DAY THREE: MARCH 22nd, 2005

Short Digression #2 - The Leidseplein, 12 p.m.

Particle :: Jam in the Dam
One of the most tourist-filled sections of Amsterdam is Leidseplein, located just beside the Museumplein and the hustle of Dam Square, which is just up from the Red Light District. Leidseplein is an amazing neighborhood - home of both the Melkweg and the Paradiso, as well as any ethnic food you could ever desire, an American sports bar (playing March Madness) and cheap, plentiful Vlaase Frites (chips served in a paper cone with mayo and ketchup; a nutritiously fattening Dutch tradition) and falafels. Leidseplein is the perfect setting for Jam in the Dam - alive, vibrant, multi-cultural, and up-all-night. The final day was the first day I was able to float around the area, stopping in at Boom Chicago - a famous comedy show featuring American actors - for a beer on their extensive patio and a cheap falafel at one of the late night joints lining the Leidsestraat. Leidseplein Square turns into one giant patio with restaurants sharing space in the summer, complete with buskers churning out traditional Dutch music and vendors showcasing their ability to make variations of fried dough so damn delicious. When visiting Amsterdam, look no further for eclecticism than Leidseplein - a unique place fittingly perfect for a unique event.

The Boat Cruise, 1 p.m.

Keller Williams :: Jam in the Dam
There is a DVD being shot of the festival by Filmmaker Lawrence Shapiro, and I was lucky enough to sit in on an interview with Keller Williams. We rented an eight-person wooden raft to trudge the sludge of Amsterdam's waterways and opened up with Keller about his experiences playing in and walking around the city. Halfway through the ride, we stumbled upon the houseboat Keller had rented for the festivities, conveniently lodged between the Herengracht (another street, like the Prinsengracht and the Keizergracht that align the main canals) and a crane, which was fishing the canal for stranded bicycles and anything else that could slip into the dark, brown bottom of Amsterdam's boating history. Apparently an Amsterdam tradition, hundreds of thousands of bikes somehow find their way to the bottom of the canal each year, and the city commissions a crane to scan the bottom of the water to find the culprits. A gorgeous juxtaposition between the centuries-old architecture and the modern crane attempting to re-beautify the soil they habituate, the boat cruise was, much like my three previous days in Amsterdam, filled with the eccentric electricity that powers this captivating place. After discussing the crane, the history of Keller's rented dwelling, and the ethereal essence surrounding the past few days, we dropped Keller off near home and motored back to the Melkweg to prepare for Jam in the Dam's inaugural swansong.

The Melkweg: Evening

On to the show. Keller opened the night in the Max, continuing his penchant for covers by throwing both "Groove is in the Heart" and "Dancing in the Streets" teases into an opening jam that ended up in the bouncy "Fuel For the Road." Acoustic virtuosity ensued, channeled primarily through Keller's innate comedic attitude and his ability to loop five different instrument lines together into a cohesive mash of dirty blues, jumpy bluegrass, folk, and energetic rock. "Rosalie McPhall," sandwiched between fan-favorite "Porta-Potty" followed, as Keller's humor popped up again to narrate a story of finding love in the most undesirable of places. Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm" and Tenacious D's "Kielbasa," as well as Keller's own "People Watching" and "Stupid Questions," highlighted the remaining hour of the set, which was peppered with piano tickling, violent acoustic strumming, and careful digital looping to wrap the whole package together. Taken right from a Google search, Keller is described as, "a one man band for the digital age," and his three sets at Jam in the Dam definitely confirmed the accuracy of that moniker.

Umphrey's McGee :: Jam in the Dam
Umphrey's McGee followed in the Old Hall, opening fittingly with their metal-laced original "Hangover." Long, drawn-out, cock-rock infused jamming dominated their set, paraded off by the lengthy "Miss Tinkle's Overture" > "Mulche's Odyssey" that inhaled bong hits of The Allman Brothers, Pantera, and Metallica through the dual-guitar genius of Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss playing identical lines that would make any head banger drool. A Rufus Wainwright cover, sung by a member of the crew as well as guest spots by Charlie Hitchcock of Particle and a "Hot for Teacher" cover continued the insanity, showcasing just how eclectic and cohesive the sextet can be. It is a difficult task to create a spin cycle of genres that does not shrink after many washes, but Umphrey's McGee pulls it off.

Disco Biscuits and Bayliss :: Jam in the Dam
Finally, the Disco Biscuits' trance-fusion finished off the ebullience of Jam in the Dam, winding another two hours of non-stop tunes through the "The Very Moon" > "Helix" > "The Very Moon," while ending with a brilliant "Home Again," featuring Joel Cummings and Brendan Bayliss of Umphrey's. Despite 3 a.m. rolling around and the curfew having been breached, the quartet returned for one more jazzed-up trance foray with fan favorite "Aceetobee" that concluded well after 3:30 a.m. Taking a page from Keller, guitarist Jon Gutwillig digitized his melodies, effectively looping himself throughout "Aceetobee," giving himself more space to improvise over the swirling piano work of Magner and slap bass of Marc Brownstein.

Short Digression #3 – The Painting 4 a.m.

Sam Altman (Disco Biscuits) :: Jam in the Dam
In Particle's dressing room lay a painting, created as Particle snaked through their set by live artist Frenchie Live, a painter who has worked with the quartet before. This is an entrancing mush of colors: bright pinks, reds, and oranges along with darker blues, purples, and black, coiled together into a post-modern slew of beauty that mirrors the themes of Jam in the Dam perfectly - gorgeously eclectic and spontaneous, with a certain careful execution floating underneath. In addition, a small window in the top left of the painting contains a grinning Molitz, peering into the painting amidst the swash of colours and textures entrancing him. A suitable visual to describe the festival, as Jam in the Dam emulates the same themes by bestowing a peeping glimpse into Amsterdam's lifestyle that produces the same mischievous grin amidst the swash of emotions that this city produces.

Conclusion: 5 a.m. – Gathering my wits along the Prinsengracht:

This was a wonderful event, wonderfully planned and carried out in a more than wonderful city. Amsterdam is a fabled place, where the spirit of tolerance shines through everyday life, creating a peaceful business that sweats splendor. The professionalism of the Melkweg, meticulous organization of promoters Armand Sadlier of Vision International and Walther Productions, and performances by the bands simply must be repeated. A legacy is brewing in muddy Amsterdam, and it is oozing cries for this event to become annual. If you have read this much of my review, I am guessing I will be grinning alongside you at Jam in the Dam 2006, soaking up the essence of an event ranked as one of the finest ever. Besides, I cannot get lost in Amsterdam by myself every year.

Words by: Shain Shapiro
Images by: Sam Friedman
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[Published on: 3/28/05]

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