I’ve been looking forward to this tour for a while, first time we’ve been out for a longer stretch in a few years. Last time we did more than three or four shows was on the west coast in the US in 2016. It will be an interesting marker of where we’re at to see how us old guys with bad backs fare. The drives aren’t too bad, and the shows are all pretty early, which the fact that it pleases everyone immensely shows how old and boring we are. Fuck me. We are a middle aged Svenne banan punk band in every aspect.
The only real big journey’s are the two bookending the tour. Stockholm to Hamburg, Eindhoven to Stockholm. And it’s only myself and Johan with a driving license. We split the first journey in two, though, leaving Stockholm after work yesterday and crashing at a hotel on the outskirts of Malmö just before the bridge. We got there without incident. It took about six and a half hours including the mandatory stop for dinner at Max’s. The hotel was a pretty nice Best Western right next to the Malmö Arena, where there seemed to be a big expo or something going on. After driving all evening I could have happily taken a night cap, but the bar was firmly closed. All that was left were a few pissed up businessmen and a deserted table with a couple of half drunk bottles of wine. Andy said when he’d gone in to check us in there was some woman who was pissed as a fart and had walked into a pillar. Swedes on business trips...
After breakfast at the hotel, which was included, but was in a big grey room overlooking the ice rink of the arena. Andy pointed out the pissed up woman from last night, looking surprisingly bright with her cup of coffee. The journey down through Denmark to Hamburg only took about five hours and was pretty easy. It was windy as fuck on the bridge though, a couple of times I had to fight the gusts pulling us off to the sea. I assumed with the wind being the way it was that the ferry from Rödby to Puttgarden was going to be a bumpy ride, but it was fine. It’s only a short stretch I guess. We only had time for a coffee and the one game of Yahtzee before we were off again. Jon has this proper big case for his Yahtzee kit, for some reason is has ASS BOY written on in huge letters. Jon marked us up on the scoresheet as JPT (Johan på toan), BRX (Brexit) and TOK. I love the humble self-image he has of himself. I felt a bit bad as we were sat there playing, I had one crap hand that meant me being forced to scratch the small straight and fuming, I called the dice a bunch of cunts, not noticing the old couple and their grandchild beside us. It’s Jon’s fault, he encourages everyone to take Yahtzee very seriously.
We got to the venue in Hamburg about an hour early, having foregone lunch on the way from Puttgården due to the veggie options at the one dinner we found being french fries. This is a new venue for us here, we’ve pretty much always played the Hafenklang.and it seemed to cause a few hurt feelings that we weren’t playing there this time. It’s a bit of a shame, they’ve always taken such great care of us. I don’t really know why we ended up at this place this time around, but it looked pretty cool all the same. A smallish room, with cosy setting, sofas and shit, dotted about the back, and still very punk, in the basement underneath a hip little bar. There was nothing to do for the next hour anyway so we decided to go for a walk and stretch the old pegs, but we’d only walked two minutes when Zoli phoned. He was stood outside the venue with two boxed of our merch. It’s pretty fun how Zoli and I toured together twelve years ago and then apart from a couple of glancing moments, hadn’t really seen each other since then. And then last year we met him at a show in Budapest and now he’s our booker, and for the first few shows on this run, the tour manager. Not that we really need tour managing, but fun to have him along all the same.
We have to work out what to do with the merch, since two minutes ago the staff in the bar above the club said they didn’t know much about our gig. But now there’s this old guy there, who apparently is running a techno club directly after out show. Seems pretty friendly. Zoli gets chopping with him and he tells us that we can take the merch downstairs, that the sound engineer is down there. “Thanks Techno Man” Zoli chortles and we trudge downstairs. We get talking to the sound engineer and he tells us he’s going to be a while so we can still go for a wander. I ask him if we’ll be able to leave the gear in the club tonight, hoping obviously that we don’t have to have it in the van overnight, and that Johan and I will be able to have a drink after the show. He tells us that the techno club starts at midnight and it finishes at six pm the day after. “Drug abusers, you know?” So I guess we’re not leaving the stuff in the club…I then notice a ridiculously high drum riser on the stage, it’s like, shoulder height. We ask the guy if that is really where the drums are supposed to go. “Yes,” he says without a blink. I laugh and tell him that’s not going to happen.
