My fourth most favorite show of all time took place in Amsterdam at the end of 2011, on my second European tour. I went to visit my family in the Hague, and then they delivered me to Amsterdam, where I flew out of on the following day. I remember it being an icy cold, windy day. The sky was gray and people were riding bikes everywhere and smoking pot all over the place, so I felt like I was right at home in Portland in some ways. But all of the buildings were older, and there were little canals and foot bridges and pot cafes that reminded you that you were somewhere else.
My family stood in line with me for one and a half, maybe two hours, outside in the freezing cold, waiting to get into the Anne Frank Museum. It was a touching act of kindness, since they had already been there, but they knew I wanted to go in. It was an incredible, grotesque and raw but important experience, going through and seeing these artifacts and proof of one of the most horrifying things that has happened in our history.
After we left the museum, we had dinner at the Hard Rock Amsterdam, because my family is American, so they like those old familiar comforts like chain restaurants. I don’t mind the Hard Rock at all, because I love seeing the memorabelia, and they usually have at least a veggie burger I can eat.
After dinner, my parents and brother needed to get back to the Hague; it was getting late. They dropped me off at my hotel, and I found another closet room waiting for me. It was clean and affordable so I had no complaints. I didn’t have a cell phone back then, so I had printed a map from the hotel to the train to the venue before I left my parents’ house. I had studied Dutch for a few months prior to my trip, to learn to say things like, “excuse me”, “hello”, “do you speak English” and “where is this?”
I got off of my train and was supposed to be looking out for the venue near a long bridge. I didn’t see it anywhere near the foot of the bridge, so I asked some passerby in Dutch, “excuse me, do you speak English? No? OK, where is this?” and pointed at my map. No one had seemed to have heard of this venue I was supposed to be playing. I started to get worried: I’d left with plenty of time to get to the venue early, but I hadn’t planned for getting this lost. Now I was walking back and forth across the bridge, looking for anything that vaguely resembled a bar. Asking people in Dutch, “where is this?” Asking some people who spoke Spanish, in the Spanish I know, which is very little and muy malo. “No se,” they responded.
I found some people who spoke English to ask for directions, but they were tourists, so they had no idea where anything was either. Seeing a line of house boats near the foot of the bridge, I took a chance. Roaming in the dark, passing boat after boat, felt futile. Then suddenly, I came across a boat with Christmas lights all over it and beer signs in the window. I noticed a small sign on the door that said, “Hannekes Boom”. This was it! I rushed into the venue, checking my watch just before I checked in at the bar. Oof, eight o’clock already! I never show up right when the show is meant to start; I always arrive early, to set up, so I felt pretty embarassed rolling in at 8.
“Don’t worry about it! Relax, have a beer!” said the bartender. She poured me a beer, asked me if I had any merchandise that I wanted to leave on the counter for her to sell for me. I hadn’t gone in with the proper working papers, but, being that it was the holiday season, I had figured out that if I wraped a pile of my own CDs in wrapping paper, customs would think they were just a gift. So I unwrapped my CDs and left them on the counter, selling out of the whole pile later that night.
I was opening for a jam band, and they had their own photographer with them. They had already set up their gear before I took the stage. I started playing my guitar and singing. Got about half way into set, when, one by one, members of the jam band began joining me on stage, without any provocation for me, and began playing their instruments along with my music. It felt serendipitous because they were all so tight and played so well by ear that they sounded like the back up band that I should have brought!
The band’s photographer took photos and we danced to the jam band together after my set. Everyone else in the room was just standing and nodding their heads slightly. “Why aren’t they dancing?” I asked Friso, the photographer. “
“They are Dutch,” he replied. “This is how they dance.”
“Ahh, I understand,” I said, thinking about white guys at concerts in Portland.
Friso helped me through a hail storm and back to my hotel when the jam band was finished playing. I flew back to Portland the next morning, still buzzing from the warm reception in Amsterdam the night before. It was New Year’s Eve when I got home, and I was on my way to celebrate with my then-estranged-husband, and to start an exciting new chapter. The next year would bring a reconciliation, a six-month-long tour in the US, and a baby. What if I’d known when I was about to board that plane back to States? Would I have run toward it, or sat frozen, immobilized by the weight of the responsibility that all of those beautiful things would bring?