Saturday, April 27, 2019

London



The van was parked around the side of the pub. It was a miserable morning. Cold, grey, and a drizzle that stealthily soaked you to the bone. Frank’s bright red face certainly lit the scene up a little, though. Despite the weather, he was in fine spirits. In fact, he was fucking wasted. He’s sat in the back of the van, shouting, a lot, about how he hasn’t slept a wink. Been on the cocktails all night, as well as some other shit, I imagine. I sit up front with Daz and Walpole, to gain as much distance as the van will allow from the constant cacophony that is Reagan.

His moods divebombs rapidly south, though, when Tony turns up, minus John. Poor Tone, ever was it thus… Just because he’s his brother, everyone expects him to have some sort of a check on him. When Franks barks at Tony, asking him where John is, Tony just laughs. “How the fuck should I know?” I remember even in the early days of the band, when the two Loughlin brothers were made to travel down to London to do press, Bianchi telling me that when he went to pick them up from St. Pancras that they’d alighted at opposite ends of the train… Frank is not amused by John’s piss poor punctuality, which in turn amuses Daz and I. The volume of Reagan only escalates when Gordon calls John and is told that he’s at Gregg’s buying breakfast. Frank erupts in a barrage of exasperation, “Nothing fucking changes, does it?” Followed by, “Still wiping his arse after all these years Gaz!” Then silence for a couple of seconds. And then, “Nonsense CUNT!” Daz and I piss ourselves laughing as Frank sits there shaking his head. Just then an ambulance flashes past the car park, sirens wailing. “There he is!” Frank parps up again, and with that he returns to amused with himself. I’m still laughing at Nonsense Cunt…

John and American George turn up five minutes later, by which time there is only a whiff of annoyance left in Reagan. I assume he’ll pass out as soon as we hit the road. I assume wrong. But he’s back in good spirits for the entire journey down to London, him and Daz tucking into a couple of tins on the way. Until we get to the outskirts of the capital city. “Fucking hate this place…” he mutters in disdain.

The weather hasn’t picked up any by the time we arrive outside the back of the Electric Ballroom in Camden. The situation with Polly has improved a little, at least, but speaking to Jen she still isn’t sure if she’s going to be able to leave her with Lindsey tonight. She hasn’t puked since last night, which I guess is a good sign. It would fucking suck if Jen couldn’t make it to the show tonight. Polly had really been looking forward to playing with Lindsey and Leon’s boys, as well. Kids and sickness...always the worst fucking timing. Jen is toying with the idea of coming by the venue with Polly to hang out for a while in the daytime, which would be really nice, too. She says she doesn’t have to check out from the hotel for another couple of hours, so we’ll see how the little cub is then.

With not much to do, we head inside and up to the tiny dressing room to check out the rider. Dressing rooms in London venues are always tiny, no matter the size of the venue. Don’t get it. The rider is healthy, though. Chuffed that they went to the trouble of putting on some vegan scran. I make myself a sandwich and take a handful of crisps and sit myself down next to George. It had been great to see him last night, but he was a little wiry since he was stoned off his tits. Today he’s in better form. It’s great catching up with him, it’s been years. We used to be really close when he toured with us back in the early days. I’m glad to see that he hasn’t changed a bit, still the same old pisstaker, Frank his main target, as usual.

Gordon makes a point of saying to Big Jim in front of everyone else that he doesn’t want the dressing room filled with hangers-on, rinsing the rinder later in the evening. Just partners and old crew. He says he’ll be fucking fuming if there’s no beer left after the show. I can’t imagine who he’s making the point to…

With no soundcheck in the foreseeable future I decide to head over to All Ages records to do a bit of shopping. Daz tells me he’ll gladly follow, so the two of us head off. Again, it’s nice to hang out with Daz, just the two of us, for a while. When he’s not drunk, and he’s on his own, he’s pretty chilled. I pick up the re-release of the Negazione 7” that Paco put out on La Vida Es En Mus a while back, which I’m pretty chuffed to get my hands on. Daz buys himself a copy of the latest Church of Misery album. Always like coming to the store when I’m around, picked up a lot of good punk records here over the years. Whilst we’re stood there flicking through records some random guy comes up to me and tells me he’s a big fan of the blog, says he’s been reading it for years. I’m always taken aback in these situations, it’s always really humbling to meet strangers who like the stuff you’re doing. Daz looks a bit confused by the whole situation. Afterwards we walk back down the road and stop in for a pint at the Camden Head, which I know has my favourite tipple on tap, Beavertown Brewery’s Gamma Ray IPA. I treat myself and Daz to a pint.

