Monday, March 21, 2022

Goodnight Copenhagen and Farewell

“It’s up. It’s down again…” I grew up with Fawlty Towers. Me and my family watched it all the time when we were kids. The scene with Basil and the painting is still one of the classics my sister and I reference when we’re gagging together. It’s starting to feel like that with this fucking pandemic. I know it’s not a laughing matter, but still. It’s off. It’s on again. Although maybe ever thinking it was off was pretty naive. But two months ago it felt like we were finally emerging from this shit. “Do you not think people were tired of the war in 1943?” I read some doctor saying in the paper the other day. And yeah, totally. I guess we’re spoiled. It was still a huge fucking downer when Omicron popped up though. All of a sudden I was back to manically checking the various news apps on my phone every thirty minutes. Even though I kept telling myself not to.

This was the third gig we’d booked since all restrictions were initially dropped. The first was at Kafé 44 in Stockholm in October. When we said yes to that gig the restrictions were still in place, it was supposed to be a maximum of fifty people in attendance. It ended up packed since they’d dropped everything by that point. It was a blast. The second show was in Göteborg last week, but we had to cancel since Andy was as sick as a dog. He’d tested negative but was still way too weak to sit in a car back and forth to Göteborg and play a gig, covid or not. The third gig was this one tonight in Copenhagen. The offer for it had come in just days after most governments in Europe had dropped all restrictions. It was supposed to be us and Wolfbrigade, but the Wolves had to drop out. Something about someone’s kitchen being renovated… Fuck knows... Thankfully our mates in Massgrav could jump on board instead. Then a couple of weeks before the show Denmark started tightening things up since cases were back on the rise and all of a sudden everything felt very unstable again... As much as I fully respect the rules, and am humble before those who know a lot more about their shit than I do, it still felt pretty fucking absurd to have to put a face mask on halfway across the bridge to Denmark, considering we’d been sat on the same train with the same people for five hours without one. I could see the look of disdain in Jon’s eyes on the opposite side of the table, peering at me from above his cloth mask.

We arrived at the central station in Copenhagen and it hit me that this was the first time I’d been outside of Sweden in just under two years. I was actually abroad. In another country. Even if Denmark is kinda like Scotland to England. Same, same, they just talk funny. And drink more. The guy who had booked the gig met us in the arrivals hall. We decided we’d take a coffee whilst we waited for the Massgrav guys to arrive, since they were on the train after ours. The booker, this young, stocky bloke who looked like he was more into Madball than Victims, wasn’t much of a talker. He sat and looked at his phone most of the time. I tried kicking things along with the usual, asking how he thought the show would be tonight etc. He told us it was Christmas-lunch holiday weekend in Denmark, and that tomorrow, Saturday was the big day. I asked him if that was a good thing or a bad thing, in relation to the gig. I thought that maybe if it was a big holiday weekend then the Danes might be out in high spirits tonight. “So, so,” was all he said. It didn’t fill me with confidence. We sat around at the cafe for a while, going back and forth to the counter, farting around putting face masks on and taking them off again when back at the table, making me realise that we really hadn’t felt anything of the pandemic’s effects back in Sweden, where face masks have basically been scorned.

After a while Johan and I wandered off to the hotel to check ourselves in, thinking we’d save the guaranteed farting around at the end of the night. It was only a ten minute walk, some budget nondescript, grey hotel. We did indeed get the expected look of confusion on the receptionist's face as she looked through the system for our names. It truly is a ball ache going through this routine at 2 am, so happy we got it out of the way now. The Massgrav guys had arrived by the time we got back to the station. Cheeky grins on every one of their faces. Another guarantee cashed in.

If the promoter’s “So, so” comment had knocked my confidence a little, it was now being well and truly drained by each passing station we passed on the commuter train. It felt like we were heading out of the city into the middle of nowhere. Our friend Will, who lives in the city, a true punk connoisseur, had also been in touch asking where the fuck the venue was. By the time we arrived at the place, some cultural centre/gig venue, we’d basically accepted our fate. It was all very new and shiny, and the PA looked banging, but there were tall tables dotted about the large dance floor which I was absolutely certain there would be no need to shift during the evening. The place was obviously supported by government cultural funding and it was obvious that if Wolfbrigade had still been on the bill then the outlook would have been a bit different. Still, the fridge was stocked with quality Danish beer from the superb TÖ brewery, and they had arranged some decent vegan food for us.

