TWRP at Melkweg, Amsterdam, Thursday 28 September 2023

Three gigs in two weeks, wow, it’s been a while since I’ve been that active. There were a couple gigs I had to miss earlier in the summer because of circumstances (Maggie Rogers, The Heavy), but I’ve been catching up on activity.

Where 65daysofstatic was a gig, TWRP was a show. Alex has been a fan of theirs for years, and he’s the one who introduced me to their music. This is the first time I’ve seen them live, but I understand that this is what their shows are like: to match their costumed on-stage personas, they weave a scripted narrative between their songs, heavy on jokes and interaction with the audience.

This is their “International Business” tour, which is sponsored by “International Business Systems”. The crew wore blue IBS t-shirts, styled like the classic IBM logo. Of course, IBS can also mean irritable bowel syndrome, and they played on this double meaning with this throughout the act. The story line involved a new IBS prototype called GROBB (Good ROBot Boy), who turns evil (or at least very misguided) part-way through the show, and has to be defeated by lead singer Doctor Sung hacking into the mainframe. The masks that the band wear hide their expressions, but Doctor Sung makes up for it with his larger-than life antics on stage. It’s playful and terrific fun. The audience was 100% nerds, and totally on board for every second of it. The encore absolutely brought the house down.

In their music they often collaborate with other artists (Ninja Sex Party, Electric Six), but on stage Doctor Sung takes the vocal parts for himself with his talkbox. I was close to the stage, but way on the right, where I didn’t have a view of GROBB, but I did have a great view of the musicians themselves. In their recordings I hadn’t spotted quite how bass-led many of their songs are, but that came through very strongly on stage. Commander Meouch the bass player makes it all look easy.

Alex was there with his friends Rafael and Wim. I don’t think they’re as much fans as Alex is, but they all came out of the gig beaming, looking like they had a great time. Alex was positively bouncing off the walls. None of us particularly enjoyed the opening act (Jazz Emu), but the main event made up for it in spades. Very highly recommended!

Merch haul: an IBS t-shirt for me, as well as a tour poster and a couple of stickers. Alex got at least one t-shirt, probably more.

Set list (in collaboration with Alex and, because I didn’t recognize all the songs):

  1. Birth of the Blues (followed by introduction to GROBB)
  2. VHS
  3. Bright Blue Sky
  4. Polygon
  5. Only The Best
  6. Typhoon Turnpike -> Hidden Potential
  7. Atomic Karate (with nunchuks)
  8. Summer Everyday
  9. Superior Moves
  10. Have You Heard?
  11. Head Up High
  12. Synthesize Her


  1. Starlight Brigade
  2. All Night Forever

65daysofstatic at Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam, Saturday 23 September 2023

Second time seeing 65 in two weeks! This time I was back on home turf. Alex came along as well. We had both been somewhat nonplussed after their 2018 Decomposition Theory gig at the same venue, but this would be more like a “classic” gig. (In hindsight, I actually enjoy listening to Replicr, the album that Decomposition Theory evolved into, and I like listening to the Wreckage Systems livestream. But it wasn’t what I’d been expecting going into the gig.)

Abi dropped us off at Tolhuistuin. Alex was suffering from a blocked ear, so he’d be experiencing the music partly in mono, and partly through the heavy bass vibrations. Neither of us was super excited about Sugar Horse as the support act, so we showed up late.

It was interesting to compare the two gigs so close together. Tolhuistuin is a larger venue than St. Luke’s. The sound quality was also much better here: not nearly so harsh, and with much greater separation and clarity of the instruments. I did have earplugs with me this time, but I didn’t need them squeezed in to their absolute maximum capacity.

The band seemed much more relaxed up on stage, which is perhaps not surprising. The St. Luke’s gig was the opening night of the tour, and the first time they’ve played a full tour for quite a while. The times I’ve seen them they’ve never interacted much with the audience, but they had a little bit more chat in Glasgow than in Amsterdam. The break between the two halves of the set was much longer. In Glasgow, they left the stage for just a couple of minutes, while in Amsterdam they took a full 15-minute break. Alex and I watched the first half from the balcony, but we had time to queue up for a drink at the bar, along with a hundred other people.

