Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Ferry Good Ride

Ok, so when we were back in Amsterdam we were trying our best to find a way to get England, there were no megabus, flights were too expensive, no car shares.  Time was running out, Niz had a few days left on her visa, and we were starting to worry a bit. Then all of a sudden a car share just appeared.   From Amsterdam to Liverpool - 30 Euroes, leaving in 2 days!  We looked up at our lucky stars and said muchos gracias!  We got in touch with the guy and he tells us it is going to be on the Ferry.  Leaving from Rotterdam, we sail to Hull, and then Manchester and Liverpool.  We were so happy, we didn't think our bodies could take another 500 mile trip in the car.  He said it might be another 20 euroes each to pay for a room on the ferry, which we just about had.

Our last few days in Amsterdam we spent busking, and this time we made a sign. 'Trying to Get Home' and it worked!  We had managed to save 120 euroes for this journey back.   It was a nice time we spent back in Amsterdam, the sun was shining, the busking was good, we ate our favourite salads and talked about what it would be like back in England.  I warned Nizha that I would be different a bit.  When you are back at home, you are in a different mentality.  On the day we were leaving we set out to meet Paul who was driving.

He was with his friend and girlfriend, and they reminded me a bit of Delboy and Rodney.  They were German,  had bought a car that had broke down in London, so they found a replacement engine in Manchester, they were picking the engine up, then driving from there to London to fix it, and drive the car all the way back to Germany.  You could just tell they loved being on the road, driving, fixing cars, filling the van with parts.  They were a funny pair and I liked them right away.  They said that it would be another 20 euroes for the room on the ferry, so 50e each.  we said sure, and that left us enough to get something to eat for the journey.  We spent a nice few hours in Amsterdam with eachother though, rolled and smoked a joint, talked, laughed and then set out for the ferry in Rotterdam.

Paul phoned ahead to the ferry, as he hadn't booked the seats yet, and since his girlfriend decided to come at the last minute, it meant he would need another room.  He was starting to get nervous, he was speaking in German on the phone to her, and getting a bit worked up.  They wont let 5 people stay in a 4 person room, and he hadnt even booked the room yet.  He started to feel this might cost him big, and was asking us if we could find another car to just sneak past the entrance in.  Once we got to Rotterdam and to the ferry terminal he pulled up at the booth and told them that he hadnt booked the room, and now has an extra person.  She looked suprised that he hadn't booked the room before, but calculated his car and people, took our passports then handed him a bill for over 400 euroes!  We were all gobsmacked!  You could tell Paul was gutted, his bank card was not accepted, so he had to put it on his credit card.  We felt a little bad that we only had 50 euroes each to give him, but he assured us it was OK, and if we just give what we can, it will be alright.  It was just the fact that he needed an extra room which made it so expensive.

Then came the immigration check, this is what me and Nizha were worried about, she was a day over on her visa, and they were giving her trouble because she didn't get it stamped last time she left London.  After a good talking to, they let us go through.  Paul had let us have a room to ourselves, and it was gorgeous!  Like a little hotel room, we had a shower beds, lamps.  After a whole summer on those long Megabus rides, this was a luxury!  As soon as we lay down with eachother we just slept in eachothers arms.  We were supposed to be heading out to see the entertainment on the ferry, but we just couldn't wake up.  We got there in the night though, just in time to catch Paul and the guys.  We bid them goodnight and had a pint of stella in the Piano bar, then went for another sleep.

We awoke to the announcement that we were pulling in at Hull Ferry terminal.  I could taste the English air again, and we met up with Paul at the car and drove through the long line of passport checks and immigration.  They were looking at Nizhas passport and calling other people over, they asked to open the door so they could ask some questions.  He seemed like a nice fellow, and I was talking that we are just busking and we will be gigging around Liverpool.  He said 'Oh, are these paid gigs?'  I immediately realised that on a tourist visa you cannot work, so I said no they are just for the fun.  But I told him the romantic story of our journey, and he said'I am not legally allowed to let you into the country.....But go on then' we were so relieved, my honesty in telling him the story had nearly fucked everything up, but he was a nice guy and we sailed on through into Blighty.

