Writing: July 1st, 12:50am. Jeroen’s apartment.
Long ago I realized that, the best way to not freak out about the size and magnitude of this journey, is to take it in “chunks”. Throughout the journey, there happen to be time periods that I refer to as “islands of sanity”; for example, the week in Germany was considered an “island of sanity” as daily travel was too easy to be real. Same goes for the week in London; no real effort.
My three days in The Netherlands are actually the second to last “island of sanity”; the next one is going to be the 4 days off after the Budapest concert, followed by travelling around Italy with sweet Miss Daria; after that, it’s all mayhem all the way to the end—crazy journey through Switzerland, Germany again, south France and—the pinnacle of travel insanity—Spain and Portugal.
The reason I wrote all of this was to show you why I chose to take today very easy. I will miss days like this over the next month, so I figured I should savour those with much respect to the occasion.
Woke up late to the sound of absolutely nothing; good night sleep, and a traditional Dutch breakfast consisting of bread and random material that comes on it.
The schedule for today was to do some travel planning, purchase a few things I need for the rest of the trip and arrive at the venue by 6:30pm. You may wonder why so late, as this is the vicious Heineken Music Hall we’re talking about here. The reason is that, for certain reasons I won’t elaborate on at the moment, the tickets Jeroen and I had for the last Amsterdam concert were purchased past the pre‐sale period, and considering the early‐entry benefit for pre‐sale ticket holders, waiting hours in the sun made very little sense. While some things could have been done to alleviate the problem and get to the front anyway, it just involved way too much work and aggravation that we came to a mutual decision to just enjoy tonight’s concert seated at the back of the hall (the seated area in the HMH is not reserved; first‐comes first‐served).
It was a beautiful day in Delft so I decided to do some walking around, hoping to come across the occasional cellular phone accessory shop and inquire about a replacement for my BlackBerry’s holster.
Writing: July 1, 7:47pm. Laying on bed #95 en route to Dresden, then Wroclaw. Day off from fucking hell; details to follow in Poland’s post.
Delft is a city located between Rotterdam and Den Haag (or, in English, “The Hague”), about an hour train ride from Amsterdam. I have been here a few times before, visiting Jeroen who just happens to live here (well, if it wasn’t for him, I’d probably never get to know Delft in the first place).
Visitors to The Netherlands, who want to get a good taste of what Dutch life is like, are more likely to find it if they take a train ride to Delft rather than being stuck around the Amsterdam area. Delft is a beautiful little city, and I get a great feeling every time I walk through its streets—canals are everywhere, and so are the tiny bridges crossing them.
A couple of years ago, I had the chance to hang out in the streets of Delft at night—an exercise in sheer joy as houses by the water are lit with romantic yellow‐ish lights, which in turn reflect from the water creating a sight that is very hard to ignore.
The Dutch people love their bikes; you stand a much better chance being hit by a bike here, than by a car. Bike riding is taken seriously here—bike lanes are bloody everywhere, and pedestrians walking on them often piss the riders off. Now, mind you, a pissed‐off Dutch is still a fairly nice person; usually, the state of piss‐off‐hood will be manifested by a gentle bell ring.
Walking through the picturesque, narrow streets, I came across a few shops selling mobile phones and accessories; none carried what I was looking for. The i‐Fail dominates the Dutch smart‐phone market, plus my BlackBerry model is not the newest (one year old) so I got the idea, talking to a few people, that I should simply give up and order online.
Which is exactly what I did. At the moment of writing this, sweet Miss Daria is ordering it online for me so I’ll get it on July 5th once arriving at her place in Northern Italy. Thank you, Miss Dee.
Sat down in a coffee shop, looked at my travel plans… and decided to pay $150 in order to reduce an 18 hours train ride to 1 hour flight (Würzburg to Nice‐Ville, near Monaco). That made me as happy as if I have just gained 17 additional hours of life… which is, pretty much, exactly what happened.
Shortly after, Jeroen and I made our way to Amsterdam’s central station. I needed to make some train‐ticket purchases (apparently, train travel in Poland isn’t covered by the EURail pass), buy some ear‐plugs (for sleeper trains), some batteries (for my noise‐cancelling headphones)… so I decided to get everything done with prior to the concert. We managed through pretty much everything, including a light early dinner at Carla’s Peace, Love & Food right across the street from the train station.
Arrived at the venue at approximately 6:20pm, ten minutes before the doors opened for general admission. The masses were already occupying precious territories near and around the entrances.
