Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sthlm -> GBG

Within seconds of exiting the Universitet tube station my feet were sodden. Properly fucking squelching through the grey brown slush as the sleet came down like icy needles. I had not prepared for this. It was the first day of winter and it had taken me by surprise. I had a lot of work on at uni, being in the middle of writing a bachelor's thesis, and I’d planned to go straight to the gig when I was done for the day. Trainers were a truly piss poor choice of footwear. My socks would agree. Thing is, I can’t play in winter boots, can I? Clamping around on stage like BigFoot. The situation would need to be remedied.

My thesis partner Freddie was in the same boat. The two of us walked over to campus cursing ourselves and the weather. Mainly the weather. We needed to use the computer hall today since we were in the middle of analysing the statistical part of our work and neither of us could be fucked with paying for the necessary software when the campus computers provided them for free. Problem was the main hall was closed today, it had been taken over by the Nobel Student’s Ball committee for their upcoming soirée, so we had to find somewhere else to work. We also needed a radiator to hang our socks on. The whole Nobel shabang got me thinking about how I would soon be finished at university and how over the last three years I’ve never once embraced any kind of “student life.” I’ve simply come and gone to the place like you would any job. When I was younger and most of my mates left Corby for uni, I used to tell myself that I hated students and could never have stuck being around them all day long. Even then, I knew deep down that that was just bitterness talking. The reality is that I felt left behind. Although I doubt I would ever have fully adapted to the student culture. I’ve spent long periods over the last three years feeling like an outsider at university. Not just because of my age and life situation, but also because I come from a working class background in England. Bourdeau was definitely onto something with his theories on social and cultural capital… Anyway, standing there in wet socks, looking at the sign on the door of the computer hall “CLOSED IN PREPARATION FOR THE NOBEL STUDENT’S BALL” I scoffed inwardly, “Fucking toff bastards!”

Freddie and I ended up finding another computer room over in the main campus building, a room I’d never paid any notice to over the three years I’d been here. It was kind of hidden away on one of the upper floors. I don’t think any of the other students knew about the place either, since there were only three people occupying seats, dotted about the room, and they were all old men. Fucking weird, the lot of them. One was breathing heavily at his monitor, grumbling to himself as he tried to make purchases through various Black Friday offers online but was seemingly failing at every turn. One of the others was looking at something dubious with his milk bottle glasses pressed up against the screen, and the third one looked like he was here just to keep warm. Apart from Black Friday’s grunts, it was totally silent, and Freddie and I sat next to each other communicating by Messenger. “What the fuck is this? A Lynch film?” There was in any case a radiator here, and although it wasn’t turned on, we still hung our sodden socks on it. Black Friday was making it impossible to concentrate on the multiple regression analysis we were supposed to be tackling, though, and after a while we sorrowfully drew our wet socks back on and left.

When I left university three hours later they were still wet. I had to jump off the tube halfway to the gig to buy a new pair. I was by now going fucking mad with the wet feet, so changed socks right there on the platform at Skanstull station, drawing, I imagine, similarly strange looks from passers by as we’d thrown in the direction of the three old stooges earlier on.

We’ve had a relatively busy time of it since we released the album in June. We’ve been out once a month since then, at least. Twenty-odd shows over the space of half a year ranks as “busy” these days. Overall the shows have been good, anyway. These two in Sweden are the last for the year, and the first since the short European tour we did a month ago. It feels kind of weird, as always, playing Stockholm. I have no idea how the show will be tonight, there is a lot of other stuff going on in town. Mayhem are playing Fryshuset, Boris are playing right next door at Slaktkyrkan, and Baroness are supporting Volbeat just across the road at the huge Tele2 Arena. John had texted us a couple of days ago and asked if we’d wanted to play with Baroness last night, at the same venue we’re playing tonight, Hus 7. But two shows in a row at the same venue felt like a bit much. Would have been more fun if Baroness could’ve jumped on our show tonight. Would have been fun playing with Baroness in a small venue again, though. One of the funniest Victims stories for me is the fact that Baroness supported Victims at some roller rink on their first tour of the US back in 2004 or something. Victims played as a three piece with Little Andy playing guitar and no bass, since Jon was in hospital after breaking his leg the night before. Baroness and Victims have embarked on rather different journeys since then…

