Dance Valley

Entrance to Dance Valley

At my first trip to Dance Valley years ago I was impressed by the upbeat energy of the music and the dancers. Back then about 35,000 people attended the Sparnwoude location, and there was lots of space to walk, sit, even get away from the larger groups who tended to hang out under the tents.

Pack ’em In!

The venue facilities remain the same, but the sold out event now hosts 100,000 people in the same space, with pretty much the same tents, and a few more vendors. With that many attending, it was almost impossible to find a place to sit, much less get away from the crowd. Just getting from one area to another became a huge challenge. At one point we tried to cross a bridge where there seemed to be two seas of people faced off in the middle, with no one budging. Some people were climbing the fences on each side of the bridge and walking on the outer edge to get by the impasse.

Evidently, we escaped from Dance Valley just in time because some 90,000 people were stuck for up to three hours in the pouring rain. Instead of the promised 130 buses, the management only provided 30 to shuttle everyone back to Amsterdam.

What fun it is to wait in line!

By far the biggest problem was WAY too many people. I guess they just have to pack as many bodies into the same space as they can profitably fit. What results is something any sardine will relate to, being packed into long queues for everything, especially a desperately needed drink after the 3 kilometer walk from the bus stop to the front gate.

Pushing and shoving was the rule as you tried to squeeze your way to any service counter to order something from the very sparse menus. Lots of words and elbows were flying in the resulting melees. Fortunately I didn’t see any outright fights, although it wouldn’t surprise me if there were some.


Did this detract from the dance music?

You betcha. I spent more time walking around or waiting in lines than actually listening to music or dancing. Finding out what was where, became a futile exercise, with no maps posted anywhere on the entire site. Of course, you could buy a plastic coated program to hang around your neck for 10 guilders, but why should that be necessary just to find out who’s playing where?


But how was the music?

Well, I found myself after the third tent saying “isn’t that the same music we heard in the last three tents?” and when I passed by that same tent again I asked “isn’t that the same TUNE we heard when we were here two hours ago?”. Yes, of course it is! With very minor tempo variations, the sound eminating from almost all the tents was exactly the same. The same uncreative, uninspired, “what dial should I move next?”, sound. Sometimes I guess the DJ would get distracted and the same exact sound would repeat itself for maybe a minute or longer.

I could even say it was exactly the same music I heard three years ago in Dance Valley, but that wouldn’t be correct, as back then, there was MORE variety. Or perhaps the music just sounded fresher back then. I noticed that the crowd seemed a bit older than my last visit to Dance Valley. Perhaps three years older. Same music, same scene, same people, just far more of them, and far more hassles.

If Orbital hadn’t shown up at the end to close the show, there would’ve been NO variation that I could tell in the music. That set, while breaking no new ground, at least provided a glimpse of what was once a very exciting, creative music scene.


The Day the Music Died

So what is it with Dance Valley, that attracts such a large crowd? Is it just a party you can’t miss, or has it become so overcommercialized that profits outweigh substance? What does it tell us about the masses who go to these venues to be queued up, searched, squeezed, drugged, tobacco fumed, and to maybe dance a bit? I often wondered as I looked into the faces of these “ravers” what was going on behind those extacied eyes.

The monotonous beat of the drums pounding in their heads, the piledriving metallic sound echoing off the hills, sound so industrial, so devoid of human feeling and voice, so devoid of beauty. Is this the low spark of high heeled ravers?

Once upon a time in a field in Bethel, New York, five times as many people managed to get it on together, listen to beautiful music, and become one huge community. Now as I reflect upon where we have come from, and where we are now, I wonder if we have lost not just our innocence, but our very humanity. We now release our pent up frustrations in an orgy of repetitive pounding dullness.


“I can’t hear you!”

The biggest activity besides queing up and dancing seemed to be calling on cellphones. I saw so many people standing in front of huge blaring speakers trying to communicate to someone on the other end of their phone. Were they trying to impress their friends who couldn’t make it? Find someone they lost in the crowd? What was so important that you had to scream into a phone at the top of your lungs?


Trash anyone?

