Efrem Angela, aka Toto Boroto, plays drums for the Amsterdam band Nancy Acid and guitar for The Sasters. Both bands consist of the same two members, but they switch instruments as they change into the other band, which sometimes has advantages. Toto Boroto reports from the cycle lane in between gigs.
When I first got the assignment to write a report of the Vogue Fashion Night I had no idea what was to happen. Five days later I would be in a police station with a warrant on my head, my wallet, bank-, emergency saving’s card, driver’s license, school card and every other card missing, my limited edition TV Yellow Epiphone Les Paul neck-broken and hungry without possibility of coming up with 130 euros I was told I would have to pay by 10 p.m. that same night or face jail time as well as having to pay the 130 euros regardless.
It all started on Thursday at the Vogue Fashion Night. Admittedly I had never written much regarding fashion, so when I received the assignment this feeling of excitement as well as nervousness aroused in me.
I had no formal clothing at my newly inhabited, however still very empty, home. It’s so empty I sleep on a Persian rug next to my record player.The formal clothingI have was either in a storage space or strewn around town, lent out to friends of mine who don’t have suits and ties themselves. In a quick attempt of being well dressed I biked without brakes around town like a maniac from house to house collecting a suit here, a tie there and a shoe wherever.
I had managed with half an hour to spare. Just enough for a quick shower and another brakeless bike ride towards the P.C. Hooftstraat, where the event was held, to experience this once in a lifetime event.
Dressed in black I arrived and saw so many beautiful people walking in all types of styles. Some had plaid while others monochromes. Models walking around with wonderful blue balloons and a well-served cocktail bar at every intersection of the P.C. Hooftstraat. At Ralph Lauren I drank some of the best blackberry daiquiri I have ever had, made by a bartender that would make Tom Cruise shake in his socks.
I fell in love with the collection of jackets they had for men at the bottom of the stairs hailed with photographs and paintings of celebrities forgotten and immortal. They had a wonderful collection of books where they serve as entertainment on coffee tables as well as manuals for the high-living and incredible drink-mix guides. I went further and saw some places such as Dior cater to their best clients, an exclusive list for those who can afford it.
At Flour, near the intersection of P.C. and van Baerlestraat, there were beautiful watches making me wish I had several extra arms as well as extra wallets with extra cash. Outside world-famous tattoo artist Henk Schiffmacher was painting on shoes, customizing them while onlookers, some ignorant of the stature of this gentle giant, wearing blue-jean overalls overshadowed by his long beard and hair (every time I see him walking the streets of Amsterdam I have to think about Black Sabbath’s song off their 1970 self-titled debut The Wizard). Once running the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum, now closed unfortunately, Hanky Panky (as he is known around town) can be found needle in hand at his Ceintuurbaan- or at his Red Light District Shop.
With this in mind I continued admiring the fine people walking about while Hilfiger Taxi cabs, in NewYork style, dropped off and picked some of the most important people of the night. The experience was wonderful if not one of a kind, with lots of free drinks, coconut popsicles and Vogue gift bags.
The whole event filled up the street and in a moment everybody was gone. They were all heading towards the Rijksmuseum (those whose names were on the list anyway), where the wild afterparty was taking place underneath the arches of the Rijks, blasting the whole of Museumplein with music and lights. The day after I had a show to play at the OCCII on Amstelveenseweg, across the street from the Vondelpark and the best Italian sandwhich shops in town, where when you get your food even the Chef comes out to wish you ‘Bon Apetit!’
I worked at the door and afterwards the bar, sneaking in some and providing brew for those who are there when I need them most. I had started preparing myself mentally and gathering energy to play a set with the Sasters, featuring a great opening act by Space Siren, followed by Massachusetts based band Goddard. A band I had not gotten enough of lately, with their latest recording produced by Steve Albini as well as Shellac and Rapeman. The bands played an amazing set and we closed the show inviting Goddard guitarist Jason Karby on stage to play on his Space Echoe (which I had been tripping on non-stop on the B-side of the10’’ split, which was produced by Karby and performed by Giraffes?Giraffes!) that was hooked up to the guitar I was playing (the soon to be deceased Epiphone). It turned out plenty psychedelic and twisted the guitars into tin can sounding hyperspaced- out strings.
The afternoon before the show my new employer had called me asking me to work at the SugarFactory. My first day was supposed to be tomorrow, Tuesday, however someone was befallen with illness and my availability was requested.
“Sure, but I have a gig at the OCCII and am playing last, so I wouldn’t be able to show up at 11.30.”
“It’s no problem,” he says, “even if you show up at 3 your extra help of two hours would be more than appreciated.”
“Alright, I’ll be there around that time.”
At the show I had been drinking Butcher’s Tears’ Green Caps to get a little kick, because the one I usually drank, namely the SL’OCCII Decrust, especially brewed by the Butcher for OCCII, had been a limited edition brew. They also managed to brew a special edition for local hardcore punkband Fuckin ’Pissed earlier this year. I took two Green Caps on stage and gave the best I could being semi-drunk on lukewarm beer.
