De Staat at Hedon Zwolle, Thursday 24 November 2022

Torre Florim whipping the audience into a frenzy

I only discovered De Staat in September this year. My excuse is that I don’t listen to the radio much, and my music discovery experience has been fairly narrow in the last several years. When I was younger I was afraid that my musical taste would get stuck in the 1980s or 1990s, and I’d end up listening to golden oldies for the rest of my days. That’s not happening, but I do need the occasional prod out of my comfort zone to go and find new things.

Seeing live music is a good opportunity to see new bands in support of acts I already know and like. For example, Bleu supporting Toad The Wet Sprocket; Thumpers supporting Chvrches.) I follow some shared playlists on Spotify, and get recommendations from music channels at work. I occasionally dip into the Stereogum blog, which is where I found MUNA this year (just too late to catch their European tour). I find that podcasts have taken the place of music radio when I’m driving these days. Although I enjoy the podcasts, I do think I’m missing out a bit there. If I’d been tuning in to Dutch radio (e.g. at all in the last five years I would have heard De Staat and known that they’re huge here.

Torre Florim dancing across the stage

They’ve been touring Europe this year, and have just kicked off a string of completely sold-out gigs here in the Netherlands. The secondary market for tickets seemed to run through TicketSwap. I signed up for alerts to a handful of dates relatively nearby. TicketSwap send out push notifications through their app whenever a ticket for a gig you’re interested in comes up for sale. From my experience at work, I know that push notifications don’t reach every target at exactly the same time. Depending on how big the batch is, it can take seconds or minutes for all the notifications to be delivered. In the case of these gigs, the TicketSwap app showed that there were hundreds of other people also wanting to buy tickets for them.

But I got lucky, and a few weeks ago I happened to respond quickly enough to bag a ticket for their concert in Zwolle on 24 November: the opening night of their Dutch tour, even!

Ticket for De Staat in Zwolle

After last week’s experience with resale tickets, I was feeling somewhat apprehensive about using this ticket for De Staat. However, it looks like TicketSwap have actual integrations with ticketing platforms, and when someone wants to sell their (digital) ticket, they have the ability to invalidate the original ticket and issue a brand new one for the buyer. Inside the TicketSwap app, the ticket had had my name on it. The app also seemed to make it a very easy operation if I wanted to sell the ticket on again. TicketSwap have a policy of not allowing more than a 20% markup over the original price when reselling tickets, which is impressive and admirable.

Zwolle is about an hour and a half away by car. Late Thursday afternoon I got caught up in a production incident at work, and left later than I’d intended, but I made it there shortly before 20:00. I parked nearby, walked to the venue, and got in without a problem. I think I’d been holding my breath a bit when my ticket was scanned, but it was all OK first time round. YAY.

My first thought on entering the foyer was: wow, this is a very different crowd than last Sunday. Let’s say that if I could be uniquely identified as “the old guy with the blue hair” at the Set It Off gig; here I was just “the guy with the blue hair”. I’d say the audience was mostly in their 30s and 40s. At Set It Off I’d heard lots of English voices; here it was all Dutch. Relaxed vibe. My hair got a few looks, but I didn’t feel out of place.

I’d arrived just a little late to see the whole opening act, but I caught the last twenty minutes of Personal Trainer, and enjoyed them. De Staat came on at 21:05.

Set list:

  1. Look At Me
  2. Danger
  3. Blues Is Dead
  4. Input Source Select
  5. Numbers Up
  6. Old Macdonald Don’t Have No Farm No More
  7. Peace, Love & Profit
  8. One Day
  9. Refugee
  10. Who’s Gonna Be The GOAT?
  11. Make Way For The Passenger
  12. Pikachu
  13. Mona Lisa
  14. Head On The Block
  15. Witch Doctor


  1. Phoenix
  2. Paying Attention
  3. Kitty Kitty

They played all the tracks from their latest releases RED and YELLOW, but only “One Day” from BLUE. That makes sense, because it’s a live event, and they wanted to keep the energy going, and the BLUE songs are the more down-tempo ones. Overall, they chose a ton of crowd-pleasers (“Input Source Select”, “Make Way For The Passenger”) from their back catalogue, although they did include a couple of moodier tracks as well.

