Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kingdom European tour update #2

We're 11 days in on our tour with Bishop. Right now, we are in the wan driving through Germany. It's freezing cold in here, I'm having trouble typing because my fingers are numb. The Hungarians are mad at us right now (we left them waiting in the wan for an hour yesterday in Prague while we ate at an awesome restaurant called Veg Food, which I'll post more about later) and I'm afraid to ask them to turn the heat on. It's snowing, the scenery is drab and colorless, everyone is congested and slightly irritated (we awoke to a flat tire.)


We got an overwhelming response on that delightful Beligian cookie spread. It's called Speculoos. Google it! Thanks to everyone who wrote to us about it.

Now let's catch up.

Day 4- Birmingham, UK.

This was the best UK show for sure. Lots of kids, lots of fun and hilarity- like a kid jumping the littlle wall that separated the stage from the floor so he could mosh in place between me and Pierce for an awkwardly long amount of time, and a dude pulling his shorts up like a diaper during his crucial m0sh, as well as flashing me his manly chest with each word at the end of "The Rage That Guides". He also wore a sixers jersey to make us feel at home. What a swell guy. (The bald guy below is him- click for a full pic)

This day also marked day 2 of my alien-foot, which was deciding day- according to French doctors- between my recovery and my death. So as I ate pasta with tomato sauce and drank espresso with my foot up on a table in the back room of the venue, I thought to myself... what if THIS is my last meal? What if THIS is my last night on earth, and I'm spending it drinking push-button coffee, unshowered and cold, with my foot up on particle board in a room that reeks of 15 dude's asses?

Something we ate was making me shit every half hour, so I spent an abnormal amount of time in the ladies room where a constant stream of girls was hanging out and chatting. It was probably during my 3rd trip to the bathroom that I overheard 2 girls talking about how they hadn't eaten that day. One moaned about how hungry she was, but how desperately she wanted to be skinny so she'd rather not eat. The other encouraged her, but sadly. "That's the dream... (sighhhhh)... you're living the dream."

I thought about them the rest of the night. I, like anyone, have my insecurities and try as I may to break down the walls (!) of society's standards, find myself, say, wearing make up or plucking my eyebrows, so I am not judging these girls at all. We all struggle with our appearances and we all feel pressure to look a certain way, whether we want to or not. But there comes a point when we need to stand up for ourselves against the pressure. That point comes way before willing starvation. I mentioned this during our set, what the girls had said and how I think that- especially within hardcore- we should find comfort and freedom enough to shake off bullshit like that. After we played, I went to the bathroom. One girl came over to me told me she loved our set, despite that I made fun of her. She smiled and looked down. This was the hungry girl (I hadn't seen her before because I'd been shitting.) I told her that I had not intended to make fun, that hearing her talk about her hunger broke my heart. She confessed that she HAD eaten, but it had only been "a bowl of shreddies".

SHREDDIES?!?!?!

The entire conversation shifted to British slang (shreddies= shredded wheat) and I left the bathroom laughing hysterically.

As we packed up the last of our merch I took off my boot and sock to take a look at the ol' foot. Jaws dropped all around, and Dave's eyes darted from my swollen grey skin, to the blood settled at the bottom of my foot, to the top of my foot overlapping my toes- which were all purple, and then finally, to the bottom of my foot, which no longer had an arch, but instead looked like an about-to-burst water balloon. "We need to go to the hospital... NOW." We hastily threw our shit in the wan and Dave, David (the promoter), and I headed to the ER.

The night before, in Gent, I had woken up soaked in sweat and the entire drive to the UK I had been sick to my stomach. I had brushed it off, but now, as I sat in a car with fatal-alien-foot that had turned every color of water-logged corpse, I started thinking my end was imminent. We rushed into the hospital with my medicine (we had no clue what it was, it was in french and I had only been told it was "for my alien") and my x-rays. I was seen within minutes. I had been bracing myself for anything- foot draining... amputation... death... so when the British doc reviewed my chart and pushed on my water balloon then said, "You're going to be fine." I just assumed he meant, like, in the after-life or something.

