Autumn is a time of transition as the sweltering heat of summer tappers off, giving way to cooler days, longer nights, and for those of us blessed to be close enough to the land, a period of natural bounty. Alas, this past month has been quite magnanimous for Nightdrive and her fans. While SBTRKT, Thieves Like Us, and our Mission to Mars went off without a hitch, we still have that rag-tag cohort of digital psychonauts known as Azari and III to look forward to in the coming weeks!
In European news, Nightdrive was invited to attend Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), a leading EDM conference and music festival that is analogous to Winter Music Conference minus the good weather and inundated vibe associated with Ultra. And unlike our invitation to the epic failure that was Bloc Weekend, ADE week (Oct. 17- Oct. 21) was simply stupendous with over 1700 international acts and 350 showcases that attracted over 200,000 fans and 3,800 industry professionals from around the world. As Nightdrive’s official EU delegate that conveniently lives less than 30 minutes away from Amsterdam, I took it upon myself to cover ADE. With a potential for 120 hours of continuous hedonistic debauchery ahead, your esteemed reporter had to be very choosey of which showcases to visit. I had to have a unwavering mettle, focusing on maximizing enjoyment while minimizing monetary costs and bodily harm. In the end ADE proved to be a jovial gauntlet through dozens of crowded dance floors that would soon be generously coated with the blood, sweat, and tears of 200,000 ravenous raving lunatics surviving on a regimented diet of Belgian beer, lollipops, hand-rolled cigarettes and caches of drugs large enough to make even Charlie Sheen blush.
The story begins at the Felix Meritis, Amsterdam’s “temple of enlightenment” that also doubled as the Holy See of insanity for that week, where I retrieved my press credentials, an ADE Bible detailing every showcase and conference event, and a complimentary ADE backpack generously filled with pens, lighters, stickers, detox tinctures, and a copy of Mixmag. Though slightly bewildering at first, this random assortment of items would later prove to be quite handy. Seeing as it was a quiet Thursday afternoon without many festival events going on, I went to the nearby Dylan Hotel to check out CNTRL: Beyond EDM, a panel event discussing an up and coming music and technology tour across Canadian and US college campuses.
It was conceptualized by techno demigod Ritchie Hawtin and Loco Dice in an attempt to reintroduce (techno)logical music to the younger generation of American kids. The panel consisted of Dice, Ritchie, the indelible Seth Troxler, festival promoter Carlos Correal (Electric Daisy Carnival, Beyond Wonderland) and Matthew Adell, the wizard behind the Beatport digital store. The gist seemed to be that Skrillex and similarly loathed wubby-dubby miscreants have piqued the interest of American youth to EDM more than any other period in the past. Since America was the birth place of both house and techno, it seems fitting that it should be appreciated by a wider audience. All in all the panel was a convivial affair with colorful exchanges between the panel speakers, especially Seth and Carlos, who could not emphasize enough how the vast majority of popular music produced and listened to (Seth brought up Nikki ‘Mane-gee’, as he called it) is complete trash and that it was our duty as the vanguards of taste to make sure that more people listen to good music. Amen to that!
Later on in the night after about four solid hours of drinking whiskey-cokes I found myself in front of Trouw, a popular venue and one of the best clubs in the Netherlands. That night was an event called Colors, featuring Ben UFO and Pearson Sound of the Hessle Audio Crew downstairs and Maya Jane Coles and Jackmaster upstairs. Ben UFO (aka Ben Thompson) is someone I’ve been really getting into lately after listening to his mini-mix within Seth Troxler’s and Jamie Jones’s b2b set on BBC Radio 1 a few months back. Along with running the respected Hessle Audio record label, Thompson has been a rising star in the club scene based on his extraterrestrial-like skills on the decks, where he fusses seemingly unconnected styles of music to exquisite results. As I expected he thoroughly slaughtered the ears of those within his range of aural destruction, playing new jack swing with clever cuts of UK funky and 2-step garage. Upstairs Maya Jane Coles was flawless to say the least, concocting an atmosphere so vivacious that people were hanging from the ceiling like amphetamine-crazed bats, ripping their hair out of sheer excitement.
Friday for most festival-goers was spent in hibernation through the daylight hours, saving up what little energy and supplies they had for the seemingly perpetual twilight escapades. Since moving to the Netherlands I learned about local labels Rush Hour and Clone, two organizations who have cultivated a global fan base in the fields of house and techno. Trying to get a feel for the local music scene I went to a Rush Hour X Clone X Delsin showcase at Trouw, yet again, but to my dismay I was sorely disappointed. It may have been my massive hangover and exhaustion from the night before, but whatever it was the scene at Trouw that night was much more subdued and for a lack of a better word, generic. At about 3 AM I hopped on my omafiets (a dutch colloquialism that literally means grandma’s bike) and scurried across the city to catch the Dekmantel showcase that included heavy hitters from the UK bass scene like Joy Orbison, Julio Bashmore, Boddika and Space Dimension Controller. As a massive fanboy of most of these prolific producers my hopes were high but, sadly, the vibe was a little too intense for my liking. I walked into a room that emanated heat comparable to a blast furnace coupled with high gravity bass barrage >145 bpm. Feeling defeated, I retreated to a nearby bed with my tail between my legs and took all Saturday off to sleep, eat, and heal my haggard and tattered corporeal shell.
Sunday had numerous parties going on all night but I decided to change my routine and went to see Smallpeople and their Smallville Records showcase in the daytime. The party began at about 7 am on a very grey, wet, and cold morning. Feel reinvigorated and energized I found my resolve, hopped on my omafiets and road toward what would be my final stretch of ADE. Arriving at about noon, I found the crowd energy to be fun and playful as Julius Stienhoff and Dionne laid cut after cut of Marianas Trench deep house complimented by sky high levels of soul. I can say without a doubt that there was no better way to end the weekend than with these Hamburg-based masters.
The proximity of the venues in the village-like city of Amsterdam coupled with the professionalism of the venue staff, fans, and artists contributed to what I would call a resounding success for ADE. I only wish I had more time, energy, and money because there were simply too many high quality showcases to check out. I checked in with our friends over at NON Records who had their very own label night, where label boss Bear Damen, Palmbomen and Marius preformed brand new material to packed crowds. Thanks again to ADE for inviting us to cover their marvelous festival and hopefully, baring any major life-altering events, we will be able to cover again next year!
Posted by Laurence ‘Pucho’ Henriquez