We wake up three hours later, arriving at 10.30am with some vague semblance of humanity about us and go through the whole airport rigmarole. It’s not so bad cos we’re being picked up by Kelly, an old mate of Yeap’s. Naturally, everything is all about bad Nirvana references and suchlike. First thing noticed is the weather: after the Texan furnace it’s mercifully cool and temperate. The vegetation and landscape are completely different to the east coast, the sky grey and overcast. First off we drive into the city and go to a café/bar where Kelly’s mate Gerard works. The place is closed but he’s come in and cooked up a load of great food for us…awesome! We eat and drink some coffee and I’m semi-delirious from exhaustion. That whole poor-man’s-acid effect again. We get some more coffee across the street from a couple of real friendly lady vendors and head back to Kelly’s van. There can only be one destination: Kurt Cobain’s memorial! Across from the house where he topped himself there’s a little park with a bench covered in graffiti and gifts left for the man himself. We leave a tin of tuna since it’s okay to eat fish since they don’t have any feelings (hi-oh!) and I leave a plectrum since Floyd The Barber was actually the first song I ever worked out for myself on guitar…soppy, I know!
We head back through the city out to Georgetown where a lot of the punks live, including Gerard and Alan who’s putting on the show. We get to their house and it’s real nice, they’ve moved in recently and done it up well. I’m completely out of it so I take a shower and go for a bit of a kip in the basement. It’s the weirdest sleep ever…I have odd dreams about dogs, fist-fighting with Penke and being chased, but all the time I’m still aware that I’m lying on a sofa in the basement. I eventually realise that I’ve slept a little and that I won’t be sleeping any further.
I get up and catch up on some work…fucking review deadlines crawling up my arse. The lads have made more amazing food so I get a bit of that into me. We’ve got a night off and this ex-Totalitar band Makabert Fynd are playing in Seattle tonight so we decide to go down to that. I feel manky so I’m looking forward to taking it easy; a few beers bring me to a level of sanity such that I can stand being around people…we go to the gig space, just a short walk from the house, and it’s sort of a weird vibe. There’s a strange atmosphere around proceedings here in Seattle. Trench Rot play and they’re good; kind of like a slightly straighter Void or Die Kreuzen. I meet an old mate, Danarchy, it’s good to see him but I’m still out of it on my Austin hangover. Makabert Fynd play and unfortunately they do nothing for me. Not in the mood. They play a couple of Totalitar tracks and it’s alright, but…nah. They’ve run out of beer at the show and I’m pretty happy to go when the bands are over. Yeap has somehow, perplexingly, found a second wind and wants to head on out to the pub with the bands.
The other three of us go back to Alan’s. I get monged off his stash and chat to the lads from Trench Rot, drinking water and waiting for an excuse to sneak off…the highlight is when someone hilariously and in all innocence remarks that he’s heard we’ve been getting ‘jewed’ by promoters over money. Nothing like a bit of casual racism to brighten up a quiet night, eh? We’re sleeping in Alan’s room, so I’ve laid out some bedding. Kirk and Penke have the same idea around the same time, so we piss off and go asleep.
Or at least, I go to sleep…the others aren’t so lucky. Apparently Yeap comes back not long after, drunk and snorey. He’s snoring up a storm such that he wakes Penke. Then Alan comes in, accompanied by a young lady. They proceed to bum the arse off each other, with poor ol’ Yeap lying beside them. That stops his snoring, and indeed, the pair on the bed are copulating so wildly that one of them occasionally grabs Yeap’s bottom. Why he didn’t just join in I can’t understand, but either way, it’s all very torturous for the Yeapster (much to Penke’s delight).
