Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Erica

For once, we decided to take the comfortable option. When we played Holland last month, we were barely in the country for twenty four hours. Andy seemed to be chuffed with that arrangement, but I wasn’t so sure. Getting up at five in the morning to travel home is not my idea of a good time, or a break from the day to day, which in my mind is what playing in the band is supposed to be.

This time would be perfect. Playing with both bands at a festival, flying in the day before and staying with Jos and Gerard in Amersfoort, and then flying home in the afternoon the day after the gig. I had a deadline on some coursework to hand in the day we were going, so opted for the five thirty flight to Amsterdam. Given that Victims flights were being paid for by the festival I could choose the slightly more expensive option and get away with it, so Jon and I were on that. Luc and Vik were taking a cheaper flight earlier on in the afternoon, and Kev was arriving around six pm on the old Easyjet shabang. The DB guys love to take the piss when they get the opportunity, calling Victims rock stars etc, so I took full advantage and hammed up the situation with having our flights booked for us. Of course, at the end of the day, my flight being covered by Victims gig made our travel costs cheaper with DB.

Anyway, the plan was that Luc and Vik were landing at three thirty, so they’d wait for Kev to arrive at six and then take the train together to Jos’ place, where Jon and I would meet them later, since we arrived at seven thirty. The original plan was for the lot of us to enjoy the night in Amsterdam but we’d missed that it happened to be King’s Day, which apparently is the biggest, craziest holiday piss-up on the Dutch calendar, and all the hotels were either booked or insanely expensive. Jos and Gerard offered to put us up at their place, which turned out to be a far nicer idea than hanging out in the Dam in a swarm of pissheads in orange. Jos was curating the stage we were playing on at the festival too, so it made sense to stay with him and then we’d all make our way to the gig together.

It was a very comfortable journey to Schiphol, except for carrying the heavy merch bag. Jon and I took turns with the fucker, carrying it from my place to the tube, to the commuter train, to the check in desk. It was a pain in the ass but watching Jon’s bright red face, shaking as he struggled along the road, hunched over like Quasimodo, made taking my turn with the twenty kilo bag worth while. Jon said it felt like he had cancer when he dumped the bag for the final time. When we landed I got a text on the DB chat group from Luc, saying they were still at the airport waiting for Kev. They seemed to be in good spirits despite having been at the airport for almost five hours by this point. It was the first time Luc had properly been away from his family since Debbie was born and he was cracking jokes, asking Kev where was, saying they were already drunk and were taking turns on the massage chairs etc. I cracked up at first, but then started to worry about Kev, since he’d texted three hours before saying he was boarding. It was only a forty five minute flight. Luc and Vik were both writing, saying that Kev’s phone was going straight to voicemail. Vik was making cracks, calling Kev senile and saying he was probably lost. I was just on the verge of going into some dark thoughts, worrying for real about Kev’s flight, and thinking to check the news to see if anything had happened with any flights that day, when Vik texted, the jovial tone now completely vanquished. - Located Kev. He’s already at Jos’ place. I kid you fucking not!

This threw me into a fit of laughter, the thought of those two waiting around for hours for Kev, only for the old bastard to get straight on the train and leave them behind. Vik was far from amused. - I’m glad I booked the day of for this! 1000kr down to spend the day at the fucking airport!

I was still laughing when we came out of customs to where Vik and Luc were waiting for us, Vik shaking his head in disgust. Kev reckons his phone battery died and he couldn’t find them, so he just got on the train. He was now enjoying dinner and a beer with Jos and Gerard. Although he’d even fucked that up. Gerard was supposed to pick Kev up at Amersfoort train station, but he’d gotten straight on the bus. He seems to have been having a hard time keeping up with the programme recently, we’d gone through the plan a bunch of times a couple of days before, but it seemingly passed Kev by. Maybe he is going senile… He is fifty in a couple of weeks time…

The remaining four of us arrived in Amersfoort just after nine. We crammed into Gerard’s car and made our way to their place. We were greeted by Jos and Kev, the former with a beaming smile emanating from his face, the latter wearing a wry, puppy-sat-next-to-a-pile-of-poo smile on his. All is forgotten as we sit down to dinner though. Gerard has made an absolutely superb pie of satay sauce and puff pastry, it’s absolutely heavenly. We sit there and munch down on it whilst drinking our way through and array of fine ales that Jos has bought in. Kev and Luc stick to the pissy lager, whilst Jon, who hasn’t had a drop for about six months, sits at the end of the table working on his new obsession, beads and jewelry. We sit there like that, for about five hours, listening to music and chatting away whilst Jon drinks coffee after coffee as he makes a necklace for Kev.