We sat about in the small dressing room with nothing to do except eating crisps and stare at the beer, toying with the idea of having maybe one before the show. There was fuck all else to do. I sat and chatted to one of the guys from the local band that was supporting. They’d been on their own tour with another band that was playing tonight too. They seemed really nice, but all this did was make me think about the fact that we’d have to wait things out even longer. Nothing worse than knowing you’re gonna be playing a show to a small crowd and having the night dragged out.

At least we had company. Both Will and our old mate Mackan from Disfear turned up. I spent most of the night in the back room hanging out talking about life and how its been these last couple of years. Will spent most of the night in the bar with a friend of his he’d brought along, and by the time Massgrav were about to start he’d already gotten a bit sauced. I recognised myself in that. Being a sleep deprived parent to a baby and going out for a couple of beers usually produces a consistent result. Will was talking in my ear about how it was a shame we were playing here, and even though it was in a suburb not too far from the city, it was still way off (in a scene sense) and felt like a waste. All that being said, though, Copenhagen has never been a stronghold for Victims. It says a lot that the last time the band played here was thirteen years ago, right before I joined the band.

It was, as always, great fun watching Massgrav. Norse constantly taking the piss between songs, speaking in English and explaining that Danish is in fact not the same language as Swedish, hence the English. He also explained how Stockholm was the capital city of Scandinavia. He explained this a couple of times during their set. It was probably only the Victims gang that found this internal joke amusing. They were tight as a duck’s arse as always, and blasted the shit out of the stage, even if there were only a couple of enthusiastic punks fist pumping in front of them, whilst the rest of the crowd of thirty stood around, me included, a little further back. Felt like I had to contribute to filling the space out a little. I couldn’t help but think of Norse and the effort this shit takes. He was getting up for a train around 6 am since he had to be back in Stockholm for a work thing around midday tomorrow. They could have easily, understandably declined this show. Ola and Fenok had planned a weekend of it in Copenhagen though, maybe that had more to do with it. Still, nothing but respect for Norse. It's a lot of hassle for a pretty cack gig.

And so it was. Nice big stage, sounded amazing, felt like a struggle. Most of the small crowd that was in attendance seemed relatively enthusiastic, with one or two down the front headbanging gleefully. But my amp kept cutting out the whole time, which didn’t help with the whole energy. We got through the show, but it didn’t feel like much more than just getting through it. We didn’t even finish with This is the End, which caused a stir among the Massgrav crew. It was probably one of only two or three times we haven’t played it during the nearly thirteen years I’ve been in the band. Ola asked if it was, in fact, even allowed.

After the gig I went over to the merch for a bit, and sold a couple of things. There was one guy, some proper crust punk, from Portugal. He was so happy we’d played. He said that he was here on holiday and was supposed to have gone home already, but changed his flight when he saw that we were playing. He tells me he’s been raving to his friends about it back home and asked if it was ok to get a photo that he could send back to the gang in Portugal. It’s moments like this that really make you give you some perspective. Here is this guy, here on his own, coming to this out of the way gig with only a few other people, and he’s absolutely delighted. I tell him that I hope we’ll make it to Portugal next year, that an Iberian tour is something we’ve been talking about for a while. I hope that it will be more fun than this. “Nooo man! This was amazing! Victims is my favourite band, I can’t believe I got to see you whilst I was here!” It’s a funny old world…

After the show the promoter is nowhere to be seen. It’s no hassle as far as being paid goes, since he’d already deposited the money a few days ago. Which, funnily enough, I always take to be a bad sign. But we were stuck out here with a few stragglers and a pretty sauced Will, with nobody to help us with a cab. The sound guy says he doesn’t know what the crack is and hasn’t seen him. He tried calling him but got no answer. There are no cabs around these parts either, apparently. After parting ways with Will and promising to come back to Copenhagen again and play in a more “punk venue” next time, we ended up lugging the gear with us back on the commuter train. Our spirits were soon picked up by Fenok laughing at Ola, who looked ridiculous with his face mask on since his long beard was shooting out all over the place and the mask looked like a little plaster stuck on to it. Fenok laughed for about twenty minutes, obviously feeling the effects of a few beers, but his laugh was really contagious. I pissed myself when Ola muttered that they should change the name of the band to “Maskkrav.”

