Thursday, September 23, 2010


So we continue with the Dutch Pre-Conzo Tour Diary. If you can say that you have played in the Vera, you can say a lot. It's a mecca of sorts. Feel free to download the whole gig from Ed's DIY Irish Hardcore Punk Archive here.

It was a few hours drive back to Groningen and we wanted to be early for the soundcheck. This was the gig we couldn’t mess up. This was the gig that would really determine whether we were invited back to Holland for another tour. Of course this didn’t stop Gary from drinking all day in the van. He drank all day everyday of the tour. He’d wake up in every morning and drink four beers before breakfast. By the time we reached Groningen, he was half past sloppy and on his way to stroppy. He was speaking like a wasp had stung his tongue and I honestly thought that at any minute I might have to reach into his mouth and dislodge it from his wind pipe. When he went to sleep upstairs, I was well relieved. We needed right on rock star Gaz for the evening and that required a little down time.
The Vera was an absolutely stunning venue. It had all the old posters on the wall from by-gone gigs. It was like the Satyricon back in Portland. EVERYBODY had played there. It was like a who’s who of the rock and punk of my youth. This was a music mecca. Upstairs there was a lovely cafĂ© room with red leather couches and long wooden tables. There was also a bar that probably just served coffee- it was that civilised. Downstairs was the venue. It was quite big. It definitely would accommodate at least 1000 people. When we arrived, the stage wasn’t even built. The sound check would be late, but that didn’t really matter. We were there, we were well behaved. It was all going pretty smoothly considering that Gaz was gee-eyed, Adam was a bit bleary and fairly leary and Nobby was always on the verge of being forceably ejected from wherever he was offending everyone within ear shot from.
We were being treated like royalty. The backstage room, the first of the tour, was plush. It had a TV, towels, couches, a big table, and a fridge full of beer, mineral water, and juices. The place even had its own (flushing) toilet. We were told to hang out in there and they’d call us when dinner was ready. We all just hung out and watched Dutch music TV, which was absolutely horrific.
The dinner they served us was absolutely gorgeous. It was Indonesian food and I honestly can’t remember such a lovely meal. Food out of the way, Gaz sobered up, it was time for the sound check, which was a long process involving all of the instruments on their own and then all together and then everything again to do the monitors. That done, we retreated to the backstage room. Gaz got himself sorted while the place started filling up. It was just the two bands, so we both had to play well.
We went out for the Impregnators set. The sound was amazing. The lads looked good up there and sounded even better. We were out there giving it socks, supporting our new best friends. They sounded a bit too good. Gaz started to get really nervous. He couldn’t watch anymore so we all headed backstage to massage Gaz’s sometimes fragile ego. He’d been hyped up in the paper and on the radio as being an absolute sex god and a genius on the guitar. He had to have his rock star ego on for this gig, any doubts in his own mind would effect the show. The lads came backstage grinning from ear to ear. They’d had a great time. This was their first big gig in their home town and it obviously meant a lot to them. Once again the gauntlet had been thrown down and we had to answer the call.
The beginning of the set was hard work. The levels on stage were all over the place. There was something wrong with my monitor and they were trying to fix it while we were playing. That meant that the guitar was coming and going every few seconds, creating a rhythm completely unrelated to the songs. We pressed on and they got it sorted out. What had started as a few whistles and claps, mostly from Robbie, Conor, and Mickey, between the first few songs, was building into a roar between songs. The set was really smokin’. I had a towel and bottles of water, so for the first time on tour, I didn’t feel like I was going to puke or pass out while I was playing. The way I push from my stomach to get the sound out while I’m singing means that I’m never more than a step away from chucking my biscuits. Tommy was throwing loads of shapes, dancing around the stage and doing this running backwards thing on his tip toes. He was spot on and didn’t miss a note all night. Songs were coming fast and furious. Gaz was living up to his billing with between song attitude and shit hot mid-song guitar pyrotechnics. We finished the set to thunderous applause. People were right up to the front of the stage and were clamouring for more. They were so vehement that we had to do a quick encore. We did two more songs and that was it. We were fucked.
We got to the backstage room and you could still hear the crowd. The applause hadn’t dropped at all and now they were pounding the stage with their bottles of beer. ‘What did you do to them?’ asked one of the Impregnators. ‘You have to go back out.’ It occurred to me that this may never happen again. So I talked Gaz into going back on, Tommy was already ready. Walking back up those back stairs onto the stage was something I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I’ve played a lot of gigs in my life and gotten a bit of recognition, but it was never like this. The crowd erupted when we came back out. We only had two more songs in our songbook. We’d played a longer than usual set and had already done one encore. But this was like the lap of victory. We were rock stars if even for just the last hour. The whole trip was worth it for this gig, for the second encore. You would have needed a chisel to get the smile off of my face.
The buzz backstage after the gig was great. Everybody was charged. The Impregnators were stoked that they’d pulled off a good gig at the big venue in their home town and we were ecstatic at the response we’d gotten. I wandered around the venue gathering complements as I moved, but I didn’t really know anybody. There was no one to talk to. Robbie was a bit too drunk to pin down for a conversation. Everybody I knew was backstage. This must be how rock stars feel. I always wondered why they never come out after gigs. The local characters are usually backstage and you can end up feeling very alone when you realise that your part in the crowd’s evening is done and you will have to entertain yourself. Especially when your ears are ringing and they are speaking broken English to you while you are replaying the gig in your head over and over again. .
We were all ushered into a deadly basement bar to continue in the revelry. It was an amazing space. A few windows at sidewalk level, low ceilings, pillars with mosaic designs, candlelight and once again stunning music. We were pouring the beers into ourselves. It was the only time all tour I saw Pierre proper drunk. He gets very drunk, but is usually quite subdued. His new band was his baby and so was this tour. This gig made it all worth it for all of us and was obviously a source of pride for him. He kept announcing that now it was time to drink. We must have clinked our bottles together a couple dozen times. I really felt like I was letting loose for the first time on the tour. The whole night had a magical quality. The bar was great. Gone was the slight intimidation I’d been feeling the whole tour. I love going into a bar and feeling like I own the place because I’m in the band. I didn’t really get that feeling in the squats. Everything was so foreign. There was so much that I didn’t know. I know concert halls, I know pubs, I know how they work and what they want. Squats I didn’t really understand before we got there. I didn’t understand how they worked, what they were trying to achieve, how it all functioned. I felt like this was my bar, my night. I don’t know why we had to leave. There were rooms for us in the venue. But we got a taxi back to Pierre’s. I knew that there was no need for me to drink anymore so I headed straight for the mattress in the sitting room and fell asleep. The lads stayed up for another hour absolutely screaming drunk, but I was done. I was a success, a rock star.