I make some coffee and take advantage of the internet to continue catching up with real life nonsense. I mainly just miss my girl and want to go home…fucking exhaustion. I’ll be okay by tomorrow. Penke and Kirk head into the city, determined to take advantage of the rare chance we have to spend some time somewhere rather than just getting back in the van. Keen wee bean roaster that he is, ol’ Kirky boy’s chompin’ at the bit to test the mettle of Seattle’s coffee scene. I’m still burnt out and couldn’t be fucked with anything, so I stay at the house and nerd it up. Yeap and I head out with Alan and Gerard to a guitar shop and to get some lunch. I’ve forgotten my fuckin strap at the venue in Austin so I need to get a new one, plus some straplocks. Total pain in the arse. We meet John, a mate of Yeap’s, and get lunch. It’s huge sandwiches all round. The other lazy buggers all drive back in John’s car and myself and Gerard walk it, stopping in at his mates, who it turns out are mates of mine too…small frickin’ world. I’m told a story about myself from after the lucha libre three years ago involving a bottle of tequila, a girl, the Mexico City subway and five cops, none of which I remember.
We go back to the house and I fix my guitar up. I’m still wrecked, so I go for a nap. It sorts me out so that I’m able for the evenings activities with a brighter disposition than would otherwise be the case. The dudes have a vegan potluck every Wednesday, so people start turning up with food and drinks and I start getting into it. Meet some more old friends and have a few drinks, Porkeria are there, Warcry turn up and we drag our shit out to the van and head down to the space where the show is on, The Morgue. We’ve got a whole new set of t-shirts to sell so we wrap, tape and mark them up as the first band start. Occult SS, they’re fuckin awesome. A bunch of long-haired dudes playing Hellhammer meets punk…I’m keen to hear more from them. Head down with Danarchy to buy a few cartons of beer and I get IDed…I’ve no passport on me so they won’t give me my fucking beer. I’m livid and storm out kicking the door open. I’m reduced to asking a nice man in the parking lot to buy beer for me, like any common snotnose teenager. We head back in time to see Porkeria, who’re real good, but as with last night there’s a weird aura…it’s a real folded-arms kind of a town.
We’re up next, and it’s our first time using this gear, so we spend ten minutes checking shit out. I’m borrowing a couple of Rivera heads from Grant, Warcry’s guitarist, so he runs me through the motions. They sound fucking awesome: a monstrosity of decimating distortion! It’s a pretty good show, though the bass is way too low. Turns out one of the speakers is blown in the bass cab. The crowd are pretty tame and somehow Kirk gets his set-list mixed up so we’re sort of running blind. Warcry set up and play and it’s awesome, though again the crowd are pretty lame. A couple of people seem like they actually want to be there, but everyone else is all arms-folded self-consciousness.
Afterwards I go and hang out with this weird crusty wizard who’s been living in Seattle but is moving away the next day, so he’s determined to get totally blotto. We share his pipe for a while before it’s time to load out. As we get everything out to the van, it becomes apparent that there’s only three guitars present…one’s missing…wait a second…it’s fucking my one. I stumble around looking everywhere it might be, vaguely certain that I’ve just left it somewhere and forgotten. Nah. It’s nowhere. Panic time. I’m starting to get pretty freaked by the time Alan tracks it down: turns out Occult SS took it by accident. Hmmm. They’re almost back at their practice space, where they’re gonna unload before bringing it back. We’re in a hurry to get on the road since we’re driving to Portland tonight. It ends up taking over an hour for the dudes to return with my guitar. We’ve been joking about them robbing it, replacing it with a crappy Squire or something, so when they arrive in a pick-up truck with two guitars in the back I grab them both, shouting ‘tax!’ and handing one to Penke before getting my own one out. One of the Occult SS dudes immediately gets real serious and hops forward, and it almost seems like something’s going to happen for a minute before he cools the jets and stops being a silly sausage. I unnecessarily open my case and check that everything’s in there before we load up the van and take off. We drive and I stay awake for most of the three hour journey, talking bollocks to Grant and Todd. We arrive at Grant’s place around 5am and crash out.
I’m rudely awakened by our childish bloody bass player throwing a pillow at my face. Lovely. I totally was not interested in sleeping any more, like most other mornings when he tends to do the same. I take a shower and Grant wakes up and makes some coffee before we leave the house to get some breakfast. Portland’s real nice, very green and quite spread out…lots of space everywhere. We go to this café that’s supposed to be good for vegan food and all that. It’s sort of shitty though…everything’s overcooked, deep fried in way-too-old oil that tastes dirty. I get a shitty cheeseburger that totally ruins my impression of The Great American Cheeseburger. Kirk gets biscuits and gravy that’re great but everything else stinks. Including the waitress. Apparently it’s a Portland thing to treat the customers like shit. Nice Guy Kirk ruins everything by leaving a five dollar tip…how’ll she ever learn?