It’s nice to see another part of Hamburg for a change, instead of the usual meandering around the Reeperbahn. We’re on the outskirts of St Pauli on the other end, it’s a nice little area full of coffee shops and bars, small shops, and a couple of old assed churches. When we get back to the venue we soundcheck, which seems to scupper the sound engineer’s plans, since he was hoping we’d just go for linecheck, being the first show of the tour and all. It’s just as well we did because soundcheck throws up a few niggly technical issues. It’s gets a bit fucking strange when Svalbard soundcheck and Serena the singer is asking for more vocals in her monitor, and the sound guy tells her to sing louder. What the fuck…
The Svalbard people seem friendly. I don’t really know much about them apart from they’re from the UK and they once did a cover of This is the End on a compilation record back in the day. They’re going to be out with us for eight of the nine shows of this tour. Just from the brief bit of chat around the vegan pizza the promoter sorted us out with, I can tell we’re going to get along just fine. Still one of the things I love the most about touring is making new friends and meeting old ones. And on that point, both our old friend Daniel Haffenklang, who always used to book us there, and our dear, beloved Stachel, texts me and asks about going for a beer. We arrange to go to some bar that sells good stuff that Stachel knows about. Text Daniel the place and ask him if he needs a guestlist, suspecting that he won’t since he knows everyone in Hamburg. He tells me he’s sorted. Zoli then tells me that it was Daniel that booked this show for us tonight… which I guess explains why we’re not playing Haffenklang. I knew Daniel ahd left there but not that he’d started here. Although he has now since finished here too…
Stachel and his girlfriend and another friend of there’s arrive outside the venue where we’re waiting for them. It’s so great to see him. One of my favourite people on the planet. It’s been far too long since we hung out. They have been living on Gran Canaria and then Mallorca for a couple of years. Anyway, it’s great to see him. His cheeky face is exactly the same as ever. “Garrrrry!” His tone hasn’t changed, either. We go to a hip little beer abr five minutes away, Stachel is very enthusiastic about good ale, and he loves bringing friends to good places. He kindly treats us all to a round. I wasn’t going to drink before the show, but I spot and ale that is only 3,9% which Stachel tells me is really good. Johan and Andy go for one too. Funnily enough, we all say afterwards how it went straight up to our heads. My ears go a fuzzy warm about halfway through the pint. Ridiculous. It’s great chatting and catching up with everyone, and soon enough, Daniel arrives too. Couldn’t ask for a better start to the tour.
Zoli’s good friends, The Cold, are opening the show tonight and Andy, Johan and I feel we should go and support them. The fact the stage times have all been pushed back suggests that the walk up is slow. I’m surprised when we get there to find the room pretty well filled out. I enjoy their set as well. Svalbard are good, too. They have a bit of an epic, black metal tinged punk thing going on with Envy-style parts going on. The sound is really good out front, and a lot of people seem to be in to them. I get the feeling that they’re going to pull a few people on this tour.
Our show feels okay. It starts well enough, there are over a hundred people in the room and it feels like a good attendance in this room, I have plenty of energy to begin with, spurred on a little by Stachel’s presence up front, his huge smile glowing as ever. But the energy kind of fades a little somewhere along the way. There isn’t a whole lot of movement from the crowd, it’s all arms folded and nods. There are barely any crust punks here tonight, either. I don’t know if that’s a Haffenkland issue. There is the usual crescent of empty space in front of the stage, with everyone else cramming at the back, and as we’re playing Errors Jon decides to fill that space and comes flying over to my side of the stage on the dancefloor in front of me, he comes sliding across on his fucking knees to play the harmony break with me in the middle of the song, chuffed as fuck he is. Proper cheesy rock moment gone wrong. Only thing is, he totally misses the notes and it sounds as sour as fuck.Things perk up a bit when we get to My Eyes, about half way through, and as I’m wondering what’s keeping Jon from starting the intro riff I notice him steadying himself on the ridiculous drum riser, right up above Andy. He stands there like a rock God, rocking out the intro riff. I crack up at the sight of it. Then when he gets to the end of the intro Andy has to wait to kick in the drum start because Jon needs time climbing back down again. Fucking nonsense.
We kind of plough through the rest, the crowd starting to make the first tentative signs of movement for a couple of the old songs. But there is the odd miss from Andy here and there, I manage to pull my lead out of my pedal a couple of times, and then during one break I look up and see Johan looking stressed, his hair is sticking out into wide flanks either side of his head, as he walks about the stage asking if anyone has seen his ear plug. I daren’t let him see, so I turn away and laugh my ass off. For some reason, the sight of him, with his wild hair, just cracks me up. It hits me how old and pathetic we must look.
