Friday, September 13, 2019


There was a fair bit of to-and fro over how we were going to do the trip to Finland. Three shows, Thursday to Saturday, two bands travelling together. The obvious problem for everyone is adding two travel days to a trip with only three shows. But the arguments for taking the boat were that we could skip flying amd the flight shame that come with it, as well as being able to take a van and with that our own backline. It was a long time ago we played shows with our own backline. We went with the boat.

We picked up the Massgrav guys over by the TV4 offices next to the harbour. The check-in closes an hour before departure so there was a bit of trepidation over being late, but as it turns out we were an hour and a half early. So I walked off in search of a kiosk and some snacks, whilst Jon walked off into some park to smoke a spliff whilst we waited for Massgrav to arrive. It was Jeppe who suggested the pick up spot, and despite the fact that he works in the area, he was last to turn up. Ola assured us this would be a pattern we’d soon come to recognise. Of course, we turned up at the boat and parked at the front of the line we were guided to, but ended up sitting there until every last lorry had rolled on board. We must have sat there longingly looking at the parking attendants, hoping to be given the sign, for about an hour and a half. The chimney on the boat was spewing out thick black smoke, proper minging. Nice to skip the “flight shame”...

Still, it was fun to be sharing the van with the Massgrav guys. First time we’ve shared a van with another band in ages, but there was no ice breaking required with these guys since they’re old friends. We amused ourselves with old stories whilst we waited. Johan got talking about a trip to Finland years before when they travelled on the boat back right through the middle of Storm Gudrun. Apparently Andy had a right bad time of it, white as fuck as the ferry crashed over the waves. With the conversation moving on the sea sickness, I told the guys about my pathetic efforts at sea. I’m renowned for the old sea sickness, especially on smaller boats, big ferries not as much. But once I got sick on a fucking kayak that Jen and I had rented out, thinking it would be a pleasant way to spend an evening, paddling around Karlbergs Slott in Stockholm. I only lasted twenty minutes before having to turn back, pale as a ghost. Fuck, once I got sea sick snorkeling in Thailand. Jen looked up and spotted me rabidly swimming toward the rocks on the coast, the bobbing in the life vest having got the better of me. Pretty fucking weak.

It seemed like the only vehicles boarding the boat were trucks and horse trailers. Norse pondered aloud as to where the horses slept during the eleven hour night crossing, Ola cracked, “Djurhytt.” Jon made a remark about me not having to worry about it, I wouldn’t have to share with the horse, referring to another one of my ailments, horse allergies. Jeppe parped up, “What, do you get sea sick on horses too?” We all burst out laughing at that. We were finally given the go ahead to board, only to be stopped on the way and told to turn back, change of plans. Apparently the boat was fully booked and they were having some logistical problems. I had a sinking feeling that we’d be told there was no room for us, but finally they let us on, the very last vehicle on the boat, almost a half hour after the planned departure time.

Ola had good news though, he’d heard that the boat was going to arrive an hour and a half late tomorrow morning. Being that we were due to arrive in Åbo at seven am, and didn’t need to be at the venue in Helsinki a couple of hours away until four pm, the extra time in bed in the morning would be most welcome. I guess that the fleet of lorry drivers went directly to their cabins since there was barely anyone on the boat. Just us guys and a few asian tourists. It was like a ghost ship. I’d been imagining a wild disco and the Massgrav on the karaoke celebrating Fredrik, their drummer’s birthday which was today. But it was completely dead. There was some guy singing Elvis in the piano bar to pretty much no one, and a depressing band on the big stage in the main disco playing shit Eighties pop to a crowd of olds about twenty strong, all of them sat at the back of the room looking on as the band played, fake smiles plastered across their coupons. What a fucking gig. Whatever happens tomorrow, the show can’t be worse than this, anyway.