Afterwards we cleaned up and got outta there. My friends went to the Subbacultcha! Office, a local magazine featuring music and all its colorful surroundings.
“Lemme take your guitar!”
“No, it’s cool, this way it’s proof that I had a show-”
“Yeah, for sure!” I yelled as I entered the Vondelpark, speeding into and through the dark woods that would frighten anybody at that time of night if unfamiliar with the area, listening again to the B-Side of the Goddard/Giraffes?Giraffes! Split. A ten- minute masterpiece entitled ‘In the middle of the night someone tore off the ceiling and sucked me to the sky/ Before my eyes began to boil I saw Billions of tiny webs connecting everything’ (the song being as impressive as its title).
I arrived at the Sugarfactory and was told by the bouncer that I’m not allowed inside. My phone was dead so I couldn’t call any of the bar managers and I tried to convince him to let me in.
“So you say you have to work at three but you arrive at quarter to four and think I’ll let you in? I don’t even know you!”
“Yeah, but I spoke to the bar manager this afternoon and I had a show to play. It was all last minute.”
Just then a tiny girl walked past him like a mouse with human legs, stood beside us and lighted a cigarette. She took a drag and asked: “What’s the trouble? ”
The bouncer explained and she called the bar manager who proceeded to tell her that I needed to go to my friend Leon, who had been working there for a few years himself. He was to show me what to do and guide me in a way, however since my uncle taught me how to make whisky cokes around the age of ten for his parties I had loved the job and had practiced as much as possible for the might-be distant future of me owning a bar, tending to the barflies.
I felt at home and my hands seemed to be working by themselves without my control.
“Are you new?” Asked a voice behind me.
“Are you drunk or sober?”
I admitted those Butcher’s Tears were heavy on the head and I was flying.
“Jäger ? ”
And before I answered she placed two shots of Jägermeister on the bar and as I digested what was happening she was already making out with the shotglass, consuming hers like a character out of a Sergio Leon western.
I downed mine and got to work.
“Hey! You’re new! Heard you came in from Belgium after a gig! That’s cool man!” This was said to me in variations of words and people. For some reason everybody thought I came from Belgium.
I drank all the shots I was given and some leftover alcohol found at the bar, a true alcoholic when I drink, this is why I avoid it.
When we finished I was taught how to make a White Russian- made famous by Jeff “the Dude” Lebowski.. I felt the room starting to spin and thought it the perfect time to get out of there. I grabbed my bike. And that’s all I remember, other than brief moments of words, falling down on my guitar and puking all over the Melkweg.
I woke up at 4 pm. My head was bumping, and I had all my clothes on, jacket, shoes, everything. I got off my carpet, stood up from the ground and noticed my bike chain and lock on the ground- but no bike. Was my bike still unlocked somewhere in the streets of Amsterdam? Even worse at Leidse Plein? I couldn’t find my wallet or any of my money cards, license, anything. Stolen for sure. I call my friend who tells me the story:
“You left way before I did and when I had finally left I found you on the floor 4 meters from the Sugar, still on your bike. You must have tried riding home and collapsed at a certain point. So, this random guy and me picked you up and you barfed. Then we called a cab and brought you home..”
“Okay- what about my bike?”
“You remember the employee garage or that private employee bathroom?”
“Damn, you were fucked up. Okay, well your bike’s at the club.”
“And my guitar? ”
“That’s in your room. I would check up on it, you fell pretty hard. ”
“How much was the cab? I’ll pay you back.”
“Don’t worry about it, the club paid for it-“
This could mean only one thing; the bar managers would know about this for sure. I guess I shouldn’t have mixed all those shots with the leftover alcohol. I was fired for sure.
“Nah, don’t worry- they used to be trippers themselves and more than understand the situation. Just send a message apologizing and saying how it won’t happen again. You’ll be fine. It’s gonna be alright.”
That’s what I did.
“Hi. Sorry about yesterday. I tried leaving fast enough but didn’t make it far. Won’t happen again. X”
“Misfortunate start.X” I received as a reply.
I checked on my guitar. It was broken beyond repair.The details of which are to me like a gore movie, Saw or Hostel, something I would rather not go into at the moment due to the freshness of the wounds. My baby is dead and I killed her.
I had a show with Nancy Acid, luckily I play drums with Nancy so I was looking forward to banging on something to take my mind off things. I hadn’t managed to eat anything and was hoping to make it in Haarlem at 6 to eat something at the Geertruida, a Haarlem record label who was hosting the show.
I was already too late. Luckily enough for me Kevin bought me a plate of Frutti di Mare at a restaurant where he had the same. It took way too long and was inhabited by un-seafood-like things. We finished our dinner and imagined meals we had eaten in Italy and exchanged experiences as tourists often do.