We take a drive around the city and go visit an old mate, Ethan, who’s working in this place called Voodoo Donut. He gives us a box full of mental donuts, sweet as hell, there’s even a maple syrup and bacon donut! Gross. We eat about half and bring the rest over to Keith at Black Water (his record store), sweet-tooth that he is. The shop’s awesome, but I limit myself to buying just the final Atomizer record (neglected to pick it up when it came out) plus an LP just released on Keith’s label by a band called Ripper. It’s playing in the shop and it’s fucking awesome: filthy Motorhead metalcrust done in a way I’ve not heard before. We head back to Granty’s house to pick up our shit and drink a few beers before going to the show, via some fancy coffee place to keep Kirky boy happy. The show’s gonna be in the building complex where Keith’s shop is, people are barbecuing in the back yard and drinking, it’s a good buzz and everyone’s real friendly. We make a couple of burgers and get our drink on. Frenzy are opening the gig and it’s their debut show. Three members of Nerveskade with two basses, one of which is played by Skell Distort Reality who’s just moved to Portland. One of the basses is way too loud and sort of drowns everything else out, though the songs sound good and it seems they’ll be an intersting band when they iron out the kinks.
We play next and it’s great, people go nuts and the sound is awesome. We’ve replaced the bass cab with a different one and it sounds HUGE. These Rivera heads fucking rule, the sound out of them is humongous. I cool down outside before Warcry and drink a beer or two. Warcry play a good show and the black clad spiked-haired massive are going bonkers for it, and afterwards it’s drinking, smoking, acting cool. Myself and Penke get on the whiskey sours and Ethan wants to bring us to some variety of vegan punk strip club (!?), which I’m perfectly willing to go along with purely out of professional curiosity, but since it’s a long drive to the East Bay we’ll actually be leaving tonight, so…no time. We pack up the van, get monged and I fall asleep in the back.
I wake up as we drive into California just before the sun rises; it’s straight out of some old Western, desert ridges and scrubby bush, the moon hanging low on the horizon as the sky fades to blue and the sun appears. I snooze again for a bit before we stop for petrol and driver duties switch from Todd to Keithchiban. There’s two beds in the back and plenty of room, plus decent air-conditioning and good fuel efficiency…great van. And at a much cheaper rate. We get some fruit and coffee and I pick up some presents in a shop before we continue on towards Oakland. We get to Brian and Tobia’s house, some old friends of the Warcry dudes, where Brian and Terri make great food…fried potatoes, vegan sausage, scrambled tofu, biscuits and plenty of coffee. Aw yeeah. I get a shower in and read a Flannery O’Connor short story…Brian and Tobia have a good book collection in their front room. Everyone goes to sleep and I start feeling drowsy so I get a half-hour kip in before it’s time to leave for the show. We drive through Oakland to downtown Berkley where we check out Amoeba Records and make some purchases before going for a couple of beers in a decent pub with a good selection. It’s a hilarious neighbourhood, all sorts of old hippies and weirdoes bummin’ around all over the place. Tonight’s show is in Gilman Street, probably the world’s most famous self-managed punk venue. It’s kind of a big one…despite the fact that people seem to have pretty negative opinions about the place, I’m still real excited to play there. Even more so since an old mate from Ireland who’s moved to California is gonna be there, my old hardcore guru Rob Levinge. He’s the dude who made me lots of mixtapes and schooled me on real hardcore back in the ‘90s when all I listened to was metal and youth crew nonsense. We get there and Rob’s out front –so great to see him! We load all the gear in and check the venue out…it’s huge. There’s no drinking allowed in or outside the venue, so we head up the road and I get some tacos before we pick up a six-pack to drink in the van.
