Massgrav in the u.k. 2012
England. Notorious for being a shit country to tour in. No food, no free beer, nowhere to sleep and very few decent venues, forcing you to play in pubs, pay for everything and live in squalor. We thought we’d give it a go, just for laughs.
After playing with Discharge last year, we were contacted by a man named Lenny, who wondered if maybe we’d like to come to the u.k. He’d travelled to Linköping to see Discharge and thought it would be an absolute crime to deprive the British people of us. After much back and forth (with a quite long delay caused by the fact that we flat out refused to go during the cold months of the year - there are limits to our masochism), we settled on three dates in late May/early June and Lenny said he’d hook us up with a band called 7 Crowns, which - according to him - was a perfect match for Massgrav. Well, we packed a bag full of shirts and CDs and flew over to that weird little island in the Atlantic, where they have separate taps for hot and cold water, drive on the wrong side of the road and refuse to use the metric system. Here’s what happened.
Arriving at the airport was slightly exciting since Brian, who was supposed to pick us up, had not returned our emails about when we were arriving, so we didn’t know for sure whether we would have to walk to Bath or not. Like it usually is, worrying turned out to be unnecessary, Brian was there to pick us up in his tiny car and we headed for Bath like four bats out of hell (yeah, Brian likes to drive fast, but it was only really scary once). You know, being picked up by total strangers that you know you’re going to hang out with for a few days can be a bit... awkward, but it was soon apparent that Brian is one of the good guys and we’d get along just fine.
We unloaded our stuff at Green Park Tavern, the pub managed by none other than Brian himself, where tonight’s gig with 7 Crowns and The Restarts would take place. The gig room looked just about perfect in size and Brian had been hyping how many people were likely to show up tonight so we were all in a good mood, especially since we were offered a free pint and could sit out outside in the sunshine, drinking it. We went for a short walk around Bath to kill time and keep us from getting too drunk and returned in time for soundcheck, at which time the Restarts guys had shown up, along with Jon, singer of 7 Crowns. Him and Brian were a bit worried about Liam, the guitarist, who had his first day off in ages and had called earlier to tell them he’d spent it all in the pub. Soon after, he arrived and started drinking beer with absinth poured into it, giving it a sickly, greenish foam - like a St. Patrick’s day drink from hell. Our drinks weren’t much better - after giggling like little girls together for a while, Jon and Brian disappeared to return with three pints of what looked like muddy water and tasted - to quote one of the barmen - like badger’s piss. Cheddar Valley cider. Lovely. We figured it was the perfect way not to drink too much too soon and did our best to force it down.
Thankfully, this night only had three bands on the bill and 7 Crowns went on rather early. To an untrained ear, it was hard to tell that Liam was drunk as fuck, no obvious mistakes at all, but then again, these guys are veterans with countless tours under their belt, and it’s hardly the first time someone has had a drink before the gig (just guessing here, get in touch if we’re wrong Liam). That same untrained ear also had a hard time understanding what would make the band a perfect match for Massgrav, as our music has very little in common, 7 Crowns being a much more street punk/rock n roll influenced band that sounds a lot more like Poison Idea than Krigshot. Maybe Lenny realized how well we’d get along, or maybe he just thought the fact that they are great at setting stuff up, handling all the practicalities and taking good care of people made them a good match. If so, he was right.
Well, we went on next and the good people of Bath seemed a bit stunned to be honest. Norse mocked them for standing still, we sent verbal punches and lame jokes flying left and right and ripped through a slightly altered version of our set from the previous Friday’s Stockholm gig, and though they didn’t exactly mosh, people seemed to enjoy it (one lady felt obliged to come up to us later and tell us that standing still was good praise, as that meant that people wanted to focus on the music, but we’re not so sure about that). After us, The Restarts played their ska-mixed punk rock and it was pretty clear why they were the main event, as they had the audience eating out of their hands in no-time. Ourselves, we were more fascinated with their guitarist's ingenious, homemade contraption to stop people from stepping on his distortion pedal.
