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Amsterdam Dance Event 2022 in review: the global electronic music gathering returns in full force

Last month, Amsterdam Dance Event returned for its annual industry takeover, showcasing more than 1,000 events at over 200 venues. With ADE back in full force post-pandemic, DJ Mag's Amy Fielding, Ben Hindle, Carl Loben, Ria Hylton and Rob Mccallum head out to the Dutch capital to sample the plethora of panels, parties and workshops on offer

While ADE did go ahead in a scaled-down fashion at the end of 2021, it’s widely agreed by delegates at this year’s event that 2022 is the real return of the Amsterdam Dance Event. The parties were firing — and indeed, it seemed that there were more than ever this October. The panels were well attended,and as a bonus to seasoned attendees, were located back in the historic Felix Meritis building, constructed in the late 18th century to a neo-classical design as a home for the promotion of the arts.

Overall attendance was back to pre-pandemic levels — the highest yet, ADE claim— with nearly half a million visitors causing a buzz on the streets of the UNESCO heritage city, and a huge influx of tourism cash for local businesses and authorities. What started as a networking event for the Dutch electronic music industry has ballooned into the most important industry gathering in the global electronic music calendar, and as the industry recovers from Covid, it arrives again at the right time for more deals to be struck and progress to be forged.

ST
Stepping Inside The Upside Down

On the opening night of ADE, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of the Texas-based synthwave band S U R V I V E, and composers of the soundtrack to Netflix’s Stranger Things, play a special live performance from the score. The duo’s music has inarguably had a huge impact on the runaway success of the series, creating the perfect audio backdrop for the supernatural activity that takes place in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, which acts as the centre-point of the series.

Taking place in the Boombox theatre at ADE’s LAB space at De Brakke Grond, the show opens with myriad synthesisers and hardware set up in two side-by-side stations beneath an exposed lighting rig that looms over the stage, placed just above head height. As a red light begins to flicker, exposing a series of cables and strip-lights that hang from the structure — creating an intensely claustrophobic appearance — the duo walk on and take their seats. The space, which is otherwise used for a series of talks and workshops throughout the conference, has tonight been transformed into Stranger Things’ Upside Down — a hellish alternate dimension in the show that parallels the real world.

Dixon and Stein steadily work their way through a series of largely deconstructed versions of music from the show, which often only take motifs from the soundtrack’s most famous pieces and stretch them out into more experimental live recreations. The title sequence appears more than once throughout the constantly shifting and morphing soundscapes, which ebb and flow across the almost hour-long performance, while another standout is ‘Kids’ from the second series.

The two are in constant communication as they push their hardware to make increasingly warped and fear-inducing sounds, and viewers are transported to the show’s most memorable moments: playing Dungeons & Dragons in the basement of a 1980s home, The Battle of Starcourt shopping mall, the Mind Flayer at Hawkins National Laboratory, season four antagonist Vecna’s lair and, of course, the Upside Down.

Towards the close, as the sparse strip-lighting illuminates flashes of the stage in blue, the industrial clatter that soundtracks the Soviet-run prison scene comes into focus. The crowd at the Boombox are instantly carried to one of the series’ most intense moments, which sees Stranger Things hero Hopper take on the Demogorgans — a collection of petal-mouthed predatory creatures from the Upside Down — during a massacre. Amongst the chaos, it perfectly encapsulates how the duo manage to capture the energy and emotions of the Stranger Things world: fear, suspense, dread, love, friendship and, ultimately, hope.

DJ Mag ADE
Living & Breathing dance music!

DJ Mag’s contribution to ADE comes in the form of two tech-focused conference events in the De Brakke Grond’s LAB space this year, in addition to our annual free-entry live-streamed party at Lovelee on Thursday evening. The first sees an on-stage production of our How I Play Live series — previous DJ Mag Originals editions, which you can watch on YouTube, have seen artists like Orbital and RÜFÜS DU SOL reveal the secrets behind their stunning live sets. This time it’s the turn of Dutch future bass artist San Holo, who’s guitar-wielding performances have earned him legions of fans across the globe. Hosted by DJ Mag Tech editor Mick Wilson, the packed crowd learns all about how San comes at electronic music from a different perspective, having been more involved with traditional band/guitar music beforehand, and developed his sound and show around his beloved instrument.