We played the gig and said goodbye to Goddard and crew, who were heading back to Amsterdam for their final day before going back to the States.
Kev and I went to an afterparty and I felt the pasta kicking in.
“I told you that seafood was a bad idea.” “It’s got proteins and vitamins,” he mocked in a reminding tone of how I sounded minutes before ordering what seemed to him like a bad combination; a hangover and seafood.
The party was somewhat lame with people who we would later find out to be nude teen-aged models walking around looking innocent (older than 18 I assure you, they modeled for a magazine called Voortuin, photography by Floris Bates, who also has his own band involving many of the Geertruida family).
We were told we had to leave as there was some drama unfolding and they weren’t sure if we were involved, so we headed outside to find Marnix Something-Something in the same position as I had been at the break of dawn that same day; puking on the sidewalk.
Every time somebody asked what his name was he would say it full out, as if to a police officer or a personage in a Whit Stillman film. He said it so many times it’s a miracle it’s not engraved in my head like some bubblegum pop song.
We got in a taxi and went to the Geertruida headquarters, a house in the middle of Haarlem Suburbia. Inside a beautiful setup of records by Those Foreign Kids, Berrenger, Frankenberries and more music released by the label. We sat in the living room and grabbed leftover couscous from the dinner we never made it to, as 17 year old Marnix Something-Something went on about how he was dreaming because the situation could not possibly be real. I was convinced we were the coolest group of people he had ever encountered. He chilled out and starting talking about how confused he was and finally asked;
“Does it get better?”
“It’s all downhill from here kid – it’ll only get worse.” I answered back. I had to laugh, knowing I was more right than I would have wanted to be.
We chilled at Geertruida talking in ways only music obsessed people would understand and relating bands nobody bothered about,while we listened to a collection of the Electricians, Floris Bates and a few other songs that filled the space with sweet Sunday psychedelea.
We had to get outta there, we started getting couch-locked and had other things to do. We hopped on a bus then robbed a train back to Amsterdam where I screamed joy, happy to be back home after a way too intense weekend. I had lost my guitar , money, public transport card, emergency bank card, I didn’t have my bike. It was all too much, I couldn’t feel a thing. Not to mention the killer hangover haunting me.
I got on a tram, number five- I knew that one rides to Leidseplein without conductors in the back, making it easier to sneak in.
I sit down and this guy in uniform comes up to me.“Hi.”
“Hello – “
“Would you be so kind as to fill this questionnaire for me?” “Why certainly!”
I said with a huge smile, laughing actually because I had thought he would ask me to step outside or show my transport card (which was M.I.A.)
I got out at Leidseplein, picked up my bike at the club and headed home. I was done. What a sleepless adventure.
On Monday I woke up late from not being able to sleep until 6 am, despite my tiredness) I did the only thing I knew would cheer me up; go to the Larry Clarke Exhibition at FOAM on Keizersgracht. I spent the afternoon skipping school looking at beautiful silver gelatin photographs of naked teenagers and junkies shooting up. A very honest look through a lens that wasn’t far from what his eyes saw daily. The books they were first published in where Tulsa (1971) and Teenage Lust (1983). Watching these people be honest despite the camera being present gave me a sense of existence and an urge to create something real.
I had left at 4 to go to an appointment with my barmanagers. Here I would surely find out if I got away with passing out four meters outside the place I had just started working at that same day. I came in and they immediately started laughing at me. I had to start laughing myself “What a start!” they exclaimed.
It was a crazy start to a new job.
Afterwards I went to the police station next door to file a report about my missing bank-, school-, museum-, transport cards and driver’s license. “Your story doesn’t make much sense.” I was welcomed with an interrogation. The reason I avoid the cops. That and 1984.
I told him part of the story, leaving out the crawling over the Melkweg.
“Call the taxi company and check with them first.”
He went into an office and came back and looked me in the eyes.
“I have news. We can’t make any report until you check with the taxi company. Maybe they found something. Now the worse news; there’s a warrant for your arrest. You can either pay €130 or you get thrown in the box.”
“So if I go to jail I don’t have to pay?”
Considering briefly the idea of a mini-vacation in jail for a few days. A little get-away wouldn’t be so bad.
“No- You pay either way.”
“But I lost all my cards and I’m broke. ”
“Tough luck. But I’ll do this; I work until 10 tonight. If you come up with the money by then you won’t get arrested. If you don’t and we catch you on the street you will, or we break into your house and arrest you then.“
I ran outta there, hopped on my bike and went around town collecting numbers
from people I had lent before. I made it to €95 but still haven’t got the rest.
I’m writing this sitting by the Amsteldijk, near the Berlagebrug, being overlooked by the Rembrandt Tower, the Mondriaan Tower and the Breitner Tower, trying to find out a way out of this. It seems when good things happen they come in abundance. When bad things happen they do the same.
By: Toto Boroto