17 December 2007

Bloody freezing

Roll on the summer

15 December 2007

elf me

malc elf

I can dance too!

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14 December 2007

Sir Gig-a-lot

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of attending 3 music gigs in the same week at the same venue!

recent gig tickets

Not that the venue really has much to brag about. Yes I admit the Amsterdam Heineken Music Hall is a pretty impressive place with a great sound system, but the huge capacity doesn't quite have the same level of charm as the smaller Amsterdam venues like Melkweg and Paradiso. Also the fact that you have to queue to buy beer tokens before queuing again to exchange those tokens for the beer really bugs me! But enough complaining, back to the gigs...

Bloc Party kicked things off, thanks to a friend who let me have their spare ticket. I'm not such a huge fan but they put on a well deserved performance aided by the worlds longest microphone lead. This enabled the lead singer to get all the way to the bar at the side of the venue and back in one song! More Bloc Party photos here

Next were Arcade Fire who without a doubt have been the best non-electronica live act I have seen. Their albums do not do their live performance justice as I find the albums a little flat. But just go and see them live, I was blown away. Their set is much more of a show or a spectacle than a gig. As well as the standard singing of songs and performing with a multitude of instruments there was a well thought out projection and light show. Two thumbs up :-) More Arcade Fire photos here

However, Arcade Fire left me worried about the next act who took to the stage on the following night. It was the Kaiser Chiefs and I was really looking forward to them as I'm quite the fan of their albums. I admit their set was not quite the show that Arcade Fire put on but it didn't need to be. The feel good factor and general sing-a-long nature of their songs was simply good fun. You didn't even need to know all the words as there are plenty of ooh's and ahhh's to join in with. More Kaiser Chief photos here

So as the music industry struggles to find a new business model, I believe it is bands who can perform live acts like this that will lead the way. You can't steal the feeling you get when you see and hear a fantastic live band. Amsterdam has a few more gigs in the pipeline for 2008 and I can't wait...

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10 December 2007

Homies from the hood

all the gear, no idea

Way back in October the Beacon Road boys came over for the last leg in the Dutch Playboat Cup. Held at Dutch Water Dreams (DWD), this competition is the highlight of the series of 5 events and saved for the finale.

saddle up

If you remember I helped judge the freestyle event at the opening of DWD but this year there was more time for a larger kayaking only event. So worthy of the trip from the UK, Mark, James and Kate flew over to see what was on offer.

so which liine do you reckon?

I collected them from Schipol and we ate at a nice pancake house on route to DWD. My guests were easily impressed with the food which was a good thing cos as soon as we arrived and unpacked the car it became obvious I had left my tent behind - doh! So James and Kate took Marks tent whilst Mark and I setup a cosy dwelling together in the back of my car. There was no time for relaxing though as we got geared up and on the water for the late night practice session. I hardly paddle over here anymore, with just 1 other DWD and a couple of surfing sessions under my belt. So it was great to be with some friends paddling again.

chase me

However, after a few races down the course against Mark and James, I was quick to realise any previous paddling fitness I may have had has definitely been replaced by beer belly. Nevertheless, I could still hold my own in the competition hole and managed not to swim so met my most feared goal!

unlucky number 13

Mark and James entered me for both the Boatercross and the Freestyle with the amusing bib number 13. Boatercross I was looking forward to as it's a head to head race with 4 riders down the course making a couple of must moves to touch banners on the way down. It was the Freestyle I was not so keen on. I've been cheekily proud of my 100% freestyle competition record since winning the 2000 student championships and therefore not entering any other events ;-) But now I struggle to name all the new moves and combos the new kids on the block are performing today.

wheely good fun

So being the performance athletes that we are, we all hit the sack nice and early on Friday to get a good nights sleep ready for the days competition on Saturday. Yeah right, as with any kayaking event anywhere in the world, we were staggering around a campsite carpark still drinking at 4am in the morning. Not such as bad thing if it wasn't for James setting his alarm clock an hour late. I exited our passion wagon about 8am busting for the loo. There I was standing in my boxers shaking the snake against a tree struggling to stand up without wobbling when Casper came running up yelling at me to get ready for our heats. Within 15 minutes all three of us were geared up, on the water and heading up the conveyor belt for our freestyle heats - messy :-(

why walk?

But not knowing which way up was probably a good thing as in between gagging in the eddy, I managed to cartwheel my way a few points above Mark. Which I was stoked at and thoroughly enjoyed pointing out to Mark as often as I could. My favourite dig was that I think I have been paddling the same number of times this year as Mark normally does during a typical summer week! Ha ha, below is the results sheet showing my name clearly above Marks on a whole different sheet!

2 pages

The freestyle heats were a great new method I have not seen in a kayaking event before. With 5 people in a heat for 15 mins, it was held like a Jam session, 30 second runs each and the best moves you performed in all of your runs counted. Perhaps this counted towards my success with my slightly more cannonball attitude than Mark. Although I did get 6 ends at one point which I think I can count on one hand the number of times I have done that in my life! Next up was a quick blast on the Flowaves which Mark was styling as shown below.

cocky tongueshiftygoing down

Even James in the pictures below was showing that Adam and I must've been even more hungover when we tried it last time.

cocky 2where's my board gone?

The rest of the day was spent lazy about in the surprisingly warm October sun. Here's a favourite picture of a view of mine kicking back at the beach bar.

kick back

Later that day was the boatercross heats. I've never entered a boatercross event as what I have seen from the ones in the UK they rely heavily on fitness. However, the DWD course already flows at a fairly fast rate so I had a chance! I have never been so tired from kayaking before though. I was properly out of breath and coughing up my guts afterwards!

...but overtaking

I made it through my heat which again I was chuffed at cos there was only us three and a couple of others in freestyle boats. 95% of paddlers were in big fast creek boats. So it was a nice feeling that I can still pick a good line and a better one than half of the paddlers there in faster boats.

catch up!

Even more enjoyable was the fact that Mark failed to make it through his heat - see how far behind he is in the picture above! James and I had a field day ribbing Mark to the point that maybe we were a little to harsh on the old man ;-) Ha ha ha

in hot pursuit

James has come a long way since paddling like an aggressive obnoxious punk in his attak in the Loughborough EHB swimming pool. So he managed to get as far as the semis in both the freestyle and the boatercross. Possibly even deserving more support than the 30 seconds we gave him (the bar was much more cosy). I took a few snaps of the final but as it was dark it was difficult to get a good shot. However, some of the blurred shots really show the movement like the one below:

wheely fast

The Dutch awards ceremony lasted hours and probably contributed to our lack of commitment when it came to the crunch time of decided should we head to the dodgy local nightclub or not. The thought of scaling the 8 foot barbed wire fence to get back into the locked campsite didn't help either. So we had a relatively early night and made tracks to Amsterdam on the Sunday.

hands up

Sunday was a day of recovery with just a short blast at the funfair which was setup in the Trafalgar Square of Amsterdam. Cheers lads and Kate for a great weekend and I hope to see you here again soon. Credit to James and Kate for some of the photos of which you can view the full set here or in slideshow format here.

pot on

Speaking of photos, I have used Aperture for the first time with these photos. I've been highly impressed at the difference it has made adjusting the shadows and highlights of the photos with whitewater. The difference between the shades of white are much more noticeable after a little tweaking than with the original shot. For example the shot below:

head down

One last thing before I go is to put a copy of the video that Teva, the main sponsors of the event, put together of the whole event. It's pretty impressive and shows what was missed to all those back in the UK who were too lazy to make it over - you know who you are!

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09 December 2007

Merry Christmas