After the break we found a spot downstairs and watched the second half of the set from there. Just as in Glasgow, they played the whole of Wild Light in the first half, and a collection of bangers for the second half. They didn’t play “Supermoon” in Amsterdam, but they did leave the stage and come back for an encore of “I Swallowed Hard, Like I Understood”.

The crowd seemed warmer than in Glasgow, but maybe that was because there were just more people in the venue. And as at the Decomposition Theory show five years ago, there was a dude who shouted “Radio Protector” before they played it… and after it as well.

Merch haul: a grey Wild Light t-shirt for me (L is a good size, but I don’t think the vinyl printing on the front is going to last well) and a black Specialists t-shirt for Alex.

Set list:

  1. Heat Death Infinity Splitter
  2. Prisms
  3. The Undertow
  4. Blackspots
  5. Sleepwalk City
  6. Taipei
  7. Unmake the Wild Light
  8. Safe Passage


  1. Debutante
  2. Install a Break in the Heart That Clucks Time in Arabic
  3. Retreat! Retreat!
  4. Crash Tactics
  5. AOD
  6. Asimov
  7. Radio Protector


  1. I Swallowed Hard, Like I Understood

65daysofstatic at St. Luke’s Glasgow, Thursday 14 September 2023

My friend Graham at work is an enthusiastic concert-goer like me. Last year he told me about a gig he’d been to at St. Luke’s in Glasgow. The venue, a small converted church just round the corner from the Barrowlands, sounded like exactly my kind of thing. Because I’m still over in Scotland regularly, I kept my eye on their “What’s On” page in case anything interesting came up.

And it did! Back in January 65daysofstatic announced a tour for the 10th anniversary of their album Wild Light, and they would be kicking it off at St. Luke’s. They would also be playing Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam. Because I wasn’t sure what my travel plans would be that far ahead, I just got myself a ticket for the Amsterdam gig. But as we got nearer the time, the circumstances lined up for me to be in Scotland just at the right time to catch them in Glasgow as well!

I even persuaded Graham to come along as well. (He didn’t take much persuading.) I was in Edinburgh for the day, and I drove over to Glasgow after work. I had a hard time figuring out how to pay for my parking at the Spoutmouth parking nearby, because I didn’t have any coins and I didn’t have a UK parking app downloaded and set up. But I got to the venue eventually, and we had some dinner (a nice pizza) at the bar/restaurant. We missed the opening act, Chipzel, although we heard quite a bit of it through the walls. As we were chatting over dinner we also discovered that we both have tickets to see Melanie Martinez at the Hydro in November with our daughters. Concert dads stick together 💪🏻.

The gig was good. The venue is pleasantly sized, maybe around 300 capacity? It wasn’t full. I didn’t have earplugs with me, and we were standing right in front of the speaker stack. My watch was giving me all kinds of alarms about being in a noisy environment, and it was right to do so – at the end of the evening my ears were ringing and the world sounded flat. In not sure if it was just proximity to the speakers, but the sound quality did seem quite harsh to me. (Perhaps the sound system is more suited to less noisy and distorted acts.)

The band played through the whole of the Wild Light album, then took a couple of minutes for a break, and came back on and played a selection of fan favourites. The last time I saw them was in 2018 on their Decomposition Theory tour, which was very different. This time they had the whole band plus Frank (whom they talk about on their Bleak Strategies podcast). The crowd was enthusiastic, but not exactly wild. Maybe a factor of age.

About four tracks in, I had the sudden notion that in my fluster around paying for parking, I’d left the rental car unlocked with my laptop and camera in my backpack in the boot. This was distracting, because I kept playing through scenarios in my head of what I’d have to do if they got stolen… In the end it was fine. I had locked the car, and no break-in occurred. But I didn’t perhaps have my full attention on the music at all times. Graham seemed a bit blown away by the end – I’m not sure if he had been expecting it to be quite so noisy

Set list:

