TNS show number 10 took us back up to The Netherlands to a town called Dordrecht and their annual Big Rivers Festival. Big Rivers is a 3-day music festival with a Mardi Gras theme…lots of beads and colorful jester hats.
It was still raining hard when we climbed back into the black van for the hour-plus drive to Dordrecht. The night beforehand we had played to a small, rain-soaked crowd in Zottegem so we were really hoping for a lucky break in the weather. But it was Friday the 13th so we were ready for anything.
When we arrived, we were immediately impressed by how organized everything was. There were lots of security, greeters, first aide workers…these people were pro! We parked and were escorted by van to our stage. The driver was friendly and excited (see the first video below)…things were looking good…but it was still drizzling on and off.
Big Rivers had eight stages set up in various squares around the city. Eighty bands would play over the course of the weekend. Our stage opened up onto a good-sized city square surrounded by shops and restaurants. In the middle of the square there was a large statue on which someone had placed a large jester hat! Everyone was wearing bead necklaces, milling around, eating and drinking…and listening to music.
We were escorted to the VIP food room for dinner (up a winding staircase over a bar) where we ate and drank. Afterwards we headed back to our stage to catch some of the band playing before us and get a feel for the event. Folks running the show were friendly and curious about us. Evidently we were the only US band playing this year’s festival. Expectations were high.
We were given a 90-minute set and hit the stage at 8:30. We opened with “Lucky Number 7s” to a crowd of about 30 curious onlookers. The rain stopped and some sunlight cut through the clouds. Most folks stood in the back sizing us up. Halfway through the second song, “Five Miles Gone,” a woman came forward and started dancing. An older gentleman pulled out his cell phone and started filming, the crowd doubled, and folks inched closer. By the time we hit “Garberville,” song number 8 on the setlist, the crowed had swelled to several hundred and everyone was smiling, clapping and dancing in place. I looked over and caught Steve’s eye. We knew at this point that Big Rivers on Friday the 13th was going to be a special night for The Nickel Slots.
We rocked on and the crowd grew in number and enthusiasm. The festival atmosphere we had heard about was beginning to consume us all. Strangers danced and shared beers and laughs. We shared many toasts and festival beads with the crowd. Over the 90 minutes we were given much much love…and countless rounds of beer!
We have all played many shows in our respective music careers and it’s a rare experience when you find yourself in the “zone”…a place where you don’t think, you just play and enjoy…a place where all worries are gone and the music flows and everyone in the crowd becomes part of the song. It’s a wonderful siren all musicians crave and seek.
We ended our second encore with our newly-learned cover of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” We had several young kids dancing on the stage (which at this point was littered with empty beer cups). At one point I left the stage with my guitar to dance with the woman who started all the dancing. She was now wearing a Nickel Slots sticker and dancing with a Salvation Army worker who stopped by the crowd to collect money in his cup but ended up staying and dancing till the end. (Steve did give him some Euros!)
By the time we ended we estimate the crowd had swelled to upwards of a thousand happy, foot-stomping festivalgoers. We’ve had many wonderful shows as TNS, but we will never forget this one! It was a unique experience to play our songs to an unknown crowd so far from home and have them connect with us and our music. Dank u wel Big Rivers!
Video: Shuttle drive to our stage and footage of the crowd during our first encore
Video: “Let It Ride”