Berlin with Bowie

Last weekend DB and I and 2 friends took the train to Berlin, mainly to see the David Bowie exhibition. P. is a maniac Bowie fan and this was his birthday present from K.  DB and I just went along for gezelligheid.

We left Amsterdam at 7am Friday morning and rode the train for 6 hours.  We talked, ate snacks, and I knit my travel project.  We checked in to rooms in a really nice small hotel in the North-Center of the city. Already Friday afternoon DB had bought an album (on vinyl), I had bought chocolate and we drank beer.

Saturday morning we were up early because we had tickets for a particular time slot at the museum.  Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos of the Bowie exhibition.  On the one hand that made me a little sad, but on the other hand it freed me from thinking about taking photos and to enjoy the event instead, and also freed me from annoying people putting their cameras/phones in the way.

The exhibition was mainly about his costumes, but was a full emersion experience with headphones with music and voiceover, videos, and pictures and artifacts from Bowie’s life.

The costumes were just amazing. They were all exquisitely made down to every detail.  Here is a photo from the V&A web page.  I just loved this exhibit.  It made me feel nostalgic, and in awe of this creative genius.  The exhibit will be in the Netherlands, in Groningen, at the end of 2015.  We’ll be going back!

We also saw, on another floor in the museum, an exhibit by WeiWei, the Chinese dissident artist. After seeing Bowie, this was so different and kind of a let down.  I understand that the topic was to demonstrate the way that he has been dealt with by the Chinese government, but both DB and I asked ourselves, if he wasn’t treated in this way, would he still be a famous artist?

I really like Berlin. This was the 3rd time I’ve been there.  If I had to live in a city, this is one I could live in.  We spent most of our time in the old East Berlin.  There are so many great shops and cafes!  And markets.  We were there last time in January and it was ice cold and snowy.  What a difference the weather makes!  There were no people out and about in January.  In July the city is humming with people, outside at cafes, beer gardens, shopping. It has a nice buzz going.

I didn’t take a lot of photos during the weekend (compared to my usual clicking habit) but here are some of the best.

The above photo was taken at a flea market Sunday morning.  They are boxes full of old black and white photos.  I couldn’t stop myself from looking through them, wondering, who are these people? are they still alive? what were their lives like? why are their photos here in this box?

Best Kept Secret 2014 – Fashion Backward

Last weekend we went to Best Kept Secret – the music festival that began last year (we were there) and had an expanded version this year.

We showed up Friday afternoon with our tent, 7 friends and their tents, and 15,000 of our other closest friends.  We left on Monday morning, exhausted but happy and ready to do it again next year.

Of course there were bands and lots of good food, all of which you can see and hear through the very nice movies that the event themselves made. The official site is here, their youtube channel here, and you can always like them on FB.

What I want to tell you about, which I always report on from festivals, is fashion.  At festivals I spend my time listening to music and observing the crowd.  There’s always a fashion trend.  Always.  And every year it’s different.  One year at LowLands it was the huge variety of rain boots.  Last year at BKS it was jeans shorts with black tights (for girls) and long hair wore up in a top knot (for boys). Thank god those trends were hardly to be seen this year. Ugh.

Now, based on this little video, the festival itself would have you believe that the fashion trend was flowered shirts (for both sexes) and while I agree they were certainly to be seen, by far the most popular pattern was this….

Just look at this guy.  He’s the trifecta of plaids – shirt, shirt lining and backpack.  Plaid, folks, is the new festival fashion of 2014.  Back to the ’70’s of my youth, or back to the ’90’s of many other festival goer’s youth.  Be it Neil Young or Seattle grunge, plaid is hot once again.

Plaid shirts…

Plaid shorts…

Plaid accessories…

And not only plaid for boys, also plaid for girls…

And of course, plaid in the band…

I put 30 of my favorite plaid photos into an album here.  I took at least 50 photos of plaid. And then I just got tired of it and stopped.  There was too much!  Neil would have been proud.

 

Best Kept Secret – the secret it out!

We spent this past weekend at Best Kept Secret Festival in Beekse Bergen, just outside Tilburg. Three days of music, camping, sun, rain, food, friends, fun. This was the first year of this festival. We were all guinea pigs, but willing participants in this experiment. What’s it like to go to the inaugural year of a festival? In this case, fantastic. The organizers have had years of seeing how other festivals are organized and have taken the best of the best and tried to bring it all together on the beach of a manmade lake.