TURNS OUT that French doctors are known for over-reacting. The British doctor told me that I was in no way dying, and was surprised that I had been told that. My alien was just a severe sprain with an abnormal amount of swelling. The French doctors, he hypothosized, had probably been worried that I would get a blood clot in my leg, which is uncommon in young people, and people who can still move their legs (like me). He also told me that the medicine I was given was just to help with the swelling, and sweats and stomach problems are a common reaction, and if I stopped taking it I'd feel better. He said I didn't need to do anything but try to keep off it, and in 2-3 weeks I'd be better.

And that was that.

Whew.

Day 5, London.

We had been looking forward to this show since we first heard about it. First off- the line up was sick. Us and Bishop, Hang the Bastard (who we'd been hearing great things about- AND they covered Integrity!), and Ringworm!

Then there were all the friends who were coming. Stu from Your Demise, Simon (who drew our tour poster), Neish, May, Charlotte, Kirby, Pierce's sister, and of course, Hate Edge Josh all the way from Richmond, VA. Kirby brought Dave homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. Simon brought me skittles, starburst (both of which are vegan only in the UK- in the states and elsewhere they contain gelatin), and other goodies. Pierce's sister gave him a huge food bag. If we were not all vegan, we would easily outweigh 100 demons.

Before the show all of us went to a vegan thai buffet just around the corner from the venue (Underworld). This place had been so hyped, and it totally lived up to none of it. Dustin was sick all night from the food. If you're ever in London, don't eat there.

The venue had a backstage area for the bands with a little room with drinks and snacks. Us and Bishop went back there (like a swarm of locusts) and Ringworm and their tour manager were already back there. Sam grabbed a drink from the fridge while the rest of us rooted around the room like pigs looking for truffles, ooh and ahhing over the private bathroom with a shower and the basket of fruit... until the face-tattooed Hungarian manager shouted at us, "This room is not for EVERYONE!" and shooed us out.

We walked out with our tails between our legs. We had just raided Ringworm's personal shit. Ringworm would now hate us because Sam had stolen a soda. Now there was nothing between us but oceans of bad blood.

About an hour later, our tour manager, also a terrifying Hungarian, told us that the room was in fact for EVERYONE (who was in a band) and we went back to claim our soy yogurts and ginger ales victoriously. Ringworm, for the record, did not hate us for stealing our own soda. They're all real nice!

I will tell you one crucial part of our set. Josh sang "Bathory" with me and did this:

video

ON STAGE MOSH.

...ON STAGE MOSH!!!!

That night we stayed with Charlotte and made big plans to wake up early "soooo early!" to see Big Ben and do touristy stuff. We, as usual, stayed up late talking and hanging with friends we rarely see. Stu told us about how the singer of Your Demise sold out, but how Your Demise had never really been a straight edge band. Dave, always a well-timed antagonizer, just HAPPENED to have a pin on his jacket that said, "YOUR XXX DEMISE". LOLz were had. After fries were eaten and jokes degenerated into sleepy nonsense and all the friends went home, everyone hit the hay. I fell asleep in the bathtub (showers have not been possible for me until a couple days ago) and went stumbling downstairs after my water blanket turned icy. I went to sleep excited to see London, and woke up when Jaki came storming up saying it was time to go. It was a total Home Alone moment. "WE SLEPT IN!!!" So, no sight seeing. No photos. We do not know what Big Ben looks like. We caught our few hours of floor-sleep, then it was back in the wan and onto...

Day 6, Ipswitch, UK

"This is a game called snaps...."

Bishop came to Europe with a game. I'll try to explain, as best I can. It goes like this:

Away from everyone else, I tell Pete a band name. It could be any band. The first time I played, I chose Steel Nation (got them on my brain since we're working on touring together!) We go back to the group, all of whom are spectators on the game, but Daron. Pete then says, "This is a game called snaps.." and a bunch of other things like, "Don't fuck this one up!", while snapping. Magically, somehow, Daron blurts out "Steel Nation!" No matter what band, he gets it. Dave is the only one who's figured out how it's played- it's lost on or uninteresting to the rest of us.

I awoke in the wan to us driving down creepy, foggy roads under a canopy of knotted, gnarled branches. The venue was above a bar... and guess what night it was at the bar? Kaereoke night! Pierce sang "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" (George Michael) while we LOLed.