  1. Heat Death Infinity Splitter
  2. Prisms
  3. The Undertow
  4. Blackspots
  5. Sleepwalk City
  6. Taipei
  7. Unmake the Wild Light
  8. Safe Passage
  9. Debutante
  10. Install a Break in the Heart That Clucks Time in Arabic
  11. Retreat! Retreat!
  12. Crash Tactics
  13. AOD
  14. Supermoon
  15. Asimov
  16. Radio Protector

Marathon walk to Alkmaar, Saturday 8 April 2023

At the end of my marathon walk in April last year I was limping and in pain. A blister on my foot about two-thirds along the route had caused me to shift my gait, and the uneven gait caused stress on my knee. The short-term muscle pain faded after a couple of days, but my knee didn’t fully heal for months. When we were on holiday in Scotland in August I felt it strongly on the descent stretch after walking up Cruban Beag. In September I was in New Jersey for work, and I walked from my hotel near the Holland Tunnel north to the George Washington Bridge, and the knee started hurting about 13km along.

I think it was probably a tendon injury. I remember ending up with tennis elbow in both my arms back in 2013 when I was doing a lot of bouldering and I had pushed myself too far too fast. Just because your muscles can handle a particular kind of exertion doesn’t mean that your tendons have strengthened enough yet. It look me about a year to fully recover from that, and by that time I’d got out of the habit of climbing, and I never really went back. (I do miss climbing sometimes.)

By the start of this year my knee was doing better. I was able to do longer walks without any twinges at all. I was also enjoying putting on a bit of pace, rather than just going for a leisurely daily stroll. I started to figure that I was working myself up to another marathon walk, and this time I wanted to do it differently. Specifically, I wanted to see how fast I could do one.

My previous marathon walks have been about just doing the distance, regardless of time. I’ve taken breaks to rest and relax along the way, stopped to take photographs, and just generally taken it easy. But since January my “brisk” daily walks were clocking in at 6.5km/hour or faster. Could I keep that up over the whole distance? At that speed I’d cover a marathon in about 6.5 hours. That seemed fast to me. I was curious.

So there were a few things I did to prepare for this. First of all, I tried to keep in training – continuing the habit of a fast daily walk of at least 4-5km. Longer at weekends. I wanted to give my muscles and tendons a chance to get used to the idea, and avoid a repeat of last year.

Secondly, I bought some new shoes. I’ve enjoyed Asics Patriot shoes for several years now. They’re comfortable, breathable, and great value. But they’re also “entry-level” shoes. In March I bought myself a pair of Asics Gel-Pulse 13 shoes (€68.95 at Plutosport felt like a bargain), and I broke them in over the course of a few weeks. (Note to self: I got them in size 44, and they felt big when I got them, but after adjusting the laces and wearing them in, they feel fine.) Maybe I’d used up the elasticity in the soles of my old pair of Patriots, but this new pair felt genuinely bouncy. I like them!

As well as shoes, I’ve also paid more attention to my socks. I’ve been wearing dedicated walking socks rather than generic sport socks for “proper” walks. They’re tight, and they reduce rubbing. They make a difference.

Third, I found that walking with music rather than with podcasts made a difference to my ability to keep up a good pace. Listening to a podcast is fine when I want to listen to a podcast first of all, and want to be doing something purposeful at the same time, rather than just lying in bed. Listening to music of the right tempo keeps me walking on the beat. Sticking to the groove becomes its own purpose. Rather than finding it boring to “just walk” without anything else to keep my brain occupied, I find it helps the kilometers pass by more easily.

Meute is great for this. Most of their music falls in the 123/124 bpm range, which is my “brisk walk” comfort zone. 120-122bpm feels good for warming up, or for slowing down a notch if I’m feeling tired. 125-126bpm is for when I’m up to full pace. Anything beyond that is fun for pushing myself for a while, but — at my current fitness level — isn’t sustainable over long distances.

I found myself using the website to gather tracks manually for a while, until I found Spotify’s own “advanced playlist tools” site If you log in with your Spotify credentials, you can pick a playlist and sort and filter the songs in it by BPM, and then save it as a new playlist. I gathered a ton of my favourite albums and tracks into a mahoosive mega-playlist, and then created new playlists for every BPM from 116 to 135 (LOL). I ended up with at least 20 tracks in each one. Most of them had around 60, but 120bpm had 138 – shows what a popular groove that is. This was enough to give me hours of variety even if I stuck to a single pace.

