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ADE 2009: 'Dam Fine!

Amsterdam becomes the world hotbed for dance music professionals and party people alike this month, as the ADE rolls into town...

Small but perfectly formed, Amsterdam is a constant hive of creative activity, a fertile breeding ground for new music and sounds. But this month the little city with the big heart reaches its zenith as DJs, producers, artists, music industry types and dance music fans all gather in the city for the annual Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE).

And this year the whispers floating along the canal-striped city, past the beautiful stucco-fronted 17th century buildings and shimmering in the crisp October air are of highlights like Laurent Garnier’s live show, Carl Craig’s live performance of his new score for the re-release of spook flick The Blair Witch Project and the unveiling of Sander Kleinenberg’s new production album.

“Mike Banks from Underground Resistance is also coming over to speak on a panel,” reveals Richard Zijlma, head honcho of ADE. “He never does this kind of thing and even his manager was surprised.”

Richard has been in charge since the first Amsterdam Dance Event took place in 1996. Back then the conference attracted just a few hundred music industry types. Now, 14 years later, ADE packs a punch as weighty as that of the annual Winter Music Conference, held in Miami, every March. And this year ADE will see over 2000 DJs, producers, songwriters, artists, dance bands and music industry types from all over the world converge on the beautiful city for the conference, from 21st – 24th October.

That figure counts official conference delegates only. In reality, hundreds of club nights that take place in the 60 or so venues dotted around Amsterdam across the four nights pull in crowds that stretch to hundreds of thousands. It’s a far cry from the first ADE when only three nightclubs in the city — Melkweg, Paradiso and Escape — were linked to the event.

“Amsterdam as a city has developed considerably in terms of home-spun dance music,” says Richard. “And I do think this has something to do with the international contacts that are made at the ADE every year.”

The significance of the ADE as a hothouse for global-scale dance music business has grown with the event. Armin Van Buuren signed his very first licensing deal at the ADE in the late 1990s. Tiësto also bagged his first licensing deal at the ADE in 1998, the year before the first wave of Dutch trance hit the UK. And Junkie XL is another Dutch star who gained a lot of contacts at the ADE which helped contribute to his future success.

Aside of the business, and just like with Miami and Ibiza, the Amsterdam Dance Event now prompts its own slew of compilation releases. As well as throwing “the mother of all parties” at ADE — at Panama, on Friday 23rd October — to celebrate Defected’s 10th birthday and affiliated label Strictly Rhythm’s 20th anniversary, Defected have just released their ‘Amsterdam 09’ compilation mixed by Dutch dance stars Chocolate Puma and Hardsoul.

“From a business point of view, ADE has definitely replaced Miami,” reckons Defected boss Simon Dunmore. “All of the players, all of the licensees, the repertoire owners and all of the DJs are in a conference centre, over three or four floors, so if you want to see anyone, the chances are you’re going to bump into them.”

And, for Simon, Amsterdam increasingly has something to offer when it comes to homemade new music. 

“The Dutch have always made good house music,” he says. “They were probably more renowned for gabba and trance back in the day, but certainly over the last four or five years there’s been a real emergence of quality house music being produced out of Holland. From Fedde Le Grand to Chocolate Puma and Hardsoul through to Erick E, Baggi Begovic and Laid Back Luke, I’d say it’s as prolific as anywhere else in the world for making quality house music at the moment.”

Another silver bullet in ADE’s arsenal this year is news that Sander Kleinenberg will be playing a preview of his new album for the first time at a special party linked to the conference.

“I released ‘This Is Our Night’ as a little teaser of what the album is going to sound like, but it’s actually more varied,” says Sander. “You’ll have to wait until the party [at Melkweg, on Saturday 24th October] to hear what it’s like and then it’s coming out on proper release in March.”

This year’s ADE, with its panels, parties, business deals and hobnobbing delegates is definitely the place where there really is something for every dance music fan, whatever flavour you’re into. And should you want to spend a few hours away from the dancefloor, the conference hall or high-powered meetings, all you have to do is hook a left at the nearest canal, take a slow wander and soak up the sights and sounds of one of the world’s finest cities.