I’ve got to say: wow. This was an astonishingly good gig. The band were tight, and the songs were made to get the audience jumping. Singer Torre Florim is visually striking, and he’s a gripping showman on stage. His physical performance reminded me a bit of Duncan Wallis of Dutch Uncles. He has completely different moves, but he’s similarly mesmerising. For the song “Pikachu” keyboardist Rocco Hueting joined him on centre stage for their ridiculously simple but brilliantly staged dance-off. That alone was worth the price of entry.

Rocco Hueting and Torre Florim doing their Pikachu dance

The audience knew what they were doing. In their best-known music video (although the band have got an amazing overall track record) for the song “Witch Doctor”, a giant crowd of computer-animated figures jump and dance in a whirling circle around Torre as he performs the song. At their gigs, where they build up to this as the last song in the main set, this translates into a moshing maelstrom in front of the stage, as the audience turns into a human gyre in front of the stage. (I was just outside it. If you attend one of their shows, it’s worth knowing about!)

They closed out the show with a 3-track encore, ending on the hefty dramatic beats of “Kitty Kitty”, which made full use of their colourful lighting rigs. Aside from being a stormingly good performance by the band, the light show was clever and complemented the songs brilliantly.

They closed the night with Kitty Kitty, using the same red and blue colour scheme as in the music video

Definitely one of the best shows I’ve seen in recent years. I’ll be keeping an eye out for future tours, because I’d love to see them again.

Set It Off at Tivoli Vredenburg (Pandora), Sunday 20 November 2022

Cody Carson singing his heart out and Zach DeWall jamming on the guitar behind him

This gig was cursed.

Fiona got into Set It Off back in the 2018-2019 era. (Quick count…3-4 years ago.) The band released their album Midnight in early 2019, and they toured the US and Europe in March and April (including Melkweg in Amsterdam on 23 April, in the Upstairs space, which has a capacity of about 250). After the sold-out April gigs, they announced more European dates in the autumn, and would be at De Helling in Utrecht on 17 October 2019. I think it was shortly after this that Fiona spotted the event, and by that point it was sold out. Luckily I managed to get two tickets on the resale market Viagogo.

Poster for Midnight world tour part 4, take 1 (produced in April 2019)

At this point Fiona had played the band’s music for me on our drives to and from school and various appointments, but I hadn’t paid it much attention. Fiona was into them, and it would be fun to go to a gig together. Little did we know how this would play out.

In early September the band’s singer Cody Carson had to undergo vocal surgery, and they had to postpone that leg of their tour. The Utrecht gig was rescheduled for 6 April 2020, and moved from the 450-capacity venue of De Helling to the 650-capacity Pandora room at Tivoli Vredenburg. Looking good, guys!

Poster for Midnight world tour part 4, take 2 (produced in September 2019)

Hmm, April 2020. Yeah, that didn’t happen. The band announced in March that the April dates would be moved. In early April they rescheduled the dates, and the Utrecht one was moved to 8th September 2020. How hopeful we were back then!

Poster for Midnight world tour part 4, take 3 (produced in April 2020)

Sooo…the pandemic lasted a while. In July 2020 the band recognized that September wasn’t going to happen, and they rescheduled the dates for May 2021, now calling it “Midnight World Tour: Part Four the love of god don’t make us reschedule this again”

Poster for Midnight world tour part 4, take 4 (produced in July 2020). Now renamed to the “Part Four the love of god don’t make us reschedule this again” tour.

How charming that we all though 2021 would happen. In April 2021 the European dates were rescheduled again (again), this time for March 2022 (Utrecht on 6th March). Surely by 2022 everything nothing else would kick it off schedule. Right?

