Melanie Martinez at Melkweg, Monday 2 May 2016

After visiting the World Press Photo exhibition in Amsterdam the other week, I walked to the Melkweg to meet Fiona in the queue for the Melanie Martinez concert. Fiona is a big fan. Having learned our lesson from the Halsey gig in February, Fiona had got there even earlier than me, at about 13:30. There were still about 200 people ahead of us, but when I showed up at 15:30, there were even more behind us. The fans first in line must have been there since early in the morning, or maybe they camped overnight. (Although I didn’t see any sleeping bags.)

200 ahead
Many more behind

Apart from the roadies and security staff, I was by far the oldest person there.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting and standing around, watching videos or listening to podcasts and music on our phones, and getting colder all the time. Fiona went off to get a makeup pencil so she could apply a cry baby tear to her cheek, like many of the others in line. Melkweg staff toured the line periodically to make sure we weren’t blocking the road, to collect rubbish (mostly futile), and to lead groups inside for toilet breaks. The tickets said doors at 19:00. We kept a careful eye on all signs of activity near the entrace, so we were ready to move when the doors actually opened, and the line instantly collapsed into a tight swarm. We were early enough that we could have got floor spots about six or seven back from the stage. Fiona wasn’t sure about the view, though. The balconies were still mostly clear, and we got some excellent positions up there.

With a good view locked in, Fiona went off to grab a poster and a cry baby necklace from the merch stand. While we were waiting for the opening act, we amused ourselves by identifying the “Concert Dads” in the audience. They were pretty easy to spot. Midde-aged men, usually with their arms crossed, bemused at what they’ve let themselves in for, standing slightly apart from a teenage daughter, conspicuously trying not to look like a chaperone.

Concert Dads, we salute you

Dudes, I’m not judging. So long as you don’t throw your pint all over me, enjoy the music however you like.

A Concert Dad deliberately trying to embarrass his teenage daughter.

The Alvarez Kings came on at about 19:40. I had been listening to them during the day, and I was liking their track “Tell-Tale Heart”. They played through their EP Fear To Feel, and three other songs I didn’t recognize. The song they opened with, “Run From You”, starts with a two minute slow burn, and then erupts into a wall of guitars and noise. The crowd loved them; I thought they were excellent; Fiona was “meh.”

Alvarez Kings at Melkweg

When Melanie Martinez came on, the whole place melted down. The gig was originally scheduled for the Oude Zaal at Melkweg (capacity ~700), but had been moved to The Max (~1500) because it was so popular. At least 95% of the people there were young women in their teens. I had thought that Halsey’s fans were enthusiastic, but it felt like every single person in Melanie Martinez’s audience was singing along with every single word of every song, at the top of their voices. To the point where it was hard to hear her sing. At the start of “Sippy Cup”, she sang a different, slower intro than on the album. The crowd started singing it in the tempo of the recorded version and almost drowned her out. They backed off briefly, but started up again at full volume when she launched into the body of the song. I can’t blame the fans for having a great sing-a-long time with their favourite artist, but I would have preferred to hear more of Melanie Martinez herself than the chorus. (Hmm. It’s almost like there’s a reason the audience skewed young.) Melanie Martinez’s voice did seem strained and weak, so maybe that’s why I was having trouble hearing it. She commented on it the start of “Soap”, and at the end of the gig she said she would love to come back to Amsterdam again when her voice was better.

(Set list: she played the album Cry Baby in order. I was surprised, but Fiona wasn’t. She explained that the songs form a narrative, and need to be played in the right order.)