It was when we were driving from Hull to Manchester, that Paul realised he wasnt even supposed to be going through Liverpool.  He thought it was Leeds!  But they took us anyway.  It was a 2 hour drive, that made them be late for another car sharer, but they dropped us off in Old Swan.  I can't truly express our thanks in enough words for all they did, but I felt it was something in the universe that made it all happen.  There we were in Amsterdam with no way to get to England, then all of a sudden this one appeared, took us to England in comfort, and though it was not even supposed to be going to Liverpool, it did anyway.  It had cost him double what he thought and took him well away from his planned route.  Paul, with all my heart I thank you and your friend and your girlfriend for all you did.  We were in Liverpool!

We had no English money, and when a bus came I just asked if we could jump on for free as we have had a massive journey.  He said he couldn't incase the ticket guy got on, but I said we will take the blame if he does, so he let us on for free and we took the bus to the city of Liverpool, amazed at how we got there............

Download our album ‘Where The Days Have No Name’ full of harmony and love in every way.

Follow us on Soundcloud

Like us on Facebook -

And visit our digital HQ at

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Buskers Survival Guide Part II - Amsterdam


I have spent so much time here in Amsterdam as a busker, that I know a lot more information on busking than I did with my previous survival guide.  So here is some more stories and info on my time busking in this legendary city.

Lets start with Permits.  If you are planning to stay in Amsterdam for a few months busking with an amp, then it is definitely worth looking to apply for a permit.  The rules have changed a lot now, and they only give 10 out, give you a set time to play, and give you 3 chances to get a warning.  There is only a window of a few weeks to get the permit, and that is the first 2 weeks of February.  It will cost you 50 euroes and some photos, but is a good investment for the summer.  As when Amsterdam is busy it is a gold mine for street musicians virtually wherever you play.  They give you 4 sets of one hour each, for 3 days of the week.  Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  The best places to play with an amp are Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and Dam Square.  These are the places where you can draw a crowd and fill a big hat.  I reccomend having someone with a hat, as that triggers much more of a drop rate than waiting for people to put it in your case.  Someone with a hat, selling CDś is a way to massively increase your takings for a set.  But keep the volume down though, as the Handhaving and Politie can give you a warning if it is too loud.  Amsterdam enjoys itś peacefulness, so respect that and you will be fine.  If you are travelling with an amp and band, it is OK to risk a few sets here and there, and if you are stopped, just play the Travelling band card and they are usually fine with you.

Acoustic Busking can be just as rewarding as busking with an amp in Peak season, and if you are only on your own, you can make almost the same amount that is usually split between 4.  I survived a whole winter here on 2 spots.  Not overworking them, which is important.  If you overplay a spot too much it will start to reject you.  Itś strange, you will find aggression from passers by, Handhaving and neighbours stopping you.  The best plan is to find a route, of 3 or 4 spots where you know you can make between 10 and 30 euroes an hour.  4 sets and you have a good days wage.  But dont bank on the spots, sometimes you can make just pennies, when the previous day you had a full hat.  Thatś the only certain thing about busking.  The uncertainty.  The good thing about Amsterdam though is that there are so many good acoustic spots, because of the quietness of the city.  These are the spots I have found have been reliable drop spots.

After 10 years of being closed, the Rijks museum finally reopened this year and it is the most beautiful acoustic spot in the city.  A whole chamber of reverb for you to fill.  Tourists walking by, lots of people coming through.  They like people playing there also, as long as it is nice.  They will move you on if you go and try to play punk in there.  Busking is about fitting your environment.   I remember in Liverpool I would play all the gritty angry folky ones, cos that is the environment.  When I tried to play them in La Louvre in Paris, it just didn fit.  A good busker can pull out the perfect song to fit his environment and situation.  Lovely day?  Play some sunshine music.  Rainy?  Play some rainy day songs and so on.  The Rijks museum naturally attracts the classical players, single instruments and bands.  There is sometimes a waiting line in there, as it is sheltered, reverbed, and a tourist hot spot.  So just go and book yourself on and give it half an hour.  I find it is even the most perfect practise spot late at night.  There are no neighbours, so I just go there late sometimes and practise some new songs.