Then there’s the sea of plastic and paper that became our carpet at Dance Valley. What a waste of resources. I know these huge events generate tons of trash, and it’s hard to control the flow. But the attitude in Holland seems to be, just let it fall, and we’ll clean it up later for you. Just enjoy the party and don’t worry. Yeah, right. The mess at Sparnwoude gives Queen’s Day a run for it’s money. Oh wait, Queen’s Day is FREE! You paid dearly to get into Dance Valley, so you’d think the least they could do would be to provide some trash bins! Yeah there were a few small plastic ones, maybe a dozen. How about 30 or 40 of those huge metal bins strategically placed around, and big signs saying (in Dutch of course) “throw it here!”? Nope, let’s keep spoiling these kids, who in their naivete think it’s ok to throw their litter everywhere. Meanwhile you wade through ankle deep trash that recalls some dump on the outskirts of NYC. Not a pleasant sight, thank you.


Oh, Yummy!

Vendors were serving such “innovative fare” as hamburgers, ham and cheese sandwiches and of course lots of beer. I found that quite a contrast to the other alternative booths offering massage, alpha state sounds with flashing glasses, etc. Why not some alternative food and beverage choices??? Perhaps they tried these and found that the ravers aren’t into that type of food. Fine.

This scene is far different from the Roskilde and Lowlands festivals which attract similar if even larger crowds. First, the music in those places at least has some variety! And they both encourage the use of trash bins and have alternative food and drinks available. Does the Dance Valley management have no conscience?


The Long March!

Now about that long, long walk to the gate… why? The old entrance was right by the bus stop, why was it moved? Why make everyone walk around the entire venue, just to get in? This defies logic, and I’d sure like to find some reason that makes sense. And taxis were blocked several kilometers from there, forcing people to walk much further!

Love and Trash. Get it on!


Conclusion

The Dance Valley website says “Come and witness the future of dance music”. If this is it, it’s pretty sad. Yet most of the people there seemed to be having a great time on what turned out to be a beautiful day! In fact they were the best part of the show, as usual, in their colorful rave fashions. So who am I to complain? I must admit, I’m probably too old for this scene. Or too wise.

My advice is that if you want a crowded, uninspired, huge, overblown, overpriced party, Dance Valley is the place to be. If you’ve finally outgrown this scene, bravo to you! You’re ready to discover some new music, and there are plenty of other places to go to find it…

Phone:

Ruigoord

A gathering of hippie souls have founded their own community of sorts just outside Amsterdam, and it is truly unique. Lots of events are scheduled to educate the public about their plight, as well as to have some fun and spread the love of the hippie movement. The collection of buildings is rumored to be truly Mad Maxish, I will report further after visiting myself.

You can visit Ruigoord by taking a bus (Number 82 on Marnixstraat outside Sloterdijk Train Station), by car or bicycle.

Here’s a couple of videos from Ruigoord to give you an idea of the action.

North Sea Jazz Festival

Unlike other popular forms of music, Jazz seems to cut across all boundaries, attracting fans without age, race or class distinctions. This was evident from the diverse and enormous crowd that showed up for the 26th North Sea Jazz Festival. The two traits this seemingly unrelated mass of humanity share is a discerning taste in music and a certain knowing twinkle in their eyes, perhaps reflecting some kind of inner at-tune-ment with the essence of jazz.

At the North Sea Jazz Festival, the audience is indeed part of the show. And the lineup of world class jazz, blues, rock, fusion musicians is unmatched anywhere. Friday’s the big opening night and usually showcases the biggest talents. We were not disappointed by the line-up which included George Benson, Herbie Hancock and Van Morrison to name a few.

However the highlight of the evening (for me) was the brilliant set by The Art of Four in the smaller Jan Steenzaal. Featuring Donald Harrison on sax, James Williams on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Billy Cobham tearing up the drums. These veterans showed their stuff on such great tunes as “Alter Ego”, which combined simultaneous tempo and key changes which “altered” the mood time and again.

Herbie Hancock’s Electric Group even included a DJ, which kept the music hopping while a psychedelic light show played from a computer. Herbie noted that certain sounds could be coming from electronic keyboards, a computer, sampled sounds or a vinyl record. His cacophonic yet joyful music made it pointless to try to discern the origin of each note.

George Benson, as always the consummate performer, played many of his hits including Give Me The Night and Turn Your Love Around. I’ve always admired George, not just as a great jazz guitarist, but also as a fine, yet humble person with such a strong belief in the human spirit that clearly permeates his art. He and his music always provide an uplifting experience, and this was certainly the case at the festival.