Unable to bring all the equipment he used to involve in his full live show on his latest tour, San talks us through the current stripped-back setup he’s been using, which combines CDJ-3000 NS2s, a DJM900 NS2, an Akai sampler and his guitar. San plays basic versions of tracks like a traditional DJ, but is able to chop and loop them. Once he has the track going, he layers his guitar on top, playing the soaring melodies that bring such a warm and uplifting energy to his music. San talks us through his special Kemper amp, which converts his guitar noise into something more akin to a synthesiser. It’s an interesting and informative show, and made all the better for the special treat of hearing San perform his incredible pieces live in the room.

Later that afternoon, we’re back at De Brakke Grond for a workshop with Scott Garcia on the production techniques behind his UKG classic, ‘It’s a London Thing’. Hosted by DJ Mag’s digital editor Rob McCallum, the session starts with Garcia in conversation about the making of the track and its legacy. He then quickly moves onto Logic Pro X, which is shown on the big screen to break down the stems to the track individually, talking through each layer, why it was used in the track, how they interact with each other to create bounce and energy, and the techniques used to make each sound the way it does. Garcia then demonstrates the sampling technique used on the drum track, taking a section of an old funk record, time stretching and then looping the section to create the basis of the drums, before demonstrating the vocal chopping effect used on ‘It’s a London Thing’, which he explains was largely inspired by the technique used on Armand Van Helden’s ‘The Funk Phenomena’.

Each year at ADE, DJ Mag hosts a party headlined by our October cover star, which this year is UK DJ and producer (and now live act), Daniel Avery. Taking place at the brilliant new club space Lovelee, just across the road from Melkweg, the event opens with an initial warm-up by London Italo disco devotee The Real Escobar, before Gabrielle Kwarteng begins to really get the crowd going. The New Yorker, who’s a regular on The Lot Radio, has become a hot ticket in Europe too in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Progressing from the soulful sway of ‘Get On Up (MadmanMix)’ by Total Ka-os, into tougher, chunky rhythms like the Truncate remix of Dense & Pika’s ‘Casino’ and Mark Broom’s thumping ‘King’, it’s a perfect display of how to build energy with premium-quality house music.

Kwarteng is followed by Daniel Avery. The Londoner’s new album ‘Ultra Truth’ is a stunning, cinematic work that merges techno, drum & bass, and breathtaking sound design amongst other things, and he starts his set with the delicate and emotive keystrokes of the LP’s opener, ‘New Faith’. Having reset the mood, the peace is quickly shattered by the eruption of full-throttle techno — no messing about here, Avery means business. He pushes on hard with thundering 4/4: another Truncate remix, this time of Planetary Assault Systems’ ‘Devotion’ comes searing through the sound system; the globular synths of Yan Cook’s ‘Silk’ bring a futuristic funk to proceedings; the ‘Perc vs EAS Mix’ of Perc’s ‘Dirt’ rips filthy acid through the crowd. Winding down with the cosmic bubbling of No Moon’s ‘Vegetarian at the BBQ’, Avery’s lively set comes to a close, sending punters out into the night ahead on a high.

MP
Minimal Presence

It’s 6:45am on Sunday morning at ADE, and London label, party and collective FUSE’s boss Enzo Siragusa has almost finished his three-hour set. Amsterdam club Bret, constructed from a Jenga-like tower of red shipping containers adorned with plants, is packed to capacity. A purveyor of minimal sounds — house, garage and tech — Siragusa is used to controlling the energy of a dancefloor with pared-back beats and rolling basslines, and the crowd aren’t ready to stop as the music slowly cuts a few minutes past 7am, the DJ bowing out to an eruption of whistles and applause.

FUSE are just one of the minimal-leaning crews that have been present at this year’s ADE, with label mates and guests like Margaret Dygas, Chris Stussy, tINI, Dyed Soundorom, Toman, Rich NxT, Spokenn and Alexia Glensy joining them across the weekend. “It’s great that the more minimal and deeper side of things has its place in the programme and is represented so well,” Siragusa says, after taking a few days to decompress from the busy Dutch festival. “To be honest, I feel ADE has become a really important occasion for our little pocket of the scene. I definitely get a lot of inspiration from it. I also think it’s played an important part in influencing the house sound coming out of Holland at the moment, which is going from strength to strength globally.”

