It’s eleven pm, one am, three am on a Saturday and I’m over-caffeinated at my old desk in my old apartment in Athens. I haven’t left the house in six days. I’ve not been in one city for more than three weeks in the last four months, so it’s not too bad really. I’m jamming the Diät record for the first time in a couple months—and definitely the first time since we got back from tour three weeks ago. Roadie’s first tour! As soon as the needle drops, it all rushes back; fish-eyed frames and colourful medleys, flashing lights and sonic ecstasy. I keep myself afloat on a melody, the record still sounding fucking incredible, even if somewhat bittersweet now. Despite the pessimistic sound and ironic title, the music gives me such positive energy I get teary eyed with emotion. Like I did almost every one of the nine times I saw them live. And I still look forward to the tenth next week in Berlin. I took notes on my phone drunk in the back of the van, one eye closed as I focused my vision long enough to type, but looking back it all seems like a dream underwater.
I joined them in Brighton—a flight, train ride and world away. Diät had already been on the road for a few days, with Louis from Good Throb driving Ricky’s van. As I’m landing, I know London’s ES are ending their set, and by the time I get on the train at Gatwick airport Diät have started theirs. I’m finally walking down Trafalgar St., and I spot a smiling young man walking up the hill carrying the Diät LP—getting warmer by the minute! Outside the Cowley Club I jump with joy as I find Iffi, Nordberg, Freak and Toby, and even some other friendly faces from other far off places! (Hi Maria, Mackenzie, Jaume!) The bands finish cleaning up and we pile into Andy’s above the Hope and Ruin pub with a 24-pack of Red Stripes, jammin’ mixtapes with sick Aussie punk until the wee hours. We wake up to a warm and sunny day, make Neutron Sandies, smoke up the kitchen by mistake, grab the gear and charge the van, then walk around the Lanes for a spot of record shopping and a bite to eat. We say our goodbyes to our lovely host Andy and it’s off to Brum! My first time in every city from now until London.
Birmingham is the largest district in England didn’t you know, and the local punks tell me metal is more popular here, and understandably so. The show has an interesting crowd, from trench coats and monocles to teen metalheads and dads with their sons. A swanky (for punks) backstage at the Hare & Hound, with couches, hot food, a mini fridge stocked with beer, even a shower and a cheese plate! Diät are drenched in smoke and blue light and the quieter moments with bass and keyboard sound booming! After the show we hang around outside for a while chatting to the locals, and our hostess Kali introduces us to Nick B…from Napalm Death! Who then proceeds to blow our minds with stories from back in the day! Brum was rough! We all head back to Kali’s, beer in tow, while Nick and Nordy DJ on YouTube and more crazy stories unfold. Every now and then Iffi rises from his sleep waiving his beer can in encouragement—“I fucking love Wretched!”
Glasgow is next, and I’m excited to be there! It’s a rather dark city, but there’s a certain vibe to it that I liked right away, and the architecture is striking. From gothic churches so old the stone had turned black from the rain, right next to ultra-modern minimalist towers made of steel and glass. We check out Monorail Records where Michael from Night School Recordds works. Loads of electronic, experimental stuff, and I couldn’t resist the new So Low compilation with acts like Chris & Cosey, Throbbing Gristle, John Bender, Tuxedomoon, Siglo XX, Front 242 and more. The show is at the Nice N Sleazy club and Michael has cooked us food, is running the door and will later play a killer set with his new hardcore band Anxiety! He sings into two microphones and the spooky reverb nicely contrasts his erratic stage energy. A great show with lots of friendly people, loads of beer and massive pakoras and cheesy chips-n-curry-sauce afterwards! Michael’s house has a dreamy view of Glasgow and we drink wine sprawled out on his living room floor spinning Bill Withers. A beautiful night for an eclipse.
It starts to rain heavily on the way to Cardiff. Our windscreen wiper on the passenger’s side is bust and visibility is critical. We’re stopped on the side of the highway, massive freight trucks whooshing past us, spraying us with rainwater. Josh and Louis check the situation while Toby keeps Iffi calm with cigarettes and humour. The replacement from the gas station a few miles away (the last one on the shelf!) doesn’t match, but Nordy convinces them to give us a refund! Josh and I Macgyver it with a piece of cloth and a hairband and pile back into Ricky’s van. There’s traffic to Cardiff (say that 20 times) but the crappy cappuccino kicks in and the Cleaners from Venus keep us company.
The Cardiff show fills up quickly and Chain of Flowers are just great! I’m blown away by how tight their sound is. A blend of shoegaze-y post-punk with powerful pop hooks and hella catchy vocals and songs that make for an all killer no filler record, out now on Alter Stock. It was nice chatting to them and the boys from Disjoy, who opened the show and play stripped down, gloomy post-punk. Lots of friendly people at the distro and I even manage to get Welly from Artcore zine a note back via his son who was at the show! After that it was late-night roadside burgers and no sleep ’til London! The band falls asleep pretty fast while Louis and I fall down a “what we used to listen to when we were young” rabbit hole—a generation raised on MTV. I play Babylon Zoo on my phone and we sing along, bumbling across the Severn Bridge and up the M4, past Reading and through the London skyline.
