Monday, March 16, 2009

Feature: 24hrs in Amsterdam Part 2, 4pm-6am

From Australian Get Lost travel mag this is part two of my 24 hrs in Amsterdam feature. Part one below.
4.00pm: Get Up (I feel like being a) Sex Machine – James Brown
Amsterdam’s main drag Damrak is dirty and grungy but not in a cool, Seattle way. There are plenty of lame tourist traps not worth your time. One that is, is the Sex Museum. Not quite as highbrow as the Van Gogh or Rijksmuseum, at the Sex Museum you’ll find filthy flashers, horny heathens, Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page and Cockzilla. There are also a few of Indiana’s dirtier finds like ancient dildos, kama sutra art and sex machines. With a childish sense of humour and school-girl giggle I’m a kid in an eye candy store. And for a mere €3 worth, you’ll also learn about Amsterdam’s long sex trade history.

5.00pm: Roxanne – The Police
Like the tolerated attitude towards soft drugs, The Netherlands has long held a pragmatic view by political and religious groups in controlling the sex trade. As a busy port even in the Middle Ages, the law recognised that brothels serviced sailors and travelling businessmen and protected women from rape and defilement. When completely legalised in 2000, with an estimated 20-25,000 prostitutes working in The Netherlands, the ladies secured a union, health benefits and could pay superannuation. These days the big issue surrounding the industry is human trafficking, while a recent study showed STIs amongst prostitutes were lower than the Dutch public.
The red light district is a little more alive at this hour. Girls in red doorways, scantily dressed to impress aim to catch my eye. Like aisles at a supermarket, down this lane are the Polish girls, down that lane the Asians, and another, the big girls. Be discreet with your photos, the pimps do not approve. I see a guy step inside the door and the red curtain close after he negotiates the quick deal. Time is money – it’s a business doing pleasure with you.
Mayor Job Cohen and the City of Amsterdam, just as they’ve cracked down on soft drugs have recently bought then closed dozens of brothels in a controversial effort to curb associated crime and clean up De Wallen. With a questionable effect on tourism, in place of the girls, the windows now display Amsterdam’s strong creative scene; clothing designers, artists, sculptors and jewellers. One jeweller, Ted Noten designed red plastic rings, placed them in a FEBO-like vending machine and charged €2.50-a-pop for men to buy for their lady of the night.

6.00pm: Warm Beer & Cold Women – Tom Waits
I’m thirsty. I cross back over Damrak and past the Royal Palace, one of three Queen Beatrix can call home to Spuistraat. The massive Roy Lichtenstein copy that covers an entire building and graffitied walls gives the street a hip-hop edge that’s at odds with the rest of the old city. Gollem, situated just off Spuistraat on Raamsteeg, is a small dank bar that punches above its weight with a worldly array of beer. If you’re homesick you can order a Coopers, but I’m getting Belgian beer Duvel. Like a lot of small pubs, Gollem has a house cat curled up on a stool. This one must love retro rock because there’s always Black Sabbath or Creedence on the stereo. I nurse a couple of beers and order the kaasplank (cheese plate). Raamsteeg is a local favourite with the extensive bottle shop and divine chocolate cake store across the lane.

8.00pm Paradise City – Guns N Roses
Paradiso, an old church born again in the late 60s as Amsterdam’s counterculture epicentre, has been hosting bands and dance parties ever since. On May 26-27, 1995, The Rolling Stones played two semi-acoustic concerts here. Keith Richards has said those shows were up there with their best. Tonight the Constantines start with a lot of hair and distortion and tour pals Ladyhawk make it a solid show all-round. British indie upstarts The Wombats have sold out the grand hall. It’s a major step for any young band and the lucky three whose dream has become a reality, along with their fans, enjoy every second.
Amsterdam’s close proximity to London draws the strong, young London acts across the English Channel to experience life on the road relatively inexpensively while allowing the Dutch to witness great new acts before they get too famous. London Calling is an annual festival held at Paradiso that in the past has invited then-burgeoning British bands like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party to the three-night affair.
Locally, organisation Subba Cultcha spearheads the indie scene, putting on gigs, producing a music magazine and releasing CDs. Hip-hop acts like De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig, The Partysquad and The Opposites demonstrate a strong, recognised scene and show that as a language, Dutch flows surprisingly well in rap. For a taste of English-speaking hip-hop try Pete Philly & Perquisite.
The superstars however are techno and trance DJs like Armin Van Buuren, DJ Tiesto and Ferry Corsten, who perform in front of hundreds of thousands at raves and dance parties all around the globe. The successful lineage and importance of the Dutch scene on the world has culminated in the internationally renowned Amsterdam Dance Event every October; by day an industry conference, by night a massive party taking over every club in town.

11.00pm: Girls Girls Girls – Motley Crue
The famous live sex shows are notoriously un-sexy, so a far more intriguing option is burlesque. Risen from the days of yore into modern times with revealing tattoos, piercings, a rock ‘n’ roll edge and a feminist mindset, its kink meets culture, with nipple tassels to boot. Names like Lady Marmalade, the Bombshellys and Natsumi Scarlet are dressed to thrill on the Amsterdam circuit and take to the Burlesque Glamour Night stage at the Nes Comedy Theatre with gusto. Costumes, comedy and magic all accompany the striptease for a retro swing but the co-ed crowd make the loudest noise when the tops come off.

1.00am: Under the Milky Way – The Church
Steve Kilbey, singer for Aussie band The Church, actually wrote “Under the Milky Way” about Amsterdam’s Melkweg, which means Milky Way, as a tribute to the venue. With its two halls, a café, cinema, gallery and media room it’s as old, influential and supportive as the Paradiso on Amsterdam’s cultural youth. Set behind the Leidseplein, club night Gemengd Zwemmen has already been going for an hour. In the main room it’s classic ‘80s and ‘90s hits but with my new tattoo I’m too cool for that, so I swagger into the old hall where it’s a mix of everything current in the indie world.
The Rembrantplein, in the city’s south-east is another busy club district with popular nightspots like Studio 80, Escape and Café de Duivel, the city’s premier hip-hop bar. To the west of the city in De Baarsjes, along Fredrick Hendrikstraat is retro-fitted De Nieuwe Anita, with a bar full of recycled furniture and a back room supporting jazz, rock and even cinema nights. While in De Baarsjes, check out Club 8 open Thursdays to Saturdays on Jan Evertsenstraat hosting local rock ‘n’ roll, indie, electro and party DJs.

6.00am: All Night Long – Lionel Richie
So I’ve stepped into the ‘80s room. To quote Mr Richie, ‘Once you get started you can’t sit down’ and what can I say, I want to fiesta, forever… until fatigue hits and I’m ready to retire from my big day out.
Ever since sailors found Amsterdam, a port that offered drunken respite and womanly relief from their hands on deck, travellers have enjoyed the city’s liberal attitude and lust for life. And while the city’s liberalism dissipates, hopefully it will still heed the immortal words of KISS – to “rock ‘n’ roll all night and party every day”.
For my encore I swig the last of my drink too hastily, spilling beer down my front. Amsterdam, you’ve been a great audience. Good night!


  1. Haha, I actually lolled when I read that the sex workers have a lower rate of STD's than the general Dutch population!

  2. dude! just found your blog. love it. its like your here, but talking about not here....