Let's start with the numbers so you can get a sense of how huge an occasion the Amsterdam Dance Event is. Five days across 150 venues, attracting 375,000 music lovers and 5,000 industry professionals, the ADE is both a conference and a party, with night and day schedules. We couldn´t see it all—but here’s some highlights.
Kicking off the music agenda on Wednesday and Thursday was ADE Live. Taking place in Paradiso, Melkweg and Sugarfactory, all conveniently a stone’s throw away from one another (no biking needed, if that´s not your thing), this is a neat mini-fest for those who want to see electronic acts in a gig-like setting, able to avoid the late hours and sweaty stupor of a nightclub.
Wednesday was headlined by Fatima Yamaha—fresh from releasing his first essential Radio 1 mix in September, the Dutch electronic producer has been on the Amsterdam scene for quite a while, but now his deep synths and 80s melodic throwbacks have made him one of the Netherlands’ more prominent house/techno musicians. Thursday’s main act were disco-house darlings Hercules and Love Affair. Their recently released album “Omnion” is a gorgeous synth-laden, bassy, brassy affair, so was a treat to see some of these new tracks live. Other artists billed on the two-day event included: Cubicolor, Marian Hill and Vessels. So, for those who want a taste of the ADE experience, but also want to get up for work the next day, ADE Live is a solid program that showcases some class electronic and dance acts.
We wouldn't be in the Netherlands without some trance, right? Elsewhere on Thursday, Armin van Buuren brought his State of Trance to the ADE, celebrating the occasion with a 14-hour (!!) live stream, which culminated in the AFAS live show with acts such as Aly & Fila, Cosmic Gate, Protoculture, and of course Buuren himself.
Friday's main event came at the quintessentially Dutch location of the bike passageway that runs beneath the arches of the historic Rijksmuseum. Recalling the 2016 first edition of the party, the event organisers revealed they had felt nervous as to whether Rembrandt's Night Watch would remain intact after exposure to the vibrations of deep house DJ Maceo Plex´s show going on below. It must’ve worked out OK for the Dutch masterpiece, as this year the party returned featuring UK veterans Underworld. The duo played a ferocious two hour set ending, of course, with ´Born Slippy´—a track iconic enough recorded, but transcends into a rave spectacular when played live. Saturday’s hot ticket was Netsky and Friends, the Belgian producer’s set supported by UK´s own Sub Focus for a night of drum and bass mayhem in the Melkweg, which was a sold out, highly sought-after event.
On Sunday things would’ve ended nicely with the well-intended ADE Hangover, a daytime party free for all to enjoy in Amsterdam´s industrial North side. Yet, the vast open spaces of the North are better enjoyed in the sunny weather, which unfortunately never arrived. Instead of a relaxing Sunday chillout zone, it turned out to be a little bit too cold, damp and miserable. For those who still had energy to party, Argentinian label ZZK Records hosted a showcase at Pllek, featuring Nicola Cruz and Mitú, which was definitely worth checking out for those intrigued about the finest electro cumbia sounds taking over Latin America right now.
To peak into the conference; ADE Dance and Brands was overly self-promotional to gain any authentic insights into the dance industry, yet ADE Beats, the festival’s first foray to Urban sounds, added some welcomed diversity into the genres residing in the outer echelons of the dance industry. Saturday’s ADE Sound Lab was similarly interesting, with the likes of Gary Numan discussing his forty-year career with Dave Clarke. Their talk, which played out in an intimate, and informal manner, covered Numan´s first foray into dance from punk in the 1970s, “I had never felt as much energy as I had with all of my guitars as I felt with one finger on a synth” he said.
A little mention on logistics, too. The event wouldn't work half as well if the city wasn't 100% behind it. Amsterdam is one of the best locations to experience dance music, as it appreciates and facilitates it. The city’s Night Mayor Mirik Milan, something of a rock star in night time politics, said to Clash, “Dance is seen as an important branch in development of creative sector in the Netherlands. It´s recognized as a true industry and not as something that is annoying and needs to be clamped down on.”
His organization's Celebrate Safe campaign initiative ran during the event, which anticipates the use of drugs, despite their prohibition, “The Netherlands has an open, pragmatic approach towards drug issues” he said. “Everybody understands they are used. We need to make sure people safe” he tells us. At least somewhere gets it.
This review could go on, but to wrap it up: right down to the swanky set furnishings, this is a huge occasion that is well-organized and slick, in a city totally worthy of hosting one of dance music’s most essential event. Amsterdam lives and understands dance, and ADE proves there is no better place for fans and professionals to come together and celebrate it.
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Words: Charis McGowan
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