Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Hague: Rotterdam is hard?

Last night I convinced myself to go to Rotterdam for the night. Rotterdam is about 20 minutes from the Hague on the train.

I had 2 reasons to go. Firstly, there was a dubstep night on at a club called Watt in Rotterdam. Secondly, there was an old school hardcore night on at the same venue, and Paul Elstak and Neophyte were DJing. I could hardly not go, could I?

I've always had a pretty intense fascination with Rotterdam. I think all Sydney ravers circa 94/95 did. I suppose back then, I always sided with the breakier or harder edge styles of dance music (still do). And one of the first rave mixtapes I really loved was DJ Vegas Towards 200 BPM, which I'm pretty sure had a bunch of Dutch hardcore on it (if anyone has a tracklisting I'd be interested to see it). And even though he couldn't mix for shit, Vagas was a purveyor of fine hardcore in the early days. He certainly had a big hand introducing the Rotterdam sound to Sydney. His dodgy Central Station mixed tapes and CDs often featured tracks by Charly Lownoise & Mental Theo and Paul Elstak etc. Netherlands was so far away and Vegas had all the latest tunes coming out of the hardest of hardcore cities - Rotterdam.

Then there were all the ravers who wore their Rotterdam Records t-shirts and bomber jackets and hung out on a Thursday night at Central Station Records on Oxford St, or on Saturday mornings when they might have an instore if there was an international DJ touring. Infact I saw Paul Elstak do a packed instore in the backroom of Central. It all added to the enigma that was Rotterdam.

That's why last night was kind of interesting. A pilgrimage 15 years too late perhaps. Rotterdam itself isn't particularly interesting - it's a fairly new city, because the old Rotterdam was pretty much flattened during the war. But the spirit of the place has always held a certain mystique. I've always been told that Rotterdam is a rough place and the people in it are hard as nails (you only have to imagine the brawls between Amsterdam and Rotterdam football club supporters that have ended in deaths to get an idea of where I'm going with this). Skinheads, football and hardcore is slightly naive, but it's the mental image I had.

I arrived on the train and stepped out into a massive development site right next to central station. I found my way around pretty easily with the help of iPhone and Google maps. Found the place. Picture a venue as big as the Metro Theatre, filled with 25-35 year old Dutch lads (and a sprinkling of ladettes, most with that half-head-shaved thing happening). There were more Nike BWs, 90s and 95s than I think I've ever seen in my life. There was a lot of synthetic tracksuits and 5 panel caps. And all of them bouncing around, doing the hakken.

What's the hakken? It's a dance. Watch and learn.

This was the first time I've seen the hakken performed live on mass in it's country of origin. It was sort of like watching a traditional indigenous dance - and they all knew how to do it very well.

After a while the gabber started to do my head in, but they had a second room downstairs where they were playing classics. As soon as I walked in the door, they played Charly Lownoise & Mental Theo - Live in London. I had to dance of course!

After that I decided to go next door to the dubstep night. And I'm so glad I did. It was so awesome. The Dutch are definitely up for their dubstep. There's something so exciting about dubstep right now. Even though I was a bit disappointed with Rusko in Berlin, there are dubstep DJs out there really pushing the sound to the limits and there definitely isn't another style of music I love more right now.

The crowd was so up for it and the way the Dutch dance to dubstep is quite different to anywhere else I've been. At home dubstep nights tend to turn into an all in slam-jam, but last night there was a real organic flow to the way people were dancing. I get the feeling dubstep is quite small in the Netherlands (much like everywhere else) but the scene is strong, just like at home. It's quite exciting to see.

Anyway... staying sober and dancing all night isn't as easy as it used to be. And I had to catch a train to Paris first thing, so I caught the 5am train back to the Hague and walked home. I got a little bit lost and wandered into the red light district. It was all closed thankfully, and I quickly found my way back to my hotel where I passed out.

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