In 1644, Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant surrendered New Amsterdam, the capital of New Netherlands, to a British force organised by the Duke of York. And thus the Big Apple got its name.
Amsterdam’s Personal Trainer seem intent on reclaiming that legacy and proving that the origins of all that is good about that city’s musical history is in fact Dutch. Their music is a vibrant melting pot of all the good guitar sounds emanating from NYC. It manages to be both relaxed and energetic at the same time. Nothing is forced; it is infectious.
This is, frontman Willem Smit, tells us, the fifth time the band have played the Hope & Ruin in the last year and a half. They must be doing something right as the venue is tightly packed – particularly down the front – when SOURCE arrives too late to catch Welly, who by all accounts gave it some.
This is definitely a 6 Music crowd and a Rockaway Beach crowd. Indeed this gig has been sold out since the band played a belter in Bognor, and people bought tickets straight after.
The venue goes dark and a Brazilian samba comes out of the PA at ear-splitting volume. The musicians have to fight their way through the crowd, to find a route to the stage.
With a battle cry of “Yeaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” they are off, at breakneck speed, with ‘The Lazer’, taken from debut album ‘Big Love Blanket’ – with its cracking hooks and Bodega-style fun. During that first song the percussionist, Kilian Kayser, climbs the speakers for a shaky egg solo and we get bongos and trumpets as well as one of the band’s best singalong choruses: “Here we are now, on our feet again.”
Next up is the propulsive cowbell punk-funk of 2020 single ‘Politics’, in which we hear echoes of LCD Soundsystem. New track ‘1,000,000’ has a delicious Fall-style bassline and a repeated question of “Do you risk a biscuit?”
An extended jam version of ‘Former Puppy’ seems to go on for a long time, and meanders ever so slightly. Even in this one minor misstep the band are still restlessly creative, and the party is quickly rescued by ‘Fiddle Funk’ and ‘Rug Buster’. By this point the singer is astride the monitor and seducing a short man in the front row with sexy dancing and very very sweaty clothes.
We simply can’t help holding our arms in the air and clapping along. Willem looks your humble reporter in the eye and cries “That’s the stuff!”
Then the band start chanting in unison in Dutch. It sounds like some dark satanic ritual carried out by the sailors Brecht sung about in ‘The Port Of Amsterdam’ and truly does it conjure a monster riff from the depth in ‘Key Of Ego’.
The set draws to a close with ‘Milk’ which reaches an almost ecstatic climax of the kind Bowie achieved on ‘Heroes’. A riotous encore follows and the band have no hope of leaving the stage until the audience gets another.
If they keep playing this well, shows being sold out months in advance will become Personal Trainer’s new normal. When the audience leaves many are talking about buying tickets to the November show in Lewes which is also being promoted by the wonderful Love Thy Neighbour (here).
Hope & Ruin, Thursday 2nd March 2023
Words by Nick McAllister
Photos by Alyx Ashton