Tales from the Rails (Amsterdam) – head first into the multiverse

 

I knew Amsterdam was going to be an adventure. I was not prepared to dive headfirst into one fairytale to another. That’s a lie, I’m always prepared for that. I was not, however, prepared for navigating my way around the Netherlands without a phone – I left my plug adapter in North Germany and found myself without battery power, thus without directions, addresses and Dutch language skills… It’s just as well that I had arranged to meet with Meryl at Amsterdam Central Station, who is a local Singer / Songwriter and was to share the bill with me at the poetry festival. Thanks to her I did not get hopelessly lost or flustered. We have become slaves to electricity.

It begins…

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You get off the bus and find yourself in the middle of nowhere, Amsterdam Central a half hour journey behind you. The sun is blazing and the land that surrounds you feels like an airport runway. You follow the woman carrying hoola hoops and the two men with the American accents down a gravel path, the wheels of your suitcase dragging uselessly behind you. You see a tent with a sign you think reads: artist registration and pick up a wristband. “Do you know whether I get paid in cash?”
“Go to the office to sort that out”, the woman in the tent advises while you give up trying to swat away the miniature flies that are diving into you from all directions. Further along down a path, passing ponies and little houses with painted signs pointing to art spaces and happenings. You are greeted by Valentine, the chief, who informs you that things are running late and shows you the way to the office. Suitcases are abandoned on the ground floor of the rickety building and up the steep, wooden stairs to the little room with the full ashtray. A woman with frizzy hair and a frizzy disposition spills out waterfalls of Dutch – You usually understand most of what’s being said in Dutch, but right now you understand nothing but the sharp tone. The frizzy lady scans your passport, advises you’ve filled the forms out incorrectly and then pays in cash for the gig you have yet to play. This is spinal tap – the acid edition.

Church

Back to first person…

With an hour to spare, we cool down with a drink and soak in the surroundings – a converted church with a light rig and a boozy bar. An indian raga performance going on and people dancing shirtless, swaying arms and women meditating. Outside a tiny white kitten lies curled up, sleeping in the middle of the table around which her owners sit, smoking and and breathing slowly. The hour stretches and the 20 minutes the act before us was supposed to perform for turns into 50, their last song falls into a crescendo of electric guitars and a spoken mantra, the same line over and over as people get up to dance in front of the stage. Had I not had a second show to play in Amsterdam central that night, I would not have minded the absence of time and schedule. Whilst Meryl performs, a woman films her close up, then roles backwards onto the grass, pointing the camera upwards to the sky, the bright blue evidently being a perfect visual to the sound. 25 minutes left before I have to catch the bus back into a different reality and I take to the stage: Song About Jack, Some kind of Creature, The Real Thing and Red and White Blood Cells. A sea of smiling faces and we’re off – The lady who filmed Merel pushes a plate of food into her hands as we leave – baba ganoush and cous cous salad. We inhale it and leave the Festival behind us.

All the beautiful people…

I jump off the train and am on my own again. Meryl wrote down the address of Trieu’s house for me and told me which tram to get. Still, it feels like a small miracle that I actually fond the place, and hey, only an hour and ten minutes late. Trieu organised a living room show for me and when he opens the door, I already hear the party upstairs and I swear I can hear that people are well dressed. I feel grimy with a layer of invisible Festival dust clinging to my clothes and skin so I change before joining the beautiful people upstairs. I didn’t feel less or more at home in either reality, but it is odd to jump from one universe to another so quickly and without warning. Trieu and his band (Trieu Etc) opened the show with their very first acoustic set. I sit in the front row together with friends of mine from a previous Amsterdam visit and feel so happy to be here. Everybody’s in a great mood and it’s infectious. I love playing living room shows, but this one was special. It was one of the best audiences I’ve ever had the pleasure to play to. Thank you for organising it Trieu, thanks David for the introduction, thanks Debby for the magic pen fun and the wine and to everbody who was there and listened so intently to my songs and laughed at all the right places.

Debby, Trieu and Me, in need of a tan...
Debby, Trieu and Me, in need of a tan…

At 3am I left the party, which had moved down to the bar below the flat and about an hour later I finally fell asleep.

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