Saturday, November 2, 2019


Last night’s gig t-shirt proved itself to be only marginally better for drying myself off after a shower than a paper hand towel. I felt pretty well rested at least. Nice to have a lie in until nine-thirty, even if we knew we were risking being late tonight. The drives have been longer towards the back end of the tour, and we have the monster journey home on the horizon so need to store energy. After a pretty shabby breakfast in a thoroughly depressing grey canteen we hailed a cab back to the venue. We ended up with some little old boy who was full of chirp. Jon did a bit of talking with him. When he heard we were from Sweden he said something about Ingemar Stenmark, who was obviously a hero of his since he drove his cab in the same manner that Ingemar threw himself down the slopes.

The drive to Wermelskirchen was fucking tedious to say the least. Jon took a ride with the Svalbard guys today, so it was just the three of us. Johan and I taking turns at the wheel over the course of the eight hours it took. It was solemnly miserable weather, pissed down the whole way with pockets of fog as we went through the hills. I’m sure it would have been some nice sightseeing if you’d been able to see further than ten feet ahead at any point. The only thing of note we saw, apart from the odd stau, was a car completely engulfed in fire on the other side of the autobahn. Thankfully it didn’t seem like anyone was hurt. It’s times like these where you wonder to yourself what you’re doing here. Jen sent me a photo of Polly curled up on the sofa with popcorn, watching a film. I would have happily teleported myself there if I had the chance. Hits like these always have a bigger impact at the end of the tour, though. It was also a bit of a bummer that this was going to be the last show with Svalbard, and that they had to leave for Calais straight after their set. It would feel empty without them tonight. Only one more show to go, though. I’m ready for home now.

A couple of things immediately cheered me up upon arrival. First off Liam told me he’d stood in dogshit at their last break and the rest of the guys were livid with him stinking out the van, meaning they had to drive the last hour with the window open. The second thing was that Timo, the young punk booking the show, was very happy to greet us to the punk house where we were playing, and assuring us there was no stress. To top things off, the dinner they made for us was absolutely superb. By far the best of the tour. This was the perfect place to come after a long, dark old day in the van.

We let the local support band soundcheck whilst we loaded in and set up and then noshed into dinner. We played here back in 2011 on the A Dissident album shows and they still had the poster up in the gig room. Can barely remember it, though. Been some time since then. After dinner we hung out in the big bar room where we had the merch. It was a pretty cool setup with a pinball machine as well as foosball table. I played a game with the Svalbard guys, Serena and I taking the game home in a next-goal-the-winner thriller. Jon was glued to the pinball machine most of the night and taking it very fucking seriously. At one point we’re stood around watching him play and Rob points at something over Jon’s shoulder, which Jon irrittadely swipes away without breaking focus on the marbles.

An old acquaintance, Rob from Plastic Bomb, was here selling records on his distro. He’s a bit of a special case, has a constant smile on his coupon, even when he’s moaning. And he’s constantly on the flog. He was trying to sell me the original copy of Virgin Killer by Scorpions, the one with the fucked up cover with the young girl on it... Even for it’s time that was a pretty naughty piece of artwork. No wonder it got banned.

I felt a little emotional watching Svalbard tonight. I stand in the middle of the room and watch the entire set. They’re absolutely on fire, and the sound is magnificent. They smash every fucking note. The crowd are well in to them as well. I can tell that they all really enjoyed their gig tonight. I’m happy to hear from Liam afterwards that they’re going to stick around until after our set to say goodbye, which is really cool of him since it’s he that is doing the night drive. It would have been completely understandable had they left straight away. We’ve been in that position a few times.

Our show is a bit of a different experience. The room hasn’t quite filled back up by the time I go to start the long guitar intro to The Horse and Sparrow Theory. I shout across to Jon, asking if we’re ready and then I literally break a string with the first fucking note. There’s nothing to do but stop and change guitar and start again, which causes a ripple of laughs among the slowly expanding crowd. I guess it’s better to break on the first note than at the end of the forty second intro. We’re a bit sloppy during the show tonight, I think it must be tiredness playing it’s hand. Jon is struggling the whole gig with annoying feedback coming out of his monitor, with the sound engineer seemingly scoobied as to what’s causing it. The gig is saved by Serena making a guest appearance on This is the End, which gives everything a lift. Even if I do break another string during the end of the song. It feels like a good ending anyway, I could have left it there. The crowd hadn’t seemed that enthusiastic for most of the gig, barring a few punks dancing down front and one pissed up old boy jumping up stage and staying there for an age, so I’m surprised by the chanting for an encore. I borrow Jon’s guitar, Judas, for the last block of songs. Before we can get back on with things the old boy is back up and seemingly refusing to leave. He puts his arm around Johan, who encourages him to sing. He shouts “Victims in Blood!!!” into the mic, much to everyone’s amusement except Jon, who seems to be fuming over something.

When we finally come off, Jon is shouting about how Serena saved the gig and otherwise it was the worst gig he’d ever played and that he’s going to punch a German if one talks to him. We all laugh at him, but he’s on the warpath. This only encourages us. Jon’s humour abates only for the short while we spend hugging the Svalbard guys goodbye, gutted to see them leave. When they leave, Jon goes immediately back into wrath mode. I piss myself laughing when I clock Rob trying to talk to him and Jon dramatically gesticulating with his arms that he does not wish to be stopped to talk. Rob just looks at me with that usual big smile on his face, which just gets me laughing all the more.

We get packed down and leave the gear on stage for the morning since we’re sleeping upstairs tonight. Johan and I grab a much needed couple of cold brews and we stand around the merch table selling bits and bobs whilst talking to some very friendly punks. When we’re done we join Jon for a game of pinball but he’s still in a stinking mood. Poison Idea is blasting out of a speaker directly above the machine and he’s not amused in the slightest by Andy and Johan’s singing along to it. They only amplify the situation by blowing in his ears as he’s banging the table around. And then some punk asks us if it’s too late to buy a shirt I ask Jon if he can help the guy out since it appears to be my turn on the flipper, to which Jon closes his eyes and lets out an exaggerated sigh.When some older guy (someone about our age) comes up and asks for a photo with us all, we all happily oblige bar Jon, who silently backs away, staring us out as he does so. We manage to encourage Jon to come take a photo and stop being an arse, and I hear Jon asking Johan if the guy wanting the photo is the bastard who was blowing in his ear. He seems disappointed to hear that it was in fact Johan.

We leave Jon to it and head upstairs to finish off our beer in peace and quiet. A couple of the punks from the house are up there and want to know if we will party with them, but we politely explain that we’re goosed after the day we’ve had, which they are completely sympathetic about. And when we mention our plans for a trip into Köln tomorrow on the way to the festival in Eindhoven they give us some tips on what to do there. Our main intention is to see the cathedral and just do something in general that doesn’t involve being in the van all day. Shortly afterwards the big singer from the local band appears in the doorway to the dining room we’re sat in wearing just his kecks and a t-shirt, “I did not see you guys play tonight. I will catch you next time,” and then stoats off back to what I assume is his bed.

Jon joins us a little while later and is finally back to his old self, thank fuck. We sit around for a little while longer and then call it a day. Nice not to have the alarm set tomorrow. We have breakfast here and then a short drive lined up. Which is most welcome since we’re driving after the gig to a hotel in Bremen to break up the journey home a bit. I lie in bed reading The Idiot by Elif Batuman for a while before turning my phone lamp off. Jon is sat on the bed opposite me in the meditation position. It takes me a little while to nod off, knowing he’s sat there in the dark like a phantom.

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