Standing underneath the emphatic archways of the Passage of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam—an esteemed museum that has shown the vast collections of Dutch master Rembrandt—whilst listening to Maceo Plex flex through a thundering techno set, is an experience that could only really happen at the Amsterdam Dance Event. Thousands of ADE punters had flooded into the walkway between the galleries in outskirts of the city center on Friday night, and the Cuban-American DJ was deftly working scatty breaks under his hulking deep tech basslines, and challenging the room as it likely challenged him.
It was yet another example of just how progressive Amsterdam’s dance scene is at the moment. During the five days in October, the city welcomes the global dance music community and proceeds to brag and swag giddily as it showcases a municipal district in complete sync with the local club scene. Across 140 venues in the Dutch capital, a wide variety of music, conferences, panels and product showcases are held, and as the rest of the dance scene seems to be licking its wounds from grueling and ongoing battles to keep things thriving, ADE showed to many that it’s years ahead of the pack in many of the more vital and progressive areas in dance music.
Maceo Plex taking on The Passage of the Rijksmuseum via Katja Rupp/Audio Obscura
With fabric’s closure a significant cloud hanging over the conference, and ongoing conversations about how to best manage drug use in dance music, there didn’t seem like a more opportune time for the dance scenes to descend on Holland. Much of the panel conversations in the first couple of days were in regards to these topics, as British, European and American ADE delegates looked to the likes of Amsterdam’s Night Mayor Mirik Milan and ADE founder Richard Zijlma for advice.
“It’s always a challenge to work with all of these moving parts. It’s taken us 21 years to build an event like this, and we did it slowly and we’ve had our struggles,” Zijlma told Pulse. “These days we get a a lot of support from the city, even the mayor is well connected with us, and they see the value. We bring in around €60m a year for the city, so that’s a huge contribution, and we contribute a lot to the climate of culture here too. There are lots of club scenes around the world that are struggling right now, and I think we’re setting a good example here in Holland.”
After a downpour on Friday afternoon we caught shelter in de Brakke Gronde, where there were tech demos, DJ panels and discussions ongoing throughout the week. Lead by Mixmag’s techno editor Marcus Barnes and organized by music industry female collective shesaid.so, Mental Health vs Hedonism tackled the increasingly discussed issue of mental health among DJs. The drawbacks of a life deep in the dance scene has quickly risen to the surface in the last six months, after Avicii, Benga, Ben Pearce and Erick Morillo all publically expressed having debilitating issues with depression.
“Heavy drug and alcohol use is almost encouraged in our culture. How can you have any self control in an environment like that?” Barnes asked the otherwise all-female cast, which included Nastia, Jennifer Cardini and Moderna. Much like the drugs and gentrification panels that defined the first day’s industry conversations, it’s very encouraging to see often difficult issues that face the global scene being discussed in depth in Amsterdam, as they are at IMS and EDMbiz.
“The reaction from the audience is usually that DJs shouldn’t complain because they have a nice life. Obviously we are lucky to do what we do, but it’s not like we don’t have problems too.” - Jennifer Cardini
While the night before we’d hit Rush Hour for their in-store sessions, and had a quick dig as Giles Peterson and Little Louie Vega broadcasted live from the store for Worldwide.fm. That evening Do Not Sit On the Furniture at the ritzy glass A’DAM Toren—nearby Shelter’s opening night with Jackmaster, Moodyman and Tom Trago was predictably packed to the gills, Maceo Plex the following night was a welcome tonic to the uber-ritzy Macau casino vibe that the tower/club exuded. We found ourselves at the W Hotel later on Friday, where they had booked in the likes of Ellen Allien and Eats Everything, though it was French dark wave prodigy Feynman who was getting stuck into a rare DJ set when we arrived.
The last roll of the dice for us on a long and trudging Friday was to head across the water to the monolith warehouse NDSM Docklands, where Jamie Jones had brought his Hot Creations squad to tip ADE over from industry conference into full-on festival. Hot Since 82 joined the Welshman ringleader as the headliner in the 20,000 sq. ft warehouse, and he was on predictably raucous form as the largely English crowd stomped and swayed it out until the sun rose over the dilapidated and spray painted dockyards.
While we scurried off for safety in Berlin on Saturday morning, ADE rolled on for another couple of days, with the parties increasing in frequency and quality. We continued to get the lovely little notifications from the each day from the ADE app reminding us to party safe, and look out for our fellow clubbers, hammering home the event’s impeccable focus on creating a sustainable and exemplary club scene for the rest of the world to look to for guidance.
“In the world of sports you meet at the Olympics. In dance music, you meet at ADE,” said Zijlma, who launched the first conference in 1996 with only 300 delegates. “This event gives the industry a chance to come together and discuss things, and it’s certainly true that a lot of bookings and developments in business after ADE are a result of the festival itself.
“The whole ecosystem of dance music is setup to connect with people,” he continued. “The thing that I really love about ADE is that you can tap on someone’s shoulder and make a new friend or a business partner. Even the big chief, hot shot guys need to connect with the quiet guy in the corner, because he could be producing the next big hit of the year.”
When we asked the humble, unassuming festival founder if he had any advice for struggling club scenes around the world that are trying desperately to work with their city governments, he smiled and said, "Just be nice to one another."
Image via Henri Blommers