After a while a couple of older Corby lads turn up and start talking a lot. From what I can make out, one is Daz’s father in law, the other is his step-father-in-law, or something like that. They’re friendly enough but I get the feeling they have their sights set firmly on getting sauced up. I finish my pint and leave the three of them to it. It was nice hanging with Daz for a while, anyway.

By the time I get back to the venue Jen has texted and says that Polly has perked up quite a bit and wants to go to Leon and Lindsey’s, so they’re on their way to the train now. Then Jen and Leon will head back into the city. It’s a big relief, both over Polly feeling better and Jen being able to make the gig tonight. She has been on the Speedhorn journey almost as long as I have and I really wanted her to be there tonight.

John has a friend with him who he has brought along to take some band photos of us. She seems friendly enough, but I can’t help thinking that this could easily become a hassle. I know the guys and how hard it is getting everyone to gather and stand still for two minutes. I also want the day to be as stress free as possible, and I can sense that this might lead to obstructing that aim.

We stand around on the big stage, with all signs suggesting that we’ll soon be ready for soundcheck. I take a look out at the venue and reflect over the past, back to a short window of time when we were much younger and we were headlining venues of this size. I haven’t played a headlining show of this magnitude for a long time, although we’ve played to some very large crowds with Victims at festivals over the years, but this type of gig isn’t really part of the agenda anymore for me. I get a slight shudder looking out at the huge room. This is going to be fun. For one night only.

Unfortunately Daz is striding back towards his worst side already. From what I can make out he’s been drinking since we left this morning, as has Frank, although it doesn’t seem to affect him as negatively. He just turns into a big loud tool, and it’s fun for the most part. Daz always seems to go a bit darker. He shuffles up behind me, bass strapped over his shoulder, eyes slightly glazed, and asks, “When are we doing the photo shoot with this tart, then?” I could swear he thinks he’s in a Guy Ritchie film. I ask him why he’s talking like that, and tell him he sounds like fucking Alf Garnett and I don’t think it’s funny. Not for the first time this weekend, Daz looks at me confused.

After soundcheck we get around to taking the pics, and it goes by without much hassle. There is a lot of chirping, but it’s all piss taking focused within the group. It’s yet another flashback to a time gone by. How many times have I done this routine with this lot, I wonder. It’s now that the real reunion-theme of the day will begin in earnest.



The Scurge guys have turned up, as well as Charger. To have Jay and Little Dave here playing, as well as Jim in Charger, all three having played a part or still playing a part in the Speedhorn story, as well as those two bands as a whole, means a lot to me. It’s nice having everyone who ever played in the band on stage in some form tonight. Everyone except Kev. I really wished Kev would have been here. He’s at some witch convention in Sheffield, or something.

Everyone else is waiting over the road at the World’s End pub. Bianchi has booked out the balcony above the bar for the gig party tonight. It’s wonderful to see everyone. Bianchi, Carter and his family, Doug and his wife Jo, George and some other old Corby friends. Our friend Richey who used to play in Shaped by Fate and then A Thousand Arrows with Gordon, who now is one of the most sought after artists in the music industry, is there too. It’s great seeing him, such a lovely guy. It’s a nice story that, in Richey’s own words, the Victims album cover he did a few years ago kind of got him on his way. On top of everything, he’s a great person and it’s lovely to catch up with him. Everyone, except Kev, who’d I hoped to see tonight, is either here or on their way. There is only one person that is truly conspicuous in their absence, and that is Roddy, our long suffering roadie and mentor. Frank had texted him yesterday and asked if he was coming to the gig. “No. Because of the shit with the Corby gig before”, was his simply worded answer. I have no idea what that particular beef is about, it’s in reference to something from the latest period of the band that I wasn’t involved in. The fucker sure can hold a grudge, though.

It really is great seeing everyone else. It’s like being back at a high school reunion with your closest friends. There is a buzz in the air, it feels like everyone is pretty excited about seeing the original line up of the band one last time. I don’t think anyone would ever have imagined it was something they’d see again. Bianchi is visibly delighted. He’s been buzzing about this night since we agreed to it over six months ago. It’s nice having the chance to speak to Carter and his partner, as well as his parents. His dad is over promoting a book he’s written on the decline of various industrial cities, former giants now sleeping. It sounds really interesting, right up my street, and I’ve been on at Carter for a copy. It’s great speaking to them. More than anything, though, it’s great speaking to Doug. We were really close during the time he was our tour manager, but we lost touch after it all fell apart. He was one of the funniest people I’d ever met and I’m delighted to see that hasn’t changed. He still has that cheeky smirk plastered to his face.

