Sunday, October 27, 2019


I could get used to this crack. Seven hours of solid sleep, minus one piss break, in a decent bed. Zoli was already lying awake in bed looking at his phone when I arose from slumber. I asked him if he slept okay, he told me it was fine apart from the fact that every time Andy moved around in the bunk above him flakes of concrete from the wall behind him fell on his head. Otherwise, everyone slept well last night. It’s nice to wake up on tour feeling normal. The back wasn’t even as bad as I expected. Bonus.

We were all booked in for brunch at some vegan place that Zoli has been raving about, and Feddi is meeting us there. We had a couple of hours to kill, though, so the Victims guys got showered and sorted and went for a stroll around the area. On the way to the van to dump the bags we saw a slew of drunk Hamburgers staggering around the streets like zombies. Must have been a heavy payday Friday! We passed a couple of blokes who were struggling to stand, looked like a right pair of wideos, I could swear they were gonna start shit with us when we walked by them but they didn’t notice us until about three minutes later when they then began shouting at us… “HALLÅ!!! HALLÅ!!!!” We just laughed and carried on.

We grabbed some very decent coffee to go and went for a wander around the backstreets of St. Pauli without any real plan, but somehow ended up on the Reeperbahn. It must be fucking magnetic or something, you always seem to end up here in this city, intention or not. It’s pretty fucking miserable really, hungover tourist and sadness. I’m walking with Jon and I ask him what he felt about last night’s show. “One of the best shows we ever played,” he says, totally serious. He never fails to amuse me. We turned off soon enough and back into the nicer, quieter streets of St. Pauli where we bumped into Feddi on his bike with his young boy in the box on the back, half asleep. He said they’ve just been to some gymnastic park, enjoying the fresh air. It is indeed unusually pleasant weather for this time of year. There are still plenty of people taking their coffees at tables outside the cafes everywhere. A very nice change from home right now. We asked Feddi if there were any record shops around he was happy to show us, so we walked along with him having a nice chat along the way. The little record shop was really cool, with some very happy looking old guy with a moustache and a cheesy smile keeping the shop, and there were piles of records everywhere, but it was far too expensive for our tastes. There were some hardcore punk and metal records in there that I’d bought once upon a time for like, five euros, that were now going for thirty or forty, When did this happen really? And how much is my fucking record collection worth?

We met up with Zoli and the Svalbards at the cafe. I love the fact Zoli gets very excited about good food places. He was buzzing around like a small kid, telling everyone the crack and giving tips. Of course, all the staff recognised his big mug and all. He told me he’d been here every time he’s been through on tour. It was a cool, rustic little place with a vegan buffet and coffee for €16, which was a bit steep, but the food was great, and they did freshly made scrambled tofu to order, which was the dog’s baws. There was a slight communication miss, though. Liam Svalbard ended up mincing down a piece of pork salami, believing that everything was vegan. Which was kinda how I’d translated the message and all, but then when I’d seen the buffet I figured there was no fucking way they were making Roquefort look that realistic. The ham slices had eventually stirred Liam’s suspicion but it was too late. Gutted. Jon was chuffed, though, when he heard that Serena is a meat eater like him. He was sat next to her enthusing away as he does. I warned Alex their bass player next to me that our guitarist was probably going to freak Serena out soon. I heard Jon saying to her that the only thing he refuses to eat is fish. I leant over and asked why that was and he replied stone cold, “Fish fuck in the sea.” Only Jon…

Apart from the slight mishap, brunch was a roarin success. After thanking Feddi again for his help and hospitality we made our way back to the van to get going towards Berlin. I’d drive the first hour and a half, Johan the second. Except, we should have learned by now, that you can never trust the autobahn. When it works it’s great, when it’s SCHTAU it sucks. It wasn’t even SCHTAU today, it was just fucking closed for twenty five kilometers, turning our three hour journey into a six hour one. It was pitch black by the time we arrived at the venue, two and a half hours late. The venue people were cool about it, though, and very relaxed, which always helps.

