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.