Writing: June 30, 12:30am, in Jeroen Gerrits’ apartment in Delft.
I didn’t initially mean to write one blog entry for two days; sorry for keeping you waiting (yeah, right) for my daily nonsense, but there was a reason for it (read on). It’s been quite hectic over the last couple of days.
So. Get yourself a nice cup of tea (much better than sipping 20% cream thinking it’s an iced cappuccino drink because you can’t read Dutch. Trust me on that one) and lets see what’s been going on over the last couple of days.
I got a fairly good night sleep on the train from Prague to Amsterdam; having the cabin all for myself was great—like a hotel room; actually, better than some of the hotel rooms I stayed in so far (Oberhausen… Oberhausen…)—the only downside was the constant rattle and the occasional stops. Well, that was, after all, a train.
More than I was tired, I was hot and sweaty, and not in a good way. I happened to catch The Netherlands in the middle of a 5‐days heat wave. The future also looked kind‐of bleak: Jeroen’s living‐room (where I was going to sleep) has no air‐conditioning there and the shades were kept open for the entire day (thanks, man); he was happy to inform me that the temperature there isn’t likely to drop much below 28℃.
Once I arrived in Amsterdam Centraal, I encountered a currency exchange booth and decided to get rid of the Czech currency I had left. Too many coins present extra weight in the wallet and I’ve been trying to lose wait for the last little while. I asked the cashier if it’s possible to change CZK to EUR, to which she replied “yes”.
I gave her all the Czech money I had—a 100 CZK bill and a few heavy coins.
– “No coins please”.
Damn. Then she took the bill I offered to her.
– “I am sorry, this is too small.”
Well, now that’s something I don’t hear all too often, hence my surprise. She then went on to explain that it would be too stupid to change 100 CZK to about €3.5 and then pay €4 commission.
Had some time to pass before the connecting train, so I popped into a sandwich stand in Amsterdam Centraal to get myself something to eat as I was starving. I believe I impressed the lady‐seller by actually reading the sandwich’s name in Dutch.
– “Yes, that is correct! Very good.”
Very good, huh? That made me feel like a macho. I was determined to excel, and was very much willing to further demonstrate my control of the Dutch language.
– “Wanna hear something I learned?”, I said.
– “Sure”, she said, obviously not knowing at all what’s coming.
– “BESCHUIT MET HAGLSLAG”, I barked at her the only expression I fully control in Dutch. That expression means “biscuit with chocolate sprinkles”.
Oh yeah, she was impressed. Smiling, too. Mission accomplished; “BESCHUIT MET HAGLSLAG” can, and should be, used as a savoury pick‐up line.
From Amsterdam Centraal, the quickest way to Delft was to take a fast Fyra train to Rotterdam, then connect onwards. Little did I know that the fast train requires extra payment (which I didn’t make); luckily, a nice attendant felt for my stupidity and let it slip. I arrived at Delft at around 12:15pm—sunny, hot, a bit humid outside and I’m tired like a dog.
Travel didn’t end there; Jeroen and I agreed to meet at his workplace for lunch. That’s another tram‐ride… smoking hot inside… I think I lost half my body weight sweating during that short 4 minutes ride, until I finally got to his office, right at time for lunch.
And that’s when things started to get interesting.
As I was expecting to have some lunch in a restaurant below the office (there’s a mall there), I was surprised to find out that things are done a bit differently there. I was invited for lunch with all of Jeroen’s colleagues—well, almost all—as it turns out, those guys have their lunches together in one of the conference rooms.
I felt a bit stupid; and I mean, literally. Jeroen has a PhD in mathematics, and he works in a company that deals with scientific programming. It only sounds boring; one of the projects Jeroen himself has been involved with is (ready for that? take a deep, deep breath) maintaining software that predicts the water levels at the coasts of The Netherlands (you know, the country being somewhat below sea‐level, meaning that a little spill can cause lots of trouble). Isn’t it a bit scary? All you need to get a Dutch village drown with all its people still sleeping in their beds is one peculiar Dutchman named Jeroen after a long night with lots of Alcohol.