The festival web site is showing photos and clips from the event, and you can also see a lot on the 3voor12 web site. And a nice short movie that captures the event feeling very well here.

The Camping

We got to the campground early. It opened at 10am and we were there at 11am. As you can see, we thought we’d found paradise and were ready for a quiet camping experience like no other festival ever.

Four hours later, and the scenery had changed quite a bit. It became just like any other festival camping with people crammed in, tent stake to tent stake. Ah well.

At least they had thought of everything at the camping, with a camp store, plenty of showers and toilets, phone charging station, and hot cooked breakfasts available. We were usually up very early compared to everyone else (being old people you know) and didn’t have to wait in long lines for anything. Early bird gets the worm.

Friday night, however, was pretty sleepless. I’ve never in all my festival going years heard so much partying and screaming all night long. I think this was because there was no place on the festival grounds itself for people to party all night if they wanted to, so they did it in the campground instead. Bummer. It really sucked to go to the second day of the festival without much sleep.

Saturday night was marginally quieter, but I also took a sleeping pill and had my earplugs in, and that was the Best Slept Secret for me.

Food

Food is important at a festival. At least it is for me. I appreciate having decent food choices when you are a captive audience. LowLands is famous for great food. Into The Great Wide Open also had really good food. I think this is the trend for festivals in the Netherlands since this festival also made sure to have the best festival food possible. Gourmet burgers, big BBQ’s with whole chickens and pigs on a spit, vegetarian and organic food and excellent coffee bars. K. and I decided to go into business with coffee and cakes since there were such long lines at the coffee bars. In our dreams anyway. Absolutely nothing bad to say about the food here. Only compliments to the organization.

Festival Grounds

You wouldn’t think that it’s so important to mention here, but it is, because something happened at this festival that is unique and fantastic – it was CLEAN! No trash anywhere. People put their trash in the bins. Grounds people were everywhere picking up what didn’t make it into the bins. It was such a nice change from the trash pit that other festival grounds become after only one day. This made the whole thing much more enjoyable. We aren’t toddlers who can’t pick up after ourselves. We’re adults and we should just pick our crap up. Somehow at this festival it happened. I have a theory about this, and it’s really a theory that goes for any environment where people live. We don’t actually like living poorly. If a standard is set in the first 5 minutes of coming into some surroundings, those standards will be maintained by people. Thus, if you enter an area and it’s a garbage pit, you will throw down your trash like everyone else. And the reverse is also true. If you see a place is clean, you are likely to also keep it clean. The organizers certainly made the right decisions to give us a super festival grounds.

OK, now that I’ve said the good part, here are some tips for next year to make it even better. First, MORE TOILETS! They put out more places for men to pee after the first day when there weren’t enough and men were peeing in the woods everywhere. Solved. What about the women? The queues for the toilets were just crazy long, all the time. More toilets please!

Second, tent TWO needs to be sorted out. It was too small for some of the bands playing there. We were inside when Alt-J was playing and were so packed in that it became scary full. People started to become aggressive. We left, but getting out was not fun or easy. We saw fights nearly start. The problem is that there is no space around the outside of the tent to just hang out and still hear the music. For example, at LowLands, outside Alpha you can sit on the grass on 3 sides of the tent, which hundreds of people do. That wasn’t possible at tent TWO. OK, the rain didn’t help, but still, there needs to be more space around the stage and tent for more people. Or just make the tent itself twice as large (and keep the ticket sales the same). Also, I found the acoustics at TWO pretty bad. I read that some people didn’t think it was loud enough. It was plenty loud, but just badly set up. Far too much echo and bouncing sound everywhere.

Shopping

Festivals have to make money every way possible and shopping is another way. At BKS there was very limited shopping and I was just THRILLED to see that they had set up a row of Etsy shops! What a fantastic idea. Totally non-commercial and fun and interesting stuff for sale. I bought a little wallet made of tape measures. I bought it on Friday and went back through there Sunday and that shop was gone. I hope they sold out. Also, on Saturday between the camping and festival grounds there were tables set up by independent record labels and record shops selling vinyl and CDs by artists you are not likely to hear on the radio. Great idea.

Fashion

There are always fashion trends at these events. Several years ago I made a little movie about the trend of the year at LowLands. This year? No movie, just photos, of girls in cut off jeans and black tights. OMG. Whoever said this was fashionable was just plain wrong. And all the girls who blindly do as they are told are just plain silly.

