Leaving Romania was pretty mental, the fog was so thick that you could only see about 2 feet in front of the van, the roads were all single lanes, full of huge pot holes and there were still stray dogs everywhere. Luckily the fog only lasted a few hours. Getting out across the Romanian border was a bit more difficult than getting into Moldavia but generally we got through them both without a hitch. We saw a big owl sitting on the fence welcoming us into Moldavia which was pretty cool. We pulled up near the city centre of Chişinău, (the city that we were playing that night) at 7am and waited for one of the promoters to meet us and show us somewhere where we could sleep. He was a good dude, we named him, 'slash man.' 'S' man took us back to his home, a place that his dad had built with his bare hands and gave us a warm place to sleep for a few hours and then woke us up with the smell of tasty food, it was just what we needed.
We headed to the venue, the guy running the place seemed really worried about the size of our cabs, it was pretty funny. The promoter told us that we are the first 'underground band' from the UK to ever play in Moldavia, I'm not sure if that's true but it sounds cool so we're sticking with it. The show ended up being really great, 2 moldavian TV channels came out to interview and film our sets as well as the british ambassador, I'm pretty sure they didn't realise that we ain't shit! here is the footage from one of the channels. after the show we had a few hours sleep in an apartment that the promoters had rented for us, we then headed for the Ukraine in the early hours of the morning.
Getting out of Moldavia was easy enough, other than the roads, but getting into the Ukraine was a bit of a nightmare. There were 3 parts to the border and we waited at each of them for some time. The lady at the first crossing said, 'No Money, No Ukraine!' so we had to pay up like the suckers that we are. Initially we offered her a copy of dead sea but she didn't seem very impressed at all. A tiny little pooch searched around us and inside the van for drugs, I can't imagine how bad the van must smell with a nose that sensitive, then we were in. It was another billion hours to the city of Kyiv and we arrived late for the show. The punks of Kyiv went crazy for ASTPAI (and rightly so!) that was fun to see, we rocked out and left for some food and some much needed sleep.
The drive to the next show was long as fuck so we had to get up early and get back in the van, our surroundings were now completely covered in thick snow, this didn't help at all seeing as most of the roads are single lanes covered with pot holes. Whilst it was still day light looking out the van window at the white washed Ukrainian scenery was pretty exciting. We were heading for the city of Kharkov in Eastern Ukraine (quite close to the russian border). We arrived late and met the promoter on the city limits, he seemed stressed out that we were late, sorry dude, we were going as fast as we could! He then directed us to the venue, we had to pass some huge electric gates and were greeted by maybe 100 people standing around the van right outside the venue. It turned out that the venue was a practice space, the people packed out the room and went crazy for every song of both bands sets, it was a whole lot of fun, in my opinion the best show of the tour so far, the shitty journey became totally worthwhile.
The next morning we got a lie in as the drive to Belgorod in Russia was only 2 hours, wow!
We gave ourselves a safety 5 because we heard so many horror stories about crossing the Russian border police. As it turned out, leaving the Ukraine was actually a lot more hassle than entering Russia. Getting through the Russisan border took about 2 hours and was really really cold but everything went smoothly and the cops were surprisingly pleasant towards us. Soon enough we were at the venue in Belgorgod Russia. The show ended up blowing goats, the promoter was hospitable and there were a few people that were at the show the night before, playing in opening bands but the rest of the crowd was made up of a table of polo neck, smart leather jacket wearing, grown up, drunk, aggressive weirdos. They shouted stuff like, 'Fuck off, you!' in between songs. Both bands blitzed through the sets and we got in the van to make the over night drive to Moscow. The night drive was real snowy, we had to go slow, really slow! What should have taken 8 hours took more like 16. Not having a gps system or maps or being able to read russian street signs definitely didn't aid the situation. BUT we made it, Zock and Walter from ASTPAI are driving machines, they kept it safe at the wheel, even with these pros in charge we almost took a few spills, the lorry drivers in Russia are all on crack I think. We were really lost when we got into Moscow (in the afternoon of the following day!) so we stopped at a shopping centre and waited there for the promoters. We were finally found so we quickly visited the Red Square before heading to the venue, it was a long day. The show turned out to be really great, it's pretty amazing how having a fun show can totally erase all the stress, bullshit and grumpy attitude that you might have built up during the time before you play. Pretty lucky for us.
The initial plan was to do another night long drive after the show to get to St. Petersburg but after the night and day we had endured, we decided that getting a few hours sleep and leaving early would be the only sensible option. We headed to the hostel that the promoter had arranged for us and eventually checked in, by this time we had about 4 hours before we had to leave again. The hostel was great but the showers were something else! They were in the dark basement, lets just say that Tim, Rhys and I were scared whilst we were down there. turned out that the towels we were given were more like flannels so we ran up 10 flights of stairs to our rooms with our balls hanging out, that got rid of the previous fear sufficiently.
We were back on the road the next day by 10am, heading for St. Petersburg and excited to see the city, we hadn't seen much of Moscow at all. We'd heard from some people that the journey should take 6 hours, 8 from others. We went with 10 for safety and let the promoter know that we wouldn't be at the venue to sound check or supply backline but not to worry as we'd be there in good time. The Russian roads struck again! We drove all day long, it was snowing non-stop and so cold that any bottles of liquid that we had inside the van were frozen solid, as well as a thick layer of ice on the inside of all the windows. the roads were fucked and the lorries were out in full force, generally all on single lane highways, with mentalists overtaking each other by driving down the middle of the 2 lanes in between the lorries and the oncoming traffic. The journey took over 12 hours and we didn't know where to go once we got to the city. We realised once we got there that we might have to leave for Latvia after the show to make it to the next show on time. St. Petersburg looked beautiful, the thought of not seeing anything other than the venue and then sitting in the van for another night and day was too much for anyone to comprehend at this time. We met with the promoter at a huge square and ran to the venue only carrying our guitars. We had 50 minutes for both bands to play before the venue closed for the night. We were so late that lots of the crowd had already gone home. We plugged into the amps that were already on stage and blitzed the hell out of about 7 songs, it was like punk rock therapy to save your broken van brain. The people that were still at the show got into it and we were crowd surfing and and fucking around as much as possible during our 15 minute set. ASTPAI did the same and then we loaded out again, I reckon that's a new world record. We were in the venue for less than 90 minutes.
Right now we are still in St. Petersburg. The Russian roads got the better of us and last night we realised that to make it to the show in Latvia on time due to the extra time at the russian border (apparently leaving the county is really intense) we would have had to get back in the van and start driving right after. Nobody had slept, nobody had eaten and less importantly nobody had washed. The bottom line was that we were exhausted, especially the driving machine that is Zock Astpai, what a hero! Luckily for us the promoter in Latvia has postponed the show by a day so we now have a day off here in St. Petersburg, we have all caught up on sleep and now we're going to check out some of this impressive city before heading to Latvia this evening. The adventure isn't over yet, so far it's been one hell of a trip.
thanks for reading!