We had at least a six hour drive today, so we needed to get going. I was hoping to get to Wroclaw in plenty of time to go for a little explore of the place. We played the same venue a few years ago with DB and for some reason that night the promoter told me that the place was a little way from the city centre. I don’t know why I didn’t look at Google Maps or whatever then, and maybe there was some miscommunication going on, but the venue was pretty much bang in the middle of the city. It was in an enclosed yard in the middle of a housing complex, so we’d ended up sat in the yard all day and night. Having since learned that Wroclaw is a very cultural and picturesque city, I was determined to make up for it and do some sightseeing today.
The drive was pretty chilled out. We listened to a playlist Thomas had that was full of old greats like Floyd, Zep, Tull etc. I sat up front with him enjoying the tunes and reading the Alinksy book to its conclusion. We made a few stops along the way, filling up on coffee and water. Quite nice to not stress the drive really. Get in for the show was at four, and soundcheck around five. But then we weren’t playing until eleven, so we’d have plenty of time for a stroll before we played. We pulled into a gas station for some lunch, with Smoke on the Water having just started up on the playlist. Jon started vociferously singing along to the riff with the word, “Körv, körv körv… körv, körv, körv, körv”. Jon fucking loves sausage. He’s happy to eat a vegan rider like the rest of us when we’re at shows, but on his own time, he’s all about the meat. And telling everyone about it.
There wasn’t much going at the service station, so my lunch was a coffee, a mini Toblerone and a blueberry yogurt with muesli. We stood around outside the van, waiting for Thomas and Jon. Thomas soon appeared but Jon was nowhere to be seen. We decided to get in the van and when Andy pulled the side door open there was Jon, sat cradling his hot dog with a huge smile, “Körv” he said, delighted, in a little high pitched voice.
At another stop along the way, not far from the finish line, we got to talking about how Wroclaw was supposed to the micro-brewery capital of Poland, something a friend at work had told me. There was indeed a small selection of IPA’s, APA’s and the likes in the fridge, with colourful hipster labels on them. We were just in the mood for one, so decided to share a bottle of Summer Ale by some brewery called Dr. Brew. We passed it around the van as we drove the last little way into town. Johan remarked that last night we’d drank one beer between the whole band, that bottle of tepid piss I’d bought after the show, and even that we didn’t finish. The Summer Ale provided a decidedly better experience. Still pretty lame though, one bottle of beer, shared between three. Jon doesn’t even drink these days. How times have changed.
We arrived in Wroclaw just after half past four. The venue was almost exactly as I remembered, except that the bar in the courtyard wasn’t selling hipster beer and band apartment above the venue wasn’t as cosy as I remember it. Jen always says I have a tendency to put an overly positive spin on the past. After relieving myself of the piss I’d needed since drinking the beer in the van, we hung around for a little while, tucked into some sandwiches and fruit upstairs in the backstage apartment upstairs. The Active Minds guys arrived soon after, followed by Anti-System. There was a local band called The Dog playing too, and they were lending me us a guitar for the show. I’d spoken to one of the guys online the other day. They seemed pretty friendly. The Anti-System guys were lending us all backline, though. They seem like such nice people, really good old punks, completely humble. We helped them load out their van and then got set up.
The sound guy was very enthusiastic about his job, and spent most of the soundcheck darting around the place. I had a hard time keeping up with him, but he knew his system and we had a great sound up on stage. We played through Fires Below, since we fucked it last night. I was using the old boy from Anti-System’s JCM 900, which is usually hard work in getting any bite out of it, but it was sounding absolutely banging during soundcheck. Nice to playing in a small place tonight. With the sound feeling really good, I was now looking forward to the show. When we played here with DB and Pyramido we set up on the floor, and played to maybe around twenty people. I hoped it would be more than that tonight. I had a feeling it probably would be. But you never know. It is summer, and it is hot…
They were serving dinner by the time we finished soundcheck, some cool little kitchen called Seitan Threat, serving vegan kebabs. When I came out the gig room I saw the two brothers from Active Minds waiting to be served, talking about Pakistan and Bangladesh. Given their anarcho roots, I figured they were talking politics. Turned out they were talking about cricket. When the drummer received his kebab I heard him say to his brother, “Wonder if they had tea upstairs”. Couldn’t be more English.
