Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Well hello again, Copenhagen!

It’s a long old way to Copenhagen from Stockholm. Especially when you understand there is a very real risk that you’ll be playing to pretty much nobody. That’s always a risk when you’re in an underground DIY band I guess. Even more so when you’re totally new and nobody has heard of you. But unless you’re Iron Maiden or something there is always a chance the gig will be a bum turnout.. I wonder what they would consider a bum turnout? Copenhagen, though, feels like it’s a bigger risk than most places. We played what turned out to be the last ever Victims show here. We didn’t know it at the time, of course, but it ended up being a depressingly poetic sortie. “This is the End. That was the end.” There were maybe thirty people there. I’ll be amazed if we get half that amount tonight.

Despite the pessimistic forecast as we pulled away from the practice space at eight this morning, I was still chuffed to be heading off with the guys for a few days. These would be our first shows with A\\VOID outside of Stockholm, and I was determined to enjoy the couple of days away no matter how many people we played to. It’s obviously a pretty expensive hit rate, but even if we only manage to reach out to a couple of people then it would be worth it. We had most of the money for the trip covered from the few Stockholm shows we’d played anyway. This is what starting a band from scratch looks like when you’re totally on your own. The difference now; I guess, is that I’m 44 years old. It’s easier when you’re eighteen years old. Still love it, though.

It was a bit of a bummer to have to travel down in two separate cars. Being in a seven piece band is something new to me, and on this first trip to fields afar it became apparent that travelling together in one van was not all that easy to sort out. It worked out cheaper to travel in two of our own cars than to hire a van big enough to house the lot of us and our gear. Funnily enough, the two companies fell into a pretty natural divide: Me, Pigge, Gill and Andy in one car. Paddan; Erik and Martin in the other. The tames vs. the party boys.

We made it down to Helsingborg in about six hours without incident. Paddan’s car were already there ahead of us, and had even found time to stop at a Metallica museum here in Helsingborg, being that this is where Cliff died. Paddan admits that it wasn’t all that though. Just a few pictures and stuff. We took a short ferry trip across the water to Denmark. It only takes about fifteen minutes and they open the duty free at precisely the halfway point, leaving the party boys with seven and half minutes to buy booze. I noticed there was a full on restaurant onboard, with a load of old people sitting there drinking, obviously just floating back and forth over the strait, enjoying the views of the industrial ports on either side of the water.

An hour or so later we were in Copenhagen. The venue was in the middle of town in the Meat packing village, at some club called Råhuset. It was a nice little venue, very neat and tidy and looked to have a quality sound system and all, but it didn’t look like the kind of place anyone would hang out in unless they were specifically here to see the bands. Although maybe that was just the Copenhagen heebie-jeebies colouring my judgement…

It’s always great to see Ryan anyway. He’s there sorting the Fotocrime merch out as we arrive and me and Andy are greeted with big hugs, followed not long thereafter with questions on Victims’ breakup. Ryan has been a friend to Victims for many years. It’s nice to be able to talk to him about it. One of the other guys in Fotocrime, at least helping out on this tour, is a French guy called Nico. He has a band called Bleakness that Victims was supposed to play some shows in France with, right before the pandemic hit. We mailed back and forth a bit around then and it’s nice to finally meet him in person. For me it’s also a little extra special since Nico played in this great screamo band called Amanda Woodward way back, a band that both Jen and I loved. I never do this shit normally, but I force myself to ask him for a pic with us so I can send it to Jen, just for the crack. Whilst the rest of our lot head off to some pub after soundcheck, Andy and I hang out with Ryan and Nico in the dressing room and reminisce over the old days. As middle aged punks like us are in the habit of doing.

Erik, the self appointed ringleader of the booze brigade, comes marching back to the venue in high spirits just as the first band are playing, raving about some bar down the road they found with some character behind the bar who wants our record. I get the feeling Erik has more or less forced it on him, though. They’d arrived back at the venue on my command since, as expected, there were very few people in the venue as the local support band, Writhe, were about to start. I count a grand total of three. Plus the sound engineer guy and two dudes behind the bar. And the three Fotocrime guys…I guess the good thing about playing with A\\VOID is that you get a bonus crowd of at least seven! This small place would look okay with around thirty people in it, and we’re maybe halfway there. Even if only three of them are actually paying customers.

Anyway, Erik is happy as Larry after finding the pub, saying we have to go back there after the gig. The others straggle in shortly after him and I can see straight away that Paddan and Martin have had a couple. But I can’t help feeling like fucking off the “no beer before gig rule” myself, since on these occasions I can’t help wondering what does it matter. So I grab a draught Pale Ale and enjoy Writhe, who are more than a pleasant surprise with their noisy indie rock. The beer goes straight to my head.

Which becomes noticeable as we do a quick line check before we play. I’m not sure who first brought the subject up, but Paddan and I started joking about the Bad News song “Warriors of Genghis Khan.” I can’t help myself and start farting around playing the riff to it, which amuses Paddan and I a lot more than it does Andy, who is sat behind his drums looking stern and shaking his head at me. We get on with things shortly thereafter and the gig goes pretty well. Another company of three have arrived, some people who are friends with Erik (guestlist), and they take a seat just off to the side of the floor space where Erik and I do our thing. Martin is in a particularly jazzy mood tonight and fleshes out the gaps between most of the songs with some dystopian saxophone drones. Seems like Savage got feeling tonight and he ends up being the star of the show. Paddan was off for a walk with his bass a couple of times during the set, at one point playing a different song to the rest of us, and he knows I know, since I gave him a look a couple of times. He’s a phenomenal musician, but seems like a couple of shots of Jager got the better of him tonight. Pigge is in my ear right after the gig, laughing about it. “Paddan was off on his bike a couple of times there!”

