Agnes Klos takes us on a journey through this year's ADE, with a little help from Harold Heath. Fasten your seatbelts and let’s go!
A five-day marathon of more than 450 night and 600 daytime events spread over 200 locations, with over 2,500 performing artists and around 600 speakers participating in keynotes, workshops and masterclasses on a variety of topics, has just come to an end. And what a thrilling journey it was!
"A fantastic edition," said ADE general manager Richard Zijlma, looking back at the 23rd edition of the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) which celebrated 30 years of Dutch dance music.
From the moment you set your foot in the city centre of Amsterdam, it was clear that ADE had taken over the entire place. ADE here, ADE there, ADE everywhere. The famous yellow and black ADE flags ornamented hundreds of venues, and while biking down the streets of Amsterdam you could feel the thrill of excitement in the air. ADE had begun...
Agnes: The first mission of ADE went pretty smoothly - despite a gigantic queue, the necessary wristbands and passes are now in my pocket. Mega excited!
Agnes: Early morning kicked off with a yoga session, followed up by DayBreaker Jungle Party - what a blast! A wicked way to start ADE with other party animals.
Today was a ’green day’ at the DeLaMar Theatre. The first conference had an ADE Pro/ADE Green theme: Rave For A Revolution! The moderator, Femke Dekker, did a brilliant job presenting the fascinating stories of the six panelists, in a truly inspiring lecture that made you realise that in countries with dysfunctional social systems, such as Palestine (represented by Jazar Crew showing a fantastic short movie from Boiler Room Palestine), clubs and festivals offer people a safe place and act as a gathering hub. Often it is not easy to get to a party, but once you succeed, the party-goers seem to appreciate it even more by expressing these difficult feelings on the dancefloor, which consequently triggers activism against injustice and racism.
Harold: This concept became more concrete once promoter and gay rights activist Giorgi Kikonishvili from Georgia began to speak about the heavy-handed police raids on the Bassiani and Café Gallery nightclubs in the Georgian capital Tbilisi earlier this year. The raids triggered a huge spontaneous protest which gathered in front of Bassiani, then marched to the Georgia parliament building. Bassiani was a safe place for clubbers in a strict, conservative society, and the protest distilled a number of issues, including the country’s harsh drug laws, homophobia and the persecution of the LGBT community and the general negative attitude towards club culture from the government.
Techno became the sound of protest, the dancefloor once again became political and the crew from Bassiani became “the guardians of the night”. Other examples of politicised dance floors came from the Jazar Crew from Palestine and Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda, and while everyone on the panel came from very different backgrounds, they all shared the same goal: to provide a safe and happy space for people to come together. It was an inspiring and positive start to the week.
Agnes: Continuing in the spirit of ADE Green, next up were two environmentally-oriented panels that focused on protecting the climate and reducing waste: Cup, Cup, Cup: From Waste To Resource (presented by Heineken) and The Future Of Plastic (presented by Green Events). The first one discussed the contribution of festivals to the huge problem of the global plastic production. Two festival representatives – Niels de Geus from Amsterdam Open Air and Robbie Scaut from Pukkelpop, Belgium – talked about changes they have introduced, such as a reusable cup system. The latter panel included an inspirational talk from the State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management, Stientje van Veldhoven, who has collected ‘Plastic Promises’ from numerous key players in the industry such as Coca Cola.
Harold: Over the last few years there's been a definite shift in the content of industry events like this: in addition to panels on developing new revenue streams or fine-tuning your DJ skills, we’ve seen a broadening of the topics of discussion with issues like mental health, drug use, sexism, racism and homophobia being discussed more than ever before. And one example of this was the next panel I went to, Us Too.