Once we’d all eaten we went for a stroll around the city. European City of Culture 2016. As soon we left the housing complex I felt annoyed that we’d sat inside the yard all day when I was here with DB. The city centre was right on the venue’s doorstep, and it was beautiful. The river split the city in a web of offshoot canals, where the Wroclaw folk were sat around in the early evening sun, barbequing, relaxing with beer and wine, completely care free. Really is a cool looking city, with it’s old trams and mixture of old and new buildings side by side. We walked around for an hour or so, crossing numerous bridges. As we looped around and headed back in the direction of the venue, the sight of the crowd sat along the river banks various bars put me very much in the mood for a cold beer. Just the one. We still have at least three and a half hours before we play. One little cold beer would be lovely. It would be like pretending we’re on holiday. We found a place just off the riverfront with some outside tables. It looked promising. Andy and Johan were up for it, too. The problem was they only served German pilsner, and that was not what I wanted, at all. So we sat there and chatted for a while whilst Jon drank the lukewarm cappuccino he’d ordered. I don’t know how we got onto the subject of slang words for different facial hair styles, or maybe it was Jon saying he’d planned to go the barber’s before coming away, that he wanted a Tompa Lindberg velvet beard, but was doomed to the broom he had. Anyway, I learned some interesting new Swedish phrases around the subject matter, such as “Björnfitta” and “Tangorabbat”, which had me almost crying with laughter. It was just the way Jon said it that tickled me.
We made our way back to the street the venue was on and Jon tailed off, but checking the time, the rest of us felt like strolling a little longer. There was a park in the other direction that looked quite nice and we headed there. It was a lot hotter this evening than it was yesterday, and we were still in the mood for a beer. There were no cosy looking bars around this area, though, so we settled on the idea of buying a cold bottle of ale and sitting in a park. Johan and I went in to one of the many Delitkatess(y) (I’d also spotted a window advert earlier that had Laptopy and telefony), but they only seem to sell the pint sized bottles of beer in this country. Looking a little doubtful at the fridge, we pulled a bottle of American Pale Ale each out of the box. Then looked at each other and suggested we share a bottle. Rock. And. Roll.
We sat in one of the city’s less cosy parks and shared the bottle, and then walked back to the venue. Jon had set up the merch in the outside courtyard of the house and seemed to be enjoying himself. He had someone on the errand of procuring some weed for him, which he would swap for a Victims shirt and then put the money in the till himself. Quite a good little set up he had going for himself. There were quite a lot of people already here, probably at least five times as many as the last time I was here. Anti-System were playing so we went inside to check them out but as soon as you walked into the small box like room it was like walking into a wall of heat. I looked over at the Active Minds guys who were sat at the back of the room with their merch, looking flustered in the heat. I couldn’t take more than half a song before having to escape. It was going to be a proper shift later on.
We hung outside for the other bands, needing to save as much energy as possible for the show. Jon had gotten his weed and was banging on about an old acquaintance from a venue in Jönköping they used to play way back in the early days, but Andy and Johan couldn’t place who he was talking about. Andy said he couldn’t remember anything from that venue since whenever they played they only ever got paid in wine and ended up boats. I laugh at the thought of those days, seems like a different world. So far from where we are today. That moved the conversation on to Victims first ever UK tour, in like 99’ or something, where they did the whole tour in Pete Scalplock’s little car, Andy up front with the bass case between his legs. That was the first time they met Active Minds.
Our old friend Phillip had come to the show tonight. He was on holiday with the family and timed it with the show, so he could come hang out. He’s such a sweet guy and really old friend of the band. He’s booked a bunch of shows for us over the years. Last time was a couple of years ago at his DIY Hardcore Fest in Gydnia. He used to have this hotel out in the countryside, another kind of activities/sports type place. Really high end, though, with a cosy little bar. We’d sit up all night, just chilling and pouring ourselves beers from the tap. It was great to see him tonight. He told me they sold the hotel and moved back to the city, but he has a new place and his wife has a job with some cultural establishment. Seemed like they were happy with things. He told us that we should come on holiday sometime and stay with them. That part of Poland is one of Europe’s little hidden gems.