One of the DJs at the forefront of that wave of Dutch talent is Chris Stussy. The Up The Stuss label boss is a regular face at parties like FUSE, Solid Grooves and Paradise. On Thursday at Thuishaven, he’s hosting Chris Stussy & Friends across the day and night, bringing the likes of Locklead, HotSince 82, Mandar, Nachtbreaker and Lola Palmer to the 15-hour marathon.

Comparable only to Pinocchio’s Treasure Island, Thuishaven is a labyrinth of circus tents, faux air-raid shelters and fire pits, surrounded by surreal installations and fantastical sculptures — the perfect backdrop for Stussy & Friends. Not scared of exploring the house boundaries, Stussy takes over from Mandar (LazareHoche, S.A.M. and Malin Genie) to deliver a particularly stand-out moment in the frenzied circus tent with an edit of DJ Dove’s ‘Illusions’. Sweat is quite literally dripping from the ceiling, and the crowd are embracing every moment of rave bliss. “It’s great to see the natural growth of our scene each year, and I feel ADE is a resemblance of how many talented artists there actually are,” Stussy says after the event. “I always get so much inspiration after hearing a week of great music, and this year was no different. I feel the presence is there, and people come from all over the world to see their favourite artists.“

The same day, Animal Crossing takes over the air raid Shelter at Thuishaven with Polish-born selector Margaret Dygas, PACH and The Ghost. PACH, the rising Manchester-based DJ and producer making waves across the minimal scene, has a preference for deep Romanian cuts and wonky basslines exported from the UK scene and beyond, and he works the crowd expertly, keeping the dancefloor simmering just below boiling point. “I think Amsterdam is such a good fit for this sound because the clubs are just some of the best, with some of the best sound systems in the world,” PACH tells DJ Mag. It’s his first time playing for the Crossing crew, and his first ADE, and it’s given him a chance to explore as both a DJ and as a lover of stripped-back grooves. “Some days we are definitely spoilt for choice for which parties to attend.”

As the end of the weekend rolls around, two of Romania’s finest, Rhadoo and Raresh, are slated for VBX x Sunrise at Amsterdam’s Lofi. Before that, Reiss, who also DJs alongside Ferro as Spokenn, and Doudou MD are playing B2B, before an ADE highlight in the form of a live set from Ion Ludwig. Lofi’s basic interior is decorated with minimal dance throughout ADE, and in terms of delivering an authentic party, it’s on par with the likes of Berlin and Romania. Slapfunk and VBX’s DoudouMD thinks the focus on the music is what’s helping to grow the scene in Amsterdam. “Berlin and Romania are the best, but I’m sure it’s there in most of the other Eastern European cities too. It’s more natural to have longer club nights, less shiny importance, and the culture means the crowd have the patience to build up with and continue in a journey along the event,” she says. “Amsterdam has been evolving a lot the last few years, and I’m proud to say we’re having crowds at the moment with a more open and receptive ear.”

Elsewhere across the weekend, VBX and Slapfunk hold a 12-hour party featuring Apollonia’s Dyed Soundorom, Reiss and the PIV-affiliated Silverlining. There’s parties featuring Sunwaves favourite Dan Andrei, Patrik Klein and Samuel Rohrer, plus appearances from Chris Stussy at Paradise and Solid Grooves at NDSM’s mammoth warehouse complex, alongside others who favour the minimal sound, like Grooves co-founder PAWSA and FUSE favourite Rossko. FUSE’s Rich NxT puts it best, talking about how late nights that turn into hazy mornings, and Amsterdam’s world-renowned venues, are providing a welcome backdrop for the minimal sound and its marathon-loving crowds, simply by curating the right environment and allowing the promoters and artists artistic licence. “There’s honestly good minimal crowds all over the world,” he says.“You just need the right soundsystem, the right lighting and the right crowd to make it work.”

he.she.they
Tough Love

He.She.They is so much more than a record label and event series. It’s a worldview, a free-thinking, inclusive space that puts its politics into practice, inviting people of all races, ages, genders and abilities into its fold. And nowhere is this more clear than on its dancefloor. After a successful season at Ibiza’s Amnesia, the White Isle’s oldest superclub, the queer party heads to Shelter Amsterdam for ADE — and the result is a pulsating clubnight for the ages.  

