Amsterdam: last day at the IJMF

Sunday morning we were all excited to get a chance to sleep in a little bit after the craziness of Saturday’s concert. We took our time getting over to the festival and caught a couple of the workshops being offered by the jury. After the workshops ended, we quickly ran through what we were going to play in the afternoon’s Winner’s Concert. We were given a 20-minute set to close the concert and lead into the all-contestant jam session. Not wanting to completely repeat what we had been playing all week, we decided to open with our “Idol Set” and then go into a set of “Gasn Nign” into “Balkan Freilach”. We also settled on a couple tunes to lead in the jam that we figured everyone would be likely to know.

We didn’t have much time between ending rehearsal and having to be back for the concert (a running theme of our experience at the festival, for sure)–I basically had enough time to run back to the hostel, grab a change of clothes, and head back to the theater to change. The atmosphere in the warm up room was much different than the previous days–it was far more relaxed, but everyone was super exhausted.

The concert opened with Vira Lozinsky and the Emil Aybinder Ensemble, who had won the Grand Prize the previous evening. Following them was Itamar Erez, the guitarist from the guitar/percussion duo appropriately called “Duets”, who, although not appearing in the final round, won many awards from scouts in the audience (the guitarist performed solo on Sunday, as the percussionist was already en route back to Israel). Finally, Ezekiel’s Wheels took the stage for our final performance at the International Jewish Music Festival. We played well, but honestly, it was a bit anti-climatic after the previous evening’s concert. Our energy was good overall, but we could all really feel how tired everyone was (both in the band and in the crowd). Once our set was finished, we invited any contestants who wished to come up and play to make their way to the stage. The onstage jam wasn’t as big a hit as the festival organizers had hoped (only a few folks came and joined us), but after the concert, the jam that ensued out in the lobby was much livelier.

Once we dropped off our instruments and changed, we were mostly excited just to have our first relaxed sit-down meal together out of the whole trip. We made our way back over to De Bekeerde Suster, the cozy bar we stumbled into our first night in town, and proceeded to stay for a few hours eating, drinking, talking about the festival and the future for the band, and just enjoying not having to rush off to play more.

That evening, we finished up all of the postcards we needed to send to our kickstarter backers and went to bed for the last time in our large hostel room. Nat and Abigale were set to leave early the next morning, and we all woke up to eat breakfast in the hostel and see them off. Jon and Pete were planning to leave the next day (while I was still in town for another week), so the three of us set off to actually see some of Amsterdam.

Mostly, we wandered around the city, enjoying the beautiful views of canals and houseboats, and meandering through tiny cobblestoned streets. We made our way over to Vondelpark (the largest park in the city) and out for coffee, tea, and bagels before setting off to return the bass. Bringing the bass back to the bass shop wasn’t nearly as big as an ordeal as getting the bass from the bass shop–we mostly had our navigational bearings and made it across town in about a half hour. Once we got rid of the bass, we ventured over to the nearby Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a brewery and bar located in an old windmill. It was nice to hang out there for a bit, followed by another dinner at De Bekeerde Suster to round out the day. That night we stayed in my parents’ hotel room (they were out visiting relatives in the countryside).

The next morning, we all made our ways to Amsterdam Centraal, the big train station in the northern part of the city. Jon and Pete were headed to the airport to fly back to Boston. I, on the other hand, was headed out to Meppel, to meet up with my parents and to visit some distant relatives who live out there. It was a little bit of a bittersweet departure–just like everyone else, I was exhausted and could have definitely enjoyed spending a night in my own bed, but on the other hand, I was also excited to still have another week in the Netherlands to explore.

(Coming up: my week of hanging out in Amsterdam by myself!)

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