After the hideous pigfuck that was staying the night in the shitty Brighton closet from 1994, we headed to Tunbridge Wells. To be honest, I’m not sure if that’s true. Over the course of the day, I ran into Tumbridge Wells, Turnbridge Wells and just plain old Tonbridge. Most of these were on random fliers, websites or train stations, but the result is that now, a month later, I’ve got no idea which one was actually the proper name for the town that we were in.
Regardless, we showed up and followed a quaint little street outlined with cafes through the center of town towards the club, which was called the Forum. Dan and I were a little bit hesitant about this show because, for one thing, Tunbridge Wells was the only city on the whole itinerary that neither of us had ever heard of, and because after the complete mess that was the night before in Brighton, we were coasting on a low ebb of high spirits. This sense of potential doom only deepened when we turned a corner to find a truck ripping the top layer of asphalt off the road and just spewing it into the air, and more to the point, at us. Rocks were going into our mouths and we had to put on our sunglasses to avoid the huge yellow cloud of debris. It was dusty and the sun was blocked out, and we were stuck dick deep in the shit (to borrow a phrase from Viet Nam). According to our directives, we HAD to go through this hazy dust storm in order to get to the Forum, wherever the fuck that was.
We hauled ass past the truck, cursed the gods and then stood there with our thumbs up our asses for a second while we tried to figure out why the address we were looking for wasn’t right there where it so clearly should be.
Then we saw the Forum. It was a large brick building built on a hill in the middle of a giant field and across a very busy and dangerous roundabout from us. We navigated the traffic (which, for those of you who have never been to the UK, Japan or Australia, is really, truly a mindfuck. It’s very difficult to unlearn decades of ‘oh, I look this way to avoid not dying when I cross the streets’ and instead consistently do the opposite. Add a roundabout into the mix and you’re looking at dead Americans, folks) and arrived, panting, dust covered, practically run down by cars, monumentally exhausted and highly skeptical at the Forum, only to discover that the doors were barred.
We walked around to the back, past a lovely stencil of an anarchist Chihuahua buttfucking one of the queen’s corgis, where we found a small, pastoral courtyard, a hunky young man doing some light landscaping and an alternate doorway. Chris, a big beardo, about our age, with a Hot Water Music tattoo and a small beanie opened the door and we both just kind of collapsed in relief. He was clearly a guy cut from the same cloth as us, whether or not he knew or gave a fuck about the Lawrence Arms or Alkaline Trio, he was clearly a guy we were gonna get along with. What a fucking relief.
Speaking of reliefs, Chris wasted no time in telling us that the Forum was actually formerly famous for being the largest public toilet in the whole of Europe. We came in, shit on the floor, grabbed some really awesome little Swedish beers covered in greaser skeletons and spark plugs that looked like they came out of Mike Ness’s private stash and checked out what is far and away the coolest (maybe not best, maybe not nicest, but for sure the coolest) club that we played in the UK. Chris was amazingly hospitable and we sat around in the courtyard waiting for Sam and bullshitting about the various comings and goings in the punk rock community at large (hey, how about that revival tour? Is a new one coming to the UK? Heard the new Gaslight record? Something about Laura Jane Grace…can’t remember what was newsworthy about her any time recently, exactly) while we waited for Russo to show up.
When Sam did finally show up, he and Dan and I dodged a particularly sinister-seeming punisher (“hey Dan, got time for a nice long talk right now? Oh, well, I don’t have any money but I want to see the show. Can I sing a song with you on stage?”…and on and on like that) headed back across the dangerous-as-shit roundabout to that one pizza place that’s a chain but much nicer than, say, Pizza Hut. It’s called like “Pizza Experience” or “Pizza Express” or something. We sat in the upper corner of the restaurant in the balcony and dealt with a waitress who, at the very least, suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, if not a more severe retardation. I ordered a Malibu and Coke, a caprese salad and some balls. I don’t remember the adjective that went alongside the balls…perhaps it was just ‘doughballs,’ since that’s what they were. Dan got a Peroni and a pizza with peppers on it and Sam ordered one of his classic gross nightmares of gastronomy (probably. I honestly can’t remember what he got, besides a Peroni) and generally, things went right back on track. By this time, Sam was getting over his intense awe of how awesome Dan and (more to the point) I are, and was starting to behave like a bit of a cheeky bastard, which was a welcome relief from all the “milord’s” and “as you command sirs” and other butlery crap that he was throwing out there previously.
We cruised back and the doors were open. The Tunbridge Wells crowd was, generally speaking a little bit older and more reserved than the other crowds on the tour, but they were fun and liked to booze and definitely enjoyed themselves. I, once again upped the ante and told more jokes than I’ve ever told on stage, making Tunbridge Wells the official night where I crossed over from ‘hacky douche musician’ to ‘hacky douche comedian who gets up there with a guitar, and besides telling jokes also plays a few songs.’ Russo killed. Dan killed, and I met a girl with one of the most post-modern, formalist tattoo critiques of vapidity that has ever existed. Well, either that or she’s got some weird ideas about what’s cool. She DID have an Avenged Sevenfold tattoo as well. Regardless, good shit.
After the show, Dan, Sam, Chris and I just hung out backstage forever, showing each other Youtube clips and generally unwinding like civilized human beings do. The big winner was Chris, who brought “the greatest Frisbee scene ever from a movie 1987” to the table. We did a little research and discovered that it’s from a film called “Hard Ticket To Hawaii” which Dan promptly purchased on itunes. We decided to crash at the club, so I fell asleep backstage, while Dan took the stage and Sam took the crow’s nest (elevated soundbooth). In what can only be called a wonderful game of ‘let’s-show-this-motherfucker-who’s-boss’ Dan totally requisitioned Sam’s blanket without asking him and crashed on it, leaving Russo to shiver up in the rat droppings like a goddamned extra from “Oliver! The musical.”
All in all, Tunbridge Wells, The Forum, Chris and Hard Ticket to Hawaii went a long way towards restoring our faith in our little excursion. With the low point of the tour behind us, we drifted off to sleep in a giant public toilet, excited to take on Southhampton.