Sam Bean - The Senseless/The Bezerker - Gig From Hell Print E-mail
Written by Sam Bean   
Sunday, 11 March 2012 05:00

 

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The Nottingham Bloodbath


I often get asked what the most memorable show was that I played with Berzerker. I tailor my answer to whoever is asking, people want to hear about different things. Some people want to hear about travel, some want to hear about the huge festival gigs, others want to hear about cultural experiences or places where the band has been looked after the best.

 

And some people want to hear about blood, guts, and violence. I tell those people about our last gig in Nottingham at the Old Angel.

 

It was on the UK leg of our European headline tour in 2003. By then I was completely fucked in the head. We had been on the road for four or five horrible months and gone through our drummer breaking his foot and the desperate every-second-counts search for his replacement in Florida. When we arrived in England I had a bad case of sunburn and started shedding skin like an iguana. I hated my band, my label, heavy metal, my fans, myself, and the world, and just wanted to go home, find a rock, dig a big hole under it, and hide at the bottom. We had been on the road for a few days when we played in Nottingham.

 

Even though the venue was tiny it was still an important gig for the reason that it was in Earache Record's hometown (our label at the time). The idea normally is that you put on a great gig and night out for your label, show them all the professionalism you'd picked up on the road, and reaffirm their faith in you as part of their roster. Obviously, that wasn't going to happen. We were playing with a drummer we'd just found ten or so days previously. I was over everything and had a mysterious rash growing on my face from the masks we were wearing. The guitarist no longer spoke, he just clutched at beers and poured them into his face until he fell asleep. And our singer Luke turns into a psychopath within twenty-four hours of starting tour anyway. I didn't want to know what he was up to by that stage.

 

We started playing our gig for somewhere between sixty to a hundred people. All the Earache staff were crammed up the back of the room. English crowds are normally pretty enthusiastic but this crowd took it to another level. There was a savage pit right from the get go and for once the stage actually felt like a pretty safe place to be. Then the large skinhead started yelling at us.

 

The large skinhead was yelling at us to hit him. Specifically, he wanted us to punch him in the face and break his nose. The dude was obviously completely crazy. He was yelling before, during, and after the songs. He had a loud voice. Even with my in-ear monitors and the music blasting out over the PA I could still hear him. The dude wouldn't shut up. So eventually I did something which ended up on the Berzerker DVD:

 

I asked the maniac if he really wanted to be punched in the face. He said yes. I said, really? He said, really really yes, please, punch him in the face. I said, you're not going to kill me if I do? He said no, it's cool, really, just punch him, break his nose for god's sake. We wear in-ear monitors with a click track and I could hear the countdown starting to 'Disregard'. It's one of our fastest songs. It's around 320 bpm or so. I heard the click track go "3-2-1". Instead of a bass hit, I did a face hit and clocked the guy right in the nose. He fell backwards and started bleeding.

 

The pit paused to absorb this random act of violence, then exploded. People went nuts. The floor became a warzone. The big skinhead came back with a big grin on his face, and asked to be punched again. I discovered a latent joy in punching faces and obliged him. Someone broke their collarbone in the pit. I started trading punches with the skinhead, not wanting to miss any of the fun. He cracked me in the head so hard I saw stars. I came to still playing my bass. I saw a guy with the mother of all blood-noses. I used his blood to paint upside down crosses on the foreheads of people in the front row, then punched the skinhead again who had climbed on stage to see if he could collect some more beatings. Luke started kicking me, screaming at me to stop hitting people. I tried to kick him back and got tangled in my guitar leads. Luke was thinking straight - he was thinking the whole hit-me thing was an entrapment, and that it could lead to me having to jump tour to escape police. I wasn't thinking straight. I was thinking blood and violence.

 

I looked down at the pit. It was carnage. There were various breakages. I found out later that someone else had broken their arm, and for the next few years whenever we toured that area people brought their x-rays to be signed. Blood was everywhere. I looked up the back of the room to where the Earache staff were. I could see label manager Digby Pearson and I'm not sure if it was the punches I had collected to the head or what, but I'm pretty sure I could see him holding his face in his hands and shaking his head.

 

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