A DPRS Diary

or 51 hours behind the scenes of Dutch Progressive Rock Stage

by Ed Sander

Friday, March 20th

It was 14.00 hours and I wasn't planning to go to Amersfoort until 18.00 hours when suddenly the phone rang. 'Yes, this is Martijn. The first band has arrived!' Apparently Lizard had already left Poland the previous evening and had arrived in Holland much earlier than expected. 'Can you come and help me out Ed?' 'No problem, I'll be there in one and a half hour.'
I quickly threw some clothes and other stuff in a sports bag and jumped in my car. There was quite a lot of traffic but nevertheless I managed to reach Martijn's house in 75 minutes.

I found the whole living room filled with Polish people listening to names ending in 'ski' or 'witz'. Obviously Quidam had also arrived.
I thought it might be better to take the band to the hotel. Lizard started asking for the nearest coffee shop 'to buy some grass' and Martijn's mother, who seemed to have missed the last bit, told me that she'd be happy to make some sandwiches and coffee for them if they were hungry.
I asked Lizard's drummer to join me in my car while the others followed in their van. They were planning to go to Amsterdam that night. 'Oh in that case, you won't have any problems finding a coffee shop'; I told him and instantly took a wrong highway exit.

Back on the right road we made our way to Bussum, where I took a wrong turn again. Eventually we ended up right in front of the venue where the band would be playing the next day. After much zigzagging through one-way streets (don't you just hate those), we arrived at the hotel.
I paid the clerk for all the rooms we'd booked, wished the band a nice 'night on the town' and headed back for Amersfoort, where I arrived just in time for dinner.  

And then the waiting began…
We didn't have a clue when the other bands had started their journeys to Holland. As a matter of fact, we weren't even sure if they had left at all. This was a rather scary sensation, so you can imagine our relief when the phone rang at 21.15 when Helreidh called to inform us that they were somewhere in Germany. Martijn thought they said 'Keulen', so their 'we'll be in Amersfoort in two hours' seemed a bit optimistic. Fortunately they must have meant some other German city because when they called again at 22.30 they were already in Holland and around 23.30 they were at Martijn's place.
I showed the band a map and gave directions of how to get to the hotel in Bussum, after which they took off again. They seemed like very nice people to me.

More waiting followed and we were just discussing how Martijn's magic act and dancing might be a good replacement performance when another van with a Polish license plate pulled up in front of the house. Abraxas had arrived. Martijn showed them to the hotel while Kylian, who had joined us earlier that evening, went home and I hit the sack.

 

Saturday, March 21st

The big day.

Rising and shining (well, maybe just faintly glowing) at 8.00 hours. After we had breakfast Quidam and Abraxas, who had stayed in a hotel in Amersfoort, joined us and we all went to Amersfoort together; two Polish vans following Martijn's car.
I was in the van with Quidam and was very amused by their rehearsals; they had only recently recruited a new flute player and were still teaching him the songs. The result was an entire band singing the melody in a-cappella while he tried to repeat it. I couldn't convince them to include it in their show though.

We arrived 45 minutes early at De Opsessie in Bussum so we decided to wander through the center of town for a while. One hilarious bit, which might be nice to mention, is how one of the band members kept on talking about a house with arms or wings. After a while we found out that he meant a windmill.

Back at Opsessie at 11.00 we met Frans, who was in charge of the venue. The bands started setting up their equipment. All bands would play on Quidam's drum kit, which would save a lot of time and hassle.
Before long most of the DPRP team members was present. Henri had taken a double bass pedal which the drummer of Helreidh desperately needed.

When Jerry and I counted the number of hotel reservations we needed for that night we noticed that we missed one or two. Since I was planning to stay in a hotel that night I suggested we'd drive to the hotel where Lizard and Helreidh had slept. When I tried to book for three persons (myself, Martin Orford and his dad, who was joining him on his trip to Holland) the old geezer who claimed to be the owner of the hotel told me that the bands had not cleared the rooms yet. We promised to tell them to get back to the hotel and get their stuff out.
Then the old guy started to prepare the bill, which took him hours (which were pretty sparse for us). After adding and subtracting costs for breakfast several times we managed to escape and were on our way to the other hotel, where rooms for all the bands had been booked for the coming night.