Jen and Leon arrive just before Scurge go on stage, which is not that long after doors. Our old friend Slaven is here, too. Two of the people from my first bands in Corby, and still two of my finest friends. I’m glad they could be here for this show. I’m happiest of all, though, that Jen is here. Watching Scurge is a buzz, they were always a vastly underrated band. I’ve been watching them since they were fifteen years old, it was great to see them up on the big stage. Jen is chuffed, she always loved them. It’s funny looking at Jay and Dave, what a journey we’ve had together. It’s funny, because as much as this show tonight is about the original line up of the band, I have some of my happiest memories from the era of the band when Jay and Dave were playing with us.

Afterwards we’re hanging around in a little room with a couple of sofas, just behind the stage. It’s all hugs and kisses. It is a little awkward, though, no denying that. It was only a couple of weeks ago that both Jay and Jim, who is playing next with Charger, left Speedhorn. The situation with Dave is unclear. He’s still officially the bass player, but with his brother now gone, that might change. Fucking soap opera, as always.

It’s starting to get busier now and there are more and more people buzzing around the backstage area. Precisely as Gordon had feared, Daz and his Corby clan of four, his wife and her best mate have now joined the two dad-in-laws, have completely besieged the dressing room and swarming over the rider like flies on shit. I can’t be arsed, so keep myself downstairs. Gordon is getting more and more angry about everything, though. As a tension-reliever, Doug comes to the fore. One of the production people wade through the crowd in the tight room and start asking people for their passes, obviously wanting to clear the space a bit. Doug doesn’t have one, or if he does, he refuses to show it. He simply points at his face and making a circling motion around his coupon, and says, “This is my pass. It’s the only pass you need to worry about”. The promotion bloke looks flummoxed by the giant Scotsman and leaves.

To add to the ingredients of the already vastly incenstious mix, Frank is now singing with Charger. I have to say, the big lump impresses me. Despite the fact he’s been drinking since four pm yesterday, and taking fuck knows what besides to perk him up, he still puts in a monster performance on stage. His fucking pipes just seem to get stronger with age. Fucking respect to him. He always puts on a show, no matter what condition he’s in. The first time I saw Speedhorn without me, as in the first time I went to a show after they’d reunited, Jen and I had bumped into Frank in the pub in the afternoon and he’d almost fallen into me. He had white powder in his moustache and a piss stain on his crotch. He somehow still put in a banging performance that night. I’m happy he’s not quite as bad as that tonight, though, despite the incredible innings with the booze.

Charger put on a great show. We toured with these guys a lot back in the day, and although there aren’t many members left from back then, it’s brilliant to see Jim and Jez up there again, with their first love. I couldn’t have imagined anyone better to take over my position in the band than Jim. We had some great times together. I’ll never forget the time he crashed at my parents house one time, and he was absolutely wankered by the time we got back. For some reason my mum and dad had this stuffed squirrel on the wall of the stairs and Jim couldn’t get past it, he thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen, at that moment in time anyway. Then the next day my mum had put on a huge fry-up breakfast for us, giving it the usual Smith-family hospitality they were known and loved for, and Jim was so hungover he couldn’t bring himself to eat it. He was exhausted with anxiety by the end of the ordeal. My parents had seen it all before, though. Even if it’s all a bit up in the air at the minute with Jim and Speedhorn, I get the feeling he’ll be back in the band again soon. I hope so.

Crowbar were on after Charger. It was a bit of a random slot on the bill, more to do with the promoter than anything, I guess. We barely saw them all day and nobody exchanged as much as a sentence with them. It was a bit of mismatch for them, maybe. They probably felt like the outsiders at the party, which is what they were in all honesty. I didn’t see them but apparently they made remarks along those lines before they started the show. Fuck knows. I’d had a mild interest in them once upon a time, but nothing that did anything to excite me enough to watch them tonight. But it might have been different if the occasion wasn’t what it was tonight, and we weren’t on stage right after them.

As they played, we retreated to the small dressing room upstairs, Big Jim had told the Daz party in no uncertain terms to clear the room. One of the dad’s had actually asked Tony who he was as he helped himself to a bottle of what they apparently assumed to be their rider. It was fucking nice to get rid of everyone. Now it was just the band, Jen, Katy and the crew. It was time to concentrate on the job at hand.

As we walked down the narrow staircase to the back of the stage, I could really feel the buzz starting to rise inside me. It had been a long time since I’d played what felt like a “concert”, as opposed to a punk gig. We made our way through a passageway of smiles, Bianchi at the end of the line, like a chuffed dad. We gathered behind the curtain at the back of the stage. The lights went down, and the crowd erupted into a familiar chant, “Raging fucking Speedhorn! Raging fucking Speedhorn!” It sounded more like a football match than a gig. It was amazing to be part of this one more time.