There were a decent amount of kids at the show, some kids from the night before in London. I don't know if Ipswitch is always like this, or if kids were just tired, but it was a pretty lackluster show. Lots of crossed arms and still standing. On nights like that, things tend to get silly. Our set was ordinary, perhaps a tad awkward due to the sleeping crowd and the super bright lights left on... oh, you know what? People did move! It was when someone accidentally cut the lights during our set, and the crowd got (momentarily) comfortable and moshed for like, a solid 2 minutes.. then the lights came back on and it was as if it had never happened. Funny how that works. But anyway, no matter how awkward OUR set was, Bishop took it to a whole new level.

Dave, Pierce, and I heckled them relentlessly between songs with inside jokes that no one understood but those on tour. And they heckled us back, talking so much that almost 5 minutes would pass between songs.

After a time, Pete said, "Ok, ok... I could talk all night... maybe we should play a song." I yelled, "No, no! Keep talking!" .... and he did. He talked until he ran out of things to say, then just stared at the crowd. I almost fell off the bar laughing. I was one of about... 8 people who found it funny (the rest being in Kingdom or Bishop.) The crowd shifted awkwardly with their arms crossed. Pete got an idea.

"Wanna play a game called snaps?"

The crowd didn't respond, so we told Bishop that yes, they did. I picked a kid in a purple plaid shirt to give Pete a band name. Pete, after making fun of the kids' shirt (awwwwkwwward), listened for the band. No one but Pete heard the name, so when Daron (still holding his bass) said, "Wisdom in Chains!", no one but the kid in the purple plaid shirt was amazed. This was more than we in Kingdom could handle. The crowd blinked. And breathed. I *believe* they were still alive, but I can't say for sure. I was on the verge of pant-peeing.

The British kids were confused and unamused by us. We had become oblivious to them, reveling in our inside jokes and games, and then something surprising happened. One kid, with no warning (!) whatsoever, turned to the crowd behind him and started singing.

"Nah nah nah nah.. nah nah nah nah.. heyyy heyyy heyyy..." and the whole crowd, like every single person there, sang with him,

"SWEEEEEENY TODD!"

They did this several times.

We were dumbstruck. We still have no idea why they did that, or what they were singing. They cheered and laughed. We were sobered, officially, and finished the show.

We said our goodbyes, got in the wan, and started our drive to Germany. I awoke an hour later to a terrible grinding noise. Everyone was asleep but Bloodbath and Jaki, who were talking to each other in Hungarian. I popped my head up.

"Blooooodbath??? What's that noise?"

"It is not good."

We drove for 10 minutes until the noise had woken everyone.

Bloodbath and I had a short conversation. I asked if we should stop driving, he said probably, but that we needed to catch our ferry to Germany. I asked if it was dangerous to keep driving. He thought for a moment, then said, "Yes." I told him that I'd like to pull over and check it out, he said we were late, and I said I'd rather be late than dead. He agreed, we pulled over, and that marked the start of:

Our 2 days off.....

(click on this to see us- cold, and abandoned)


(to be continued)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tour update #1

Kingdom European tour update #1

Jan 25th, 2009

We are driving through German countryside right now, somewhere between where our ferry from Sweden docked and Hamburg, where we play tonight. Next to me Dave is reading an interview with Bitter End in a zine he picked up at Fire and Ice Fest yesterday, everyone else (Dustin, Pierce, and all of Bishop) are dozing or gazing sleepily out the windows at the passing farmland. The two Hungarians of tour, Bloodbath (our driver) and Jaki (our friend/tour manager), are sitting up front blasting Subzero and farting incessantly. Make them stop?

We've been out for one week with Bishop, but here for a total of 9 days (we came two days earlier than them and hung/played with The Carrier).

Our flight was uneventful other than Dave's overhead light turning off and on at random, waking us up and annoying the people around us. We arrived in Paris under the assumption that we'd be waiting hours for our driver and The Carrier to arrive, but as soon as we got off the plane, there they were. We excitedly hopped inside of the van and traded stories and inside jokes until we got to....

DAY ONE- Jan 16th, Bordeaux, France. Heretic Club.

So far this is the most beautiful city we've been to. Tiny winding cobblestone streets, gorgeous old churches, lights set into the ground made the city glow day and night. Kebab stands and restaurants every third step. The city smelled of oily meat (blargggh) and fries (mmmmmmm!). We ordered fries after the show and out of habit I asked for "French fries" and immediately felt like a moron.

We couldn't have asked for a better first show. Lots of singalongs and moooooshing, it was a pretty fun 25 minutes.

