In Review – Amsterdam Dance Event 2017

Having lost my ADE virginity in a fervour of musical giddiness last year, this year’s five-day program had much to live up to. Unsurprisingly, ADE wholeheartedly delivered once again.

As an individual who considers myself technologically challenged, I am pretty perplexed when it comes to the intricacies of music production – I therefore decided to stay clear of that side of the festival. Regardless of my personal inclinations however, ADE provides the perfect balance of demonstrations, lectures, interviews and opportunities to network throughout its five-day schedule, championing itself as the world’s greatest honeypot for all you busy bees with a penchant for electronic music.

One talk I did attend was that of Modeselektor. Held at the impressively modern De Brakke Grond lecture hall, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary divulged to an attentive crowd about their personal journeys through dance music – journeys that have led to incredibly successful and diverse careers. Together with Apparat, they make up Moderat – one of electronic music’s most impressive live shows from which they have recently embarked on a hiatus following a world tour. Their passion for music was obvious, making their stories and views on how electronic music must be experienced in a club environment all the more compelling.

From pop-up parties in record stores, hotels and canal boats, to the Urban Art Festival at the daunting Amsterdam Roest, ADE constantly found a way to captivate the record 395,000 musical pilgrims that swarmed the city. It was also a perfect way to experience the benefits of Amsterdam’s 24-hour music license, with ADE demonstrating how music and society can live harmoniously if handled with patience and foresight – a role model for many modern cities around the world – London are you listening?

One of the biggest headaches that ADE spawns is the realisation that you simply cannot fit all the clubs and events you want to attend into the few days you are there; a testament to ADE’s unrivalled strength in depth. Therefore, either plan meticulously, or do not plan at all, and let the musical winds of ADE take you on a magical free-for-all. My own program for ADE was largely orientated around techno, with a sprinkling of Rhythm Section’s best disco and house selections to give my eardrums some respite. The most distinguishable night of all however, was Thursday’s Reaktor event at the imposing Warehouse Elementenstraat. It was – of course – DVS1’s Wall of Sound concept.

Jesus bloody Christ. Taking into account that earplugs were heavily recommended for the event and you have a reasonable picture of what the night entailed. Thunderous techno caused internal vibrations that were unlike anything I have ever experienced. DVS1 himself admitted that the concept needs work and it isn’t for everyone, but overall, the claustrophobia, humid conditions and punishing volume of the two-room venue created an atmosphere perfect for a night of destructively raucous techno; you really had to be ready to accept the concept in order to be absolved in it. The power of the floor-to-ceiling sound system was matched by the lineup, with a Karenn live set, Helena Hauff, Chinese punisher Tzusing, Lory D live and the pick of the night, Oscar Mulero – all of which weaving in their signature sounds to the devastating bass.

Hauff laid down DJ Stingray’s trippy ‘Binarycoven’.

On Friday it was the turn of the elegant classical music venue, Muziekgebouw aan t’ IJ, to play host to Maceo Plex’s Mosaic and Audio Obscura combination. Set over three rooms, a superbly diverse lineup offered something for everyone wishing to explore the far echelons of techno and electronica. Paranoid London live were sublime, Levon Vincent was at his eclectic best, Architectural was powerfully rugged and Maceo turned his attention to the darker side of his palette. A separate queue inside to gain entry to the top floor – mainly for Levon’s set – was the only downside to the night, although understandable as the New Yorker’s cult following grows infinitely. The lighting of the main room was astounding, with each wall pulsating with an intimate redness. To accompany the visuals was a crisp sound system that didn’t sacrifice what was a highly-praised bass, as the system designed for classical music delivered electronic audio ecstasy in a truly unique environment.

The impressive Muziekgebouw aan t’IJ

A Saturday jaunt through the bustling streets of Amsterdam saw canals adorned with ADE flags, creating a communal atmosphere of evening excitement which combined with the usual colorfulness that the Red Light District has to offer. Taking a break from techno, I made my way to Rhythm Section’s showcase at the intimate Disco Dolly, which saw Kiwi duo Chaos in the CBD, main man Bradley Zero, GE-OLOGY, Elias Mazian and the ever impressive Duke Hugh test both their selection and dancing skills. As per Rhythm Section, the party went off and energy levels were forever rising, peaking when Chaos threw in some dirty acid numbers to an appreciative crowd.

As the final day dawned on an ADE that had pleasantly exhausted us (a friend’s Fitbit consistently read at over 60 000 steps a day), it was to be rounded off with Reaktor’s second night of the festival. Taking place at what was once Europe’s largest shipbuilding warehouse, NDSM Scheepsbouwloods, the industrial setting epitomised what Reaktor is all about – raw and thumping techno. Due to the overwhelming size of the venue, tickets failed to sell out and credit to Reaktor, they encouraged ticket-holders to bring a plus one for free so the experience wasn’t hampered by emptiness. The ADE spirit is simply one of benevolence.

On the lineup was a world premiere which captivated as much as it thundered, with one of the most impressive intros that I have ever heard gracing the ears of the thousand-plus revellers. It was Speedy J and Surgeon presenting their new live collaboration, Multiples. There are few adjectives fitting enough to describe the crowd’s response, so please take my word for it. Precursor to Multiples was one Tommy Four Seven, who catalysed the dancefloor into a pulsating mass of aggressively entranced bodies draped in black. Personally, this was the set of my ADE, with Seven’s dynamic approach to industrial yet progressive techno as enlightening as it was colossal; his talent to instill awe in his coarse selections is incredible. Add imposingly minimal lighting with a well-balanced, yet roaring LSD (a combination of Luke Slater, Function and Steve Bicknell), Artefakt and Dasha Rush, and Reaktor could have done little else to pick such an explosive lineup.

Amsterdam Dance Event is truly a haven for anyone wishing to experience electronic music in its purest and most immersive form. That may sound cliché, but on witnessing the creativity of the venues and the enchanting productions work amicably to deliver unforgettable sensory experiences, ADE is truly remarkable. Add to this the world’s biggest networking and lecture schedule dedicated to electronic music, and you have what I believe to be the world’s most unique and rewarding festival, all taking place in one of the world’s greatest cities. Til next year ADE, til next year.