We walked on, and, even though I’d heard it was pretty much sold out, I was still blown away by the size of the crowd. A sea of faces and arms held aloft. I looked down to the front at my side of the stage and saw Jen, Leon, Slaven and Richey, all with huge smiles on their faces. Another mate, Jimmy, had flew over from Sweden, and he was at the front on the other side. I’d only had the one beer during the day, but this feeling right now would top any booze rush. My whole body, from the tips of my limbs, was tingling…

And then Gordon counted in Deathrow Dogs and the place erupted. I don’t think anyone was expecting us to start with a seven minute sludge fest. It was the perfect statement of intent, I felt. Unfortunately, Gordon missed the phase into the second riff, which comes in at about four minutes, and for just the shortest of moments of chaos, it was all falling apart. Gordon looked at me, smiling panic, not knowing where he was in the song. It was so close to just grinding to a halt, which would have been a fucking disaster, but somehow, somehow, we pulled it back from the brink. I’m sure most of the fourteen hundred in the crowd noticed it though, you wouldn’t have had to have known the song to realise it was going tits up for a little while there.

Even though we’d pulled it back in line, just about, I was still anxious now that Gordon was going to lose it. He’d been so looking forward to this, and he’s so involved behind the scenes, that I could imagine this fuck up throwing him off completely. And right enough, he looked mardy as fuck through Hate Song and Superscud that followed. But I knew how to handle this. During the next block I made my way over to him and played as hard as I could, right in front of him, giving him a smile as I did so, hoping it would perk him up. It did the trick.

The next hour, which is more than twice as long as I’ve been used to performing this last ten years, simpy flew by. I couldn’t believe how good it sounded on stage and how tight we were. The gang of friends and family behind us were cheering and smiling, the crowd in front of us were moshing like fuck. The only thing that came close to spoiling the experience was when Daz stood on my pedal giving it the ridiculous Steve Harris move, and cut my sound. I stamped it back on quickly and gave him a hefty elbow to the ribs, letting him know he should fuck off. I don’t think he even noticed.

As we walked back onstage for the encore, the house lights were lifted as I played the long solo intro to Heartbreaker. It’s still on of my favourite songs, even to this day. It was the first time I’d had a proper chance to look at the crowd. I was almost overwhelmed with emotion. As I looked out at the sea of raised arms, I realised that I hadn’t always been just with my views of Raging Speedhorn and it’s fans. I’d always been so focused on making sure the band was about us and nobody else, on the attitude that it was us against the world, that I’d neglected to consider what this band actually meant to the fans. That it wasn’t simply just about us. Right at that very moment, I knew. And I realised that I hadn’t always appreciated what the band meant to me, either. Being the emotional type that I am, I felt close to tears.

Before we played the final song, High Whore, the tears did just about trickle. As Frank was making a crack about how the band had started twenty years ago, and that if we reformed again in another twenty years he’d be fucking sixty!, Tony and I met in the middle of the stage for a hug. I knew how much this had meant to him, but not as much as I thought I knew. He grabbed me tight and said thanks, that it really meant the world to him.

And then after five or six minutes of the long outr riff, it was all over. It had been an amazing night. There wasn’t much left of it as far as the venue was concerned, they wanted everyone out because they had a club night opening afterwards. It was perfect for me, though. It was only ten pm, and having only had the one beer all day, I was now ready for a couple of pints and a chat back over at the World’s End, where the entire party was heading. We hung out for a short while in the dressing room with Doug and Bianchi, the two of them on top form. Doug telling me how he’s officially announced himself the mayor of Weldon, the village connected to Corby where him and Frank live. He says Frank lives at the trampy end of the village. Gordon was pissed off, though. There wasn’t a drop left of the rider, and he also couldn’t find Katy, who he thought he might have given his phone to. Just another jog down memory lane. I didn’t want him spinning out though, I was really looking forward to a drink with him after the show, and now he was banging on about just going back to the hotel. Fuck sakes. I got ahold of Jen on the phone, and she told me that she was with Katy and they were having some food at some place next door, and Katy had indeed Gordon’s phone that he’d given her. It wasn’t quite all sorted in Gordon’s mind, but he levelled out just a tad.

I went back upstairs to get my bag from the room and there was Daz, at his worst by now, lurched on the sofa. I was just passing through, he was there on his own otherwise. “Yo Gaz, I heard that there were some people pissed off about the fact there was nothing left on the rider after the show?” he asked me. I just kinda shrugged, just couldn’t be arsed. I said yeah, I guess there was a bit of a bad vibe about that.

