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‘Stolen Dance(s)’ and memories from the storm

| Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Theresa Tulsiak | The Observer

We knew a storm was coming, but no one wanted to acknowledge it. It was supposed to be the last night in Amsterdam for the hundred or so Notre Dame juniors studying abroad in Europe, and we wanted to get drunk, as college students both at home and abroad tend to do. Besides, there was nothing we really could do. It takes time, energy and money to adjust travel plans, and, on top of that, most of the airlines were refusing to acknowledge the imminent storm.

And then it got a name: Storm Ciara. A torrent of 100mph winds (or 160kph, as they like to call it) mixed with nasty rains was sweeping across Britain, and the effects were being felt in Amsterdam. 

When flights were cancelled, some scrambled on to trains bound for Brussels and later London. Those who didn’t act so quickly — including me — booked planes and trains departing the next day, along with cheap hostels where they could “crash.”

Exhausted, tired and cold, we faced the fact that we now had an extra 24 hours in the city of canals. I don’t want to complain about having an extra day in Amsterdam, one of the most lovely, hip and fun cities in Europe, but given the circumstances — cancelled flight, bad weather, hangover — I was ready to be back in London. 

We set out to do the things we hadn’t had the chance to do yet. At the Eye Filmmuseum, Francis Alys’s series of short documentary films captured the universal tendency of children to play games, regardless of their circumstances. At the MOCO Contemporary Art Museum, Banksy’s anti-establishment graffiti had been placed, however ironically, in an establishment. At the cinema, “Little Women” played with Dutch subtitles, fantastic costumes and a beautiful story.

Too early to go to sleep and too cold to stay outside, we needed something. Something to turn this day into an undeniable win.

Google search: Concerts in Amsterdam tonight, a Sunday. Milky Chance at Paradiso, the preferred venue for indie acts touring in the city. Sold out. If you can’t buy a ticket, you should still try and take the ride.

Outside the concert hall, the band’s music could be heard — their set was already underway. The security guard, in broken English: “No entry, sold out.” We knew that, but any chance? “No.”

Loitering works. A German 20-something smoked a cig. “Are you fans?” “From the States?” “I’ll be back in five minutes.”

We waited nervously. 5 minutes later:

“Let these guys in, they’re with me.”

He was running the merch stand. His brother was Antonio Greger, the guy on guitar and harmonica, and I’ll be forever thankful. 

During my sophomore year of high school, I spent the first period of every school day in the library listening to music and doing the day’s homework. I’d finally discovered the joy of listening to an entire album — J. Cole’s “2014 Forest Hills Drive” and Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 albums of all time helped. There was also Spotify’s “Feel-Good Indie Rock” playlist and my own first playlist, “Mello,” an unfortunate and unintentional misspelling of the word “mellow.”

In that Spotify algorithm-driven playlist I discovered Milky Chance. They were rising to the top of indie rock with “Stolen Dance,” but it was the entire album, “Sadnecessary,” that spoke to me at the time. An intense connection, it resonated. Songs of love and happiness, things I wanted to have.

The band was well into their set by the time we shuffled into the back of the crowded concert hall but the energy was incredible. Colored lights beamed on the stained glass windows behind the stage, but Clemens Rehbein commanded all the attention. You couldn’t take your eyes off him.

“Flashed Junk Mind,” “Stolen Dance,” the songs of my youth (yes, I’ll call six years ago my youth) were being played before my eyes — in Amsterdam, on a night I wasn’t supposed to be there, at a concert I got into due to dumb luck. Magic.

Encore. The cheers.

In Amsterdam, coronavirus wasn’t even a blip on our radar, unlike the storm which swept across the continent. For the hundreds of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students whose semesters abroad were cut short, the cancelled trips, lost adventures and “what ifs” are resoundingly loud. The time people told us would be one of the best of our lives is forever stained with the stress, chaos and disaster that brought it to a premature end. What remains now are the memories of authentic concerts, new friends, cool museums, good food and late nights and the never ending effort to keep these pure memories separate from the global tragedy which soon followed them.

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About Ryan Israel

Ryan's favorite album is "Blonde" by Frank Ocean and his favorite movie is "Dazed and Confused." He's also a junior double majoring in Sociology and Television, but that's not as important. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryizzy.

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