Poster for Midnight world tour part 4, take 5 (produced in April 2021). “THE MIDNIGHT WORLD TOUR PART 4 THE LOVE OF GOD DONT MAKE US RESCHEDULE AGAIN, AGAIN”

By the start of March Tivoli Vredenburg had a “postponed” notice up on their website for the gig — perhaps unsurprising because the band was right in the middle of the launch of their new album Welcome to Elsewhere on 11 March. I called Tivoli to double-check and confirm that it wasn’t going ahead. It wasn’t until later in the month that the new (new (new)) dates were announced. This time… 20 November 2022.

Poster for Midnight world tour part 4, take 5 Welcome To Elsewhere European tour (produced in March 2022) Glamour shot with colourful skull.
Poster for Midnight world tour part 4, take 5 Welcome To Elsewhere European tour (produced in March 2022). Tour dates.

Okay, here’s the problem: by the summer of 2022 Fiona had turned 18 and had moved to Scotland, so she wasn’t going to be around in the Netherlands for a November gig.

But wait! The band was playing the Garage in Glasgow on 6 November! That would be much easier for Fiona to reach. Except…that gig was sold out as well.

Nevertheless, she persisted. When Fiona came back to Oostzaan for her mid-term break in October, we made plans. I still had a KLM flight voucher from a cancelled trip back in the early days of the pandemic. We used this to book flights for Fiona to fly back for the weekend of 19 & 20 November, so we could finally get to see the band together. But also, Fiona kept checking TicketMaster to see if any resale tickets came up for the Glasgow gig. Belt-and-braces approach. We’d been waiting so long that we weren’t going to miss it.

And fortune smiled! The week before the Glasgow gig, Fiona was able to score a single ticket. By coincidence, I was in Scotland the weekend of 6th November as well, and I took the train over to Glasgow to meet up for a bite to eat before the gig. Fiona had bought a VIP upgrade, and I dropped her off at the doors just before she and a couple of dozen others got invited in for a meet-and-greet and photo session before the show.

Outside the Garage before the Set It Off gig on Sunday 6 November 2022. Many goth. Much make-up and coloured hair. Wow. Also the seed of an idea.

Mission accomplished! After a three year wait Fiona finally got to see one of her favourite bands, and she had a great time. The critical dependency on everything going right for the flights later in the month was gone.

Which was just as well, because the week after the Glasgow gig and just days before she was due to fly back to the Netherlands Fiona tested positive for Covid, and she couldn’t come over after all. But at least she had got to see them once.

All’s well that ends well, right? Well…the story doesn’t end here.

By this time, I had also got really into the band, and I was super excited about seeing them live. Their latest album Welcome To Elsewhere is a slight departure from Midnight: a little less emo and a little more power-pop-punk; a little less Panic! At The Disco and a little more Marianas Trench. The music videos and promotional material for the tour feature the band with vibrant backdrops and multi-coloured hair. I found myself with the desire to do something a bit off-the-wall for myself…

Long time ago, I used to dye my hair spiky blonde. Fiona and I had hatched a plan to dye my hair a bold colour for the gig. Before she got sick we thought we’d do it in secret just the two of us, so it would be a surprise for Abi. But when Fiona couldn’t make it over after all, I brought Abi in on the plan. Abi helped me select the necessary hair products, and we bleached and then coloured my locks a bright indigo blue last Saturday.

Me with my first blue hair, Abi grinning in the background. Yes, that’s a bin liner I’m wearing.

Fiona joined us on a video call while it was all in progress. It was great fun, and I look fabulous.

It’s still not over.

Inspired by Fiona’s VIP experience, I bought a VIP upgrade package for myself. The top tier package was sold out for Utrecht, but the “ordinary” upgrade, with a signed poster, a souvenir flag, and a photo op with the band was still available. (If Fiona had been able to come across, I would have got this for both of us, but that didn’t work out.) On Sunday evening I set out for Utrecht just after 16:00. Doors were at 19:00, but the advance email said to be there an hour and a half before. It was raining heavily and the drive was slower than expected, but I still got parked near the venue at about 17:15, and then had a short walk over to Tivoli Vredenburg.