We set up merch-shop but didn’t sell all that much. Still had a great night with about 2000 beers, a few nasty shots and lots and lots of nice people to talk to, including the ultra nice band members of The Restarts. It’s not always you click with other bands but I can’t imagine anyone not getting along with those guys - ‘diamond geezers’ I believe it’s called in that backwards weirdo country we were in at the time (but I could be wrong - it’s hard to keep track of all the weird expressions and sayings they’ve got). All things come to an end though and we walked with a guy called Pic back to his place to sleep there, with strict orders to be back at 10 in the morning for a fry-up at the pub. At the time we crashed on his sofas, we had no idea Pic was to join us for the entire weekend (they probably told us and we were too drunk to understand it). First day in the u.k. and so far none of our fears had come true. Nice people, good venue, free food and beer and at least sofas to sleep on - what’s not to like?
Naturally, we overslept. At about 10.30, Brian called Pic to ask where the fuck were we. Asleep, that’s where. We grabbed our stuff and headed back to the pub, where Brian was stuffing equipment into a nice and shiny nine seater van. The original plan was to have one van with all the people and a car with all the stuff, but Brian was now hell bent on cramming everything into the van to save us money (great idea so no complaints there). He had a crazed look in his eyes and refused to listen to those (everyone) who thought it would never work. “Believe me, I’ve done this a million times before” was repeated over and over again and oh ye of little faith - he finally managed, although the top two cases was an accident waiting to happen, should we need to break hard - they’d come flying and take someone’s head off (as it happened, they only slid down and hit Liam in the head twice during the trip). We also found out that Pic and Stu were coming along on the ride, like some sort of roadies (though it is still not clear whether Pic ever did anything useful apart from giving away 7 Crowns merch to good looking girls).
While Brian was busy loading the car, we took a walk with Jon, who showed us a great café where we had ridiculously big sandwiches for breakfast. Somewhat of a punk veteran, Jon has lived in both Germany and the States, worked as some sort of roadie or security on big ass tours and is a rare treat - a calm but funny true gentleman (especially according to himself) - simply an all around great guy and the daddy of the band. Why don’t we have one of those? The drive up to Mansfield was rather eventless and spent listening to increasingly crap music, drinking a million beers and talking about stopping for a pee break at the place where Ian Stuart crashed (which is apparently right outside Mansfield). Travelling with a band that speaks English is a nice change since you understand (most of) what they say. When four guys start talking polish around you and then burst into laughter, you always wonder if the joke is on you. This time you knew for sure if it was. Too bad for them we couldn’t be arsed to speak English to each other all the time... We promise guys, we said nothing bad about you. You trust us, don’t you?
We had been warned Mansfield is a shithole and that turned out to be close to the truth. We played on a gigantic stage in the huge back room of a very big pub. The only thing that wasn’t huge was the crowd. The reason for playing Mansfield was that Lenny, the guy who set up the tour, is from there. Nice meeting him and talking to him, but to be honest, the crowd was more up for the skinhead band Septic Psychos that played before us - maybe because the audience was completely made up of skinheads in their 40s and 50s. We concentrated on the nice pizzas, snacks and drinks Lenny supplied us with and tried to forget the poor turnout.
7 Crowns got to play as second band and were less than thrilled but hey, at least they could start on the serious drinking after that (which some of them sorta did). We did our thing with all the force we could muster, did surprisingly good considering how we’d been slugging beer all day (this was - by far - the drunkest we’ve ever been on stage), and then joined Brian, Rob and Pic at the bar. The night ended with a slight disagreement over the ownership of a giant plaster seahorse, with the fat pub guy threatening to call the cops if it wasn’t returned immediately and the blame being put on three innocent Swedes. I hope we didn’t fuck up your relationship with the pub for future gigs Lenny, but if we did - it was worth it.
We made it home to the hotel, parked the van a few times and went to bed. Yes, hotel. Not the swankiest of places, the Travellodge of Mansfield, but much appreciated by us. Norse and Ola got to get to know each other even better than before, having shared beds several times before but rarely duvets.
