Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dutch Tour Diary Part 2: Alkmaar

I've been meaning to put the next installment of the Dutch Tour Diary up here, but couldn't decide if it was wacky or entertaining enough. It was a great couple of days, but no one got chased around with an axe or anything. But today I was surfing around a few images and came across these. Unfortunately, the squat we played, has had to make way for one of the most God awful looking buildings I have ever seen. A sad day for me today and I'm sure a number of very sad days for all involved. It truly was a great place, full of great people and a real kick in the bollix for the straights.

The drive to Alkmaar was fairly uneventful. We got lost a few times. The Dutch have to be the worst people on earth for giving directions. We asked a few times in Utrecht with JW and the directions we received were less than useless. Road signs were no better and the map seemed to be for a country that looked a lot like Holland, but had a completely different set of roads. The weather was still warm and it was a cracking day by the time we pulled into town. Alkmaar is a lovely little safe, middle-class town. The canals there seemed more like a series of rivers with grassy banks on both sides. The squat was an enormous building clad in red brick with it window sills painted red, blue and yellow. There was a courtyard with a few tables, a couple of mad looking totem poles and loads of trees. It was a great gaff, set on a road with loads of trees and a real laidback feel to the whole area. We had to load the gear in through a basement window which was a bit tricky, but the bar was amazing. It looked like a proper New York rock and roll bar and the venue was even more rockin. A long thin room with weird back lighting and a low stage with a small drum riser. When I thought of playing in squats before, I’d assumed that we’d be playing in someone’s burntout kitchen or sitting room. This place was cooler than most of the bars we’ve played in in Dublin and cooler than just about every place I’d ever played in The States.
Everything loaded in, we grabbed seats in the garden. The people from the squat brought us out a crate of beer and invited us to dig in. We sat out there until the sun went down, chatting and drinking. This felt like a real holiday. Lounging around, no hurry to do anything.
We were playing the late gig of the evening. There was a gig across town starting at 9 and after they finished, everyone was heading over to us for our gig. We decided to go across and check out the venue and see who was making us food. The walk was a long one. The lads considered a walk of 45 minutes a short one. I learned very quickly that the Dutch had a different scale upon to which judge distances by. As an American, I would consider most of the walks we did to be reasonably long drives and in my experience more than one bus.
The Parkoff was an even cooler venue than the one we were playing. A proper venue in the middle of a big park and right on the water. There were advertisements all over the doors and behind the bar for our gig and no sign of who was playing the early gig. The only people in the place were in the said nameless bands. No one was cooking us dinner there anyways.
We were hardly gonna turn around and walk the 45 minutes back straight away so we sat on the canal and had a few beers. You feel so tough when there are 10 of you and you’re drinking beer in the bushes, especially when all of you are punks. Well almost all. I have been in punk bands for years and years and I don’t think anyone would ever refer to me as a punk. The town seemed so nice. Boats idled by, occasionally receiving verbal abuse from Nobby. There was one kid who must have passed us 4 times at full speed. It was Saturday night and he was just doing laps for something to do.
Then it was back to the bar in The Raad, where we were playing. Dirk sorted out a bit of food. It was just bag after bag of fried everything, I couldn’t even tell what half of it had started out as, and loads of chips. It did the job. Everybody was at the other gig and it finally dawned on us that we had been given a bar. There were crates and crates of beer behind the counter, which we were allowed to drink for free. We even had a sound system! We all had to laugh. Where else in the world would someone give a bar to a gang like us. No one showed back up until about half one, by which time we were all pretty merry. The place filled up nicely and it was funny to see our new sitting room full of people we didn’t know.
The Impregnators were once again rocking. They played an amazing set. The crowd seemed to enjoy it and I know we did. By the time we went on it was 3 in the morning. Tommy was throwing shapes the likes of which had never been seen before, anywhere, by anybody. He fell back against the wall and played a song and a half leaning the very top of his head against the wall as he stared straight at the ceiling. I’d say he was stuck. It didn’t help our tightness, but all the shapes that we threw went a long ways to endear us to the crowd. We started to lose a few songs, but brought them together and I honestly don’t think the crowd was any wiser to any of our mistakes. Judging by their reaction, we hadn’t hit a bum note all night. They danced, they cheered, they fell over.
According to everybody at the gig, we had played a stormer. One guy told me he’d been playing music for 15 years and he was embarrassed after seeing us. Flabbergasted was the word he used I think. A pretty big one considering he spoke 5 different languages....and was completley locked. He talked my ear off for ages and when I tried to sneak away from his conversation, he became terribly offended. The crowd was a bit weird. I got the feeling it could all go wrong at any moment. That like your man, if anyone put a foot wrong, horrible offence would be taken. I don’t know what made me fell like that, one guy was going around insisting he be allowed to feel everybody’s nipples and then giving a critique, some very positive, others dithering.
The night went on for ages. Two metallers took over the decks right after we finished playing. 3 hours later they were still standing at the mixing desk waving their hands in the air complete with the slayer sign/devil horns. I find metallers very entertaining it must be said. They remind me of home and my background as a suburban teenager. I don’t know when it was that I went to sleep, it was getting bright anyways, the metallers were still rockin’. I know that everyone came up to the sleeping room at some point. I managed to sleep through it for the most part.
Gaz woke me up early. He was looking a bit twisted. Still wearing the suit he’d flown over in a few days before. He managed to talk Adam into giving him his prized bottle of Buckfast, a rare delicacy on these shores, and unbelievably enough, Gaz managed to get a few laughs out of him even as the Dutch lads repeatedly warned us that Adam got horrendously violent if woken up. Everybody was in pretty good form drifting in and out of sleep and generally being entertained by Gary.
It took ages to load the van up because everybody was in one sort of jocker or another. Tank is a lovely guy. The visible deterrent as we dubbed him. He’s nearly 7 feet tall, seems to only own leather trousers, has a spiky punky mullet and wears sunglasses unless he's in a windowless room with a burnt out bulb. But he’s not much of a roadie. He doesn’t pack a particularly good van and usually picks drinking over loading out. So I did most of the loading, as well as organising myself a bit of food. The drive back to Groningen was the same as all of the other drives of the trip. No hills, no scenery, just pastures and wind farms. Turbines everywhere. It all looks vaguely futuristic in a retro kind of way. The way we thought the rural future would look like when we were kids.
Loading the gear out back at Dirk’s place, I saw one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. Tommy was a bit worse for the wear and feeling the effects of the first few days of our holiday. He was taking Dirk’s vintage bass head into the lock-up when he got a bit tripped up. Consciously sacrificing his body for the sake of the amp, he floated around the room, seemingly in slow motion like a giant airplane slowly crash landing. Even without the use of his legs, he managed to flip his body over and take the entirety of the blows with his head and body. I knew it must have been painful, but I couldn’t help but laugh to myself for the rest of the trip everytime I thought of it. With the gear stashed, we headed to the pub.