Whether industry hack, diehard dance fan or something in between, there's little doubt that Amsterdam Dance Event is a must-do. Kicking off every October in the pristine Dutch capital, ADE celebrated its 20th year in 2015, touting their biggest and best programme yet.
Industry bigwigs turned out in droves over the seven-day event, as did swarms of devoted clubbers from all over Europe, enticed by ADE's whopping line-ups from the worlds of house and techno, plus trance, d&b, hardstyle and more. DJ Mag, once again, tripped out to Amsterdam to soak up the best of what ADE had to offer, plus throw a couple of parties of our own.
Most importantly (or perhaps controversially), DJ Mag hosted our annual Top 100 DJs event on Friday night, where we announced the Top 10 in front of a 35,000-strong crowd, eventually crowning Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike as 2015’s No.1 DJ act. More of that later.
Aside from the insane club-nights on offer, one of the best things about ADE is the panels. The pull of the industry-focused event brings out dance music's best and brightest to have their say each year, plus there's also a raft of kit demonstrations, debates and round table discussions.
As DJ Mag arrives on a dreary Wednesday afternoon, we quickly leg it straight to the centre of the action: The Felix — the famed conference centre that sits majestically aside a glistening canal. As usual, there's a huge crowd outside the building attracting attention, as accents from all around the globe ripple gently through the waiting throng.
There's no time to stop and chat, (we spot EDM DJ Dannic, radio host B.Traits and MIDI inventor Dave Smith as we push our way through the crowd), as we're off to catch one of the most important panels of the week — AFEM Presents: Protect The Dancefloor.
The first of two panels moderated by the UK's Mark Lawrence (AFEM CEO) at ADE, the hour-long talk addresses the issue of club closures worldwide and how lobbying and legislation reform can help to prevent the annihilation of grassroots venues. Amsterdam's Mirik Milan is the most talkative of the panel, as he discusses the success of the city's Night Mayor Program — a position that he's personally held down for the past few years with strong results.
Lutz Leichsenring, from Berlin's Clubcommision, talks about the steps the German capital is taking to protect its iconic venues, including progressive licensing strategies and forward-thinking drug policies.
Alan Miller, from London's Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), represents London on the panel, openly backing the appointment of an Amsterdam-style Night Mayor in the UK capital, whilst lambasting the current government's treatment of London's profitable and historic night-time economy.
But it's not only doom and gloom on the ADE panels. The most eclectic of talks centres around the unveiling of a new waxwork at the Amsterdam branch of Madame Tussauds — “Can you believe Dutch DJ Afrojack is being immortalised in wax as we speak?” we hear someone in The Felix lobby whisper, with a slight smirk.
Then there's the Sound Speakers series that invites DJs including Don Diablo, Armin Van Buuren and Wildstylez to chat about their influences and career, topped off by a talk with DJ Mag's ADE cover star and legendary Dutch DJ, Chuckie.
Following the Protect The Dancefloor panel, we rush back to our hotel to get ready for DJ Mag's first live stream of the week — Andrea Oliva and his ANTS crew are set to spin all afternoon at local techno haunt, NOVA. Finding fame as the resident of the ANTS party at Ushuaia in Ibiza, Andrea Oliva doesn't disappoint, bringing along pals Secondcity and Tapesh to join him behind the decks.
Next up, we jet off to present Richie Hawtin with his Top 100 DJs award, as he can't make the party on Friday. The ENTER. founder and Minus boss has nabbed the gong for Highest Techno DJ in this year's poll.
It's an accolade usually awarded to Space resident and UK hero Carl Cox, but with Hawtin's popularity booming Stateside over the last 12 months (thanks partly to his university-targeted tech demonstration tour, CNTRL), it's no surprise he's pipped Carl at the post.
When we wake on Thursday morning it's still bucketing down with rain, as we trek from our apartment to meet this year's No.1 DJs at NOVA. Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike are all smiles and friendly hugs as they arrive, then immediately sit down for a chat with BBC Radio 1's Danny Howard about their win (interviews are being recorded in advance of Fridays awards).
We catch up for our own interview with the popular duo shortly after, who tell us they're still working on their debut LP and that they “want to do something that's different... something that's memorable” for their fans. They're whisked away as quickly as they arrived, but we're assured we'll get to catch up again at the Top100 DJs party at the Amsterdam ArenA tomorrow night, when their win will be officially announced to the world.
Thursday night offers up a huge selection of events to attend, including Claptone's album launch party that's kicking off in the penthouse bar of the W Hotel. It's a who's who of the industry on the dancefloor, as we rub shoulders with Josh Butler, Bontan and Mark Knight, plus the crews from Exploited, Mobilee and Different.
A few too many glasses of Veuve Clicquot later and we run into Chris Liebing on the street — he's friendly, charming and full of insight about the week so far. He quickly rushes off to play a secret basement party for techno's European elite, as we chomp down on an emergency portion of pommes frites with extra mayo.
We make a quick pitstop to check out the final moments of DJ Mag's Live Stream at NOVA, making it just in time to catch the end of UK techno king Dave Clarke's nosebleed set. Next, we bundle into a cab with the rest of the DJ Mag crew and we're soon on the way to DIYnamic's annual ADE showcase, kicking off at mammoth nightclub Loveland on the outskirts of the city.
It's an epic walk through an industrial wasteland to reach the club's enormous entry, as we narrowly avoid deep puddles of mud in the eery dark. Once inside, the club's cavernous hall is a perfect match for the Hamburg-based label's booming tech-house aesthetic as we dance to the sounds of Solomun until the sun comes up.
