After the hustle and bustle of the first two nights of the Amsterdam Dance Event, I wasn't quite ready for what happens in Amsterdam on Friday and Saturday nights—the population seems to double. All of a sudden, venues that previously had 100 or 200 bikes outside their ADE-associated shows now had 400 or 500. This meant that every club would be packed to capacity before the night was through, requiring some tough and hasty decisions as to who to see and where to go. Here is the slice of performances I was able to cut out of ADE's weekend offerings.
I decided to try to catch a few sets unique to the Amsterdam scene to start off my Friday night, and landed at Cafe Cox (a relatively small bar with a great sound system) for a party put together by the excellent Rush Hour label to celebrate the release of a new compilation, Amsterdam All Stars, highlighting talent from the city's underground house scene. The atmosphere was pleasantly mellow with a small dancefloor forming toward the front while the rest of us enjoyed drinks and vibed with the unobtrusive selections coming from the DJ booth. Early on, Amsterdam's own Simon Weiss impressed with a set of slow, syrupy house that seemed to channel the sounds of Dilla and Pete Rock as much as it did the more soulful side of classic Detroit techno. Next to step to the tables was Amsterdam duo Juju & Jordash, who switched off every 5 or 6 tunes to put together an all-vinyl set of intoxicatingly intricate techno which was as easy to dance to (albeit in a slightly slower fashion) as it was to be lost in its patterns of glistening arpeggios and warm bass.
Juju and Jordash
Around midnight (which seemed to be the hour everything began to get started at ADE), I made my way to what I found to be the most rewarding club of the entire event, Trouw. Built in what may have been an old train station or some long-out-of-business manufacturing plant, the club is a mix between the teenage clubhouses of '80s movie villains and a classic "underground" rave or punk warehouse with concrete on all walls and floors, and industrial touchstones littered throughout. Best of all, the venue featured an absolutely stunning sound system. Surely there couldn't be a better place to walk in and find UK badman Julio Bashmore with three CDJs at his disposal. The absolutely huge crowd was basically in love with the man, and who could blame them, as Bashmore seemed to have no shortage of irresistible cuts, touching on all the strains of funky, house-indebted UK bass. Sure, Bashmore's set came with few surprises, but it was Friday night, and the crowd didn't need some intellectual mixmaster taking everyone through the fresh and new. We needed someone to drop tracks that were raw, heavy, and, most of all, fun, and the Bristol resident did exactly that. Thankfully, he wasn't afraid to play most of his better known originals, dropping "Battle For Middle You" toward the end of his set.
Once Bashmore's set came to a triumphant close, the party lost no momentum when 3024 label head Martyn took over for a live PA set. Taking a giant step away from the funky and fun toward the dark and deep, Martyn's tunes came full force with incredibly visceral detail on Traum's giant system. Whereas his predecessor's set was marked by memorable chords, melodies, and vocals, Martyn's was more distinguishable by the sheer magnitude of the colossal sounds he conjured from his laptop (and accompanying controller). The resulting voyage through futuristic bass was as rewarding sonically as it was rhythmically, with its sometimes off-kilter beats begging you to dance in a completely new fashion.
The last ADE offering I was able to find on Friday night was clear on the other side of town, but the lure of Hudson Mohawke's manic beats brought me to Bitterzoet. By the time I arrived, the place was absolutely packed with people anxious to hear the UK producer bring the noise, and once Mohawke stepped behind his two turntables (running Serato or some similar program), the crowd turned into a raucous mash of bodies. Mohawke seemed to be playful with his selections, taking the crowd through futuristic hip-hop/dubstep hybrid bangers and even into some uncharted "out there" beat-head territory. Possibly in an attempt to make sure not to leave anyone behind, Mohawke also had a host of stateside hip-hop tracks and forgotten retro cuts at his disposal, even dropping a Prince track toward the end of the night. The results were all over the place and the set was a constant push and pull, but one that really commanded the crowd. Whenever his heaviest selections hit (most of them being his own original productions), Bitterzoet went absolutely crazy, even forming a pit of sorts in the middle of the floor where energetic young men and women alike were jumping into each other with frenzied zeal.
My last night at ADE also meant only one more opportunity to hear music at the incredible Trouw venue, so I headed to the outskirts of Amsterdam to catch the early talent at the Resident Advisor showcase. UK resident Matt Tolfrey's early set was an entrancing mixture of genuine techno chops, infused with just the right touch of warmth and soul thanks to its lush chords and somewhat unexpectedly funky bass. It was just the thing to start Saturday night off right.
After reviewing the schedule of events (of which there were too many good choices), there was one I just could not miss—the R&S showcase. Truthfully, if your tastes are aligned with XLR8R's, you're a bit in the minority at ADE (for instance, LMFAO and David Guetta were two of the festival's biggest sold-out shows). This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because it gives you an intimate chance to see some really talented artists that you might otherwise have to fight through a giant crowd to get access to. Such was the case at Melkweg on Saturday, where a stellar line-up of forward-thinking Brits was on display, the first of who I was able to catch was Lone. Utilizing a laptop and controller, the Manchester producer ran through a set of only his own slightly off-tuned and altogether druggy house productions. Sure, a Lone live set isn't much to watch, but I could hardly complain when two hours of his slippery creations were launched directly to my ears in the middle of 200-plus-person dancefloor.
Deciding to take a brief break from the bass-heavy offerings the R&S family, I walked to Melkweg's other space, Oude Zaal, to see what the Border Community showcase had to offer. I was pleasantly surprised to walk into a set of colossal techno coming from one of the imprint's usual suspects, Luke Abbott. Beginning in the vast, enveloping territory of side-chained pads and a steady kick drum, Abbot used a laptop along with a tray of pedals and processors to craft pieces of sparkling techno marked by masses of melodic bells and bloops and tuned percussion, ultimately yielding one of the most tender and moving sets of the whole festival.
The closing sets of the R&S showcase proved to be its most impressive, beginning with one member of UK duo The Chain representing the pair with a mesmerizing set of dark rhythms. Piling and dismantling patterns of kicks, claps, and snares to hypnotizing effect, the DJ was able to whip the crowd into a melee of dancing that begged you to move in the same disjointed fashion as the beats he parlayed.
Blawan and Pariah
The last set performance of my ADE experience was a special collaborative DJ set from two rising names in the UK-bass world, Blawan and Pariah. Each with their own record crates in tow, the two switched off on the tables every few songs, allowing one to cultivate an atmosphere for the other to build on top of. The track selection was top-notch, with most of the tunes leaning towards the deep, techno-infused stylings they have been tinkering with as their collaborative project Karenn, but not without flashes of the post-dubstep UK soul most commonly associated with the R&S imprint. Although their mixing skills proved a little rusty toward the beginning, they eventually found the groove and didn't lose it for the next two-plus hours, and neither did those of us in the audience, holding on to every heavy, propulsive beat with the intensity they demanded.
Lost in the subterranean grooves, the late-night hours turned into early morning without much notice and by the time I had made it out of Melkweg, around 6am, there were still parties planned for another two hours. How the people of Amsterdam find time to sleep, I do not know, but I do understand that they sure as hell know how to party.
*Pictured at top: Luke Abbott at Melkweg*