"An argument was had with the Rakes driver, a nervous individual who began, in my crazed state, to remind me disgustingly of ex- Radio One dj Peter Powell."
The Rakes Progress
Or, "An Instructive and Educational Journey of Three Stages".
Or, "An account of an Interesting day with the Rakes".
Scene the First
Why the bloody hell are there so many pizza houses behind the Leidseplein? Is there some special tax dispensation on dough? Incendiary had got the text from the Rakes a little earlier on that bright Saturday morning. "We're eating Pizza. Coming?" Of course. Problem was finding the right place. I bet there's never been such a concentration of Italian flags in one place since the Rissorgimento, or Italia '90 at any rate. After a great deal of red-faced misunderstandings with restauraunteurs, we found the band and entourage quietly sat at a long table, studying the menu and sipping the first pints of the day. I say quietly advisedly. Even at this stage there was a feeling of suppressed excitement, most notable in Lasse Peterson, the Rakes' drummer, who sported a most outrageous pair of white rimmed spectacles; giving him the look of a demented Penelope Keith. An air of a coach party outing pervaded. This was, after all, their first visit to the Paradiso.
At this stage, I suppose an introduction of some sorts is called for. The Rakes, for those unfortunates not acquainted with them, comprise of four band members. The band in terms of personality seem to split into two camps; something which definitely informs their music. In the first camp can be placed singer Alan Donohoe and bassist Jamie Hornsmith, both quiet, thoughtful, and very charming in manner. Both have artistic, cerebral leanings, especially Jamie. In the other camp sit guitarist Matthew Swinnerton and Lasse Peterson. Both are witty, edgy and acerbic individuals, always on the look out for a laugh or for a chance to make silly voices, sit on peoples' knees, or dance on the table; you get the picture. As well as The Rakes themselves, there appears to be a travelling army of charming, louche, itinerant individuals; some trying to make films, someone trying to drop names, others writing about prize chickens (true fact that). This caravan is held in some sort of order by manager Phil Morais, another fin de siecle figure, whose outward show of impeturbability was soon to show hidden depths of adventure. After pizza (or in Incendiary's case, some foul tasting soup), the band went off to the sound-check. We accompanied some of their friends and confidantes to a charming cafe on the Singel and were regaled with tales of their adventures from the previous night. These included two 180 degree spins on the motorway after two missed junctions, ("fort we was gahna dai mate") and the lunatic antics of Lasse Peterson. Which are unprintable. After Incendiary's co-editor Damian joined the team, we were ready to re-join a freshly sound-checked Rakes in another pub of our choosing. The Molenpad on the Prinsengracht.
Scene the Second
The Molenpad on the Prinsengracht is a very nice middle class establishment. In common with most bars of its kind, it attracts a slightly older, new media pretend-bohemian lot, a Dutch Hampstead and Highgate crowd, if you will. The Rakes, with an impressive adaptability, soon merged into this. There is a social fluidity and adaptability about the Rakes. There they sat, steadily boozing. Incendiary turned up and a drinking spree of sorts was inaugurated.
Things sped up considerably when Lasse, proving some inexplicable point or other, smashed Damian's glass almost perfectly in half. "I did that because I'm wearing a magic ring", Lasse smiled. He was at peace. He even loaned out his Penelope Keith glasses as a token of his largesse. Phil called for more drinks, and put Lasse on a booze watch. "No more or you'll fuck your performance up. Yes, a pint please Richard". I decided that Phil needed to have a local tipple. "What's that?" "That's Jaegermeister, Phil". Down they went. Satisfied with the turn of events, Phil called for some more. A book on Napoleon's Hundred Day Campaign was produced, which Phil confiscated. More members of the Rakes' family arrived from London. A discussion on the merits of tweed clothing was started. Drinking continued, more glasses were spilled or smashed, (all in a strange, almost surreal spirit of calm negligence), and the subject of legal substances that could perform tricks of the imagination was raised. With the accent on how to obtain them. After all, when in Rome...
The band was sent onwards, to the Paradiso and, true to the spirit of the evening, a hunt was organised for the smartest of shops and similar retail outlets. Phil now showed his true management skills. A taxi was magically procured. A sortie was sent. Arrangements were made and we were ready for the nights' entertainment.
Scene the Third
"Thank you Amsterdam thank you, Sorry for all the English tourists and hooligans, Amsterdam. We've seen them all and they are all out of their minds..." On Alan went, at times leaning his head on the monitor, gyrating in the air, pulling his mike stand to pieces. Maybe he was embarrassed about my shouted assertion that the Rakes were on mushrooms. I'm sure they weren't at that stage, though I'm pretty sure most of Incendiary were. What a gig. Pulsating, colourful, yet absurdly basic; stripped down and menacing at times, always full of intent, the Rakes pounded through their set, completely winning over a lethargic Dutch crowd. As a finale, Alan, laid down and shouted "It's all fucked Amsterdam, we're all fucked". Yep, we were.
Hamish and Phil have a lot to answer for. They reduced us all to a state of mind that was incapable of normal patterns of speech. Incapable of any actions save lurching and slobbering. Even the silly voices that Lasse now produced ad infinitum had no effect. Post gig and back stage, high on a certain euphoria, we tried to tell Jamie they were the best thing since the Fall, Joy Div, La Dusseldorf, Bunnymen, Teardrops; famous band names just kept falling uncontrollably from my lips. Jamie was very polite. He listened and said nothing, mutely staring at me as I ranted on, wondering when I could turn my gob off. Or maybe he just couldn't move. An argument was had with the Rakes driver, a nervous individual who began, in my crazed state, to remind me disgustingly of ex- Radio One dj Peter Powell (give praise and thanks if you don't know who he is).
The prescence of Art Brut only complicated matters. One of them looked like Tony Hadley with puppy fat. Or someone I knew at school. Things became lurid. The itinerant film maker appeared wearing a pair of sparkly red pointy shoes, which terrified me. How can you wear those? How can anyone wear those? A table was cleared of it's contents by Matthew's foot. I followed suit. A huge glass coke bottle was smashed. We all stared in mute horror at the crystalline gobbets of glass swimming in a sea of dark, fizzy liquid. I'm sure someone was sporting a wig. A radio presenter we know compared Art Brut unfavourably with The Rakes and this remark set of a further round of inane chatter and eventual conciliation. A photographer, who by now was incredibly drunk, tried to inaugurate a sing along. We had to leave. The King of Burgers that I devoured tasted like congealed fatty particles of death. I had to get home.
Things got worse for the Rakes who, apparently, later that evening contrived to lose the directions to their hotel. But they'll be back. So look out. By the way, their new single, "Strasbourg", is wonderful, but there again it just had to be, I suppose.
Words and Illustrations : Richard Foster.