I didn’t notice immediately. It took me a few moments to register, as I woke up on a bus outside Eindhoven station in the Netherlands. A woman was cycling past towards the station, and as my brain slowly caught up with my eyes, I realised that she cycled past rows, upon rows, upon rows of bicycles. Bicycle racks on every single pavement I could see, heaving with bikes. Bikes piled on top of bikes. Bikes chained to or propped up against every available surface. Bikes parked on the pavements. Bikes sailing down the street. By the end of the day I think I had seen more bicycles in 24 hours than I had in the rest of my 34 years put together. And I cycle! Welcome to the Netherlands.
I had caught the bus the previous evening in London, after taking a train straight from work at 4:30pm that afternoon. The real tour nerves had kicked in about T -2; sitting at my desk, I had glanced up at the clock. 2:45pm. Almost 3. That’s almost 4, and that’s almost 4:30… Suddenly it was all happening, really soon, and I freaked out! I felt so dizzy and emotional I had to leave my desk and go and sit quietly in the kitchen for a bit with a cup of tea and take some deep breaths. It passed, but it was spectacular. And before too long I was signing off at work and catching my train!
This first part of the great adventure I was alone; I was due to meet up with my tour buddy Jude in Amsterdam. Jude is a fellow crazy Switchfoot fanatic who I met on the last tour and we have become the best of friends through our shared love of the band and general nuttiness. But she was travelling separately, and meeting me there. So I spent the journey daydreaming, birdwatching, reminiscing about the last tour, wishing there would be another full moon during this tour, and sitting out on deck on the midnight ferry, on my own, watching the waves in the dark, and listening to Darkness from The Wonderlands…
After waking to what appeared to be The Great Bicycle Explosion Of 2017 it was a fairly short journey on to Amsterdam, where after some confusion I eventually managed to locate Jude, and we in turn managed to locate the hostel. We decided to take another train out to Haarlem to see Corrie Ten Boom’s house there that afternoon. When we got to Haarlem, we made the mistake of asking the sat nav to give us directions to get to the house. After telling us it was a ten minute walk, as we expected, it then led us on a 45 minute wild expedition right out across the very pretty town, to a silly yellow scarecrow advertising a carwash, before telling us to turn around and go back a different way to pretty much where we started!! We got there – it was very close to the station in a different direction. 😀 The house was amazing and moving, but that’s another story. We returned to find Amsterdam heaving with crazy drunken football fans, so once we’d got some food we took refuge in the hostel for the night.
Then it was show day, number 1 of 7!!
After a slow start, trying to sleep off the journey and crazy crowd, we got some iced tea and coffee as it was hot already, then went on a boat tour of the canals, which was beautiful way to chill out and see some more of the city. And not get run over.
I have never been so convinced I was going to be run over before in my life! Amsterdam is not the place to be as a pedestrian. Stepping out onto the street from the (usually narrow and crowded) pavement you have to dodge bikes, trams, bikes, cars, bikes, taxis and motorbikes, several lanes of each and all going in different directions. The lanes are not clearly marked, the crossings can take ages, trams seemed to run both ways on all the lines, and bikes often don’t stop for the crossings anyway. Once you’ve survived crossing one lane of traffic there’s often only a tiny thin refuge to stand on whilst you wait to cross the next lane, easily missed, and even once you think you’ve crossed successfully you can easily find yourself standing in the middle of a cycle lane without realising it until you find a motorcycle hurtling towards you! Even the pavements are so much the domain of the bicycle that we often had to walk on the road to dodge round parked and piled bikes. There were some close calls, but I’m glad to report that we are both still three dimensional. Don’t get run over..!
Then it was time for the first VIP event.
We met up with a couple of friends outside the venue, and were enjoying meeting in person for the first time when Switchfoot showed up, coming and going between their bus and the venue! We got to chat to them briefly as they went back and forth, Jon first and then the other guys too. They recognised Jude from being at the Switchfoot Getaway the previous year, which was lovely, but unsurprisingly didn’t recognise me. They had had horrible flight problems so looked exhausted, apart from Tim who had been over already with his family on holiday. We thanked each other for being there, and I told them I was glad they arrived ok, sympathised with their travel problems, and thanked them for bringing the sunshine with them! I confess I turned to jelly a little bit after re-meeting Jon for the first time then, but it was just fine after that.