Johan and Jon were going to head over to the arena to watch them play tonight, since they were on early. Johan had some business there with one of the sound engineers and through that had blagged him and Jon AAA passes, meaning they could watch the show from the comfort of the sound desk. Unfortunately for Jon, we’d left our van in front of the entrance to the club and Johan had the only key. Ronny asked me if we could move it, and the upshot was that Jon had to come running back with the key, since Johan was in the middle of some work thing. Jon was proper gutted when he was denied entry back into the crew door of the arena when he returned. Felt sorry for him. He really wanted to see his beloved Baroness play an arena. He was sat in the backstage room with a face like a bag of wasps, not really wanting to talk. He only interrupted the silence to inquire if there was any dinner left. When he returned with a plate of cold punk stew his mood hadn’t lightened any. Sensing it wasn't the time to make any kind of crack, I got up and left before the smirk on my face gave me away.

It’s a strange place, Hus 7. It’s literally Slaughterhouse Number 7, right in the middle of the old meatpacking district. The off-white tiled walls and grey concrete floors give the place a very cold feeling, as does the minus degrees seeping in from outside through the heavy plastic strips hanging over the holes in the walls either side of the stage. It's a bit off-putting when punters are walking in and out mid-gig to go to the bog, or whatever. That and the fact I have a hard time shifting images in my head of cows being put to their death and the blood flowing away through the drain in the floor. 

I’ve never met the Blessings guys before, and I’d never heard the band either. Andy had been raving about them, though. Their guitarist, Johan, recognised me. He was a good friend of my old buddy, Marco, who played drums in Logh, Cult of Luna and a bunch of other bands. He was one of the first really good friends I made after arriving here. He moved to Malmö a long time ago, though, and I haven’t seen him in ages. Johan wanted to take a pic of me to send to Marco. It was nice to meet him, real nice guy. It wasn’t the first time I’d had my picture taken to send to an old friend in Malmö tonight, strangely enough. Emma, the production manager of the venue, is best friends with an old work friend of mine, Amira, someone else I haven’t met in ages. Bit of a strange theme going on tonight.

Blessings are absolutely great. Really impressed by them. And whereas the place was pretty much empty five minutes before they started, not that strange given that this place isn’t exactly somewhere you hang out at at this freezing time of year, it felt like the majority of the hundred or so who had bought tickets for tonight had arrived. Loved every second of Blessings set, really liked the drive they had going on in all of their songs. It was nice to have a mixed line-up at the show tonight, with Horndal in the middle, blasting out their Entombed styled, social-issued concept metal. Pontus and Henrik’s parents were in the crowd too, and they got a big shout out, much to the crowd’s pleasing. Took me back to our show in Vienna a month before when my dad had received the same welcome. Made me smile.

Hometown shows are always weird, though. I’ve said this many times, I know. It’s strange though, playing mainly to friends and acquaintances. Tonight it was extra weird, given that four of my work colleagues were here, of which one was my boss. It must have been a right eye-opener for them. I had a hard time shifting them out of my thoughts for most of the gig, which seemed to manifest in a tense forearm, making it hard for me to relax during the show. Nerves, in other words. They would never have seen this side of me before, I’m always Mr. Calm and Humble at work. It loosened up a little as the show rolled on, although it never completely left. Luc and Vik were stood right in front of me the whole gig, which helped. Although I could tell Luc was wishing that this show was somewhere smaller and more punk, Vik was seemingly not arsed. For all the piss taking he gives me over Victims, calling us The Foos all the time, or lyx crust, every time we play he’s always there, in front of me, pulling at my legs and shouting along to the songs. Tonight was no different. Love him. At the end of the gig I notice John Baroness and a couple of the Wolfbrigade guys are stood side stage. Afterwards Micke Bull tells me that Wolfbrigade had been invited by the Volbeat guys to their show and given AAA passes to any show on their World tour. I didn't understand any of it. Haven't got a clue what Volbeat is. All I've heard from Andy is that they're huge and that they are papp.