This is seriously sophisticated stuff; I was going to have lunch with all of them—I believe we were around 12 people there altogether, including a particularly cute blonde scientist (yes, you read it right; I guess my aversion to blonde hair is wearing off) whose name I will probably never be able to spell right so lets leave it at that.
So when I say “I felt a bit stupid”, I mean it—for sure, I served as a burden to the IQ level in that room.
Time for lunch came—they actually ring a bell there!—and off we went to the conference room to eat.
Some of you may be interested to know what the Dutch people eat. From what I’ve seen so far, I believe I can sum‐up the algorithm for Dutch dining, as follows:
- Obtain bread. It doesn’t matter what kind of bread: they sell millions of types of breads, buns, rolls—you name it—in The Netherlands.
Take the bread out of a Dutchman’s life, and he starves.
- If it’s a bread—slice it; if it’s a roll, cut it in half. In any case, ensure a smooth surface on which you can operate the steps that follow.
- Obtain any edible substance of any kind. It may, but doesn’t have to, “cling” to the bread in any way. It can be a spread (they sell here spreads that taste like—get this—blueberry muffins), it can be a liquid, it can be chocolate sprinkles, it can be a chocolate spread, peanut butter… if you ever wondered what grapes would taste like between two slices of bread, The Netherlands is a good place to give it a shot without being pointed and laughed at.
They also sell coconut breads in The Netherlands; it comes sliced. And you’re supposed to put a slice of that coconut bread on another bread. That’s bread in the power of two.
- Lay the edible substance on the bread.
- Chew, swallow.
- Drink milk; if you’re sick of milk, drink juice. Under no circumstances should you drink water. Milk is water here. Water is for tourists.
- Repeat steps 5 & 6 until full.
In summary: if it contains bread, they eat it; if it doesn’t, then they put it on bread and eat it. Finish with Milk.
Lovely. We were sitting there, all of us, chit‐chatting over sandwiches. I certainly hope that the discussion we had about bastards will be continued at some point.
(Trust me, you really wanna stay in the dark with regards to that one)
Lunch was over so I decided to go back to Jeroen’s place for a couple of hours rest before we head to the concert. We were joined by Jeroen’s friends, Lennart and Dennis; we went by car, courtesy of Lennart’s superior driving skills.
At around 5:00pm, we parked the car and arrived at the Heineken Music Hall.
The Heineken Music Hall (commonly referred to as simply HMH; Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heineken_Music_Hall) is located in south‐east Amsterdam. Quite the popular venue, it can pack up to 5,500 souls. It is adjacent to the Amsterdam Arena, which is a soccer stadium which is the home for Ajax Football Club.
From the outside, the venue looks like a big box; not much unlike the Rockhal in Luxembourg—however, that’s where the similarities end.
Quite a few stores around the venue—restaurants, fast‐food booths; a cafe somewhere in the horizon, and there’s a Media Markt store there. Checked: they have everything for i‐Phones, no accessories whatsoever for BlackBerry; I’ll have to live without a holster for a while.
Outside the venue, people were already gathering. I have heard notorious stories about the entrance procedures to the HMH and was curious to see what’s going to happen.
markknopfler.com ticket buyers were given the right to enter the venue 15 minutes prior to the general public, hence our late arrival time. Of course, though, we were not first; a few people were already lined‐up by the markknopfler.com ticketholders’ entrance.
Quick sandwich, a drink and a few chats with old & new faces and the entrance procedure began in this bizarrely‐designed venue.
At 5:30pm, a door was opened, and people were allowed one by one to obtain their pre‐sale tickets from the ticket booth. The pushing already started there, to the point that one funny attendant had to calm everybody down and ask people to not kill each other for entry. He did it in three languages.