Inside, there was a group of about 20-30 people waiting in a marked-off area. Judging by their appearance (Set It Off shirts and hoodies, coloured hair) I figured this was the queue for the gig and VIP entry. I checked with a staffer, and they said, “Oh the VIP experience? That started half an hour ago.” They pointed me over to the ticket check by the escalator, and I rushed over, hoping I wasn’t too late.

When they scanned my printed ticket (from back in 2019, remember – and still marked as for “De Helling”) the scanner beeped and flashed red. Barcode not recognized. Sorry. The other ticket (I’d brought both) was the same.

I’ve bought concert resale concert tickets before, and this was the first time I’ve had a problem. The tickets weren’t old-fashioned physical pre-printed tickets, but rather PDFs downloaded from TicketMaster, uploaded to Viagogo by the buyer, and re-sold to me. (Like NFTs, only without the cryptographic guarantee of a blockchain. Don’t worry, I’m not going there.) They still had the original buyer’s name on them, but that has never been a problem for me before. Maybe it was because the gig had gone through a venue change and so many reschedulings? I walked over to the ticket counter and queued up there to ask for help.

The ticket counter was not terribly helpful. They checked the barcode, and found it wasn’t in their system. They don’t have access to the back-end ticketing system for TicketMaster or De Helling. Sorry. Nothing they could do.

I think I’d been mentally preparing myself for things to go wrong on the way to this concert, so although I was disappointed, I wasn’t feeling angry or tearful. At least Fiona had got to see them two weeks ago! And if she had not caught Covid, and had in fact flown over for the weekend only to be stopped at this hurdle – I think I would have been more upset because I would have felt responsible for it.

But I didn’t give up yet. There were more avenues to explore. I retreated to a quiet corner of the foyer and looked up the customer support number for Viagogo. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised when I found that they had a live customer support number, and that it was staffed late on a Sunday afternoon. The person I spoke to was clearly reading from a script. They asked me if I had any evidence that I’d failed to get in with the ticket they’d sold me. At the time I thought this was weird — they want me to take a selfie with the guy scanning the tickets? — but on reflection makes sense. But I’d left the queue already, and it would have been hard to do while I was talking on the phone.

Their first approach was to see if I wanted a refund. No. I’d paid for the tickets (including their 30% “processing fee”) three years ago, and the money was (fortunately) no longer relevant. I wanted to see if they could do something about the tickets, but I didn’t see what they could do. They said they’d escalate my call, and promised to call me back in 10 minutes.

After getting off the phone I spent a good fifteen minutes resetting my password and trying to log in to my Viagogo account on both their website and their app. Eventually I got in and tried to re-download my tickets, in case the versions I’d printed off previously (at least a year ago) had been updated. The site and the app showed me a link to the tickets, but clicking on it only gave me an error.

It was about 18:30 by this point. I wasn’t giving up yet. While waiting for a callback from Viagogo, I called De Helling to see if there was anything they could do. A very helpful staffer took my details, and said he’d call the ticket desk at Tivoli and see what was up. A few minutes later he called back and said that he couldn’t get through, and asked if I could give my phone to someone at the ticket desk. Fortunately the queue was relatively short, and I handed him over to the staffer I’d spoken to earlier.

After they conferred for a while, the outcome was this: it’s possible that the person who originally sold their ticket (issued by TicketMaster) to me (through Viagogo) had requested a refund from TicketMaster at some point during the postponement and rescheduling. Viagogo isn’t integrated with TicketMaster, so when TicketMaster sent out email updates about the gig, they would have been sending them to the original buyer, who may have seen a “click here to get a refund” link and taken advantage of it, even though he’d already sold the ticket. If so, [REDACTED], you’re a dick. What the hell, dude. Not cool.

However, another possibility was that the ticket reseller (Viagogo) still had to send through last-minute adjustments. Apparently Tivoli were expecting a “new batch of barcodes” at 19:00, so as a last resort I could try scanning my tickets again after that time.

I sat down for a while and watched the queue stream through past when they opened up admission at about 18:50. When the initial rush had passed twenty minutes later, I went up to try my tickets again, but still no joy. The staffer with the scanner was totally cool about me taking a busted-ass ticket selfie. This wasn’t the first time he’d seen this.