ADE found itself at the centre of a controversy this year when it was announced that Gielgling co-founder Konstantin, who's alleged to have made certain sexist remarks about female DJs last year, had been booked to DJ, triggering protests and an open letter which stated that “overt sexism by male DJs makes the scene inaccessible and dangerous for women”. ADE’s initial response - to suggest some kind of panel with Konstantin - proved unpopular and was replaced instead by this fascinating and at times heated session, which looked at the history of misogyny in the creative arts. Author Zoe Margolis provided plenty of interesting stories and anecdotes as well as a no-nonsense approach to how things could improve, and I got the feeling that this area will be covered in much more depth next year.
Agnes: The first party evening of ADE could not have started better. The first night-time sounds to entertain my ears came courtesy of a Technostate Inc showcase at 50:HERTZ Techno Cafe. Next up was In Trance We Trust at WesterUnie, which put me in a groovy mood for the rest of the night with the biggest trance line-up the world’s leading festival for electronic music had ever seen, featuring no less than 35 artists presented by AVA, Iboga Records, Outburst and of course host ITWT, all under one roof.
But it was Awakenings Hard Opening at Gashouder that made really me go "wow". What a monstrous venue! Charlotte de Witte’s set was absolutely rammed, followed by the relentless industrial techno served by two queens (English and German) of the night: Rebekah and Paula Temple. And to finish off the first night in style, hard pounding beats from Amelie Lens at De Marktkantine x Second State - off the hook!
Harold: I managed to squeeze in a quick Q&A with DJ Pierre at Amsterdam’s famous Mary Go Wild record shop. It turns out he’s spent many years now clarifying the acid house origin story, which has always held that the 303 acid line on the seminal Acid Traxwas a happy accident. He told a packed store:“I’ve told this story many times, and a lot of times I still see written articles about a happy mistake…anything you do in art does not come from a mistake when you understand and evaluate and decide to use it. Plenty of people had the 303 and I’m pretty sure they all heard the same thing, so it's a matter of the person who’s working the equipment… it’s definitely not a mistake at all!”
Then it was off to the first big party of the week – and probably the best. We arrived at Radion, a rambling warren of a club, around midnight. Got past the splendidly friendly security, past the racks of lockers that the ever-practical Dutch provide at nightclubs (take a tip UK!), through the bar area and into the main room, to be greeted by a simultaneous assault on the senses. The smell of incense, the shimmer of a huge disco ball and the thwack of some serious low-end pressure and there he was, Mr Weatherall, warming up for his seven-hour session.
To me, at heart Weatherall is a dub DJ, even though he plays house, techno and electronica: he attacks the effects units with gusto, setting up delays and manipulating the feedback perfectly in time with the track, scooping out chunks of EQ and creating cavernous spaces within his tunes before locking everything back in with exquisite timing. We arrived in time for his warm-up and were rewarded with some serious chugging house and electronica, restlessly mixed together. As the room filled up, so the BPM and the tension slowly ramped up too. A few hours in and there were some serious intensity levels in the room. A single DJ, a single room, a decent sound, a mirror ball and a group of like-minded clubbers - is there any better combination? Sadly I couldn’t stay till 7am, although I'd have liked to. Work to do!
Agnes: Thursday started off with two discussions at Generator. In the first one, Learn From My Mistakes with Rocco Veenboer, the Awakenings festival boss presented his failures and struggles in a genuine down-to-earth talk, "I am just a cowboy who learnt from his mistakes”. After that came Your Favourite Festivals Grow Up.
Harold: One of Thursday’s most entertaining conference sessions was Why Has Electronic Music Never Had A Punk Moment?, which looked at the rebellious elements in dance music and the countercultural history of dance music. It was another lively debate which bounced around many issues, including but not limited to the commodification of culture, activism, DIY culture, techno rebels and the fact that there are 400,000 registered gods in India!
Dave Clarke started the session with a near-perfect impression of [Sex Pistols guitarist] Steve Jones swearing at TV host Bill Grundy, and things took off from there. This is when these conference sessions really succeed: when the subject is interesting but broad, where the conversation can wander around and throw up fascinating observations and tangents. Choice quotes included “Everyone’s militant in techno!”, “Where’s the anger?!” and “I can’t believe we’re talking about Hardwell.”