“You know what I reckon, mate? If you want a beer then you should fucking drink it when you have the chance!” he continued, smugly chuffed with himself. Yeah cool, I said, and left him to it. It would be the last time I saw him that night. Maybe ever, who knows…As of now, I didn’t know when I’d see these guys again after tonight, but it had been over ten years since I’d last saw Daz and our paths aren’t that likely to cross again anytime soon, I imagine.

Gordon and I went to meet the girls at the falafel place next door and then we went over to the pub. It felt like the entire crowd from the gig was in there, the place was packed. Gordon still couldn’t really settle, it felt like he was having a hard time relaxing until all the business side of the gig was taken care of. Been there many times before. Don’t miss it. The only thing that felt like a bit of a anti-climax after the gig was that I barely saw the rest of the guys in the band, or Carter and the crew. Bianchi had fucked off already, since he seems to be in a lot calmer place these days, too. I saw Doug for a while at the bar and we chatted a while longer, saying we’d meet up again next time I’m over, but I barely saw the rest. Only Gordon, who handed me an envelope of cash with my share of the earnings for the weekend. I’d been looking forward to hanging out with everyone for one last trip down memory lane, but it wasn’t to be. You could barely move in there and everyone was dotted around various parts of the establishment. I did have a good chat with Richey, Leon and Slaven, as well as Jay and Dave and the other guys from the Kettering crew. It was a nice couple of hours.

Jen, Leon and I took an Uber back to Tring around one am, Leon up front chatting away to the driver the entire time. I was knackered and grateful for Leon taking that particular duty. After all of the emotions I’d been through during this last couple of days, it came to a head when I went and checked on Polly and found her fast asleep in the spare bed we’d all be sharing, her gorgeous cute cheeks resting on the pillow.

We had a nightcap with Leon downstairs before hitting the hay. Gordon texted me, telling me Daz had been kicked out of the hotel they were staying at for acting the cunt with the receptionist, and was now sleeping in the van. Fucking brilliant.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Corby

I was sat at work, checking out for the day, that’s procedure at the shelter, it’s important to “pulse out”, to wash yourself of any stress that the day has incurred. The day at work had been fine, though. That wasn’t the reason I was feeling anxious. The source of anxiety I had turning screws in my stomach was the upcoming trip. I was rushing home after work, picking Polly up from school and then heading out to the airport, meeting Jen on the way. The team at work seemed a little confused by my not overly enthusiastic demeanor. Surely it was going to be fun reuniting with the old band mates again? I was sure the actual show was going to be fun, yes. I had no fucking clue as to how everything else around it was going to be. I hadn’t even spoken to Daz since his rather acrimonious split from the band back in 2006. And Frank, well, we’d been back to talking for a few years, but I didn’t know how hanging out for a couple of days in Corby would be with him. More than anything, I was wary of just how much I’d changed since we all last played in a band together, and how that would bother some of them, and how little they’d most likely changed would bother me.

I’d been trying to get a hold of Tony on the side, to ask him how it was going. Like Gordon and I, Tony had left Corby and created the final piece of the expat group. He’d been back in Corby since the Monday. It was now Wednesday and we’d be practicing for the first time tomorrow, before a warm up show in Corby on the Friday. He’d been offline all day today. When he finally got in touch, it only confirmed what I’d suspected. He’d been lying in bed all day, feeling like the devil had taken his soul. When he finally pulled his hungover ass out of bed, around three pm, he’d driven himself over to the KFC two hundred meters away from his hotel, and sat in the car park shaking. Frank had destroyed him the night before with jug after jug of cocktail. It was precisely this that I feared. I hadn’t been drunk in about five years, could I stand firm against the might of Reagan’s charm/demands?

I didn’t really know if I could be arsed with three days of being called a Swedish nonce because I didn’t want to get fucked up. When I first stopped raging on the booze, I thought it was just a period I was going through. I understand how fucked up that sounds...as if cutting back on the booze is some kind of deviant behaviour. But I’ve heard the concern in the voices of old acquaintances and family members when I’ve been back in the UK visiting: “Is Gareth not drinking? Is everything okay?” Fucking mental, when you think about it. I’ve been over five years without a hangover now, though. I simply can’t take them anymore. But more than that, I don’t enjoy the feeling of being drunk, like, properly drunk, which was always the hook before. The buzz of the party almost made up for the feeling of despair the day after. No longer. I still love a good beer, though. Just after the show. And just a couple.

So the plan was to practice all day on the Thursday and then meet up with Jen, Polly, my dad and whoever wanted to tag along from the band, for dinner in the evening. Gordon picked me up at my dad’s house in his splitter, which we’d be taking down to the London show. We drove up to the practice room which was located on the edge of town, in the car park of the Rugby Club, the place where all of my uncles were members and driving forces in the running of the place. It was also the venue for the first Speedhorn show upon reforming a couple of years ago, with the new lineup that didn’t include me, the place which was run by Roddy, The Zombie Hut, he called it, which was actually the old function room. I’ve never seen a show there. I’ve been to a few naff weddings and birthday parties there when I was a kid, though. It was also right behind the cemetery where my mum’s ashes are buried. Mixed feelings as we pulled into that car park.