Hostage photo of invalid ticket

Viagogo still hadn’t called back. I retreated to a quiet corner of the foyer and was tucking everything back in my bag when a Tivoli staffer came up to me and said that they liked my hair colour. Aww. I must have been looking sad, and that was a really nice thing to do. (In general, Tivoli is a fantastic venue.)

I left the building and started walking back to the car. I’d parked in one of the multi-storeys of the Hoog Catherijne complex, and had to pass through the shopping centre to get back. Given some of the negative reviews I’d read while I was waiting, I didn’t have much hope of Viagogo calling me back after an hour and a half of nothing. But I had come this far, and I would regret getting home without having given it one more try. So I found a quiet spot and called Viagogo again.

And this time, after about ten minutes on the line to a different person, they somehow found a pair of replacement tickets (even though I only needed one). I was flabbergasted and delighted, and not just a little apprehensive. These tickets were, again, PDFs that had made their way through the Viagogo system, but they were issued by Tivoli, for the 6 March 2022 version of the gig.

It was about 19:35. I hurried back to Tivoli and made my way to the foot of the escalator where the tickets were being scanned. While I was waiting in a short queue, another Tivoli staffer came over and asked if I was okay, because she’d seen me rushing back and forth, looking frantic. (And I guess with bright blue hair at my age I may have been somewhat memorable?) I gave her a super brief recap of what had just happened, and she walked with me while I held up my phone to the staffer with the scanner. And after turning up the brightness on my screen to get a good reading…I got in! I turned and beamed at the staffer who’d stood with me, and she gave me a big smile back. Lovely people.

(Kudos to Viagogo: they came through in the end…after repeated calls. That said, this experience has dampened my enthusiasm for resale tickets that are just second-hand PDFs.)

I’d blown past the time slot for the VIP experience, but I didn’t care any more. I took the escalator upstairs to the 6th floor. There was a long queue for the merch stand in the foyer there, probably about 60-80 people long. The Pandora room was up one more flight of stairs. Trembling ever so slightly with relief, I waited in the merch line while the sound of the opening act, Weathers, drifted down.

It was about 20:25 by the time I got to the stand. I picked out a T-shirt, and asked the merch guy if there were any posters. “Nah,” he said.

“They were just for the VIP experience?” I asked. “I was on the list, but I had a problem with my ticket and didn’t get in on time.”

“Oh okay,” he said. “Let me check for you.” He rummaged around behind the screen behind the stand, and came back with a banner and a signed poster.

“Oh wow,” I said. “Do you need to see my ticket to prove I was on the list?”

“Nah, mate, you’re good.”

Flabbergasted and delighted again, I paid for the goods, then grabbed a locker and stashed my bag and jacket and merch haul. I went up the stairs to the 7th floor, and I opened the doors to my first concert since February 2020.

Set list:

  1. Skeleton
  2. Projector
  3. Killer In The Mirror
  4. Why Do I
  5. Ancient History
  6. Lonely Dance
  7. Who’s In Control
  8. Unopened Windows
  9. The Haunting
  10. Nightmare
  11. Loose Cannon
  12. Dangerous
  13. 9-song medley: Dream Catcher, No Disrespect, Upside Down, Uncontainable, Third Wheel, Different Songs, Bleak December, Admit It, Partners In Crime
  14. Bad Guy (with drummer Maxx taking a turn on vocals and ukulele, while Cody took over on drums)
  15. N.M.E.
  16. Hypnotized
  17. Why Worry


  1. Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

(I was happy to find that my memory palace technique for remembering set lists still worked. I was a bit shaky on the songs in the medley, though, because some of them were from their older albums, and I’ve spent most of my time listening to Elsewhere, Midnight, and Duality.)

The show was wonderul, and not just because it was my first live music in two and a half years. The band looked like they were having a ton of fun on stage. Singer Cody Carson has and infectious smile and terrific charisma, and he easily got the adoring crowd chanting and jumping and waving in unison. It was a well-rehearsed set, full of energy, swelling chords, and heavy guitar riffs. I was glad I’d brought hearing protection.

