We sent Agnes Klos to Amsterdam to check out as many of this year's gigs and parties as she could manage… and she managed quite a few
A highlight of the global dance music calendar, Amsterdam Dance Event gathers together the cream of the electronic music industry in one place: the Dutch capital. Being both the biggest business gathering in electronic music (the conference, by day) and the world's largest club-based festival for electronic music (the festival programme, by day and night), ADE never fails to satisfy even the most sophisticated of music connoisseurs, who flock to Amsterdam for five days of madness.
This year's event played host to more than 2,500 artists and welcomed 400,000 visitors from a record 146 countries. It's an overwhelming, mind-melting labyrinth featuring some of the most exciting club nights and live acts on the scene, with each brand/party host trying to entice you with their dazzling display of the best line-up headliners on offer.
Spread over 200 eye-catching venues all around Amsterdam, choosing events that you wish to attend is not an easy task, but here are some of the highlights of iDJ's week…
Yellow and black ADE flags have popped up all around Amsterdam like mushrooms after rain. ADE is officially here and excitement is clearly tangible in the air. ADE has, over the years, slowly but surely become the most important breeding ground for electronic music culture. But before venturing into the night, we wanted to get a good dose of the cultural side of things first.
Amsterdam Central Station isn't just where you pick up your ADE passes: it also doubles as a hub for some interesting cultural activities, such as Spinnin' Records’ pop-up store – especially if you're a fan of shopping for merchandising. While purchasing a RoughState fan – a must in many packed ADE nightclubs! – we got invited to a hardstyle rave put on by RoughState at the train station later that evening. Featuring Public Enemies, Frequencerz and Rejecta, if harder-faster beats are what gives you a thrill, that was the place to be.
Global health trends from mindfulness to superfoods gave birth this year to ADE Zen Space, located at the stunning Waalse Kerk church. Here, the Lightscape – a light and sound installation by Studio Koen Steger – invited visitors to lie down, unwind and wander off. After that, a visit to Mediamatic to check out visual artist Heleen Blanken's thought-provoking installation Diadromi (portraying different components of Earth's ecosystem) was exactly what we needed before the first night of mayhem.
The iconic Melkweg was definitely the place to be, boasting a dazzling array of parties. Kicking off with the ADE opening concert by the mesmerising Metropole Orkest (accompanied by the angelic voice of SOHN) was the perfect choice. That showstopper literally brought tears of emotions and standing applause multiple times. In Melkweg's other building, movie fans could chillax in their seats to watch the documentary Berlin Bouncer, while those with a preference for live music enjoyed the groovy disco vibes of Dutch trio Kraak & Smaak. If, however, it was big-room dance and EDM sounds that you were after, then the Protocol label night hosted by Nicky Romero was right down the corridor, complete with some very impressive visuals.
Before leaving Melkweg, we charged up our bodies with the massive vibrations of drum & bass. The smoky room upstairs was filling up while Zazu skilfully turned up the heat for the arrival of Wilkinson himself – the man was bringing SLEEPLESS event to Amsterdam for the first time, and invited Friction and Murdock along for company. Off the hook vibes!
As the night wore on, we were in the mood for some hard-edged throbbing techno, so what better than a visit to some of the mighty Awakenings events. Boris Brejcha showcased his FCKNG SERIOUS label at Warehouse Elementenstraat – the tunnel vision created by the projection-mapped visuals was ideal for techno-heads. And for dessert that evening, of course, the notorious Gashouder, hosted by Awakenings and Belgium's definitive techno talent Charlotte de Witte, who was presenting her own party concept KNTXT.
De Witte's typically hypnotic, pounding set was accompanied by a captivating pyrotechnics show, followed by a mellower-than-expected set from Chris Liebing, which kind of made it harder for Dax J to move the dancefloor with his relentless raw, uncompromising techno. Overall, though, KNTXT was a quality techno experience, even if tourists seemed to outnumber dedicated technoheads out on the dancefloor.
