Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Mexico City

Felt proper bollocks when I woke up. Head was completely mashed and stringing enough thoughts together just to get myself dressed was a struggle. I’d only slept around four hours, and even that was interrupted by a piss in the middle of it. I’d been having weird dreams the whole time too, those uncomfortable dreams, not exactly nightmares, but disturbing none the less, and just barely keeping you under the surface of sleep. I mention this to Johan and he replies, drearily, “I didn’t even manage to get below the surface”. The poor bastard looks completely fucked.

I pull myself off the mattress on the floor, glad that I decided to shower last night, I would never have been able to summon the motivation at this hour, and would have sadly gotten on the plane feeling like a tramp. I trudge through to the hallway where Jon is lying straight on his back with nothing but a quilt as cushioning on the tiled floor. Luzen is up and about, dressed and ready for work, looking a lot brighter than the rest of us. As we gather our shit together Luzen’s dog Misty sits on Andy’s bag as he’s trying to pack it, I can sense the irritation in him, “Please, not now”, he grumbles in Swedish. We stand around on the large terrace outside Luzen’s kitchen, with a view of the hills surrounding Tijuana, slowly coming to life, watching Jon smoke a cigarette as we wait for the Uber to turn up.

Luzen jumps in the cab with us and we drop him off outside the university where he works as an English teacher. The traffic to the airport is pretty jammed but thankfully Luzen’s estimated “ten minutes” isn’t far off the mark. We check in the gear and head through security in time to grab some much needed breakfast before we take off for Mexico City. Johan seems a bit down, he’s been really quiet since we left. The fact that he hasn’t slept a wink probably not helping, or the fact that he bought a baseball for Billy at the airport and had it confiscated at security. I feel really bad for him, I get all sensitive about that stuff, and can imagine how sad I would feel if I’d bought a present for Polly and some bastard took it from me. Johan heads to Starbucks on his own for some breakfast whilst the other three of us take in some huevos rancheros at some little taqueria, which is in some little hole in the wall a little way back down the passage between the gates and the security check. Fucking banging and all, I feel a lot better after consuming it.

The flight takes around three hours and is very comfortable. I try my hardest to sleep through it but give up after and hour and half or so and order some coffee, spending the rest of the flight writing. I really should be studying if I’m going to seriously consider taking an exam on this current module I’m doing but I have a hard time motivating myself since the course content is excruciatingly mind numbing. It’s the first module in three terms that I haven’t found fun in the slightest and my will to fight through it has been weak. On the other hand, if there was one module I was going to miss a couple of weeks of to go and play shows in Mexico then it may as well be this one. I decide there and then that I’ll take the exam at a later date and order more coffee. Now that I’ve accepted sleep is not happening I decide to power up on the old java.

I have my forehead glued to the window as we descend into Mexico City. The guitarist in Bio Crisis said to me last night that it was quite an experience and he wasn’t lying. The airport is in the middle of the huge city that seemingly has no end. There is sprawl as far as you can see. Even the mountains surrounding the centre of the city are a collage of different colours from the shacks plastered up the sides of them. I’ve never seen anything like it. We wait what seems like an age for our baggage once we get to the collection area. It says “Tijuana - bags arriving” on the monitor but after twenty minutes there is still no sign of them. Eventually the siren signals and the belt starts moving but only one of the bags shows up before the belt stops again. About twenty minutes later the signal goes again and the belt jolts into action, this time delivering the guitars but when it stops again we’re still missing the big suitcase with Andy’s drums in. Sighing and huffing and puffing about the manjana-manjana attitude we wait around for the belt start again. After another twenty minutes or so the monitor changes message to another flight. “For fuck sakes, there’s always something..” I moan. Honestly, I appreciate the laid back attitude of the latino people, until you’re affected by it yourself.. I’m stood there philosophising about how us Swedes complain about how uptight we are as a nation and people but when it comes to it, we can’t handle the whole easy going lifestyle so embraced by the…I drift back into focus at the sound of Andy’s voice, “It was a kind of dark grey colour, kinda looks like that one there”, he’s saying, pointing at a big case stood right in front of us on the stationary belt. “Fuck! That’s the case!” Fucking thing must have been stood there the whole time we’d been moaning.