Was I the oldest person there at the gig? Yeah, maybe. Do I care? No. Was I glad I’d dyed my hair for the event? Damn right.

I’ve missed live music a lot.

Bury Us

I’d call this my “song of the summer” if it weren’t one of the only new songs I’ve listened to recently. For whatever reason (Lockdown = no concerts? Stress = retreat from novelty?) it feels like I’ve been listening to Underworld non-stop since March, with occasional forays into Kimbra and Mull Historical Society whose previous album Dear Satellite seems so strongly embedded in my memory that it feels like it ought to be way older than 2016.

Not that listening to Underworld non-stop is a bad thing – their one year “Drift” experiment is an apple cart full of crunch and wonder. I just wish I’d returned to them in time to catch them at the Ziggo Dome in November last year.

As another illustration of how out of touch I am with current music, I kept wondering why the awesome song “Blinding Lights” by TNAF wasn’t included on their new album Recover, until the original (massive global hit, lol) by The Weeknd came up on our weekly playlist at work, which this week has the theme “Earworms”. Sure is catchy! I’d never heard it before. I prefer the cover.

(Made for Triple-J’s Like A Version)

Okay, you get some Underworld, too:

Deacon Blue at the AECC Aberdeen, Saturday 3 December 2016

Any band that stays together long enough becomes its own tribute band. The danger of being a tribute band is the audience shows up for just the hits. I saw this when we went to see The Who at the Ziggo Dome a couple of years ago, when they were doing a special “Quadrophenia And More” tour. I love Quadrophenia, but most of the crowd didn’t wake up until the band finished their main set and launched into the “…And More” section. You know, “Who Are You”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, etc.

I got that same feeling at the AECC on Saturday evening seeing Deacon Blue. Although I don’t think their latest album, Believers, is quite so strong, their previous one, A New House, is one of their very best. I like it when bands keep moving forwards. When I see them live, I want to hear their new material as well as the old songs. At the AECC, although the crowd nearly lifted the roof off for songs like “Fergus Sings The Blues” and “Dignity”, for quieter new songs like “Birds” it seemed like everyone decided it was time to talk amongst themselves. The audience was almost as loud as the band. This may have been down to the venue, which is basically a shed. It’s built for cattle markets, not concerts. No cloakroom, no lockers, or anywhere to stash your coat on a freezing Aberdeen evening. The stage looked hastily thrown together, and the sound was loud but thin. Ricky Ross said it was the biggest venue that Deacon Blue were playing on this tour. He wisely stayed quiet about which one was their favourite.

Maybe I was just projecting my own gig fatigue and a sense of dissatisfaction about the venue, but the band looked…tired and bored. Now, I have loved Deacon Blue since Raintown. When The World Knows Your Name was released in my last year at secondary school, and I vividly remember it playing in my head when a couple of friends and I came to Scotland to walk the West Highland Way just after graduation. As a teenage Scot living in the Netherlands, trying to figure out where I belonged, the band struck me in a very emotional place. I should have been much more excited about finally seeing them live, but in the end it felt more like a tick in the box.

One of the problems with seeing concerts in rapid succession is a certain feeling of obligation: I should get in the mood for an upcoming concert by listening to the band’s music. But the timing doesn’t always work out. In the days after the Frightened Rabbit gig earlier in that same week, all I wanted to listen to was more Frightened Rabbit. And on the day of my journey to Aberdeen I found that the only album I’d downloaded on Spotify for offline use was the new We got it from here… by A Tribe Called Quest, and I spent the whole trip listening to that, and loving it more and more on every play.

