What’s the best way to describe De Parade? Well, let’s think of it this way: how would someone make a hypothetical/metaphorical De Parade cocktail? Here’s my proposal for a recipe:
Take 1 part Burning Man and mix with 3 parts Dust Bowl-era carnival. Toss in 2 parts performance art and 5 parts sangria. Mix well. Enjoy under the Nederland sun.
I made my first trip to De Parade last night with my girlfriend as the festival swung into south Amsterdam for the last stop on its surreal, yearly tour. After sucking down a fairly decent burrito from one of the several food stands located around the grounds (and a drink in a bar that looked like a space-aged tiki hut regurgitated by a bright pink whale from Saturn), we made our way into a large, blue tent for a show.
“Uitblinkers” or “The Luminaries” in English, focuses on an eccentric family of acrobats. The parents are eager to spend their afternoon building shelves, working out and picking bits of dust off each others’ butts but their kids keep interrupting. A generational clash ensues, with both sides beating the hell out of each other while trying to not to knock various items off a series of shelves. Among them: taxidermied animals, large bottles filled with blue goo, skulls and a series of trophies.
Hey, it’s performance art. It’s supposed to be weird, right? The show culminates in the parents either killing the kids or stuffing them in a basement. It’s not entirely clear. The four year-old sitting next us spent the entire 30-minute performance with an expression locked on her face that seemed to say, “What is all this kooky bullshit?”
Afterward, we headed over to “The Boat,” another show, this one taking place in a recreation of a WW2-era bomber. Inside, red-velvet curtains split open to reveal a tiny stage in front of the cockpit. Three short acts ensued, featuring a series of captains, one in a boat, the second in a submarine and the third in a plane, each comically sucumbing to despair and madness. In between each act, an MC popped his head into the plane to cheerfully speak to the audience in Dutch:
“Wasn’t that THE MOST AMAZING THING YOU’VE EVER SEEN?!! Yes? YES! OF COURSE IT WAS! Well, get ready for this next one ’cause IT’S GONNA BLOW YOUR MINDS!!!”
The performance lasted nine minutes. The best € 4.50 I’ve ever spent? Absolutely.
As great as the crowd was, and as adorably weird and wonderful as De Parade’s ambiance proved, I have to admit that it didn’t make for a cheap night out. While I’d say that the organizers might want to rethink the fest’s steep € 7 admission fee, which only grants attendees entrance to the grounds and nothing else, they’re not lacking for clientele. The grounds were still packed when we headed to the Metro around 10.