Saturday started off slow. Hangovers, junk food and stress about driving into London on the weekend of both the queen's diamond jubilee and England playing some other country in soccer. The drive down was not very exciting and the fact that truck stops in the u.k. don’t sell alcohol didn’t make things better - all we had was Pic’s lukewarm twelvepack of Carlsberg. Speaking of Pic, who’s lived in Bath all of his (albeit not very long) life, had NEVER been to London. And when we finally got there and woke him up in time for crossing the Thames, he took a quick look, said “looks just like Bath” and went back to sleep.
The venue was situated in what’s considered a bad part of London, next to the Millwall arena - the New Cross Inn. We carried our stuff into the pub, had a few pints and walked down the road to meet up with the guy who set up the gig, Kev, who works in some sort of coffee shop on a very busy, very very african high street. Exotic - yes. Dangerous - not so you’d notice, at least not when there’s nine of you. 7 crowns did the worst job EVER of blending i, we stood out like a sore thumb, walking in file down the sidewalk of Deptford High Street. Kevin is a scene veteran, having played in lots of bands, Raging Speedhorn probably being the most well known, and turned out to be another great guy. He fed us some nice veggie food and we hung out for a while before walking back for soundcheck. This gig started early and there was a ton of bands playing and after a while we went for second dinner. Our initial plan was to go for the world’s best Indian food at Zayna, but we didn’t have time so we settled for the curry house down the street, which turned out to be very very good and it was also B.Y.O. which is always nice. This turned out to be a very bad idea though, as eating too close to a gig will fuck things up in a major way. We were lucky to get through the evening without puking all over the good people of London.
Anyway, after playing to people who seemed to prefer listening to Oi and classic rock the previous nights, just seeing people with shirts and patches of “real” bands in the audience was a bliss. Also, one of the bands playing before us - Human Junk - sounded very much like Hellnation (seeing the drummer/singer definitely reminded you of Al Hellnation so much it was hard not to laugh), check them out if you like that kind of stuff. We were the last band playing and it was a great show, except for having to try very hard not to throw up indian food all the time. Lots of audience insulting and sweat - a real good time!
Sadly, this was the end of the good times. First thing that happened was that the 7 Crowns guys had to leave for their drive back to Bath. Then, we were introduced to the people we were staying with that night. They told us their flat was “one bus away” (which we, naïvely believed meant “one bus-stop away” and that they were holding a farewell party for someone, but they’d give us earplugs. That didn’t sound so good.
Now, this is a bit hard to write about. When people open their homes to you - a total stranger - and let you sleep in their beds, you don’t want to be an asshole about little things. However, after a 40 minute busride, being told we now had a 30 minute walk in the pissing rain with all the instruments, having opted for a cab instead where a friend of our host threw up in his hat, having been kicked out of the cab, been led into a flat hat hasn’t been washed or cleaned the last 20 years, grudgingly been given a bed with no sheets and a badly stained, stinking mattress to sleep on... yeah, you’re ready to be an asshole about it. Not wanting to touch the filthy mattress, Fenok tried sleeping sitting up in a corner (didn’t work so good). The rest of us didn’t sleep much either. The bathroom was such a sanitary disaster, only shower addict Ola was prepared to get naked there - and this was after all of us had gotten sweatier than Karelin’s balls at the gig. About the only good thing you can say about this night was that yeah, they didn’t make a lot of noise when partying so thanks guys.
At 5.30, the others gave in to Ola’s nagging about leaving and we caught the dawn bus to Elephant and Castle. It was raining. We were knackered. Had crap breakfast at Paddington and said goodbye to Norse who had to catch an early flight home since he was leaving for the u.s. the next day. Ola and Fenok spent the rest of the day walking around London, taking in highlights like the jubilee, Camden lock, the disaster area north of Brick Lane and saw some crap modern art at Tate Modern. It rained all day. The late flight home was delayed. Monday was fucking hell.