We head for the exit laughing to ourselves but it’s soon cut short by a little Nazi cop/security guard by the exit. He stops us in our tracks and starts grunting at us in Spanish. Tired and confused I try to talk to him as politely as I can but he just points at a sign above the exit which says “No trolleys beyond this point”. Fair enough, hadn’t noticed it, but we’ve got three trolleys worth of gear. We turn back to dump the trolleys back in the baggage collection area when the morose little cunt grabs Johan by the arm and pulls him back. Johan is way more tired than I am and is totally scoobied as to what is going on. Ridiculously, Mini Nazi is now pointing at another sigm “No re-entry beyond this point”, and gesturing to an imaginary line on the floor where Johan has supposedly crossed. I explain to Johan who looks like he’s about to snap and usher him back out, telling him we’ll get the gear. Mini Nazi doesn’t even looked chuffed with himself, which in a way would have helped, he just stands there staring forward like he despises the world. Utter, utter prick. Now the three of us have a shit load of gear to shunt over the magic line knowing that we only have one shot at making it. Absolute nonsense situation. Jon heaves the huge merch bag over his shoulder and then picks up a couple of guitars as well as one of our cabin bags, face red as a ripe tomato and shaking like a leaf in the wind, he wheezes, “Are you ready?” I do my best to stifle the laugh bursting to get out but it’s not easy. Mini Nazi looks like he won’t even fart in our direction as we pass him like three overloaded donkeys on the way out. I laugh, a loud exaggerated laugh, as I pass but him but he doesn’t give a shit. Makes me feel a little better if nothing else.

The day picks up decidedly from here on in though. We’re met by a smiling guy wearing a cap and reddish beard who calls himself Moncho. He tells us he’ll be looking after us. We all present ourselves one by one, both to Moncho, his girlfriend Bianca and another guy with long hair. Moncho seems to be very excited about us being here and very keen to make sure that anything we need will be taken care of. We’re not really expecting anything, just happy to be in Mexico City. There is supposed to be a hotel and I’m hoping that we'll be able to go there before the gig and drop our bags, maybe Johan can rest up and get some kip for a bit. Having flown through two time zones we’ve gained a couple of hours back and it’s only two thirty pm. Moncho, almost hopping with enthusiasm, asks, “Yo bros, are you hungry? You wanna go get some food before we go to the hotel? Some tacos bros?” We give a synchronized nod and chuffed as shit climb into the back of one of the two cars they’ve brought to pick us up. Moncho, who addresses us as “bro” every time he talks to one us of, tells us that his friend Omar will be driving us whilst we’re here, and that they’ll be chaperoning us around the city tomorrow since we have an extra day here, say they’ll take us wherever we want, but they’ll keep us in the safe spots. Sounds good. And a little ominous. But mostly good.

We get taken to a restaurant not far from the airport where we tuck into some great tasting tacos. The food is amazing in this land, the produce is so fresh and I love how all the food joints are rough and ready looking, no frills or bollocks, just great food. On top of the grub this place serves up some quite superb freshly squeezed fruit juices, my cantaloupe smoothie tastes like heaven as it dampens the fire of the hot sauce I ignorantly threw all over my food. We sit around talking for a while and then when we’re done Moncho perks up, “OK bros, hotel now?” As we drive away I mention what a great restaurant it was and the guy with the long hair driving says, “Yeah it’s a really good place. Dangerous neighbourhood though. You don’t wanna come here at night on your own”.

The hotel is not that far away, about fifteen minutes in the car, which in this city I guess counts as the same neighbourhood. I try to get an understanding of how big the city is, but Omar just laughs, “It’s a monster”. We have a three star hotel with a big room housing two double beds. Moncho tells us that they’ll come and pick us up around six thirty, which gives us a couple of hours to chill out. “Anything else you need bros? You need weed? Porn?” he says totally matter of factly, pointing at the tv. “Nja, football will do”, I say. The thought of the four of us sitting around the box watching scud flicks is a bizarre one. Moncho just laughs and tells us he’ll see us in a bit. I jump in the shower and stand there for about twenty minutes, absorbing the heat of it. Feels absolutely wonderful. Afterwards I enjoy the coolness of the bedsheets as I lie there for the next hour or so watching whatever on tv. Johan has taken the other bed and pulled the sheets over his head.

