“It’s the fucking principle of it! This is bullshit!” I hung my head low as if trying to dodge the active row I psychically sat in the middle of. I stared at my phone like it actually had wifi. The woman marched out of the room and the tattoo artist went back to cleaning his station. A fog of tension permeated everything. Across Camden, a debate raged over whether additional tattoos would be done since soundcheck was devolving into a nightmare. Three years ago, their first gig in London had gone awry and they longed for redemption tonight. One floor below me, another argument brewed over the five agreed upon tattoo slots. Due to apocalyptic London traffic, we were operating two hours late for everything. I’m next in line for a tattoo of a dagger going into a hamburger spraying up ketchup like blood with a Nirvana “Nevermind” smiley face on the bun. I hope the pissed-off artist doesn’t have a heavy hand. This is an awkward spot for this tour.
The venue tonight is The Black Heart in the center of Camden, a rare four-band show. Michl is savoring a brief reunion with his girlfriend. Joe is chatting it up with Ergs fans. Erin from Fat Records is in attendance. There is a vegan Thai buffet around the corner. All the tension surrounding the tattoos dissipated and my latest “sick ink” looks great. Tonight is gonna’ rule!
Unfortunately, I missed the first band when we were getting dinner (remember, we are operating two hours behind on everything), but I caught the Dry Heaves and they killed it. So good! One of the best openers of the tour! The singer/guitarist for the third band of the night performed with a motorcycle helmet fitted with a wireless mic. The Brits’ gracious, friendly demeanor charmed the author and made selling merch a goddamn pleasure. Regardless, I dropped everything and squeezed up front for NBs.
Escape from New York and the place erupted! Born to Die in Suburbia and the author did a busted stage-dive to the grimy floor. Modern Morons and the whole place is soaked with sweat. Brian can’t even see as his eyes burn with it. Barred Out and new tattoos be damned; there’s no such thing as soreness. Sex Tape and there is no room to really mosh. It’s just soaking punks bumping into one another. Everyone screaming the words. Redemption had, it was one of the absolute best of the tour. Thanks to Tom Ellis for putting together this rager!
The plastic wrap around Brian and Ryan’s arms, protecting their new tattoos, evaporated. Seemingly, the same thing occurred on PJ’s thigh as a sizeable blood stain formed on his jeans. Joe, having skipped on the tattoo, could sweat, swim and sauna with impunity.
While loading out into the narrow alley in front of the club, a security guard’s car was accidentally scratched. Thankfully, this did not turn into Joe dancing on the bar in white high-heels to “Tequilla.” After clinking drinks with Erin we piled into the van to hunker down with with Daniel, Thai, and Julia before an all-nighter to the coast.
If you read my previous post – Tour Post 10 – you know the rest of the story. So we now pick up the string at a quiet bar in Kortrijk, Belgium sipping espressos, cappuccinos, and the occasional beer. The bar keep is nice and plays rockabilly and punk records for us. It’s a fucking monsoon outside. That’s ok – for now we have nowhere to go, the toilets are clean and the wifi is fast. Reeling a bit from the bullshit morning we just endured at the ferry port and at Ieper, caffeine and disappointment pushes us along. The nice-as-hell promoter from the Pits rolls in to introduce himself like a ray of fucking sunshine. He opens up the venue and half of us crash in the van and half on the couches backstage. Sleep. Finally, sleep.
A couple hours later I realize I can’t breathe. The top of the loft in the van has turned into a microwave oven as the rain cleared and the sun came out. Franz and Brian seem to be fine, though maybe their brains are already cooked through. I stumble out onto the cool, damp streets and into the venue. The Pits, a petite corner venue, has hosted over 1,000 bands since 1988 (that’s the year PJ was born, folks). It is also likely the only venue where the urinals are just against the front wall for all to witness. It makes the CBGBs toilet look like a bastion of discretion.
By and by, the Night Birds take the stage as a one band show. This was the third show of the tour that they supplemented their set with additional surf instrumentals. The crowd was rather sedate, but digging the tunes. Despite that, the band earned at least one off-the-bar-stage-dive. My heart sank as various kids came up to the merch table and said they were waiting for the band at Ieper that morning. I told them a short version of the unvarnished truth – Night Birds got bumped. I apologized profusely, thanked them effusively, and slapped a dagger pin in their hand. So glad they didn’t hold it against the band and chose to leave the fest and pay again to see the band in such a classic venue. Thanks, dudes.
We re-arranged gear, luggage, and toiletries for an early morning flight to Helsinki. After donating the remainder of the absinthe bottle to the Pits, we piled in the van for our final ride. Destination: Brussels International, with not a bed, shower, or lick of privacy in sight.
On deck: the Night Birds final show of their European tour in one of the author’s fav cities/countiries. I’m talkin’ Helsinki, Finland!