I love Amsterdam Dance Event. It’s the reason I fell in love with Amsterdam. At its core, a daytime dance music industry conference that sees over 3500 delegates from across the world do business, discuss the hot topics in the scene, catch-up and swap music with each other. At night, the city comes alive, with a record 75 venues across the city hosting over 800 artists over the course of the week and over 200,000 punters in total, turning Amsterdam into the world’s biggest club festival. It brings in some €30 million to the city, which says something about its ever-growing magnitude.
ADE has been steadily growing since its inception in 1996, and as both a conference and festival, it is perfectly formed. The daytime conference activities centre around the resplendent canalside venue Felix Meritis and its stunning neighbouring boutique hotel, The Dylan. Located in the city’s gorgeous Negen Straatjes area, it’s buzzing all day, and presents a chance to get up close and personal with the heroes and pioneers of the scene. During our three days, we take in panel discussions on the future of America’s ‘EDM’ (ugh) explosion with Richie Hawtin, Loco Dice and Seth Troxler giving their 10 Euro cents’ worth, watch Carl Cox discuss the power of radio, witness Coldcut’s Matt Black ramble through the past 25 years of electronic history, hear some of the world’s biggest festival bookers explain what they look for in an artist, soak up some of Danny Tenaglia’s favourite memories in a keynote interview, and see Dave Clarke grill the guys from leading DJ/production software company Native Instruments. That’s just scraping the surface, with dozens more talks and demonstrations on offer here and at other nearby venues.
As for the clubbing, we’re utterly spoilt for choice. A 5-day festival pass gets you into any party across the city (capacity permitting), and although we don’t go for the full club-hop quite as hard as we could, we still get plenty of varied action. On Wednesday night we witness a little slice of dance music history as Carl Cox streams his 500th Global radio show across the world from the immense industrial splendour of Gashouder, in the city’s rejuvenated Westgasfabriek area by Westerpark. It’s a maze of several club venues, a jazz club, restaurants, bars, manicured lawns, woods and lakes, and it makes for an excellent playground. The sold-out party explodes under a flurry of indoor fireworks, marking one of the week’s most talked-about events.
Later on, we head over to Trouw, the city’s finest club, to watch Late Night Society & Imprint host Seth Troxler. The former newspaper printing plant is somewhere between fabric and Berghain in style, with an excellent soundsystem kitting out the epic main room, and the chance to view the DJ up close and personal from steps banking the dancefloor-level DJ booth. We’ve never seen him play such an immense set, full of mind-boggling, funk-fuelled, bugged-out techno that perfectly balances groove and weirdness and makes for an utterly engrossing ride. Never one to play a run-of-the-mill track, his set is full of unidentifiable sounds, oozing character and quirkiness at every opportunity. From fat analog electro basslines to psychedelic vocal snippets, he’s got it all. Blown away, we retire to our nearby chamber for the night.
Thursday comes and saddened by the news that Diynamic’s party is a fair old mission away in Amsterdam-Noord, we decide to root down at Berlin-based house and disco label Exploited’s party at Het Sieraad, a new venue to ADE in the westerly Baarsjes district that we’re told simply has to be witnessed. We’re not disappointed, entering the huge building through an incredibly confusing room filled with men and women in Victorian costumes dancing around with umbrellas and playing chess, before emerging into the enormous glass-roofed, palm tree-filled and pillar-lined atrium. A raised DJ booth overlooks a sunken dancefloor, with amphitheatre style step terraces leading down into it, the roof some 40 metres above us, and windows adorning the huge walls making it feel like you’re in a film set of the inner courtyard of a block of flats. With another two rooms of music, it’s quite the venue. Label boss Shir Khan eases us in with deliciously chuggy grooves, before his emerging stars Adana Twins inject some spine-tingling synths and euphoria into the mix. Their excellent set is followed by Tensnake, who tonight lays on the trancey synths a bit heavy for our liking. A surreal party in a truly exceptional space.
On our way to the conference on Friday lunchtime, we poke our heads into the afterparty for Exploited at trendy hangout Ludwig to see what lies in store. Boiler Room have taken over already, and the dark sweatbox is pumping to some rough house music. At 2 PM on a Friday. That’s our sort of party. That night, we head back to Westergasfabriek to the roomy MC Theater to sample the delights of Dekmantel. Space Dimensions Controller is wigging out the main room with some phat analog grooves, bizarre spoken word interludes and quirky vocals. It’s a truly inspirational live set, and sets the tone perfectly for golden boy of UK house, Julio Bashmore. He eases the crowd in with deep, dusty US flavours, before upping the garage factor and getting those elbows winding. The obligatory drop of Au Seve slays the crowd, and we soak up his set until we’re so soaked with sweat ourselves we have to leave (it’s BOILING in here tonight).
Where else to round off our night, but Trouw? Three of Amsterdam’s finest labels, Clone, Rush Hour and Delsin host, with local heroes galore filling the bill. After some unidentified, hard, experimental techno in the main room, we head into the dark, no-frills basement to witness club resident Tom Trago performing live with Awanto 3 for their captivating live set as Alfabet. The industrial house-meets-tech flavour works a treat with the surroundings, before Trago finishes us off with one of his exemplary DJ sets of old school house revivalism.
This isn’t to mention being served delicious free food by famous DJs in Native Instruments’ TRAKTOR Cookery School next to the conference centre, free parties thrown by Mixmag with big names and free booze, a free Smirnoff-sponsored mini club in the middle of the Leidseplein with Joris Voorn, 2000 And One and other big names thumping it out at 8 PM on a Funktion One rig, Maceo Plex DJing in a clothing store and the numerous other parties and multitude of conference programming for pros and newbies alike across the week. Whether you’re a clubber, a festival lover or a dance music professional, ADE’s got it all. One taste and you’ll be back every year.
Full details here: www.amsterdam-dance-event.nl