Chapter 2: Amsterdam Dance Event – Sundown sees the capital come to life in an international cacophony of dance music

As dusk fell upon Amsterdam’s canals this past third week of October, we bore witness to Amsterdam Dance Event’s electrification the Dutch capital in an illustrious exhibit of dance music culture spanning every variety on a nightly basis, for 5 enchanting evenings.  Every affinity was catered to along the spectrum, with the happening’s 400,000 participants choosing amongst one thousand clubbing and nightlife events which comprised the ADE by Night and ADE Festival programs, thoroughly doing justice by their genres of choice. 
This is the Second Chapter of EARMILK’s coverage of the Amsterdam Dance Event fairytale, a conclusive follow up to our Prelude and First Chapter’s industry insights.  I had the privilege of experiencing ADE Festival with access a scroll’s worth of events through the duration of our stay.  With festival programing beginning Wednesday and continuing over the week and throughout the weekend comprising the 1000 event count there were, obviously, too many parties to choose from.  Consequently, selections had to be made with care and compromise to comprise our 4-night, 5-day spanning festival schedule, whilst also maintaining some resemblance of curfew for sustainability so the next day’s meetings could be met with poise during the weekdays of the conference.  It’s no secret that the enchantment of ADE comes alongside a trial of endurance, so self-care and use of wise mind is key and crucial to survival.Amsterdam’s own Awakenings held a sort of dominance over much of the big-ticket techno territory this ADE, hosting events on a nightly basis across two of Amsterdam’s staple mega-venues Warehouse Elemenstraat and the gladiator-approved Gashouder. They facilitated some of the biggest names and labels in techno to play mammoth sized shows to thousands of ADE attendees, including a highly anticipated label showcase from Charlotte De Witte’s newly debuted KNTXT imprint, Tale of Us’ fabled Afterlife, and Amelie Lens‘ EXHALE 24 hour party, Joseph Capriati & Friends, Carl Cox and others. 

After the last bit of business on Wednesday afternoon we embarked on our quest with a first stop by authentic-prog labels SILK Music, ZeroThree & Colorize’s exclusively progressive showcase aptly dubbed United In Prog, where the intimate Club Nova hosted a slew of progressive titans going back-to-back.  Highlights were Dezza’s back-to-back with Rodg and New York local Anden’s with D.C. based Enamour.  It was refreshing to hear the purely progressive bell ring true for the opening hours of the evening with three of the finest labels in the sound’s blueprint.For the first evenings affair it would have been criminal to miss masked maven Boris Brejcha deliver his Fcking Serious label showcase in-tandem with Awakenings to a sold out audience at Elemenstraat.  A rare sight to see in the states, having just completed a limited US tour and no dates for the foreseeable future it was a necessary temptation to catch him play his showcase from 2 – 4 going into Thursday morning on night one.  He blew expectations out of the water with a high energy set that resounded his signature “high-tech minimal” style to a lively international crowd blending every background on the dance floor. Brejcha is tirelessly preparing for the release of his forthcoming album and has new music to tide fans over in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more from the man in the mask.Joris Voorn‘s presentation of his Spectrum concept event brought an all night back-to-back between himself with the melody guided Kölsch, and was our first foray into event organizer Audio Obscura’s takeover of Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ on Thursday evening. Joined by Hot Since 82, Josh Butler, Anja Schneider, BUTCH, Franky Rizardo and Joyhauser it was a star studded lineup across the “Spectrum” of techno and progressive house.

The venue’s astute grandeur stems from its’ roots as Amsterdam’s premier concert space for classical and contemporary music.  Audio Obscura’s feat to convert the space to a multi-tier dance music spectacle is something to be respected and a challenge well managed, going off seamlessly and delivering quite the unique experience to audiences. After having our fill of Kölsch and Voorn’s spectacle of spontaneity another gallivant was undertaken for the trek to the famed Gashouder mid-way through our evening. A true trek it is, with drop off points well over a miles walk from the venue entrance, simply getting to the Gladiator approved Gashouder event arena is a task one should not see undertaken lightly – and a true feat once accomplished.  After reception and processing through the more aggressive breed of Amsterdam’s event security the straightforward, no-nonsense percussion that Drumcode and its commanding officer Adam Beyer is known for.  He packed out the sold-out Gashouder with fans of the label and played a heated set alongside label mates Bart Skils & Layton Giordani, Boxia, Enrico Sangiuliano, Maceo Plex and Monika Kruse.

