Elbow in Amsterdam

We bought the tickets months ago, but there was no way we were going to risk missing Elbow’s concert in Amsterdam last night. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for years, having been incredibly frustrated to learn that they were playing in Amsterdam — at the picturesque Paradiso — shortly after we first moved here, but with tickets well and truly sold out. They played PinkPop, a summer festival here in the Netherlands earlier this year, but summer festivals are a heat stroke waiting to happen for me, so I had to give it a miss.
Early Arrivals
We got to the Heineken Music Hall early last night, not long after the doors opened. We knew that going for a spot on the ground in the standing-room-only section would be a nightmare for us, knowing that we’d probably be surrounded by Dutch giants and not see much at all. Instead, we headed for the seated section in the back, but still got a decent spot. The hall soon filled up, with even the steps next to me in the seated section becoming impromptu seating.
By the time the show started — which included their beautiful song Mirrorball, of course — the place was packed! The show itself was amazing. So worth the years of waiting to see them live! Besides making great music, they put on a fun show, with lots of laughs, as well as some moments of heart-aching beauty. As the saying goes, “I laughed. I cried. It was better than Cats.”

One of the best moments of the show came when the band joked that since they’re celebrating 20 years together, the audience should sing Happy Birthday to them. We dutifully did, and then things took one of those wonderful turns and the audience ended up surprising the band by launching into the Dutch birthday song. It started off in patches, but eventually, the whole audience came together in one voice, singing and cheering, while the band looked on in amazement. They truly had no idea what was going on but seemed to absolutely love it all! See for yourself:

Crafts and Cupcakes

Teacup Jewelry
For once, I’m going to suggest that you go to Amsterdam if you’re within travelling distance. Specifically, go this Sunday, 6 March, to the Sunday Market (Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek,Haarlemmerweg 8-10, 1014 BE Amsterdam). Once there, go visit the booths of solohandmade and American Baking Company. You won’t regret it.

For one thing, you can buy beautiful necklaces like the ones in the above photo. Those are both ones I own and adore and wear regularly. Kerry, who is the solo handmaker, takes some of her beautiful photos and turns them into mini necklaces. She also makes various “pretty and practical” things, such as coasters, pillows, hair clips and more. You can see and order her items on her etsy shop.

The American Baking Company
While you’re wandering around the market, you may get a bit hungry, or maybe you will be looking for a little something sweet and delicious as a pretty end to your weekend. In that case, go check out American Baking Company. Based in Den Haag, they make the most divine cupcakes and other treats, such as pies, bars, cookies and cakes. They’re also absolutely beautiful to look at, but once you take your first bite, you’ll be too busy inhaling them to stop and look any more. Seriously, buy more than you think you’ll want, because once you’ve eaten the last one, you’re going to want more. They’re truly addictive. Fantastic flavors, moist cake, and frosting to die for! They also do fantastic traditional American flavor combinations, including peanut butter and jelly, and peanut butter and chocolate. Amazingly enough, considering the Dutch do eat chocolate and do eat a fair amount of peanut butter, they don’t put these two great tastes together! Fortunately, ABC is doing it’s job to spread the wonder of this flavor combination. They also have a delicious red velvet cupcake with wonderful cream cheese frosting, and all sorts of other flavors.

So go. Enjoy. And say hi for me. The people involved are my friends, but they’re also truly talented and wonderful people and I’m promoting them here because I want everyone else to see their work, because it’s truly fantastic.

Ticket Giveaway

So it looks like I’m going to have two free spots for The Phoenix Foundation gig tomorrow night at Paradiso in Amsterdam. If you’re interested, leave me a comment here or e-mail me and we’ll see what we can sort out. Of course, tickets are only €8.50, so you should still go anyway, even if not through me.

If you want to hear their latest album, Buffalo, you can check them out on 3VOOR12!

In the meantime, here are a couple more videos of some of their songs. And don’t forget that their new album, Buffalo, is now available in Europe. You should buy it. It’s good stuff!

Gay Pride

I couldn’t sleep last night, so I was up checking Twitter and Facebook and saw some news that suddenly made me not so unhappy to be awake. Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriages in California, was overturned! Wonderful news! As a friend of Ken’s said, “Welcome back to the 21st century, California!”

It seems somehow appropriate that this hateful law should be overturned this week in particular. After all, this is Gay Pride Week here in the Netherlands, with a huge variety of parties, concerts and parades going on all over Amsterdam. The events start today with the opening party cruise, but there are all sorts of parties going on all weekend. The biggest, of course, is the famous canal parade on Saturday.

