If we're ever forced to change professions, we want to join the twenty-year-old Amsterdam Dance Event's marketing team—it has to be the easiest sell around, since everyone who's ever been there will tell you that it's the best global gathering of its kind. But the question remains as to what it exactly is. Its managing director, Richard Zijlma, calls it an "open-source platform," which more or less translates to a networking-heavy half-festival, half-conference beast of a week covering all aspects of the dance-music scene, from big-name EDM to the outer-limits edges of the clubland universe. But somehow, despite having exploded in size over the past decade or so (the nighttime activities consisted of "300 events and 2,000 DJ's over five days in 80 clubs and venues"), ADE still retains a friends-and-family kind of feel, closer to a hang-out session with pals old and new than your usual boring symposium or frenzied festival. And, hey, it's in Amsterdam! This year's edition was held from October 14 through 18, culminating in the 20th (!) edition of Dave Clarke's annual rate-a-demo session, Demolition Panel, on Saturday evening, with yet more tomfoolery to be had at after-parties until well into Monday morning. Team XLR8R was there—and we'll be back next year, and the year after, and the year after that, too.
DJ Pierre is a clubland treasure.
Sure, we've all heard the legend of how DJ Pierre and his comrades in Phuture, DJ Spanky, and Herbert J created acid house back in the '80s: A producer friend turned them on to the Roland TB-303, Spanky bought one for $40, they started messing around with it without really knowing what they were doing, they brought the results to the seminal Chicago DJ Ron Hardy, and—poof—those squelchy blips and bleeps that came to define a certain subset of house (and do to this day) were born. But to hear Pierre tell the tale himself, as we did at ADE Playground hot spot De Brakke Grond, is still pretty special. The ever-youthful producer—he's 50, but could pass for 30—told the tale with such a sense of wonder over acid's influences and staying power that you can't help but be a little moved. And when he cranked up that 303 and twiddled with those knobs for a few seconds…well, it was shivers time.
Marc Houle has a sensitive touch when it comes to live film scores.
Marc Houle's live score to Teinosuke Kinugasa's silent film A Page of Madness was a notable highlight from ADE. Lost for nearly 45 years, this avant-garde feature—unearthed by the director in 1971, is a hidden gem of the Shinkankaku-ha movement—explores the deranged world of troubled souls through the eyes of patients within an asylum. Mindfully shot with starkly contrasted compositions, double exposures, and frantic montage sequences, Houle's score eloquently elevated the audience's sensory experience while evoking a deeper connection to the perceptions of the crazed inmates, with his live performance producing an exhilarating cinematic adventure for those fortunate to be in attendance. The euphonic experiment went over well with the mesmerized Melkweg moviegoers, with many unable to refrain from the occasional foot-tapping and hip-shaking during their journey into madness.
Jeff Mills's Time Tunnel performance was mind-blowing.
To celebrate its fifth anniversary, the intimate Amsterdam forest festival known as 909 put together the premiere Netherlands performance of Jeff Mills's infamous journey though musical history, Time Tunnel. The night showcased specific musical eras such as the late-'70s beginnings of Newark, New Jersey's Club Zanzibar, and even as far back as the cradle of Western civilization in Mesopotamia. In all, Mills covered six different time periods, one for each hour of his performance, using the intro theme and imagery from the old '60s TV show The Time Tunnel. During key moments, Mills conjured up seminal music moments from the past, relentlessly summoning them with his powerful mixing prowess and building layer upon layer of dramatic anticipation. At times, the tunnel would deliver crucial characters like Dr. Roland (a.k.a Tadao Kikumoto), who took notes on Mills using the TR-909 while sitting on the floor, or extraterrestrial aliens who eventually exited the stage through the tunnel accompanied by Mills himself. The performance was absolutely stunning, and left us wandering the streets of Amsterdam for hours trying to figure out what we just witnessed. The show was educational, hedonistic, and unprecedented in a way that can only be delivered by a genius like Jeff Mills.
ADE is into sustainability in a big way.
The ADE Green conference was a one-day symposium for those wanting to find out more about sustainability, innovation, and social change as it relates to events and festivals, with event organizers learning how to engage attendees in a potentially meaningful way. To that end, the conference employed speakers from technological companies such as Pavegen, and data-engineering companies like Julie's Bicycle, to show not only how to do so, but also why it's needed in today's world. There were informative workshops that showed how organizers can make their events more sustainable, but also how to keep the food green friendly, resulting in a more healthy post-festival outcome. Attendees got to share opinions with each other, and the speakers were precise with their facts and info. As the number of festivals and similar gatherings grows, accountability is needed—and ADE helped to guide us into the future
HYTE brought the groove and the rave.
