Sunday, 21 October 2012

Better Late Than Never – A Year On, Part 2

So whats been going on? Heres a brief update of whats occurred since January (and I really can’t believe its October already – where did that year go?)

I got back from San Francisco and my big trip on Jan 4th 2012, slap bang in the middle of winter, and promptly did nothing till June, save a few bits and pieces. I should have maybe taken the time to do another (slightly smaller) trip – but I thought I’d be sensible and didn’t. Instead, I had a few weekends away to London – to see Bouncing Souls, Dropkick Murphys, Mastodon, A Place To Bury Strangers, see friends and generally behave like a drunken bum – a trip to Sheffield in May to see Lisa and Ginny (and see Alkaline Trio), and a couple of trips to Amsterdam with mates to see Cock Sparrer and The Bouncing Souls, of which both trips were a blast.

Although I generally did nothing while I was at my parents (and looking for college courses to do in my downtime was a miserable failure), I did get started with a new band, based in Brighton. I played a shit-lot of Skyrim, and what days the sun came out, I went to the beach. I also tentatively started running again.

However, this is nothing to do with moving forward in life.

As of June, I started working back at Legal And General as a contractor, doing 3 days a week at the Hove office. And I quite like it. I lived with friends in Hove a couple of days a week while I was working, and got to like that too. I’ve always loved Brighton, and have always thought about moving here, but am so lazy, I never wanted to deal with the hassle. I didn’t know Hove that well, but found I really liked living here too. It’s a pretty great place.

So as of the middle of September, I’m now living in my own flat in Hove, 5 minutes from the beach, 10 minutes walk from work, living in a town that I’ve always enjoyed visiting and is somewhere that I’ve wanted to live for a while. I’ve also got a new band that after 8 months of work, is finally nearing the stage where we’ll be getting music online and playing live soon. And I can run 7k in 40 minutes.
So things have moved forwards in the last 18 months, albeit slightly. I definitely feel like I’m in a better place that I was back at the start of 2011. I need to keep chipping away at life before I get to March 2013 – cos that’s when all the contracts finish!
Not sure I like deadlines…..

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Better Late Than Never - A Year On, Part 1

Figured it was time to kickstart this blog again. Stuffs been happening this year - albeit very slowly - and i'm pleased to say things are moving on. However, thats gonna be part 2. I feel this hastily written blog is far more apt, considering almost a year ago, i was starting my Round-The-World trip - first stop being Amsterdam and Vienna with The Bouncing Souls.

So bizarrely enough (and i didn't even think about this until it was happening), this week I ended up in The Netherlands to see The Souls twice again, a year and two weeks after the last time i saw them.

Flew out to Amsterdam, checked in at my groovy hotel, then trained it an hour and half away to Eindhoven, a place i've never been before. I can't say Eindhoven was particularly amazing - however, the venue was right next to the station, in a pedestrianised area that inculded loads of bars and restaurants. Great, i haven't really got to go that far to find places to hang out.

De Effenaar was an awesome place. Not dissimilar to Melkweg, it was a huge grey building with mad pipes and crap hanging off it. Two venues inside and a wicked little bar/restaurant. Hung out in the bar and charged the iphone, had a few beers and chatted to the nice punky barlady that kept serving me. There was a massive book on the bar - unfortunately all in Dutch - full of photos. Turned out it was a history of the club - its been there since the early 70s, and everyone has played there - the Damned, Ramones, Fugazi, Jesus Lizard, Pixies, Shellac, QOTSA etc etc etc. Was impressed.

The gig itself was ace. The venue was small, intimate (about 300 capacity) with brilliant sound and more friendly bar staff. Support for the Souls on this tour are a band called Downtown Struts from Chicago. I must say i was impressed, and they have a fan in me. They kinda reminded me of The Briggs (but less Piratey) or Street Dogs (without the Oi-ness), and cranked out tune after tune. Was cool to see The Souls bring another great band out with them, as a few of their supports haven't been the best in recent years - i can't remember who played in Vienna (that nondescript, although i know Pacer played a few times - nuff said), and Black Presidents on their last big tour were pretty tedious too. I guess Downtown Struts would be the best thing since they dragged The Draft in tour in 2007. Anyway, i got an album, and would enjoy them again the following night.