You could also go sailing at ADE! Specifically, you could cruise down the impressive IJ river while listening to absolute legends Hernan Cattaneo and Nick Warren playing back-to-back. The two masters laid down a simply brilliant six-hour set that championed their own unique breed of underground dance music.
Now officially in party mood, we were ready for an event that's gone on to become a global best-seller: Tomorrowland. The 15-year special celebration ‘Our Story’, supported by the Metropole Orchestra from Amsterdam and Tomorrowland headliners like Armin van Buuren and Tiësto, took place at the concert hall of Ziggo Dome, and the three-hour magical spectacle of cutting-edge production, overwhelming visuals and iconic Tomorrowland classics indisputably left an unerasable mark on the ADE audience.
Afterwards, jumping on our bicycles – the best way to move around ADE – it was time to check out what Audio Obscura, who are known for putting on events in the city’s most unusual spaces, had prepared for ADE this year. Underneath the tracks of Amsterdam’s train station, to the delight of the crowd, futuristic German house pioneer Motor City Drum Ensemble showcased his eclectic taste in music and technical wizardry behind the turntables with gritty sounds and great melodies.
Audio Obscura also returned to arguably the most impressive location of the whole festival/conference, Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ – the city's most prominent music hall, with an immense glass façade jutted into the riverbank. This stunning venue played host to Spectrum, the brainchild of an artist who sits at the epicentre of the Dutch music scene – Joris Voorn. The party was spread over four rooms, each boasting a finely curated line-up ranging from underground house to techno. Applause goes to Hot Since 82 (in Bimhuis, with fantastic views over the train tracks), Anja Schneider (in Waterside Deck, where we danced to her seamless, soulful sound blends on a transparent glass floor), Joyhauser (smashing out the techno all night long in The Chapel upstairs) and Kölsch B2B Voorn, who presented a wide array of electronic music in The Theatre.
We left, somewhat reluctantly, to catch the next gig: Barong Family (Yellow Claw's label) at Bitterzoet. We were surprised by the small size of the club, considering the prominence of headliners such as Yellow Claw and Nghtmre, but had a total blast! The packed main room, overlooked by red stained glass windows with naughty messages, was a perfect way to experience the sheer dancefloor power of the trap, bass, IDM and even hardcore served up later by Lil Texas.
We finished off the night with some heavy uncompromising techno in a sweaty H7 Warehouse, courtesy of Rebekah, who'd curated a fierce night in collaboration with Intercell and BASIS. DJ Stingray and Dasha Rush were must-sees.
If it’s big room techno or big room trance that makes you tick, multi-levelled Melkweg with its high-end soundsystem and line-ups packed with A-list DJs and producers is hard to beat. On one side of Melkweg, Markus Schulz's Open To Close – heaven for trance-lovers – pulled in huge numbers. Schulz's seven-hour live set was packed with his signature hybrid trance sounds, spine-tingling melodies and outrageous basslines, and featured a slew of fresh releases as well as hits like Love Rain Down and Not The Same.
At the other end of the intensity spectrum, Dave Clarke, "the baron of techno", gathered an astonishing army of legendary warriors to accompany him in sharing unconventional techno offerings with the Melkweg crowd. We expected a heavyweight lashing from the likes of Paula Temple, DVS1 and Luke Slater, and got nothing less – but it was fast-rising French talent Anetha who utterly blew our socks off, with her compelling take on rave-techno in its broadest sense. Meanwhile, for those craving a dose of liquid D&B, London label Critical Sound delivered a cosy night in an intimate setting upstairs.
By now we had seriously sore feet, but we couldn’t resist the pull of the mighty Tresor. The long-running label and techno institution had teamed up with The Crave and Second Wave, and the explosive underground mix of forward-thinking parties within the industrial four-room setting of RADION meant it was worth defying our bodies' desire for sleep just a little longer!