Nearing the top of our list lies a spiritual Friday evening spent in the basement of one of Amsterdam’s most authentic nightlife hubs, Shelter.  The underground techno bunker maintains a no nonsense approach to both operation and techno – and while quite spacious, and comfortable, the photo-free nature and industrial allure of the environment gives artists a more personal platform to connect to fans through their kicks and rhythms.

On the evening in-attendance we bore witness to one of the genre’s masters opt for the more intimate opportunity to debut his sparkling-new Bad Manners imprint, rather than hosting his key ADE performance at one of the city’s mega-spaces.  Marcel Dettmann took Shelter on a riveting journey through percussion that rendered us speechless. An artisan of his craft, the German DJ played a truly tasteful three hour peak-time set as a part of a 20-hour label debut soirée where he was joined by the likes of DJ Stingray, UMFANG, Planetary Assault Systems (of whom’s also top-of-class) and a curated selection more.  Dettmann made a return at the opposite end of the marathon to conduct his new percussive signature to its’ closure, a true maestro in contemporary techno. Saturday evening’s finale came in two equally striking segments.  I rejoined Audio Obscura at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ for the exclusive solo performance of Adriatique of the ADE 2019 program, celebrating ten years as DJ and producer partners they titled the event ‘X’ and hosted across the venue’s four rooms friends Agents of Time, Marino Canal, Mattheis, Matthew Dekay, Max Cooper, Red Axes, Roman Flügal and Yør Kultura. The contemporary theater’s conversion to an epic multi-level dance hall was even more impressive upon second visit. The production in the theater was artfully executed, an A/V spectacle where Adriatique played a set nothing short of show stopping; spanning unreleased Afterlife vocal ID’s to recent releases from Eric Prydz’ PRYDA imprint, their set was dynamic, energizing and diverse.  Other tiers of the event’s three alternatives failed to disappoint either, with Agents of Time’s set in a lookout amphitheater titled ‘Bimhaus’ doing dance floor damage over spectacular views of Amsterdam’s IJ canal. 

After seeing the event to its near completion we continued to our final destination, to get a techno education.  De School is arguably Amsterdam’s coolest club, maintaining rigid photo-free environment and a Berlin-esque door policy where your intentions and ‘fitness’ for a lesson will be questioned before entry – much like Berghain, though truthfully more forgiving.During ADE, De School opens classroom doors on Friday and stay open through the weekend’s duration until Monday morning, leaving it as the perfect alternative after-hours destination after any prior happenings experienced earlier in the evening. Once inside you realize what all the fuss is about, opened in 2015 the club is literally built into a disused school and plays museum to the most authentic of European underground techno energy. Classrooms are home to art installations on-rotation and the central court yard was serenely sublime for lunchtime.  There are two spaces for music, a moderately sized room on the ground level and a sizable sub-level dungeon, radiating the hardest, most raw techno to be heard all weekend.  We explored the classroom corridors and experienced the spectacle of a space well through sun’s rise, where we then collectively concluded our week-long excursion through the clubs of Holland’s capital. As the four enchanting evenings comprising our ADE Festival experience are now etchings in our memories, our fairytale now finds itself complete.  

Most attendees can ascertain that their selections in the end were the ones meant to be, as the spirit of ADE flows without exception through each and every one of Amsterdam’s international dance floors.  Of course, limited regrets arose at the occasional misstep when we were deep in much needed slumber for the Joris Voorn & Friends’ day party, which boasted a treasure trove of rare techno finds to an American’s eyes, and another when we missed Tale of Us hold a sunset soirée at A’Dam The Loft. This aside, we marched through our itinerary with gusto and had an enchanting waltz through a myriad of progressive and techno-centric happenings that were yet just one small faction of the Amsterdam Dance Event Festival program.

Fear not, our scribes have one more tale to engrave in EARMILK’s archives.  Stay alert and aware of the Epilogue that’s soon to follow, in-conversation with purveyors of the avant garde, the founding fathers of Audio Obscura.

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