Of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The practice room, or “Practice Pod”, as it was advertised, was actually a steel shipping-container. Fucking tiny. And the only people here waiting, despite the fact we were already a half hour late, were Tony and John, sat in Tony’s car, looking bored. The others were nowhere to be seen. Frank was sorting something out down his yard and Daz had to work until twelve, so wouldn’t be here for another hour or so. The three expats, the ones who actually travelled to get here, first as always.

It was good to get the chance to have a bit of a chinwag with Tony, anyway. I figured he must have been feeling pretty nervous about the upcoming shows. He had barely played guitar since he got his P45 back in 2003, nevermind played a gig. And now he was about to play to a pretty much sold out show at the Electric Ballroom, which holds around fourteen hundred people. If my feelings were mixed, his must have been all over the place! It was good seeing him again. We’d met up on a couple of occasions over the years, at Gordon’s wedding, and a couple of other do’s, and it felt like we were pretty good. I still carried guilt about the way we sacked him from the band, though. And as well as this being a chance to celebrate twenty years of the band, this was something I wanted to do for Tony, as much as anything. We owed him this...

It felt surreal, standing there with the five of them, in that tiny metal box. Looking at them all, Frank’s beaming grin across his coupon, Daz in his work gear, John stoned, it literally felt like the last sixteen years had been erased, that nothing had changed. At all. We didn’t really even say that much to each other before we started, a bit of small talk but nothing else. We just looked at each other, and then said, “Okay, let’s doing the fucking set, then!” If I’m honest, I hadn’t gotten that much of a buzz whilst playing through the old songs at home leading up to this trip. It felt pretty difficult plodding out riffs to songs I wrote almost twenty years ago, when we were in the middle of writing the new Victims album. But when we banged into the intro riff of Deathrow Dogs, which is the same riff for about four minutes, the buzz came back. It was way heavier, and slower than I remember it. In that tiny space it sounded like the pit of hell opening up. I was wondering if Frank was actually going to be able to sing since he was smiling so broadly. In that moment, none of the rest of it mattered. Whatever had passed under the bridge, all the bullshit we’d put each other through, it all washed away.

We got through the entirety of the one hour set with barely a hiccup. Even if I’ve played these songs thousands of times, I was still positively surprised by how well the set clicked. Daz hadn’t played in a band for at least six or seven years, but he was still a hell of a bass player. “He might be a weird cunt, but no one can beat that fucking bass sound!” Frank chirped afterwards in the car park.

It was a beautiful day, defying the time of year, and we sat around on the curb in t-shirts during the break, for the first time having a proper catch up. I had been most nervous about Daz, I think, since he’d turned pretty sour after he quit the band, and he could always be a narky sod when he’s had a drink, even when he hadn’t sometimes... But sitting there with him sober, chatting away as he puffed on a roll-up, was really nice. It was just simple stuff, about what we’re doing with our lives and shit. It hit me then how weird it was that we all had kids now, even John. Daz had been the only one who hadn’t been in contact during the lead up to the show since he wasn’t on any form of social media, there were rumours going around that he’d taken himself off after clocking some stepkid of his or something, but it wreaked of just the normal Speedhorn bullshit gossip led by Reagan, so this really was the first contact of any kind we’d had since he quit the band, apart from a text after my mum had died, which I’d really appreciated. He told me that his mum was on the go now, same bastard disease as always… He seemed to be doing okay, though.

We played through the set one more time and then headed over to the pub just down the road for some lunch. After a pretty cack veggie sausage and mash and a markedly better pint of Greene King IPA, we decided that we didn’t need anymore practice. It had gone way better than expected. One more run through the set tomorrow and then we’d take the stuff down to the White Hart for the warm up show. Daz give me a lift back to my dad’s in his work van and said he’d see me tomorrow. He was having a night in with the family so wouldn’t be able to meet the rest of us down the Weatherspoon’s for dinner later.

Everyone else turned up, though. It was great, sitting down to a band dinner, with Jen, Polly and my dad, even my auntie Chris and uncle Vic turned up. It was a proper family dinner with everyone. To my surprise, and after all the concern I’d had about the guys wanting to go out and get fucked up tonight, I was the last of the band to leave the pub. I guess the other night had knocked them out for a bit. I only had a few pints of weak bitter, though, and was enjoying the evening, so we stayed for one more after the others guys all left for home. It had been exactly the night I’d been hoping for, and I was really happy that everyone had gotten to meet Polly.

