Get to know the other side of pop temple Paradiso

Get to know the other side of pop temple Paradiso

May 20, 2019 |  by  |  Music, Spots
About the author
Jerry is the name, online is my game. I'm a digital enthusiast, ranging from old skool gaming and Space Invaders to iPads and social media. The integration of digital elements in everyday life and art have my particular interest, and besides that I'm part time rockaholic.

This is a contribution by Martha Bird. She’s a student currently studying at the University of Utrecht as well as the University of Birmingham in the UK, spending her time experiencing and writing about arts, culture and politics.

Paradiso is at the heart of the city’s music scene, its counterculture, and it’s one of the coolest venues in Europe. Located in a converted 19th century church with towering ceilings, stained glass windows and gorgeously intricate balconies, its boards have been tread by some of the most iconic musicians of the last half century. Squatting hippies of the ’60s attracted bands like Pink Floyd to their late night jam sessions, before becoming a transformational place for punk and new wave throughout the 1970s. Now Paradiso houses an eclectic mix of programming from book fairs to EDM festivals, and has multiple venues across the city.

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Production manager Ajay Saggar has a contagious passion for the place. Leaving England in the ’80s, not wanting to live under Thatcher, he moved to a commune in Amsterdam with band The Ex. Currently playing, mixing and releasing music with three bands – Deutsche Ashram, King Champion Sounds, and Common Col – alongside his full-time job as at Paradiso, he has an awe-inspiring amount of knowledge concerning what seems to be the entirety of music history, and took time out to tell me about some of the historic performances.

Paradiso changing music

The power of a venue, of the energy between the band and the audience, and the capacity of this energy to create something completely new is so often lost in the mechanical music production business. The cultural and historical energy that Paradiso exudes is palpable, so much so that when Kraftwerk played a five night residency at the venue in 1976, after listening back to their performance tapes they decided to change the mix on Trans Europe Express, an album that changed the face of electronic music, based on the energy that was created in the space of the performances. There’s something cyclical about the notion of a band like Kraftwerk having been influenced by Paradiso, which is then embedded into the cultural history of the venue, which then goes on to inspire even more bands, creating an endless layering of a musical history that is completely alive within this venue as each performance happens.

Music changes Paradiso

The power of Paradiso is that it’s more than just a static room where artists perform, it changes with the artists that play there, so that walking around becomes a whistle stop tour of physical manifestations of iconic bands and performances. The pogo hopping was so extreme at the Ramones’ gig that they had to stop halfway through to tell people that the floor was going to break if they carried on, which of course they didn’t. Since then the floor has been reenforced; the power of performance to break through the floor surely being the epitome of punk rock.

The Rolling Stones’ influence alone on Paradiso is awe inspiring. Walking into the dressing rooms, one of the walls was built just to accommodate Mick Jagger’s refusal to share a dressing room with the other members of the Stones, and when Keith Richards showed up with too many guitars to fit on the main stage, a hole was drilled in the floor so they could be passed up to him. The gorgeous second balcony in Paradiso’s main room looks just as established as the rest of the venue, but was actually only added in after a temporary second balcony was erected so the Stones’s film makers could record their set, following which the venue erected the permanent version.

Paradiso has developed beyond the original converted church, holding thousands of events every year in multiple venues across the city. Their aim is to connect with the community, engaging with multiple areas of Amsterdam so that music and performance can be accessible across the city. The spirit of Paradiso is one of connection and community, cultivated through a passion and love for music, and a belief the power of live performance. It was an insanely cool thing to be able to walk around this venue and hear some of its stories. You can watch many of the iconic performances in the Paradiso archives.

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