If you’re a blues or rock musician living in Amsterdam, chances are very good you know (and love) the Maloe Malo. This gritty and grimy bar has been around for many decades, surviving municipal plans, complaints by Young Urban Professionals, dire financial straits and most recently, Covid lockdowns. That’s because of three factors; they have live music every day, the owner Jur and his sons are dedicated to the scene and everybody that has ever played loves it. That’s why as long as the Maloe stands, the underground music scene of Amsterdam survives as well.
It seemed like a sensible place to continue my exploration of the Amsterdam music scene. My mom used to hang with the Herman Brood crew in the eighties and nineties and here, everyone knew her. When she would take me to the Maloe sometimes, we would always get a warm welcome. “Hey, you’re Jacky’s boy!”
Now, I’ve been abroad for a few years and, I’m sorry to say, I hadn’t been to the Maloe in a long time. So I decided to check out one of their jam sessions, which are usually on Wednesdays and Thursdays. They run from 21:00 to 02:30, so I took my time to get there. I walked in and was surprised to see I didn’t recognize anybody, except for Jur of course. They recently threw him a birthday party/concert at Paradiso for his 80th birthday, the legend.
The Maloe hadn’t changed much, with its poster-covered walls, a small stage that you can (and should) just step onto, and a throng of excited, dancing spectators. The Maloe draws a diverse crowd. You’ll have the happily lost tourists, the goth girls, the immortal blues rockers, and the musical upstarts, all mixing and making it work. The Maloe really is the place where the veterans are passing on the Culture to a younger generation, and 19- and 79-year olds are rubbing shoulders on stage daily.
The jam was hot. Session leader and Rock ‘n Roll veteran Kim played the night away, making smooth guitar solos look too easy. He and his motley crew served us a classic diet of rock evergreens, like CCR, Santana, AC/DC, with original (often comical) songs mixed in. All the while, the crowd was invited to dance and sing along. The band and the audience are so close in this place that they basically overlap, an abundance of musicians ready to jump on stage to sing the chorus or provide percussion. A charismatic young singer/guitar player was cracking jokes with us, making us all feel like one happy, albeit slightly dysfunctional, family.
I tried my luck, but struck out; a band came on and played a couple of songs and there were too many bass players in the house anyway. But I was amiably told to come back next week. To be honest, I was there late. I guess there is a lesson for me and perhaps for you, if you’re keen to start jamming. If you want to play, be on time, reach out to the band leader and he’ll make sure you get your shot. Don’t be intimidated by the level of the experienced players you’ll encounter here; there really is a lot of love going around and the Maloe is the perfect place to perform with experienced and supportive players in front of a willing crowd.
So go and take your chance, if you haven’t already, and touch base at the place where it all began, and where, it seems, the music will never die. Me, I’ll be back for the next session, on time. I’ll let you know how it goes.