In the HMH, the ticket‐booth is inside the venue. Once one obtained his ticket, he / she would hurry up (though not rush like a bull; no need, as the process is serial anyway. For the most part. Some people are really quick) to get the ticket scanned and then pointed towards the foyer; that’s basically where most facilities (bar, food‐stands) are located.
Between the foyer and the venue, there’s a heavy red door; people lined‐up by that door.
So yes, that’s another line‐up following the very same etiquettes as lining‐up outside, only with fewer people around. There wasn’t any really structured line‐up but I would guess there were 5–6 people before us.
Now comes the tricky part (it’s fascinating to notice those details). There are actually two doors leading to the hall, each door is a saloon door. A saloon door is divided in half; at the HMH, the hinges are set up so the door actually opens towards you. That means, that in order to obtain a favourable position, you must position yourself exactly facing the dividing line between the two halves of the door.
The signal was given at 6:15pm; lo and behold, the saloon door to the left (we were standing on the right) remained closed, which increased the pressure on the right‐hand saloon door. The door opened (towards us), creating immense pressure from the people at the front basically being pushed backwards.
Felt like a bad day in Bosnia.
That was the first time this tour that I actually had to be pushed, and push back, in order to enter a venue. It wasn’t pleasant, to say the least; and once you’re inside, you cannot just walk to the stage. If you walk, you get run over by people whose enthusiasm are far superior to yours. You have to run. And we did. A short 20 metres run was like a shot of adrenaline right to the heart.
On 6:30pm, the doors were opened to the general public. People came running like bulls into the hall, to attempt and capture the best standing positions that were left.
I was located just where I wanted: front row (the rails are really handy to lean against during the concert), at the middle of the right‐hand side of the stage. Having gained some good experience in standing shows’ best practices, I spent most of the time before the concert sitting down with my legs all stretched, to conserve personal space—which is a concept that, admittedly, appears to be much more respected here than in, say, Luxembourg.
The decision to not go to the toilets before the beginning of the show (assuming I won’t be able to make my way back; stupid assumption, as the Dutch people are generally very nice) almost cost me my kidneys by the time the show was over.
The venue filled‐up quickly; the three Amsterdam shows were sold‐out.
Before the show, the Heineken Man appeared. He carried a barrel of Heineken on his back, selling beer to whoever has his / her mouth dry. The Heineken Men continued wandering around during the show as well, obviously not at the front though.
On 8:00pm, after an hour and a half waiting and chit‐chatting, the lights came down and the show started.
Right at the beginning of the concert, one could notice that the HMH is very happy to have Mark Knopfler on board. There were quite a few professional photographers wandering around the gap between the rail and the stage, taking photos of each and every band member; I believe that was the first time I ever saw Mark actually happily co‐operating with any camera; he was in a good mood, I suppose.
Anyway, the nuisance of the flock of photographers disappeared after a couple of songs.
The Dutch love Mark Knopfler; Mark’s fan‐base in The Netherlands is significant. Ingrid was right back then when she did that calculation—the Get Lucky tour has the most number of concerts, per capita, in The Netherlands: 3 concerts for 16 million people, all at the same venue—the HMH.
Remember how, after the concert in Toronto, I wrote that Mark appeared as if he feels at home? well, that was also the case at the HMH. Mark (and, in fact, the band as a whole) seemed relaxed, upbeat and more than willing to give the Dutch people a great show—and they did. The first night at the HMH was, hands‐down, the best standing concert experience so far—at least for me.
It wasn’t just the great music: the HMH is not just a big box in the middle of nowhere—it’s a proper music hall and was designed as such. The sound was great where I was standing.
No surprises in the setlist, but man, was that a great concert. Some people (myself included) were looking at each other with an expression of “NICE” on our faces during, and after, Hill Farmer’s Blues as the outro solo was truly remarkable.
