So, our European tour, well, how was that? Well, terrifying to start with really, 9 gigs in 12 days stretching from Amsterdam to Berlin, then back down into France, across it, back to Paris- big drives, late nights, and more quality booze than my doctor recommends…Let’s see, how did it all go down? You want a blow by blow account??
We started in Groningen, Holland, for a gig organised by Anna Krassnal- it was a Thursday night, not the best night for gig audiences, but still a good few showed up, and amazingly, Stiff from Excathedra way back when was also playing in Indifferent Sun- decade probably since we’d seen each other, but aside from the absence of Bucky, not much had changed…This was a great gig for us, and we were well fed and watered and bedded, and we had an explore of the amazingly huge occupied space at Bambara the next day, which is a work in progress but could easily become something akin to the ADM given time and effort. many thanks Kras.
Next we were off to Bremen, and hooked up with faces again we had not seen for yonks- most notably Eva-meister!! Eva was a fixture on the early PAIN tours in the 90’s, and she saved us mucho grief and confusion on many occasions- it was amazing to see her again, and she also brought along her own daughter, 18 i think, and punk as you like…the gig was really good, we were supported by an American band called Neighbourhood Brats from San Francisco, who sat up and chewed much fat for hours afterwards, and they played almost as loud as the Who in the small but beautiful venue. The food here was exceptional, and we are deeply indebted to Stevie from Cross Stitched Eyes who organised the whole thing, and told us the inside on being on Alternative Tentacles! We cannot get back to Bremen soon enough, especially as we now know Trotsky and Sandra are nearby- Sandra turned up at the gig, but we saw Trotsky a little later…
Off we popped the next day to Hamburg, turning up early at the Stortebeker squatted venue so early they sent us off sight seeing while stuff was prepared- we wandered down onto the Riverside, tourist zone- we tried to get into a bar called Del Mar- skaters will know why- but the Hells Angel type door staff took one look at us and told us to go to the ‘ other beach bar’…we didn’t feel inclined to argue, so we headed back to the Rieperbahn ( unsure of spelling, guessing…) and found ourselves unexpectedly in a bar called the ‘Erotic art museum of Hamburg’- which l;lived up to its name, with bizarre erotic collages covering every inch of the place, and dedicated to a deceased but incredibly well endowed lady called Domenica, who had been a campaigner for sex workers. We sat in the back of the bar, then a tourist group of 30 germans turned up to stare quizzically at us , and all the ‘erotic’ collages.
Back we went to the Stortebeker, where things were starting to roll- again, we were fed fantastic food, then we watched Local band Plant play some great very wide ranging stuff, including a kind of Drone track that reminded me of ‘Godspeed You Black Emperor’, who I am a big fan of…so that was brilliant.
We were also introduced to Steiner who had worked at the venue since it was occupied almost 30 years ago- he told us great stories of telling Green Day they had to play first when they turned up way back when, and of Fugazi playing there too- he was also old old friend of Dickie and Frankie and co in Leatherface- so it was fantastic to play this spot- usually I’d played the Rote Flora in Hamburg in the past, which is also really cool, but the Stortebeker felt like such a historical spot. The Vibe and attitude in Hamburg was absolutely bang on, the gig was excellent too, and it basically has become one of our very favourite spots in Germany now, we are very very keen on going back there.
Next day we drove on to Germany and the Kepi, where i had not been since 94 on the classic AOS3/ BENDER/ CITIZEN FISH tour that summer- we started to feel like it was day 4- my voice was croaking and broken, and somehow pushing a trolley into the gaff kev managed to pop the bicep muscle in his shoulder, and he was worried about his ability to play…we were playing with 2 all female D Beat bands from Denmark, Contorture and Vicious Irene- and the sound engineer resigned from the Koepi apparently , and never showed up- luckily Andy and Sam were available to help others run the rig, and we got things sorted and set up- dinner was pasta- one variety made with strawberries! Unusual, but i quite liked it…We did not have the best gig here, I think both Kev and I were struggling with injuries, and the audience seemed mostly into the D-Beat, but what the hell, it can’t be brilliant all the time- we retired to the sleeping room- until we realised it was over a very loud break-core night directly underneath. Little sleep was had that night! Next morning we loaded up and shipped off out of Berlin, and drove back towards Bremen , on route the sweltering heat of the last 4 days finally broke with a flash flood and forked lightning storms on the autobahn bringing all traffic to a standstill for a while-
then out into the countryside to stay with Trotsky ( SubHumans) on his huge old farm- this was a truly golden move! Trotsky and Sandra, and their 2 kids Danny and Lucy were gorgeous hosts, and the Farm is amazing, buzzing with wildlife and home of Trotsky’s latest mission- to have the most stickered punk rock tractor in existence- so we added a few as stickers to the work in progress. We spent the night sat around a log fire in the courtyard, watching the Milky way swim above our heads in great detail, and I caught 3 shooting stars and various satellites fly over our heads- we drank Trotsky’s fantastic home made cider, and then staggered off to bed to give the Mosquito’s something to munch on. Next morning i played a lot of Thunderbirds games with Danny, who is a really gorgeous open kid, reminded me of a certain shit handed 20 something long ago…
We hugged them all many times, then set off for Amsterdam, where we would have another day off, and stay with Edwin who organised gigs for as way back when, as well as PAIN… We stayed with Edwin in his shared house, and it was Andy Brown’s birthday! We headed into town for coffee shops and bars, and then returned to Edwyn’s house.
Next morning, i got to play in the playground outside which was a really cleverly designed space which was BOTH a 5 a side pitch and street skating park- the locals were mostly Moroccan, and you could see how the skaters visiting were helping integration happen a little- which was cool.