Bumped into Pete (Souls guitarist) and Kate (manager) at some point, and drinking was arranged for the following night.

The Souls set was wicked, once again playing a full on consistent set of old and new stuff. As well as playing 8 tracks off the new album, we got Argyle, Cracked, Lifetime, Kid - songs you don't hear that often. However, the barely played anything off Gold Record, and nothing off Ghosts On The Boardwalk, which was a bit of a shame. Regardless, i had a great time down the front, shouting along with a couple of Beardies and their girlfriends that i'd met earlier.

Had to catch the last train, so missed the last few songs and caught my train back to Amsterdam with no problems.

Next day I was seeing The Souls at Melkweg, on of my fave venues. Spent the day as I usually do, drinking by the canals (mainly at a pub called In De Wildeman), then had a long walk down to a tattoo shop i wanted to check out (check Salon Serpent, such an awesome shop).

Bumped into Bryan and Pete from the band just before showtime and sorted arrangements for beertime afterwards, then headed into the venue.

The gig was in the small room (where i'd seen Magnapop a few years previous), and i'm pretty sure there were less people there than the previous night. Not to say the crowd were any less receptive, but it was nice to have room to move around.

Downtown Struts did their thing first, and i must say i enjoyed them more than the previous night, especially as their songs are so catchy, I remembered them from the night before. Next up was Dave Hause (from The Loved Ones) who i'd seen in May with Alkaline Trio. I'm a big fan of Dave, and The Loved One, and was excited i'd be getting to see him again. Once again, he was "lone guy with acoustic guitar", but makes such a big noise and really riles up the crowd. The great thing was i was down the front with a bunch of other fans, and everyone was singing along to every word. At one point he got the crowd to crowdsurf a little 10 year old punk dude around the venue (he loved it!), and then orchestrated a crowd-split-down-the-middle singalong. Which generally can be a bit cheesy, but Dave pulls it off so well - hes such a down to earth and good natured bloke. A couple of Loved Ones songs and Coma Girl by Joe Strummer later, he was off and i was grinning like an idiot.

Souls set was more of the same as last night, except i got to see the full, 8 song encore, which was a cracker (they pulled out Manthem for the first time in a while). They really put an awesome set together for this tour, and its great to see a band thats been going as long as The Souls still try their hardest to make the sets as interesting as they can for everyone (band and new fans included).

As for Melkweg, well, its another incredible european venue. The sound is brilliant, you can see the band, the bouncers aren't arseholes, the barstaff/venue staff are friendly, and noone throws you out as soon as the gig has ended. The few Euro venues i've been to are all like this (De Effenaar from last night, Paradiso, Winstom Kingdom, Vienna Arena) and shows it isn't THAT difficult to do. I prefer Euro gigs over UK gigs everytime.

Met up with the band after the gig (as well as some random german punky types i'd met earlier in Leidseplien, who wanted to take me drinking after the show), and headed over to Dan Murphys on the corner of Leidseplien for a quiet drink. The usual core of Bryan, Pete and Kate were in attendance, along with Michael the drummer, Dave Hause and three of the Downtown Struts, as well as bunch of other friends of the band. Spent most of the time chatting to Zack and Ryan from the Struts (talking Chicago, San Francisco and DIY punk), had a bit of a fan boy chat with Dave Hause and talked Keith Moon with Michael.

Got turfed out of Dan Murphys pretty early, so headed over to The Cave, a late night metal club off Leidseplien. We were the only ones there, and was a bit of a riot. And as things got steadily more insane, i decided that it was time to leave them all to it. Said goodbye to Bryan and Kate (and left with some very good news indeed), and walked out into the rain. I was back at the hotel at 3am.

