DAY TWO: MARCH 21st, 2005
Although I did not have time to fully experience Amsterdam's adult playground, breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Barney's, located on the Harlemmerstraat on the outskirts of the Jordaan, is the best place in the city to gobble up those necessary vitamins and minerals needed to make it through an exhaustive day of walking and touring before the music starts. Heck, a full English breakfast inside a coffee shop - what a novel idea. Both the Disco Biscuits and Particle were finishing up breakfast as I arrived and after some cloudy appetizers, two mouth watering Dutch pancakes smothered in fresh fruit, Canadian maple syrup, and butter were placed in front of me. My breakfast date inhaled (no pun intended) the full English fare: eggs, the side of a pig, hashbrowns, toast, beans, and tomatoes. Along with coffee and pineapple juice, this was the perfect start to yet another perfect day in Amsterdam.
Umphrey's McGee :: Jam in the Dam
With the sun shining, canals steaming, and my belly and lungs full at 11 a.m., Jam in the Dam Day Two was in full force, and I was still two miles from the Melkweg. As if my appetite had not been fully quenched by Barney's eats, a cheese shop with rings of Gouda larger than car tires caught, and another binge purchase ensued, this time for the remaining meals of day.
Herein lies the true beauty of Europe - fresh, mouth watering produce, sold by local merchants without the big box stores to clog up the process. Amsterdam is a feast for the mouth as well as eyes and lungs, and a five minute stroll for breakfast along Harlemmerstraat proved that. Still a few hours before crew call at the venue, I was twenty five Euros lighter, yet two pounds of cheese, fresh bread, and sun dried tomatoes heavier and filled with a breakfast that was so tasty, I simply had to review it. Enough about the food for now though so I can talk more about the Disco Biscuits and Umphrey's McGee.
8 p.m.: The Melkweg: Autograph session featuring most of the artists.
Forming a line in the lobby beside the Max to sign some posters, the artists let the fans become the storytellers for an hour. Almost every ticket sold to the festival went to an American, and with many experiencing Amsterdam for the first time, stories were plentiful as laughs were traded between the artists and their patrons. While one ecstatic European fan showered Aron Magner of the Disco Biscuits in thanks, exclaiming his happiness over the band's first European performance, many fans regaled Darren Pujalet and Steve Molitz of Particle with stories of near-death tram moments and the benefit and convenience of Amsterdam's famous Smart Shops (where you can buy almost any legal and herbal drug known to man). It was a beautifully simple moment of camaraderie and relaxation, shared by over a thousand people finding common ground in an uncommon setting, with the bike scars and museum tickets to prove it.
Darren Pujalet (Particle)
Jam in the Dam
10 p.m.: The Max with the Disco Biscuits and the Old Hall with Umphrey's McGee:
Another packed Disco Biscuits show, but this time I was inside with the gaggle, sharing the anticipation floating within the haze. Once again, the Disco Biscuits refused to stop at any rest areas, molding together "Confrontation" and "King of the World" into an entwining twenty-plus minutes that, like the fragrances at Barney's, provided a tasty sneak preview to the onslaught that followed. That onslaught, to the tune of "Basis for a Day" > "Mulberry's Dream" > "Morph Düsseldorf Tease" > "Basis for a Day" whipped the crowd into a frenzy that continued unabated throughout the set. After a short, composed deviation with the poppy "Three Wishes," the rest of the set followed in true form with an animated "MEMPHIS," sprouting familiar tales of prostitution, drug use, and debauchery that flourish in the cracks of Amsterdam, which add more flair to a city already packed to the brim with it. The two-hour improvisational jaunt was yet another fiery foray from a band that, as witnessed through their four hours of performing at the Melkweg, truly makes the most of their limited opportunities to play together.
Jon Gutwillig (Disco Biscuits) :: Jam in the Dam
Midnight rolled around and the Midwest contingent gathered in the Old Hall to prepare for Umphrey's McGee. By opening with Mark Knopfler's "We're Going to War" from the Wag the Dog soundtrack, Umphrey's McGee made a statement that they are one band to keep an eye on in the scene's post-Phish hodgepodge. After a brilliant "Push the Pig" and "Syncopated Strangers," both Aron Magner (Disco Biscuits) and Steve Molitz (Particle) appeared on stage and along with resident Joel Cummings, leapt into a three-way keyboard jam in "Triple Wide" that proved to be one of the musical highlights of the festival. With Molitz playing the bass line backwards over Cummings' Moog synthesizer, and Magner playing the melody on the Roland, Cummings took over the Hammond B-3 while the remaining members of the band, minus drummer Kris Myers and percussionist Andy Farag, left the stage. Lasting nearly fifteen minutes, the "Keyboard Cavalry" jam wound chunks of Particle's electronic wizardry, Disco Biscuits' unpredictable trance-fusion, and Umphrey's metal-jazz wank into a slurry thick enough to break burnt toast. After Molitz and Magner concluded the jam, signaling the return of Umphrey's guitarists and bassist, the collaboration gods struck again, as Keller Williams appeared two songs later for a dub-heavy version of "Trenchtown Rock." Featuring Keller on vocals and voice-flugelhorn, the short take was mind-numbingly sweet, showcasing Keller's clever vocal manipulation that circled within the tight instrumentation of the house-band.
Umphrey's McGee & Disco Biscuits:: Jam in the Dam
After a metal-heavy "Der Bluten Kat," I took a much needed fresh air break and found myself back in the heat of the Max, watching Particle do what they do best. While they were stretching out a funky cover of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," Keller Williams reappeared and lent more vocals to the final verse of the song, twenty-five minutes after it began. After Keller waved goodbye and the band launched into a lengthy take on "7 Minutes till Radio Darkness," I bid farewell to Day Two and walked home, marvelously content as the church bells chimed out a quiet lullaby to wake up the locals. Two days down, one final party to go.