Even Romeo and Juliet sounded “stronger” at the HMH… perhaps it was due to the superb sound, perhaps it was due to the band being in tip‐top shape… or both. Who knows.
Marbletown was a definite pearl. Every time I conclude that this song cannot be played any more beautifully, I end up thinking very poorly of myself as it just keeps getting better and better. The Marbletown story in the first night at the HMH was the outro performance—that is, the sort‐of ballad that was played after the “big bang” right before the ending. Phenomenal.
May I please suggest that you get your hands on a copy of Marbletown from that night. I’m sure you won’t regret it.
Donegan’s Gone came back for a short visit after at least a couple of weeks of absence. A bit rusty around the edges (the opening slider work) but the rest was great, featuring John playing something that I would have otherwise thought was taken from a cartoon, beautifully before the last verse.
Then the time came for the climax of the show—as in every show: Telegraph Road to rock those who still weren’t rocking enough. It was great, for a change, to not have to get up and walk to the stage once that song was over. Instead, I could just exchange calls of amazement with the audience at my immediate vicinity.
The encore shortly ensued and something sounded very unfamiliar during Brothers in Arms: two milliseconds later I figured out that the reason was that most of the audience were singing along. Now how about that for a strong performance; it’s a song that is a perfect fit for an audience sing‐along, especially when everybody’s standing and swaying with the music. Later, I heard that it’s a common practice in Mark Knopfler’s shows in Amsterdam: Brothers in Arms is almost always a sing‐along experience.
The show ended at 10:20pm. What an enjoyable show; of the best so far. Great experience altogether—great venue, great audience, great sound and great… well… music.
Exiting the venue took hours. It was funny to see what the HMH’s floor looked like after the concert. Here, take a look.
Couldn’t possibly take a step without crushing some plastic.
A quick Burger King (I had no choice) and a drive back to Delft; I dozed through the entire ride and went to sleep as soon as we got home.
My intention this morning (June 29) was to get up, eat a nice breakfast, then take my laptop out to the central area of Delft and write June 28’s blog post in some cafe.
You know, just the way I like it. Simple, relaxed.
Which is what I did, really.
Everything was good until I sat down for breakfast; Jeroen was away, and suddenly, a childhood friend of mine who I would easily trust with my life, told me about some software that I “really should install” on my BlackBerry.
I did. Installation finished, and the device rebooted.
5 minutes later, I see a message on the device:
RELOAD SOFTWARE: 552
And nothing works.
I’m not a particular fan of the number “552”, especially when it appears after an unfriendly phrase such as “RELOAD SOFTWARE” and a colon.
Same result. BlackBerry is unusable.
Had I been walking through the woods in Vancouver Island and been suddenly faced by a mountain lion, I don’t think I would have sweated as much as I started sweating after realizing that my BlackBerry is unusable. I KINDA NEED IT, YOU KNOW, FOR THIS TRIP. Using Google to find out what the hell was going on, I read all sorts of horror stories about what that message meant and what it takes to fix it—sometimes having to send the phone for repair. It clearly did NOT look good.
Somehow, I managed to connect my poor device to my computer and uninstall the offending application. Along with it, I decided to uninstall all other applications and just start fresh.
The device rebooted.
When it was done, it rebooted again.
I believe I cursed every living thing on planet Earth by the time I realized that I am completely and utterly screwed. Thoughts of going to a local mobile store and buying a new BlackBerry started floating in my mind—that’s about $600 for you, thank you very much.
By complete miracle, I was able, at last, to re‐wipe my entire device and start all fresh.
That entire process took about 4 hours, which explains why no blog post was posted until now. I am now happy again; life can go on.
After the BlackBerry fiasco, I really didn’t have time for anything else so I went to Delft’s city centre for a holster‐hunt and food, before heading to the concert. Both unsuccessful; holster was nowhere to be found, and the food—well, better not elaborate. Should stick to sandwiches here, I suppose. Before I knew it, I had to meet Jeroen at the train station to catch the train to Amsterdam, for the second Amsterdam show.
