I agree with Drew, almost impossible to put into words everything that went down. I had hoped for a decent sleep on the overnight flight from Toronto to Schipol but alas, the plane was sold out and there were crying babies all around so I, in fact, arrived having dozed maybe 10 minutes, a bad start. I headed to the baggage carrousel and saw Drew waiting; he had arrived earlier than I and was ready to go. In fact, he looked positively refreshed. He had upgraded to business class, perks of being CEO I guess, and had been on an almost-empty flight from Montreal, 4 seats to himself!!! We headed for the train station and the 15-minute ride to Amsterdam Center. Warning, if you plan to travel outside of Canada, make sure your credit/debit PIN number does not exceed 4 characters– that was a problem for me this whole trip.
We were met at Center by my good friend Frits Keiser, a big jovial Dutchman, guitar teacher by profession, who loves guitars as much as we do. We headed in a taxi to Frits’ home where we were to spend the next two nights. Our plan was to move to the Hotel where the players were staying the nights before and after the concert, thinking that would be the best place to perform the one-on-one interviews.
Frits has a lovely apartment inside the inner circle of Amsterdam with balcony and windows overlooking a precious green spaced courtyard below. We were set up in Frits lovely little studio adorned with guitars, gear, music etc; we felt right at home. Frits was a patient and wonderful tour guide, showing us the sites downtown over the next two days. Included were a tour of a couple of guitar shops, a beautiful little one right around the corner from his house, and another, a larger more big box styled one downtown.
A must for me on November 11th was a stop at the War Memorial monument. My dad was RCAF and his proudest moment came after the end of the war delivering much needed food in his Lancaster bomber to the starving Dutch folks. It was a poignant moment standing there for me. We also witnessed the Occupy Amsterdam encampment as well as several other places of interest.
We were taken aback at the wonderful space Barend Courbois and his partner have found for themselves near Hilversum. It is in fact a multi-level former military compound, and in exchange for a few dollars and caretaking, they have set up a home, studio, art studio and gallery, and rehearsal rooms within the vast complex. All for approximately a tenth of what similar facilities would cost in North America– a sweet deal!! The “lunch” room is a memorial to Barend’s career, the walls are covered with photos, articles posters and his magnificent bass collection as well as assorted gear everywhere… again we were in heaven.
Florentijn, Barend’s missus, had her magnificent Mona Lisa artwork set up in the gallery downstairs and that gallery and their living quarters gave a place for a moment of pause and quiet away from the rehearsal chaos upstairs. Thank you Flo for your wonderful hospitality, you are an amazing artist!
I can only concur with Drew that the rehearsals were magical, the guys wonderful and their interaction on set or off, a joy to behold. We had decided not to do any interviews at the rehearsal hall in fairness to the guys who already had a lot on their minds and their plates so Drew and I set up to record as much footage as possible of the magic. For me, these were the best two days of the ordeal.
Imagine if you can, being in a transit with the captive audience of Stu Hamm, Michael Lee Firkins, Mattias Eklund, Kiko Loureiro and Guthrie Govan? That is the position Drew and I found ourselves in for a 45 minutes drive. Now imagine chatting with these guys about everything under the sun save music (only exception Stu telling us about his new job at a school in LA) i.e., kids, Halloween, fathers, the weather, it was amazing!!!
When Drew and I arrived at our hotel near the airport (where all the guys were staying) we ran into Daniele Gottardo in the restaurant. I have been conversing online with Daniele for a couple of years now, even conducting an interview with him (thanks Mrs. Gottardo for the excellent translation job). In addition to being an astounding talent he is a really nice kid, still working on his English and delightful to be around. I bought Daniele his hamburger, something I had been promising him for almost two years, he was thrilled! It is interesting to pick up Daniele’s guitar, short fender scale, scalloped neck and very heavy gauge strings, 12-49. Andy James amongst others was amazed how this skinny kid can bend the life out of those and believe me, he does!
I am guessing we went to bed between 3 and 4 every single night so fatigue was kind of setting in for all of us come the day of the event. As Drew mentioned, Atma left at the crack of dawn to set up and then to perform Kiko’s soundcheck. What this meant unfortunately, is that there would be very little time for all of the others to do any sort of decent setup and check at the venue, that turned out to be a real shame.
The interviews were performed the day after the night before at the Hotel so pardon the tired looks hoarse voices etc. Unfortunately, Stu and Michael had very early flights out but we are expecting them to send some video thoughts at a later date. Timo and Barend were kind enough to drive into town and meet Drew and I at the Hotel Blyss for their interviews and Joop and Marcel, local lads as well who were not at the hotel, have promised to send video answering a set of questions.
Drew and I were very busy helping in various ways at the venue, getting posters signed for the auction etc and so what follows is a brief description of those acts we actually witnessed:
Also, check out part 3, the gig, and some interviews with the people involved HERE