lördag 16 oktober 2021

Musikminne från Skyelar

Dagens musikminne kommer från artisten, låtskrivaren och producenten Jaklien Verham från Utrecht i Nederländerna och hennes projekt Skyelar. Det var svårt för henne att välja bland alla vackra minnen hon har, kopplat till musik. Men ett av hennes allra starkaste minnen var när hon jobbade med och på den stora festivalen Pinkpop, tillsammans med festivalens grundare Jan Smeets. Skyelar är just nu aktuell med singeln Big town. 

Can you imagine coming into the office in the morning as a 21 year old intern and finding a mountain of CD’s. At first I thought, who left this mess on my desk, but then I realized that they were for me. Normally as a student I had to try my best to scrape together some pennies to buy one CD or I had to ask for one for Christmas and now they were up for grabs. Well, I didn’t have any problem with that, believe me. As a musician you’ll immediately fall in love with a job like that, right? 

It all started with the fact that I had to try and find an internship for about 5 months for the tourism education that I was completing at that time. I decided to take the plunge after reading an article about Buro Pinkpop in the newspaper. After all, music festivals are also a form of recreation, right? That worked out well for me, as my career as a singer also started to take a more serious form at that time, so I could combine my greatest passion with work. I jumped with joy when I was accepted with great enthusiasm after a conversation with Jan Smeets (owner of Buro Pinkpop and the Pinkpop festival) in the local theater. 

It was hard work at the office, long office days where you were obligated to listen to the radio, so you would learn the names of the new bands. Well, that’s not easy. As one of the administrative assistants, I answered the phone for Jan, among other things. That meant that as a 21 year old rookie/beginning singer/songwriter you suddenly got to speak to big people from the Dutch music industry, who all expected you to immediately recognize them by their voice haha, but that wasn’t the case, so they thought I was an odd one. Quickly transferring them seemed like the best solution. I still remember clearly that I came into the office one morning at 9 am, and the music was playing at max volume in Jan’s office, the guitar violence already came at you from outside but it sounded so overwhelmingly good. I immediately wanted to know what band was playing and it turned out to be ‘Live’. The song that he was playing was ‘I alone’. Give it a try some time, they win that ‘loudness war’ by miles, because the louder the song, the better. Luckily that CD was one of many in the pile on my desk I talked about earlier. 

The thing I enjoyed the most is being able to work backstage at such a big festival. As one out of only 25 people I had an ‘all area pass’ in my pocket and that means that you’re allowed to go anywhere so you could say that it’s good for your ego, but it just made me feel extra small. I would walk backstage past the bands their cabins but I was too afraid to actually talk to anyone, I was way too shy for that. I could just walk on the stage if I wanted but have you ever looked at it from up close and realized how big that actually is? As an artist I would just claim that space as my own, but at that time I just didn’t dare to do that so I never went to look. 

Behind the main stage was a cabin where we worked. We had split the times a bit among ourselves so we could also check out bits and pieces of the festival. However, there was one band that I had to see and I actually sneaked out for a bit to see them and that was ‘Live’. This year was their big breakthrough with ‘I alone’. I still remember that I wasn’t really standing at the front, but Ed Kowalczyk’s charisma traveled far and their music was strong. A very convincing performance. I can still imagine him standing in his yellow jacket, nothing special, but without any effort he captivated the crowd. At that time the music was new for me but ‘Throwing Copper’ remains one of my favorite CD’s on the list and I have sung along to those songs at many occasions. 

Another striking event that happened during the festival was when we saw, from our cabin, singer Shane MacGowan (at the time on stage with Shane MacGowan and the Popes) collapse right as he was about to enter the stage. An ambulance arrived quickly and they helped the singer back on their feet. During the performance he held on tightly to the microphone stand. Well, that’s another purpose those things can serve I guess. The magazine ‘De Groene Amsterdammer’ (Peter de Bruijn, 7 June 1995) wrote about the fact that TV viewers at home noticed during the live broadcast that the man started to look more ill by the minute. He started singing quieter and quieter, until he didn’t open his mouth at all and just stood there, frozen behind his microphone stand. MacGowan’s manager ran on stage and only succeeded after a few minutes in getting him of stage. Heartattack? Brainbleed? No, the legendary alcoholic Macgowan was just drunk. That’s what two TV presenters concluded. The so called festival goers eventually heard from Live’s singer Ed Kowalczyk that MacGowan was taken away by ambulance. Hours after the fact, that also turned out not to be true. MacGowen refused to go to the hospital and in the meantime was walking again. He even appeared in front of the mic for the Dutch radio station ‘Radio Drie’. He told them that he wanted to give an impression of Ian Curtis, singer of Joy Division, who once tried to hang himself. ‘I’m all right’, said MacGowan bravely. He was carefully drinking beer again. 

The main act of that year was Sinéad O'Connor and I was allowed to go and watch, so I decided to use that 'all area pass' again. I had done that before by going to see Levellers in front of the podium, so by now I knew the way. Between the stage and the audience, is a very special place I think. The message of the act kind of flies over your head to the audience, you really stand in between a lot of adrenaline that flies back and forth. The band is completely into their role and the music and then you look behind you and you see so many immensely happy faces, that is very special. You can feel that the band gives everything for the audience and the audience also gives a lot back, that goes back and forth. In the meantime I have been on many stages myself and I also know that feeling a bit, but there it was double squared present. It is such an immense stage, to stand behind the press photographers, who are used to it by now, is already very impressive. However, someone from security disagreed. He saw my red pass and literally grabbed me by the collar and placed me on an extra platform between a number of telephoto lenses that stand out from anything else. Well, there I was with my disposable camera. And so it happened that suddenly I stood on top of Sinéad's bare toes. That distracted a bit from the show I must say, but something I will not soon forget. 

Jan could be strict with his staff, but what I liked about him was his sincerity. You noticed his sincere love for music and if he liked a band he could completely convince you of that. Sometimes he also went on stage to warn people about the bright sun or thunderstorms. People sometimes experienced that as patronizing but I thought it came across as cute, he created an atmosphere as if we were all one big family on that field. Kind of like the ‘Barbapappa’ of the festival. He therefore insisted that nothing would go wrong during the festival (or other concerts that he organized) and did everything to make that happen, and therefor experienced a lot of stress, which was often reflected on the staff and it was not good for his heart. Anyway, I am sad that he is retiring this year and that the business will not be taken over by family because I believe that the festival had something personal and special because of him. At the end of my internship he seemed to realize that it must not always have been easy for me and he wanted to make up for that with a gift that he would owe me. Well, I didn't really have high expectations because by that time I had already had spoken to a lot of people on the phone who said he still owed them and tried to get that last concert ticket that way. It didn't matter to me because I'm still happy with the life experience he gave me then. It was a unique experience to see the organization of such a large festival through the eyes of the director.

/ Skyelar 

Lyssna på Big town här nedan!