Finally, I bought myself an Apple Watch. This was a nice-to-have, not a necessity. I’ve had an entry-level Fitbit since 2019, mainly for sleep tracking and peripherally also for keeping an eye on my resting heart rate and daily walking distance. It does this very well. But the Fitbit ecosystem doesn’t integrate nicely with Apple Health, and I’m pretty well bought in to the Apple ecosystem.

The Apple Watch is a replacement for the Fitbit’s sleep, heart, and step tracking. It integrates better with MapMyWalk, which I use for walk tracking. It comes with some more sensors, such as ECG, fall detection, LOUD NOISES, though unfortunately not blood pressure, which I still have to measure and enter manually. It has some nice features, like being able to start, pause, and resume a “walk” workout from the watch, rather than having to pull my phone from my pocket. I can see my bpm/walking cadence and average speed easily with a glance at my wrist. If I want to skip to the next track in my playlist, I can do that from the watch as well. It occasionally unlocks my phone for me when I’m wearing a mask and Face ID doesn’t work, but it’s not 100% reliable at that.

I’m sure I could do all of these things from a more advanced Fitbit as well, and the Fitbit would run for longer on a single battery charge. I had worried about the stated “18 hour” battery life of the Apple Watch, because I want to keep it on at night for sleep tracking, not to take it off and leave it on a charger. But there are a number of features on the Watch that I explicitly do not want, such as notifications and an always-on display, or a voice assistant always listening to me. With all of these things turned off, it’s basically just a shiny black pebble of sensors strapped to my wrist, and I find it easily goes for 36 hours between charges. If I’m doing a “workout”, it polls the sensors to track things like position and heart rate more frequently than when I’m at rest, but even so I’ve never had a problem getting a whole day out of it. I’d thought that charging it so often would be annoying, but it’s fine. I’ve got used to it.

Also, it’s nice. It’s a nice object.

So on Saturday 8th April I got up early and set out on my chosen route, which was basically “north and then turn left”. One other thing I had decided to do on this walk was to travel light. I wore my Kühl hiking trousers, a T-shirt, and a light hoodie. I didn’t bring a backpack or bum bag. Just my phone, watch, headphones (my over-ear Sony WH-1000XM3, because they have better battery life than my Airpods), some painkillers and loperamide (because IBS-D), blister plasters, and some cards and cash. It’s Noord-Holland. Even walking through the polder, there’s population everywhere, and I could buy water or food along the way.

I left the house at 07:00, and headed out through ‘t Twiske just as the sun was rising. It was beautifully scenic, and I could have spent a long time taking pictures, but that’s not what the day was for! I took a couple of snaps, but I didn’t stop to compose them – I took them on the go.

On previous long walks I’d noticed that after a couple of hours on the go my fingers swell up. Apparently this is pretty common. One way that I’ve found to reduce it is to clench and unclench my hands a bit while I’m walking. Unfortunately the morning was also pretty cold, and my hands and arms were chilled, and I think I over-did hand clenches. Ironically, I think I accidentally gave myself a forearm tendon strain. A month and a half later my right forearm still hurts. (At least I’m not climbing.)

I set a good pace, well under 9 minutes per km for the first 10km, and then took a very needed toilet break when I hit Purmerend. (The AVIA petrol station on the other side of the Melkwegbrug was just opening.) (Even preventive loperamide has its limits.) I also grabbed a snack and a drink there.

I continued with a good sub-9-minute pace to the TOTAL petrol station just past Oosthuizen, where I took another toilet break and bought another snack and drink. A little beyond that was my “left turn” in the general direction of Alkmaar. I noted, but did not stop at, the cheese vending machine (“kaasautomaat”) at the Roos family farm just outside Oudendijk. (Abi and I would return there the next day.)

I hit 30km around Kathoek just past Oudendijk, and started to feel the distance. The dyke between Avenhorn and Ursem was pretty, but seemed to go on forever. This is also where I saw some blue-billed ducks on the canal. Blue seemed a weird colour for ducks? I snapped a photo of them with my phone just as a reminder to look them up when I got back home, and resolved to maybe come back with my long lens for a better look later.