Fashion that’s trending up but not yet mainstream? Men with long hair wearing it up in a knot. It’s coming. Look out.

Weather

Unfortunately, the weather has a part to play in festivals. We had typical Dutch weather this weekend – a little bit of everything – sun, wind, rain, clouds. You’ve seen some photos with sun, now here are a couple of good rain photos.

You can’t do much about the weather, so let’s just move on….

Music

Finally, the music. This is why we came, right? Right. The festival advertises itself as focusing on the music (no art installations, no movies or discussion groups, no street acts) and that it did. There were 3 stages in total. It’s a small festival and it was easy to get from one stage to the next in time to see what you wanted to see. The only time it felt crowded and full was Saturday night, but was still manageable.

Here are my picks of the weekend.

Best Boys to Keep Your Eye On – Mozes and the FirstBorn – These local guys had lots of energy and charisma and catchy tunes, all sung in English. We will be able to say “we saw them way back in 2013” some day after they make it big. The lead singer looks scarily like a young David Crosby. He also had skills.

Most Improved – tied with Bloc Party and Alt-J. Both of these bands I’ve seen before, live and live streamed, and both gave much better performances than ever before. Alt-J with a full rich sound and singing on key! Wow! Bloc Party with more energy and fantastic drummer. Too bad that Alt-J was at tent TWO instead of the main stage ONE. The should have been at ONE. It was hard to really enjoy the music when you’re busy coping with such crowds of people.

Most Surprising – Damian Rice. It amazes me that one man on a big stage with a guitar and piano can hold the attention of thousands at a festival. He did. While I thought he was going to be boring and weepy, we were actually spellbound by his voice and stories. Now I’d love to see him in a smaller venue too. I’m a new fan.

Best all round – how can you pick just one? I can’t, so my 4-way tie goes to Maccabees, Balthazar, Fuck Buttons and Suuns.

Balthazar we’ve been following since first seeing them at LowLands (I think it was 5 years ago) and we’ve seen them 5 times now. Every time they are better and better. They have a huge following in this part of the world. They are from Belgium and there were a lot of Belgians at this festival. They always play “Blood Like Wine” as their last song. It’s a thing. The last lines of the song go …”raise your glass to the nighttime….” and all the people in the audience knew it was coming so we had our glasses ready. Here’s a photo I took of everyone raising their glasses and singing along. They took a photo too from the stage and posted it on their facebook page.

So, in summary, we’ll be back next year, if we can get tickets. Crisis, what crisis? Festivals and events sell out here in minutes. We tried to get tickets to ITGWO for this year and didn’t get any. Sold out in 10 minutes. I imagine this festival will go the same way. I hope the organizers can find a way to sell tickets fairly and nicely so fans get tickets and not scalpers and bulk buyers. We will do our best to do it all again. We’re all getting older though and I think next year a group of us will try to rent vacation houses on the site rather than camp out. We need more sleep to keep up with all the bands we want to see!

(All my photos on flickr)

Led Zep

It’s snowing outside.  The NS has changed the train schedules because they just can’t deal with the tiniest amount of snow and ice.  Therefore, I’m staying in tonight instead of going to Amsterdam to knit with my knitting buds.

DB sat down on the couch, flipped open his laptop and proceeded to play the Kennedy Honors Tribute to Led Zeppelin that was originally aired on December 26, 2012.  This was definitely better than going out into the cold.

If you are any kind of rock music fan you really should watch this. Led Zep, as Jack Black states, is the best rock ‘n roll band ever.  Every rock band since owes them a debt for their genius that lead the way.

During this tribute, others came on stage and performed Led Zeppelin songs, which only showed how incredible the band was.  No one can match that sound, that power, that hit you in your gut music.  During the last song (I won’t tell you what it was – you go watch it) Robert Plant got tears in his eyes and had to wipe them away.  It was really touching.  A short, but sweet, event.

If you watch the video you’ll see why I pulled out this photo and posted it here.  It’s one I took at Pukkelpop in 2009 of Them Crooked Vultures featuring Dave Grohl on drums and John Paul Jones on guitar.  Dave Grohl is an animal on drums.  I don’t think he should ever do anything else. This photo was actually stolen by a music e-mag and no matter that I asked them to take it down, it’s still on their site.  Ah well.

The last time we listened to Led Zep was on Christmas morning.  I bought DB “Celebration Day” for Christmas.  When was the last time you listened to Led Zep? Go on, do it now.

