked. And of course, my guitar detunes and it sounds like a bag of bollocks.
We’re Fucked and Scars are next and they go okay and then Jon introduces the last set of songs, presenting an old one from the first record, Rewind and Forward. The crowd cheer at this and I start the opening riff, only to have missed that Johan was still tuning his bass and is nowhere near the mic. Johan motions with his hand that he’s not ready so I stop, assuming Andy has seen him, but he hasn’t and starts banging away on the d-beat oblivious. Johan has to go up to the kit and wave in his face to make him stop. Fucking right brass. Still, it happens. We start again and get through the thirty second song. Then Andy goes straight into the big tom roll that starts Your Life is Red and stops at the end of the first chorus. Just stops. We stand there ringing out as Andy looks completely scoobied and not knowing what’s about to happen I just wait for him. He starts the big drum roll again and we all come back in, none of us sure what we’re doing. We kind of stumble back into the next chorus, skipping the second verse completely until we come to the stop again.. Cue another big drum roll and the exact same thing again. We’re basically just playing the chorus, stopping, and playing it all over again. On repeat as if we’re stuck on a loop. It must sound ridiculous.
Thankfully My Eyes and This is the End go by without any more fuck ups and we can just get off stage. Normally even during the slackest of gigs Jon will come over and try to be positive but he just comes running over as fast as he can with an embarrassed “Whooo-hooo-hoooooo”. Thank fuck that is over is all I can think. We pack down and hide in the backstage room.
As we’re sat there cooling down with a beer, performing an autopsy of the gig some guy walks in holding a Sirens lp and asks if we can sign it for him. Johan asks, “What do you want us to write? “Sorry”?” We all laugh but it seems to go over the guy’s head and he starts telling us how good it was to see us again after five years. I know most of the time you’re a lot more sensitive to the fuck ups on stage as a band member committing the fuck ups but surely he couldn’t have missed the train wreck of the second half of the gig? Perception is a peculiar thing indeed.
After the guy leaves I decide to make my way out into the venue and keep Jon company at the merch table. Before reaching him some guy wearing sunglasses blocks my path, some older pissed up guy who is laughing his tits off and obviously steamboats, “Hey man great show!” I thank him and then try to carry on but he persists, “Do you like Brutal Truth? I love em, yeaaaaah!!!” and with that walks off laughing. Fuck knows. Jon is sat there with a couple of bottles of beer and before long Johan and Andy have joined us and we sit there having a drink and a laugh. Sometimes you just gotta. Before long Jon is pissed up and he’s sitting at the now vacant entrance table, stopping every punter that comes in to check their stamp, laughing his ass off every time.
Jerry A and the gang are stood selling merch beside us and we get on with them just fine. Turns out Jerry is a big fan. He says it looked really strange me up on stage going wild with as he called it, “A little radio behind you”. Never thought about that, must have looked like a right tool. The tit with the sideburns and pork pie hat has somehow found his way back in here and he’s stood dancing with his eyes closed in front of the merch table. The Deutsche Punk band do indeed play for almost two hours, they’re not all that bad, pretty good to be fair, a lot of their songs and especially the singer reminds me of Leatherface, which is a very good thing in my book. But still, two hours. When they finally finish and we head to the backstage room to get our gear and head off somewhere else I bump into the singer and he asks me, genuinely confused, “So you fly to Germany from Sweden just to play for thirty minutes?” Fuck knows what he’d make of DB…
We chat with the guys for a bit and then get our stuff together and leave. We head back to Hardcore Hotel and the bar is buzzing. Some dj playing garage rock loudly and plenty of drunk people. It’s around one am but there is absolutely no point in trying to get to sleep in the room next door right now. Besides, we’re hungry. We walk up to the Reeperbahn in search of falafel again, thinking that’s probably our best bet since the food joints next to the hotel were all closed. I remember when I first came to Hamburg as a twenty year old I thought the Reeperbahn was really fascinating and exotic but it is in fact fucking horrible. It’s dirty and full of bright lights, misery and drunk tourists shouting. There are some great bars and music places to find in the streets above and below it though. For now we just make our way as quick as we can to the first falafel place we can find. It’s quiet enough when we do find somewhere and the food is pretty good although impossible to keep in one piece and I end up covered in sauce. Somehow Jon ends up not paying for his grub and just saunters out of the place after eating.
We’re heading back to hotel thinking we’ll grab a last beer in there, it’s two thirty and I figure it would be nice to be able to literally crawl to bed from the barstool when the time comes. But just as we turn the corner onto our street we bump into Jerry A and the gang and they convince us to come with them to another place called The Gun Club. They promise us it’s a chilled out bar but I’m wary of the name, can’t be arsed with any club at this point in the evening, I’ve only had a couple of beers and I’m getting tired. Turns out though that it is one of those great bars of St. Pauli, set in the cellar and pretty anonymous from the outside, you’d never find it without an insider tip. And when we walk in we find the Hafenklang crew there and a long narrow smoky bar filled with punks and lots of great stoner rock being played by the dj. Johan orders some beers in for us with the band cash and I get my lips around a beautiful bottle of IPA. Jon is sat there waiting for the White Russian he’s ordered and I clock the barmaid making three of them. I ask him if he’s ordered drinks for us, knowing fine well I don’t want to start drinking spirits but he looks non plussed. “She just asked me if I wanted cream or milk is all”, he shouts over the music. She places the three drinks in front of him and totally baffled he makes his way through them. Amazingly she figures by our reactions that she’d made a mistake with the order and she only charges him for the one drink, despite the fact he’s banged the other two down anyway. The fucker is on a roll today!
The beer is good but I’m struggling to get it down, tiredness taking over me. I can tell Andy is a bit sauced up though by the amount he’s talking. We have a good chat stood up against the wall facing the bar though. One of the guys from the Hafenklang crew orders a round of shots in for us and few others but I shy away from it knowing fine well my head will pay for it in the morning. I feel like a twat for declining but I know someone will drink it anyway. The other guys happily oblige though. Me and Johan crack up when Andy takes the shot in his hand and asks what is, and then we he goes to sniff it he ends up dipping his nose right in it.
It’s not long after that we decide to call it a night. It’s gone three and I need to get closer to bed. We head back to the hotel and I’m contemplating sitting with Jon in the bar for one last one as it’s a lot calmer in here now, although the music is still loud, but sense prevails and I realise that the reality of that beer won’t live up to the idea of it. We walk through the door to our rooms and I tell Jon sorry, but I’m crashing in the other room with Johan, knowing fine well I’ll be awoken by the breakfast guests sat a couple of feet away from the bed in about four hours time. Jon understands and it doesn’t matter to him. That fucker could sleep through an atomic bomb...