Alan got lost backstage. Incendiary could have been beaten up by De la Soul, but probably weren't (not that they can remember).
"Phil? Are you in there? Phil! We're going now!" The tour bus remained wrapped in a glowering, silent darkness. "Fuck, they've all passed out". It was 4am after all. We decided that it was time for us, too, to cut our losses and make our way home. We held onto each other for mutual support, walking unsteadily away whilst adopting a curious, crab-like formation, all the while hoping that no criminal or ne'er do well would notice and take advantage of our collective inebriation. As the Incendiary entourage passed the front of the tour bus, a curious figure emerged from out of the dark interior regions of the vehicle; flouncing down the main aisle before coming to rest atop of the driver's seat. All the while, his arms were held aloft in a gesture of love and benediction. The dark frizzy hair, red top and enormous mushroom-enhanced grin identified this figure as the sound engineer, who had earlier eaten an entire punnet of Columbia's finest as a means of post-gig celebration. He gave us a smile of enormous happiness and peace, repeatedly blowing us kisses in a silent gesture of farewell.
What a night. And things had started off so professionally, too.
To mark their signing to the V2 label, the Rakes had embarked on a Japanese and European tour, Amsterdam's Paradiso being the Dutch stop. Naturally, Incendiary was keen to reacquaint ourselves with the band, having spent a very enjoyable if somewhat lunatic day out with them last November. Plus, it has to be said, we were very curious to see how the very unique blend of personalities that made up the Rakes' inner cabal would handle the workings of the machine known as the Music Industry. Things had indeed changed. They had a bloody great tour bus for a start, replacing last year's death trap that had passed for a van. And a sharp, sorted, tour manager. And the Dutch representatives of the label, who were busy promoting as if lives depended on it. And other Dutch journos. Other people, other Dutch people, interested in the Rakes? That was shocking in a way, indicating just how far they had come, no longer being this magazine's favourite secret.
However, we were to be shocked further. One we'd grabbed manager and Friend of Incendiary Phil Morais, helped locate his jumper and arranged a quick pint, we were, on Phil's instigation, shepherded into the Rakes' dressing room to see if anyone else wanted to hook up for a swift one. It was at this point that we encountered our first major surprise. Sat quietly in the dressing room, working away on a lap-top was Lasse, drummer of the Rakes, the man whose antics had so enlivened the last Amsterdam gig.
"Oh hi Richard, how are you? I'm just updating the Rakes website. I can only come for a swift drink, and then I've got promotions to do".
A little later, sat at a bar on the Prinsengracht, Lasse became a little more like his old self; regaling us with stories of what sounded like a triumphant tour of Japan and France with Bloc Party . "We played this really poncey place in Paris full of industry people, sat at these stupid little tables. They were only there to check each other out really... Anyway it just became a really crazy night, we went wild. I've never seen anything like it at a gig. By the end we had all these journos crowd surfing, knocking the tables over, with the bouncers unable to stop it kicking off". Lasse smirks, sips his pint in triumphant contemplation, then becomes downcast. "I've got to go. I've got promos to do".
The Rakes are indeed busy. Back at the tour bus, we met up with a very sleepy bass player in Jamie and a very reflective guitarist in Matthew; both resplendent in Fred Perry clobber. "They gave us these clothes and, as we had no clothes left anyway, we decided to wear 'em". Both get barely tine to say hello before they are whisked away to do promos. Singer Alan and Phil shepherd onto the bus to listen, by way of diversion, to the new album. I realise at this point that our plans of a pleasant afternoon's boozing with the band have been well and truly scuppered.
It is at this point that things got better. I think I won't be giving too much away if I say that the debut album will confound people who have dismissed the Rakes as mere rank and file members of a trendy, London-based scene. No, they are going to have to think again, I'm afraid. The Rakes display great resources of wit and intelligence on their first release; a commodity that will catapult them away from their current competitors. Again, without giving too much away, I can claim that there were moments when I thought I was listening to Eno's Before & After Science, or Roxy's debut LP, even Hex period Fall. And that is some claim, I know. There is a sensibility inherent in the Rakes' album that is one of intelligent, restless enquiry, albeit enquiry quietly pursued underground and from an angle quite at odds with other bands. And I thought all this with only one pint inside me.
"Erm sorry, but we've got a sound check, and then get formally introduced to the label people". Once again the business took over. We decided to meet up later, and enjoy a Friday afternoon on the Prinsengracht.
Its 6pm, and Alan, Phil and Lasse skip arm-in-arm towards us, rejuvenated now that the day's business is done. "Come on; let's have that drink before we go on". Things are looking up again. Tumbling straight into famous gay bar De Pieper, the Rakes order pints all round. Lasse is interested in his surroundings. "That guy is wearing a lot of rouge... he looks like Brian Ferreee". "It's nice here, very Bohemian indeed", observes Matthew. Indeed it is. As a band, the Rakes suit Bohemia. Their mood improves some more with the knowledge that De la Soul will be playing that evening on the main Paradiso stage. Another quick pint was ordered from the bar, followed by a trot back to the venue to dodge the rain, and into the safety of the dressing room for a convivial pre-gig beer. The band get excited, and we leave, in order to get a good view of the stage.
The Rakes concert is upstairs and a fair crowd has gathered. There is quite a buzz in the air too, this time the audience seems much more committed, with, it has to be said, a large smattering of incredibly pretty girls. This isn't the industry crowd of London Calling. From nowhere it seems the Rakes have attracted a following. On they come to warm applause. From the off, the Rakes play a set that is charm itself; funny, tense, intelligent, but above all passionate. There is a real energy and drive about them that transcends the "first time in Europe" enthusiasms they displayed last year. Alan's observations on life are perfectly counter pointed by the raucous, thumping nature of the music. They sound so much better than last year's witty art-school outfit. Yet they have managed to keep the cartoon element about them that makes them so appealing; Alan's antic-laden dancing borrows elements from Dick Van Dyke and Julian Cope. Jamie and Matthew, looking like they've suddenly realised just how good they are, play louder and looser, creating a driving surging rhythmical backdrop. Strasbourg now sounds immense. As for Violent and Retreat, well, they were on another level altogether; Alan coming over as if he's in a trance, Lasse (now in his full psychotic/twee drummer persona), thumping the living fuck out of his kit. The crowd, mildly amiable to the Rakes' antics at first, begin to slowly unwind, foot tapping replaced by manic, born-again dancing. 22 Grand Job closes the set and the crowd go ape. An encore later and I find that I am in a state of complete exhilaration, comparatively rare for one in his responsible mid thirties. Unbelievable. Time for drinks methinks...
Things got messy later. Triumphant, the Rakes decided that their booze allocation was far too small, and decided to rectify matters. The entire sound crew lost it on mushrooms. Snogging took place in public. The label people decide to get down too. This is more like it! Freaky dancing was carried on in force and with wild abandon to De La Soul, the dancing later turning to annoyance and sit-down protests as the headline act got too heavy for some tastes. Certain Incendiary members were spotted having nosebleeds and drinking pints of wine, just like some common tramp would. Alan got lost backstage. Incendiary could have been beaten up by De la Soul, but probably weren't (not that they can remember). After a train journey that took approximately 10 years, Incendiary's editorial team climbed into bed just as the more responsible members of society delivered bread, milk and papers.
Oh, and on further inspection of my train ticket, the date read thus;
Amsterdam 20-05, 2005.
Mark my words; this could be the start of something special.
Words: Richard Foster
Photographs : Damian Leslie