The hotel in Hilversum, close to the TV studios, proved to be very nice indeed. We paid for the reservations, got instructions on how to use the code lock and were on our way again. After picking up several vital items at Jerry's house in Eemnes (passes, tickets, CDs, etc) we headed back to the venue.

It was about 14.00 when the bands were still setting up equipment. There seemed to be a problem with keyboard cables. Meanwhile time was ticking away and the doors had to be opened at 15.00. Henri had hung up several posters with the program and the results of the DPRP Poll. We set up a table for ticket sales and quicly improvised merchandise stand in the hall. CDs were sorted for the results of the DPRPoll 1997, which would be played during the breaks, and recording equipment was connected to the mixing desk.
There was a fantastic room for the bands and organization upstairs, completely with kitchen and fridge that supplied my first (well-deserved) beer. I cannot remember a beer tasting that good in ages.

When the doors were opened at 15.00 people started pouring in while the first band, Lizard, hadn't even had a full sound check yet. It looked like we would have our first delay. Arthur started playing tracks from the DPRPoll 1997, though some of them were drowned in the noise of the sound check.

At 15.50 Lizard finally played their opening song, a King Crimson track and a brilliant choice indeed. The audience was immediately very enthusiastic. They played very good for over almost an hour. I didn't really have a chance to see their performance (though it sounded nice from the entrance hall) but their drummer especially fascinated me. Nice band.

The flow of people had stopped coming in and it looked like we wouldn't hit the number of people we had hoped for. The audience seemed to have a great time though, as well as all of the bands.
When Helreidh started their performance the delay had already increased a bit more. At a certain point I lost all track of time while we switched places at the merchandise stand, the ticket table and the concert hall.
I didn't really like the strange stories I heard about the dinner that was being prepared upstairs so I decided to join JJ and headed for the snack bar. Back at the Opsessie we took over from the other guys, who went out to get a bite. Only Jerry seemed to settle for the strange brew that had been prepared.

It must have been around 18.00 when IQ keyboard player Martin Orford and his dad arrived. They originally had planned to arrive at 17.00 but the Shuttle train had been delayed. After reassuring them that I had arranged hotel rooms for the night I showed Martin the artist/organization room upstairs.

When Abraxas started their theatrical performance, which seemed to be received very well by the crowd, we had a chance to chat with Martin and his dad while keeping an eye on the merchandising stand at the same time. When Abraxas had finished their encore I helped Martin to get his equipment on stage. It took two people to carry the case of the A-90 keyboard (the one with the brick keys, the lead housing and the nuclear power unit). Fortunately the other keyboard was much easier to carry.

Martin's stuff was set up very quickly, as was to be expected, while Arthur played the last couple of tracks from the DPRPoll, which brought us to the number one, which was IQ's Subterranea. The DPRP team had decided that we needed to present Martin with a tongue-in-cheek present for winning the poll. I therefore got on stage (a very strange sensation looking at a dark crowd with flashing camera lights) and announced the IQ keyboardist. I handed over the present we had bought and after Martin thanked everybody who voted for the IQ album he asked the crowd if he should open it. You can guess what the response was. Martin was pleasantly surprised by assembled Leffe beers and glass and told us that by chance he had seen a Leffe truck on the way to Bussum and how he'd told his dad what great beer that was!

Martin then started his solo gig, which was received extremely well by the audience. He told anecdotes about the origins of the songs between the tracks and seemed very relaxed, though after the gig he admitted that he had been very nervous. You could hardly tell if you didn't count the one or two lines the forgot and the rare wrong keystroke.

The set list, which was a wonderful peaceful intermezzo after the heavy stuff the previous bands had been playing, consisted of some re-arranged IQ songs, a couple of own classical compositions and a Jadis track as well. Martin opened with 'that classical piano piece with the heavy metal title' My Baby Treats Me Right 'Cause I'm A Hard Loving Man All Night Long. After telling a story about himself and Paul Menel being forced on stage to do a song together while they were in Holland he played the Piano/Vocal version of No Love Lost. His vocals were very good, and I wouldn't mind hearing him sing an occasional track for IQ for a change, although I wouldn't go as far as some other people who later started a weird conversation about Martin replacing Peter Nicholls in IQ.