The number of food and merchandising booths at the festival is amazing. From nasi to tacos, drums to saxophones it seemed like anything remotely related to jazz was available for sale. I was enticed by some souvenirs of the event, and I must commend the management for keeping the vendor scene cool and not a sour note.

Originall held in Amsterdam many years ago, it went to a venue in Den Haag, which quickly became overcrowded. Now the event is held in Rotterdam at the Ahoy, a massive complex.

Randy Roy’s Red Light Walking Tour Amsterdam

This tour was highly recommended in BOOM magazine. Randy is a pretty cool guy! This tour focused on the humorous and contemporary stories of the red light district. He kept us entertained by showing us where Quentin Tarantino wrote Pulp Fiction. Eminem and Mike Tyson’s favorite coffeshop. We even saw the club with the darkroom floor that Jean Paul Gaultier passed out on (and woke up stuck to)!
We saw a lot of window prostitutes and learned about X-rated bookshops, live sex shows, magic mushrooms and smart shops. Warning: there was also some Amsterdam history on the tour.We had a lot of laughs and came away with a better understanding of not only the red light district but also the Dutch culture. Highly recommended!

Info:
The meeting point is in front of the Victoria Hotel across from Central Station at 8pm, and 10pm on Fridays & Saturdays.(Damrak and Prins Hendrik-kade). It lasts 90 minutes.

Resevations are recommended!

Wakeboard School Vinkeveen


Join our friends Gerard and Petra at Vinkeveen, a short drive outside of Amsterdam, to learn the ins and outs of wakeboarding, wakeskating, wakesurfing, waterskiing and monoskiing. Flyboarding is also possible but starting with a minimum of 4 persons.

Although their website has lots of action photos of the fun to be had, it’s all in Dutch. But don’t worry, email Gerard with your questions, in English, and he’ll be glad to help you out if needed.

Having been out on the lake at Vinkeveen myself with Gerard at the helm, I can say with certainty that this is going to be one of the best times you have on the water near Amsterdam. The location is very easy to reach. You just drive down the A2 direction Utrecht and take exit 4 Vinkeveen. You will find Wakeboardschool Vinkeveen at Wilgenhoek Harbor. Parking is free.


Write Gerard at: info@wakeboardschoolvinkeveen.nl or call him on his mobile at: +31 6 52001155.

Open from May thru September, or as weather permits in these times of global warming.

Info:

Address:

Jachthaven De Wilgenhoek

Groenlandsekade 9-13

3645BA Vinkeveen

Phone: 06-52001155

Art and Culture in the Jordaan

The Jordaan was build at the large expansion of Amsterdam in early 17th century, as a district for the working class and emigrants. The population increase during the next centuries was enormously, caused by the stream political refugees like protestant Fleming, Spanish and Portuguese Jews and French Huguenots who mainly settled in the Jordaan. It was a poor district with small houses and slums, every little room stuffed with families and lots of children. The entire area was one ghetto with open sewers, canals served for both transport and sewer, and no running water. Around 1900 there lived about 80 thousand people, nowadays about 20 thousand.

Rembrandt
The famous 17th century Dutch writer Joost van den Vondel and photographer Breitner lived in the Jordaan. Artists, like the painter Rembrandt van Rijn in his lesser successful period, also came living in the Jordaan because of the low rents. The house of Rembrandt was on the Rozengracht (Rose canal, still a real canal these days). His studio was on the Bloemgracht (Flower canal). The famous painter was buried in a poor mans grave in the Westerkerk (West church).

Monument Care
During the seventieth of the 20th century the city council had serious plans to mainly demolish big parts of the district and replace them for large ugly blocks of modern buildings. There where many protests against this idea. City protectors, such as Monument Care, where against the loss of the historical town and the people of the Jordaan feared for large rent increases. Thanks to this resistance the plan was modified, there came small-scale projects which would repair the neighborhood, without damaging its original character.
Strolling
A large renovation was started. By then the district was discovered by a new generation occupants: artists, students, and young entrepreneurs. The old inhabitants moved to other neighborhoods and cities like Almere. Partly by these new inhabitants the Jordaan has changed from a slum area to a district for artist, still living on low rent, and the rich who bought the very expensive renovated houses. Nowadays the Jordaan is compared to the rest of the town an oasis of peace with a labyrinth of narrow streets and little canals, nice for strolling around courtyards, art studios, and monumental buildings with stone tablets, old-fashioned ‘brown’ pubs, boutiques or galleries.