Spread across four nights, and with a lineup that included Ricardo Villalobos, Apollonia, Loco Dice, Margaret Dygas, Guti, Robert Hood, and Pan-Pot, it was obvious that party behemoth HYTE meant business. Situated quite some distance from Amsterdam's center in a huge, totally transformed warehouse, HYTE was a sprawling rave utopia that was filled to the brim with the groove-infused sounds of house and techno’s biggest acts. All the usual suspects stood out and brought their A-game, from French super-trio Apollonia’s rolling, bass-heavy house to Ricardo Villalobos’ incomprehensible aura and trippy selections; he closed his set with Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” to some 5,000 ravers. On the smaller side stage, Margaret Dygas layered her punchy stripped-back techno with heady, minimal rollers to an up-for-it crowd for arguably the best set of the HYTE madness, and of ADE for that matter. Other notable standouts worth mention included the dance-inducing live sessions from Guti and Point G, the Second State showcase, and local legend Steve Rachmad's follow-up to Villalobos's set. As is the case with most nights at ADE, there's always an after party for those who want to extend festivities. After HYTE—in the middle of a container yard surrounded by street art—Mike Shannon and Dewalta kept the energy levels high with their brand of chunky, rolling house, throwing down cut after cut of high quality sonics to wrap up proceedings.
Dockyard's festival-within-a-festival offered plenty of aural thrills.
ADE is a multi-venue experience where you can easily stay locked into a 12-hour session put on by incredible label showcases like Life or Death, or spend all night at a warehouse hosted by well-known club nights like Circoloco or Awakenings. It's great to be able to spend long lengths of time at any of the numerous sprawling spaces that Amsterdam has to offer, but it's also nice to be able to run around like a lunatic with your friends and capture different types of music in one area—and this was made possible by taking a ferry to a muddy lot full of shipping containers and pop-up tents for this year's Dockyard Festival. The gathering hosted five different stages that were curated by the likes of XT3, Droid Behavior, FACT Magazine, BLAKKSHEEP, Deeperfect, and the leaders of the Romanian house supergroup [a :rpia:r]. The XT3 stage saw Drumcell, Raiz, and Truncate from the Droid crew keeping the energy up all day, before transitioning into a sub-headlining set by Truss, and a closing set by Surgeon and Lady Starlight. Other top moments include Stefano Noferini headlining the Mystic Garden, and Paco Osuna absolutely smashing the FACT stage with his creative musical concept and first-class techno label, Mindshake. Once the festival was over at around 11:00 pm, you still had your whole night ahead of you—to either quickly walk over to DGTL where the crew hosted a Kompakt showcase, or to the industrial sounds of Friction with Sleeparchive and D. Carbone. We opted for a feed at a grilled-chicken truck right outside the festival before taking a ferry ride over to Amsterdam Centraal, then hopping in a cab to Circoloco.
Romanians—we love 'em.
Another one of our music highlights came courtesy of the aforementioned [a :rpia:r] showcase at the Dockyard site—specifically, the set from RPR Soundsystem (a.k.a Raresh, Petre Inspirescu and Rhadoo.) The Romanian DJ collective did not disappoint, delivering one of the most outstanding performances of ADE as a whole. Their distinctive Romanian sound was particularly exciting in contrast to the hard-hitting techno tents that seemed to reign over the Dockyard. The RPR Soundystem's set was characterized by its deep, subtle, and constant basslines, paired up with a mixture of organic, dreamy, and minimal percussions. Beautifully executed, these elements resulted in a deep, dark, dubby—but also very exciting and danceable—set. The music was beautifully complemented by the colorful and trippy, borderline psychedelic visuals, which seemed to dance along the sounds of the music.
ADE is a blast—but it was also a learning experience.
ADE served up a well-curated plethora of informational and tutorial panels for those who wanted to take a deeper dive into obtaining more knowledge from industry thought leaders. The amount of topics covered were far and wide, but one that stood out among the many credible panels and discussions was “The Future of Festival Management." The panel consisted of four industry festival innovators, who revealed the new technologies being deployed at top electronic-music festivals that capture the behavior and actions of festival attendees, providing festival organizers with real-time revelations about their customers. This panel left us feeling that we were attending a music technology conference as opposed to just a week-long party, driving home the fact that ADE is a conference to be reckoned with.
Given a night to stretch out, it's hard to top Seth Troxler.
Sure, Troxler can be a bit of a polarizing figure, but that's what happens when you have a bit of attitude and aren't afraid to flaunt it. ("I see myself as a normal person with an opinion," he's said in the past.) And DJ-wise, he can be a bit of a mixed bag—we've heard him spin probably 20 times by now, and he's seemed a bit, well, off at maybe one or two of those gigs. But give the man a full night of his own, and you're almost certainly in for a treat. We caught him at his DJ-Kicks release party on Friday night at Closure—a club where we spent a lot of time over the course of our visit—and the man was a wonder to behold. Spinning an all-vinyl set (or mostly vinyl at least—we weren't eyeballing him the entire time), and sporting a Rob Fernandez HOUSE OF ROB tribute t-shirt, Troxler weaved his way from late-'80s/early-'90s Chicago and New York house through tougher, techier sounds to well, suffice it to say that the night was an ever-upward swirl, our heads were spinning when we exited the club into the grey Amsterdam morning, and we can't wait till next time.