'They all said I couldn't do it, but I said I could' were the words Martin used to announce a beautiful ballad version of the title track of Subterranea. Wonderful and enchanting to hear this splendid version.
Next up was that track he wrote when he was still a teenager and happened to play during a John Wetton tour. When he didn't have a title ready they'd named it after the local beer; Quilmes. The middle piece of Gateway and a version of Jadis' A Life is All You Need, on which Martin used the smaller keyboard for the first time, followed the beer tune.

'This song was meant to be on my solo album, but IQ grabbed it and took it away from me', was how Martin introduced Speak My Name, another Subterranea track.
The next tune, a wonderful long classical piano piece Martin had only recently written, was still untitled. As you can expect it got the name of the local beer, Amstel, as a working title (I'm really looking forward to Martin's solo album with all these beer titles).

The last track in the main set was a medley of Further Away - on which he used the second keyboard again for the opening melody -, Leap of Faith and Came Down.

The audience cheered loud when he left the stage and when they kept on clapping their hands he came back to do another medley after asking me if he had some time left to do another one. 'Yes!' the audience screamed. He announced another medley were a new track would lead into an oldie which would also be present on the re-recorded version of Seven Stories into Eight. He had given me a CDR copy of the re-recorded tracks earlier that evening. 'There's only two copies of it at the moment and Ed's got one', he told the audience, informing them that we would probably play a couple of tracks of it later on, unless somebody would mug me first. The medley proved to be a wonderful combination of Laid Low and the closing section of It All Stops Here. This also closed a wonderful and very well received performance.

While Jan-Jaap told the people that we would be playing some stuff from the forthcoming Arena album in the break we started clearing the stage and got the instruments back into Martin's car. He was very pleased that the gig had gone so well.

After about 20 minutes of The Visitor and the re-recorded version of Fascination from Seven Stories into 98 Quidam started their show. The delay had now grown enough to make their planned ending time the starting time. The audience didn't seem to mind.

We cleared the merchandise stand and gave the bands back their remaining stuff and the money for the stuff we'd sold and went inside the hall to watch Quidam for a while.
Before long I was told that Martin and his dad, who had been chatting with some friends upstairs, wanted to go to the hotel. I jumped in the back of the car, between the keyboard cases and stands, and showed them the way. After another short clash with Bussum's one-way street system we managed to get a parking spot in front of the hotel and moved the stuff to one of the two rooms. Martin struggled up the stairs with the heavy A-90, which he'd taken out of the case. Owing to the steep stairs we weren't able to caring it together and since I was walking right behind Martin I was dead scared that he would drop the thing. In the end all worked out fine and after I had wished Martin's dad goodnight and dropped my stuff in my own room, Martin and I walked back to the venue for another beer and a chat.

I watched the last bit of the Quidam show and we played some more tracks from Seven Stories into 98 and some other CDs while people went home. I had a couple of beers more and after a cynical evaluation with the team of the enthusiastic response of the bands and audience coupled with the financial disaster of the rather low ticket sales (only half of the number needed to break even) we split. I staggered to the hotel were Martin had headed for half an hour earlier.
I don't know what time it was but it must have been well around 2.00 AM when I entered my room, tried to keep myself upright on all the loose bathroom tiles and plumped down in bed.

Sunday, March 22nd

When I woke around 8.00 AM I was feeling quite all right. I didn't have a hangover though I had this odd heavy sensation in the back of my skull. The bathroom tiles were still shifting, so that had not been caused by last night's beers.

I slipped into an easy Eukanuba jogging suit packed my bag and went down to Martin's room. We had agreed that whoever woke first would wake the other ones. After all, nobody had taken an alarm clock and the things were not available in the hotel rooms.
After knocking twice, Martin's dad opened the door. Martin was still in bed and wished me a good morning while peeking out from under the blankets. We agreed to have breakfast together in half an hour.
I went outside for a breath of fresh air and walked to the bus station where I found a telephone to call home and tell my wife that I was still all right.