Waterlooplein.  I love this place.  Not just because the market there has kept me in good shoes all through my stay, but it is just so great a spot to play.  It is busy with the market, but still so quiet.  It makes all the difference in busking when you can hear yourself, and enjoy the set.  It has no car traffic, just bikes and passers by.  This place kept me going through the winter.  I would have to get there early to beat the Gypsys, but now they are at Rijks a lot so Waterlooplein has mostly been free!  I have had some very good hat fulls here, but it is playing to passers by, not drawing a crowd for people to sit.  There is a woman who lives close by that likes to come and tell you to stop.  But the law for acoustic busking is that you can play in one spot virtually anywhere for 30 minutes.  So if you are acoustic, she has to let you play.   I love this place, and will be there again over the Winter, so you best get there early to beat me!  This is a day spot, night time it is pretty quiet, but sometimes worth a shot in Summer especially.

Red Light District, the bridge by the church on the same line as the bull dogs is another good spot.  Night time especuially, but prepare yourself for randy tourists and noisy drunks.  This risk can bring big steady drops, but you have to put up with some pricks.  'Play Wonderwall!' They scream so gleefully.  It is supposedly forbidden to play in the Red Light area, but they seem to let it happen, as long as you are not too noisy, and not there for too long!

Vondelpark is a good day spot, but only through the summer.  Playing just by the entrance always served me well, or the tunnel a bit further on, but that has awkward walk ways.  The thing about your busking spot, is funneling them into a narrow walkway, making eye contact and BOOM BABY, there is the drop.  Vondelpark has a lovely quiet, and tourists and passers by.  You can probably find an OK spot in a lot of places, but the drops were always unsteady with this place.  Sometimes really great, and sometimes nothing!

The Hard Rock Cafe on Max Euweplein is a good night time spot.  After the chess board has closed at 21.30 you can do a sneaky set and sometimes make a really good hat.  It is supposedly forbidden to play there, but the street guards dont seem to mind.  Just dont drink a beer on this set as its not allowed to drink there.  If you are tempted by the tunnel just a few metres away, there is a guy who lives above that doesnt like buskers playing there.  So just watch out for him.  But somtimes you can catch him out and play a little set there.  Nice acoustics and good passers by.

There are that many bridges in Amsterdam, so Iḿ sure you can find one that suits you.  There is also another type of busking you can do, which has proved to me to dwarf any of the above.  It is a way to make big money in Amsterdam.  But since that is our project for the summer, I will keep it to myself for now.  Enjoy your Amsterdam busking adventure.  And if you want a little insider advice.  Go to the Coffeeshop Degraal on Albert Cuypstraat.  They have the best, cheapest weed, best music, best people, a recording studio in the back and weekly jam nights.  This place has been like a second home to me, it is a creative atmosphere where you can smoke a joint, play chess, draw in the house book,  and meet some very good interesting people.  Do say hello if you catch me in there!

Albert Heijn is the best Bar and Restaurant in town.  Good healthy salad for 3 euroes, bottle of good beer for 1.  But only an outdoor seating area, haha.  Hope this gives you a good heads up on enjoying Amsterdam as a busker.  If you are reading this and want some adventure, then do it.  Take a holiday, learn some busking classics and just head out into the unkown.  I promise you it will make you truly experience life.  Each day, each season, you will really feel the city by standing the streets playing music, seeing life come and go and fill your hat.  What are you waiting for?

Download our album ‘Where The Days Have No Name’ full of harmony and love in every way.

Follow us on Soundcloud

Like us on Facebook -

And visit our digital HQ at

Zappas Vibrations

Although I speak with so much love for my studio space, it does come with its challenging sides; mainly, the noise. You can have it all cos...