The next day, Jen was heading down to London with Polly to meet up with Kev and the rest of the Deptford crew, taking in a nice hotel for the night. I felt kinda jealous to be honest. I’d have rather just done the one show, but I understood that Tony needed the practice. We all needed the warm up gig, in truth. I was probably being overly cocky thinking otherwise. I’d been the same with the question of having a road crew. I’d quite deliberately made the point in our chat group about not wanting any techs on stage. A driver/merch and a sound tech/tour manager I thought was fair enough, given the size of the gig, but I made it quite clear I could manage myself on stage. Bianchi had jokingly reprimanded me, pointing out that, unlike myself, Tony hadn’t been changing strings in pitch black Polish squats for the last ten years.

We met up at the steel box and ran through the set one more time and then packed the van and made our way to the White Hart pub. It had been a long time since I’d set foot in the place, and it had changed a lot since. What used to be the bar was now a fully kitted out venue. I was pleasantly surprised. It was good to see Walpole, one of the old Kettering crew, who would be driving and selling merch, as well Big Jim who is Speedhorn’s tour manager these days. But most of all, Carter. If it was anyone else, I’d have been shocked at them making the journey from LA to Corby to see Speedhorn. Not him, though. He was always as big a fan of the band as he was its manager. It was wonderful to see him again.

There wasn’t a whole lot to do before and after soundcheck. Frank and Daz were already piling into the beers, but I wouldn’t be having one until after the show, and sitting around watching them drink wasn’t all that fun, so Tony, Gordon and I went for a walk around the old village area of Corby, before grabbing a bag of chips for dinner and sitting on a park bench to tuck into them. When we got back there were a few more people buzzing around the place and Walpole was setting up the merch. Much to Daz’s annoyance, he’d hung a rainbow flag above the table. “What the fuck’s he putting that there for?” I asked him what he had against it, to which he replied, “A lot!” I had the feeling he was already on his way, and I could sense that it wasn’t going to get any better. I told him that I thought it was a great flag. He said nothing to that, but the chasm between us was painfully obvious, a chasm that could not be measured in geographical miles alone. He sort of grumbled, and then walked off, a little confused.

Jen had texted me earlier in the day, saying that Polly had gotten a stomach bug and had began puking as soon as they got down to Deptford. What an absolute nightmare. Jen had to make her way across London back to the hotel, comforting Polly and keeping her from throwing up all over herself. I felt so sorry for my girls. You couldn’t make it up. It feels like Polly gets sick every time we come to the UK. Jen was supposed to come to the show tomorrow whilst Polly stayed with our old friends Leon and Lindsey. Leon would accompany Jen to the show and then we’d all head back to their place afterwards. But Jen could not possibly leave Poll if she was sick. I called to check in on them. It wasn’t looking good. I was really hoping she would be better tomorrow.

The pub started filling up quite early on, obviously a lot of old friends and family in attendance. I hadn’t thought about the need for a guestlist, but rumours were going round about half hour after doors that it would soon be sold out and my dad and a couple of other relatives were at some other pub. I was by now acutely grateful for the presence of Big Jim, for he came to the rescue and snuck us a couple of extra wristband passes that he’d found. Unbelievably, my dad seemed to spend most of the gig in the other room with his mates. I don’t know, He’s seen us a bunch of times before I guess, and I understood that his other mates weren’t too keen on paying the tenner to get it. Besides, the room was packed by the time we went on and he could well have popped in at the back for a while.

The gig itself was pretty fun. It was a little strange in the fact that I couldn’t really get a grip of how the crowd was, the stage was deep in an alcove so it kind of felt like we were playing in a boxed off corner of the room, and in front of the stage there was a clearing made by some overly enthusiastic moshing. But the actual playing experience was cool. We played really tight and it sounded good from where I was stood. I wasn’t overcome with any massive high, though. It just felt like a solid gig. It felt exactly like what it in actual fact was, a dress rehearsal for the next day.

It was pretty hot in there after the gig, and I was grateful for a pint, even if it was just pissy lager in a plastic glass. I hung around chatting with some old faces and friends for a while, but the night quickly came to a close after the show was done, the landlord wanting to close up quick sharp. As I was loading the van I met a by now cloudy-eyed Daz at the back doors.

“You enjoy that?” he asked, somewhat curtly.

“Yeah”, I replied.

“You wanna do it again?”

“Well, yeah… tomorrow night, like”, I said, completely aware of where he was going with this.

“Yeah, but after that?”