A while later, as Andy and I were sat on a bench across the other side of the courtyard, I noticed some guy who had bought a Victims shirt, talking to Johan, who was pointing over to us. He approached and said that he wanted to just let us know how much he loved the new record and that he loved the theme of the lyrics and the concept of it. He spoke in a broad American accent, so I guess he might have been from there, but he was very interested in the sample we have on We Fail with the climate activist Brigadier General Stephen Cheney. It was really cool to have someone want to talk about that side of the record, it was conversations like these we had in mind when making the record. He was a really sweet guy. I felt a little bad when he thanked me for speaking him to him just as he was leaving. I thanked him for speaking to me, and he just kind of looked embarrassed. As was I. Strange.
It was time for the gig. I went upstairs and fetched a shit load of water and towels. Just standing on stage soundchecking, I was already sweating my ass off. The box room was pretty full by the time I began the long guitar intro. Phillip down the front with a big smile on his face, looking desperate to have a bit of a dance, the other guy who’d spoken to us about the album looking the same. Most of the rest of the crowd though, were at best rocking back and forth on the balls of their feet. I got it, though. It was ridiculously hot in here. After the first two songs I was furiously guzzling water.
We were a lot tighter tonight, and Fires Below went through without any balls up. The set, fun as it was to play, was a bit of a struggle. The fourteen songs felt like a shift, such was the heat. When we finished This is the End, I just sat there in a bit of a daze, hoping to fuck there would be no follow ups tonight. To be fair, a lot of the crowd were running for the fresh air of the courtyard too, but there are always a few furthest forward shouting for more. We scratched it tonight, though, to the disappointment of one or two of them. Not to be totally beaten, a couple of them climbed up onto the stage for handshakes and conversation. Always one to oblige, I stood there talking with some drunk punk for about five minutes, desperate to pack up and get out into the air, join Jon at the merch table. Couldn’t tell him that, though.
The air outside, once I got to it, was fucking wonderful. After drinking a liter of water I asked Jon to grab me a beer from upstairs and was delighted to find that it was actually pretty cold when it arrived. I hadn’t been full of hope since earlier on the beer had been resting in a plastic ice bucket minus ice. Seems like the guys running the place had found some now. The pilsner at this place was so mich better than the filfth from the night before, it went down like a fucking dream. Andy and Johan seemed to be experiencing it the same way, and were soon into a second bottle.
After sorting things out with Adam, the promoter, and having a bit of a chat with him about the venue and the Wroclaw scene, we began to think about heading to the hostel. The sound engineer guy told me he really enjoyed the gig, he told me that considering it’s summer and a lot of people are on holiday, as well as it being roasting hot, he said the amount of people at the show tonight was amazing. That was nice to hear. There were a few people hanging out in the little bar on the other side of the courtyard but it was already one am, and we had another early rise tomorrow, so we decided to head over to the hostel. We walked out of the big gate and found four punks lying fast asleep on the hard ground beside the van in the dark, all of them cuddling. Jon said it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. They did look kind of sweet. They were obviously totally fucked up, though, and one of them in particular we had a hard time convincing to move out of the way of the vans wheels. Jon wondered if he’d had a heroin overdose. Think it was more of a pivo overdose though.
The hostel was only five minutes away, right in the middle of downtown. There were lots of partygoers mulling around the busy street that the entrance to the hostel was on. Thomas had nowhere to park the van so decided to drop us off and park up at a petrol station and kip there. He seems more than content to hang out in his office for the most part. The hostel was manned by a young girl who showed us to our dorm. It was pretty basic stuff, six squeaky bunk beds, and again, no curtains on the big windows. We made a quick fix with bed quilts again and hoped for the best. It was going to be in the mid thirties tomorrow, I could imagine a restless sleep ahead. I went for a shower at the other end of the corridor, finding a bra lying on the floor in the middle of the room. Fuck knows. The soap smelt like cardboard, and I didn’t feel all that refreshed when I returned to the dorm. Even worse, Jon had gone down to the street and bought a chicken kebab, that he was now noshing on, high as a fucking kite and laughing to himself, stinking the place out. I awoke a couple of times in the night, drenched in sweat and dying for a piss. Every time I came back into the hot room I was hit by the smell of sweaty kebab. What an asshole.