I’d been looking forward all day to a nice, social beer after the show, but by the time we were done the place began emptying out. Again, not surprising. There are cosier places to hang out. I was a bit gutted though. The only people that were left were three of my work mates. They were pissed up and chuffed with the gig and had decided to get tattooed at the all night place here at the venue. That sure escalated quickly. First tat for Alex, which I couldn’t help wondering whether he’d regret it in the morning. Klara, my boss, had a few already, although she was apparently so drunk she was getting on the tattooist’s tits. Fucking wild. They really went all in on the punk experience.

So apart from that lot, who were busy doing that thing, most other people left. Even Jen, who had been on an after work with some colleagues since five pm, had fucked off home in a Joe Baxi, pretty boats herself. I ended up just drinking the one and driving Johan’s work van back to our place. Johan had driven home to Nyköping with Pia. We’d pick him up on the way to Gothenburg tomorrow.

It was just after one am when I got home. I cracked open a tin I had in the fridge, put on my cosy slippers, and watched an episode of QI.

Jon was taking the train to GBG, since there was only room for three in Johan’s work van, and since only Johan and I have a license, and Andy is too long to squeeze into Horndal’s car, it was Jon who elected himself to make his own way to the gig. I understood that he didn’t want to squeeze into a car for five hours with a bunch of guys he didn’t really know. That would have been more of a job for me I guess, but my license to drive was required in our van.

Given the shitty, shitty weather yesterday, and the predicted icy roads on route today, we left a little earlier than usual, but it was still a pleasant enough start to the day. Left around ten thirty. The drive turned out to be no bother at all, though, in actual fact it was really pleasant. It was one of those blue sky winter days, crispy air and glorious sunshine. The five hours flew by. The Horndal guys were already at the venue and packed in when we arrived, and within an hour we were soundchecked and ready. There wasn’t a whole lot left for us to do. The room we were playing in at Musikens Hus was pretty fucking big, and the stage was really high and wide. It sounded great, for sure, but when I heard that there was a much smaller venue in the basement, I couldn’t help but wish we were playing there instead. There was no way we were filling this room tonight. The old rocker doing sound, a chirpy chap, insisted there would be no way we could play the small room with the gear we were playing through. “It wouldn’t be fun for anyone, the noise would be too much.” We’d have to agree to disagree on that one.

We noshed into some grub from the small restaurant they had here, and then after speaking with the promoter, Jonk, for a while, we should play later on after the Mayhem show at Pustervik was over apparently, since a lot of that crowd would come here afterwards apparently, we went to meet our friend Samsa and go for a nice hipster beer somewhere. What was with fucking Mayhem following us this weekend?

Samsa already had some beer in his parka jacket, he’d come from some home party of this guy who runs a brewery, and said we were welcome to head back there if we wanted. Free beer and all. I had the feeling that was what he’d wanted to do, but he was more than happy to take us somewhere for a quiet beer. It was just what was required. Gothenburg has certainly got this beer game sorted. So many good places to eat and drink here, lots of great veggie places too. Samsa is certainly chuffed with his lot in life.

We sit around talking about the old days, what else do us old timers ever do really?, and laughing about a certain classic Swedish hardcore band and their new album. We get to talking about Samsa’s days with Satanic Surfers, since we’d just played with his old band in the Czech Republic this summer. Happy Andy came up in the convo, of course. Samsa was saying how Andy was always late and how this one time they were flying off somewhere and for Andy’s sake, set a cautiously early time for the train out to the airport. When he didn’t arrive, they finally had no choice but to get on a train and head off without him. As they were sitting there waiting for the train to leave, they saw him running towards them. Just as the train doors were closing he thrust the neck-end of his bass case between the doors and pried them open. Totally chuffed with himself he was laughing, “Told you I’d make it on time!”

