Last weekend, 300,000 globe-trotting technophiles descended on Amsterdam’s capital – famous 'City of Sin' Amsterdam – for the eighteenth edition of the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) - arguably the world’s leading electronic music extravaganza.
The event was monstrous in scope: five days (October 16th-20th) of performances from over 2,000 globally respected international artists, spread over 300 different events, and stretched across 80 of the finest clubs - where almost every music genre is represented at some point.
On Thursday, Clash attends the 'Rauw 10 Year' party at Melkweg - Dutch for 'Milky Way' – which matched the intergalactic reputation of the DJs it played host to: local Dutch hero Joost van Bellen, Belgian Balearic beat maestro Aeroplane, and electro dance-punk wizards Soulwax, in their guise as 2ManyDJs.
Van Bellen, one of the longest-playing and most admired DJs in the Netherlands, kicks off the night’s proceedings, fresh from receiving an on-stage commendation for his contribution to dance music at ADE’s opening 'Mary Go Wild' party the previous evening. He enticed party-goers onto the floor with Amsterdam-based producer Breach’s house smash 'Jack', and keeps them there with a two-hour head-splitting expedition through techno and house.
The highlight is Giorgio Moroder’s Academy Award-winning instrumental 'Chase' being interspersed with the vocals and melodies form Talking Heads’ 'Once In A Lifetime'. Van Bellen looks relaxed and cheery throughout, occasionally bopping to his tunes, and appears visibly elated when the crowd transformed into half-frenzied animals as he drops the dirty scuzzy electro of Surkin’s 'Tiger Rhythm'.
In Melkweg’s 'Oude Zaal' room Aeroplane opens his lighter, breezier and more Balearic leaning show with the bouncy electro-disco stomp of Marcus Marr’s 'The Music', though the set really starts to acquire motion when people began to sway to Karmon ft. Terry Shand’s 'Shake My Hand'. It's a fantastically understated performance - characterised by subtle, gradually escalating melancholia-tinged anthems.
Come 3am the Main Room at Melkweg has swelled to bursting point, the inhabitants united by one desire: to witness 2ManyDJs unleash their groove. Van Bellen, who was hosting the Rauw event, retook the stage to introduce the headlining Dewaele brothers, who ascend to the dials impeccably dressed in sharp suits amidst a rain of swooning synths and roars from the crowd. Moments later apocalyptic bass synthesiser sounds announce Maurice Joshua’s 1989 classic 'This Is Acid' and what follows was a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of frenzied beats blended with the filthiest grooves, including electro sounds so seismic they felt like they’d induce the aural equivalent of a milkshake brainfreeze. The highlights that really send the crowd delirious are when they nailed their trademark mashup of indie and electro: the mid-set mix of MGMT and Transistorcake, and the finale, which saw Josh Wink’s 'Higher State Of Consciousness' bookended by snatches of New Order and The Rapture. In short? Amazing.
For Friday night we journey to one of the weekend’s biggest events: the Heineken Starclub Night at the hulking 15,000 capacity Ziggo Dome, which pits Scottish DJ Calvin Harris against Dutch megastar Tiësto.
The vast sprawling arena dwarfs the more intimate space of Melkweg from the previous night, but the magic lost in lack of intimacy and proximity to the DJs is more than salvaged by the sheer spectacle of the event. The glittering sparkle and shimmer of an illustrious laser show dapples the crowd in varied hues of green and blue. And, towering above them, gigantic screens with black and white visuals are showing silhouettes of party-goers trying to break through the displays, and immerse themselves in the festivities.
The Calvin Harris set is far from subtle or nuanced – he includes a raft of his own tunes, with 'I Need Your Love' (featuring Ellie Goulding vocals), and his scorching remix of The Killers’ 'When We Were Young', provoking the greatest emotional response from the crowd.
It was the onslaught of Tiësto’s set though which saw the dancefloor dissolve into an effervescent lake of flailing limbs and manic frenzy. Though the DJ looks tiny from the rear of the Ziggo Dome, there is nothing minuscule about his performance. His set builds flawlessly, key to it being his almost prophetic ability to gauge the aural requirements of the dancefloor.
The set boasts several highpoints, including the exhilarating drop that accompanied his spin of Hardwell’s 'Never Say Goodbye', and the acid house beats and synth-drenched glimmer of his own collaboration with MOTi: 'Back To The Acid', followed by a mammoth explosion of confetti at the front of the stage.
On Saturday night we head to Club Panama to see English house wizard Nick Warren team up for a back-to-back session with Argentine progressive house magician Hernán Cattáneo. It's a much more intimate set compared to the Friday night theatrics, bolstered by a fantastic vibe from the assembly of seasoned revellers who ensure that the party loses no momentum. The intoxicatingly intricate five hour set races by in what seems like minutes, held together by Warren and Cattáneo’s pooled and limitless reserves of musical wizardry.
Their emotive excursion tip-toes through tech-house, house and trance, with no shortage of seductive cuts to continually stoke the passions of the Panama merrymakers. A notable highlight which fortifies the crowd was the blazing percussive chug of Booka Shade’s 'Love Inc.' - it's a testament to Warren and Cattáneo’s ingenuity that even the more well-known songs are recast and rechanneled as part of their set to sound like new works.
With its interstellar line-up and almost cosmic scale (we only scratched the surface of all that went on there) the Amsterdam Dance Event truly deserves its status and reputation as the world’s leading dance music festival. The verdict? Out of this world.
Words: Benji Taylor
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