More than 500,000 people are likely to be at the canal parade this year, and there are 80 boats participating. It’s looking to be one of the biggest and most diverse parades yet and there are some new participants this year that really make it seem like the world is starting to move in the right direction on this topic. For example, this year will see Jewish and transgender boats represented, and I’m particularly interested to see that there will be boats there representing Africa and Europe. Considering the risk to their life that many people of the GLT community face in Africa, it’s good to see people standing up in support of them. I’m particularly thrilled to see the EuroPride boat, featuring members of the EU parliament and the EU anthem being played by an orchestra. After some of the responses I’ve seen from politicians in the US to the idea of equality for people based on their sexual orientation, it’s nice to see a governing body putting more emphasis on promoting this kind of equality.

The theme of the festival/parade this year is Celebrate. With the overturning of Prop 8 and the inclusion of more and more groups, both political and cultural, into the parade, it definitely seems like there’s a lot to celebrate this year.

For the record, the Netherlands was the first country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage. This event took place 1 April 2001. The country hasn’t fallen apart yet, nor is there anarchy in the streets, and straight marriages haven’t disappeared. Since then, numerous countries have followed suite, recognizing either same-sex marriages or civil unions. Hopefully, more will follow suit and in another nine-years, having to fight for the right to marry the person you love will just be a distant memory. At least we’re starting to move in the right direction.


For the full list of events and times (and if you’re going to the parade get there EARLY!!!!), check out the Amsterdam Gay Pride website (in multiple languages) for times and links for purchasing tickets. There are films, sports and so much more going on over the next few days, so you’re bound to find something of interest. If you’re coming in from out of town, even if you live in Utrecht but don’t want to deal with trying to get a train home after a night of partying, you might want to check out VoucherCodesUK, which is currently offering a discount of 10% off hotel bookings at Hotels.com. And because this is a blog about Utrecht, don’t think there isn’t stuff to be experienced here. Nighttours.com has a listing of various events, as well as restaurants and hotels and such that are particularly gay-friendly.

Foto Vrijdag 2.28

The End
World Cup Celebrations
This is a bit of a World Cup wrap-up edition of Photo Friday. I’m still going through a bit of withdrawal from not having regular matches to watch, and yes, I’m still a bit sad about the outcome. And that’s all I’ll say on that. After all, judging from the parade/party that took place on Tuesday in Amsterdam, you’d never know we got silver instead of gold. There was a huge boat parade of the Dutch team through some of the canals of Amsterdam, with people following along in their own boats, or lining the canals for a view.
Dutch Football Team

They even watched from the rooftops.
Oranje Bedankt

The players were having a good time, as well.
Van Bommel en Sneijder
Dirk Kuyt

After the boat tour, they ended up at the Museumplein for another massive orange party.
Oranje Zee
It was a fun party to watch, even just on tv. (Yes, I took photos of the television, but it was to help my non-Netherlands-living readers get a better idea of just what kind of party went on!)
For a better feel for it all, here’s a video someone made with clips from the televised festivities.

Utrecht, Italian Style

Giro Di Sinkel
Friday night we took my parents to De Muntkelder, the fun pannenkoekenhuis (pancake restaurant) on the Oudegracht. It’s one of those things you just have to do with visitors. Afterward, we headed over to Graaf Floris for Irish coffee and appelbollen. As we got to Winkel van Sinkel I couldn’t help but notice a bit of decoration strung up. I also noticed a couple of bikes up on one of the railings. Oddly enough, I didn’t at first think of the bikes as decoration; I found myself assuming they’d been strung up there by some random person being silly. After all, it’s not the first time I’ve seen bikes in strange places here.
Parallel Parking
However, I soon realized that those bikes were supposed to be there, and the decoration was there to celebrate the Giro D’Italia bicycle race that is making an appearance here in the Netherlands this weekend. (The first stop is often in a country outside of Italy.) The riders are going from Amsterdam to Utrecht and should be going through the city center here later this afternoon. In fact, they should be passing the end of my street, so hopefully I’ll be able to get a glimpse of it all if the crowds aren’t too deep (and tall).