I've now seen The Souls 33 times, and they are now top of my "how many times i've seen a band" list. I really enjoyed this trip, even though there was a lot of running around, late nights and hangovers. Was ace getting to see The Souls play again (with the added bonus of great supports), and also spending time in one of my fave cites, almost a year ago to the day that i started my trip.

Saturday, 28 January 2012


I’ve been back home now for just under a month. I still don’t know what I want
to do with my life, but that’s something for another time – I need to start
sorting stuff out soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d take a look back over
the last four months (and more), and pick it all apart.

First of all – it was a bloody amazing holiday. However, I had no epiphany
moments, no game changing discoveries about myself, no “sitting on the side of
a mountain and coming to some great realisation about life, the universe and
everything”. I kinda figured that wouldn’t happen. I think the only thing that I
really came away knowing was that I really missed playing music, and it’s the
one thing I truly love doing, whether it’s playing in a band or seeing bands.
So I just got on with having the best time I could, and apart from a couple of
minor back-packing niggles, for the most part I achieved it. I saw some
gobsmacking places, went to some of my favourites cities (more than once), did
a few vaguely mad things (mad for me anyway), and spent over six months in
bright sunshine and hot weather. I got to hang out with some good friends (some
of which I hadn’t seen for years), and made a few new ones. Oh, and I got a few
new tattoos, courtesy of my friend, the very brilliant and talented Mary Joy Scott.


My European start of the trip was pretty amusing:
- Gay Pride in Amsterdam!
- hanging out with The Bouncing Souls in Vienna, and getting onstage with them
- me and Jackie doing one day of sightseeing in Vienna with massive hangovers
- cutting my Amsterdam trip short to fly back to see The Bronx in Kingston, the
night the London riots broke out

America was brilliant from pretty much start to finish.
The only problem I have
with the place is at least 50% of the cab drivers are utter retards. It was a
pretty relentless few weeks here (including Chicago in May, and San Francisco
at New Year), and we did a lot:
- getting to hang out with Tim, Tom, Kelly
and Alex on and off for over a month
- Tims awesome friends in Chicago who did so much for us while we were there –
CJ, Jim and Mel
- seeing Chixdiggit and Marked Men in Chicago, and getting to a Cubs game (and
watching them lose!)
- spending a lot of time with my SF friends for a change – Suzanne, Tom and
Mary (and Nikki!)
- getting back to SF for New Years for a manic week to see X, attend Suzannes
birthday and get a mega tattoo off Mary
- my best bud Lisa coming out to Las Vegas for a week, staying at Hooters,
shooting guns, and seeing the Grand Canyon and Valley Of Fire
- hanging out with my old Ship crew, Jon, Jeff and Nicole in LA. First time
seeing them for over 5 years, and didn’t seem like a day had passed since the
last time we saw each other. Was only a brief trip to LA, but the guys helped
me out a great deal with places to stay/keeping me amused, and was such a great
few days.
- Awesomefest in San Diego. I liked San Diego A LOT. I dunno if I’d ever go
back outside of Awesomefest happening, but as a first time trip and being a
tourist it was brilliant. Sunny, hot, great beers, great bars. LOTS OF MEXICAN
FOOD. Loved it.
- New York – for being awesome. Rockafella Centre, Staton Island Ferry, Manitobas,
and seeing Juliana Hatfield for the first time in 15 years at City Winery (and
puking in their very posh toilets!)
- going to see Bob Mould in SF, getting to meet him, and seeing him do the rock
thing AND the gay disco thing in the space of one night.
- The Academy Of Sciences in San Francisco
- The ridiculous SF pub crawls in SF that me and Suzanne did over the space of
a week
- Hooters – every one of them!