Europeans have a distinct sort of honesty that in America would come as rude and tactless. After the show, a kid who had seen us last time we were in Europe came over to me. "Good set. You sound more metal this time. The Carrier was good also, but I do not like them. Of their style of music, I hate them the most."

That night both us and The Carrier stayed in a freezing cold room full of bunk beds above the venue. I could see my breath inside. I tried to take a bath to warm up but since I was the last in the bathroom the water was room temperature (a normal room, not the ice box I was staying in) instead of hot. Because even that was warmer than the frosty slumber that awaited me, I debated staying in or getting out for a shivering, half-submerged 45 minutes. Misery.

The Carrier, by the way, is awesome. I had been told more than once that I would not get along with them, that they were shitty with girls, and that they would definitely try to sleep with me. None of that was true, even a little. We were all bff within minutes of meeting, all but 2 have girlfriends (who they talked constantly about missing... it was pretty cute), and none tried to sleep with me. Freddy did show Dave his dick though.

DAY TWO- Toulouse, France.

Us the the Carrier played a squat venue. This place was sprawling, 3 or more buildings covered in graffiti and murals with dark overgrown pathways connecting them all (this became truly terrifying at night when creepy middle aged squatters were lurking the shadows and I was stumbling blinding through the brush looking for the bathroom.) The building we played had a smaller vanue in the basement, a bar/lounge/computer room upstairs, and singularly the strangest person I've ever met, who was lurking from the time we arrived to well after we left. This guy was like 40 or so, tall and thin with a gnarly pubic beard and a red cloth tied on his head- as first in an almost middle eastern style, but as the night went on it devolved into a tu-pac-esque crimson knot. He wandered around babbling in French and broken english, suddenly and randomly breaking into scat-like song. So it was like this: "Are there.... vegan.... congregations in the.... woods? Brraappt doolooo bop bop brrrrrrrrrip!" He swayed his head from side to side, and approached groups of people hanging out, scatting and brippping, making half-coherant sentences over and over all night like a crazy moth bumping against a light.

The show was packed. It spilled from inside the venue up the stairs and all the way into the lounge. Our set was out of hand, the wildest show of tour so far. Everyone was moving- stage diving, crowd crawling, dancing where there was no room to dance. We were having the best time ever until the middle of "33/45", when our set and this entire tour took one serious, painful, and inconvenient turn.

The stage was a mine field of bumps, dips, and holes- all of which I had made a mental note of before we started playing, and all of which I immediately forgot about as soon as the first chord was struck. During "33/45" my foot stood half on a lump, and half hovered over a dip, right as a kid to my right fell forward onto the stage and a kid to my left pushed off of me to stage dive. I stumbled back- or tried to rather, but my foot went crashing into the to dip and my leg was braced by the fallen dude behind me, so my body twisted and spun down but my leg- ankle specifically, stayed still and tall.

You know how sometimes when you get hurt you aren't really sure if you're just hurt, or you're like, reaaaaally hurt? Adrenaline masks the pain then fear creates pains that aren't there and there's those few moment of breathless self evaluation where you cringe and wait for the truth? I fell hard, and immediately grabbed my ankle and stared in paniced anticipation- I was pretty sure I has heard at LEAST 12 snaps as I fell and was convinced that every bone in below my knee has been reduced to a splintered match stick, but, I also knew there was a slight chance I was over reacting. The dudes played on- but when I tried to get up and went topling back to stage, finding myself unable to even breath; the drums rolled out, the solos faded, and I was swarmed by people. My shoes were taken off. The pain was setting in. My ankle and foot were already swelling. A punk kid came out of nowhere with tiger balm. Who carries travel size tiger balm in their pockets at shows? Thankful, I gingerly rubbed it on with shaking hands. People wanted to carry me upstairs, but I wanted to finish the set. We didn't come all the way from America just to play for 20 minutes then eat shit. We came from America to play for 25 non-shit eating minutes. So I got up, bare foot, and we played our last song, "The Rage That Guides". The room exploded, and I hopped around like squaking one-legged pigeon.

