One of the oddities of travel around Europe is that it can often be so much easier and cheaper to get to a city in another country than it is to travel within the UK. I mean, buying a train ticket to London for travel the same day can set you back £100 or more. That’s just the trip south, there’s the homeward leg to pay for as well. Flights and two nights in Krakow came in at another bargain, although it did mean that I was flying with Ryan Air and that I was due in to Krakow at 23:30. Ryan Air are the most basic of cheap airlines and the customer service can be shocking. So bad in my experience that I’ve begun to rethink my opinion of them. I suspect that they provide the level of service that they feel you pay for, and the flights were so very cheap, on the basis that passengers turn up expecting a far shoddier service than is actually delivered. Whilst it would be some achievement for their service to plunge to those depths, I find adopting this mindset helps whenever I’m forced to travel with them. So a delayed departure from Manchester wasn’t a surprise and didn’t leave me quite as grumpy as my previous experiences with them.
It may have 1:30am when I stepped out of my hotel, but Krakow old town was simply stunning. The old market square in the city centre was artfully illuminated and a peaceful walk was just what I needed after the trials of Ryan Air. Sadly, that wasn’t what I experienced as the pretty young girls promoting the local “clubs” homed in on the English guy wandering around alone. Despite declining their offers of “cheap drink and personal dancing” they persist in their efforts to lure you in to their club and by the time you escape the clutches of one lot of promoters you encounter another bunch from a different club to begin the whole process again. I managed to remain polite throughout and shook them off by ducking in to a karaoke bar for a couple of beers. Only beers; no karaoke for me as I couldn’t carry a tune if you gave me a bucket to put it in.
I spent the next day exploring the city a little more. Locate the gig venue first, it was literally 5 minutes’ walk away, then on to seek somewhere to eat later and locating the train station for the return trip to the airport. Some of the destinations available from the station were so interesting, with services direct to places such as Budapest and Zagreb. I noted that for future reference as SF had just played both of those cities and knowing that there are direct train links may prove useful if SF return to Europe again. I went on to explore more of the city and its medieval castle, it really is beautiful in the Old Town and it is so cheap in comparison to other cities.
Klub RE is situated down a side street, just off the market square. Descending a flight of stairs in to a cellar bar area I spotted a few posters announcing tonight’s show and earmarked them as potential swag for Charlie to pass around the club members. I’m sat enjoying a beer when in walks Mike who introduces me to Joe who is running the merch for the band. A nice bloke with a seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of the current British/Hardcore punk scene, I had seen Joe on last year’s tour as he played bass for Scrap Brain in support of SF. I was also introduced to Cyprian, the promoter, and I really cannot speak highly enough of this gentleman. I don’t know what had been said to him but for the entire evening he treated me as though I was a member of the band’s party, providing a bunch of posters for me to get signed and send to Charlie, and allowing me in to the sound check where I had a chance to chat to Joe and the band members. “Oh”, said Jarrett. “We have a present for you”. A little taken aback by this I watched as he delved in to a box and produced a drum skin that had been decorated by Marissa and signed by the band. To be honest I thought it was a tray at first but Jarrett set things right with a laugh by telling me that he’d needed a replacement and this was the old one. What can I say? I’ve often stated that the kindness of this band goes well beyond words and thank you just doesn’t seem repay their gesture.
I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a couple from London who had also flown in for the show. I can’t recall their names now, but Charlie, you should have two new members. SF entered the stage to a packed room and whipped up the enthusiastic crowd with a roaring set. Marissa meanwhile had some concern about her monitor, asking for more guitar. No idea what was bothering her as they continued in fine form and if the venue hadn’t been in a cellar then they would have blown the roof off in what was rapidly becoming one of my favourite ever SF shows. The crowd seemed to need no encouragement, throwing themselves around to each song and thoroughly enjoying themselves until the final crescendo as Marissa presented a startled youth with her guitar. Up on stage he went to jam along with Mike and Jarrett. As Joe has written elsewhere, it was indeed a great show to be at, show 1299 was an absolute banger. Marissa meanwhile wandered by still seeming a little concerned and asked “Could you hear my guitar? Was it loud enough?” Well, yes I could hear it and I can assure her that it was loud enough to rattle everyone’s fillings. Checkout my video here for a sample of the show, Joe makes an appearance taking photos from 01:30….
Things began to wind down as my sharpies were again put to good use at the merch stall and the band began to pack up. Marissa appeared looking a little bemused as she couldn’t find the case for her effect pedals. Turned out that the pedals and a few other items were in the case and it had gone missing. We scoured the room, Mike unloaded the van, we scoured the room again, but not a sign of them. The support band even checked their gear to ensure that it hadn’t been picked up by accident, but no joy. Whilst Marissa appeared fairly stoic, it certainly got to me that the kindness that SF have always shown me had been repaid by such a deed. Meanwhile events outside were providing a little light entertainment for some and a major embarrassment for me as one of my fellow countrymen emerged from a nearby bar, think it may have been called Little Britain and launched in to a foul mouthed tirade. He certainly wasn’t in rapture my dear, but he was clearly full of ale and in a rage regarding “Liam’s behaviour”, his face turning gammon pink as he made various threats while his companions endeavoured to calm him. They weren’t having much success as he continued to rant on and on. So the evening ended a little abruptly and on a sour note as the band cut their losses and drove off while I headed back to my hotel. I can only hope that show 1300 in Warsaw went better for them the following night.
Now to figure out how to get that drum skin home safely. I’m travelling with hand luggage and, wrapping it in a tee shirt for protection it just fits inside my bag. Removing it to pass through airport security drew a few quizzical looks but it went through without question. I’m on Ryan Air, so I’m obliged to place my bag beneath the seat in front and I have a rather edgy trip home with such valuable cargo by my feet.
A few weeks later Joe’s diaries appear on the fan club website. I am so, so pleased for Marissa to read that her pedals have been recovered and returned by Cyprian, and that after he had organised a fund raiser on behalf of the band. What an absolute hero that guy is.