Another standout conference session was Beyond Social Media, a detailed delve into the murky waters of social media. It's a subject that polarises opinion and this session was no different, with moderator Juan Pablo Salcedo virulently opposed to the very idea of social media and the panel members presenting the various positives and opportunities afforded artists who successfully engage with their online audiences. There's a sense among some promoters that the ‘likes’ culture of Facebook, Soundcloud and Instagram make it easy for new DJs and artists to somehow hoodwink people into thinking they’re more successful than they are. However, this expert panel argued that this is less and less the case as we all become savvier in this area, and were generally very positive about the use of social media for promotional campaigns.
Agnes: No better way to set mind and body into the right groove for a night's partying than to attend a super hot and sweaty session of power yoga served by Henry McMillan at Equal Yoga's Flow With The Beat - wonderful vibes with funky tunes served by DJ Edgar. Then it was off to ADE Live, which took place at the legendary Melkweg and offered an amazing two-day showcase programme, exploring new electronic acts performing live. When we arrived Red Axes was playing - beautiful vocal and guitar, full house, hands in the air, swinging bodies everywhere. Elsewhere, Verknipt returned to ADE with their Techno Special Day 1 - Tahko was smashing it in Area 1, Fatima Hajji took over the decks to the delight of the crowd, Sigha was causing storm in Area 2 and Keepsakes kept the Area 3 crowd stomping like madmen.
Diynamic x De Marktkantine was popular, with Magdalena and Kollektiv Turmstrasse in Room 1 and Karmon and Undercatt in Room 2. Meantime, on the other side of the water at Scheepsbouwloods (a huge hangar at the NDSM docks), Nina Kraviz was serving up the metallic, thunderous techno in Area 1 at DGTL, though the exhorbitant drinks prices were a bit of a buzz-killer. To fix the mood, we moved to the afterparty by Audio Obscura at the unique location of The Loft, with its stunning panoramic views of the city. The sun was coming in strong but it was Swiss duo Adriatique that really turned up the heat with their deep and melodic techno.
Harold: For a complete change of pace, I headed off to the Trap Nation boat party for a few drinks. YouTube channel Trap Nation has grown up pretty much outside the larger music industry. Developing organically, purely by young people spreading and commenting on music, curation channels like Trap Nation - who currently have over 23 million online subscribers - are the natural home of young music fans. Even though it was early evening, the party was in full effect and the boat was packed, with steam coming out of the windows as we approached. Inside it was like the end of a rave: bright, hot, muggy, with a fair bit of stumbling around. Massive atmosphere to match the massive drops of the DJs selections, featuring (among others) Brighton-based trap don DJ Hucci smashing the place up.
Then, after a brief stop-off at the unofficial home of UK tech-house at ADE, JD Williams Whiskey Bar, it was off to Disco Biscuits at the vibey little Disco Dolly venue. Intimate, hot, with a superb disco/tech soundtrack supplied by Prins Thomas and David Vunk to a well up-for-it crowd of sweat-drenched, smoke-blind dancers. House music all night long!
Agnes: Friday's lectures began with a 12 o’clock talk on How To Land A Job In The Music Industry, filled with interesting and honest tips for all those who are passionate and serious about being involved in the music scene. That was followed by a discussion about working with consumer brands called U Don't Have To Be Mainstream, featuring a panel of six plus moderator Chris Goss. A super-interesting talk that drew a full house.
As for the evening, night three of ADE was just spectacular! First, a mind-blowing live show by Orbital - the waves of ecstasy filled the stunning space of the legendary venue Paradiso, and the crowd cheered and roared for more. Then at Melkweg, the baron of techno Dave Clarke again pushed the boundaries of what techno and electro could be. The night continued with Insomnia Rave at Sugar Factory, while next door Rabozaal Melkweg was full to the brim with fans of trance who came for Markus Schulz - stunning visuals and happy hands shooting in the air to the uplifting progressive beats.