Fifteen minutes later, Jeroen and I were already seated at the second seat row in the back, dead‐centre. Distance from the stage was about 20–25 metres—very good view. We were both looking forward to experience the superb (so I was told) sound quality at the HMH.
Dennis (Jeroen’s friend) joined us a bit later, and I decided to use the spare coins I have (you need to purchase coins at the HMH in order to pay for goods) to get some cappuccino. I was amazed that only one coin is needed for a cappuccino, while three coins are needed for a bottle of water; 5 minutes later, I figured out why. A cappuccino actually costs 4 coins (equivalent to €5)—that is, one coin for the cappuccino itself and three coins for the bottle water you absolutely MUST drink afterwards, to get rid of its obnoxious, terrible, filthy, disgusting and offensive after‐taste.
At the right‐hand picture above, you can see the “saloon‐doors” I was talking about at in the previous post. You can see two saloon‐doors there—each having only one half open.
On 8:05pm, the show started. The hall was completely full; everywhere you look, you either see hair, a hat or a bald head. Three shows in a row, all sold‐out. The Dutch love this band.
So, first thing’s first: the sound at the Heineken Music Hall, while seated at the dead‐centre at the back, is, indeed, phenomenal. I can’t seem to recall such good sound quality in a venue that, from the interior, looks like a simple huge shoe‐box. They must have done something right when designing it.
Typically in closed venues, the sound at the back is superior to that at the front; however, at the HMH, the difference is outstanding. While the sound at the front is certainly satisfactory, you’d be amazed if you resisted the temptation of rushing to the front and simply parked your ass and ears on a seat in the back. Julio mentioned, as a comment to my previous post, that the experience resembles listening to a concert in your own living room through some seriously‐capable sound system; that is, folks, very true.
Sorry for the quality of the photos—there’s only that much that a compact camera can do when taking pictures in a generally dark area from a distance.
Exactly the same setlist as the night before (featuring The Fish and the Bird), with one difference—the two animals switched seats with Marbletown.
While quite the enjoyable concert, I am inclined to say that, musically, it was not as fantastic as the first two concerts at the HMH; guitar solos appeared to be less flowing, as if Mark was a bit over‐analyzing his moves. A bit of an off‐night for Mark but hey, if the audience is to judge, it was a great show nonetheless.
During the introduction of the band members, Mark greeted Matt for the accordion. “Nice accordion you’ve got there”, and then suggested that Matt adds a monkey to the equation to make it even more enjoyable.
Also during the introduction, Danny was introduced last. It seemed accidental; right after Guy’s introduction, Richard approached Mark and told him something which I suspect was something along the lines of “WHAT ABOUT OUR DANNY HERE?”. A proper introduction then took place; everybody is happy again.
Another advantage of sitting at the back is the ability to enjoy elements in the concert other than music—and, in this tour, the big news is the lighting work and the involvement of the backdrop. It looks impressive when you’re standing close; but it looks outstanding when you watch it all from the back, being able to capture the entire picture.
Perhaps it’s because I was at the back, but Brothers in Arms this time around appeared to have drawn many more mouths for the sing‐along. People all around me were singing the lyrics, and I’ve seen mouths moving everywhere. Very pleasant, I must say.
The concert ended at 10:20pm, and off we went back to Delft—Dennis drove us back.
Back in Jeroen’s apartment, I started packing things. Quite the bummer—not only I have to bid Jeroen farewell again, but it also means that I’m back in full travel mode. Will get re‐adjusted within a few days… hopefully.
As Telegraph Road was playing, an invisible baseball bat suddenly hits me right at the stomach. It’s June 30 today… The last verse was sung as every word kept smacking me left, right and centre to a point that I had to, occasionally, bite my lips.
Very symbolic. June 30, 2010 marks the end of an era for me, with July 1 starting a new one. On July 1, a few thousands of kilometres away from Amsterdam, an event would take place which has significant impact on me, with really nothing that I can do about it.
The words of Telegraph Road’s last verse keep echoing in my head well into the outro solo. I indeed feel like I have run every red light on memory lane; desperation exploding into flames? seen that, too. Distant, washed‐away memories of my vague past went running through my head; an extended roller‐coaster ride through ups, downs, challenges, pain, laughter, loss and victory.
At the night of June 30, I decided to make peace with the past and kiss it goodbye. Some realizations are hard to accept. It is about time, though; time to take a midnight ramble, decide whether to fold or play, see what’s in my hand, what’s at stake, and what’s the gamble.
Signing‐off this post at 9:32pm, on board the night‐train to Dresden at the end of an extremely stressful day off.