We sat down to dinner at an Italian restaurant. All very civilized as we sipped on red wine, Ola and Jeppe on the old stor starks, and enjoyed stone oven baked pizza, which was surprisingly good. We ate ourselves full and then wandered off in search of some action in the boat. The first time I took the boat to Finland was almost twenty years before and it was absolutely wild. Our tour manager Doug ended up in boat jail after getting into a fight with the Norwegian car rally team. But that boat was packed and everyone on it was wankered. This was a different vibe. Guess it is a Wednesday night… After a short sit down in the “Sea Pub” we ended up back in the piano bar, listening to the light tinkling of the ivories and enjoying a pint. It suited me down to the ground, listening to a bit of Simon and Garfunkel, but the guy soon packed up and fucked off, obviously glad to get to the end of his shift. We sat around for another couple of hours anyway, enjoying each others stories and having the crack. We were trying to work out what we’d do in the daytime tomorrow in Helsinki since we’d have all day to entertain ourselves, and Jeppe was promoting the idea of going to the cinema. Which got Norse on to the subject of film, and his favourite franchise, Rambo. We got into it. I told him I loved the first film, back before it was Rambo and simply just First Blood. But Norse was adamant. He reckon the only below par film was Rambo 3, when he’s in Afghanistan. He rated the four films as follows: 5 out of 5 for the first, second and fourth films, Rambo 3 only receiving a 3 out of 5. I haven’t seen it but I couldn’t imagine the recently released Rambo 4 was any good. Norse said the only negative he could give it was that it was too short. I burst out laughing and asked what 4 was about, he said that it starts of with Rambo working as some guide in Thailand. I was sold.

As is always the case, gain a bit of extra time in the morning, take liberties with the other end. As the clock struck midnight I was telling myself now would be a great time to go to bed. Extra lie in would give me eight hours sleep. Fuck, even if I went bed in an hour I’d get seven hours of Z’s. So we went to bed at quarter past one after having another beer. I could barely keep my eyes open by then. I checked my clock just before I turned out the light. 1.20. Set the alarm for 7.30, still ok. Before I killed the light the clock jumped an hour ahead to Finnish time. Fuck. Forgot Finland was an hour ahead. Balls. At just past 6 some light orchestral music began playing through the speakers, accompanied by a female voice announcing the boat would be arriving in one hour. So much for the lie in. So much for Z’s. Wonder where the fuck Ola got his info from.

Even after a quick shower in the cabin bathroom/toilet, I still felt like hell. Clean. But hellishly tired. We pulled off the boat into the rain of Helsinki. We stopped at the first service station on the way and poured some coffee into ourselves. Breakfast was pretty slim pickings though, there was barely anything vegetarian to choose from. They had a Subway, but it wasn’t opening for another two hours. Things took a considerable turn for the better when we arrived in Helsinki two hours later though. It was only eleven so we still didn’t need to be at the venue for another five hours at least, although we hadn’t been given an exact time by the promoter. But doors were at seven pm, so we made a logistical estimation of four being plenty of time. We decided to take a chance on the hotel the promoter had booked, hoping we’d be able to check in a little earlier. So to arrive and find that not only is the Scandic we’re booked in at some fancy four star joint, they had the rooms ready for us! Me and the other Victims guys decided to rest up in bed for a while, the Massgrav guys were going to explore Helsinki. Stripping off down to my kecks and climbing in under the cool bed sheets was like rolling into heaven. Absolutely fucking wonderful. My night had just been saved.

Andy, Johan and I got back up around one pm and went off in search of lunch. Jon was staying firmly in bed. Last time we were here we found this great Mexican canteen type joint, fast food but properly done. I got it up on the map and even though it was a half hour walk it felt worth it. Of course, when we got there it was closed. Fuck. It turns out it was a chain, though, Johan searched on his phone and we ended up a while later at the actual place we’d eaten last time around. Still a bit tired and unfocused I chose a burrito with salsa verde and chipotle sauce, which was by far the hottest option on the menu. Burnt my fucking mouth off. Woke me up, at least.

We got back to the hotel for rendezvous just past four. Jeppe and Norse had been to the cinema to see the new Tarantino film. Ola and Fred had gone and checked out this underground church that I’d wanted to see, and then gone for beer. I wanted to see that church. Would earmark it for tomorrow. The venue was only five minutes away with the van, and just as we were pulling in the sound guy called Jon, asking where were. Turns out he’d been waiting for us since two. Seems like someone had made a balls up with the communication. He seemed a little bit pissed off, although not with us. We hadn’t been given a time for load in. Amazing, you get to the city five hours early and still manage to be two hours late.