Kev tells us that his flight to Amsterdam was the most turbulent flight he’s ever been on, proper rollercoaster of a ride. He’s normally a good flyer but he said he was shitting himself this time around, as was the rest of the passengers on board. At least it was only forty five minutes, although it was forty five minutes of hell, as Kev put it. This has me thinking already about our flight home on Sunday. I wish I could shake this malign feeling that follows me on all flights these days, and return to the blase attitude I used to have towards flying. I think it’s definitely something that has developed since I became a parent. That worry. It’s always there. Not enough to disable you in any way, just enough hanging around in the back of your mind to disturb you a little.

It’s around three am by the time we decide to call it a night. Jon, wired on coffee, asks if he can sleep on the sofa in the living room, says he feels like watching some TV. Vik and I crash in the walk-in wardrobe upstairs, which is in actual fact just a bedroom like any other, but being that Jos and Gerard are in the DINK category of fifty-somethings, that is “double income, no kids”, a new piece of terminology I heard recently, they have such a huge accumulation of clothes and sneakers that they require their own room. Gerard assures me most of the stuff belongs to Jos. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many pairs of New Balance sneakers outside of a shoe store. On top of that he's got about five hundred band t-shirts. Jealous as fuck. If I was part of a DINK dyad I’d be exactly the same. How I'd love to systemise those shirts for him...

I wake up on stretched out on the wonderfully comfortable queen-size blow up bed, it’s like lying on a cloud, and could be tempted to lie there all day. The smell of breakfast that Jos is cooking up downstairs pulls me up into the day though. Vik is lying on a smaller inflatable mattress by my feet. He mentions how cold it is in the room. I look at through the curtain at the window and see that it’s fully wide open. I hadn’t thought about it, being that I like a cool room to sleep in. Downstairs Kev is already up, munching on bangers and scrambled eggs. Jos has put on a bit of spread, with smoothies, coffee, croissants and the fry up. I couldn’t imagine a better way to start the day. Jon is in a deep sleep on the sofa, not even slightly disturbed by the sound of us talking, or the records Jos is spinning. I swear, the fucker would sleep through a nuclear war. After we’ve eaten and showered I give Jon a nudge, guessing he’ll want to accompany us into town this afternoon. He startles awake, a little surprised by the time and the status. Jos asks him if he watched anything decent on TV. Jon shakes his head and says that the signal went literally the second we all went upstairs. I crack up at the thought of him staring at a black screen, buzzed on caffeine.

Jon comes to life after a coffee and a cigarette and we all head into town. It’s a really pretty little city this, it has these canals running through it like pretty little veins, all the houses in the suburbs with verandas at the end of their back gardens, sitting next to the water. Jos takes pleasure in giving us the tourist guide around the center, pointing out the city’s and the local punk scenes historic points of interest. We walk around for a couple of hours, checking out record shops, beer shops, chip shops, toy shops, book shops and a few antique stores, which seems to be Jon’s big new thing. And of course we accommodate for his big old thing, the coffee shop. He hasn’t had a drop of booze for about six months now, but he’s not adverse to eating a block of hash, which he does before we sit down outside a bar on one of the squares next to an old church, which rings it’s bells for about ten minutes, each hour, on the hour.

We order in some hipster beers and grub, but Jon is off again before long. Another antique store to be explored. Stoned off his tits. After a while Andy calls to let us know they landed so we drink up and make our way back to Jos and Gerard’s place. The guys are coming by to pick us up on the way. Jon returns just as we’re paying up, chuffed that he’s found some artefact or other to make a neck chain out of, or something.