Markets
There are also some markets in this area. Saturdays you will find the Lindenmarkt (Lime market), a general market, on the Lindengracht (Lime canal) and a biological food market on the Noordermarkt (North market). Mondays you have a flea market at the Noordermarkt and a market on the Westerstraat (West street) with nice fabrics. On the Noordermarkt you can visit the Noorderkerk (North church), designed by Hendrick de Keyser in the 17th century.

Noorderkerk
Many people think that the Westerkerk (West church) on the Westermarkt is the main church of the Jordaan. It’s true that you can hear its carillon and see the beautiful Westertoren (West tower) everywhere in the neighborhood and that the Jordaanfestival is located on his square, but the church is actually located just outside the Jordaan. So the main church of the Jordaan is the Noorderkerk. The Noorderkerk was built in the northern part in 1620-1623 by Hendrick de Keyser and his son Pieter. The church is still in use as a Protestant church, and like the Westerkerk open to everyone, especially during concerts.

Art studios
Hundreds of artist discovered the Jordaan in the 70th because of the low rent of houses in these little streets. The lucky ones are renting a studio in one of these beautiful inner courtyards of the neighborhood. Every two years the artist organize a so called ‘open studio event’. During these days visitors can have a look in the ‘kitchens’ of the artist. There is also a permanent ornamental route called ‘Jewels in the Jordaan’. Past charming alleyways and picturesque canals it leads to gold- and silversmiths.

Courtyards
The Jordaan has a high concentration of hofjes (inner courtyards), beautiful yards with little houses, many of them with restored houses and peaceful gardens. These courtyards were build by rich people for older women; a kind of charity and protection. Beginning of the 70th most of these courtyards was in a very bad shape, like the rest of the neighborhood. After there restoration they were discovered by artist, students and still some older people with special privileges because of a church membership. Some of the courtyards are closed to the public, and only opened on special days called ‘open monuments days’. But if you do come across one of the entrances, and it is unlocked, most residents won’t mind if you sneak a quiet peek. During the summer some of these yards are opened on Sundays during free concerts called ‘hofjesconcerts’.

Stone tablets
Many houses in the Jordaan have a stone tablet, a stone sign that shows the profession or family sign of the inhabitants. For instance a butcher showed a pig and a tailor a pair of scissors, carved in a stone above the entry. During a walk it’s a pleasure to observe those beautiful, when renovated colorful, antique signs. The first stone tablets are made in the 16th century, when citizens were ordered to use these tablets instead of big wooden gables that obstructed the traffic in these narrow streets.
Museums
Most of the museums in the Jordaan are small. You have the Pianola museum with old mechanical pianos, a literature museum of Theo Thijssen, a houseboat museum, and a fluorescent museum called Electric Lady Land. Just on the boarder of the Jordaan you can find the Anne Frank House on the Prinsengracht (Prince canal).

Floriade

This vast park/exhibit is a great place to take the kids or just explore on your own with a camera. The scenery is awesomely photogenic, and teams of landscape artists are constantly roving the grounds making sure everything is perfect.

Floriade is a fantastic presentation from the Netherlands to the world of its scientific mastery over gardening and evidence of the Dutch role as a leading horticultural knowledge center. The 65 hectare space is filled with gardens, greenhouses, technological displays, lakes, waterways, paths and mazes ~ and all these can be seen from high atop Spotter’s Hill. Held once every ten years – this is the fifth Floriade! The major attractions of the exhibit are the Horticultural Experience, Wonderwaterland, Spotter’s Hill, and the Gardens of Emotion.

Of the two park entrances I chose to enter at the South Entrance, and quickly found myself in another world of beauty and space perfumed by billions of flowers. This is the Holland you dream of – miles and miles of lush landscaped areas with flowers everywhere.

At the South Entrance you are on the banks of the Harlemmermeer Lake, which is surrounded by the most natural areas of the park – if that’s possible. Walking around the shore you’ll find nature areas and a variety of garden examples, and a fine open-air theater in one corner.

Comfort and enjoyment are planned into this experience, with nice wheelchairs available to cruise the easy pathways and areas of the park. Amongst the gardens and paths are nicely designed cafes literally covered with baskets of flowers, offering cold drinks and more stuff for tourists – with places to sit and relax under umbrellas or shady plantings. In the main area under the Roof is a fine restaurant, and you’ll find ice cream stands here there and everywhere through the park.