Meanwhile, the city is covered in pink, the color of the Giro D’Italia. There are Ronde Van Italië (Dutch way of saying Giro D’Italia) flags and banners up all over town, along with lots of independent displays, including some nice show window displays. Even the Domtoren has been lit pink in the evenings.
Giro Domtoren
Winkel Van Sinkel

Another Moment

Today is Dodenherdenking, otherwise known as remembrance day. It’s the commemoration of all civilians and members of the armed forces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War II. (Source)

The main celebration is held in Amsterdam at Damplein, with a national two minutes of silence at 8 p.m. Radio, tv, and I gather even traffic halts at this moment. I will be in Amsterdam tonight, although I’ll be in the Melkweg waiting for the second Flight of the Conchords show. I’ll be curious if they do anything inside at that moment.

Tomorrow is a national holiday, Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day), celebrating the Dutch liberation from German occupation during WWII. There will be celebrations and music performances all over the country.

ETA: They did, in fact, observe the two minutes of silence at the Melkweg last night. They had a sign on the door announcing they would do so, and someone came out and announced it at the time.

F of the C

The Phoenix Foundation
Can’t sleep. Too excited!

Well, I really couldn’t sleep this morning, and as I lay there tossing and turning, I started thinking about the Flight of the Conchords show I’m going to tomorrow (and Tuesday) and that did get my mind going, making it even harder to fall back to sleep. You try getting back to sleep with Jenny going through your head!

I became a fan of the Flight of the Conchords five years ago, but this is the first time I’ve gotten a chance to see them live. They didn’t bother touring the US until I moved here to Europe and now this is the first European show they’ve done in ages. It’s about time! After years of following them, back when there was so little available we treasured every rare photo or video piece that showed up. Now fans have such a plethora of things to choose from. Kids these days don’t know how easy they have it. 😉

I’m looking forward to hopefully meeting a few people at the shows, as well. I know I’ll be meeting one of the writers from Trippist, as well as two women from Sherry’s wonderful What the Folk website, who have flown in from the US just to see the Amsterdam shows. I know a few more of you are going and would love to meet up if possible, even if just for quick hi. I admit that I’d like to get a chance to meet Bret and Jemaine, as well. I may technically be a Bretaholic, but after the occasional — and completely unexpected, out-of-the-blue — PMs from Jemaine himself about NZ music, I’m particularly curious to meet him, since he seemed to remember me somehow.

Speaking of New Zealand music, the photo above is of The Phoenix Foundation, a fantastic band that I’ve mentioned here before. It was because of FotC that I found out about them (and numerous other NZ musicians). I got to see TPF way back in 2006, for three gigs in New York. I had a fantastic time and they put on a wonderful set of shows. They’re also just a really nice bunch of fellas. I’m hoping they’ll be touring a bit of Europe in the near future, particularly since they have a brand new album out. You can hear it here through their official website. If you want to purchase it and you’re outside NZ, I recommend Amplifier. I’ve bought both downloads and physical CDs from them for years and never had any trouble at all.

By the way, I’ve never been to the Melkweg, where they’re playing, so I’ve got two questions. How easy is it to get there from the train station, and how strict are they about no photos? I’d like to take my camera, obviously (and I don’t use the flash, especially for shows like this), but I don’t want to be turned away because I’ve got it with me.

Music With a Kiwi Flavor

If you live in Amsterdam or Utrecht, or anywhere remotely near the two, go see Ryan Prebble this week and next. He’s a fantastic musician from New Zealand, playing a blend of blues, funk and experimental. I’m definitely going to see him next Wednesday here in Utrecht when he plays U Rock! Café, and I might look into going to Amsterdam this weekend to catch one of the shows. He’s playing this Thursday at Bitterzoet, Saturday at Winston Kingdom, and Sunday at Blijberg. If you even remotely like what you hear of his music on his MySpace page, or in the video below, go see him. Support the arts!

Plus Ten

Center Balcony
after the show

Last Saturday, 10 of us (René, Merian, Guy, Willianne, Edmar, Eric, Lip, Giovanni, his mother and myself) went to the Bimhuis in Amsterdam to see The Bad Plus. They’re a modern jazz trio from the US, who also had a guest vocalist with them who joined them for the second half of the concert. The Bimhuis itself is a fantastic structure, and the concert was really good. I truly enjoyed it.

I took a handful of photos that night, during one of the last songs, just for the hell of it. Today I got an e-mail from an editor of a Dutch jazz blog, Draai om je oren, that asked to use one of my photos to accompany the review they’ve done of the show. Cool! I guess you get more attention if you get your photos up on Flickr very quickly, even if they’re not that good. I’ll post a link to the review if they do end up using one of my photos.