We were in survival mode by now, having had very little sleep. But – falafel wrap in hand – we bravely cycled our way across the swarming city to Mary Go Wild, a small film and music shop where we found staff struggling to accommodate the enormous crowd that was trying to cram into its basement for a special KNTXT ADE closing event. No ADE pass privileges meant staying outside, waiting for Charlotte de Witte to come out. When she did, she was completely drenched in sweat and told us, “It’s like 100 degrees down there!”, and she wasn't wrong…
Next, we headed to another iconic Amsterdam venue, Panama, where weekly night East Techno Collective was holding court. The late-afternoon Saturday session was musically satisfying, though the venue could have done with a few more bodies in it. Then it was over to the Warehouse Elementenstraat for the last hours of Awakenings By Day, starring Maceo Plex x Lone Romantic. Here we found Robert Hood and Legowelt spinning some impeccable underground techno and electro in the Y Room, with a sprawling, winding-down vibe yet still danceable. After that it was off to This is Psychedelic, a psy-trance night hosted by scene veterans Nano Records, where we discovered a stomping dancefloor, awe-inspiring decor and some of the scene's biggest names, including Avalon, DJ Tristan, Egorythmia and Ace Ventura.
Our night finished with a ferry trip across the river to catch techno giant Ben Klock's big ADE party, Klockworks presents Photon, in the best warehouse venue we have seen: De Kromhouthal. The spectacular lighting system here was something else, while the enormous industrial venue is laid out in a way that allows everyone to enjoy their space undisturbed on the dancefloor, without walking through each other to get a drink or go to the toilet, giving dancers greater freedom to express themselves. Effect: a happily raving crowd, which made the event stand out way above others!
The last day of ADE is always a special atmosphere: all the conference business is concluded and everyone is able to let their hair down.
Those in need of a lengthy session of continuous dancing were taken care of by another female Belgian star, Amelie Lens, with her 24-hour Exhale party at Warehouse Elementenstraat. Starting on Saturday at 11pm, with a killer techno and acid line-up, we used it as Saturday night afterparty with SNTS and Nastia (serving us Sunday breakfast), and returned late on Sunday afternoon for the finishing touches with some fine techno sounds served by Rebekah, Kobosil and Amelie herself in the X Room, while in the Y Room, overpowering acid with a dash of 90s from Milo Spykers, Regal and Deep Dimension ripped the roof off.
If you wanted to finish off ADE somewhere a little more classy, you needed to head down to The Seekers of Light at Westerunie. Commencing with a guided meditation to align your chakras, this magical day-into-night event was again an oasis for all the fairies and yogi beings of Babylon family – with Damian Lazarus's All Night Long serving as its official afterparty. Alternatively, if you were up for an extraordinary raw location, with outdoor spaces, sand floors, wooden structures, surreal scrap metal decor and a heated circus tent, all surrounded by heavy industrial equipment, then Thuishaven Sunday granted your wishes.
To finish off, we checked out Closing with Suah, Late AM and Dazed & Confused. Housed in a cosy city club/cafe, this party was serving up some excellent melodic/progressive tech-house, but sadly there weren't that many people there. So it was over to Plan B, which meant celebrating the end of ADE with a hard dance and trap blowout – the only music that could still make our feet move. And for that, FVCK Genres – which was hosted by LNY TNZ, and housed in the super-funky Club NYX (with graffiti on the walls, a DJ in the toilets and a big cross on the main dancefloor) – was simply brilliant.
That's all, folks…
Naturally, this review is just a tiny and quite subjective selection of ADE 2019's myriad night-time delights, and other people's experiences will have been very different. But hopefully it gives you some idea of the sheer range of music on offer – and of why we're happy to report that ADE 2019 was a resounding success yet again.
Words: Agnes Klos and Gino Van Herp Pics: (from top) Lieke Vermeulen, PhotoCompany.NL, Renout Bos x2, Kris Boedhaman, Simon Trel
For details of Amsterdam Dance Event 2020, keep an eye on ADE's own website
Tags: ADE, Amsterdam Dance Event, ADE 2019, Melkweg, Panama, Warehouse Elementenstraat, Club NYX, De Kromhouthal, Awakenings, Tomorrowland, Nano Records, East Techno Collective, Spinnin' Records, Tresor, RADION, Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, Motor City Drum Ensemble