Amsterdam, late Sunday evening – I was a little worse for wear travelling on the back of my friend’s bicycle through the idyllic Dutch capital, after spending a hedonistic 10-hours in an old abandoned school recently converted into a night-club. This is just one suitable snapshot from a heady few days packed full of memorable moments, stunning architecture and, of course, a killer soundtrack.
Friday evening was spent raving with some of my closest pals in a crane, which has now been converted into one of the city’s most luxurious hotels. Friday night was spent in one of the craziest warehouse spaces I’ve ever visited, while Saturday afternoon saw us avoiding the inevitable hangover by after-partying in a space constructed entirely of shipping containers (by day the space functions as a bar and restaurant). Saturday evening was enjoyed in an old gas factory, which has been inventively appropriated as a creative space – for five nights in a row, popular event promoter Awakenings converted the space into a techno coliseum hosting a stadium-like festival event.
The scale of ADE is incredible – just when you think you’ve reached the peak of what this city has to offer, you scroll through your Facebook or Instagram and see friends experiencing similar mind-blowing experiences. Maceo Plex played the first ever DJ set in a tunnel underneath one of Amsterdam’s most famous cultural hubs, Rijksmuseum, before hosting an after-party at the top of A’DAM Tower at sunrise, as you do. It’s these kind of events and experiences that show just how progressive Amsterdam’s dance music scene is right now.
Amsterdam: The City
It’s safe to say that the world can learn a few things from the Dutch, and not just in their approach to clubbing, but their approach to life. As I stood half way up the Crane Hotel on Friday afternoon, watching the sunset over such a fantastic city, which offers some of the world’s best architecture, I felt emotional. Amsterdam is a city of many faces – flat and dominated by its canals, making the city’s urban characteristics feel laid back and chilled.
It’s transport system feels chaotic at first, but once you experience a few near misses with bikes and trams, you soon learn that you’re safer on a bike, than you are on foot. You won’t find any vegetable-shaped glass structures dominating the skyline like in London or Dubai, and despite a hideous looking fun-fair in Dam Square, the city feels intimate and welcoming.
It was the city’s togetherness that stood out to me most. The locals of Amsterdam embrace Amsterdam Dance Event, and throughout my five days there I couldn’t help wonder whether London would embrace something like this coming to its streets and venues, or whether it would be met with disdain. Every Amsterdam native that I spoke to looks forward to ADE, and despite having a thriving all year round clubbing season, venues like Gashouder (Awakenings), Mediahaven (Loveland) and Warehouse Elementenstraat (HYTE) are not open every weekend of the year. It’s these venues which elevate the festival and the city to the next level, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to the city for five days.
After such an enjoyable and inspiring time in the city, here are my top five moments from the clubs and dubs at this year’s Amsterdam Dance Event 2016.
Amsterdam Dance Event: Top 5 Moments
Ellen Allien at We Are Not Alone at Project Sugar (Thursday)
Despite Amsterdam Dance Event hosting some of the largest events of the year, my favourite set and party was a much more intimate affair. Project Sugar is a local Amsterdam party, which runs on the last Thursday of the month at The Sugar Factory, across the road from Melkweg. For ADE, Project Sugar teamed up with Ellen Allien and German magazine Groov for a special event that featured four international female artists.
With the name of the party being ‘We Are Not Alone’, it was fitting that a white UFO hung above the evaluated stage. Cassy held a steady groove early on, but it was Allien herself who stole the show. I adore everything about this girl – her energy, her vinyl collection, her face, her dance moves. The whole club erupted when Allien dropped Cirez D’s ‘Into The Red’, with the energetic German prancing around the booth leading the fist pumps, while flicking through her vinyls. At the end of her set, the club joined together in applause and whistles, while hugs and love were offered in the the booth. I couldn’t help but join in the fun, declaring my love for Ellen in a drunken haze, while feeling sorry for Magda, who somehow had to follow that master class of a set.
Mixmag Lab with Ryan Elliott at The Crane Hotel (Friday)
When word gets out that the crew at Mixmag are inviting Ryan Elliott to come and play for them in a crane, you drop everything. Earlier in the day, London–born DJ collective Housekeeping hosted a day time event featuring a number of the brand’s key players. As the party began to fill up, we explored this incredible space taking time to reflect on our ADE experience so far, while watching the sunset over this incredible city.
When it comes to creative spaces like The Crane, they’re often filled with superficial people, but this wasn’t the case at the Mixmag Lab. The Mixmag crew and its adopted family occupied the front row, laughing, joking and pulling shapes, when Ryan Elliott dropped DJ Dove’s ‘Illusion’ things got wild, with arms being thrown in all directions.
The Crane Hotel played a big part in last year’s ADE, and this year it became an even bigger hit with Jamie Jones, Skrillex and Seth Troxler all playing there across the five days.
Ferro, Makcim and Samuel Deep at FUSE x VBX (Saturday afternoon)
When you walk into an after-party relativity sober, it’s a weird feeling. The key is to avoid eye contact with anyone you pass, and find a spot that isn’t in any direct contact of anyone stretching their legs and arms in an uncontrollable way. Come 3.30 PM, things were a little more in control with the remaining partygoers there solely for the music. On the decks, Ferro, Makcim and Samuel Deep took it in turns to play some of the most outrageous tunes that I’ve heard for a while, on a crisp I Acoustics sound system. With the decks within touching distance of the crowd, there was a special feeling in the room, that mostly consisted of Dutch house heads refusing to go bed.
What made this afternoon a little more special was the surroundings. BRET is a space constructed entirely from shipping containers, which serves as a bar and restaurant by day. On the previous Thursday, it hosted the likes of Binh, Treatment and Vera, proving that this could just be the beginning for this little multi-purpose venue on the outskirts of the city centre. Expect big things from FUSE, VBX and BRET in the future at ADE.
Lee Burridge at All Day I Dream (Saturday)
When you’ve not really slept very much for three days, sometimes you just need something a little more chilled before the final dance and thankfully Lee Burridge and his label All Day I Dream were on hand. The label is very popular across the world, but 2016 was the first time Burridge had brought his concept to ADE. The main reason for this is because All Day I Dream hadn’t found the right venue until this year, and with ADE taking place in October, the colder temperatures have always ruled out any outdoor venues.
Here’s where De Hallen comes into its own – another multi-purpose venue that once upon a time stored trams for the cities travel network. The room where ADID took place features windows and a ceiling which allows natural light to come in, meaning the early hours of the event were under blue skies before sunset, and the chilled out soundtrack and colourful decor made it a lush few hours away from the lasers and kick-drums of the bigger parties. When Burridge dropped South Street Players’ ‘Who Keeps Changing Your Mind’ minutes before the end, arms were swaying joyously from side-to-side.
Jennifer Cardini at De School (Sunday)
Jennifer Cardini is an extraordinarily consistent DJ, which made her set an extremely good choice to end my ADE experience on Sunday afternoon. Earlier this year I discovered a Spotify playlist from 2011 titled ‘Rexperience’ that featured some of the finest selections I’ve never heard of, all in one mix. Ever since then I’ve been keen to see the selector play.
Cardini’s selections are hard to put in a box. They fit somewhere between the blends of house and techno, but it is the way she puts them together that impresses me the most. Almost every track was as good as the one previous, her selections seem to have this certain energy about them, with different characteristics that put you in some form of trance to make the smoothness of each mix even more impressive. Throughout her two-hour set, there was never a dull moment, until her last track, that I personally thought pandered into the hands of Dixon, who was up next. However, I’m willing to forgive Jennifer for this, as her set was as enjoyable as anything I’ve been to this year.
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