When we head over to the venue with the guys, Johan and Jon jump in the one car and Andy and I in the other. We pull up outside the venue and there are already a few punks hanging around outside the door on the sidewalk. Sounds like a band is soundchecking upstairs in the venue. Andy and I stand around on the street, taking in the vibe of the place. Down the street is a hole in the wall taqueria, and there are a few other bars and convenience stores dotted about. There is some weasley looking, thin haired, middle aged guy with a sinister look in his eye on the door. He’s checking the few punks that are straggling through the door. He’s told by Moncho that we’re okay as Andy and I walk in. Andy says to me, “They’re checking for weapons”. I hadn’t caught that at all but now Andy says it, it seems obvious. We head up the steep stairs to the venue and into the backstage room, which is behind the stage, which you have to walk over to get to. I find Johan and Jon sat there with huge styrofoam cups of beer, proper two hands to hold them jobs, looking as guilty as a pair of puppies sat next to two piles of poo. Apparently they ordered a beer each and this is what they were given.

The venue, Salon Bolivar, is pretty big, kind of long, with the high stage taking up the entire back wall at one end of the long room. Moncho says that if they get one hundred and fifty people in here on a Monday night they’ll be pleased. So would we, but I do wonder how they do the math. I mean, they’re paying for our flights back to LA on Wednesday and a hotel for two nights. Maybe, I don’t know. A hundred fifty in here would look pretty good anyway, especially with the lights off.

The first band soundchecks and then plays their set not long after, doors obviously opening somewhere in between. It’s pretty tame grindcore, enhanced most likely by the fact that the fifty or so people in the place are all stood at the back leaving a huge gulf between themselves and the band. Feel a bit bad for them, they look a bit lonely. Andy and I head outside, he says he needs to eat something before it’s too close to showtime. We walk down to the street and there are quite a few punks hanging around outside, just chilling. I’m a bit surprised by how many there are and think to myself that if everyone goes inside later on then we’ll have a pretty fucking good gig. Or is this a London Scum Punk carry on, where the punx turn up to the gig only to sit outside and complain about beer prices in the venue, boycotting most of the night. Anyway, Andy spots that little taqueria on the corner of the big junction at the end of the block and so we both start walking towards it. Out of nowhere Moncho comes running up behind us, “Yo bros! Where are you going?” I innocently answer that we’re just gonna go for a walk around the block, stretch the old pegs, get some grub. “No, no bros, you can’t go walking around here. It’s not safe”. Fuck me. Would’ve been typical of me walking into the middle of Gangland looking for a fucking taco. Fucking clueless.

We assure Moncho we won’t go anywhere and when he tentatively walks back to the club, keeping an eye on us, the two of us discuss the risk factor and probability of being murdered somewhere during the twenty meters or so to the taqueria. We decide it’s probably safe. We also decide not to mention any of this to Johan as it will freak him out. I skip the taco and enjoy watching Andy trying to converse with the old boy and his wife in the little Spanish he knows. He gets there in the end anyway. The old couple seem pretty entertained by us.

I grab a pack of cookies and some Doritos for dinner and take them with me back into the club. There is this young d-beat band from El Salvador on stage now, Distrust. They’re in Mexico on a nine date tour. Their first time outside of El Salvador. Really cool to meet them. They’re pretty rudimentary but have a certain charm about them. As we’re stood by the merch stand watching them this punk comes up to us with his little boy, can’t be any more than four years old, cute as anything. His dad wants him to meet us. He’s so sweet, big brown eyes on him, we shake his hand, he even gives me a little fist pump. I could properly melt. Andy smiles and looks over at me, “Can really make you homesick when you meet cute kids on tour”. No shit.

It’s getting hot in here as the venue gradually fills, the amount of people in here soon making it impossible for them all to be crammed in together at the back if the room, they’ll have to move forward towards the stage sooner or later. Andy and I head out for a little air again, and find Jon there smoking a cig. “Fuuuuck. I just came out here and saw about thirty cops, all gunned up, charge into the house opposite! Fucking mental. Nobody here even seemed to give a shit, just stood around smoking”. “Don’t tell Johan!” Andy and I reply in chorus.