After touring the lake area, I walked across the bridge to the other side of the park and checked out Spotter’s Hill with its amazing views all the way to Haarlem. From here you get a great vantage point of the entire place and if tired or curious, spend 1.50 euros to ride up and down the pyramid shaped hill in a futuristic air-conditioned battery-powered self-driving car. The sculpture dominating the top of the hill is a good reference point to use when wandering around lost in this maze.

A visit to the Horticultural Experience gives an amazing educational insight into the growers, traders and organizations that make Dutch horticulture such an important part of their economy – and life. The underground exhibits are found in the center of a maze of islands covered with examples of how they do it Dutch style.

You can’t miss the Wonderwaterland exhibit, the path runs right through it – and inside is the “Timeship” which takes you through 10,000 years of geology explaining the area, and then details how the Dutch have worked to hold back the sea and drain more and more land for agricultural and living space over the ages.

The most amazing greenhouse I’ve ever visited is located near the Roof, and the high-technology inside rivals anything that NASA is doing. Displays of hydroponic miracles are here to be seen, with tomatoes as large as your head. Cucumbers as long as your arm dangle from vines high overhead, and peppers glowing red and green decorate their bushes like Christmas tree ornaments. Huge trays of plants on moving beds are constantly rotating to get the best sunlight, with electronic keypads at the row ends to computer control the flow of nutrients and water. This is an amazing greenhouse, with a computer controlling the windows opening and closing for air, and shades in case there is too much sun. Heaters come on line at the computer’s will, maintaining a perfectly controlled environment with virtually no pests – therefore this greenhouse garden is completely organic according to the technicians I interviewed on the spot.

And finally I entered the Roof, which the energy firm Nuon built with 30,000 square meters of solar collecting electricity producing cells. At one end of the “Roof” is the Great Taste Restaurant, which supposedly offers organic edibles from the gardens. The size of four football fields, the interior of the Roof is filled with the most amazing displays of decorative plant and flower arrangements you’ll probably ever see in your life. These displays from around the world vary from desert landscape scenes to elaborate Chinese and Thai pagodas replete with decorations of orchids and other exotic flowers. But don’t let the kids miss the collection (HUGE) of carnivorous plants! They’re here for you to actually touch and enjoy – stick a twig into a Venus Fly Trap and watch it snap shut!

Just past the Roof is the North Entrance, collection of tourist shops and cafes, restrooms and a nice place to have a seat and relax. The visit to Floriade was fun, and if you’re stuck in the city all summer, at least visit Floriade to get some relief.

Info:
Open daily from April 6th 2002 until October 20, 2002. Park opens at 9:30 am and closes at 7 pm. Ticket price is 17 euros for adults, 8.50 for kids. To get to Floriade it is easy to go to any ticket window of the Nederlands Spoorwagen (Dutch Railway) and buy an entrance ticket as well as the transportation tickets for around 22 euros from Amsterdam Centraal to Schiphol via train, then the Zuidtangent bus to Floriade. Buses and trains run every half hour. If you must drive, there is parking.

Address:
Harlemmermeer Lake
Amsterdam

Phone: 0900 0555

Koninklijk Paleis

Open daily during the summer for tourists, the Royal Palace is not the home of any royalty, it’s a museum and venue for important state events held by the Dutch royals. Recently renovated and spruced up for the wedding of Willem-Alexander and Maxima this place is worth a visit if you haven’t been inside before.

Of note are rooms replete with their period furnishings, carvings, bas-reliefs of bizarre historical notes and artworks left behind when the royals abandoned the place.

EYE Filmmuseum

Four theaters, a lounge and restaurant with other meeting spaces make up the wonderful all-new Film Museum of the Netherlands. Formerly in the Vondel Park, this stunning modern architectural marvel is now across the Ij from the Central Station in Amsterdam.

The EYE collection dates back to 1946, when the first predecessor of EYE was founded: the Nederlands Historisch Filmarchief. In 1952, this became the Dutch Filmmuseum; since 2010 we are EYE.

However, EYE does not exclusively acquire and preserve films, but a range of different materials – from movie posters to projection equipment. The focus is on films and objects that say something about Dutch film culture; a copy of virtually all Dutch films that come out each year is included in the collection.

Use the map below to find your way to the new building.