Then it was onto Fiji, which was 50% incredible:

- loved the Blue Lagoon
- swam with sharks, did a cave dive, two massive hill walks and lots of
- met lots of awesome people, including Will and Carole, a young groovy American
couple that kept me company for the whole trip in Fiji. Think they liked having
a drinking buddy – I certainly appreciated their presence the time I was there.
- hated Waya Lai Lai with its shit food, weird villagers and bed bugs

Australia gets broken down like this:

- hated Brisbane, which was full of arsehole backpackers.
- Fraser Island was indescribable. All I can say was it was like being on the
island in LOST. Had the best tour guide, and a good tour group. Had a brilliant
three days, the highlight being the third day where our group of three got
taken to some really random remote places away from the other tourists.
- Sydney. Was only here for three days, but should have been longer, as it took
me a few days to get my bearings. I think the best thing about Sydney was
discovering James Squires beers and getting drunk in The Rocks! The worst thing
was missing The Drones and Dropkick Murphys playing by two days!
- Featherdale Wildlife Parks kangaroos, wombats, kookaburras and koalas
- Perth was all kinds of amazing.
- getting to see all my old friends in Perth who I hadn’t seen for over 10
years (Ray, Shirley, Martine, Mark, Tarnya) and have them put me up for far
longer than they should have, getting to hang out with Kelly and Alex again,
and meeting some of their groovy tattooed punk rock friends.
- finally getting to see OFF! play, after missing them in every country/city I’d
been to in the last six months
- Kelly and Alex taking me to Rottnest Island, and doing an 18km bike ride to
the far west of the island
- Kelly and Alex taking me on an insane DIY beer tour into the Swan Valley to
try out some different breweries
- Mark driving me to the Pinnacles National Park and back again. Four hours
there and back, 20 minutes in the park! All we wanted to see was a very long
road and a Pinnacle that looked like a penis. Job done!
- Kellys mum driving us around Perth for a day, and getting to hand feed wild cockatoos!
- the ridiculous meaty BBQs put on by everyone throughout the holiday
- Fremantle, the Little Creatures Brewery and Bon Scotts statue
- the beer – James Squires One Fifty Lashes, Little Creatures Bright and Pale
Ales, and the Nails IPA only found at the Sail And Anchor in Fremantle
- drinking said awesome beers practically every day. Especially the day I sat outside
the Lucky Shag on the river, drinking pints of Golden Ale, eating a massive
steak, sitting in the sun listening to the cheesy cover band.
- Kings Park and the main city of Perth
- The Two Feet And A Heartbeat walking tour
- the wicked birdlife – my inner ornithologist came back with a vengeance

And the final stop, Singapore:

- the zoo
- my stupidly posh hotel
- Clarke Quay
- Hooters!
- more Little Creatures

The downsides break down into two sections – backpacking and my rucksack. And thats about it.

Backpacking really wasn’t for me. Apart from meeting relatively normal people
in Fiji and Fraser Island, I spent the rest of the time on my solo part of the
trip not meeting anyone. With Fiji and Fraser Island, it was as though everyone
was kinda thrown together – in Fiji, it was because everyone was following the
same route round the island. In Fraser Island, it was because you were stuck on
the same tour together. But everyone in those situations didn’t appear to be
rampant 18 year old boozehounds...unlike the ones I “met” in Brisbane, Byron
Bay and Sydney. Basically these were people I’ve actively been avoiding my
entire life in the UK, so Christ knows why I would want to hang out with these
people now. I also wasn’t spending time in the few hostels I stayed in hanging
out there – I had money to go out, eat a nice evening meal, have a few (good
few) beers. So by not hanging out in hostels, I wasn’t really meeting anyone. My
arrival in Brisbane (at 1am) put me off immediately – it was like a bad night
out in Croydon. Coupled with my prison like hostel, populated by the kind of 18
year olds that run riot on the last night of the Reading Festival, it changed
my mind on backpacking as soon as I got there. Byron Bay was another kettle of
fish altogether – if you aren’t a surfer, you may as well be invisible. That is until the drunk Bogans come out on a Friday and Saturday night. Then I wish I could have been invisible and ignored. I liked Byron Bay as a place, but the people
there left a lot to be desired. After this, I booked hotels and was quite happy
being on my own, and got on with enjoying myself. And bloody enjoy myself I did!!

