Amsterdam: solo travels after the IJMF

After seeing Jon and Pete off to the airport, I took a mostly uneventful train ride out to Meppel, about an hour and a half outside of Amsterdam. My fatal train flaw, however, was not knowing I had to push a button next to the doors to have them open at the stop, so I had a little bit of a round about journey going a stop too far and then backtracking. Anyway, I finally made it to Meppel, where I met up with my mom and distant-relative Marie. We drove back to Marie’s house, which was pretty deep into the countryside (they have a thatched roof and sheep!). Marie gave us a tour of the property and took us on a walk in the woods nearby. My parents ended up going back to Amsterdam that evening, but I stayed the night.

The next day (Wednesday), I made my way back to Amsterdam in the afternoon, stopping off first at my parents’ hotel to pick up my stuff, and then on to the hostel near Vondelpark I was going to stay at for the rest of the week. After unpacking in my much smaller room (only six beds instead of 20…), I set off for dinner at De Bolhoed, a vegetarian restaurant in an old hat shop. I got a huge plate of vegan food before setting off to Zaal100, a small theater on the northwestern part of the city. I had read about an experimental improv show on the internet and was curious to check it out. The crowd was small, but very engaged. The first act consisted of an upright bassist, accordion player, and tenor sax player all improvising and moving around the small stage as a man projected artwork on the wall behind them. The second act was a drummer and another tenor sax player. My favorite act was the final one, which was four women on piano, voice, violin, and alto sax who played a mixture of experimental pop, jazz, and classical original tunes. They had a lot of improvisational elements to their music, but with very strict structures, and engaged the crowd well (though I have no idea what they were saying since it was all in Dutch).

Thursday morning I met the rest of the folks in my hostel room before setting off to send out the 42 postcards Ezekiel’s Wheels had written to our kickstarter backers. The guy helping me at the post office was certainly amused and a little bewildered by the volume of postcards I was sending. Next I set off to check out the Van Gogh exhibit at the Hermitage Museum (the Van Gogh museum was closed for renovations, so the highlights of the collection were at the Hermitage). That evening I trekked all the way out to the Tropentheater, a concert venue specializing in non-Western music, to see Azerbaijani vocalist Gochag Askarov and his ensemble. The guy at the ticket booth was really friendly and only charged me the student rate for admission, which was awesome, and I was really impressed by how talented the musicians were.

Friday the weather was finally beautiful (it had been mostly raining during the time I was there), so I spent most of the day in Vondelpark reading on a bench and wandering around. I met up with a Danish woman from my hostel room named Sara and we dropped in to a classly little bar behind the Concertgebouw. That evening I went to a really experimental art show with four other women from the hostel–we were all super confused by the performances, but had a great time wondering what exactly was going on.

Saturday was spent hanging out with Sara and a woman from South Africa named Frances. We checked out some art exhibits associated with the huge dance event happening in Amsterdam, strolled through some street markets and into a radical bookstore, wound up seeing a movie in a beautiful old theater just so we could see inside, and finished up the evening back at the hostel bar listening to a local Irish band.

Sunday was my last full day in the city. I started the day by going to the Anne Frank House, where Anne Frank and her family were in hiding during World War II. Next, I walked all the way across the city (through a giant carnival that had been erected in Dam Square) over to the Tropenmuseum, the museum affiliated with the Tropentheater. It was interesting for the most part–a bunch of somewhat generic exhibits displaying cultural items from different parts of the world. After wandering through the museum, I took a walk through the nearby Oosterpark, another large city park. I made my way back over to the Brouwerij ‘t IJ (the windmill bar), where I finished up the novel I was reading, and then went over to see the library, which I heard had beautiful views of the city. I hung around there for about an hour before going over to Bimhuis, a concert venue in the harbor that was featuring the Kenny Werner Quintet that evening. It was a really good concert featuring a lot of great players–I could tell that the majority of the audience was made up of Amsterdam Conservatory jazz majors who were throughly analyzing the players and the music during intermission. Afterwards, I made the hour-long walk south back to the hostel.

Monday morning I packed up all my stuff, made my way over to the train station and then on to the airport. My two flights were both pretty chill, I met some interesting characters in my row and watched a bunch of movies. American customs took awhile to get through (every police officer was asking me about my bow case…), but the officer who interviewed me, after finding out I was in Amsterdam performing, asked who I played with and when I responded with “Ezekiel’s Wheels”, he exclaimed, “Oh, I’ve actually heard of them!”, which was neat.

The past week, I’ve been adjusting to being back home and being back on a more regular schedule. Ezekiel’s Wheels has already gotten a bunch of publicity about the festival from the Boston Globe and on Emerson’s WERS 88.9. We’re still working out our next steps as a band, but we’re excited to have so much momentum. Overall, it was a really great trip, and hopefully we’ll get to perform together internationally again soon (though we’re also excited to be back in town playing at farmers markets and other local events).

There’s lots of exciting stuff happening with other bands too, and already I’ve played a number of fun shows since getting home. This weekend I’m headed out of town again, this time to Vermont to start recording on a full-length album for Cold Chocolate. Keep checking back for updates on upcoming shows and other bands’ activities!

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