There were big delays so we ended up standing round for ages before going in, so we had plenty of time to meet other fans. People were there from the Netherlands, Sweden, Indonesia, Germany, USA and more, and were all lovely! 🙂 Suddenly we could hear Switchfoot soundchecking House Burns and Mess Of Me from inside. I had been chatting, but when I heard that I just got so happy that whatever I was saying went out my head and I just gravitated to the door with a big goofy grin on my face, I had to listen! And then we got to go in just as they were finishing Mess and I went to the front and rocked out and sang like it was a show! They said hi to us, played Dark Horses, and asked how we were. It was my Dutch friend’s birthday, so they got everyone to sing her happy birthday, then asked for requests – and got them all! Eventually they chose to play us Souvenirs 🙂
After that we lined up for photos – my friends and I got to the back of the queue and conspired! We had a plan to get a silly VIP photo involving moustaches in honour of Chad, who was born in Amsterdam. We got chatting to Josh (the merch guy/ guitar tech) a bit while we waited, and he said the guys were going to the sea in Brighton tomorrow, and we told him they should find time to go to the west coast sometime, and maybe play Boardmasters too.
Then it was my turn! They didn’t try to introduce themselves, I just went in and said hi to Chad and Drew and got to chat to them for a moment. Jude filmed as I got out my letter to Jon. I showed the guys I had chocolate coffee beans and before I’d even finished saying it Jon was just like ‘Give, give!!’ 😀 I said I thought they might be needed after all the travel, and he said ‘oh yeah!’ 😀 Then I introduced myself properly (‘Hi, I’m Helen, I write to you too much – and I’ve done it again!’) I handed him my letter, then the one from the SwitchFam (I blanked and forgot who!), and letters from friends from Nepal and India, and then the DVD of our spoof tour video. I said ‘I don’t know if you saw this but Jude and I spoofed your silly tour vid…’ and Jon straightaway said ‘Yes we did, that was amazing! You guys did a great job, you left out no detail, it was all in there. You must have spent ages on it’ I laughed, ‘Yeah you have no idea, 6 months..!’ 😀 And he remarked on my daisies – then I got his real attention for a moment – ‘Yes they’re my favourite, they’ve been really meaningful to me since way before there was a connection with you. I was so happy when you released that song!’ And he said they were very meaningful to him too, and even more so since he named his daughter after them. That was so lovely 🙂 By this point I was really trembling! I took out the ‘Europe is Where The Light Shines Through’ banner (which got some wows!) and got my picture with it. Jon had his arm round me so could definitely feel me shaking, very embarrassing! Then he asked for a picture just with me and the flag, which I was kind of blown away by 😀
Then I got out the way for my friend’s VIP. She had a birthday sign and confetti cannons – which hilariously failed to go off and resulted in the funniest sequence of photos! I filmed it, they sang her happy birthday and there was a funny moment of confusion with the cannons before they ended up throwing the confetti! They chatted whilst Jude came out and had some lovely chats with them, recognising her and crowning her ‘queen of the UK fam!’.
And then the moustaches came out! The guys loved them! Chad took one and everyone was like ‘no you don’t need one!’ Romey put his on his head. The guys took lots of their own photos and had fun goofing around with them, and then we got our own photos – it was so funny 😀
And oh I was so happy and so full of love! I know I was giving off the wrong impression but it’s so hard not to with fan love at this kind of level.
We had time to run and get a takeaway and come back and line up. I got some amazing falafels, super spicy and messy! And I got to take a fried aubergine to a show. Never done that before.
The stage was super high but we got in first and went to the middle 🙂 Army Of Bones opened and were really good. I was really excited when I heard they would be opening for Switchfoot, that’s near perfect for me, especially as I had missed seeing Martin Smith’s previous band play with Switchfoot. It felt like I was getting a second chance. They didn’t give us any interaction, but Martin’s performance is so captivating and the music rocked! He spliced New Way To Be Human into Love Song For A City 🙂 I think even Jude, who isn’t really a fan, was impressed 🙂 By the end of their set people pressing in from the sides had got me even more central.
Switchfoot opened with If The House Burns Down Tonight. I’ve got to admit that’s a bit of a weird opener; all the build up and then just that quiet ‘Ashes from the flames…’ before it gets going… but then it really does get going after that! It wasn’t an easy show to take pictures at, and in any case my friends were covered in cameras, so I just watched the show.
