By Jake “Haggis” Wiffen
It’s 4am, Monday the 31st of August and I find myself sitting alone in the upper private lounge of a Nightliner Bus. I’m holding a piping hot freshly ground coffee that I made a few minutes ago with the machine in the lower “main” lounge room of the bus. I’m watching some crumb of a movie not really paying attention, half asleep and half in a daze at my surroundings.
I reach back and flick a switch I had discovered earlier. The 28 inch flat screen TV disappears into the wall like a door onboard the Star Trek Enterprise. It’s only then, as the massive tinted window that is the front wall of this gargantuan bus is exposed, that it hits me; the awe inspiring fact that I am currently careening along the German Autobahn en route from Berlin to Copenhagen to tick off the first show of this momentous tour.
How the f*ck am I here? 5 months ago I left Australia to begin Dead City Ruins 4th tour of the U.K. 3 weeks of f*cking Hell. Wait no; Hell is too good a place to compare to England. It’s more like purgatory, dark, mouldy and miserable. Since then myself, my wife and the Dead City Ruins lads have been touring from country to country, sleeping in our van, on people’s floors and surviving in cheap “one size fits all” motels, just to play as many shows as we can muster up and to stay on the road for as long as inhumanely possible.
Now I am on this whale of a bus, I have my own private f*cking bunk for f*cks sake! There are two fridges full of beer, 4 TVs with Play Stations, a slew of German drivers, a tour manager and one hell of a tour ahead of us. Finally, all I have to do is play music. This can’t be real?!
Monday, August 31st – Copenhagen
We arrive in Copenhagen around 3pm to meet the lads from Swedish band Dead Lord and Norway’s own Audrey Horne.
It’s instant, the feeling that inspires fear or excitement. Oh hell, I think it’s both. I can tell all three bands are firing on all cylinders. All three are on the same wavelength and the vibrations are levitating.
Before the bands have even finished their sets the chaos has begun, it’s f*cking Copenhagen, Denmark! What madman starts a tour in a country where pretty much anything goes? The venue owner can’t stop offering more beers, the punters can’t stop handing out hash and each member of each band cannot seem to muster up the unholy words “no more thanks”. This tour is gonna be loose!
Tuesday, September 1st – Berlin
At 7am I am awoken by the tour manager, she is informing me the bus has boarded the ferry to Berlin. In a hazy daze I put the pieces together and decide to take some air on the deck of the ferry. It’s a 2-hour journey so after walking around the boat I find a place to curl up and pass out. I awake with a strange feeling I’m being watched only to realise I’m sporting an angry morning side pipe and an elderly couple are sitting across from me trying a little too hard not to notice.
Back aboard the bus I’m told we have to stop at the bus depot to change the trailer because it’s leaking like Ahab’s stuck leviathan. Although once it’s been patched up and a quick once over the powers that be decide it will be fine for the tour. After a few beers and a quick kebab its all aboard and off to the venue.
A near sold out show, 6am bus call and a lot of familiar Melbourne faces in the crowd leads to only one thing, a party raging in the lower lounge of the bus, spurred on by a Toto and Journey sing along at full tilt right up until the bus hits the road at 6:30am.
Wednesday, September 2nd – Hamburg
Not enough can be said about playing a show, drinking some beers, going to bed and then waking up in a different city already at the venue, especially if that venue is less than 50 metres from the infamous Reeperbahn in Hamburg. This is the kind of area that Kings Cross in the 1970s could only dream of being. A place where you could just as easily wind up in hospital as you could in a three way with two dwarves from Uzbekistan. The right amount of sleaze, filth and outright abandon mixed in with cheap booze and hookers. It’s enough to send any kid from Croydon straight to the psych ward.
Tonight’s show I can only be likened to a meth addict trying to kick their way out of a full can of sardines, tight, sweaty and down right loose. After the show half the people poured into a dingy heavy metal dive across the road. The bus stocks had been replenished with fresh lagers and a mountain of pizza. Somewhere between shots, sing offs and an impromptu dance off between Dead Lord and Dead City Ruins the dive bar closed and I found myself back on the bus.
Thursday, September 3rd – Leiden
Shows in the Netherlands are always hard for a rock ‘n’ roll band, people are either too strange or too stoned to move. The vibe is always against you. This show was a hard fought and hard won battle. As we left the stage I knew we had made new fans even if they had made us work harder than usual. I was stoked to meet Dead Lord’s manager and have him happy to accept a vinyl of our recent record. This is a man who years earlier had politely asked us not to turn up at his office. The D.C.R boys of course politely ignored his request and showed up with album number one in their white-knuckle road worn hands. This is a man who offered them polite instructions to the closest freeway out of town. I know each step and each victory for this band has been well deserved and only now after years of touring is the fruit of our labour ready for harvest.
Friday, September 4th – Antwerp
After stumbling out of my bunk, falling down the stairs and crawling to the coffee machine, I struggled for a cup, flicked the life saving switch, my eyes and ears throbbing as the beans were roughly ground to a fine powder. Finally I gulped it down far too quickly, my veins instantly pulsing with the hot black nectar of South America. My mind flew back into action, my vision cleared and I knew we were stopped at tonight’s venue; Antwerp Belgium our second home.
Cam (our man on the inside) and Espen (bass player for Audrey) were keen to find a hot breakfast so we hit the pavement like savages, bent on scrounging some eggs and bacon. After a 45-minute walk and some decent eggs there was only one thing for us to do, get some Belgian beer into us. The only thing open and not full of English or Americans paying double the price for a Duvel, was a smoke filled pub full of scar faced Turkish blokes, arguing about what we could only guess was cash, this was perfect.
A few hours, a few beers, a few rallies at ping-pong and a show later we were back on the bus thundering off to France.
*Photos courtesy of Emma “Oudjat” Derrier/Dead City Ruins.