Posted by Caelin Meredith
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Amsterdam, Europe’s most risqué and cutting-edge city. It also happens to be the host of the premier Electronic Music (EDM) networking event of the year: the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE). Unlike the Winter Music Conference in Miami, which, let’s be honest, is more play and some work, the ADE prides itself on bringing together the finest of every aspect of the EDM culture. As Tommie Sunshine put it: “If you’re doing business with someone and they aren’t here, then you shouldn’t be doing business with them.”
For five nights in early October, the streets are filled with the who’s who of dance music: DJs, producers, label movers and shakers, agents, promoters, PR reps, press and managers. It’s the classiest of everything — and funny enough, all of our North American taboos and assumptions about Amsterdam’s vibe actually fall to the wayside; the red light district and the coffee shops take a back seat to the main stage event of first class talent. It’s the perfect host city: small, walkable and relaxed. The laissez-faire attitude of its residents serves to chill everyone out.
The ADE is divided in two: the Conference and the Festival. The Conference, which takes place at the Felix, consists of meetings, panels, interviews/discussions and sometimes debates. Then there’s the Festival at night, which takes place at various venues in and around town, chock-a-block with unbridled sonic ecstasy. This year two new additions were added to ADE: the Hard Dance Event, which “aimed to connect professionals in the harder styles of dance music to discuss, experience and continue current and new developments in this genre,” and ADE University, “dedicated to the next generation of music professionals, featuring appearances by leading representatives from a range of music industry.”
Here are some of the highlights day by day:
DAY 1 – WEDNESDAY
This is the main arrival day and the day the conference officially kicks off. In the past, programming has been lighter on this day than others, but this year the organizers decided to start with a bang. In order to set the stage for the “flavour” of this year’s ADE there was a featured “DJ Cook Off,” promoted as a new way of “mixing and dropping.” Household names like John Aquaviva, Olivier Giacomotto, Dubfire and The Stafford Brothers all had to cook a dish invented by the Keizer Culinary Institute in front of a live audience. The results were judged by — who else? — other DJs. This is the type of social event the conference likes to present: a way for everyone to blow off a little steam, and as Ryan Saltzman from the Bullitt Agency put it, “It’s exciting to see DJs out of their element, in another atmosphere, creating something.”
That night was the official music kick-off, although there had been some satellite events earlier in the week: heavyweights such as The Glitch Mob and Carl Cox at the Paradiso Club and Groove Armada at Melkweg (meaning Milky Way), plus Afrojack at Air. It was an ambitious way to start the five-day schedule. And while in a normal scenario moderation would be key, this was ADE and every night was gonna be a Saturday night.
Day 2 – THURSDAY
At the Conference, the key panels this day were “How To Score a Hollywood Movie,” “The Killer App,” “The New Ibiza … is Ibiza,” and a Q&A with Carl Cox. This was a formal and informal situation. Everything had been thought of: there were media lounges, press rooms, gathering places, bars and coffee shops all on site. It’s the epitome of professionalism, yet it retains its informality: after presentations, it’s easy to get access to moderators, panelists and artists to talk to them on a one-on-one basis.
After all the “work” that day came the 8th annual ADE Network Bash, a gala-type affair hosted in a converted church space with religious relics still adorning the walls. Free champagne, fresh cocktails and nibbles were served as a rotation of talent took to the decks. After a day of meetings, it was the perfect place to blow off some steam before the night got going. The feature on this night was the Pure Liner boat cruise: The Pirates of Cadenza. Boat cruise + Amsterdam canals + Top rated talent = Perfection, and a 6 am docking time!
Day 3 – FRIDAY
The mood on Friday is still upbeat despite two late nights under everyone’s belt. The enthusiasm is still there and the vibe is energetic. There’s so much business happening everywhere that one can’t help but be carried along with minimal effort and maximum output. Every direction you turn there is an opportunity to connect, network or socialize. The featured panels this day were “Wanna Cross Over – Watch Out For Pop Stars,” “End of the Free Era,” “How Relevant is Radio for the Next Generation,” “State of Blogs,” and “How to Crack America.” Then everyone relaxed for the Warner Music and Atlantic Records cocktail hour. bpm:tv was lucky enough to score interviews there with Hardwell, Tommie Sunshine and Busy P.
That night was another huge night of music at a cross-section of venues, from Gregor Tresher at an intimate space called the Chicago Social Club to Armin van Buuren at The Passenger Ferry Terminal, which houses thousands on a convention-type floor. The latter was the Dutch God in his own playground, as his legions of fans paid homage to their deity on his turf. I don’t think there was a purer “Dutch” moment than this all conference. Finally that night, Fedde Le Grand and company, including Chocolate Puma played at Air, a multi level club, with tiers of balconies all pressed vertically towards the stage. By the way, nothing ends at 4 am, everything goes until 9 am or 2 pm, but those people actually trying to do business usually call it a night at 5 am.
Day 4 – SATURDAY
Another informative and exciting day — further proof that the programmers for this conference are talented at creating a diverse spectrum of forums. The highlights were “Off The Record: Labels in a Digital Age,” “Q & A with Frankie Knuckles,” DJ to DJ – Too Many DJs , Not Enough Decks: What You Need in Terms of Skills to Stick Out From the Rest of the Jocks Out There,” and finally a “Demolitions Party”: You drop your demo into the collection box and see if Dave Clarke picks it.
It was also the 1605 Label Press conference, with UMEK and Hertz. A good example of labels pumping up talent and showcasing new artists, catered with fine fare and lots of swag. When asked what was so special about ADE, Hertz responded: “We’re normally screaming for ourselves, we should be screaming for each other. This is a place we can come to do that.”
This night was a trip outside the old city that required two expensive taxi rides — but they were well worth the price. The Objectivity party was at Toko MC, a stylish music venue with a huge, polished room and raised stage. Dennis Ferrer was the main act, hitting the crowd repeatedly with huge vocals and massive drops. Then it was on to Trouw for the Resident Advisor party. Trouw is a large, not quite dirty but definitely “urban” and minimal warehouse space, reminiscent of underground raves and parties of the 90s. You enter through the basement into a low-ceilinged sweat box with concentrated lighting and effects, then walk up a narrow staircase into a main room pulsing with hedonism and thunderous applause.
Day 5 – SUNDAY
There was no official day programming, but the night was capped with closing parties hosted by Roger Sanchez and Sander Kleinenberg. Sander rinsed out with a six-hour set and we pulled the rock star move: heading straight from the venue to the airport, club attire still on. One couldn’t imagine a better send-off from ADE.