It’s been called “Electronic Music’s UN Summit”, “Electronic Music’s HQ” and “Good Luck Making It To Your 9am Panel”. In just a few years the client-meeting-and-carnage week that is Amsterdam Dance Event (Pronounced “A, D, E” by Europeans, “Aid” by the US and “Friday afternoon” by the Dutch) has become an interesting hybrid. An essential industry must-attend, increasingly ADE is also partly a four-day crazed clubbing showcase where the world’s electronic artist elite road-test their lab creations to a couple hundred thousand mercenary ravers who have come in from as far away as Australia for “ADE Festival...”. Here’s how it panned out.
It all starts mid-week at a large conference hall. Most of the daytime action happens around two venues, the Felix Meritis hall and the Dylan Hotel — set on the same street overlooking a canal. Approaching from a distance DJ Mag can see several hundred bodies amassed under the yellow ADE flags, all in the unofficial electronic music uniform: black jeans, black t-shirts, leather jackets and a look that suggests a lack of sleep. Imagine a funeral held in Selfridges, if you will. Weaving our way through the multitude of jet-lagged bodies and industry conversations we find ourselves in the Felix. Some six floors of conference rooms are alive from 10am to around 6pm, every single day, with talks ranging from the likes of Martin Garrix discussing the key to chart success, to assorted management agencies discussing the key to winning business, to infamous composer Hans Zimmer discussing the key G Sharp.
Meanwhile the Dylan is a more client meeting focused affair, roaring fires, glasses of wine and armchair chats about the future of various drum-led dynasties playing out in every corner whilst PRs tear about, busy trying to look busy. However it is the Andaz hotel, one block behind the Felix, where in an eye-wateringly expensive reception bar, the most secretive chats are held, with many a leather jacket being swapped for a blazer. Real money, it seems, lives here. Meanwhile, in the streets between the venues are an eclectic collection of hipster pubs where journalists, cameramen and PRs decompress over heavy consumption of half pints, whilst aspiring DJs and label owners dot around, buying drinks here, handing out business cards there. There is much discussion about exactly what can, and can’t be claimed on expenses.
This is more or less how each day goes, punctuated by regular trips to the Felix’s P1 interview room where an army of TV crew, international press and lost management interrogate a rotating door of international DJs, with the exception of Dubfire, who conducts his semi-conference on his new live show from his hotel just outside of the centre, and Butch, who airs his views on “Swaffling” (Google it) from a canal boat parked just outside the Felix.
At night however, is when ADE proper comes out to play.
Thursday night sees a Diynamic Showcase held in a massive blank canvas venue aptly named Mediahaven. “We’re from Switzerland. Yes, you could say our sound is neutral,” laugh Diynamic young guns Adriatique. Yet, there is nothing on the fence about their subsequent set — an unforgiving, tight adventure through techno with icy injections of progressive fired out across a vast, 5,000 capacity warehouse so hot steam is rising through lasers and strobes, lit orange by Diynamic’s vast rear wall visuals. Backstage, photographers and videographers bump and jostle to get near the pair tearing it apart on stage whilst out there on the floor, a sea of Amsterdam’s Best Looking raise hands into the air clean into 5am.
Friday sees a familiar round of panel discussions and canal-side chats, the general group swelled by new arrivals and a distinct feel of no sleep about the place. Coffee and beers are swapped in aggressive succession throughout until DJ Mag find ourselves in Melkweg. It's a club for hardened ravers. Enter through an unassuming double door, and you’re led straight into a vast, multi arena, pitch-dark superclub, where in the main room at 3am, Dave Clarke is getting to it in typically uncompromising style — crushed builds and razor sharp synths soundtracking a block of human bodies the size of a small amphitheatre.
This wider set-up suits DJ Mag down to the ground, where some five hours are spent moving between epoch-changing dancefloor moments and pit-stops featuring downing sessions of white wine accompanied by Hardwell’s publicist, D.Ramirez and a Japanese fashion photographer. Witnesses say it ended around 6am.
Reluctantly, Saturday breaks over Amsterdam. A substantially diminished crowd now congregates solemnly outside the conference venues. There is little time to reflect (or nap) however, before DJ Mag and the substantially more showered DJ Mag USA are shunted into a cab and taken way out to Amsterdam Arena, where 2014’s DJ Mag Top 100 DJs Awards are to be held. Travelling up three floors and wearing more wristbands than a Topman mannequin we are led into a vast room bathed in red light where a reassuringly boozy dinner, supplied by possibly the best-looking waitresses DJ Mag has ever seen, is served and the awards begin.
Following an official address by the prince of the Dutch Royal Family, there is a charity auction before Ummet Ozcan and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike collect their awards. More awards are granted, there is much rejoicing; an awful lot of wine is consumed. Dancing starts. There is no music. As it approaches midnight, DJ Mag wanders out of the dinner and straight onto the fifth floor of a 45,000 capacity, rammed main arena. There are camera phones and raised hands as far as the eye can see. A co-ordinated campaign involving two stewardesses, a string of phone calls and two entirely new wristbands and finally we are backstage. Deorro is up on the brilliantly-lit decks — fist pumping and jacking as EDM vibrates the stadium walls, until all of a sudden, the place is hushed.
Silence, and darkness, nothing to be seen over the decks but a glittering galaxy of recording phones. Backstage, Hardwell paces up the stairs and crouches behind the booth. “How do you feel?” DJ Mag whispers. “Nervous, so nervous!” Hardwell calls back, grabbing our hand as if for context. Suddenly, the PA booms: “Please welcome the 2014 No 1 DJ in the World...” and in a roar that deafens even the fire, smoke cannons and music, 40,000 people comprehensively lose it. Hardwell stands, hands raised.
“I couldn’t do it without you guys, all of you!” he yells into the mic, quavering. Two minutes later, there is a build, a drop, an EDM rumbler, Hardwell is on the decks, girls screaming, signs aloft. Business as usual. That was ADE. We’ll see you next year.
Words: Ally Byers