Groningen – Vera, March 22, 2019

Vera in Groningen is an incredible place. The cellar bar dates back to the 15th century. In 1899, the main part of the building was established as a student club, which changed with the times, becoming part of the radical student movements of the 60s and by the time of punk, it had evolved into a collectively run radical venue. It’s a big complex, you drive your van into the venue downstairs, play in the main venue on the ground floor, and sleep in the band apartments on the top floor. It has an incredible sense of musical history, plastered with promo shots for the bands that have played there, with some amazing albums of flyers from throughout the years, from Joy Division to Slayer, Nirvana to Nomeansno. They also have a yearly poll of the volunteers for the best gig of the year, with the winners having their name emblazoned on the wall of the main gig room, alongside past winners like Dead Moon, DAF, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The only downside to the venue is that it has something which we had so far avoided encountering, the dreaded European shelf toilets. If you’ve never seen these, some places on continental Europe have toilets where the waste does not drop directly down into the water, but sits on a shelf, staring at you, accusingly. This is apparently a throwback to a time when people would inspect their own dumps for worms or something (or some people say it’s just to avoid splashback). Maybe it’s what makes people around there so polite. It’s a humbling experience to have to confront what just slid out of the backside of you every day, you can’t be up on your high-horse when you’ve got such rude evidence of your basic humanity eyeing you up from the bowl on the regular, especially when you’ve spent several weeks packing yourself with every cheese imaginable. Some of those things looked like they could argue with you, bloody hell.

Another bangin set from Feels and then Screaming Females took the stage. Maybe taking the list of poll winners as a direct challenge, they tore through one of the very best sets of the tour, tight yet fluid, wild yet just looking completely in control at every second. They knew it too. No grumbling about small flubs after the show this time. “Some days it just feels easy” said Jarrett, and it looked it. They were having an amazing time up there and the whole room was buzzing.

We hung out with some of the volunteers after the show. One of the older guys was telling us how one year they secured a bit of extra government funding and so flew Dead Moon out for their first European gig, and from then on whenever Fred and Toody played Europe they would start their tours with a secret gig in the tiny cellar bar, and end them with a triumphant show in the great hall. We went down to the cellar bar for some more drinks with Feels and they were heading off into the night. We wavered, still riding the high of the gig, but decided against it, just a bit too beaten down by the effects of the almost-completed tour. It was a pretty wise decision as the next day I was a little worse for wear but Feels looked absolutely blown through, all sporting the thousand-yard-stare of a deep deep hangover.