After the set I was carried to car and taken to the ER. Adrian, who had come to the show with a treat bag for us (full of vegan cookies, cakes, candy, and spreads!) drove, Remy (who booked our Bordeaux show) came as my translator, and Pierce came to keep me company. It was a long night at the hospital. It was a Saturday night, and the bars had just let out. An endless stream of losing-side fighters poured in, their gelled hair all rumpled, their nice clothes all bloodied. And all their stupid little surgeries took up all the damn doctors and we stayed at the hospital for 6 hours.

Here's the short version of what happened:

Adrian's english was alright, but not enough for us to talk much. Remy's english was good, and we joked all night. He told us about Life Ruiner playing in Toulouse. The kids of Toulouse collectively decided it would be hilarious to get stupid hair cuts and wear dresses and pajamas to the show. The danced like, Remy hit his hand against his chest in the worldwide 2nd grade sign for... mentally handicapped people.

(Remy later sent us this... that's him in the red!)


My foot had a huge egg on the top of it. It had started as two small bumps, then grew into one, then increased in size as the night wore on. I asked the French kids if they had even seen Space Balls. They laughed a yes. "That alien that pops of out the dude's stomach and starts tap dancing? That is definitely in my foot."

I got X rayed, and 5 hours later, I was seen by a nurse and a doctor. They spoke fast, and didn't slow down for my translation. Remy did the best he could.

"It does not look like your foot in broken, but they cannot see past your alien. Your alien is very dangerous. They need to give you a cast and injections.... blood thinners, I think. You will need to give yourself injections in your stomach for 5 days, and if you do not do this, you will die."

WHAT?

WHAAAAAT??!?!?

I asked what my alien actually was and got no answer.

A cast and injections seem an awfuly severe treatment for a little stage diving collision. And I'm terrified of needles, almost as much as I'm terrified of death, so with a wuss's knee-jerk reaction I put my one good foot down and said no to injections, and no to a cast.

I was re examined by an exhausted and frustrated doctor, who then told me that the blood standing still (heyooo!!!) in my foot was very bad, and that they were going to give me medicine, crutches, and an aircast which I could use for 2 days. If in 2 days I was not walking almost normally, I needed to rush to an ER because my condition- the alien- could be fatal.

It was 7 am when we left. Adrian and Remy drove us to the Pharmacy, went in, and came out with meds and instructions for me.

"This is pain medicine, which you don't use, right? Ok. Then this medicine is for your alien. You must take this. You need to shrink the alien because it is VERY dangerous. Take this twice a day."

When we got back to squat and the sun was up. So were a very worried Dave and Dustin, who had stayed up all night in the lounge waiting for us to come back. They had company.... the scat man. "Your.... foot.... is..... brrrrrrreppppp blop blop klack klack wooooooOOOO!" He reached out to try to touch it.

It was cold. Half eaten bagettes and open containers of tartex (a disgusting european spread that tastes like catfood) layed around in the aftermath of a frenzied night. Dave paced back and forth as I told him about my potentially fatal alien. I tried to learn to use my crutches. My foot was a cantalope. No one had slept (save for Pierce in the hospital room- while snoring and farting). It was time to drive to Belgium, to our first show with Bishop, to our last show with The Carrier, so we brushed our teeth, grabbed some ice packs, and got in the van.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: In Belgium, we picked up Jaki. Since then, all "w"s and "v"s have been subject to change. For example, from here on out, the "van" will be known as the "wan", as this is what it's most commonly called.




Bloodbath (our Driver) and Dave.










Day 3, Gent, Belgium.

Bye the Carrier. Hi Jaki, hi Bishop, hi Falafel with curry ketchup. War X Child opened, it was their 3rd show, and they were so good. Also set out their stickers in an X. The band Daggers blew everyone away. Their CD is circulating the wan. Drank espresso at a bar. Almost fell with my crutches a hundred times. Got pulled under a pile on and Pierce had to stop playing to drag me out so I didn't hurt my alien.

So, in Europe all touring bands are fed both dinner and breakfast. It's an amazing custom that Americans should adopt. At breakfast the morning after the show, we were given the most delicious breakfast spread ever imagined. I don't know what it's called, but I was told it was created on a TV show. They took a traditional spiced Belgian cookie and made it spreadable, like creamy peanut butter. It's literally cookie paste. COOKIE PASTE! We went so nuts for it the kid we stayed with said he was getting in touch with promoters at our last show to make sure there were a few jars for us (this delight is available only in Belgium.) I will let you all know what it is when I find out, it's seriously worth ordering.