“No”. That was all I could offer. I had no wish to get into a conversation about it.
I don’t think he was even serious, but if felt apt to nip that subject in the bud all the same. Everyone who had been part of any correspondance leading up to this gig was aware of my stance. This was a one-off thing. Tony felt exactly the same. In fact, he told me that he was probably going to get around to selling his guitar after this weekend. I realised then that this was something he’d been waiting on for a long time. He’d never played in any other band after we’d sacked him. But he’d been waiting for this. Some kind of closure, I guess. I felt really touched by that thought. And then like a fart at a funeral, Daz, totally boats, turned the mood completely sour. When Tony had gone out to the van with gear, Daz had informed him that the only reason we weren’t getting back together as a band was because everyone hated him. He was always a fucking arsehole when pissed. I don’t think Tony took much notice of him, and rightly so. Daz’s drunken nonsense was ironic on a few levels, though. For a start, the band was already back together. Daz, nor I, nor Tony, had any bearing on the future of things, whether we wanted back in or not.

Like a lightning bolt from a clear night sky, the reality of this band struck me. It had been a mildly warm, nostalgic trip during the last couple of days, as whenever you jog your memory back over the past you only filter through the good times, but Daz’s shit had brought reality crashing back with a bang. This is how we always treated each other. Not just Daz. All of us. And it fucking sucked. Not to say there wasn’t a lot of good, but the negative shit hit me hard.

So the plan was to be back at the White Hart at eight-thirty for departure. We had an early get-in. The van would be staying put and we’d all have to make our way back to it in the morning. There would be no pick-ups. With the clock closing in on one already, I was more than ready to head home. Frank and a bunch of others were going to hit some cocktail bar. The only thing that surprised me with that was the fact Corby had a cocktail bar. My dad and I took a walk back to my old house, the place I grew up, where he still lives. That walk, often a stagger, I’d taken so many times as a teenager after nights out at Channel 2 in the old village, the place we played our first ever shows with our old bands. I didn’t really think I’d play a show in Corby ever again. I didn’t ever think I’d play a Speedhorn show ever again, to be fair. After tomorrow, I think I could safely say that those two particular chapters would be well and truly closed.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

I'm Still Here

It's been a long while since I wrote here. This last year has been by far the least active on Punk Rock and Coffee since I started the blog ten years ago in 2009. It's not for a lack of want or enthusiasm, it's simply a case of not having the time, being that other aspects of my life have forced a lull in blog writing.

First and foremost, the book I've been writing about Raging Speedhorn, has taken all my free time. It's not like I'm a full time writer, it's something that I squeeze into an already packed schedule of family, study, work and music. Although "squeeze" makes the whole thing sound forced, and therefore a weight around my neck, which it isn't. Writing is something that provides me with an escape and peace of mind, much like yoga, chess or video games does for others, maybe.

Anyway, I've finished the second draft of the book, and after a third, and hopefully final draft to follow shortly, it should be done. Writing a book is a lengthier process than I'd assumed. Especially when it's something you "squeeze" into your spare time. I'm really excited about the book, though, and will have some concrete information on it in the not too distant future.

Another aspect of the inactivity on the blog has been the fact that there has been a severe lack of activity on the gig front. 2018 saw four shows, which is by far the lowest amount of shows I've played in a calendar year since I began playing back in 1995. Diagnosis? Bastard! played one show in Holland last year, and have kind of unconciously fallen into a lull. It was always a risk that the band would end up this way, given that we don't all live in the same country. The other guys have started some great new bands during the lull, though, Lucas with Vidro, Viktor with Marches and Kev with Atavistik Death Pose. And as far as myself, I've been busy with Victims writing and recording a new record, which has just been mastered. It's title is The Horse and Sparrow Theory, and it will be released by Relapse Records, something eighteeen year old me finds kinda surreal. I sincerely hope that Victims haul of two shows in 2018 will prove to be an anomaly. I'm happy to say we already have more than three times as many shows as that booked for 2019 already, with hopefully more than three times as many as that to be later confirmed. Shit, even DB has a show on the horizon, someting that kind of came out of the blue.

The other thing that happened last year was the Speedhorn 20th. anniversary show. I never thought I'd be sharing a stage with those guys again, to be honest, I never felt any particular need or want to, but I allowed myself to be surprised, and it was in actual fact, one of the most amazing shows I've ever played. I wasn't expecting such a wave of emotion around the whole event, and I'd foolishly underestimated how much the band and those old songs meant to all the old fans. I had intended to write a blog post about the show, but have decided instead to write it in the form of an epilogue in the book.

This year, I am studying for the final year of my degree in social science/sociology. So along with everything else, it's going to be another busy year. One that will hopefully involve an increase in writing here, too.

I wouldn't have it any other way.