In this second installment of the Kings Destroy European tour diary, guitarist Chris Skowronski (whose birthday also happens to be today; happy birthday and what a way to celebrate) updates on the band’s progress on their run of shows with Rosetta, focusing in on several gigs in Poland. The first part of the tour diary is here, in case you missed it last week. Please enjoy:
Tour Diary Polska
Chris Skowronski from Kings Destroy here. I’m going to take over tour diary duty and do my best to give a recap of our time in Poland. After rocking Leipzig, Germany, we headed east into Poland, excited, but unsure of what we’d find waiting for us. None of us had ever been there, but we knew it had a reputation for being truly metal. Soon after crossing the border, we pulled into a gas station rest stop and got our first taste of this awesome country. You see, when you think of gas station food, a nice hot plate of pierogies usually doesn’t come to mind, but that’ s just what we got. This rest stop was also our introduction to the ubiquitous rest stop kabanos — a polish hot dog inserted vertically into a crispy, closed-bottom bun. Anyway, they’re available at EVERY stop, so if you ever visit, be ready for them.
We had a long drive ahead to reach our first destination, Toru?. After hours of driving through unceasing farmland occasionally punctuated by tiny, grim towns, pulling into Toru? was a trip. One of Poland’s oldest cities (and the birthplace of Nicholas Copernicus), Toru? is OLD. Medieval old. I’m not going even try to describe the beauty of its architecture, its winding cobblestone streets, or its MANY cathedrals, but do yourself a favor and look it up on the interwebs. It really is stunning.
The show was in a club space that was separated from a small bar by a narrow courtyard. As it was the night of the final match of Euro 2012, and people in Europe care more about soccer than anything, the show was set to start right after the match, which was being shown on a big-screen tv in the bar. The crowd was a mix of local young people there to drink (which the Polish do quite well) and watch the match, and Rosetta fans (who of course wanted to see the match, then see the rock).
As the final seconds of Spain’s beat-down of Italy ticked away, KD hit the stage — to all of four people. It did not seem promising, but we did what we do best and kicked into “The Mountie.” By the end of the tune, the strains of rock wafting from the club room had pulled in a few more people from the bar and courtyard, and soon the room was filled with the most enthusiastic crowd we’ve ever seen (home city of NYC, included). Then the magic really happened: groups of kids unironically and vigorously headbanging. It was a beautiful sight. And when Steve [Murphy, vocals] called the crowd in a little closer (they were keeping a slightly wary distance) they moved RIGHT TO THE FRONT. Like, they got my sweat all over them front. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that it was crazy hot and humid in Toru?.
The crowd reaction just got better as the set went on, and the fact that we and Rosetta were the only two bands on the bill meant that we could pace a nice long set with plenty of brand new songs that had not yet seen live action. These kids loved them all. When the set finally ended in a fury of headbanging (from both us and the crowd), our first show in Poland gave us another first — an encore. No shit. It was amazing.
We gave them what they wanted and rocked through a new tune called “Motivated Slug,” then left stage for Rosetta to rock them some more. Plus, we needed to step out in the courtyard and air out a bit, as the room was stifling. Of course, a few pints of fine Polish beer helped that situation out, too. After Rosetta leveled the completely packed room, all the fine people in attendance joined us outside, and we got our first chance to mingle with the people of this fine country (who are also my people, if you haven’t guessed by my last name). Let me tell you that you won’t find a kinder, warmer, more hospitable group of people than the Poles. Just amazing. The night ended late (or early, as the sun was coming up), with a walk down to the Vistula River and a couple of bottles of red wine. A fitting end to a pretty fucking unreal night.
Next up in Poland was the port city of Gdynia. In terms of aesthetics, it was a 180 from the medieval charm of Toru?. Industrial, slightly gritty, it seemed like a place where they like their metal extra heavy. And the venue for that night’s show was a big one, a club called Ucho. Rosetta had played this club a couple years ago opening for Sepultura, if that gives you any indication of how big and pro this joint was. Lucky for us, Rosetta pulls them in, because by the time then opening band (a trad shoe-gaze band from Poland called Folder) hit the stage, the place was half-full, with just as large a group milling around outside smoking and drinking. Oh yes, the Poles smoke more than anyone you’ll meet. Like chimneys. As the only member of our band who smokes, this is bad situation for me. Large stretches of boredom, very cheap cigarettes, and people smoking all the time around me make for me smoking way too much.
After Folder finished a great set, KD took the stage. The large stage offered us a chance to really move around, which we don’t often get to do. It was a little scary being up there at such a large venue as a band that was probably known by very few (if any) audience members. But once again, the Polish fans delivered. Without prompting, fans were up front, furiously head banging in the Polish style, and KD responded in kind. And once again, new songs dotted the set, and old favorites like “Dusty Mummy” were, well, dusted off. A pit even formed for the more pit-worthy songs, which luckily did not worry the contingent of young female headbangers pressing against the front of the stage one bit. The Poles are tough people, even the younger ones. After “Old Yeller” and our good nights and thank yous, a single voice began yelling “Kings Destroy!” and then chanting “One! More! Fuck-ing! Song!” in heavily accented English. This chant was picked up by others, and who are we to deny the rock to those who demand it so forcefully?