Although it was Deacon Blue’s concert that drew me to Aberdeen last weekend, it was everything else around the gig that made the trip worthwhile. The train ride up the East Coast in the afternoon was lovely and relaxing (even though Scotrail cancelled the first class service I had booked). In Aberdeen, I met up with Dave (Hi Dave!), whom I haven’t seen for about ten years. We met at the delightful CASC bar and talked for hours, stretching the time up to the point where I had to take a taxi out to the AECC instead of taking a bus or walking. Seeing Dave again, and picking up the friendship like hardly a day had passed, was the highlight of the weekend. (And I’m not just saying that because he’s watching.) After the gig ended, I took a “gig and go” bus back to Union Street, which was positively buzzing with people in a party atmosphere. It was great to see Aberdeen so vibrant. The next day I took a lovely walk, and had another nice train ride down to Dundee, and stayed with Mum & Dad overnight.

So: regrets? No. Would I go and see Deacon Blue again? Maybe, if the venue was right.

Set list on

PS: Gregor Philp, who plays guitar with Deacon Blue, looks quite disturbingly like Nigel Eccles, CEO of FanDuel. At least from a distance. It was quite distracting. Every time I’d look over to stage right, I’d wonder where Nigel had picked up those licks, and whether the board knew he was moonlighting at the weekends. Go on, tell me I’m wrong.

The Heavy at Melkweg The Max, Saturday 21 May 2016

Hot and sweaty, shouty and jumpy.

I was a warm day, and I wanted to stretch my legs. I walked to NDSM and took the ferry to Westerdoksdijk (not Tasmanstraat any more). Walking along the Wesetrdoksdijk, I caught some views of the buildings on the IJdok that I hadn’t seen before. I’ve passed them on the water often enough, but I’d never stopped to look at the buildings from this angle before:

I walked to the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal and caught a tram the rest of the way to Leidseplein. JPNSGRLS (pronounced “Japanese Girls”, yet consisting of four dudes from Vancouver, Canada) were on stage already. I bought myself a cold beer and found a good spot to watch. I hardly ever drink a beer at concerts these days, but the circumstances of a nice walk on a warm day were perfect for a cold pilsje. It was good. JPNSGRLS were good, too. I hadn’t listened to any of their music before, but they played well and got the crowd on their side with a batch of solid rock beats.

The Heavy were a completely different matter. They tore it up, and the crowd went wild for them. Unlike my last two concerts at Melkweg (Halsey and Melanie Martinez) I was down on the floor, just a couple of heads back from the jumping and moshing, but still in the middle of the hands and arms and clapping and shouting. The band opened with “Can’t Play Dead”, then three tracks from their new album Hurt and The Merciless. Front man Kelvin Swaby complimented the audience on how we were joining in on the new songs. “What’ll happen if we play something you know even better?” he mused, and launched into “Short Change Hero.”

The whole gig was like that — a mix of new songs and old favourites, with the crowd loving all of them. I had listened to the new album a few times, but what struck me at the concert was that those songs are made to be played live, with an audience joining in at key moments. The recorded versions are good, but they really come into their own when Swaby asks a thousand people to howl like a wolf when he waves his old-fashinoned silver mike during “Big Bad Wolf”, or shout “up!” when he points his arm skywards Usain Bolt-style during the chorus of “Turn Up”.

Set list:

  1. Can’t Play Dead
  2. The Apology
  3. Not The One
  4. Miss California
  5. Short Change Hero
  6. Nobody’s Hero
  7. The Big Bad Wolf
  8. Curse Me Good
  9. Same Ol’
  10. Since You Been Gone
  11. Last Confession
  12. Turn Up
  13. What Happened To The Love?


  1. Slave To The Love
  2. What Makes A Good Man?
  3. How You Like Me Now

After the gig I emerged into the warm Amsterdam evening. The café tables of the Leidseplein were crowded, and the air was full of dozens of languages. I bought a slice of pizza and wandered back up the Leidsestraat and the Spuistraat back to the station, soaking in the summery atmosphere. Friday evening after the Bleached gig I took the ferry across to Buikslotermeerplein by the Eye, and Abi drove me home. Yesterday I waited around for a bus, listening to The Glorious Dead on my headphones, and watched river traffic pass by under the watchful gaze of the newly opened Adam Toren. Its various lookout bars and restaurants opened last weekend. The top of the building is illuminated and looks fabulous. Must visit it soon.

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.)