Davey Duff, old old mate of me and Andy flew in for a couple of days with us, so it was back to the coffee shops, and later we split the party into 2 and Kev, sam ,Andy, Dave and Oska all went to stay on site at the ADM space, which is use and over 20 years old now. This place is mad, very muted in look, and with fascinating art and sculptures everywhere, while still managing to feel very much like a wilderness.
I did not realise it until the next day, but i HAD been to the ADM before- 20 years or so ago, there was a mutoid style event there, where a British lad had accidentally killed an Italian lad by crashing through a barrier in his truck into the bigger hanger space. I found the same hanger the next day, and for me briefly, the place filled up with ghosts, not just the poor Italian guy who died, but i recalled we had been there with PAIN at the time, with BIFF driving, i think Parker from ex-cathedra travelling with us too, and Gary DS present with loads of the Uk types who had ran away to the continent back then. RIP them all. It’s funny when you stand in a spot but can almost feel the events of long ago happening just beyond your eyes.
We played at the ADM bar on day 3 in Amsterdam, and had all recovered enough to make a great gig of it again, very happy with the result, and hoping very much to return there to play at their festival next year.
Onwards! we left Amsterdam, and drove down into southern Germany, heading to Offenburg, a small town near the swiss and french borders- Here Ralph had put on a gig at short notice, and it was again a smaller gig but for a devoted audience, who were ecstatic about hearing some of the songs again…Shithands really stole the show here with ludicrous showmanship, and we were treated to several types of quality lasagne for dinner. More Beer, more chat sat outside with the locals and Schrotti and partner who had been going to organise the original gig for this date. We saw afterwards how Ralph was working to help refugee youngsters integrate into the small local town, several were at the gig , despite being skint- ralph said he thought it was important to offer them some music and entertainment, and social experience, and i agree. These were really lovely people with their hearts in EXACTLY the right place.
So, the next day we drove on to Dijon, the new Tanneries again, fro Jean jean and No Fun and friends. We already love this spot, Dijon is a glorious gig, and this was no exception- there were 2 support bands from France who were great, and despite almost blowing up No Fun’s ears during soundcheck with a loose cable, we had a stonker of a gig- Jean Jean and friends actually grabbed me physically off the stage and crowd surfed me about the venue, without me knowing what the hell they were doing, and Shetlands must have played as much off stage as he did on here, steaming into the audience without any concern- we loved this gig.
Next day ws a big drive over to Normandy for a festival called Punks Shadow near Caen, where we met many new french friends, and a few UK ones too- Casual Nausea were there, and we were sad to hear that Spanner had had to cancel, the PA seemed not to like Andy’s bass or my bigger keyboard ( we checked them both the next gig, and they were fine, so some mystery there…) But despite these hiccups, we knuckled down and again the gig was a blinder- big French Punk ting Mass Prod were there in force, and were very lovely about the show- we hope to do more with Mass Prod now going forward- we were put up in an enormous empty college complex after the gig, and slept like logs.
Only 1 gig left!
We took the country roads out of normandy towards Paris, and la Comedia where we had played the year before… it was a slow drive, and we hit the infamous Paris rush hour, but things stayed just about workable, and we arrived at La Comedia about 6- P.I.G. were also playing ( Sarah and big John from Conflict/ fear of fear) and being driven by our friend Lorraine with also Justyna organising things- which was great to end up with some familiar faces, and the only issue was the pinball machine. I slung 4 credits in it, played a ball, shit hands played a ball, then i said to Kev ‘ want a go?’ – Kev had been nursing the arm injury all tour, and kept his arm bent most days to ease the pain, even playing like that- and he had done well, with drum solo’s demanded by impressed audiences even in Dijon! But now he came over and took the 3rd player slot, thus straightening out his arms to play, and stretching the arm further without thinking- pretty much instantly he stopped- ‘somethings snapped!’ he retired to put ice on the arm and looked very worried- we could all see the bicep seemed to have dropped on his upper arm to the elbow- not good! and for what? 1 ball on a game of pinball?
Nevertheless, the show must go on- P.I.G. played first and had a really great gig, I was very impressed by how much Sarah had to multi-task between the bass and vocals, and the crowd loved it- then time for us- last gig of the tour- the venue owner brought us big tumblers of Jim Bean at the start, and insisted we neck them before starting…if you say so, boss…the gig was actually great, Kev played amazingly again even with a very broken and painful arm, and the audience reaction was glorious to see- La Comedia is small and the audience are inches from the stage- the place suddenly seemed to become extra packed, and we gave everything we had left. They loved it. It was a glorious way to end. We went back to Mark’s flat where we’v stayed before and crashed out, last thing to do was drive from Paris to Dunkirk the next day, and we bizarrely met Lorraine and Justyna and P.I.G. again at a service station halfway…we howled with laughter and slapped each others backs.
At the Ferry port, the sad news arrived of a death in Kev’s family, which brought the darker side of life and death into sharp focus. But we stayed positive and a family for him, and gave him as much support and Love as we could. We got through it.
Last thing to say here is that none of this would have been possible without the excellent help and assistance of Jim Daily who did ALL the driving from beginning to end, easily and without any complaint, despite being hounded by courgettes throughout the tour – he is not a big fan of the courgette- and avoiding public toilets since Trotsky’s farm- consequently he was ‘backed up like smelly brown!’
Sanity ws also maintained by Pepe le Peep, the punk rock stripy walking toy cat, and numerous games of Dice, plus quite a few classic comic strip episodes _ (YES<,WE HAD A DVD PLAYER!!)
only way to end this really then is with Den’s words from Bad News-
‘Oh, I get it- Alan’s called Vim, and your Mum’s dead….’
we did it, and we will never forget it, we really didn’t know if we could do it.
But we can.