There was a group of young Swedish girls on the same train as us. Making a lot of noise and obviously very drunk. When they spotted us they approached and started asking us questions, filming us at the same time, like some interview situation. I didn’t really get what was going on but Fenok was approachable. They asked him what we were doing here and he told them we had played a gig. “Ahhh cool! What’s the name of the band?” They obviously had no idea about the musical world we belonged to. Fenok, straight as an arrow, “Massgrav and Victims” he informed them. The girl looked pretty confused. I thought it was absolutely hilarious. Fenok didn’t get it. By the time we got back to the central station one of the girls fell right out of the opening door, flat on her face to the platform. I felt like an old, worried parent, looking at the state of them. And then I remembered that I’ve been in that exact same state on many occasions. Still brought a solid reminder that my kid could be in this very state in about eight years time. Fucking terrifying. Thankfully the girl in question seemed ok, and slightly embarrassed, pulled herself up and dusted herself off.

We ended up back at the hotel, dumped the gear in the rooms and then took a beer in the sterile bar/lobby area. Norse had obviously gone to bed since he was catching a train in about four hours. Poor bugger. I’d been looking forward to this point of the night since the first band had taken to the stage, but it turned out to be a bit of an anticlimax. I love hotel bars, something that has definitely transpired with age, but this wasn’t the cosy picture I had imagined. Felt more like a bus station than a bar. Fenok was chuffed enough, and Ola too. They had a full day and evening in Copenhagen planned for tomorrow. Jeppe was nowhere to be seen. He’d gone off in search of food and Jon assured us that he would be gone all night if needs be.

After a large bottle of beer, we trudged off to our rooms. We had a pretty comfortable day tomorrow at least, our train home wasn’t until around midday. Jon and I, sharing a room as usual, lay in bed watching the film Drive for a while before giving up and hitting the lights.

The next morning we went up to the breakfast restaurant in the hotel, but the place was as depressing as the bar. We hadn’t paid for breakfast, and there didn’t seem to be anyone checking room numbers, and for a while we were thinking of just taking some food and fucking off. But then some staff member cottoned on to us and sent us down to the reception to pay. We made the decision that the food wasn’t worth paying for and left for the station instead, back to the same cafe as yesterday. The train journey home was a more subdued affair than on the way down, with the odd discussion about what gigs we would look at next year and when to record the new record. Johan jumped off in Linköping and we agreed we’d meet up early in the new year to finish writing the new record. We had around seven songs and heading to the studio sometime during the spring didn’t seem all that ambitious.

As it turned out, this would be the last show we played with the band. We didn’t practice in January, it was closer to March when that would become an actuality again, since we had a festival in Belgium booked. The one that had been postponed since 2020. The one I’d so looked forward to playing, to walking out on that stage knowing that that would mean the pandemic was over, or at least that the worst of it would be behind us.

And that was that. Twenty five years of Victims and it’s over. Almost thirteen for me. I feel sad that it’s over in some ways, but I’m also incredibly grateful that I’ve got to play with the guys and travel all over the world. I’ve had an amazing time and my life has been so enriched by the experiences I’ve had with the guys. I don’t know if we’ll ever play again. It’s certainly not going to be actual for the foreseeable future. It’s nothing I’m thinking of now. I started writing this blog around the same time I joined Victims, just after having put Raging Speedhorn to bed. I’m not sure if I’ll carry on. We’ll see. I probably will. I have to find things to write about in that case.

My life looks a lot different now to how it did when I started this blog back in 2009. I’m a parent for one thing. I quit my job and went back to university and got a degree. I got a new job in social work, which I love. But all that said, I’m not quite done with music yet. I still have the inspiration to write and play. Whether that will ever be on the level it was with Raging Speedhorn or Victims, we’ll have to wait and see. It feels doubtful right now, but as my dad always said to me, and I know find myself repeating to myself on a regular basis, “You never know what’s around the corner. One door closes, another opens.”

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