The first band have started by the time we get back, Deras Krig, they’re pretty good, raw noisy hardcore finishing with an Anti-Cimex cover. We drink in the van and talk shit and next up are Negative Standards, who fucking kill me. It’s like Neurosis and Counterblast with a touch of Logical Nonsense, they set up on the floor and have all the lights out with two TVs playing various horrible images. It’s amazing and afterwards I pick up their demo tape…can’t wait to listen to it. The venue’s been empty as fuck all night but suddenly during Negative Standards all these people start turning up and fill the room; apparently everyone had been hanging out at bars and parks nearby to drink, since Gilman’s modus operandi doesn’t allow any quaffing of relaxing beverages. It sort of sucks, since the reality of the matter is that hanging out with large groups of people simply isn’t in any way tenable without alcohol. We set up and things are looking good for time so there’s no stress. This is really trippy: we’re at Gilman in the East Bay, they’re playing Dead Kennedys over the PA and I’m setting up to play a gig…if 16-year-old me could see me now, I’d be fucking stoked beyond words! ….we sort our sound out and it’s good (read: LOUD). I’m fuckin psyched and we kick off: fucking awesome show! Total insanity and mayhem on the floor and stage, people are losing their fuckin minds. This kid grabs the microphone when we finish and just keeps screaming into it, who it later turns out is Billie Joe from Green Day’s kid. Afterwards we drink on and I say my goodbyes to Rob as his wife picks him up. There’s a dude there called Yosef with good taste in bad metal, we hang out and talk for a bit. He used to write for MRR but stopped recently when he was asked to take Vasaleth out of his yearly top ten for supposedly being dodgy. Very silly nonsense altogether. What happens when you’re one of these people? Do you hear a band and then force yourself to actively NOT enjoy the sound if you happen to figure out that you disagree with them about something? Or do you just pretend that you don’t like it when you’re talking to other politicians? I just don’t know…
The plan is to get some food and head to a dance party somewhere. Strangely, it being 1am on a Friday night, everywhere’s closed and we’re reduced to going to Safeway. I get a roast beef sandwich and it sort of does the job, We head to the party and it’s bongs galore. Yeap’s found a mac & cheese somewhere and is busily devouring it, I’ve gotten a six-pack of Pilsner Urquell which Penke bizarrely and tastelessly looks down upon, and the party’s pretty lame, but it’s fun nonetheless. We get monged and Granty treats us to a masterclass in disco boogie. We stay on for about an hour and things aren’t really looking like they’ll be particularly more fun, so we drive back to Brian and Tobia’s and sleep.
Once again I’m rudely awakened by Penke, who seems to think I’m his girlfriend. I punch him in the kidneys, he slaps me and a brief scuffle ensues. What a lovely way to greet a brand new day. After a great breakfast of blueberry pancakes we jump in the van to make the most of our day in San Fran. Cue various predictable jokes in the worst possible taste. We go to Golden Gate Park and it’s gorgeous, really green and lush, beautiful botanic gardens and a little Japanese teahouse thing we want to visit and rock some Gauze in. The whole place is fuckin’ packed though, so with no parking available we drive around for a bit before heading down to the seafront where there’s some old baths and wild cliffs.
We’re watching the waves crash in and I notice a dorsal fin. Then two. Frickin’ sharks! There’s tons of great whites in these waters, which excites the shit out of me, though a couple of seconds reveals these two as dolphins. It’s still awesome; we watch for their return but there’s no sign. Yeap gets us to pose for pictures which we reluctantly assent to before heading back into the city for some food. We go to a Mexican place and I get some awesome chorizo and pastor tacos. Kirky’s on the prowl to check out some reputable coffee houses, so he loudly and obnoxiously berates us until we go to get some along Haight Street. Makes a nice change from the big meaty sausage he ate in Austin. Then it’s down to this bar called Molotov’s where we get fairly sozzled at an early hour on over-strength IPAs. It turns out that the Warcrybabies are big fans of quality beer and willing to go the extra mile to drink something worthwhile. A most excellent turn up for the books… Based on a certain beardy individual’s portrayal I was expecting something of a dour faced PC police showdown, though nothing cold be further from the truth. These guys are fuckin’ great fun…dirty jokes, bitchy humour and an appreciation of fine food and good beers: too easy!