This show felt a little like Munich’s, with similar lighting, no crowd barrier, and a chilled and happy vibe, though this was I think mostly due to tired spaceyness rather than surfing this time! The venue had more climbing potential however, which Jon utilised! He went into the crowd a couple of times, including going up onto the balcony, over the side and down into the crowd in true nailbiting fashion during Love Alone Is Worth The Fight.
At my friend’s birthday request they played Your Love Is A Song, Drew giving it a killer solo.
Early on in the show, a guy called Peter held up a sign saying, in pictures, ‘Can I play guitar on The Sound?’ Jon took the sign, looked at it, figured out what it said and replied ‘I think we’re going a little too fast; it’s early on in this relationship, maybe we can slow down and see where this goes?’ 😀 But later he did indeed get to play it, and he really rocked! He even got the beautiful Love Is The Movement guitar too!
They went very off piste from the original set list. ‘I want to take this right back; it’s not on the set list… Chad, what would you do if I said ‘Al Pacino’..?’ And they played Gone – I never really thought of it as a rock song but wow it was quite heavy this time, all crunching, screaming guitars! It was brilliant!
All my banners came out at different points during the show; ‘Europe’ and ‘Where I Belong (WIB)’ Jon held up, he took ‘Thank you’ to look at too. ‘Healer of Souls’ he just went ‘Ooh ‘! Play the song Jon!!
The encore was amazing; they played Float (YESSS! So much fun!), I Won’t Let You Go (which had Jude in tears), and Dare You To Move (which is always going to make me happy!), so beautiful!
Overall there was a worshipful feel to the whole thing, it felt like we were really involved with the lyrics, personally and collectively…
Afterwards we stood and chatted to ‘fam for ages by the bus. Suddenly after a long wait I picked up Jon’s tweet: Aftershow in 15 minutes by the bus! Eeeee!! I was wearing the (still wet) WIB banner when he came out. He took us along the street to a bridge over a canal and stopped just as I was next to him, so I got front row! He played Vice Verses and All Of God’s Children, which were beautiful and deep, Just Rob Me (oh my goodness..!! Absolutely hilarious!), 24, and On Fire merging into Your Love Is Strong, it was really lovely. During Vice Verses we heard some funny noises in the street (car horns maybe?) joining in the song (‘It’s a duet!’ said Jon!) 😀 Boats passing by on the canal slowed down to watch, and despite how small the bridge is and how quiet the city seemed, several times we had to dodge bicycles and cars (Jon remarked ‘This bridge is busy!’). He looked at me at the end and I just said ‘thank you!’ 🙂
Afterwards I walked back to the bus with him. There was all the usual hounding and selfie-taking, Jon masterfully steering the crowd towards the bus the whole time, so I stayed aside and just took it in. But I did get to thank him for playing so many songs that mean so much to me and he thanked me for being there. After that, we got to hang around and say goodbye to most the guys. Drew told me he put me in their Instagram, and they had – the picture of me with my flag, as well as them goofing around with the Chad moustaches! So sweet! We wished them safe travels and goodnight and see you at BCDO. They didn’t leave for us to wave them off, so eventually we left instead.
I ate my concert aubergine and fangirled online a bit, then it was a quick sleep before dashing to catch the bus back to London. Getting across Amsterdam proved a bit simpler this time, but the bus was not very comfortable. I picked up some iced tea on the way, and accidentally bought a fizzy kind, which was not right at all! I spent most of the journey getting glitter on the bus, and enjoying the memories.
It was extremely hot and the bus did not have much air conditioning, so it was disappointing to realise we were going back through the tunnel, not on the ferry. The result was we were sat in the tunnel carpark waiting to board for two and a half hours, going nowhere and getting ever hotter. And then I got the news: Switchfoot really are coming back this autumn, and are giving us a proper UK tour!! :O 😀 :’) Wowowow!! Everything got a bit surreal from there. I emerged back into the UK, and immediately saw a dense murmeration of midges over the roadside trees, and then witnessed grown men holding a sack race, and a bizarre junk shop full of weird statues, dummies and ornate lamps, as we entered London…
I love Switchfoot so much 🙂 Also, how many times did Jon shake my hand/ high five me?! Bring on the rest of the tour!!
Read Part 2 here