The guys arrive around five thirty, as does our good friend Ronald, who is also coming along today. Another old friend, Drette, is in the van with the guys. He’s playing with The Lurking Fear tonight. He’s sat in the back with a very familiar, Finspång smile on his face.

It’s around seven when we get to the festival site, which means we’ve got about an hour until we need to be on the stage for soundcheck. DB is on at eight-thirty. It’s a cosy, little festival, set up by a golfing resort up in the north east of the country. All the bands are staying at the hotel belonging to the course, so we check in there and leave our stuff in the rooms. It’s only a five minute walk between the hotel room and the stage. Couldn’t be any better. I share with Luc, sensing that Kev and Vik are going on the piss tonight, I figure it’s best they share. Luc seems pretty chuffed with the room. He’s even more chuffed when we head over to the stage and he finds a box of hand towels for the stage.

“Now I understand why Victims stick to this format!” he says, pointing at the towels. I laugh, and welcome him to the big time. “It’s really good though, init? This level of gig” he continues, seemingly genuinely impressed. It’s as if his eyes have been opened to a new world. He packs two towels down into his bag, says he’s taking them home for Anja and Debbie.

Soundcheck is pain free and quick, like ripping off a plaster. The guy doing sound is this gigantic, shaven headed fellow who is chirpy as fuck. He literally fires through the channels. “Snare drum, thank you very much. Tom, thank you very much,” and so on. We’re done after about five minutes. The stage itself is the smaller of the two at the festival, inside a tent. There are probably around three hundred people in by the time we begin to play.

It’s the first DB gig for about six months, so a bit of rustiness is to be expected. But on the whole I’m pretty fucking chuffed with it. I have to motion to Vik a few times to slow the pace down a bit, but the gig feels pretty fucking good. And sections of the crowd seem to be really into it, which is nice considering nobody really knows who we are. We should have been playing a lot earlier in the day, but our travel arrangements forced them to have a rethink on set times, which worked out pretty well for us I guess. After the gig, there are a few people shouting for freebies, and another is beckoning Kev over to him, shouting, “You are really talented!” I’m not sure if he’s taking the piss or not. Jos certainly is, though. He can’t quite believe I had the gaul to match striped socks and checkered Vans shoes on stage.

Ronald comes up to the stage after the gig and says he has a Ruidosa Inmundicia t-shirt and a Blood Pressure lp for me in his car, that he released on his label a couple of years back. I take a walk with him and enjoy the fresh air and the chat along the way. We head back to the merch tent afterwards and hang out with the other Victims guys. Jos, Kev and Vik disappear to some stall selling a higher level of beer than the regular Amstel tent, although I’m not sure what Kev will be doing over there, whilst Luc and I hang out and chat to a couple of people. Some girl comes up to Luc and says that we were the highlight of the day, which is nice to hear.

I’ve got a couple of hours until the Victims set, so I head to the food stall and grab my Dutch favourite, chips and satay sauce. Luc joins me. As we’re stood there waiting for the food a trio of absolute fuck heads come barging into us, just mincing everyone out of the way as they pile on the gabb with the girl working in the stall. Big, shaven headed mongos, fucking assholes. I hate these types. Obviously they’re drunk, but that doesn’t excuse being a cunt.

Victims play last on the tent stage, around about eleven. The chripy soundguy is even more into his stride now and tells us he'll have linecheck done in three minutes. Whilst we're waiting for Andy to get his kit ready I blast out the solo to Brothers in Arms, which sounds awesome. It's mainly for Luc's sake, who is stood there out front to give a lending ear. Even though he's shaking his head and laughing at me like I'm a wanker, I can tell he's impressed. The tent is pretty full by the time we put the intro track on and Vik, Kev and Jos are stood behind my amp. We have a really good show. Vik keeps giving me sips of cold, standard lager between song blocks, which tastes like heaven in the heat of the stage lamps. It always gives me an extra buzz, playing on stage with your mates hanging out with you. Kev is pretty fucking boats by the time we come off. “Gaz, for the first time tonight, I understood those new songs,” he says, eyes slightly squiffed behind his glasses, newly purchased with the money he got from the Iron Monkey shows, referring to the two brand new songs in the set. “They were shit, but I understood them”, he punch-lined, looking totally chuffed with himself. He will repeat this another seven or eight times throughout the rest of the evening.