As for that bloody rucksack – worst mistake I made! Serves me right for not
going with my initial preference. I found a side loading Berghaus rucksack,
with a detachable day pack, wheels and a handle which I thought was ideal.
However, looking at research online, no one had a good word to say about it. So
I ended up buying a normal top loading backpack (a Vango 60+10), which I hated
the moment I started trying to pack it. Forget the fact I never once needed to
use it as a rucksack – it spent the entire trip either in a plane hold, in a
cab boot, or on the floor of my hotel. I never once carried it for longer than 15
minutes! The thing that eventually got to me though – I met more than 5
different people who were all travelling with my original choice, the Berghaus!

So my point is – for anyone going on a big trip – work out if you will actually
need to use your backpack AS A BACKPACK! If you aren’t going trekking or
camping in the wilds or wandering around cities aimlessly trying to find
somewhere to stay, DON’T BOTHER. I wish I could have found some helpful advice on this before I went away – but every Backpacker site I found was incredibly biased towards taking a rucksack. I guess its fine if you are travelling all
round Asia. I however was basically on a mega extended city break – with a few
beaches thrown in as a change!

And thats it. Best idea I’ve had in years, and a pretty brilliant 6 months. I’m
so glad I sold the house, quit my job and did this, even though I haven’t got a
clue what to do next.

Maybe I’ll just do the trip again – but this time do it backwards, starting in
Singapore, and hitting Melbourne instead of Sydney. Hmmm, wheres that bank

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

San Francisco Final Trip - days 107 - 114

SAN FRANCISCO 28th Dec – 4th Jan

When I was originally thinking about booking my trip, way back in Jan 2011, one of the things I wanted to do was end 2011 in SF, seeing my fave band X (as they always play between Xmas and New Year), and hopefully catching at least one of my friend Suzannes birthdays. The plan changed when the trip planning got too expensive, but I’m pleased to say when I cancelled Bangkok I checked prices again, and got a wicked deal for a week in SF for New Year. So I went for it.

Flew BA, and I must say after two weeks of being home, I’m now basically over long flights. Two hours in I was totally over it, and had at least 8 more hours to go. Add to that the fact I was sitting next to a GIANT GERMAN DUDE that spoke no English. Yeah it was a pretty excruciating 10 hours!

Arrived at SFO around 2pm, and got grilled at Immigration – guy wasn’t happy that I had already been here in Sept, and had obviously been round the world since. Got the usual “don’t understand what a holiday is” questioning for this grumpy old sod, but he didn’t keep me too long and eventually let me in. Man, what is wrong with these retards? Especially when they ask you how long are staying, want to check your return flight details, then still give you three months to leave the country!

My hotel was slap bang in Fishermans Wharf, and once I was in the cab I turned my phone on and had a message from Mary at Tattoo City. As it was walking distance to the hotel from the shop, I got dropped off at Tattoo City first rather than checking in at the hotel. Met Mary and the other shop guys, and had a brief chat with everyone (I love this shop), then checked out the stunning tattoo design Mary had sorted for me. I was gobsmacked to say the least.

Checked in to the hotel, then set about having a quiet evening and an early night before my tattoo marathon on Thursday and Friday. I already knew what I wanted to do, so was UTTERLY DESTROYED when I walked round to Hooters and found the place had closed down a week earlier! ARGH! I didn’t know what else to do, but knew I didn’t want to head out to one of my usual haunts south of the city, so plumped for a pulled chicken sandwich and an anchor steam at Teirnans, the shite tourist bar I’d been to in Sept when I had half shaved my head. Was pleasant enough, and the evening was made better when I left the pub and crossed the road to the Buena Vista Café and grabbed another Steam and chatted to the happiest barman ever. Was pleased to get back in here as it was always packed in September (has free wi-fi too!).