He.She.They events tend to lean in one of two directions — some promise a warm bubble and bounce, others a gruelling four-four. Thursday night’s party is most definitely the latter, an eight-hour, heady and hard-edged line-up. New York’s Juliana Huxtable hits the ground running in the early hours. The He.She.They regular, known for her bewitching, high-energy sets, plays sweltering four-four before handing over to Rashaad Glasgow, better known as LSDXOXO, sometime after 2AM. The Berlin-based producer, famed for his sexy club-ready cuts, offers a little levity via tracks like Spiller’s ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’ and M.I.A.’s ‘World Town’, before diving back in with his 2021 killer cut ‘The Devil’. Things get darker still with acid techno queen Dr. Rubenstein, who takes the dancefloor into harder terrain still, before Detroit legend DJ Bone pushes revellers through into the early morning.  

Sasha
Sasha's music and visual art multiverse

Sasha has long been at the forefront of electronic music, and it somehow seems fitting that he rounds off his third decade of infamy with a Web3 initiative. We stumble across The Man Like in an art gallery round the corner from the Felix Meritis, after a tip-off from friend of DJ Mag, Renske van Kollenburk, AKA techno DJ Sairen. Once inside, Sasha is DJing by the front window to a close-up, intimate crowd, while out the back there’s an exhibition of the work specially created to mark 10 years of Sasha’s excellent underground record label.

“I thought about doing a remix project to celebrate the 10 years of Last Night On Earth, but we kind of did that a couple of years ago to celebrate the 100th release,” Sasha tells DJ Mag, when we catch up with him in the gallery after his set. He’d been playing tracks from the just-released LNOE comp, which consists of 10 artist collabs he’s done in recent times. Alongside hook-ups with more established electronic artists like Alex Banks and D&B don Photek, he’s sought out top newer talent like Qrion, Mr Sosa, Pumarosa and lau.ra to work with. But that’s only the half of it. These tracks have then been reinterpreted by 10 artists into the ever-morphing digital artworks that adorn the walls of the gallery, all of which go on sale as NFTs later that night at ADE. Coming a year after his ‘LUZoSCURA’ digital art collection, it’s another innovative project from an artist who shows no sign of slowing down — or selling out.  

The next day, we follow Sasha to Amsterdam’s Het Sieraad venue, an old school, for the latter part of his extended eight-hour B2B sesh with Patrice Bäumel. The locked-in crowd appear to have been with the pair for much of the long journey — from modular prog to ethereal breakbeat — and go ape when Sasha initiates a rare outing for his classic ‘Xpander’ track near the end.

PRSPCT
Hard to the Core

Thrasher’s PRSPCT label celebrates 20 years of pushing hard electronic sounds at this year’s ADE, with a double whammy of parties and the first-ever PRSPCT conference at former-squat turned not-for-profit community space OT301. The label boss has built a close-knit family of artists who operate at the murky outer rim of drum & bass and hardcore and a fanbase who are loyal to the end. Thursday night sees Slave To Society, AKA Andrew Bowen, FKA the A from AnD, show off his incredible solo live set, which strafes from a thundering doom metal-esque plod to dystopian techstep and finishes with a cacophony of clattering breakcore. He’s followed by Deathmachine, whose 2021 album ‘Mutability’ is a masterclass in blurring genre boundaries and a testament to the artistic freedom Thrasher strives to encourage as a label boss. While his closing set is understandably more dancefloor-driven, this only serves to reinforce the Brit’s clearly wide-ranging capabilities. 

Friday sees the conference debut with two panels; the first is on the evolution of drum & bass and hardcore — which sees Thunderdome signee Ophidian speak particularly eloquently on the extreme sub-categorisation of hardcore — before MC Dart, Adi-J and others discuss diversity in the scene for the second. Later, UK hardcore techno don The DJ Producer unleashes hell in the form of several gazillion kick drums, Doormouse delivers a raucous live set, peppered with his irreverent humour, before giving a heartfelt thanks to the PRSPCT crew for pulling him out of retirement, and Thrasher rounds off the two-dayer with beautiful breakbeat-fuelled savagery. 