The third band of the night are called Sacrificio. I’m attracted to them straight away. The guitarist/singer looks like a Mexican Andy Dahlström and the bass player looks like a Mexican Christoffer Röstlund. One wearing a Barcelona shirt, the other wearing an army beret and a white Wretched shirt. They look the biz. And sound it. Totally chaotic punk, sounding at times indeed like Barcelona, but ten times faster. So fucking good. Halfway through the first song and Andy has joined me in front of the stage, looking chuffed. I enjoy every minute of them, the singer guy has so much energy, beating the shit out of his guitar the entire set. Now I’m really pumped up to play myself. Only thing is, there is another grind band on before we get to do that. Nice guys, certainly, I’d chatted to them earlier, but not really my thing. Jon is sat at the merch, nodding his head in appreciation though. Much more his thing. Moncho asks him if he likes them, saying they’re his friends. “I once was a grind freak”, answers Jon. Moncho is friends with the Sacrificio guys too and he arranges us to swap shirts and records, although we buy the records.

We stand and linecheck a while in front of the crowd which has now nicely filled out this place. It’s not always great sorting sound out in front of a crowd but they don’t seem to mind, patiently waiting for us and cheering when Andy occasionally goes into a d-beat. There are people right up against a barrier in front of the stage now. We’re ready. I have a feeling this is going to be good. The feeling proves to be correct.

Everything on stage, at least for me, sounds great. I’m blasting through the first couple of songs, hot as hell up here, don’t know how long I’m going to be able to keep that level up, but I just go with it whilst it lasts. Have to laugh when during the third song my sound dies and I assume the cable from my pedal has been ripped lose but then I notice that a hi-hat cymbal has landed on the tuning pedal and turned it on, cutting the sound. I’d noticed the cymbal innocently leaning against the wall by my pedals before we started but hadn’t really questioned it. Bianca, Moncho’s girlfriend, is also stood on stage taking photos for the first few songs, caught up in the buzz of it, she doesn’t notice Johan trying to tune his bass between songs, too polite to say that she’s kind of stood in the pedals. She heads to the side after four or five songs though and stands next to Moncho, the two of them looking happy as pigs in shit.

The whole set is an absolute blast, the crowd getting more and more riled up as the set develops. And me too. When Johan actually does rip a cable out of his pedal, just as the first verse to Killing is about to start, I spontaneously grab the mic and take over the vocals for the first verse and chorus. It’s totally without thought. I’ve never, ever sung on stage before, didn’t know I could. It just happened, got caught up in the buzz of it. It seemed like it sounded okay as well. Jon and Andy have huge smiles on their faces after the song. We end the set with My Eyes, to a vicious circle pit and we’re then called back on for one more and finish with Your Life is Red. Great show. Everyone made up with it. In the back room after the gig, after the usual high five from Jon and cracking open a bottle of beer that Moncho has come running in with, I look to the guys, “Well guys, we’ve now played Mexico City. Fuck me. Never thought I’d say that”.

We spend the best part of the next hour taking photos with punks and signing their records. It starts to feel ridiculous after a while. But there are so many cool people who are a pleasure to meet and talk to. It’s been a long time since I felt a buzz like this after a show. Andy and I hang out for a while with the Sacrificio and Distrust guys in the back stage too, talking shit and finding out more about the Mexico City scene as well as the Salvador one, which the Distrust guys tells me barely exists, that it's fighting for attention in the shadow of bad metal. When the venue closes Moncho is buzzing around, “Yo bros, you want some beer, or back to the hotel? The venue is closing soon but you can stay and drink for a little while bros”. With the venue starting to empty and the house lights on, all of a sudden the thought of heading back to the hotel, grabbing a couple of beers and some crisps on the way back from 7 Eleven and having our own little party seems very appealing.

Omar gives us a lift back and waits for us whilst we buy booze and snacks and then drops us off at the hotel around midnight. Perfect. He’s coming to pick us up tomorrow at eleven for a day of sightseeing, whilst Jon has actually arranged a travel day to the pyramids with some Slovenian guy he met at the gig tonight. He’s off early in the morning. I’ve never been to Mexico City though, and as much as I’m sure the pyramids will be mind blowing, I don’t want a day of sitting in the car tomorrow. We have a long enough journey home the day after, and besides, I love checking out big cities.

When we get back to the hotel room I grab a quick shower, and then all clean and cosy, just like when I was a kid in pyjamas after Sunday night bath, I settle down onto the couch. We bought a couple of six packs and an array of crisps. We toast each other and tuck in whilst watching a bit of tv. It could have been something to head out in town tonight and get in to some crazy party or scene or something, but those situations don't really appeal that much to me anymore, not like they did fifteen years ago, and quite honestly, it’s perfectly nice just sitting here with the guys enjoying a couple of beers in front of the box. Just the four of us. 

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