The Waveform Transmitter’s Simon Huxtable returns from the 22nd Edition of Amsterdam Dance Event with more than a few stories to tell. Some of which, for legal reasons, could only be recounted in the pub.
I’m still achy.
My nose is running like a broken tap and I haven’t managed to sleep through the night since I returned last Monday, woken by incessant coughing.
I’m not alone, the 22nd edition of Amsterdam Dance Event was one of the biggest in its history with 395,000 visitors flooding into the city over the 5-day festival celebrating everything from ambient and chill out to hard dance, Drum & Bass, and more ‘commercial’ sounds. Everyone from new stars such as Belgium’s Amelie Lens to DJ Mag’s reigning hero, Martin Garrix – way past his bedtime I might add – were there along with the other 7,200 industry insiders representing 90 countries.
Talks ranged from the entertaining Q&A sessions with long-established heroes to wellness seminars and useful how to’s and keynote panels. Mental Health played a major role in the subject matter this time, and it was good to see this being discussed so openly, and often. For this years soiree, I had a different hat on. It was all about the punters journey; the regular music lovers who take a week off work and come to experience the cream of their scene all in one place, but without the Ibiza sunshine or ridiculous cost of drinks.
150 venues across the city played host to club nights, pop up shows and day gigs including the world-famous Rijksmuseum where Underworld played a one-off show streamed live on Facebook.
My focus was twofold, I wanted to catch up with old friends from across the industry I hadn’t seen in years but I had also to experience life as a regular clubber with no guest lists or dispensations to truly get a sense of their week. It was harder than I first thought, I’ve gotten quite used to free entry and backstage beers it seems…
Overall, the musical experience was first class. I can’t think of a better city to rave in frankly, and being able to sample a range of genres was a godsend. As a proghead, my first thoughts were of the progressive nights: Lost and Found, Sudbeat vs The Soundgarden and the Manual & Tarnished Tracks meet & greets, and my personal Saturday afternoon treat, All Day I Dream.
Each offers a slightly different slant on essentially the same theme, but whichever one you chose, an air of acceptance and tolerance met you at the door and wrapped in in a snug blanket of warmth. I met up with so many of my friends too, it was like the first day back at school swapping stories and laughing like hyenas.
The guys I was staying with were techno fans, and so I was able to tap into a totally different vibe on the nights we all hung out. Nik (Feral), a DJ, producer and label owner from Manchester was playing for two promoters this year, which comes with certain perks of course.
If I’m brutally honest, the Saturday night venue was pretty obscure – and so suffered with numbers given it was for a pretty good label, also, because it was a ‘showcase’ event the music didn’t really flow that well between DJs (although Nik’s b2b with Alexander Madness was fantastic – two very accomplished DJs with open minds really do make the best duos in my opinion). I much preferred the vibe, location and music from the Friday afternoon gig for two well-respected Dutch promoters that he’ll be back in January to play for.
We also took in larger scale events like Drumcode at the incredible Gashouder – the girls missed the indoor fireworks because they were chatting to randoms! And Reaktor on Sunday night at the industrial NDSM warehouse on the north shore of the city, a place seldom but the bravest travellers go. Both were superb dark spaces soundtracked by dystopian beats and hellish synths. Personal highlights were LSD (Luke Slater, Function and Steve Bickrell’s b2b2b show) and the world-premiere of Speedy J and Surgeon’s new double act, Multiples. Joris Voorn was pretty good too, harder than of late.
There was, of course, one detour into the ‘old ways’ in so much as Nik had guest list from AnD, whom he knows well, to catch them at Shelter, the new club space below A’Dam Tower, again, on the north side. Shelter is about as close to a perfect, dark, loud rave den as is humanly possible and, after meeting the delightful Andrei and Damian and having some crazy superfan record our conversation in near pitch black on his iPhone behind us, we headed onward into the Dutch rain for the rest of our ADE.
All in all, it was an astounding success. The music, the people, everything was just right. From the talks, club nights, hands-on demonstrations and everything else, Amsterdam Dance Event makes you feel welcome whomever you are and, if spending a whole weekend sat in a coffeeshop being stoned is not necessarily all your life goals rolled into one, then exploring one of the most interesting and visually stunning places on Earth, listening to world-class electronic music and meeting your DJ heroes surely should be.
Roll on my fifth year!