At Ursem, about 35km in, I stopped for another snack and drink at Cafetaria Eethuis Jem. I didn’t need to use the toilet, but I really needed the blood sugar, and a little sit down to gather my energy for the last stretch. In hindsight, I should maybe have got some frites with a bit of starch rather than another snickers bar, but I didn’t have much sensible appetite.

The last 7km to Alkmaar were a slog. Although I’d kept my average pace below 9 minutes per km up to that point, it was over 9 for the remaining distance. I hit 42.2km in the Park van Luna on the south side of Heerhugowaard at 13:48, claiming my marathon distance in just under 7 hours overall, with an average pace (including breaks) of 6.2km/hour. Very nice. Could I do it in under 6.5 hours? With a bit more training, and perhaps some more sensible snacking along the way, maybe. But I was very pleased with a sub-7 time.

Very serious. Not much smiles in me at that point.

Also: no blisters! The combination of training, good socks, and good shoes seemed to have done the trick. Sure, my feet were sore, but other than a slightly numb toe they weren’t damaged. I wasn’t even feeling completely exhausted. I walked on through the park a bit further to the Strand van Luna where I waited for Abi to come and pick me up. Then we even stopped at the Kingloopwinkel RataPlan in Alkmaar where Abi had seen a nice bedside table earlier in the day, and we hauled it back to the car.

Abi drove us back, and we picked up McDonalds on the way home.

Epilogue: blue-billed ducks.

I was curious what they were, and I wanted to go back to see if I could see them again. Were they just passing through on their migration? Were their bills only blue during mating season? Was this the only week I’d be able to see them?

Also, the walk had taken me past the bridge at Oudendijk, where Abi and I had stopped briefly several years ago. There was a café just on the water that had been closed at the time, but we said that it looked like a nice place to come back to. So the next day we did go back there.

We drove along the dyke between Avenhorn and Ursem. We saw the derpy Unicorn on the banpaal. We saw some geese, coots, and cormorants, but no blue-billed ducks. It was, however, later in the day, and ducks are often most active in the mornings and evenings. I figured I’d have to come back at a different time of day.

We drove back to Oudendijk, stopped at the bridge, and had a lovely lunch at the Café Les Deux Ponts there. The morning had been cool and cloudy, but as soon as we got there the clouds burned off and it was warm enough to sit outside on the terrace overlooking the water. We saw some mallards, but again no blue-billed ducks.

I finally caught them when I returned to the dyke on the following Wednesday evening. I’d had a shitty day at work and wanted to get out of the house and out of my head. I drove back north, parked at Avenhorn, and walked along the dyke just as the sun was setting. I found one pair just past the bridge near the banpaal. They were sleepy at the end of the day, but not so sleepy that they were unaware of me. As I got closer to the water, they casually swam to the other side of the canal. And when I crossed the bridge to try to get closer again they just casually drifted to the other side again. I got the message.

I found a second pair just short of the bridge as I was walking back. These two were a little more active. It was cold and the light was starting to go, but I managed to get a nice photo of them.

Turns out they’re tufted ducks. They’re not rare at all. I’ve probably seen them before, but I’d just never paid attention. Now I know.

And So I Watch You From Afar at De Helling, Utrecht, Saturday 20 May 2023

The last gig Alex and I went to together was an odd 65daysofstatic date on their Decomposition Theory tour. Alex enjoys a lot of jazz & prog & math rock, and I thought he would enjoy ASIWYFA. I sent him links on Spotify, he had a bit of a listen, and decided to give it a go. The show in Utrecht wasn’t sold out, so it was easy to grab another ticket for him. He checked to see if any of his friends wanted to come along as well, but they weren’t available. Abi was in Scotland with Fiona. We just went the two of us, driving to Utrecht and parking at the Vaartsche Rijn car park just round the corner from the venue.

