DAY ONE: MARCH 20th, 2005
Getting Lost in Amsterdam:
Apparently this was the nicest day in Amsterdam in several weeks, and the café patios along the canal, tourist boat rides, and mountains of bikes were out to celebrate. Amsterdam is a city where you always have to watch where you are going, despite the stimuli readily available to help you forget where you are. Arriving into town at 9 a.m. following an early morning flight from London, Amsterdam was alive with the essence that makes this city so enticing: easily excitable tourists, laid-back locals, and a relaxed atmosphere blanketing the town with a certain calm that cannot be found anywhere else. The Melkweg is a gem of a venue. It has two similarly sized venues, a restaurant, tea room, movie theatre, dance studio, dozens of dressing rooms, and ample toilets; all run by the same laid-back approach that dominates the Amsterdam lifestyle. While a substantial amount of work had to be completed before the 7 p.m. door time, no one rushed or panicked, and without incident the venue was geared up, bands were sound checked and doors were open at 7 p.m. Several fans took the opportunity to view a screening of the fantastic Festival Express in the upstairs theatre before the night took off, while others relaxed in the restaurant, the tea room, or outside the venue for what proved to be a perfect, although chilly, Netherlands evening.
Disco Biscuits and Crowd :: Jam in the Dam
The Old Hall (capacity 750) started an hour earlier than the Max (capacity 1000) each night, featuring bands at 9 p.m. and 12 a.m. respectively, while the shows in the latter began at 10 p.m. with the night's headliner on stage at 1 a.m. Particle, Keller Williams, Umphrey's McGee, and The Disco Biscuits took turns rotating around the rooms and set times, each playing the larger room at least once and headlining, except for Keller who stuck to playing the earlier set each night.
The Show: 9 p.m.
Keller was the first to take the stage, signaling the beginning of the festivities with an a-cappella take on "Bohemian Rhapsody" with the sold out crowd assisting with the choral arrangements. Following the surprising, yet aptly eccentric opening, Huey Lewis' "I Want a New Drug" received the cover treatment, as well as an entrancingly comedic version of the "Ghostbusters Theme," complete with Keller's own call-and-answer work using his voice and acoustic guitar. From the onset, Keller Williams embodied the Amsterdam philosophy - seriously lighthearted whilst performing something extraordinary in an ordinary fashion; often masking brilliance with accessibility to create inclusively welcoming beliefs stressing that the better way is often the other way. Crafting melodies by looping his acoustic and electric guitars with a bass, keyboard, and synthesizer pad, Keller's one-man-band approach shined through spirited versions of "Talk to the Hand," Martin Sexton's "Black Sheep" and his homage to the daytime game show, "Bob Rules." In addition, Disco Biscuits' Jon Gutwillig came out as the first collaborator, adding his intricate, jazz-fusion guitar work to Keller's own "Tribe," featuring an extended outro where both parties tickled each other's melodies, building towards a climax to close out the first impressive set of Jam in the Dam.
Keller Williams :: Jam in the Dam
Two hours down, too many more to count to go.
Particle was next, lighting the inaugural torch in the larger Max to a packed crowd eagerly awaiting the Los Angeles quartet's highly acclaimed instrumental electronic funk. The left coast lads did not disappoint, opening the set with a twenty minute, deeply funky Pink Floyd style jam, possibly in ode to Amsterdam's Umma Gumma, a Pink Floyd themed coffee shop. Asserting the band's fiery danceable stature from the onset, the light show, along with the anticipation that everything was being filmed for an upcoming DVD (more about that later) ignited the foursome, as originals "Eye of the Storm," "Below Radar," and the twenty-five minute closer, "The Golden Gator" sounded as fresh as a street waffle, feeding off the demanding energy of the crowd obviously stimulated by a full day of getting lost in Amsterdam.
Steve Molitz (Particle) :: Jam in the Dam
Back to the Old Hall for the Disco Biscuits, but I could barely get inside the venue because of the mass of fans jammed inside for the set. Due to the fact that Bisco drummer Sam Altman is busy with pre-med schooling the New Jersey based band rarely perform live at this time, and thus, this would prove to be an emotional trip for both band and fans. Jam in the Dam coincidentally happened to fall within Altman's Spring Break, and the band jumped at the chance to be a part of the spectacle.
Viscerally emanating that excitement from the inception, the quartet, in their usual improvisational fashion, began their set and refused to break for more than a few seconds throughout the two hour onslaught. With a determined "Morph" and fan favorite sandwich "Spacebirdmatingcall" > "I-Man" > "Spacebirdmatingcall" dominating the set, the Biscuits instrumental fluidity shined brightly through the cloudiness within the Old Hall, keeping nearly 1,000 heart-wrenched fans at their collective peaks until 2 a.m. rolled around.
Unfortunately, nearly two weeks of traveling and sleeping in airports, had taken its toll on my body, and my wits suddenly shut down for the evening. Bidding farewell to the Melkweg for the first night and asserting the verity that Umphrey's McGee would be my top priority on Day Two, I waved goodbye, stumbled along the quiet canals for forty-five minutes, and passed out as one Amsterdam's beautiful church bells rang three times amidst the silence of an early Sunday morning along the Prinsengracht.