TodaysArt Festival

This past weekend we went to the TodaysArt festival in den Haag.  It’s a festival full of music, sculpture, video, film, dance and more I’m sure.  We only saw a small fraction of it.

Friday late afternoon we showed up and wandered into the City Hall Atrium.  We watched a team of people put finishing touches on the Landscape:

And watched Wolfgang prepare for his show later that evening as Mohn.

 

Unfortunately Mohn would be playing very late Friday night, past our bedtime, so I was really happy to get to hear a little of their music while they set up.

After we had some dinner we headed to the Lucent Danstheater and listened to “Music for Solaris”.

The music was played by the two composers, Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason and a small orchestra from Poland.  In the background a video played, using film from a movie adaptation and other manipulations.  It was often beautiful and surprising, very moody and captivating music.  My only criticism is that it went on just a little too long and in the end didn’t seem to have a connection between video and music.  The video ran out of steam and showed colored screens until the end of the music.  The actual end of the piece was lovely the way they dropped away to silence, but they should have done it 10 minutes earlier.

After that we went back to the City Hall Atrium to see that the lights had been set and everything looked very different.  Also, on the stage  was “Inneract”, another music/video concert, this time with a harp player and two keyboard/electronics players.  Here are some photos of the scene there.

Outside, in the Spuiplein, “The Vortex” was alive with music and lights.  It’s made of garbage that had been gathered from people in den Haag (The Hague in English).

Saturday we went back and watched the film “Outliers Vol. 1: Iceland”.  It was basically part documentary and part art film about 7 artists who went to Iceland to take photos and film and sound and create something from that.  It was so beautiful!  The country is beautiful and the images and sounds and music they made is also beautiful.  I really do have to go there.  Especially when the seasons are changing and there’s a chance of seeing lights in the sky.

We didn’t do much else Saturday at the festival because I was coming down with the flu.  By the time the movie was over I was already feverish.  We ate, then came home on the train.  I felt bad because there was still so much to see.  Oh well.  Next year.

The train home:

(All photos taken with Nikon D5100 and 50mm 1.8 manual focus lens (thanks Mom!), no photoshop done anywhere.)

Into The Great Wide Open

We spent the last weekend, actually a 4 day weekend, on Vlieland, the second of the chain of islands at the top end of the Netherlands.  This last weekend was the Into The Great Wide Open festival.

We drove to Harlingen, over the Afsluitdijk.

We took a boat across the Waddenzee to Vlieland.

We set up our tent at Lange Paal campground.

Luckily there are small trucks that carry all your stuff from Harlingen to the campground.  You are not allowed to take a car onto the island and everyone rents bikes to get around the island.  Here’s what camping looks like on Vlieland.

After we got our tent set up we hopped on our bikes and headed to the festival grounds.  Just like everyone else!

The festival officially started Friday afternoon, which is when we got there, but we heard that there were some unofficial, impromptu, gatherings and performances on Thursday night when people started to arrive.

There are 3 main areas where bands/musicians are playing, plus other areas where you can find art and activities (especially for kids).  The sports field is where the main stage was located, along with loads of food stands and a tiny ferris wheel and merchandise sales (very minimal).  A short walk from there was the Buiten (outside) stage which was set in the woods and was cozy and small.  Then, a bike ride away, up the hill near the lighthouse, was another small stage, the Vuurbuitsduin.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the weekend:

Whole pigs being roasted on a spit:

Kids running around collecting glasses.  They got 1 munt (2.50 euros) for every 20 glasses they returned.  The glasses were washed and reused all weekend.  These kids were tenacious!

It’s definitely a kid-friendly festival.  There were lots of things for them to do (besides collect glasses), such as “make your own poffertjes” (little pancakes).  There was also a place for them to make their own pizza.

Friday night we walked down to the beach.

And watched the sun set.

There was an art event on the beach earlier, but we missed it.  I did get a really nice photo of the piano though.

I love that photo!  It reminds me of Neil Young’s “On The Beach”.

We also went to the Vuurboetsduin stage late Friday night.  We didn’t like the music, but the stage and the setting was super.

Saturday afternoon was also spent on the hill, now in brilliant sunshine.

By the time Adrian Young took the stage, the place was packed.  Adrian and his band were great, and the band stay around after their set and mingled with the crowd, signing records and chatting.  It’s that kind of festival.

