While our days were spent lazing away at the Flying Pig, my weekends were mapped out for an entire two months. As Holland is the capital of hard dance music and home to some of the best DJs in the world, we had many events to attend. My next event was QORE 3.0. This was the first Qore, an entirely hardcore dance event. Personally, I had never really enjoyed hardcore, except at the end of a rave, and I did not recognise most of the DJs on the line up. I had enjoyed Endymion at the end of Coone, especially when Lily Julian sang live on stage, and I had learned to Gabber at Defqon Australia this year, so I was looking forward to learning more about this style of music. Mostly I figured I would get pretty smashed, dance for a few hours, then sit and enjoy the light shows, my favourite part of q-dance events.
Qore was held at Heineken Music Hall, just out of Amsterdam city. This venue regularly hosts concerts and large events, and it was my first time to see it, and finally party in the Netherlands. We got there shortly after it opened, put our bags in lockers, and headed off to get the party started. We went straight to the bar, where I enjoyed my first Flugel. Flugel is a raspberry flavoured vodka shot that comes in a tiny bottle. You open the bottle, place it in your mouth, touch the base together with whoever else is drinking it, then upend the drink and swallow without using your hands. The tagline for the drink is ‘let the duck out’, as you resemble a duck while drinking it, having your hands behind your back and leaning forward to touch bottles. Not only does it taste good, but I also enjoy the ceremony of drinking it. Unfortunately, you can only find it in Holland and a couple of other European countries at this stage, but I’m hoping to petition the company to bring it out to Australia when I return.
After a few flugels we headed upstairs to the second room as the main arena was not open yet. The room was decorated with giant hands arranged in an array of poses on the walls, with a small stage up the front, and some cool lasers already lighting up the room. We quickly met some Australians to hang with, as Tegan was wearing her Aussie sash, and one of them was wearing phat pants. Holland has moved past the ‘kandi ravers’ scene, so generally if you see anyone wearing phats, they are from another country. We hadn’t worn our gear, as hardcore and hardstyle crowds are totally separate in Holland, and we weren’t sure what reaction we would receive, as Tegz and Timmy had been hassled at some other events. Hardcore listeners have a reputation for being more intense and violent, and there were plenty of tattooed skinheads running around, in amongst your typical male crowd. Although there were a lot less females, they were a total mix of styles. There were girls in nice dresses and heels who looked like they were going clubbing, skanks wearing short skirts and see through tops, goths wearing black, covered in piercings with dreads, and some even wearing fluffies. In the end we discovered that everyone was really just there to enjoy the music, and it was one of the most interesting crowds I had ever observed. While upstairs we had a nice chat and a bit of a dance with the crew from QLD, who had flown here specially for this event. Then it was time for the main stage to open.
We headed into the main arena, had a brief dance at the front, then headed up to the VIP section upstairs for a different view. VIP gave us access to two elevated platforms with cushy seats on the sides of the room. There is generally a viewing platform at the back of the room as well, but this was closed off as it was a much smaller event than usual. From the right hand side, I noticed how small the main room was, and wondered how many people it would fit for a normal concert. The foyer was decorated with pictures of the artists who had played there, like Pink, Avril Lavigne and Pearl Jam among others. In contrast to large Australian venues like the entertainment centres and arenas, the place was tiny. I think the venue would only fit 5-10000 people at a time, so they would have to have many concerts in a row for everyone to see these performances. The room was arranged with a large stage at the front that was surrounded by giant square pixelated display screens, with lasers up the top. We had a clear view of the DJ, elevated in the centre, and there were two mini stages in the crowd for dancing on. I was really excited to hear the first DJ drop a couple of dubstep mixes, which eased me into the faster beats of hardcore.
We went back downstairs for a dance as Sinister Souls began to play, practicing our Hakken. This is a dance style similar to Australian Gabber, but the Dutch use straight legs and bend their knees up to kick out in front of them. To an onlooker, they resemble someone having an epileptic fit on their feet, kicking their legs and punching or slapping the air as fast as they can in time to the music. It is quite humorous to watch, especially by the end of the night when the beats are doubly fast. Nevertheless, it is quite a challenge to shuffle to hardcore, so we gave it a go. After watching the locals for a little while, I did my best impersonation of hakken, quickly integrating some grapevine type cross steps and a couple of small jump kicks. Tegan used more of a bouncing high knees step in time with the music, resembling an aerobics instructor. We must have been doing a reasonable job, as some of the locals came over to dance with us, rather than pointing and laughing. I found it surprisingly easy to keep dancing at this pace for an hour or two. While we danced on the elevated platform, a video camera was making its way around the room, as they often make aftermovies to promote q-dance events online. As this was the first Qore, they were filming a lot of good looking girls, to try to make it look less like the male dominated event that it was. He then headed over to us, and filmed each of us dancing for a while. Surprisingly, I’m quite video camera shy, so I looked away as he filmed, trying to ignore the camera and concentrate on the music. Most girls smile and play up to the camera, so they then make it in the aftermovie. Tegan and Tim made it in, representing Aussie ravers once again. I have since worked on my camera shyness, thanks to the help of everyone having iphones, and randomly pulling them out to film people around them at every event they attend.