The venue seemed pretty cool, anyway. Kind of artsy, culture space with loads of different bars and a terrace area overlooking the inner courtyard where we had the van parked up. Seemed to be an art gallery on the other side of the yard, and some restaurants around. Must be the hip part of town. The sound guy hurriedly went about his business but I assured him we’re normally quick soundchecking, and we still had an hour and a half until doors. We got set up fast enough, but then things started to slightly tits up. First off, the sampler wasn’t working. Andy and Johan messed around with it for a bit, trying different cables and other bits and bobs, but no signal was coming out of it. Eventually we gave up and decided to move on with soundcheck. But we had another problem. Jon’s amp had died. It had been working seconds before, but now his time had arrived there was fuck all coming out of it. So much for the joys of bringing your gear on tour. The sound guy was now beginning to get really stressed, running back and forth like a dog with a stick up it’s arse. Jon wasn’t doing to well either. Fuciing sucks when your shit breaks down. He loaned Norse’s amp for the time being. But then his lead was buzzing like hell, so he had to change that too. Sound guy, as stressed as he obviously was, made a professional job of it, he could certainly do his job.

By the time we were done, Massgrav had about twenty minutes to check their stuff before it was time for doors. And the local band, Diskelmä, had just arrived. Somehow Sound Guy got it all wrapped up in time. Ola turned, to me chuffed at the sight of the Diskelmä bass players axe shaped bass. “It’s an actual axe bass”, a look of delight on his face. Proper ridiculous. An old friend of ours, Janne, who used to have the label Combat Rock that put out Victims records in the past, turned up to see us. Was really nice to see him. Really friendly guy. He’s pretty big in production now, doing really big gigs. He’d been touring with Jon and Jeppe on their Nasum world tour a few years ago, but that was the last time we’d seen him. As we were stood catching up, the promoter turned up looking all flustered, exclaiming that we’d had a table booked at the restaurant over an hour ago. The planning around this day hadn’t quite gone that smoothly. He was darting about a bit, but he managed to chaperone us to the joint next door. He told us we could order whatever food we liked from the menu. We took a long table and sat down to what was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten whilst out with the band. Proper amazing vegan cuisine. Jeppe and I were almost drooling in it. Charcoal grilled seitan with sweet potato puree, grilled asparagus and a lime and mint mayo. It was simply outstanding. I felt bad for the Massgrav guys, though, they were playing in forty minutes and couldn’t enjoy it as they should have.

When we got back to the venue Diskelmä were just at the end of their set and it seemed like the room was fairly well attended. Although they weren’t moving all that much. I saw my old friend Niklas from Harhat, who was stood with Janne. I was still raving about the food, and told him how amazing it was. He looked at me and said, “Yeah, they’re pretty good.” I told him that I loved it and was chuffed. “Yeah, cool, they’ve been around a long time, everyone kind of knows them.” Nice, I said. It has to be one of the best I’ve ever had on tour. Now he was looking at me a little bit surprised, “Really?” Turns out he thought I was talking about Diskelmä… I laughed and told him I was talking about the food. The penny then dropped and he cracked up. Being diplomatic I said that what I saw of the band sounded pretty good, too. “Yeah,” he said, “The singer just puked on stage, though.” Now I was a bit confused. But upon inspection it was as I’d heard it, the singer had indeed left a pile of puke on stage, and then the band had left it there as they exited the stage. It was right by where Ola would be standing. Niklas told me he’d puked up whilst singing into the mic, so we might not want to use the same one. Fucking punx.. I had to go and break the news to Ola. Who had to go break the news to Sound Guy. Ola sure as fuck wasn’t going to clean it up.