Back at the sport field and the main stage, things were heating up (or “hotting up” as the English say), with Alt-J:

And Balthazar (we are big fans of Balthazar):

And sake tasting (3 glasses per tasting with a nice explanation from the seller about each type of sake):

This photo was taken Sunday morning, at the Buiten stage, around 11:00 in the morning.  It was beautiful, sunny, in the trees, sitting on the forest floor drinking coffee and listening to interviews and music.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning!

Anne Soldaat being interviewed.  He sang for us afterwards.

Back to the main stage late in the afternoon and Dio was whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

Now there were turkeys on the spit:

And the sun was still shining.  How lucky were we!

Oh! I forgot to mention that we also spent some time hanging out in the sun on the dike that runs along the south side of the island.

You could see tall ships off in the distance.

And walking down from the lighthouse you could see the boats stuck in the mud of low tide.

The festival ended Sunday early evening and we made it an early evening ourselves.  I think we were laying in our sleeping bags before 10:00pm!  We were beat.  Monday morning we broke camp and loaded our stuff into the truck at the campground (after a last minute panicked search for bike lock keys stuffed into a backpack already loaded onto the truck! ok- my fault) and biked back to the harbor.  We returned the bikes and waited in the drizzling weather for our boat.  Somehow the weather had been beautiful all weekend and then started to rain the minute we left.  Talk about timing.

I haven’t talked much about music in this blog post, and music is the whole point of this festival.  Clearly from  my photos I think it’s about a whole lot more than the music!

My highlights of the weekend:  the weather, Vlieland itself – GORGEOUS, Sunday morning music and forest setting, and the great company (DB, K & P) and the festival organization in general – oh and real flush toilets!  Food highlights: Vietnamese, apple tarts, roasted pig and sake tasting. Music highlights: Janne Schra, Balthazar, Alt-J, Dirty Beaches (a little story about THAT coming up).  The negatives? Hmmm, hard to find negatives.  The food we had Sunday (old chicken and corn that wasn’t edible). That’s about it.

The festival is limited to 5,000 tickets and they plan to keep it that way.  We were lucky to get tickets.  You can only buy them online, starting at a certain date and time and they sold out within minutes.  Having a festival on Vlieland forces them to keep it small.  The island can only accommodate 8,000 people in total, including people who live there year round (about 1,100).  I really hope we can score tickets again next year.  I wouldn’t miss it!

OK, the story about Dirty Beaches.  They (a 3 person band) were playing at the small (tiny) stage across the field from the main stage.  They are from Toronto.  They play loud grating music that isn’t to everyone’s taste.  The singer looked like an Eskimo and seemed just a little crazy.  At the end of the short set he jumped off the stage and ran around hugging people in a manic fashion.  He wrapped one arm around DB and another arm around someone else and dragged them back and forth through the crowd.  Someone shouted “til hem op!” (lift him up) and they crowd surfed him around.  Finally he came to the ground and ended the set on stage.  It was during that meelee that DB’s sunglasses went flying, never to be seen again.  His good sunglasses that he bought in Chico.  Oh well.  It was funny and fun and we are now fans.

Here is a flickr set of my photos from the weekend.  I could really write up a story about each photo, but it would be too long and become boring.  You had to be there.

Walk on Water

Last night we went to see Orfeo ed Euridice (official poster above) at the Palace at Soestdijk.  This was (still is?) a royal palace, but it was/is a museum and special event place now.  The opera takes place on and in the water outside of the palace.

We were not supposed to take photos but I took a few before the performance began and sneaked a couple during the performance.  I wish I could have taken more. It was just stunning!  There was fire and water and music and singing.  The did amazing things with light and water.  Even the royal family got in on the act (you’ll have to go see it yourself if you want to know what I mean).

We got “cast and crew” discount tickets because a friend of mine plays the trombone in the orchestra.  Not only were they at a terrific discount, but they were great seats!  We were in the second row, left of center.  We thought that the performance started at 9:30 but that’s when the gates open, normally.  They vary the start time depending on the time of year and when it will be dark.  Last night the performance started just after 10pm as that’s when it was dusk.

Some photos:

I didn’t know the story in detail and was surprised that there was a happy ending.  After all the wailing and gnashing of teeth (figuratively of course) the story was saved by Queen Juliana.

I highly recommend going to see this wonderful opera production.  Even if you aren’t an opera fan, and I’m not, you will enjoy the spectacle and the surprises here and there.  You can get tickets here.  Be quick! August 8th is the last performance!