Were you one of the 400,000 participants of Amsterdam Dance Event 2019? The 24th annual event saw a record 146 countries represented from Wednesday to Sunday, Oct. 16 to 20. The event brought more than 600 industry professionals to hundreds of panels and rocked music fans with more than 1,000 events at 200 venues around the city. That attendance number is roughly half the population of the city, so suffice to say, it was a big week.
There's nothing quite like meeting with friends from all around the world to dance to almost any DJ you could imagine. It's also nice to learn how to break into the Chinese market from one of the guys who runs Tencent. It's even better when you can follow that experience with a trip to a Banksy exhibit or the Van Gogh Museum. Also, weed is legal.
Every moment of ADE 2019 was memorable. Some were good. Some were bad. Some were just OK. Mostly it was fantastic. Here are our picks for best and worst of ADE 2019.
Best: It's an International Gathering of Like-Minded Maniacs
German duo Modeselektor hit the nail on the head when it opened its Wednesday night live set with a patchwork of flags and the saying "One United Power." Dance music is truly an industry without borders. What started in New York and Chicago clubs has been embraced and recontentualized by ravers in China, Brazil, Berlin, Melbourne and more. The conference side of ADE collects the gathered intelligence and knowledge of executives, successful artists and other experts and makes it available for people at every level. Every dance floor hums with excited voices in a myriad of languages, and as cheesy as it may be, you get misty-eyed when sharing a dance floor with friends from all over the world who may otherwise find it hard to be in the same city, let alone the same room.
Best: Cheap Drinks
Us Americans who live in big cities are numb to sticker shock. Oh, you want $16 for a bottle of Heinekin? No problem. Amsterdam does not get down like that. Sit at any restaurant or bar and get a delicious pour of Belgian perfection for like €7. The culture shock hit hard when we found cups of beer being sold for as low as €3 a pop. Drinkers who held on to their plastic cups got a Euro off on each refill. You'd be hard-pressed to find something more than €8 on the menu, and you can drink Dutch tap water. Whoopee!
Worst: These Drinks Are Disgusting
Go into any random Amsterdam bar and order a "rum and coke" or a "whiskey ginger," and you'll be handed a deconstructed cocktail of spirit on ice with some lime wedges and a full bottle of pop. That's not too bad. You're no diva, but the pre-mixed cocktails at any of the ADE events we attended were barely potable. We're not sure what was going in these colorful concoctions, but it tasted like a lot of sugar with hints of ass. At one point, we gave up and asked for a shot, and were even more surprised to be handed a tiny bottle with a dancing duck on the label called Flugel. "Let the duck out," it nonsensically suggested, and once we were assured by the bartender we would not get diarrhea, we happily drank three of the alcoholic applejuice-esque thimbles. Locals have assured us this is a normal custom. It's still bizarre.
Best: See Literally Any Style of Dance Music at One of 1,000 Events
Who cares if the drinks suck when you can choose your own adventure with nearly ever damn DJ you've ever heard of? Want to see every big-room EDM set in one night? Tomorrowland brought over-the-top production and sets from Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Steve Aoki for a two night throwdown. Seth Troxler, Carl Craig, Damian Lazarus, The Martinez Brothers and more played a party, so you could hypnotize yourself with tech house for eight-straight hours. Need to dance under a circus tent to disco grooves from DJ Tennis and Axel Bowman, '90s house hits from DJ Seinfeld and dance-punk madness by 2manydjs in the same hour? Life & Death had you covered. Monstercat fed headbangers beats at Melkweg Thursday while San Holo's label Bitbird had kids getting all emotional in the room upstairs. The amount of options are absurd and honestly overwhelming. There was even a parade by local DJs too "underground" to be a part of the whole ADE thing. If you didn't find a set you liked all week, you're the asshole.
Best: Everything's a Club
Tchami and Malaa at a train stations. Boys Noize in a gothic museum lobby. Rufus Du Sol and Bonobo at a wharf dock. What So Not and about 100 other DJs in an old milk factories. If there's open space between walls -hey, even if there aren't walls – ADE can fit a dance floor on it. It's like traveling back in time and going to a real, clandestine rave, except it's all legal and there's security clearance and stuff. There's also plenty of lockers erected at each event, so you don't have to dance with your coat and bag. Extra bonus points!
Worst: Some People Were Pepper-Sprayed
Criminals know tourists are coming in extra heavy, and they take full advantage. Pick-pocketing was a real problem, and in worst cases, robbers used pepper spray on victims as a distraction. It happened at local hero Martin Garrix' massive show in what seemed to be pepper-spray area bombs. About 130 people were reportedly attacked at the 12,900-person venue. Garrix said he was "shocked" by the reports in a statement on Instagram, adding that he finds it "incomprehensible that there are people who do this kind of thing," and his team "is committed to ensuring the safety of all visitors." Definitely come with your game face on, and maybe put your valuables in those aforementioned, afforadable lockers.
Best: It's Not Just About the Parties & Panels
Electronic music is more multi-faceted than just drinks and dance floors. ADE's programming bled into museums, including a gallery exhibit of DJ portraits called DJ Faces by Jos Kottman. Local independent theater Lab 111 screened dance-culture films including 24 Hour Party People and Daft Punk's legendary animated film Interstella 5555. There were yoga classes each day, exhibits dedicated to old analog gear, a meditation pop-up and more. Armin van Buuren even had his own Escape Room set up to promote his single "Balance," and it's still going for a couple more weeks – if you happen to be in the area.
Worst: That Damn Tourist Trap
No matter what we did to avoid it, it kept coming back to that obnoxious city center with the Bulldog Palace, the Burger King and the row of cafes, all centered around the lovely collection of men's public pee-stations. There are a ton of restaurants and clubs in that area, and it's an easy place to go spend money if you're a tourist. It's just that it's also an awful outdoor mall, and all the neon in the world doesn't change the price-gouged, subpar offerings. Please, take advantage of the other parts of Amsterdam and try not to spend your entire weekend at the American Hotel bar. We have to say, though, it was pretty wild to watch police officers do balloons of nitrous gas with partiers next to that Burger King. That made all the screeching capitalism worth it.
Worst: It's over
Boo! Encore! (Just kidding, everyone must sleep for a month.)
Best: It's Coming Back
ADE is already looking forward to 2020 when it will celebrate its 25th-anniversary edition. Visit ADE online to learn more. See you next year.