Brakes, Bitterzoet Amsterdam 09/05/09
What are Brakes doing at Bitterzoet? Well, it turns out that this famous pub-come-club on the Spui is in cahoots with the Paradiso’s booking team. And to be honest, the earthy, friendly atmosphere of Bitterzoet is the sort of place a Brakes gig was made for. The band is midway through a heavy schedule of UK & European dates and as usual, they look like they’ve been giving it their all when we meet up for a natter beforehand. Matters aren’t helped when their food doesn’t arrive and we are left wondering whether they’ll have the strength to do the gig…
The band might protest tiredness but putting on a live show is what Brakes do best, and judging from the excitable contingent who saw them the previous night in Brussels, they are in fine form. All pre-gig worries are dissipated when the band saunter on and crank up their noise, starting with a couple from their new LP Touchdown, namely Two Shocks and the brilliant Don’t Take Me to Space (Man). The new tracks are obviously meant to be thrashed out in a live setting, and they all sound as if they were born from some pretty determined jam sessions. Tracks like Hey Hey work brilliantly live, and have a Sabs-like thump to them which helps immeasurably. As usual, Eamon is understated charm itself (between the screeching vocals) and Tom White runs through a repertoire of guitar tricks adding bravura, tone and texture to the thunderous rhythm section.
Now, Bitterzoet may be a very convivial place indeed, but I’ve never seen Brakes audiences react like this in Amsterdam, or Holland for that matter. The crowd whoop, yelp, jump about and even engage in some country style dancing when NY Pie and Spring Chicken and are given a very welcome airing. A fair proportion of ex-pats (and a Brit stag do which has two or three Brakes fans in their number), are one of the main reasons for this jollity. Certainly the band takes advantage of this to smash out an increasingly raucous set. One fella in particular takes the goon of the year prize. Revelling in the freedom afforded by lack of security (or indeed any form of barrier) between band and audience, he “joins” the group on stage, taking close ups on his phone, taking his top off and then in a moment of pure, (and some would say beautiful) idiocy, photographing himself onstage; without realising that a close-up photo of yourself with your top off doesn’t prove that you are on a stage. Duh…
By the time All Night Disco Party is aired, there is a scene of frenzied dancing and (it has to be said) a spectacularly pungent display of flatulence from one of the stag-chaps that thins the UR-mosh pit numbers considerably. Other rabble rousers of note that Brakes fire forth this particular evening are Why Tell the Truth, I Can’t Stand to Stand Beside You and the usual short sharp shocks of Comma Comma Full Stop and Consumer Producer Chicken or An Egg. The band keeps coming back for more encores till they effectively run out of tunes; I don’t think they expected such a response as Dutch audiences normally like to nod along to Brakes’ music. Jackson & Camper Van’s Shut Us Down get a (possibly unexpected) run out. But hell, why not? It was a marvellous gig, regardless of the crowd, and proof yet again that Brakes are possibly the most talented, versatile and (frankly) enjoyable band to slip under the general public’s musical radar.
Great gig, great night, great band.
Words: Richard Foster