We go down to the venue, The El Rio, and load in. There’s a hilarious soundman there who looks, acts and sounds like he might have put in time with The Mothers Of Invention. He takes a particular liking to Todd and insists on overusing his name throughout the night, Toddy Todd McTodd-Todd. Myself and Penke walk into the bar next door where Cheech Marin is the karaoke MC behind the bar. He throws us a couple of mics and we rip through Johnny B. Goode before ordering a pitcher. We get through that and head back in next door, where Liz, an old mate of mine, has turned up. It’s cool to see her and we hang out and get our drink on, though she’s actually not drinking and is busily sorting her life out…good stuff. The first band play, Geister from Canada, they sound pretty good from outside but by the time I get in they’re on the last song. Next up are Xeroxide, playing raw dirty hardcore. It’s members of various SF crust bands, Stormcrow, Sanctum, Desolation etc. Unfortunately the experience is somewhat marred by a really dull, blunt sound. I can tell there’s good shit going on but the two guitars and bass mush together into a soupy mid-range mess. Pity… We’re on next and I’m already pretty much steaming drunk. I’m also feeling pretty energetic, so I head in with Yeap to do some Jaeger shots and calm down for the show. We set up and again it’s a joy to play through these Riveras…if I keep talking about how great they are d’ya reckon I can get sponsored? RIVERA ARE GREAT AMPS. *Ahem*, so anyway, we set up and play and people are looking a bit arms foldy so from the first chord I’m in amongst it, throwing my weight around and getting down on the floor. It’s an awesome show and Yeap does a great job of terrifying the local population, once again I get a few more dents in my guitar and nearly take someone’s eye out with the headstock. Close one…he’ll escape with a black eye and I’ll have to suffer one less slave in Valhalla. Afterwards myself and Penke go to redeem our drinks tokens at the bar and end up drinking rather a lot with the Xeroxide boys. They’ve made the mistake of telling us we can have any drink we want with our drinks tickets, so naturally I get a double Jameson and soda the first time and a double Glenlivet the next.
There’s a buttload of shots consumed and the moment we’ve been waiting for all tour finally transpires: the unveiling of Kirk The Jerk. Mild-mannered barista, bicycle enthusiast, cupcake lover and all around nice guy by day, once in a while ol’ Kirky gets a little too loose on the booze and jerks out. It’s relentless, and a joy to behold. Except one of these days he’s not going to have his mates around to save his bacon…by the time we leave both the soundman and the promoter are trying to fight Kirk, who’s smilingly egging them on. It all begins when we’re loading out and the soundman comes stomping out: “who stole my fuckin’ beers?”. Apparently someone’s robbed a crate of Pabst, and Frank Zappa reckons it was Kirk. I’m taking the Flippant Arrogance approach: “mate, we don’t drink shit beer”; “sorry pal but we’ve got better things to do with our time”, etc. Naturally, Kirk has actually robbed it, but that doesn’t stop him telling the soundman he’s a dick, saying he’s old and asking him why he didn’t go home hours ago. The dude’s getting more and more riled up and is letting us know in no uncertain terms what he’d like to do to the Kirky boy. We’re calming it down, and next thing there’s a series of smashing sounds. Guess who’s throwing empties at traffic. I take the Responsible Hard Cunt approach popularised by Begbie in Trainspotting and start roaring at people who definitely didn’t do it, and vaguely succeed in distracting attention away from Kirk. Meanwhile, he’s found a wheely bin which he keeps attempting to insert into oncoming traffic. The promoter comes out, raging, and tries to get a hold of him. We manage to hustle everyone into the van and take off amidst shouts and threats that we’re barred for life. Ah well…banned from the pubs, nothing new. We drive back out to B&T’s place in Oakland, during which I black out and loudly pontificate on my disenchantment with the U.S. punk scene (which I’ll get back to at the end of all this). We’ve been stuck with a lot of sketchy and/or inept promoters and I allow myself to get all in a tizzy, which provides no end of amusement to the lads, who proceed to give me a right dressing down. Well excuse ME for having an opinion, ladies. I get monged with Granty and the boys have a grand old time running rings around my stoned paranoid mind, but what can ya do…pass out and go asleep, that’s what.
NEXT: CALIFORNIA MADNESS AND LA GUNS!
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