Trust the Dutch to do it right...
In 1995 a group of innovators in the Dutch music industry initiated a modest event to support and promote global dance culture alongside the country’s own dance industry. Thirteen years later and Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) has become the biggest event of its kind in the world, expertly balancing a conference programme and a festival – essentially 2,000 professionals doing business by day before mixing with 90,000 party kids paying their respects by going crazy at the 44 venues littered across town.
This year’s event featured performances from some of the biggest names in dance music, including Richie Hawtin, Sven Vath, Peaches, Trentemøller, Armin Van Buurin, Bomb the Bass, Digitalism, Josh Wink, Tommy Sunshine and Groove Armada, alongside scores of exciting up and comers.
Overall – 9/10
ADE is as if SXSW sped up the bpm and added more canals. It can’t be easy putting on such a massive event, but organisers Buma Cultuur show their passion and respect for dance culture with a well-organised and executed festival. Everything seems to go without a hitch and even though venues are spread around town Amsterdam’s accessible transport system and addictive, easy-going attitude means commuting between them seems like a breeze.
Ticket-wise, the business minded can buy a delegate pass (early bird passes this year were €200), which grants access to seminars and panel discussions during the day and all of the 700 acts playing across the city over four nights. You can buy tickets for all events separately – ranging from 35 Euros for big acts like Richie Hawtin to 10 Euros for the smaller events – but if you have a serious interest in dance culture and a Tasmanian Devil-like festival-mode the price of a delegate pass works out very reasonable.
The seminars included compelling discussions on 20 Years of House Music, Perspectives on Publicity, Artists Debates and Dave Clarke’s infamous Demo Demolition, where producers braved the opinions of professionals.
Getting there and back – 8/10
Okay it’s not on your doorstep, but considering many of the UK’s airports fly to Amsterdam – and the train from Schipol Airport lands you at Central Station in less than 20 minutes – commuting time is on a par with Glastonbury. There are plenty of affordable hotels, guest houses and hostels but demand generally outstrips supply in Amsterdam so it’s best to book as early as possible, otherwise prices make London look cheap and cheerful.
The Site – 10/10
Can there be a better location than roaming about Amsterdam looking for filthy electro? Avoiding clichéd areas like the Red Light district is a definite tip as it’ll force you towards some of Amsterdam’s brown cafes, tiny bars full of character and amazing beer, where you’re more likely to find a heady Dutch atmosphere and new friends. Delegate packs included handy maps listing all the venues, but this could be easily matched with a little research and a marker pen. A dozen venues, like the legendary Melkweg and Paradiso, are situated around the popular Leidse and Rembrant squares, which are within walking distance of each other.
Elsewhere, some venues, like Flex (where Peaches played an exclusive DJ set) and OT301(where the incredible booty-bassists Detroit Grand Pubahs played in a semi-legal squat), involved a trek that limited the choices of an evening; but all the same Steve Bug and Josh Wink played at the MTV Studios, which was only accessible by ferry – how often do you take a ferry to get trashed on techno?
Atmosphere – 9/10
Amsterdam’s history of tolerance and open-mindness lends itself well to ADE – even on cold, wintry nights you’ll find warmth and welcome. Add 90,000 festival heads lapping up all that is cutting edge and popular and it’s easy to see why this city has a reputation for partying.
Music – 9/10
It’s hard to believe Dr Lektroluv is so little known in the UK. Notorious for his tight’n’sleazy electro sets, he totally smashes apart ADE’s opening party at the Melkweg, cutting together dirty, bouncy electro, including tracks by Russian prodigy Proxy and Teenage Bad Girl. He does all this while wearing a green mask, a gold suit and mixing via a telephone. Genius.
An intoxicating two hour DJ set that saw Anders Trentemøller move between teasing out the chilling, minimal sounds of his classic album ‘The Last Resort’ and creating a mess of dancefloor bodies by distorting the likes of Rage Against The Machine and the Cure. Dark, menacing, but always compelling.
Officially the world’s best video DJ’s, they kick-started a hyper set of visuals and rapid-fire electro with their gunfire-remix of the new Max Payne film, then followed it by knocking the collective heads of Quentin Tarantino and Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ together. Playing an exclusive set to under a hundred people in a sneakers shop, ATV’s gig was typical of ADE’s cool attention to detail.
The filthiest, dirtiest, sleaziest electro filth possible, the Italian duo played one of the sets of the festival. Bouncy, beautiful and completely addictive, Crookers were almost upstaged by the crazed Melkweg crowd when they dropped Proxy’s new single ‘Raven’, and everyone knelt down before leaping back up and continuing to mosh on the break.
Ended ADE on a high, dropping tracks from their own ‘Idealist’ album with cuts by Beastie Boys, Alice Cooper before the stage was rushed by party heads (including Tommi Sunshine, typically shaded and with a girl in an x-rated bikini).
More sneaker shop madness: the nightly parties at the tiny K-Space store were legendary. Clubbers fought for space on benches and tables while exclusive DJ’s played luscious minimal techno. Giles Peterson and Richie Hawtin even popped in, adding to the chaos and causing wide smiles all round.
The Felix Meritis on the Keizersgracht. The beautifully-designed and dignified building was the base for all delegates during ADE and where most seminars were held. Highly influential during the enlightenment (the name translates as ‘Happy through Merit’), it served as a base for great minds to discuss and promote the arts. Very apt that it continues to do so via ADE.
Catching the time on your watch during an astounding Crookers set and realising that Bomb The Bass were playing thirty yards away at the Sugar Factory but knowing there was no way you could leave.
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