Tribes
A LANDMARK EVENT

Tribes is a collaboration between Rotterdam’s Cloud 8 and Amsterdam’s Ziongate, two party series leading the way in African electronic music. Held at the historic Paradiso, a multiroom cultural palace dating back over 50 years, it’s a watershed moment for the scene. Promoters and many of the DJs on the line-up have been building towards a night like this for a while, nurturing small but regular events in their respective cities. As Cincity, Cloud 8 head honcho, tells DJ Mag when the party is getting into full swing: “For us, it's really important that this is happening now and that we are doing this event in this venue,  on a Friday. That's huge.” 

Tribes begins with a sage cleansing ritual and a soothing set from Waxfiend in the upstairs room, followed by rising amapiano DJ Antunes. Down in the basement, local DJs Max Hartwig, Oishi and Doulou offer up deep Afro riddims for a sweltering crowd. 

Boddhi Satva brings a warm, ancestral house sound to the main room, carving out rich, organic percussion for an enchanted crowd. As he hands over to Philou Louzolo, what’s clear is the undeniable energy of the space, the willingness of people — men, women and everyone in between — to really get down and dance. Louzolo has been blending all the African electronic sounds and scenes for some time now — Afro-house, Afro-tech, Afrobeats, amapiano, you name it — but it’s the amapiano portion of his set that sends the dancefloor into overdrive. As in the UK, the South African music genre has blown up in the Netherlands, attracting a new wave of artists and energy to the scene. 

ialt
IT’S A GARAGE THING

On the Friday night of ADE, Amsterdam party That Garage Sound celebrates 25 years of Scott Garcia’s UKG classic, ‘It’s a London Thing’, with a party at Kopstootbar. The event, with a line-up topped by Garcia, hosts artists from across Europe who have been pushing the genre forward in recent years. Berlin-based DJ TMSN, who runs the Operate UKG party, plays a raucous set laced with subbier cuts and speed garage as a warm-up. Elsewhere, UK-based Shuffle ‘n’ Swing, the founder of the UKG community, collective and imprint of the same name, and Earful of Wax spin alongside That Garage Sound residents Xamount, Michael Pieterse and Paul Nonnis. 

The night, perhaps predictably, peaks when Garcia drops ‘It’s A London Thing’, as well as during a mass sing-along to Pj Bridger’s refix of Whitney Houston’s ‘It’s Not Right But It’s OK’, which the packed-out crowd on the dancefloor sing the chorus to with arms aloft. “There’s not a lot of actual UKG nights going on during ADE usually,” explains That Garage Sound resident Xamount when asked about the huge reaction. “There might be DJs playing UKG sets here and there, but not really full-blown UKG nights like ours. So if people [are] looking for UKG during ADE, they usually find us.” 

The trio behind That Garage Sound started the event in 2014, and run quarterly parties in Amsterdam, but are best known to most for their annual ADE shindig, which has seen a long-running relationship with Garcia that started five years ago. Michael Pieterse runs the Rain or Shine label, while Xamount has put out music on Puresa records, SHAG and DNR. All three are part of a cultural exchange with the artists they’ve booked for the party at ADE, one that sees them head out to play Operate UKG in December. 

The party tonight is rammed from opening its doors at 11pm, right through to close. “We try and add something special to the ADE events as they are also our chance to show the dance music community UKG is still here,” Xamount smiles after the party. “Madness, vibes and a bit of chaos is what sums it up best. You can tell by the atmosphere in the booth as well — it was a golden touch as everyone brought their own vibe with them and just absolutely shelled it.

“I think the scene is slowly spreading again, but this time it’s more sustainable though,” he continues. “Because of the internet [and] social media, it’s become much more of a global scene than back in the ’90s. Producers from Europe, Asia and the US can just reach out to artists and labels and send their music. It’s all become a lot more accessible. There’s so [many] more opportunities now and people are just embracing it, grabbing their chance and expressing their love for this amazing genre by making really good garage music.” 