Andy is in my other ear shortly after, telling me off for farting around before the gig. He tells me that we should be completely quiet before we start the set and there is no place for fucking around, no matter how small the crowd is. I feel a little scorned, mainly because I know he’s right. The few people in the room seemed to like the gig all the same. And it was fun to play for Ryan and Nico, if nothing else. One of the three older guys who’d arrived, the ones nobody knew, actually bought an LP. They left after we played, and shouted over to us on the way, exclaiming that they thought we were great! Feels kind of like they just stumbled into the place and we got lucky. Some other big guy who had come on his own also bought a record, as well as the Writhe guitarist. This is our first show since we got the vinyl of the first album, and despite everything, I’m chuffed to have three of them sold in Copenhagen. Good hit rate considering the crowd numbers.

Despite the very low crowd, it was basically just A\\VOID and Writhe by this point, Fotocrime played a nice show. They had these really cool stage lights that had Erik immediately buzzing about how we have to get something similar. I just stood there, enjoying a couple of beers and admiring their professionalism. No whining, no fucking around before their set playing joke riffs, they got on with the job and played. These guys have been around so long, they’ve done it all before, and just like us, played the whole spectrum of gigs, from less than ten to arena support slots and festivals in front of thousands. This was their first night of a three week European tour, I hope this is the bum show, out of the way early.

After the gig I hung out at the bar with Gill, chatting to the two lads behind the bar about their superb tapped beer and the state of shows at the minute. The younger of the two tells me that there are just too many shows going on right now, that the tidal wave after the pandemic is now having an adverse effect, especially now that everything is getting so fucking expensive. This place seems to be one of the state sponsored set ups, where they get cultural grant money, for better or worse. Worse for us, I guess, since they guarantee money but not a crowd. The young guy is really nice anyway, he’s from Latvia and tells me how much easier life is here. I tell him that I’ve been to Riga and really enjoyed it. “Nice city, for sure, if you’re a tourist. Sucks to live there!” I wonder how many places you can say that about?

After saying goodbye to the Fotocrime guys and wishing them better luck with the rest of the tour, we head over to Erik’s favourite new bar, which is a classic Copenhagen place; small and full of smoke. Apparently the law in Denmark is that if a bar is LESS than a certain amount of square metres you’re allowed to smoke in it. If the place is too big, no smoke. Which is obviously mental. Doesn’t stop me enjoying the place, nonetheless. Even if it stings the eyes a bit. The bartender guy who Erik latched on to earlier is obviously intent on being the focus of everyone in the bar, since he keeps making a lot of noise. Every now and again he’ll scratch the music to a dead stop and start shouting instructions at people, or giving loud updates on the state of play, which whilst at first I find slightly amusing, quickly starts getting on my tits. Erik, Paddan and Martin are lined up at the bar talking to some strangers and all three of them are looking like they’re heading to the other side, although Martin looks like he’s got it together more than the other pair. Gill joins them, obviously wanting in on the action. Andy and I retire to a quieter table near the doorway like a couple of old men and chat over a beer, our backs enjoying the rest. We’re joined a while later by the Writhe guitarist, who seems like a really nice sort, and we get talking about venues and gigs in Copenhagen and why is it always so fucking hard to get a crowd here? Oliver, his name, tells us that it is a pretty incestious DIY scene here, and unless you’re super hyped it’s hard to get a crowd if you’re not from around here. Which doesn’t really explain why nobody came to see them. They were really good and all.

What I figured for a couple of quiet beers after the show turns into more than that. Erik is shouting almost as much as the bartender guy, Paddan is looking hazy as fuck, Martin seems to keep control now matter how many beers he sinks, and he’s finished off that hip flask of whisky he bought on the boat, although by the look of Paddan he’s helped him out quite a bit. The shocker though, is Gill, who is stood at the bar smoking a fag. This has me in stitches as it’s so unexpected. Old Triathlon Man himself! He must have tucked a good few away. By this time Andy and I have caught up a little ourselves, I’m on to my third or fourth Tuborg, and we’re back at the bar among the rest of the crowd. Paddan then taps my shoulder and laughingly points at Pigge who is sat at the table behind us in the company of Oliver and a couple of others. “Why is Pigge so old all of a sudden?” laughs Paddan. Pigge does indeed look like he’s suddenly aged about fifteen years. Hair all over the place, skin as white as a ghost and eyes popping out. He looks like he’s in the middle of some drunken lecture. This keeps me and Paddan amused for the next fifteen minutes or so. Shit, Pigge is old. He turned 50 this year. 50! Andy isn’t actually that far behind him, Paddan neither. In fact, at 40, Gill is the youngster among us. The Tuborg suddenly has a bitter aftertaste…

It’s around three am by the time that bar closes and we’re back at the hotel. Inexplicably, most of us, myself included, stay up for another beer at the bar there.. I’m even questioning myself as I drink the thing, knowing it’s a mistake. A pretty tasty mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.

I’m certainly not going to feel any younger in the morning.

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