As the music sped up, we decided it was time for another break, got some more drinks and headed up to the viewing platform on the left. By this stage they had also turned up the volume, to levels I have never experienced in Australia. Gratefully, we had been provided free earplugs on entry, and I put them in after only an hour or two, as I could feel the hearing damage developing rapidly. It felt like the air pressure build up you experience in planes at high altitude, and I found I could still hear the music clearly even with the ear plugs in. From the VIP section I really enjoyed filming and taking photos, and watching the many different images they had programmed to display on the screens, and the effects they could create. Tegan quickly made friends with some Dutch people, as always, while Tim and I sat together, chatting and enjoying the music, occasionally getting up for a dance. I pulled out my finger lights to entertain myself for a while, and was quickly surrounded by Dutchies asking to borrow them. I find it funny that you can’t buy finger lights over here, and never see any locals with them, since they look down on the Kandi Raver scene, yet every time I pull them out, they watch in fascination or ask to have a turn. The rest of the night passed in a blur, especially since I don’t know most of the tracks or artists, but I remember really enjoying sets by The Playah and Endymion, who had Lily Julian as a special guest singer again. She has such an incredible voice, I could never get tired of hearing her sing live.
The final set turned up the volume and production again and was so fast, I thought my head would explode at one stage. It didn’t even feel like I was wearing ear plugs, the music was so loud and clear. I honestly don’t know how Dutch ravers have any hearing at all. I was told by one person that there is no decibel limit in Germany, so the music is even louder there. Yet fanatics dance away right next to the speakers at the front of the room all day, permanently damaging their hearing, and having a great time. Unfortunately at this point in the night, we noticed Tegan and Tim’s camera was missing. Since they had already lost a camera the week before at Sensation White, this one was brand new and bright green. Although there weren’t many people in the VIP area, it had obviously disappeared very quickly. This put a dampener on the end of the evening, as we searched through the rows of chairs, hunting just in case. Some of the locals helped us look as well, but to no avail. So we sat and watched the final performance, not really feeling like participating anymore, though it was still a spectacular sight, with even more images and patterns created with lasers and projections across the entire undulating crowd.
Once it was over, we quickly gathered our things, reported the camera lost, and headed to the train station. The event had finished at 7am, but being a Sunday, trains didn’t start running again until 8am, and even then, did not head in the direction we needed to go for another hour. As it was freezing cold, we decided to jump on the next train to Utrecht, as this is a large central station, and hoped to find another route home from there. When we arrived at Utrecht our train was leaving in two minutes so we hurried to the platform and jumped on just in time, not purchasing a ticket on the way. There are ticket inspectors on nearly every train we have caught across the Netherlands, making fare evasion nearly impossible. We always normally buy a ticket, as it is just not worth the risk, but in this case we panicked in our hurry to get home. Unluckily, there was an inspector at 8am on a Sunday morning, and he kicked us off the train at the next stop. This provided us with another dilemma, as ticket machines don’t accept credit cards, or notes, only coins and local Dutch chipcards. At large train stations we use the ticket counters where we can use notes, but in smaller suburbs they do not have these. We were now at a small platform, no real idea where we were, with half an hour until the next train, unsure if we could buy a ticket or be forced to try and jump another train with no fare. We frantically hunted through all our belongings, searching for 20 euros in shrapnel, as train tickets are quite expensive. Luckily, we had been lazily breaking notes all that night so we had plenty of change.
We boarded the next train, only to be kicked off at the next station due to trackwork. We were guided onto a replacement bus, which took us to another station, where we were transferred to another bus. We finally arrived at our nearest train station to catch our final normal bus home, nearly an hour later. By the time we got back to the Pig, it was 11am, and we had been travelling for over three hours. Tired, fed up and ready for bed, we dragged ourselves inside and crashed out. Despite the dramas of the morning, I had a surprisingly great night overall, enjoying myself far more than expected, and gaining a new found respect for hardcore. This was great preparation for the events to come, as our partying was only just getting started…