While I was waiting outside of the hotel Rene (one of the DPRP team members) and his wife Claudia came out. They had been sleeping in the same hotel and had not left yet, though Rene initially had planned to leave very early. I sat down at their table while they eagerly attacked their breakfast.
The old man of the hotel came in and after several desperate attempts to tell him which rooms we were in he joined us and started asking about the bands of the festival. 'You know', he said: 'A friend of mine organizes these parties for this gossip magazine and he might be interested in such a group of musicians for young people'. I told him that this might not really be the correct type of music for that purpose.

Then I noticed Martin and his dad outside, trying to find the way in. I opened the door for them and we had our breakfast, while Martin's dad told some fantastic stories about his many travels across the world. I could easily have listened to him all day. What a wonderful man!
Martin and I discussed the plans for filming IQ at the Paradiso gig. 'It was a bad idea', he told me. 'In Kleve we had two days to film the concert and we had a hard time getting it right. Oggie pointed out that it was almost impossible to get a show the size of Subterranea ready to be filmed in half a day.' Also, Paradiso probably wouldn't like the loss of space for the cameras, which would result in a drop in potential ticket sales of 150-200 pieces. Finally, the stage lights at Paradiso are at the back of the stage, pointing forwards. This was a completely wrong position for any camera.
IQ would probably film the show at another potential Shepherds Bush gig or at a film set with the fan club members as an audience, which would enable them to do several takes and use the best stuff.

After breakfast we got the keyboards back in Martin's car and I dropped the keys at the reception. 'Come back in three months', the old man yelled:'We'll have the renovation finished by then'.
Martin's dad insisted on riding in the back, sitting between the equipment while I rode with Martin in the front. This made me feel rather guilty but it didn't seem to bother him a bit.
We drove to Amersfoort where I picked up some things I forgot at Martijn's place, jumped in my car and followed Martin's car to Almelo, where he would do a recording session for the local radio program Xymphonia. Halfway to Almelo we passed a blue van with a Polish license plate, which proved to be Quidam on their way home.
The trip to Almelo lasted exactly one new Arena album, which I was playing on the car stereo. After checking the map a couple of times and walking around we found the address and just when we wanted to get back into our cars to drive over, a familiar looking vehicle pulled up behind us. It was Martijn and Kylian, who had picked up Jan-Jaap at the train station in Amersfoort. 'Just follow me', I said and the three cars joined each other for the final 200 meters.

The guys Xymphonia were busy setting up things inside. We were offered coffee, which was very welcome after the trip. We chatted a bit and told jokes. Someone said, 'One o'clock.... time for lunch', to which Martijn immediately replied:'dum di-dum di-dum-dum'. Another radio guy walked in looking very tired:'It's okay, I'm awake ..'. '... and nervous !', Martijn said.

Unfortunately the radio team did not manage to get everything set-up by the agreed time of 13.30pm. As a result time was running out for Martin, who had a long drive home ahead of him. He got the A-90 monster from the car and placed it on the small stage on the second floor. A couple of chairs had been placed in front of the stage. 'I didn't know that this was going to be a gig', Martin said surprised. The radio guys quickly explained that just a handful of people were coming to watch.
Xymphonia had done a great job for their guests by arranging enough coffee, soft drinks and buns with cheese and ham.

In the end Martin only had time for a couple of songs and a quick interview. He did Speak My Name, two takes of Quilmes and Gateway (middle section). After that we quickly helped him get his stuff in the car and after thanking him for a great weekend and wishing him and his dad a safe trip back home they were off.

Helreidh had walked in during Martin's 'gig'. They would play an acoustic set for Xymphonia. Unfortunately I didn't have time to stay because I had to be home at 17.00 hours. After I got the CDR of Seven Stories into 98 back from the radio guys - they would play some tracks during the Orford hour of the show - I thanked everybody for a great weekend and started the journey home at 15.30.

I arrived home at 16.45. I was tired but had a very satisfied feeling about the whole weekend. It had been hard work and the audience at the first Dutch Progressive Rock Stage had not been as large as we had wished, but it certainly had been worth it.


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