So, all is well that ends well, but this was the other way around. Apart from the shitty accomodation on Saturday night (and, yeah, maybe the audience in Mansfield), this was another great trip - largely thanks to the ultra nice people in Seven Crowns. So, to all of them, and to Leon, Kev, Pic and Stu and anyone else who helped or just clapped between songs - thanks!
Getting ready to leave for the u.k.
Beautiful Bath says hellow!
Green park tavern
Too bad "Rotunda" didn't play - would have been interesting to see what kind of people consider that a good band name...
Ola has absolutely no reason to look this happy, considering the undrinkable piss that's in his pint (cheddar valley cider)
Drinking beer outside Green Park Tavern
Norse, showing the Brits how it's done.
Green Park Tavern merch table.
Ola, Brian and Jon, all looking a bit... weird.
V is for victory, right? Hanging out in bath.
Liam, the day after the night before, looking a bit worse for wear.
Achieving the impossible - getting everything to fit inside the van.
Punk rock sweeties, the Restarts
Stopping for more beer on the way to Mansfield
Brian - with his driving glasses on - showing Stu where to go to.
Yeah, you're disabled alrigt. Rob and Stu trying to get in where they belong.
Jon and Liam outside the Intake, Mansfield
Setting up stuff, the Intake, Mansfield
Cozy backstage area of the Intake
"Drum machines have no soul". Yeah, but they also don't steal plaster sea horses and blame it on other people...
Norse, soundchecking at the Intake
Ola, doing god knows what.
Brian and his shiny dick, putting his false teeth in or something.
Sweden's nasties hardcore band... yeah, that's us, apparently.
Putting on new strings. Every time. Forever.
Jon, once again trying to sort out his bad back.
Flying blind on a rocket cycle. 2 sick monkeys. Septic Psychos. What is it with the british and naming bands?
Gigantic room with Norse and 20 skinheads, who don't give a shit.
Pic, trying to impress the ladies.
Fenok, crossing songs off the list to make the Mansfield gig as short as possible.
Pic and his posse. No, I said posse.
Brian, getting rowdy, throwing chairs like one of them wrestlers.
Rob and the seahorse. It could be the name of an arty film. It could also be the start of a lot of trouble.
Male love, it's a sweet and beautiful thing. Pic and Brian get cozy in Mansfield
Rob, showing off the loot that the Intake barman didn't find while strip-searching the van.
Patched vest and toothbrusch - that's all you need for a 3 day tour (if you're Liam)
Brian, showing off just a couple of his sXe tattoos. Never have straight edge tattoos seemed more misplaced!
The New Cross Inn
Norse, relaxing at New Cross Inn
Jon and Liam, looking happy that they'll soon be rid of Massgrav
Brian, looking less thrilled.
New Cross Inn merch table. We sold much more merch on our Russian tour than this one, fucking english cheapskates!
Bloody Kev in his natural habitat, behind the counter of his coffee bar.
Blending in splendidly in Deptford
Couldn't have said it better ourselves.
Human Junk, doing their somewhat Hellnation influenced thing. Good stuff.
Bloody Kev and the Regimes, at one of their last gigs ever.
Seven fucking crowns, live and kicking
Massgrav, Seven Crowns and then some. Left to right: Ola, Fenok, Liam, Jon, Kev(?), Norse, Brian, Rob, Pic and Stu.
Cab-ride home, seconds after some guy threw up in his cap.
Aaand the rain was pissing down. Charming.
Fenok, trying - in vain - to get some sleep, sitting up, thinking about old James hits.
Det e stöpp! Oh the joys of staying in people's homes!
6 am, feeling like shit on the bus
Sunday morning coming down. Elephant and Castle. Rain.
Fenok, looking knackered in Camden
Fenok, enjoying what they call "art"
Queen's diamond jubilee. In LEGO. Good stuff.
Fried onions - one of the best and most British smells in the world.
At The Cuban, Camden lock market
The Cuban, Camden lock market. More bunting!
Camden lock food market - the best place to eat (after Zayna of course)
Street art squalor, north of Brick Lane