Some pictures from Delft:
Park & ride, Dutch style (photo taken near Delft’s train station. Imagine what it looks like in a bigger city, like Amsterdam!):
About an hour was spent in three different trains to get to the HMH. The number of markknopfler.com ticket purchasers was lower this time around (the event, however, was sold‐out), which means much less stress. Things were done differently this time around.
First, the outside door was opened and people obtained their tickets from the box‐office inside the venue, similarly to last time. However, instead of being sent to the foyer, we were instructed to line‐up in 4 columns against the set of doors in between (way too many doors in that venue). Those are the doors where tickets get scanned usually.
We assumed that, on 6:15pm, the 4 ticket‐scanning lanes will be opened at once; that would mean that our ending position near the stage depended, mostly, on the ticket‐scanner’s speed. Seeing one of the ticket‐scanners receiving a phone call and exiting the area, prompted Jeroen to mention that he “doesn’t like ticket‐scanners with social life”.
However, the procedure was different. on 6:15pm, the scanners actually came and scanned our tickets before opening the doors, thus leaving the “stage proximity fate” of each and every audience member to depend on one’s legs—that is, how fast could one run.
The signal was given and we started running. Similar to the “running of the bulls” however perfectly valid (in my opinion) as you cannot possibly tackle anybody even if you wanted to (they would be faster than you). The last time I ran like that was when I was about 4 years old, running away from a dog that chased after me; I think that my aversion to dogs has something to do with that terrible memory.
Anyway, I reached my favourite spot with no problem. Spoke for a while with Katrina & Lane, a couple from Flagstaff, Arizona whom I had seen attending quite a few shows in North America and decided to pop‐in for the Amsterdam concerts. Quite the travellers—I even got some tips from them as to where to dine next when I’m out west in Vancouver. Myself, receiving dining tips for my favourite city, from a couple that lives thousands of kilometres away from it? Didn’t sound very likely to happen but it did.
An hour and a half went by quickly and I only stood up once “Feelin’ Good” started playing. The band took the stage at around 8:10pm.
The show featured almost exactly the same setlist, only The Fish and the Bird returning from vacation replacing Donegan’s Gone that is now gone again.
It was unlikely to give two awesome shows in a row, night after night, but they did it. The second concert in Amsterdam was as great as the previous one—some people who attended both actually thought that it was better than the first one. I couldn’t tell. They were both great.
Somebody to my back & right was filming a part of the concert, which prompted Mark to whisper something through his microphone and point towards my area, asking someone from the crew to seek and destroy the offender. Peter McKay showed up shortly after at the gap between us and the stage, trying to locate the offender, to no avail. There really was no chance of accomplishing that: 5,500 people in a relatively small hall.
During Romeo and Juliet and Sultans of Swing, two kids stood up right behind me and started talking, rather loudly. That was very annoying. You don’t wanna hear kids yapping and yapping through the quiet parts of Romeo and Juliet and the solo parts of Sultans of Swing. I turned to Jeroen, and asked him, a bit loudly (so maybe they would hear), “how do you say shut the FUCK up in Dutch?”. He responded. I can’t remember what it was but it didn’t sound too intimidating so I gave up the idea.
This show was characterized by even more audience’s limb movements than the night before. Brothers in Arms’ sing‐along experience was stronger as the entire audience appeared to hum the lyrics all throughout.
The usual encore and we left the venue at 10:20pm, not before meeting with Elian & Arnaud, from France, who came to the concert. Elian showed us a present he bought to his girlfriend in Amsterdam… very romantic. Next time I see his girlfriend, I’ll have to ask her what she thought of it.
An hour and a half over 3 trains and we were back at home.
Signing‐off this post at 11:00am, Wednesday morning. Will go out for fresh air now, and later—the third Amsterdam concert. Tonight, I will be seated at the very back (will explain later).