The bulk of the holiday was pretty much as expected, and as it was my last time in San Francisco for a while, I was gonna go back to all my favourite places, and hopefully get to see all my SF friends. The weather was also fantastic for the 7 days, warm and sunny throughout, which made a change from what I’d left behind in the UK.

So most of these places are mentioned in previous blogs. Managed to get into Buena Vista Café a few times on this trip, which is always worth a visit. Also managed to get a lunch in there one day – which sometimes is a mission to get a table as it’s so busy in here. Visited Burgermeister and 901 Columbus in North Beach for lunch a couple of days – both great places, and 901 has free wi-fi. Got to Vesuvio a few times (with my mate Tom). Ate in North Beach at a couple of great Italian restaurants – Calzones and Mona Lisa. Spent New Years Eve afternoon in Hobsons Choice on the Haight drinking bloody marys, having a great time chatting to random people. Everyone was in a party mood (as it was NYE AND a Saturday), so the atmosphere was great, even though it meant usually happy barman Chris was moody and stressed as it seemed he’d been left to cope with the bar all by himself. As I was at Hobsons, it meant I had to go next door to Asqew Grill for lunch, another of my favourite places to eat. And as i was in the Upper Haight, i just HAD to go to Amoeba Music, as per usual! Tom took me to a place I’d never been to called Rogue (in North Beach), which is a Portland based micro brewery. Did amazing beer and even more amazing burgers. At the end of the week, another of my friends Erin (who I haven’t seen for years) took me for a drive out to the west coast of SF to the Cliff House. Which is what it says on the tin really – it’s a restaurant on the cliff. Great food and even better views – if it isn’t foggy!

The main events of the holiday were my new tattoo, Suzannes birthday and getting to see X on NYE.

The day after I arrived, I was off to Tattoo City for sitting #1. Mary was tattooing a medusa pin up girl on my left thigh, and she’d worked out a vague system that would allow her to work on me for two days in a row and hopefully make it easier on me. It half worked. She did an amazing job, above and beyond anything I’d expected, especially considering the state I was in at the end of the second day. On Day #1, he shop was empty like last time, we were treated to some awesome doomy music from Aleph the reception guy (Joy Division, The Effigies, The Cure, The Damned), and Mary got to work on my leg. This session was relatively bearable for three hours. The last two hours weren’t great, but the numbing spray worked a treat. 5 hours later, part 1 of the tattoo was completed, and I limped off happily in agony. As usual, as much as it had hurt, we’d had such a giggle during the session it didn’t really matter. And the design was looking incredible already, even at this half-finished stage.

On day #2, the shop was busier and the atmosphere was totally different. As nice as it is having the shop to ourselves, theres a real family vibe in this place when it’s busy. The guys here really are the nicest tattooers on the planet! It’s also a nice distraction having different people wandering into the tattoo room for a little chat, taking the attention away from the torture happening on my thigh! Was cool getting to chat lots to Doug Hardy (who I always seem to miss when I’ve been here before), and Trev the reception dude was very helpful with his runs to the deli to pick up food and drinks throughout the session.

As for the session, brutal doesn’t even cover it. I knew it was gonna be hard going, but not this hard. I think I managed to grit my teeth through it and sat ok for Mary, even though I was thoroughly uncomfortable. Whatever the case, she did a sterling job on the tattoo. The work she produced literally blew my mind. The final hour however was the worst, and I can’t believe I sat through it. I don’t think I was approaching shock or anything, but my body was definitely calling time on the session. I was hot, I was cold, I had the shakes, I was hungry. So I got a mars bar thinking the sugar would help, but it just made me feel worse. It was as though my body was saying “I can’t deal with two things at once!”