Encore over, we began packing to clear the way for hurricane Rosetta. As I was placing my sweaty-ass Les Paul in her case, I noticed a little Polish boy who was no older than 10 standing in front of the stage, grilling me. I said hello and got stony Eastern-European silence in return. I reached my hand down in the universal sign for “slap me five,” and he gave me a solid one. I handed him the guitar pick I had played the show with, and his eyes lit up in excitement. Then Rob [Sefcik, drums] gave him a pair of his giant drumsticks, and the kid was really stoked. We later saw him walking around and air-drumming with them, flanked by father, a giant, stern-looking Pole in his 40s. After Rosetta rocked, the father approached me and Steve as we drank at the bar and asked if we would pose for a picture with the boy. Of course, we happily obliged. A few kids outside even asked us to sign fliers for them. Once again, I can’t say enough about how awesome and enthusiastic these kids were.
Next day’s show was Warsaw, capital city and victim of untold violence, pain and destruction throughout history. I was most excited for this gig, of course, and the two insane shows before it seemed to bode well. We arrived in Warsaw to sweltering heat and humidity (Gydnia had been so cool that we had all changed into pants and jackets). The club was in a grim, seedy part of town, with large apartment blocks of buildings still bearing crumbling facades and bullets holes from WWII. Those building that were post-war were communist-era utilitarian style, and it really seemed that we had been transported back to the 1980s. It was a bit creepy, but also very cool.
Club Hydrozagadka was an awesome spot in the typical punk rock style, with an awesome sound system, and awesome staff, and an awesome young promoter. The show even ended up being streamed live over the internet. The opening band was a three-piece, all instrumental shoe-gaze affair from Australia called Meniscus. Very cool people, and a very cool band. We hit the stage to a good crowd, though the headbanging was not as furious in the capital as our other gigs. No matter, as the crowd stayed, rocked, and let us hear it after every song.
After Rosetta‘s killer set, the three bands hung at the club’s bar until way too late, as our accommodations for the night were in a hostel about 20 feet from the club. We bid Meniscus farewell as they left for the rest of their dates, and hit the sack as the sun came up.
Day four started with a luxury we haven’t had much of on this tour — time. The drive to Poznan was short, so we actually had a few hours to do some shopping. As we crossed a set of light rail tracks in Warsaw’s center, we crossed out of the Soviet-era grimness, a GIANT, ultra-modern luxury mall rose up in front of us. I guess every city really does have a “wrong side of the tracks,” and we had clearly been in Warsaw’s, but isn’t that where all the good clubs (and not to mention the true character of the city) are?
The drive to our last Polish gig in the city of Poznan threw the first curveball of the day. At a rest stop, we noticed one of the rear tires on our van seemed low, so we moved it to the air pump, only to discover it had a huge gash in the inner sidewall. No problem, we have a spare, right? Yes, but the jack is the same shit one that I have in my Honda, and we realize we don’t have a lug wrench. We notice a kind of hard-ass Pole smoking a cig, watching us. He also happens to be standing outside the same make of van, so we ask him for help, which he provides. Basically, he ends up shooing our lame-asses out of the way and doing it all himself, including showing us the complicated system for releasing the spare from its spot underneath the van. We buy him a beer, but he waves it away. We insist, and he tosses it on his passenger seat. We head back on the road.
Poznan turns out to be an older city, like Toru?, but with a tougher edge, like Warsaw. The club is located up two winding flights, so load-in sucks. We also learn that Faith No More is playing in town the same night, which has the promoter worried. We arrive just before show time, but no kids are around. By the time we get set up and Rosetta sound checks, kids begin to filter in. The other show definitely hurts the draw, but it’s still a good crowd. However, they approach our set with wary distance. They applaud, but nobody’s up front. So Steve takes matters into his own hands. During the intro to “The Toe,” he walks down into the middle of the room and places a single road case down. He performs from there. This actually impresses the crowd a bit, and Carl [Porcaro, guitar]‘s subsequent foray onto the floor to try to take Steve out adds to the weirdness. But it works, and people slowly inch forward. By the end of the set, the applause is hearty, and KD calls it a win.
We hang late and toast Poland. The next morning, we aim the van for Berlin, and unhappily bid goodbye to the land of true metal spirit, the land of earnest headbanging, and the land that gave me my surname. Farewell, Poland. Kings Destroy will never forget you.
Tags: Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy European tour, Kings Destroy tour diary, Poland