By the time we get to the end of the normal set, it feels pretty clear we’re not doing any encores. It’s been a typical first show on tour, had that vibe all over it. And besides, the sound guy put the music on as soon as we finished. There is one guy in a Wolfbrigade t-shirt though, who was looking chuffed all through the gig, who comes up to me as I’m packing my leads away and asks if everything is okay. I assure him it is. He seems disappointed we didn’t play longer, tells me he drove three hundred and fifty kilometers to see us. Feel a bit bad about that. I was feeling a bit down on the gig by the end of it to be honest, but I didn’t mean to show it. I don’t know why I felt that way really, it was a perfectly acceptable gig.
We sold a bunch of merch after the show anyway, so I guess people were into it. Jon had said before the last song about how when he used to go to shows he used to do this thing called “moshing” but he guessed Germany had missed that boat. To be honest, though, I can’t remember the last time I saw Jon moshing at a gig...Not like any of us old sods do that anymore, if the truth is told. When I go to gigs, ninety percent of them time, I’m an arms-folded nodder.
There are a pair of older punk guys insisting they buy whoever isn’t driving a shot. I lie and tell him I’m driving. “Okay, where is Johan!?” he shouts enthusiastically. That puts me on the spot. I canät think of anything else than to tell him Johan is driving, too. He’s not buying that though, and goes off in search of him. The fact is, Johan said he could drive the van to the sleeping place tonight, and I would take tomorrow. It’s all irrelevant though, since neither of us would likely end up drinking more than one at any rate.
The techno club people are soon chasing us out. Techno Man has now changed his tune and all. I’m stood talking to Zoli at the merch who is packing up, and he storms over fuming at him, complaining about the fact that we haven’t taken our backdrop down yet. “If you don’t get rid of this RUBBISH I will take it down and burn it” That gets Zoli going straight away and the two of them end up in a bit of a row. It ends with Zoli shouting, “I don’t like you anymore Techno Man! What happened to that mellow guy we met this afternoon? Bring that guy back!” Techno Man seems to be offended by the actual backdrop, too. “I hate this shit with skulls and crossbones!” Zoli points out it’s only skulls, no bones. Fucking nonsense. Fuck knows what Techno Man’s problem is.
With help from Stachel and crew, we load out into the street whilst Johan goes to get the van. Jon is nowhere to be fucking seen though, apparently he bumped into some hippie woman from the techno fest and is nowing getting a tarot card reading. Great fucking timing. Load out doesn’t take long though thanks to help from everyone else, but Zoli still finds time to wind up a couple of German women who are wanting to get into the techno club. They obviously don’t appreciate his charm. I have a couple of beer tickets left, so head into the hipster bar and trade them for a couple of bottles of Becks for the sleeping place and give one to Zoli. After a lot of hugging, we say goodbye to our dear friends and then head off for some vegan kebab that Feddie, the singer from The Cold leads us to. We park up the van in some park next to a church, or some kind of tower anyway. When I get out of the van I find Jon stood up against the bricks of the tower with his arms outstretched embracing it, starting up at the sky. Leave him to it.
The vegan kebab is fucking great. I go for a box of kebab and french fries, Feddi is helping the entire Victims/Svalbard crew translate their orders. Both Liam and Serena from Svalbard told me they’d seen Speedhorn back in the day. Liam told me that the singer in his old band had been in our first video as part of the crowd. I asked him who that was and he told me his name was Merv. “Fuck me” Big Feet Merv?! Small world!” I laughed. We all stand around on the busy street noshing it down and making satisfied groans. Andy joyfully observes that it’s not even one am yet and we don’t have to leave until the afternoon tomorrow. We’re staying at a band apartment, which Zoli received the address for, but also a picture of the door since there were a few doors to the same address. They’d told him to look for the monkey. There was obviously a bit of farting about, and we tried four or five doors before realising that the picture of the door we’d received was on the opposite side of the street from the address we’d been given. It wasn’t much bar a couple of rooms with bunks and a shower. But it was warm and it was quiet.and that’s all we needed. We sat up for a while with the Svalbard guys drinking that beer and having a chat and then went to bed.
Zoli gets into his bottom bunk and groans about the hard mattress, saying he’s going to wake up looking like Nordberg from Naked Gun. Tickles me.
It’s a luxury not having to set the alarm in the morning.