Monday, 1 October 2012

Eurotour Part Een: Antwerp, Middelburg, Utrecht, Leeuwarden

We are in Europe! 2 shows down and 4 to go.  Tommy and I left on Friday morning on his beloved bike (yet to be named, but Tom and I think Wrongfellow is quite fitting) and broke down on the Oxford Road for an hour which meant we missed our ferry. We ended up killing time in Clackton services while we waited for the next one.  Out of all the services I've had the good fortune to visit, this was probably the strangest. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, we seemed to have entered an alternate universe and it had the vague whiff of Twin Peaks about it.  Anyhow, onto the ferry and smooth sailing to Dunkirk. Off we zoomed to Antwerp, Belgium, remembering to drive on the right side of the road at all times. Tom met us there (he also missed his ferry) and we explored the various waterholes including my favourite, De Vagrant, a gin bar where you can get every flavour of gin imaginable, including blood orange (yum) and kiwi (ugh). There is a beautiful 12th century cathedral in Antwerp called 'The Cathedral of our Lady'. It was supposed to have 2 towers of equal height but one is unfinished.  The second tower wasn't finished beacuse of a large fire inside the cathedral's interior (and not just because of laziness or gin-hangover as we first presumed).  Tommy informed us that there is also a very famous pissoir up against the side of the cathedral near McDonalds if you're ever caught short in Antwerp.
Map to Utrecht..?

On Saturday morning we headed northeast to Middelburg which was no easy task after our Sat Nav (named Lewis because Lewis is just not as good as Morse) decided that now would be a good time to stop working.  After a frustrating half hour Tom punched it in the face (let's hope the people from TomTom don't read this when he tries to return it) and we resorted to following the wind.  Driving around the Netherlands is great though. It's flat and very green and very very far so good.

Middelburg fact: it used to be a major trading city in the 16th century. We wandered around some beautiful town houses and the historic centre is surrounded by an old moat and a few surviving gates. After watching Tom and Tommy consume a lunch mainly consisting of melted Camembert, we played our first show of the tour here in a kind of green house in the centre of a cool bookshop called De Drukkerji. Our audience were lovely and listened to us quietly whilst eating cake and supping  Belgium beer. One lady was kind enough to draw us a map to help us get to Utrecht.  We appreciated the sentiment but had a feeling the map wouldn't get us very far...

So, onto Utrecht. Tommy followed us on dear old Wrongfellow but was rather cold and battered by the wind.  Tom and I looked on with sympathy, of course, from the warmth of our car. In Utrecht we were met by my good friend Pete who is the reason we are here for he kindly organised this tour for us. Not only that but he is lending us his apartment for the week. We love Pete!  Utrecht is awesome with some stunning architecture.  It is also host to the largest university in the Netherlands. So, lots of great bars for us here then.

Some of our lovely audience in Leeuwarden
Sunday cometh and we are back on the road to Leeuwarden to play a show for Mijn Ouders (which seems to mean 'my parents' in Dutch...?).  The venue is on a street covered in graffiti and the building is an old school which has now become a large community of young artists who live in the building's 16 rooms.  It has a very creative vibe about it and we are greeted by Koen who takes us to his living room where the gig will be held. It is a very very cool venue.  After being fed and watered we played a song in a bath tub for Mijn Ouder's 'Bath Sessions' in front of a small audience. See below.  Definitely one of the more bizarre places we've played but great acoustics. The gig itself was so much fun. We were supported by a local band called Cosmic U who were very quirky and experimental with a touch of Bjork to their style.  The audience were very welcoming and attentive and it will be pretty hard to top this gig.  In fact, it was probably one of my favourite shows of all time.

Today we have the day off so after saying farewell to Tommy (sad times) we plan to drink a bucket load of tea, make a few recordings and eat some sushi.  Tom has just gone for a jog round the canals, let's hope he doesn't get lost. Tomorrow we head to Nijmegen for a gig in Cafe Camelot so more to come soon. Tot straks!

Our choice of car tunes so far:
Antwerp to Middelburg: Bethany Weimers: Harpsichord Row, Richard Walters: Regret Less
Middelburg to Utrecht: More Weimers and some Joanna Newsom. System of a Down: Hypnotize
Utrecht to Leeuwarden: Elbow and Spinal Tap
Leeuwarden to Utrecht: Iron Maiden and Guns and Roses

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