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Here are some recent posts to Tim Oake's Blog concerning 'destinations' – concerts, hotels, restaurants, exhibitions and more – recommended to our clients, partners and visitors. The current home page of the Blog can be found here.

Monday, March 29th

Taking a shine to the canteen

The WV-HEDW Canteen

The canteen of an Amsterdam football club might seem an unusual location for me to recommend as somewhere to visit for a great evening of music, but amongst local followers of excellent but less-well-known singer-songwriters, it’s already got a well-earned reputation. ‘WV-HEDW’ may not have the same ring to it as ‘Ajax’, but its roots go back almost as far as their rather more illustrious ex-neighbours, and it celebrated its 100th anniversary last May. And although the acronym is a tongue twister for a non-Dutch native to pronounce, it’s a bit snappier than Wilhemina Vooruit – Hortus Eendracht Doet Winnen.

A good friend of mine is a long-time WV-HEDW member and shares my interests in both football and singer-songwriters of quality. For some years Jos has been carrying on the club’s long tradition of staging musical performances, and during each football season he works wonders in attracting some great musicians to play at the club canteen. The acts typically represent the so-called ‘Americana’ genre, and Jos has managed to attract the likes of Steve Earle, David Olney and Calvin Russell to the canteen over the years. These guys might be expected to turn their noses up at the idea of performing in such a venue, but they've always been pleasantly surprised. After his first gig at the canteen nine years ago, David Olney said: "When I heard I was supposed to play in the canteen of a soccer club, I was very sceptical. It turned out to be the best gig of the tour".

Josie Kuhn

The last part of the WV-HEDW 2009-2010 musical season kicks off (sorry) on Friday 9th April, with two acts that promise another great evening. Singer-songwriter Josie Kuhn (above) from Nashville has been called "one of the original leaders of the Americana movement" by more than one admiring music critic. Ms Kuhn has shared the stage with artists such as Albert Lee, Steve Earle, the Mavericks and Emmylou Harris and has toured with the late Rick Danko (of The Band), Todd Snider, Steve Forbert and Lee Clayton. To describe her music, Jim Ridley wrote in the Nashville Scene: “If you can imagine a cross between Patsy Cline and Buffy St. Marie you’re not far off the mark."

Shiner Twins

The second act on the bill hail from the south of the Netherlands, but by all accounts they sound more like they're from a mix of the southern states of the USA. The Shiner Twins (above) are a quartet led by Richard van Bergen and Jack Hustinx, who also share the songwriting credits, vocals and guitars. The rhythm section comprises Dick Wagensverld on bass and tuba (great combination...) and Jody van Ooijen on drums. I've yet to see them, but their mix of southern gospel, New Orleans grooves, heart-rending ballads and straight-ahead Rock 'n' Roll sounds pretty cool.

As usual, the evening is free, and starts at eight-thirty. WV-HEDW is in Amsterdam's Watergraafsmeer district. Turn right after the Jaap Edenhal on the Kruislaan into Radioweg. Once you've entered the sportpark through the gates at the end of Radioweg, it's a 5-minute walk to the WV-HEDW canteen. The atmosphere in Sportpark Middenmeer is sure to be as warm as always, and I can heartily recommend it as a great start to a spring weekend.

Thursday, January 14th

Two of the best

I’ve seen John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett a few times separately over the years with their own touring bands, but it’s going to be a real treat to see them on stage alone together, as they say. Their acoustic tour comes to Amsterdam’s Paradiso on Saturday February 13th. I’m surprised to see that there are still tickets available as of today.

Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt

I’ve been a big fan of John Hiatt, from the first four albums I promoted heavily in my Soho record store in the seventies, through absolute classics like 1987’s ‘Bring the Family’ and ‘Slow Turning’ the year after, all the way to his last CD, called ‘Same Old Man’, which happily demonstrated that he was. I look forward to hearing a track or two at the Paradiso from his upcoming March release ‘The Open Road’.

Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt

I was introduced to Lyle Lovett’s eponymous first album by a friend in the States soon after its release in 1986, and he immediately joined my list of favourite singer-songwriters. His second, ‘Pontiac’, was released the same year as Hiatt’s ‘Bring the Family’, and I still find its opening track, ‘If I had a boat’, always goes together well with ‘Thing called love’ and ‘Have a little faith in me’, two of my favourites from that year’s Hiatt album.

Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt

While if I had to choose between them, I’d tend to lean towards Hiatt most of the time, I’d say that Lovett’s much shorter discography has the apparently contradictory advantage of combining more consistent high quality with more variety in style. His ‘country/americana’ albums are often comparable with those of Hiatt, although a little less rocky perhaps – and I think the same goes for his most recent collection, last year’s ‘Natural Forces’ – but his ‘Large Band’ CDs have quite a different style and atmosphere.

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

Modern Life at the Kunsthal

I have to admit that I tend to fall into the trap of being somewhat Amsterdam-centric when it comes to checking out possibilities for taking in a bit of culture. No surprise then that it took a trip I made yesterday to a prospective client headquartered in the Rotterdam area for me to learn for the first time that an outstanding exhibition had opened at the end of September at Rotterdam’s excellent Kunsthal.

Seven A.M.

‘Modern Life: Edward Hopper and his Time’ is a touring exhibition of works from the Whitney Museum of Modern Art in New York. Prior to the Kunsthal it had spent the summer at the Bucerius Kunst Forum in Hamburg. In this case held as part of the celebration of 400 years New York (1609 - 2009), it features eight of Hopper’s own works, together with – depending on which press release you read – no less than seventy or ninety pieces from his contemporaries.

South Carolina Morning

Although he was relatively successful in his lifetime, it is only since his death in 1967 that Edward Hopper has been considered by many to be the pre-eminent painter of 20th century America. I’ve included images of the two paintings above – ‘Seven A.M.’ from 1948 (top) and ‘South Carolina Morning’ from 1955 – as I understand they are amongst the eight Hoppers in the exhibition. He’s better known, however, for his subjects depicting the loneliness of big city life, and I guess one or two of these are also on view.

River Rouge Plant

Perhaps just as interesting will be the other great works from the Whitney in the exhibition – it makes me wonder what’s still on show there while all these are away. They include two of my favourite modern American painters, Charles Sheeler (whose 1932 painting ‘River Rouge Plant’ is shown above) and Georgia O’Keeffe, together with Robert Henri (with whom Hopper studied), John Sloan, Stuart Davis, Man Ray, Lyonel Feininger and Grant Wood. Some sculpture and photographs (including some by Alfred Stieglitz) are also featured. ‘Modern Life’ can be seen at the Kunsthal until January 17, 2010.

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Eindhoven by design

Dutch Design Week

The only time I’ve visited Dutch Design Week so far was when I was writing the English versions of the Dutch Design Awards catalogues, from 2005 through 2007. In those visits I only went to the Awards exhibition and award ceremony. Although I realized there were other design events going on in the city, there either weren’t as many as there are now or they just weren’t being very well promoted.

Having just finished the English version of the 2009 graduation catalogue for Design Academy Eindhoven – a project that was similar to, though somewhat larger than, the work I used to do for the Designprijzen – I checked out the Dutch Design Week website. It’s well designed itself, which, surprisingly enough perhaps, is not something I’ve come to expect from design websites. That made it easier than you might imagine to take myself on a tour around the no less than 280 events in 60 locations that are being organized in Eindhoven from the 17th to the 25th of next month.

Dutch Design Awards

Eindhoven has been shortlisted, along with Helsinki, for nomination as ‘World Design Capital 2012’, so no doubt this is one of the reasons all the stops are being pulled out this year. Every aspect of contemporary Dutch design will be represented by both commercial designers and design schools, and a number of interesting sounding concerts have been organized for those staying long enough to see more than a fraction of them.

The Dutch Design Awards exhibition is now held in the Brainport Greenhouse (photo from last year above) on the Stadhuisplein, a much more central and pleasant location than the StrijpS, where I used to visit it. The awards show is on the evening of Saturday 17th, and for the next eight days it can be visited from 11.00 to 22.00.

Design Academy Eindhoven

The 140 final year works of this year’s bachelor’s and master’s graduates of Design Academy Eindhoven will be exhibited at the ‘Witte Dame’ on the Emmasingel (photo from last year above). A number of projects will also be presented that have emerged from the academy’s collaboration with various companies. The Design Academy show is open from 13.00 to 18.00 on the 17th, and then from 11.00 to 18.00 until the 25th.

Smokey Joe

One of the many other items that caught my eye was an exhibition called ‘Schat steek jij de BBQ eens aan’, or ‘Honey, put the BBQ on’. Featuring products such as the intriguing looking ‘Smokey Joe’ barbecue (above), Studio Niels & Sven is presenting a series of designs “based on transience and alternative functionality” at the Peninsula Centre for Contemporary Culture on the Bilderdijklaan. It’s open each day from 12.00, and I fancy the idea of the BBQ on the evening of Friday 23rd.

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Don't stop the carnival...