The Massgrav guys were great as always. The crowd, not as much. It was very Big Town Syndrome, everyone stood with arms folded, nodding along, nobody daring to be the first person to take the first step forward, leaving the large empty oval in front of the stage. After the first block, Ola said, “We need some more some more space, could everybody please take a step back, we’d really appreciate it.” After that they just spoke Swedish between the songs. Norse taking the lead most of the time. “Den här låten handlar om tunnelbanan, din suger också va?” It was only before the last song that Ola inquired, “You all speak Swedish right? If not, we have a crash course in Swedish for sale over at the merch table. You’re welcome. Congratulations Finland.” I’m not normally one for fun lyrics in punk songs, but the Massgrav guys do it so well. “DIY, DIY, blah blah blah!” Love it.

The crowd moved a little further forward for us, but for the most part they were statuesque. It is Thursday I guess. Not like I’d be jumping around like a tit at a show on a Thursday night back home. I really enjoyed playing, though. It sounded really good on stage. For some reason Jon had brought his wah wah pedal with him, though. He never uses it a practice, but decided he’d bring it with him and try it out during the gig. Typical him. He had a bit more hassle towards the end of the gig too, his tuning pedal seemed to have given up on him. Seems like it wasn’t his night. He looked over at us and shook his head, and then pointed at his broken pedal, slight look of despair on his face, and then started up the into next song. It sounded off though. When we got to the end of the next block Johan turned to Jon, “Tune your guitar Jon.” Jon came belting over the stage to us and with everything he had, arms by his side as he took full stomp with his feet into the stage, “I said my tuner pedal was DEAD!” his voice pinching at the end as it rose a few tones higher. Fucking cracked me up. He gathered himself once the outburst had passed, and introduced This is the End. It was the first time the crowd had moved all night. It felt too bad to not do a couple of encores now that they’d finally got going, even there was only a couple of voices in the crowd demanding one. I had a great time blasting through a couple of old bangers all the same.

Feeling older than my forty one years, I very much appreciated the early show tonight. To be done and wrapped up by ten fifteen was a dream. Plus we didn’t have to check out of the nice hotel until midday tomorrow. Let’s see if we could take advantage of it… Both Niklas and Sami from Harhat had left by the time we were sorted in the changing room, and our friend Satu, who I didn’t even know was there, came up to me to say hello. Another friend of ours, Otto, who booked us last time we were here, caught up with me for a while too. But as he explained, they’d soon be clearing everyone out since they normally did in these type venues. A lot of the time they’d have a hip hop club on, something to make the money back on what they’d lose on the punk shows, I guess. There was no after party tonight, although they were clearing out all the same. It would have been nice to see the guys for a little longer. But of course, everyone was up for work in the morning anyway. I enjoyed one of the IPA’s from the rider that the Massgrav guys had been kind enough to leave for us, and then we made plans. There was word of a cosy bar around the corner, but being pretty tired and wanting to catch up on sleep, we decided to head back to the hotel bar for a beer and some chill. It’s a nice feeling sitting in a hotel bar with a brew, knowing you can head up to bed whenever you like.

I still managed to sit up a little longer than necessary, though. It was very enticing sitting there with the Massgrav guys, listening to their stories. They’re one of those gangs that make you laugh, just listening to them gabble. Although there were a group of beefy Finnish middle aged businessmen sat at the table next to us, who’d been panning vodka grogs which they were mixing themselves the entire time we’d been sat there, and I noticed one of them wasn’t as charmed by Massgrav as I was. He was making faces at us, and then mock laughing. I thought he was going to parp up at one point, but then he seemed to get over it when two of group reappeared with a round of shots. Fuck knows what had got his goat. I had the impression he was annoyed with us talking Swedish. Although, he the bastard looked like he probably hated everything. Johan and Andy went up to bed, and I was on the brink of following them, but then Norse asked if we wanted another. Just the slightest bit of hesitation on my behalf was enough and he shot off to the bar. I’d insisted on just a small one but he came back with a pint of Lapin Kulta. I could only manage a couple of sips. It just wasn’t going down. Ten minutes later and we were all off to bed. Jon following behind us in the complimentary slippers the hotel provided.

Andy was just turning the TV off when I got back to the room. I read about a paragraph of my book before putting it down and turning the light off.

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