We wake up on Friday with a throbbing head and aching calves — time for a hearty breakfast and a (very) strong expresso. Luckily, the Native Instruments kitchen is on hand to help — they've been serving up free breakfasts to hungry ADE attendees all week long. We nosh on fresh croissants and bowls of fruit salad as we play with NI's impressive STEMS set-up, while we attempt to mix two tracks together with questionable dexterity.
There's stacks on at ADE today, but for the DJ Mag crew Friday is all about The Top 100 DJs awards up at the Amsterdam ArenA on the outskirts of the city. The home of Ajax football club has been turned into a temple of EDM for the weekend. The Top 100 DJs awards is the centrepiece of the Amsterdam Music Festival, the two-day event at this enormo-drome, and the countdown is well underway on the big screens when we finally manage to get into the stadium.
As former four-times winner Armin van Buuren comes to the end of his set, the countdown becomes more animated — a snippet of tracks by each of the DJs (Steve Aoki No.10, Skrillex No.9 etc) accompanies each reveal, with the crowd cheering and dancing along to each excerpt.
When the countdown gets to No.3 — all in front of 30,000 clubbers, remember — Don Diablo comes on to be presented with the Highest Climber award and then Martin Garrix is presented with the No.3 award. “Amsterdam, thank you so f***ing much!” he shouts from the stage.
Armin comes back on, grabs the mic and reminds the crowd that he first entered the Top 100 DJs list in 2002 — when Garrix was six. He then opens the envelope and reveals that the No.2 DJ in the world is... Hardwell. This means that Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike are the new No.1s, and they rise up out of the stage to claim the coveted prize. DV&LM thank everyone and then proceed to rock the arena to its core with their entertaining high-octane set.
The Belgian Thivaios brothers then head off to NOVA for the after-party, but DJ Mag catches a cab to the RAMsterdam bash first of all. Drum & bass is well represented at ADE this year, with Hospitality the night before rocking the Paradiso and Noisia rocking up to the Melkweg on the Saturday with assorted invited guests.
When we finally located the Tolhuistuin venue — after strolling around a building site for a while — we're soon hanging with Ram bossman Andy C and joking with him about re-entering the Top 100 DJs poll again. Andy's quickly on the decks, smashing the granny out of the place, and back stage we start larking about with Pav from Foreign Beggars, Chris Goss from Hospital, singer Ayah Marar and her mad boyfriend Mark — literally the funniest person we've ever met.
After fun and frolics during Calyx & TeeBee's set too, we head off back into the city centre to got to Dave Clarke's annual bash. But when we arrive at Melkweg, the Baron Of Techno himself is leaving by the main door. After a quick chat with the techno overlord we decide to check the Boys Noize party at Paradiso instead — Felix Da Housecat, Miss Kittin, Skream and 2ManyDJs are on the bill, as well as My Boys Noize himself.
However, we have difficulties getting in, so zip round the corner to Nova to check on the state of the Top 100 after-party. Some of the DJ Mag crew are still going strong, and regale us with tales of what Dimi & Mike were up to in this intimate venue...
Saturday. Ouch. Most of the DJ Mag crew wake up in various states of disrepair all over Amsterdam, as do assorted DJs such as Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano, Ferry Corsten, W&W, Nervo, DV&LM, Markus Schulz and Aly & Fila. The whole lot — as well as much of the other Brit ADE crew — begin the wearisome journey over to Blighty, arriving at the O2 Academy in Brixton for the London Top 100 DJs party.
By ten o'clock, the place is heaving. Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano are first out of the blocks, moving away from the distinctive boomy tech house of their Escape Amsterdam residency and into a more riser-driven, drop-focussed EDM set, all lit by strobes and hot red stage lights.
Come 11.30pm and the crowd are already sweat-drenched, rammed up against the barriers as trancemeister Ferry Corsten adds an injection of trance, channeling a Top 100 DJs yesteryear vibe.
W&W are the first of the straight-up EDM slots, with a set mostly dictated by fire, microphone and the pair of them doing more jumping than a boxer with a speed rope. Nervo then jump onstage to mash up a selection of their own latest productions and some of the year’s now-considered-classic EDM tracks.
Come 1.30am there’s a hushed silence across the venue. DV&LM, the world’s current best and consequently at this moment hungover DJs, crouch behind the decks. And then they’re off. Like Mike up and standing on the decks in one movement, yelling into the mic, and Dimitri Vegas opening on a drop — with fire, smoke and glitter everywhere. Dimitri Vegas calmly walks to the front and hoses the crowd with a smoke cannon.
Then, in an epic one hour, seemingly ceaseless onslaught featuring more fire than Pompeii and more drops than a motocross course, it’s all over. DV&LM pose for a venue-sized photo. The crowd are all hands in the air. Into this an entirely bewildered Markus Schulz steps in, playing an unforgiving trance workout, complete with visuals that include lyrics.
A sea of 'We Love You Markus' t-shirts appear as the crowd shift up, younger elements leaving, older elements now pushed to the front. The process is taken further an hour later, when what was once 19-year-olds jumping around to DV&LM and fire cannons has become a late 30s crowd furiously head-banging to Aly & Fila.
It’s a fitting end to this year’s Top 100 DJs poll parties — proof that there is depth to the list. In its own odd way, it remains perhaps one of the most inclusive parts of dance music. Love it or loathe it, we’re all in our own way linked to it.