Amsterdam Dance Event is the largest event of its kind in Europe. Comparable perhaps only to Miami Winter Music Conference in terms of industry relevance and scale. Each year an estimated 400.000 visitors including labels, artists, management companies and fans, together with some 2500 DJ’s descend on the Dutch city to meet, network, discuss the freshest developments in music and its merry accomplices of politics and tech. They also like to throw the occasional party.
This one plays 24/7, with over 1000 events happening throughout the city over five days. What sets ADE apart though, is its venues. From boat parties along chocolate-box canals, to infamous raves in its museums, concert halls and churches. When it comes to bureaucracy-defying event space, Amsterdam doesn’t miss a trick.
Compared to London, the Dutch capital looks at electronic music, not as an illegitimate, lawless counter-culture, but as culture itself. As a valuable art to be celebrated and embraced in public venues, not driven underground. (London, of course, being the only ‘trailblazing 24-hour city in the world to launch 24-hour weekend public transport parallel to a hugely unpopular bill with midnight curfews at its ‘core’).
The brand lifting the red tape on both venue and perception is Audio Obscura, aka Jeroein Fontein and Naut Donders who formed back in 2013 to coincide with the advent of ADE. With an Ellum-based Maceo Plex at their side, their vision was to bring world-class artists to a different type of space and in doing so,“challenge both audience and artist perception so as to create an experience rooted in classical or fresh urban context, that made for something new”.
Last year they brought 2000 people and a re-emergent Underworld together in the Rijksmuseum, housing a rave in the halls of Rembrandt. This year they booked Charlotte De Witte to headline Central Station. Can you imagine the equivalent happening in St Paul’s Cathedral, Liverpool St. Station, or London’s Southbank Centre? I think not.
This year Seth Troxler and Honey Dijon were billed to play an all-nighter in a former jail. Despite having teams at the ready to literally break down prison walls to make this happen, last-minute health and safety red-tape meant the party couldn’t go ahead. Still, if its an irreverent party spirit and original venue styling you are seeking, Audio Obscura owns its game. And rumour has it this may soon be coming to London with Fontein in discussions over possible licensing and venues. Watch this space!
The Soundgarden held their flag high too pulling together with Sudbeat and Flying Circus. Nick Warren and Hernán Cattaneo, together with a stand-out set from atish made for the first party of ADE in the unique festival-meets-industrial club, Thuishaven. A grown-up, wisteria-strewn crowd and many a MILF ensued.
The Gardens of Babylon brought Burning Man color to the Wester Unie. Market stalls, make-up and traders plying glittery frippery all contributed to a dress-up (distinctly un-Dutch) festival vibe. It was hard to match in terms of lighthearted fun with Be Svendsen, Britta and Unders delivering their usual dose of carefully crafted, high-audio jinks. Set of the night though has to go to Blond:ish. Their closing track, a remix of Foreigners, ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’, had its audience singing, cheering for more.
By this late and loaded hour, a moving recommendation of forgotten unity that put two fingers up to our current global shit-show of politico-economic unrest. ‘Why can’t we just all be the same’ Blond:ish’s Anastasia said later ‘not yours, or mine. Just ours?’
Wristbands up to our elbows at this point, the EG team ploughed on. Next up, The Crane. A glass ‘hotel’ consisting of two suites and a 74-person capacity club in a glass box suspended in the sky is, or at least was, the after-party de jour. This year saw them host the Diynamic and Exit afters with the likes of Magdelena, Lehar and Dj W!ld at the helm.
DGTL factored high, featuring Bonobo, Mano Le Tough and Dj Koze in one of the best line ups of the week, with audio-visuals to match. This was a firm EG favorite.
Afterlife was its usual full-decibel, guns out affair but lacked personality as it hosted a sell-out 24-hour techno-smorgasboard in Elementenstraat Warehouse.
Off-piste, smaller events make for better fun. In this case Deep House Amsterdam came up trumps pulling in Chris Barratt, aka Eagles and Butterflies for a cheeky set. Elsewhere Into The Woods apparently stood out, bringing live brass-techno act, Meute in for a goose-bump performance that we would give our right heart ventricle not to have missed.
VBX locked arms with Ricardo Villalobos’s FRRC to produce a special edition boasting Sonja Moonear, Seth Troxler and Nicolas Lutz. Set of the night however was found at the afterparty, where London based Voightmann tore the house down at club, Bret. This comes as no surprise with a DJ so seductive when on form, that Tinder should consider replacing their algorithm with his Soundcloud.
With the best will, or fun-packed wallet in the world, it is impossible to see and do even a fraction of what ADE has to offer. In between the coffee shops, the teeming bars and generous, polished cuisine there’s simply too much fun to be had here. One thing however is certain: If Audio Obscura can bring even a fraction of their clubbing culture to the U.K. we may one day be in for a very different type of Friday night. Get your diapers on, London! And whilst you’re at it, sign the petition. Something tells me this may take a while.