Amsterdam – Europe's liberal experiment – a place where culture and beauty sit beside decadence and desire. Where the buildings loom peerlessly above the multiple canals, each leading obediently back to the cities hub - Centraal station. Which is where we, last week, found ourselves – on our annual pilgrimage to this wonderful city – the host of Europe's leading Club festival - the Amsterdam Dance Event.
One part conference and networking event for the global dance music industry and one part club festival in one of Europe's finest cities, ADE is a boundary-crossing event that is fast becoming an essential stop off for adventurous clubbers, aspiring DJs and established industry bods the world over.
Day One - Thursday
After checking into our hotel we wander through Amsterdam's beautiful narrow streets alongside one of the many canals - sidestepping every few minutes as a bicycle flies past. We are en route to ADE's central base – the Felix Meritis. A large crowd is gathered outside but we dive in and pick up our wristbands and a rather fetching free ADE satchel full of CDs magazines and other freebies.
We instantly spot Mark Knight at the entrance and a brief look around in the crowd illuminates Joost Van Bellen, the Stanton Warriors and Dave Spoon chatting to other attendees, swapping music and exchanging ideas. The ADE is truly an event of the industry, but it is also an event for the aspiring DJ, producer, label manager, journalist, photographer or entrepreneur. If your desire is to break onto the dance music scene, ADE 2009 should be in your diary already. It really is that essential for making lasting contacts in a scene that is saturated with hopefuls.
After a productive day of meetings inside the wonderfully equipped Felix Meritis building it is time to sample one of the many club nights on offer. If there was one criticism of this great event, it must be that there is simply too much choice. Each night throws up a traumatic state of indecision as you realise that any one of the dozens of events could and should be the best night of your life! One benefit however is that Amsterdam is small enough to get around quickly and cheaply – so club hopping is always a good option.
Our first stop off is the AD&T networking event – hosted at a stunning modern church in the heart of the city. Beautifully maintained, and quite unlike any club you are ever likely to attend, the venue is a stunning entry point for our clubbing feet. Ornate golden crosses decorate the walls, organ pipes disappear into the distance and in place of an alter the DJ booth stands tall and proud as deep progressive techno emanates from the speakers. Meeting and greeting has never been so much fun!
From here we set off for Mark Knight's Toolroom party, in its third year at ADE and always a roadblocked event. Tonight is no exception; we cross the threshold to find a mass of sweating bodies moving in unison to the electro tinged tech house that fires across the dancefloor.
When we stumble back to the hotel in the small hours, the city is still bustling with people, bikes and excitement. It may only be Thursday, but the weekend has well and truly started.
Day 2 - Friday
Waking up slightly fragile on Friday morning we make our way back to the Felix. The ADE parties are fantastic, but the best advice we can offer is to make sure you force yourself out of bed to make the most of the conference program too. Trust us – you won't regret it!
On Friday DJmag joined a packed house in the Dylan hotel (handily right next door to the Felix) to hear a lecture entitled 'The World According to Jeff Mills'. For just over an hour the techno legend captivated the audience with his eloquence, passion and ultimate belief in the music he creates. The discussion ranged from Mills' objections to computer driven technologies; "if we let computers do too much, eventually they will do everything", his exploration of his process as a producer and his obsession with themes and realities of outer space. The controversial Detroit pioneer went on to explain his idiosyncratic, organic methods of production that included the constant rearranging of his studio to cultivate an unfamiliarity that eventually leads to greater creative progression. Inspiring stuff – and well worth waking up for!
Back on the clubbing trail later that evening we made our way to the Panama club where electro crossovers Bodyrox were holding court for the mn2s night. The venue is glamorous and the clientele are certainly up to the mark. Scantily clad things gyrate on podiums with oversized fans and burlesque attire whilst club kids and industry insiders rub shoulders on the main room's sunken dancefloor.Eager to see as much as possible we make moves at 2am in search of Sven Vath's Cocoon night at The Sand (a beach volleyball center when the ADE is out of town). However before we get too far, word reaches us that the night is full to bursting and getting in may be a problem. Undeterred we reschedule and head to Home, a club in the central area of Rembrantdplein, and the host of the Cocoon afterparty. If you can't make the real deal – why not the next best thing. We are not disappointed as we see in the small hours with sultry organic techno in the wonderfully intimate venue.
Day 3 Saturday
Another morning and another sore head – but up we got for a day of meetings, networking and general catch ups. The best thing about the conference is the possibility it gives you to put faces to names that you would usually only converse with over email or on the phone. In this industry, the ability to come together and have a coffee to discuss the scene is a real asset – so it's great to have an event like this a mere 45 minute plane ride away.
The real highlight in today's calendar is a panel entitled '20 Years of Acid House…'. This was nothing short of spellbinding. We sat down in the front row of the Felix Meritis on a comfortable sofa to hear acid originator DJ Pierre, UK techno stalwart Dave Clarke and the Detroit 'elevator' Kevin Saunderson discuss twenty years of acid house. Pierre's wonderful admission that if Music Box resident Ron Hardy hadn't played 'Acid Tracks' the project would have ended before it even started was matched only by Dave Clarke leading the room in a round of applause for the 'undervalued' pioneers of the movement. A real highlight of the conference and a genuine once in a lifetime experience.
This well and truly got us in the mood for the acid house party at the Olympic stadium at which Phuture303 and DJ Pierre were holding fort. Sadly an all too early flight out meant we had to leave this one to the acid imagination. Reports from the frontline suggest it did not disappoint, but as we soared back into London the memory of Pierre's words were enough to wash even the grimmest weekend blues away.
Dance music is now a truly global scene. In that context, the old idea of handing out CDs or mixtapes to your local promoter is unlikely to carry the same weight as it once did. People in this industry are disparate, spread out and difficult to pin down. Meetings often take place behind closed doors. Enter events like ADE – your opportunity to meet influential people face to face – to swap stories, music, ideas and inspiration, to balance creativity and exposure and propel yourself into the industry first hand, first up. If you want to get noticed, or just want to experience the best parties in Europe – get to ADE next year!
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