Caribbean Carnival

This month sees the 25th edition of the Summer Carnival in Rotterdam. Given the mixed weather we’ve had so far this summer, it can only be hoped that the sun will be shining down there at end of next week. The main events take place on Monday 20th, with the election of this year’s Carnival Queen, on Friday 24th, with the annual ‘Battle of Drums’ that evening, and the big day is Saturday 25th, with its Street Parade during the day and musical festivities live on stage that evening.

Carnival Drummers

The election of the Carnival Queen to take over from last year’s Esmée Ronde will take place as the high point of an evening of entertainment on Monday at the Nieuwe Luxor Theater featuring Dutch soul diva Berget Lewis and the Antillian group K-Liber4Life. On Friday, four brass bands leave from four different locations and they meet each other for the ‘Battle of Drums’ at the Bavaria Stage on the Coolsingel at 19.00. Over a hundred percussionists and trumpeters will be trying to outdo each other in this musical battle.

Street Parade

Saturday’s Street Parade starts in the city centre on the Boompjeskade by the Erasmusbrug at 13.00. Around 50 floats, organized by groups all over the Netherlands, will be participating for the 25th anniversary. The parade is about 2.5 km long and, having wound around the city, its head is due to return to the starting point at about 17.30. From that evening through to the early hours of Sunday, there will be musical performances on the Bavaria stage on the Coolsingel in front of the City Hall and on a stage in the Churchillplein, which changes its name to the Braziliëplein for the evening.

Not to be outdone by its southern rival, Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum is holding ‘Caribbean Carnival’ festivities from this month through to September 6th. As a run up to the ‘real’ street parade, a day of festivities will be held at the museum on Wednesday 22nd, starting at 14.00, and will be visited by the recently elected Queen.

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Event companies stage Amsterdam food fight

Timing is everything, as they say. Next month, only three days apart, two Amsterdam events agencies are each staging a 4-day outdoor culinary event, each featuring a number of restaurants showcasing their signature dishes in tents. Could be a sure-fire recipe for a marketing food fight, methinks…

Amsterdam Culinair

The first is ‘Amsterdam Culinair’, organized by Brownys Events and Stichting Amsterdam Culinair, who say they’re “breathing new life into this scrumptious culinary festival”. Amsterdam Culinair was first held in 1999 on the Amstelveld, the square on the Prinsengracht between the Reguliersgracht and Utrechtsestraat, but objections from residents meant they had to look elsewhere. In 2005 it was held again around the Nieuwmarkt, when Michelin-star Amsterdam restaurant Vermeer took part.

Amsterdam Culinair 2008

The first Amsterdam Culinair in its excellent current location, around the pond in the Museumplein, was held a year later. Having missed a year in 2007, the founders brought in Brownys Events to help them organize last year’s event, but attracted only half the predicted 20,000 visitors. “The small-scale success was partly due to our becoming involved at too late a stage,” said Brownys’ Frank Bruijnesteijn. He says on the Amsterdam Culinair website that they’re going for a larger scale event this year, with many special restaurants. The site says that “a great number of restaurants have expressed interest”, but more are welcomed to participate. As of today the only participant listed is ‘WAQ-Food’, apparently a company specializing in Indonesian/Asian catering and travel to Indonesia/Asia. Amsterdam Culinair is set to run from Thursday 18th to Sunday 21st June. Entrance is free, but if the scheme works as in previous years, visitors will need to buy tokens they can exchange in the participants’ tents for meals, snacks and drinks.

Taste of Amsterdam

The other event is ‘Taste of Amsterdam’. Taste Festivals have been organized by London-based Brand Events Ltd since 2004, and ‘Taste of London’ has become an increasingly successful event held in Regent’s Park each summer since 2005. They began expanding to other cities in the UK and Ireland three years ago and Taste Festivals have recently expanded internationally to Auckland, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Dubai, Melbourne and Sydney.

Taste Festival

Local agency Downtown Events has been franchised to organize the first Taste Festival in Amsterdam, which will be held from Thursday 25th to Sunday 28th June at the Amstelpark, near the RAI. Like the other international festivals, a TV company is one of the sponsors, and a number of very high quality restaurants are taking part, including Peter Lute’s and Ron Blaauw’s prestigious Ouderkerk establishments and one of my favourite Amsterdam restaurants, Toscanini. Tickets for entry to ‘Taste of Amsterdam’ cost from € 12.50 in advance or € 15.50 on the day, and can be ordered via the event website. ‘Florin’ tokens, with a value of € 1.25 and combined to purchase drinks and meals, can be purchased at the event.

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