After 2 days and 10 hours it was all over. Me and Mary took lots of photos of the work, then she wrapped me up good and proper. Then I limped off into North Beach for a pizza at Calzones – which was packed. In fact everywhere was heaving. I guess cos it was the Friday before NYE. Then I grabbed a cab and headed down to Thee Parkside to meet up with Suzanne for her birthday bash, and to see her band, Girl-illa Biscuits.

I’d missed coming here on my last trip, so was cool to get back to this groovy little bar in the middle of nowhere. The place was empty when I limped in – apart from Nikki the guitarist sitting at the bar. I’d met Nikki on my last trip, and was great to catch up with her (luckily she recognised me immediately). Suzanne wasn’t far behind, and was pleased to see my mate again. We had a beer and a chat, then they went off to soundcheck – and I must say I was dead impressed. They were tight as anything and Suzanne definitely pulls off being the perfect frontwoman. Who knew ay? It was like she was born to do it!

The hour before showtime was spent chatting to Suzanne and Nikki and meeting up with various other people I’d met through Suzanne. They’d got a huge crowd down at Thee Parkside which was pretty impressive. They were the first band on, and it was packed when they started. They played hard and were absolutely kicking. I must say I loved it – I even preferred them to the real Gorilla Biscuits! Suzanne spent most of the show shouting “Fucking mosh, its my birthday!” at the crowd, and as we expected, ended up in the audience for the last song. They only managed to play 5 songs, but they’d pulled off an ace first gig. I was pleased to hear later on that they are taking it seriously and are gonna be carrying on. Was so glad I’d got to see them!

Next up were Cunt Sparrer, an all girl Cock Sparrer tribute. I was intrigued to see these ladies as I’m a big Cock Sparrer fan, but was totally gobsmacked when they started. They are like a living room version – one drum, acoustic guitar and bontempi organ! The first song “Because You’re Young” was weird, trying to work out what they were doing – but by the time they’d played all the hits (and they do them all – “We’re Coming Back”, “Take Em All”, “England Belongs To Me” etc) and a Misfits cover, I was blown away. It was still like a full blown Cock Sparrer gig – everyone down the front shouting along at the top of their voices, almost drowing out the band. Frontlady Jen seemed happy with the performance the front row was putting on.

My leg was beginning to give me jip however, and thought I’d better get back to the hotel and sort myself out. Had a brief chat with the Biscuits girls, then caught a cab back to the hotel and sorted my tattoo out. I couldn’t stop grinning – it had been an awesome couple of days.

New Years Eve main event was the X show at Slims. SF had been particularly busy today, and everywhere was mental. The queues for the cable cars in The Wharf and Union Square had been among the longest I’d even seen. Good luck getting a ride on one of those! Caught a cab down to Slims in the evening, not knowing how I was gonna get back to the hotel later in the evening. Luckily the door guys confirmed that the buses were running late this evening, which was a weight off my mind. Meant I could get on with enjoying the show.

Support act was Sean Wheeler (from Throwrag) and Zander Schloss (from Circle Jerks and many more other bands). They kinda played acoustic soulful folk music and were brilliant – Seans voice was absolutely amazing, and Zanders guitar playing was incredible. I was hooked from the first song. Sean Wheeler is a bit of a character too, and had everyone laughing with his crackpot stories between songs. Loved them.
X were the main reason I was here, and they were flippin brilliant. They don’t worry about doing anything different than the last time I saw them – they just played a straight up awesome set of old classics that you’d expect (except they left out “Nausea” for some reason). They timed the set perfectly to fit in “Happy New Year” at midnight, let off balloons, I clinked glasses with Exene and DJ (while Billy stood at the back of the stage, looking unusually grumpy and drinking water). Then they kicked off with “Year One” and carried on the rest of the set. They may be old, but they have more energy and kick more arse than bands half their age. Long may they continue playing – and hope they come back to the UK one day!

One of the funnest things about the eve was that as it was an all-ages show, the place was full of these groovy punk rock families. Old punk moms and dads with their punk rock offspring, ranging from grown up kids, down to teenagers and even a couple of little kids. The atmosphere was brilliant.