It was my first time at De Helling! It’s a nice little venue just outside the city centre, with a capacity of just over 400. Little bar in the foyer, and a chunky box with a stage. I was glad we both had earplugs for hearing protection, because the sound was a bit rough. We didn’t get there in time for the opening act (A Burial At Sea), but with it not being sold out, we were still able to claim a good spot close to the stage. (And the stage was clear enough that I could get up close and snap a picture of the set list lying there; see below.)

The band came on and played nice set, with plenty of fan favourite tracks, and two new ones. (For the second one, they said it was the first time they had played it live… and then added “…in Utrecht” to finish the joke.) After the show, bassist Ewen Friers was staffing the merch stand, and he said that they had recorded all the material for a new album, and that it should be coming once they’ve put the finishing touches to it. Exciting!

(If they ever tour their concept album Jettison again, I’ll be first in line for tickets.)

Set list:

  1. Three Triangles
  2. A Slow Unfolding of Wings
  3. Mullally
  4. Heft Sulk
  5. Dying Giants
  6. New Track – possibly “Herman Mor”, on subsequent gigs on it’s indicated in this position.
  7. A Beacon, A Compass, An Anchor
  8. A Little Bit of Solidarity Goes A Long Way
  9. Terrors of Pleasure
  10. Set Guitars To Kill
  11. 7 Billion People All Alive At Once
  12. Big Thinks Do Remarkable


  1. VIII Jettison

Merch notes: Alex got an “Extended Childhood” shirt, and I got a huge and gorgeous limited edition poster for the (cancelled) Red Forest Festival in Berlin and Dortmund.

Son Mieux at 013 Tilburg, Thursday 13 April 2023

Mid-week gigs where I have to travel a bit to get to the venue often feel a bit weird. Taking the metro in to the centre of Amsterdam to see a show at Melkweg or Paradiso? Fine. Finishing up early at work, doing something for dinner, taking the metro to Centraal, then a train to ‘s Hertogenbosch, & a change to another train to Tilburg? Felt weird. (Even driving an hour and a half to Zwolle didn’t ring these same bells.)

My train was late in to Den Bosch, so I missed the short connection, and I ended up arriving at the venue just a minute before the show started. It was a sell-out gig, and I could only just get in the door and find a spot at the edge of the crowd. 013 is a bit of a barn. It can take about 3000 people, most of them at ground level, some on a balcony. Lead singer Camiel Meiresonne mentioned that apart from festivals, this was the biggest crowd they’d played to so far. They had another two nights at the 6000-capacity AFAS Live in Amsterdam coming up in a few weeks, so that would soon be superseded, but the audience gave them a great cheer anyway. It’s fun to be part of a band’s big moment.

Apart from the travel to get there, the gig itself also felt a bit weird. They played their biggest hit to date, last year’s “Multicolor”, as fifth in the set. They ended the main set with a slow rendition of the already downtempo “Heavy Water”, and during the song the band seemed to all just drift off the stage one at a time, leaving Meiresonne and the guitarist on their own…then they they left, too. The recorded version of “Heavy Water” rises to a decent outro, but the live version didn’t have the same energy, and it just faded out, leaving the audience confused about what was happening. Was it all over?

When the house lights didn’t come back up, the crowd got the message, and summoned the band back to the stage with enthusiastic applause, calls, and whistles. They gave a good encore, ending with profuse thanks and an extended version of their second-biggest hit, “Dancing at the Doors of Heaven”.

The one advantage of being right at the edge of the crowd, just inside the door was that I was also first out, and first to the merch stand where I picked up a vinyl copy of their album The Mustard Seed. Not that I have a record player; but if a band doesn’t have a tour poster on sale, I might buy their LP and stick it up on my wall as a substitute. LPs make decent posters; CDs don’t. (I do still sometimes buy tour T-shirts, but their quality and sizing can be so variable that I often find myself not wearing them much.)

Set list:

  1. This is the Moment
  2. 1992
  3. Drive
  4. Everything
  5. Multicolor
  6. Tell Me More
  7. Tuesday
  8. Can’t Get Enough
  9. Will (Part 1)
  10. Will (Part 2)
  11. The Mustard Seed
  12. Heavy Water


  1. Nothing
  2. Dancing at the Doors of Heaven