The first thing that hit me when we loaded the gear in was, shit, this venue is too big. It was a cool place, though. Seemed to be some old cinema or something, and there were myriad rooms and alcoves with stone walls, an outer courtyard with bar, another cosy little bar out front completely disconnected from the music room and even a little cinema room. I wish they had places like this at home. Zoli is chuffed, tells me they’ve sold over a hundred tickets in advance. Even then though, it would take twice that to fill the room out properly. Anyway, being late we decide that Svalbard should soundcheck and we can just linecheck later. There are only the two bands tonight and we’re using the same set up and backline pretty much. I’m happy to skip it and relax for a while, we have a few different friends coming tonight and most importantly, my dad is making an appearance. Zoli thought I was joking when I told him my old man was coming to the Berlin and Vienna shows. I’m really chuffed, I don’t see him as much as I’d like, but he’s making the most of his retirement and always travelling all over the place on his own, and he since he’d never been to either Berlin or Vienna he thought he’d kill two birds with one stone and spend a few days in each whilst catching a couple of Victims shows. Really cool.

“Gareth? Gareth?” That never changes, though. Dad has a habit of calling and then when you answer he’s busy doing something else. I hear him talking to some random German and he’s obviously looking for directions to the club. “Been walking back and forth like a tit, boy! Can’t find the place.” Obviously he hasn’t put the address into his GPS on his phone, he’s just walking about asking people in his Welsh/Corby accent. I figure out he’s by the Ostkreuz station which is just around the corner, so go to meet him. It’s great to see him. Plus, he has a book delivery for me, and a war protest poster from Vietnam that he picked up for me when he was there earlier in the year.

We walk back to the venue and after taking him in to say hello to everyone we go to the cosy bar at the front for a beer. I’m driving after the gig to the hotel tonight, but I can have the one with my old man. Especially when he’s buying. On the way I bump into another couple of friends who we’d arranged to meet tonight, Colin and Heike who we know from the States and the Another Breath crew, so we all sit down for a beer and a chat. Shortly afterwards we’re joined by the rest of the Victims guys and Jon’s dear friend Helene and her friend, who both live here. Helene put on an amazing show for us here at Kastanjenkeller years back. Probably one of the most fun shows I ever played. It’s magic having this little get together with everyone.

The place is a fucking maze, though. Going back and forth a couple of times, I get lost. Three times I end up in that little cinema room, and then when I finally find my way back to the bar I end up walking through a door that leads behind the actual bar and get bawled out by the bartender.

After sitting around chatting for an hour or so, over a very nice cold pint of pilsner, we head back into the gig room to see Svalbard. I’m pretty amazed when I see how many people are in the place, it’s pretty packed. Zoli is by the merch smiling profoundly. Apparently they’ve done over two hundred and thirty tickets. The place is buzzing and Svalbard get a really good reaction. My dad is stood at the back by the door to the merch room where I’m stood for Zoli for a while, “These are alright these ain’t they?” he chirps. They are a really good band, really good at what they do. And as a bonus, really nice people. It’s going to be a fun few days hanging out with these guys.

The punks filter out of the room for some well needed air after the Svalbard set and we get to work. My dad cracks up at some crust punk guy who has taken a spot on the floor, lying down with his hands behind his head looking at the stage, waiting for us. “Not a bit of a poseur,” dad says with a broad smile on his coupon. Dad loves a poseur, Totally laps them up.

The show tonight puts the rustiness of last nights show in perspective. It’s always the same with first shows. Even if it felt okay last night, tonight is so much better and so much tighter. We have a great time during the gig, I love seeing my dad stood against the side wall near the front with a big smile on his face, watching us and cracking up at the crowd moshing and crowd surfing. There are a lot of smiling, dancing punks down the front which always gives you that extra bit of energy. At one point Jon removes a pair of sunglasses from some punter and wears them for a song, chuffed as fuck. The only downer for him is that his guitar strap snaps off or something, but his old friend Breeder is on hand to help him out. It’s a proper banger and we’re all chuffed afterwards. Dad comes up to me as I’m wrapping my leads up and gives me a big smile, “No wonder your back is fucking knackered,” he laughs. He tells me he’s gonna shoot the crow, his words, since he’s been walking around all day taking photos of stuff and needs a kip. I tell him I’ll see him in Vienna.