Xamount says the garage scene is starting to boom again in Holland, thanks largely to a number of parties like Speedfreax, Pardon, Six.6, Decoy and Face Amsterdam, as well as That Garage Sound. “The scene is definitely coming up again,” he explains. “Back in garage’s golden age the sound already had a strong following over here, and after a quiet few years we’re following the UK’s example again, it seems. There’s now a whole new group of kids discovering it and that’s awesome... Together we’re building this thing up again!” 

Rotterdam’s DJ Crisps is perhaps the biggest export of the artists from Holland currently making garage, with releases on labels including Bristol UKG imprint Time Is Now, Riz La Teef’s South London Pressing and Dr Dubplate’s ec2a, as well as a busy tour diary. Jeftuz is a Groningen-based DJ who has built a big following online — particularly thanks to his UKG flips of rap and R&B tracks — and regularly plays to big crowds. Elsewhere, Amsterdam-based producer Mar’One has seen release on Garage Shred and started touring across Europe, while Speedfreax resident and founder G-Double-E also hosts a stage at Amsterdam’s Valtifest. “I guess in a way our cities have the same melting pot [of] cultures as in the UK. Most of us grew up with different musical influences from rave to dancehall, house to hip-hop, rock to R&B to reggae. So when something comes along that has a little bit of everything in it, we tend to like that. It’s about basslines. It’s about vocals. It’s about energy. All elements that we love just as much as our neighbours in the UK do.” 

Sound
Sound Matters

Despite the changing face of Amsterdam clubbing — a number of venues that closed their doors due to the pandemic have made way for an influx of new spaces — one constant that remains is the impeccable sound at rave spaces across the city. “Amsterdam has been a front runner in audio design because of the specialists working in my field of work,” explains Lofi Amsterdam’s technical producer Kevin Govaerts. “There are many colleagues that have a real passion in sound, and this reflects to the dancefloor.” 

Govaerts designed the sound for the space — which is delivered by a Funktion-One system that includes six Evolution 7, two Evolution 6, two R3EH, two Resolution 2 speakers and nine F221 Subs — that hosts parties by local heroes Rush Hour, Ratherlost, Strangelove and ADE minimal institution VBX across five days (and nights) of programming. The system ensures that the club — which incorporates a huge open dancefloor, a large area behind the DJ booth packed with dancers, a bar area and a raised platform down one side — has absolutely no dead spots for sound, and meticulous delivery across the frequency spectrum throughout. 

“As the technical producer of Lofi, I want my audience to experience sound [as] it’s meant to be,” Govaerts explains following the club’s Rush Hour party, where Palms Trax pushes the system to a capacity crowd. “A full and immersive sound that emotes and takes you like a big wave. As my origin as a sound technician lies in the free party scene where I learnt to be DIY, there are no concessions in what I want to present to our visitors and artists.” 

Doka, a sound bar underneath Amsterdam’s Volkshotel that celebrates its 10th anniversary next year, is one of the city’s undersung venues. You might think that a club in the basement of a hotel would be an afterthought, or a gimmick, but its four-point Danely soundsystem delivers an audiophile experience in an intimate space that puts the sound front and centre of the experience. Toi Toi Musik hosts a label night at Doka on ADE’s first night, with a series of sets from Margaret Dygas, Rhadoo and Samuel Rohrer (live), who all play music slightly left of what their usual club explorations might entail. The result are sets that expose the sonic range of the four SH50 full-range loudspeakers and two TH118 subwoofers. 

Systems across the city range from the towering festival-like rigs of Awakenings at Gashouder and Circoloco x Loveland at Mediahaven, through to more intimate spaces like Shelter, pop-up parties like Young Marco’s renowned Safe Grill at the Skatecafe, and even spaces outside of the usual club format like Kopstootbar, which has its bottom-end tested by the celebratory That Garage Sound party. “We have a healthy competitive market in the club scene where each and every club tries to be the best in what they offer,” explains Govaerts, summing up exactly why the sound at venues in Amsterdam is largely unrivalled on the same scale across other cities. 

Photo Credit: ADE, Mike Portlock, LIFE △FTER LIFE, Jesse Wensing, Konstantin Sonnenkind, Niels Freidel