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TootArd at Bitterzoet Room- Amsterdam, NL

TootArd in Amsterdam

Formed in the Golan Heights, TootArd are stateless. That is, they are permanent residents of Israel (who has controlled the area since 1967) but they are not citizens of Israel. They don’t have passports, they don’t have citizenship, and they have no state. Their travel identification served as the influence for their album Laissez Passer. This is the album title and the key form of ID they carry. It seems to work as well because after the show in Amsterdam they are off to Berlin for the last night of their tour.

I found them while browsing events around town. I’m here for the month of February and found as many venues as I could. Many event descriptions were “Techno” or “Rock” but the TootArd show was listed as Desert Blues, Ska, Reggae from the Golan Heights. That is one way to get my attention. If you’re unfamiliar with Desert Blues as a genre, take a listen to the album The Rough Guide to Desert Blues (Spotify, iTunes). It mostly refers to the music of the Mandinka people who are a nomadic tribe of the Sahara. It is considered to be the source and key influence of American blues music. So now pair that with reggae and ska.. music with no state.

Bitterzoet Room
The Bitterzoet Room is terrific. They’re a venue with no genre. Everything from brit-pop, punk (a favorite in Amsterdam) and house djs are due here soon. In the next month Nightmares On Wax will be here as will Lee Ranaldo (sad I’ll miss him). Entry to the venue is deceptive. There is a small door on the street into a wide but short lobby. After paying, you’re lead downstairs to a bank of coin-operated lockers across from the bathroom. Back up another set of stairs, you get to the bar and main hall. There is an elevated section on the far wall stage left and in the back. So far, all the walls were covered in intricate cyber-graffiti in greens and black. Images and text blocks highlighting which (now) famous performers have graced the stage. Once in the main hall, the vibe changed. The far wall was all black, the lighting dim. Faux-stained glass windows burned a deep red which further highlighted the dark themes. It looked like it either may have been a church or it was trying to look like a church. Above the bar was a balcony but I never went up there. I claimed a spot on the rise in the back; as an American, I am quite short here. The stage was simple. Drums, two guitars, bass, and three mics out front, one for the sax player.

The crew in tow was my sister Bean and her hubby who came to visit for the weekend as well as my friend Poonie from London (via Australia) also in for a quick visit. Bean and the hubby are big sublime fans and I hoped the reggae/ sky vibe would be of interest. Poonie and I go way back and I know he is open to all styles, always down for adventure, and if he did hate it, he’d let me know right away. Luckily, the band was great and everyone enjoyed (and would have even without the trips to the coffee bars beforehand).

TootArd lost a bit of the reggae/ sky vibe in the live setting. The album carries more of that weight. They pulled more from middle east scales leaving the drums and bass to venture to the Caribbean. That said, they were humble, energetic, confident, tight, and played a solid set. The crowd was amazing. They filled the space easily, were fluid enough to navigate through during the show, they danced as much as we could in the full space, and they clapped enthusiastically after each song. I swear I even heard people shush each other when the singer was talking about the songs we were about to hear.

Definitely take a listen to the Desert Blues album and support this great band. I can certainly hear them doing well in the USA and hopefully we can build them an audience.

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