Some young guys get talking to me afterwards, a guy called Lukas originally from DC. He wants to ask me about my guitar pedals, he says the guitar sound was immense. I’m not all into the pedal talk, but happily talk to him about other things, and we stay there and chat for a while. Really sweet guy. I love meeting new people, always have time for a chat. We do really well on merch tonight and even get a percentage break on the door, on top of the guarantee. Not often that happens. This just keeps adding to Zoli’s levels of chuffed. What a great night it’s been, meeting up with more friends again and a brilliant show. I have half a bottle of cold beer and then we pack a couple to take with us back to the hotel. The weird thing is, though, the promoter has booked us into this four star hotel, but it’s the only show on the tour that Svalbard don’t have accommodation which feels a bit embarrassing. We could have happily taken some cheaper place where everyone could have stayed.

When we’ve packed the van we go on a food hunt before heading off. Apparently there are places over by the Ostkreuz station so we head over there. The station is buzzing with Saturday night drunks and ravers, and we have to make our way through the concourse to the other side and through the rabble. There is indeed a cosy little area on the other side of the station and we find a little sit-down falafel place. The guy behind the counter seems less than happy to see us, though, he just stands there shaking his head as the nine of us order food. We sit outside at some tables and have a blather whilst we wait. I really appreciate the fact that it’s only day two and already it feels like we’re mixing well with the Svalbard guys. The food is worth the grumpy attitude anyway, really nice, fresh grub. When we’re done we make to go and Zoli starts complaining at us, saying he was thinking of getting another falafel wrap. Greedy sod. “Come on guys, it’s Saturday night in Berlin!” We walk off and he begrudgingly follows suit. The thing is, years back, of course we would have gone drinking until the early hours, but if I was out at one-thirty back home these days I would be falling asleep already. One-thirty in Berlin is more than a good enough innings, I reckon.

We walk back through the station and Serena and Jon make a stop at some bakery kiosk. As we wait around for them Serena comes up to us, half smiling, half shocked, and says some rude German woman had just barged behind her in the queue and then just shouted her order over her shoulder, leaving Serena speechless. I comment that I guess she must have been wasted, Serena has a different reflection in it though, “She was just a fucking cunt!” laughing about it all the same. Andy cracks up, “Love the Brits”.

The hotel we’re staying at us fucking ridiculous. It’s Germany, or maybe someone said Europe’s, largest hotel. It literally has thousands of rooms and we’re staying in the second wing of four, I think. It’s total Las Vegas. Pristine, huge and shiny, and somehow still tacky. The lobby has a huge glass ceiling about seven stories up, and there are bars and restaurants strewn about the place. It looks more like Central Station than a hotel. We dump our bags and decide on a nightcap before bed. There is some other band at the bar who we try to avoid, since one of the guys is wearing black metal clothes and has a man bun. Obviously a wretched person. I jest, of course. Zoli is curious, though, he always wants to know who’s who. We leave him to it as we take our beers to one of the sofas. Zoli joins us soon after and tells us they’re actually nice guys. I’m sure they are. We just couldn’t be bothered with band talk.

Jon heads up before us, since he’s intent on making it to this market in the morning. I’m not far behind him, though. I’m more than ready for bed. The one beer was perfect. I walk into our room and Jon is sat meditating on the bed, full on yoga style. I apologise for barging in and disturbing him and his eyes burst open, “That weed I got from Breeder was a real upper! I’m fucking buzzing!” and then he starts banging on about circular time for a while. I don’t really keep track with what he’s talking about, I just leave him chatting away whilst I nod off to sleep in the bed beside him.

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