Our intrepid reporter Simon Huxtable recounts his adventures in Holland for the first One Week to Live party in club Panama, Amsterdam. It got pretty wild, but no goats were injured in the making of these memories!
Our vehicle trundles east aside the enormous main road. As we turn on to Wittenbergergracht, the ominous large white building of the Amsterdam War Museum looms to our left. Its an imposing sight, majestic in the late afternoon sun. Another awe inspiring location in what is fast becoming one of my favourite clubbing destinations. I’m here for the first ever One Week to Live party and I’m absolutely buzzing with anticipation of a great night.
Andrew, my driver and tattooist (more on that later), weaves expertly between the many bicycles around us. His car (and I use that term in its loosest context) is essentially a lawnmower with a roof. The 999cc engine rumbles mere centimeters behind our seats and the cab is filled with the faint smell of petrol. Andrew is a pleasant, quietly spoken Canadian ex pat from Toronto who moved here with his Dutch wife five years ago. He tells me about his travels in the Bahamas and how Amsterdam is now his home. As we park up I notice many other lawnmower cars, Andrew explains about how expensive Dutch cars are and how many taxes they have to pay, but that his vehicle is exempt from a lot of those; he doesn’t even need a licence to drive it!
He invites me into his home, a wonderful spacious one bed apartment on the top floor of his building. We’re able to venture out on to the roof of the apartment block through a window in the kitchenette area and look out over East Amsterdam. Green parrots squawk loudly as dusk settles, a phenomena of most large Dutch cities my genial host explains. We sip on single malt whiskey and wait for the others to arrive. This is my only downtime all day and Im loving every minute.
My flight had arrived early afternoon and after a quick train ride to Amsterdam Centraal, I met up with One Week to Live owner Damion Pell, his fiance and her family for a few hours. The girls wanted to go shopping in the boutiques up town, which ment walking past the famous red light district, through Dam Square and on into the west of the city; De Krommerdt. Amsterdam is one of those places that can be many things for many people. The central areas hums with tourists, the city is alive and hectic, but a mere 20 minute walk west and the pace of life is much calmer. Cafes are busy with locals enjoying the warm March sun, eating batterballen and drinking coffee. Children play on a small climbing frame in a play park, while others sing traditional Dutch songs for an adoring crowd of parents.
We wait for the girls and have a beer, all this ‘shopping’ tires a man out! With me are Andrew, Damion and his Father in Law, Bert. Its the first time we’ve all been together, but the conversation flows easily and we cover many interesting topics. I learn loads about Dutch life and the similarities to my own in England. After a pleasant afternoon of sightseeing, we split up to make our way back to Andrews place. Bert and his wife head back home while Damion and the girls make their way to Andrew and Jamies; our base camp for the night. Some have cars, some bikes. I only have feet, which is how I come to be hurtling along a cylepath in the surprisingly spacious lawnmower car.
Panama, our venue this evening, is around the corner from the apartment on Czaar Peterstraat, its a restaurant/bar by day and a club at night, similar to another famous Amsterdam nightspot – Trouw. We’re here to meet the DJs and share a meal before the gig. We arrive shortly before 7 pm and are met at the door by Josh Dupree, our first Future Leader and one of the DJs tonight. He lives in Nijmegen, close to the border of Germany, about 2 hours away by car. This is another first for me and I find him very engaging and friendly, something I find with many of the Dutch people I meet tonight. Next to arrive is This is Progressive Business Development manager Mick Finucane along with Manual Music owner Paul Hazendonk and Cinematique label manager Robin De Lange. Paul is also DJing tonight so conversation quickly turns to music. Jaap, our web designer and Uber DJ comes in next with his beautiful wife Claudia. He’s warming up in the main room for Hernan Cattaneo, but doesn’t show any nerves at all, he’s as cool as a cucumber.
Our table is filled with small plates of food and we dig in. Wine and conversation flow and its not long before we talk about our unifying passion for music. The main course is sumptuous. A mountain of lamb cuts lovingly glazed in a sweet, sticky brown sauce topped off with roasted sweet potatoes and seasonal vegatables. I wonder, if after this feast, I will even want to go clubbing, or whether I’ll pass out in a pleasant post food coma!
Towards the end of the meal, C-Jay arrives with some friends and we head across to the club. Jaap had left a short while before us and its 11:05 now. I’m delighted that there’s a queue down the road of eager clubbers waiting to party, they wait patiently for the door staff to usher them in to the huge foyer with its ornate decoration and large comftable couches. The main room is an old theatre hall and the DJ booth is front and center on a large raised stage. Jaap is deep in the vibe and many of the guests step tentatively on to the floor. Its an older crowd than you would see in London and its clear they have lost none of their passion for the scene but are more choosy of the nights they go out.
The music turns seamlessly from deep house into floaty progressive house as Jaap starts to turn the screws a little. He is effortlessly filling the floor with a beguiling mixture of soundscapes and deep beats perfectly capturing the mood. Its almost a shame when Hernan steps from the curtains to begin his 5 hour set and as midnight passes, I turn my attention to our room in the studio for Josh and the guys.
He doesn’t disappoint. Even C-Jay, who has never heard Josh before, is impressed by his nu disco/deep house crossover sound and it doesn’t take long for the crowd to warm to him either. Barely 20 minutes into the set and the floor is packed. Clubbers, DJs and music lovers dance together and there is an overwhelming mood of joy in the room helped in no small part by Josh’s wondrous performance. Disco beats rub shoulders with bass heavy rollers creating a joyous, deep journey. Throughly enthused, C-Jay takes over and continues on the journey deftly mutating the music towards a more progressive sound and by the time Paul Hazendonk takes over, no-one here cares that King Hernan is merely 20 meters away in the next room! Alessandro Diga finishes things off in the small hours and continues what Josh, Christian and Paul have started.
The young DJ works the crowd into a frenzy with the skill and patience of someone twice his age and as the final beats of Roberto Capuano’s epic track ‘Vertigo’ fades out, we are all left in a daze frantically looking at the DJ to play just one more track… but alas, we are to repopulate the main room for Hernans last hour. By now the King of Prog is in full swing. Hard as nails beats thunder and all manner of shimmery synth lines twinkle in the dimly lit main room. The crowd, despite the late hour has lost none of its enthusiasm and they woop and cheer him all the way through his set. He deftly moves through the gears with the ease of a formula one racing driver and the grace of a prima ballerina such that the last hour is over in a flash.
As we head off to the apartment to regale tales of the evening over a few more drinks, Im struck by the quiet peacefulness of the early morning and the respectfulness of the Dutch crowd as they head off in all directions to their respective homes. In England, the end of a night of clubbing is usually accompanied by a cacophony of noisy tweens and students, but here in Amsterdam its more restrained, civilised. Another plus point. Once the afterparty is in full swing Andrew, Mick and I discuss tattoos over another glass of single malt whiskey. Mick has many tats with interesting stories attached, I have none, but would like some and Andrew, it transpires, is a tattoo artist with all the equipment at the apartment. So of course, fueled by many, many tequilas and male bravado, I get a tattoo on the inside of my ankle. Mick gets one too. Brothers in Arms.
As I’m walking back to Centraal Station the sun is rising on another glorious spring day. It looks like its going to be a scorcher and as I walk I reflect on my evening and the party, its been a massive success and I’m excited for the future and more events in this city. Once back at the train station I look nervously for my train. I recieve a text message from Mick, its a picture of a goat “lost my mates, but found some new ones!” Crazy Irish bastard!
My flight home is early in the morning because the last time I was here it ended in a blur and a lot of crazy stuff happened, so I was keen to leave unscathed this time.
…but what a party!