However, the most insane party of the evening was the seven-hour all-night set by Charlotte de Witte, hosted by Audio Obscura at the Central Train Station. Bringing uncompromising, headstrong techno to that absolutely sick location, the Belgian starlet proved her worth with the best set I've heard her play to date, transforming the entire station into a hot, sweaty rave and finishing with electrifying Belgian classics from 90s. Simply the most explosive selection of techno tracks and the best dancing and raving vibes of the whole ADE!
Harold: I was DJing and on a panel myself on the Friday, but I did find time to get along to Greensmith's party at the 5&33 Hotel near Amsterdam Central station. Greensmith put on an excellent roster for this party, with some superb gnarly live techno from Analog Kitchen and DJ sets from Juan Atkins, Guy Called Gerald and DJ Pierre. It’s always a pleasure to see some legends jump on the decks and get in the mix, and Greensmith had booked quite the line-up. The fact that this party wasn’t completely rammed is a reflection of just how much quality stuff happens each evening at ADE!
Harold: Of all the masterclasses this year, Kyteman Hip Hop Orchestra founder Colin Benders put on a superb ‘how-to’ session called Studio XL, talking us through his production process via his great big modular synth. You really do get to hear why modulars have become so popular when you listen live to the genuine power of an analogue modular synth. For this kind of music, you only need the minimum of parts, as each sound, be it drum or synth, can be full, fat, cutting and heavyweight. Benders produced plenty of impressive techno sounds with ease, giving away tiny production techniques as he did (“I’ve tried a number of cable-colouring philosophies - now I colour-code by cable length!”).
FACT and Native Instruments also did a number of Against The Clock masterclasses, where a producer makes a track live in 10 minutes. It’s fascinating to watch, and DJ, producer and vocalist Lyzza came up with a nice-sounding bass track, using Ableton LIVE, an NI Komplete keyboard controller and a little Maschine. Scribbling lyrics as she moved parts around the screen, Lyzza ran out of time during her arrangement and accidentally deleted a chunk of her recording which was a shame, as it was a nice musical idea. The against-the-clock concept is interesting, but even the most prolific producer can only really come up with a sketch in 10 minutes; then again, a simple sketch can convey as much emotion as an oil painting if done well! If nothing else, it’s another way to gain an insight into how other producers work, and all of the against-the-clock sessions were very well attended.
Agnes: For me, Saturday kicked off at Westerunie with hypnotic, atmospheric sounds served up by All Day I Dream headliner Sébastien Léger and Days Like Nights headliner Eelke Kleijn. Matador completely smashed it at Mystic Garden presents ATE, and Len Faki at Dockyard Festival presents Cocoon made the crowd lose control and go wild. Later, it was time for a musical change as psychedelic trance came to ADE at BOX. Nano, HOMmega and Psychedelic Rave combined forces into one of the most exciting collaborations in the current psy-trance scene, with stunning decor, laser show and dancefloor madness.
The closing of Saturday night belonged to Amelie Lens at Cirocloco × Loveland. The Belgian DJ showed exactly why she has been dubbed "the dance music phenomenon of 2018" - speechless. No sleep, though, because it was the last of three after-parties brought to us by Audio Obscura, with melodic and vivacious beats by Solomun at Loft.
Agnes: Sunday was a chilled day. I took the ferry to the other side of water in Amsterdam to experience Elrow Goes To ADE - the event had been so successful that they added an extra Sunday edition, and what a stunning set-up!
Elsewhere, there was raw, industrial techno at Thuishaven - one of Amsterdam's most extraordinary spots, with the feel of a scrap metal yard, weird abstract structures and sand under your feet - where Benny Rodrigues, Karotte and De Sluwe Vos each hosted their own stage. The best chilled but groovy vibes, on the other hand, were to be found at Gardens of Babylon presents The Seekers of Light, a day-into-night event with stunning free-spirited, smiley, glittered people filling up every corner - best uplifting atmosphere ever!
Words: Agnes Klos & Harold Heath Pic: Marco Scheurink