Words by: Josh Stewart & Bella Bagshaw
For a festival older than many of its attendees (including a co-author of this review), Amsterdam Dance Event hasn’t lost an ounce of prerogative in the electronic music space across its 24-year tenure. Much like its increasingly international soil, ADE is voraciously traveled to by electronic infatuates across the globe. This year the industry-oriented endeavor garnered attendees from 146 countries—the most internationally visited installment to date.
But what makes ADE so painfully cool, is not only its chromatic agenda—spanning panels, parties, makeshift productions, and larger-than-life arena stops—but its locational litany. From train stations, to museums, to the warehouse spots, all of Amsterdam is ADE’s playground.
And it feels like the whole city is participating, too. Right outside the Schipol Airport, your humble narrator is greeted by a proverbial ADE cube humming above an information/check-in hut, ready for business at 8 am sharp. Once I secure my media pass, a 40-something cab driver promptly rattles off his week’s after-dark itinerary, with the enthusiasm of a tourist and the precision of a seasoned attendee.
ADE is unique in that it implores you to acquaint yourself with Amsterdam. It’s an unfettered celebration among the city’s quotidian. And that’s undoubtedly why the very best of the dance music business (Garrix, Tiesto, Guetta, Knight, Hawtin, Brejcha, you name it) return year after year. Here are some spots that made ADE sing this year.
Rijksmuseum, Dancing Astronaut‘s quintessential stop on the ADE agenda. The storied subterranean dwelling of the historic Dutch landmark make for a sublime dance music backdrop—invoking elegance and clandestine cadence all at once. Raw Rave sanctioned Boys Noize Thursday night for a long dance (the kinetic vernacular in Europe is actually swaying) in the dark, as Maceo Plex and Underworld had so notably done just a few years prior.
The hallowed columns cast great, oblong shadows through the crowd, while fog dances in time with Boys Noize‘s beguiling analog techno. It’s an altogether post-apocalyptic display; as if all the wide-eyed pedestrians who normally flood the area by day are gone for good and there’s nothing left to do but soak up the smoke and party (if you can maneuver to the bar, that is). The air buzzed with sweet and sweaty malice, beneath a collection of Rembrandts resting soundly upstairs, no less! The historic holdings are a smoldering embodiment of ADE’s ability to make Amsterdam’s cornerstone conventions come alive.
Of all the Amsterdam club locales, Paradiso is likely the most atmospherically adjacent to a US spot ADE has to offer. Though, its architectural grandeur is singularly European. The assuredly haunted ex-church, with its resplendent stained glass windows and intricately etched balcony arrangement, seems destined for a back-to-back DJ set from priest vestment-donning Tchami and his perpetually pernicious aural associate, Malaa. A far cry from the litany of icons Paradiso once welcomed—The Rolling Stones, Prince, Patti Smith, The Cure, Nirvana (just to name a few)—the duo’s Dutch rendition of No Redemption was, nonetheless, entertaining as hell.
The hard-house maestros topped giant LED cubes which lit up in sync with painstakingly on-brand visuals when the respective DJ took his turn. For Tchami, a storming jungle scene evocative of his recent melodic house sensation, “Rainforest.” For Malaa, the expected illicit and explicit imagery: lines of white powder, skin-clad, ski-masked women, and otherwise. PSA: Moshing to dance music is apparently not just an American phenomenon.
I am ashamed to produce a drug as addictive as my music ! pic.twitter.com/6F57AQBuJK
— Malaa (@Malaamusic) October 19, 2019
Above section by: Bella Bagshaw
Days before the release of his 7th studio album, Armin van Buuren opened the doors to Armada’s office, sitting on the city’s outskirts for a cranked-up ADE-themed recording of A State Of Trance. Attendees were welcome to wander the corridors of the iconic trance label’s home base, with over two dozen guest sets spinning between “The Club” and the infamous recording studio where Armin streams his weekly shows. The who’s who of trance ticket gave fans a chance to see tastemaker after tastemaker, mainstay after mainstay, bringing the likes of Richard Durand, Markus Schulz, Ferry Corsten, Sander van Doorn, and even BT, for eight hours of intimate trance bliss.
DGTL brought four nights of ADE-insanity to NDSM Wharf, a former shipyard with grounds big enough to house 10 soccer fields. As massive of a venue as it was, another few soccer fields probably could’ve housed the droves of ravers who kept the waterfront warehouse’s sprawling mainstage saturated. A headlining lineup of Richie Hawtin, RÜFÜS DU SOL, Bonobo, Orbital, and Ben Klock back to back with Marcel Dettmann proved too tempting a ticket for thousands of ADEers. There’s no doubt that the music is the focal point of a week like ADE, but it’s hard not to see the event for the grand portrait of dance music that is when showing up to NDSM. Between the ferry from Central Station, that showcases much of the city’s forward-thinking architecture, to the street art that blankets the hip, developing wharf, and fresh fruit the warehouse served until wee hours of the morning, a trip to NDSM shines a light on many of the enchanting idiosyncrasies that make ADE so distinctly Amsterdam.
Lil’ Central Station
ADE fever even spread to Amsterdam’s very own Central Station (think Grand Central), which was effectively party-fied by Audio Obscura for the whirlwind weekend. Tucked just a few stories below the rails that funnel people in and out of Amsterdam by the thousands was Lil’ Central, a cozy nightclub space with DJs that encouraged a bit of loco and a lot of motion. From Motor City Drum Ensemble‘s swerve-inducing Thursday night set to Tchami‘s afterparty the following evening, express tickets to a good time were wholesale at Lil’ Central. Every city has nightclubs, most even have particularly cool ones, but how many municipalities are willing to turn their central transport hub into an all-night rave?
I can only think of one.
Above section by: Josh Stewart
Photo Credit: Laura Siliquini