We all gather again by the merch tent, the night sky having released a slight drizzle upon the festival. Bloodbath, which apparently is the singer from Paradise Lost, who our old friend Olle is doing the sound for, are playing on the bigger stage. They sound pretty shite. Well, they sound good since Olle is working on them, but they sound shite… Both Kev and Vik are pretty fucking bollocksed by this point, even Jos has a cheeky twinkle in his eye. They’ve been on the strong ale. Well not Kev, he’s just been throwing the Amstel down. He’s complaining that he hasn’t got any more beer tokens left. Luc tries helping him out, with absolutely no thanks in return.

“Those poncey fucking Toilet Duck beers, you only get a small glass” Kev moans.

“For two tokens you can get a big glass of the Amstel Kev,” Luc points out.

“I’ve only got one fucking token left,” Kev, barely grunting.

“I’ve got a token, you can have that”, says Luc, handing him a little plastic coin.

“Fuck off”. Kev, end of conversation. Very silly conversation, at that.

It’s soon time to head back to the hotel anyway. I’m getting tired and it’s getting cold, but I fancy a little beer in the warmth of the hotel bar before bed time. There’s something about an open bar that I find extremely positive. We say bye to Jos and Ronald, thanking Jos for everything. It’s been great to hang out with them. And with that, we pack up the gear and walk back to the hotel.

The bar is venue to a Who’s Who of Swedish punk and metal, and as much as I’m friendly with a lot of the faces in here I’m already too tired to properly engage, and so sit contentedly with Luc and enjoy a relaxing beer. Andy and Johan are beside me but mainly in conversation with Tompa Lindberg, Vik, Kev and Drette are on the other side of me but they’re all pretty wankered, especially Kev and Drette. Vik is mainly looking tired by this point. Some British girl has latched onto Kev and is trying her best to start up a convo with him, but he’s being particularly awkward. She tells him that he sounds British to which he replies, “That’s because I am British!”. This seems to provide her with some hope of common ground.

“Where you from?” she asks him. Retford, he tells her, too drunk to apply any manners to his tone. He can keep it together enough to at least return the gesture and ask where she’s from.

“Cirencester”, she happily replies.

“Where the fuck’s that?” Kev barks, seeming genuinely oblivious. With that she walks away. She doesn’t even bother with Drette since he can barely talk.

I only have the one before deciding to head to bed. The one was all I really needed. Kev says he’ll soon be heading off himself, but then another beer gets put into his hand. “Gaz, for the first time tonight, I understood your new songs…”

I wake up feeling fresh and rested. I fell asleep sometime around two-thirty, CNN humming lowly on the TV, Lucas soundly away in the bed beside. We get showered and head down to breakfast where Johan and Andy are already tucking in to the old continental faire. There is no sight of Vik or Kev, so when we’re done we go knock their door. Vik answers wearing nothing but his kecks and a grimace as Kev comes darting out of the bathroom behind him, hair all over the place, looking like a confused witch. Vik mumbles that they’ll be down in five minutes. We tell them the bus will be here any minute.

The organisers have booked a coach that’s taking about six or seven of the Swedish bands from the Fest back to Schiphol. Drette is playing power ballads through these little speakers he has whilst supping on a bottle of rosé. The bottle is being passed around but I don’t need any of it. I could do without the power ballads and all, to be honest.

Whilst on route Jos texts me and tells me that there has been a huge blackout at Schiphol earlier on in the morning, which has caused huge amounts of delays. We all start checking our phones for information, fearing the worst, but it seems to be that our flight is okay. Luc and Vik are on a later flight though, and theirs is delayed an hour and a half. That pair have spent a lot of time at the airport this weekend. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t tickle me when we got here on Friday but today I feel genuine concern for them. I feel bad for leaving them behind, and I hope their flight won’t be delayed any longer than it is. I feel especially bad for Luc, being away from his baby daughter for real for the first time. I know exactly how he must be feeling.