We creep into Bryony’s as quietly as we can and practically pass out with exhaustion. The next day is surprisingly sunny and we enjoy carajillos and apple tarts with Nani and Carlos in their back yard before the show. It was great to be back at DIY Space for London and the line up was just killer: London’s Sarcasm and Retrofuture, Chain of Flowers, the almighty Good Throb and, with massive shadows cast behind them on the wall and an enthusiastic crowd of friendly faces up front, Diät. All bands were smashing, and I danced and pogoed like a teenager high on sugar. Good Throb were a revelation on record but even more so live. It was my first (and probably last) time seeing them and I cannot stress how fucking rad it was—it’s like the best of early UK punk distilled into one band. The strings are agitated, the drums minimal yet crashing and the vocals make Sid Vicious sound like a phony. I love being in London—so many lovely people doing inspiring projects, so much excitement and good energy on and off stage. The night went by in a flash and I felt like Cinderella as we charged the van before midnight and headed to Bianca’s for a post-punk house after-party. Hungover and coming down the next day, we head for the greasy spoon across the street (“Extra beans! A whole plate of beans!”), say our weepy goodbyes to Louis and quietly drive through rain and London skyscrapers on our way up north. Next and final UK stop, Sheffield!
The show is sold out, more people than London, and I’m having a smoke and catching up with Fids from Dry Heaves outside the Broomhall community centre. I met Dry Heaves last spring when they came through SF and we had a wicked time. I never really thought I would see them all again, yet here I am, in “God’s country” as Ross put it, enjoying the thick accent and bubbly humour, picking their brains about the local scene. It’s bloody cold but inside the people are warm and smiley. People sing along to the bands and dance up front and wave their beers in the air. Locals 99 Watts and Sievehead are great, and seeing Chain of Flowers again—who ease into their set by way of the “Goodye Horses” riff—is a total delight. Singer Joshua reminds me of Ian Curtis on stage and, while the record is stunning, the live performance is a different experience altogether—more post than pop, loud and completely soul-crushing…ugh… Eagulls from Leeds are headlining, who are apparently a rather big deal, and I can see why—they’re like a modern day Cure, it’s hard to resist. After mopping the floor and charging the van, I rrrreally wanted to party at the infamous Lughole with all the lovely Sheffield lads, but sadly we had an extra early start the next day for Antwerp. The local punk scene in Sheffield is booming right now, with a solid crew of bands and people, like Sievehead, 99 Watts, Dry Heaves, Detergents, Skiplickers, Stalled Minds and more! Look up Kids of the Lughole on bandcamp for some tunes and the Lughole FB page for loads of upcoming kick-ass gigs! I promise to come back and hang hard one day soon!
Perhaps I tempted fate by thinking how lucky I am to be on the road for the first time with one of my favourite bands, ’cause it feels like shit kinda boomeranged in our face—metaphorically speaking. Traffic on the highway is a nightmare, it just started to hail, the Chunnel is leaving in under an hour and we’re still miles away. We keep the spirit cheerful by burning through our last megabites on stand up comedy videos on YouTube. Deez nuts wanna be off the A2 and in mainland Europe! We make it just in the nick of time, thankfully don’t get searched at passport control, and in under 45 minutes my phone is getting automated text messages welcoming me to France. A short while later I’m picking up Belgian waffles at a gas station and off to Antwerp we go. As we get closer to the venue Toby notices that the clutch doesn’t kick back like it should. Not ten minutes later—and a mere 200 metres from the venue—we have to pull over. I can see a rain cloud heading our way. Three minutes later it’s pouring. While Iffi and Josh walk to the venue in search of help, we manage to get our host Anneke on the phone and she arranges for a car to come pick some of us up. (Thanks Bram!) The rest of us ride with the tow-truck to the venue, where we discharge the van, and come to the stark realization: it’s Easter Sunday today and tomorrow is Easter Monday and nothing is open—garage included—until Tuesday. Blimey… We’re all a bit worried, as we’re not sure how we’re gonna get all the gear back to Berlin if the van can’t be fixed in time. Either way the show is a success and, even though the crowd seems a bit stiffer to me compared to the UK folk, the local punks are very friendly, chatty, worldly and welcoming. By cosmic coincidence I even find MRR columnist Julien, who does our Instruments 101 column! We’d been in touch for a while now, and meeting in the flesh was a treat! I enjoyed hanging out with Anneke, Rikki, Bram, Martha and a bunch of other nice punks and, despite my extreme intoxication, I recall the good conversation. And the poppers and dead rats and green speed and almost partying in the wrong house! Check out Martha’s band Blackie and the Oohoos on Jezus Factory Records for some dreamy morning-after pop that sounds like a tape unearthed from the ’60s, and make sure you buy Anneke a drink when you meet her ’cause she’s the best!
The next morning she and I bonded in the avocado isle, discussing our experiences as women in punk and vowing to never let the clueless patriarchy get us down. “I’m in it for the kicks, not the dicks” she says and we high five in the street as I drown in unforgiving daylight. We made a massive breakfast for everyone and tried to figure out how to get back to Berlin. We made the best of the whole delay and Anneke showed us around the old town, where we did some beer shopping (the record shops were all closed, much to Iffi’s disappointment) and had Belgian Trappist beer across from the rather imposing Cathedral of Our Lady. It was windy but sunny and the light marked curved shadows across the stone building facades. I took pictures of doorways and we got fried chips with a myriad different sauces—apparently a thing in Belgium. The night ended with on a high note with some downtime at Anneke’s, and David Attenborough taking us through caves and deserts on a Planet Earth documentary. Thankfully we managed to rent another, smaller van through the insurance company, because Ricky’s van was stuck there for a week or more! We stash the unnecessaries at Anneke’s and jam pack the Combi to the ceiling! If all goes well, in seven hours we should be in the B-hole! Echo and the Bunnymen soundtrack the way as I drift in and out of sleep and the conversation. I’m feeling a bit lost and low, but know it’s just the post-ecstasy blues. Tired but wired, we reach Tommy Haus where Diät are playing the next night and discharge the van. A quick U-Bahn ride and a bottle of wine later, I’m smoking on Iffi’s balcony, trying to collect my thoughts. We jam the Chain of Flowers record (again!) and I get all teary as I say thank you and wish him a goodnight and head to bed.
[…to be continued]