I did notice that my left leg was starting to hurt again – not surprising really considering the tattoo session. However, I realised my knee had swollen right up and was becoming painful to stand on. Ended the set sitting on a chair like an old man. Was very lucky that on exiting the gig, I only had 5 mins to wait for a bus, which dropped me off right by the hotel! Handy!

New Years Day I figured was gonna be a quiet, but was totally wrong. The weather was fantastic today, so decided to go for an ill advised walk, considering my swollen leg. Walked up to Coit Tower to take some photos of the view, then wandered into North Beach – and found every bar packed an kicking at lunchtime with party-goers! Decided I wasn’t gonna be left out, so jumped in a cab and headed to the Mission and to Pops Bar on 24th Street. They were having a pyjama party and showing movies, so figured it would be a cool thing to do. When I got there, the place was busy with tattooed punks in their dressing gowns, and Nikki was running the place by herself. Grabbed a place at the bar, stuffed myself with free food, watched Bridesmaids on the big screen and got served free beer by Nikki all afternoon. Awesome!

Managed to meet up with Suzanne on my penultimate day for one of our pub crawls – which we thought was gonna be a quiet night as we were both knackered after the festivities. Met up at Benders, then headed to 500 Club and Claires Deli, where we hung out for a few hours, having awesome sandwiches and chatting to various friends of Suzannes. We ended up at Hemlock for their Monday night Punk Rock Sideshow, and once again got to hang out with Nikki (and get some cheeky beers), as she works here as well. It was pop punk night tonight, and the music was kicking – the DJ played Fucked Up, Off With Their Heads, Dear Landlord, Teenage Bottlerocket and Ramones among others. Was a brilliant night, hanging out with brilliant people. That turned into a bit of a booze fest and definitely wasn’t a quiet night, getting back to the hotel at 2am. It had been a blast catching up with Suzanne and Nikki again – probably won’t be seeing either of them for a while now.

My final day had a touch of déjà vu about it. Once I’d packed and checked out of the hotel, I was back to Tattoo City to get tattooed by Mary again. This time she was tattooing some more mini skulls on my right arm to finish it off. Luckily it was a slightly easier tattoo session and only took an hour. Was great to get to the shop and see everyone on my last day. I’m feeling like I’m done with tattooing for a while, as I’m now symmetrical. Although if Mary comes to the London Tattoo Convention this year, I’m already booked up for session.

Final stop of the holiday was a quick trip to Alamo Square to be a tourist. I’ve never been here before, but was bought up in a conversation with Mary earlier in the week, as its one of the locations that appears in “So I Married An Axe Murderer”. So I was dropped off, looked at the houses, took some photos, and headed to Asqew Grill for my final burger of the holiday.

(Speaking of "So I Married An Axe Murderer", next time i go back to SF i'm taking the tour of locations - I thought i'd done them all, but seems i may have missed a few!)

And that’s about it. Grabbed a cab back to the hotel (taxi driver was another of these “drive you round the houses” rip-off dudes), grabbed my stuff then headed to the airport. Flight was ok as I had a space next to me and slept the whole way home – luckily was only annoyed by the Tourettes ridden hyperactive teen wearing a bobble hat sitting in front of me for an hour as he fell asleep too.

Holiday is now over and I’m back to reality. Getting to SF for a second time was a real bonus, and was so pleased to finish my mega trip here. I really love this place and feel so comfortable here. OK, it helps that I have friends here – but I’ve made those friends by being here so many times. I wouldn’t have come back so often if I hadn’t absolutely loved the place. Can’t see myself heading this way for a while (not until I sort out what I’m doing with my life anyway!), and I’m glad my last two trips were so brilliant.

Btw - just realised i never made it to Zeitgeist on this trip. Weird, and pretty unheard of for me!

I still need to write one more blog about the trip – then I’ll carry it on with whatever I get up to next.