After the one, drawn out, but delicious 4,2% ale, we took a walk back to the venue. Even after the one I had the beginning of that warm, fuzzy ears thing going on that I normally get if I approach anywhere near Tipsy Town. It was cold out now. The warm ears didn’t do anything to help.

When we get back to the venue Jon is sat in the grandiose little foyer of the venue where we have the merch table. He’s sat hanging out with Charlie Cimex, with the usual overawed, star struck coupon he normally has on when hanging out with a legend. He shows us some white Victims t-shirt that some giffer had made himself. It had a pencil drawing of a horse, with a red pentagram and also written in red, Malin Baryard, which is the name of a famous horse rider. He told Jon that he always thought our song Scars was about her and that he’d mistakenly thought the line, “Scars in my eyes”, was “Malin Baryard”. Hence the horse on the t-shirt.

Dennis Doom was milling around with Charlie too, both of them looking pretty pissed up, although Dennis was certainly the worse for wear. I received the usual sloppy kiss on the hand and an “Alright mate” from him before he stoated off. That’s about the usual content of our conversations when we meet. We’d already missed the local punk band when we were out drinking, but I managed to catch the second half of Horndal’s set. It’s a weird set up. The sound is massive, they play great, but the room is about a third full, and up on that big stage, with two metalheads gripping on to it’s cusp as they bang their heads, it just feels odd. I’m not exactly bursting with enthusiasm before our set, and getting on for midnight, I don’t envision that many of the Mayhem crowd arriving. That said, Johan from Blessings turns up and he’d just come from there. Shame they weren’t playing tonight. Jonk had insisted on the other band.

Despite the empty pockets or air dotted about the crowd, it always helps a little when it sounds huge on stage. It at least makes the “playing” part of the gig more enjoyable. I feel like I’m going a little through the motions in my head by the end though, as much as I put every ounce of energy I can muster into playing. I would never allow anything else.

Afterwards we hang out by the merch for a while before finishing the evening off having a quick beer with Charlie up in the dressing room above the stage. He’s sat there telling dad jokes and taking the piss out of Jonk, who after about thirty minutes of harassing him, finally convinces him to join him at a bar for one last beer. The rest of us wait for a cab to the hotel.

And the wait goes on.

It’s fucking freezing by now, the streets surrounding the venue are completely dead, and I want to go to bed. We’d called for some Uber-type deal called BOLT, which was ordered through Jonk’s account on his phone. Jonk has now fucked off with Charlie and we’re waiting with our nuggs shivering. For every car that passes that isn’t ours I get more pissed off. Horndal left ages ago, and we’d planned to have a quick beer in the hotel bar, but that time has now surely passed, I imagine.

When the car finally arrives, the old boy driving is so chirpy, that it’s hard to stay pissed off. The rage returns as soon as we walk into the deserted reception area of the hotel and are faced with a confused looking lad, “Victims? No, I don’t have any booking with that name? Jonk? Musikens Hus? Concert? No. Sorry. No.” How many fucking times have I heard this spiel at this time of the morning at after-gig hotels?! After a lot of fucking about, he arrives at the conclusion that he gave out eight room keys to a group of four who arrived earlier. So the upshot is this: For the two bands, we had one family room with four beds and two twin rooms. Eight beds each. Turns out Horndal were given all the keys and they’ve now spread themselves out over the three rooms. About twenty minutes later a tired, sheepish looking Eken arrives with our keys.

Finally in bed, about four hours after finishing the show. Originally we were supposed to have a hotel five minutes walk from the venue, but there was a balls up with that of course, so now we’re way out on Hisingen. No fucking matter. It’s nice to finally be in bed. I’m sharing with Jon, and when I’m getting ready to nod off I notice him rolling up a huge joint. I can’t imagine for a minute that he thinks he’s going to smoke that fucking thing in here, but then he has stripped down to his tight orange longjohns that pose as his pyjamas. When he’s done rolling, he tells me he’s off downstairs. I laugh to myself, imagining him walking through reception in bright orange longjohn’s and then standing outside in a bush puffing away on his spliff. That image tucks me off to sleep quite nicely. Snug as a bug in a rug.