Amsterdam Dance Event Part I

NETHERLANDS: Wandering between the myriad venues involved in the Amsterdam Dance Event prompted two recurring questions. The first being ‘Where am I right now?’ owing to the copy and pasted canals that I still couldn’t navigate properly by the final day. The second was ‘Why aren’t more festivals doing these sorts of things?’

Some of the ‘things’ in question included officially branded earplugs, a stop-motion workshop, gear playgrounds, and feedback sessions for amateur producers – all in addition to over 2,000 musical acts spread across the city’s historical clubs.

One of these clubs – Melkweg – hosted an interactive Art Arcade inside its gallery, a veritable Zen cave when juxtaposed against the incessant punctuation of kick drums coming from next door.

The most conspicuous of the Art Arcade’s installations was Chris Koolmees’ Spotter, which encouraged uninhibited attendees (Read: Not me) to get onstage and control sound and projected visuals through the medium of dance. Respect to those who dared to look ridiculous, because they really did look next level absurd.

Conceptualised from a fascination with kinetic controllers – and sadism, apparently – Adrian Wormgoor’s EMG Muscle Game required two players to cover themselves in nodes and flex their muscles to move geometric on-screen avatars. It’s the kind of entertainment you’d find amidst the haze of a cyberpunk den, full of script kiddies wearing unnecessary goggles and sentient holograms of anime girls. Which sounds awesome, but in that scenario I’d rather be chilling with transhuman honeydips than demonstrating my severe lack of muscle mass again.

In direct contrast to the strenuous exertion endemic to the EMG Muscle Game, Ard Jacobs’ Pillo Games was much more serene. With an aesthetic reminiscent of Bizarre Creations’ Geometry Wars, two players cooperate in a much more pleasant manner by slouching on a couch / beanbag and squeezing pillow controllers to hit targets and avoid obstacles. One pillow controlled the X-axis whilst the other controlled the – you guessed it – Y-axis. Perhaps after spending enough time in a nearby coffee shop it’d be possible to control the Z-axis.

Vera Tan Hoveling’s beautiful, non-interactive simulation ‘The Formal Absence Of Independence’ encapsulated evolving virtual inhabitants within glass pyramids. The shapes of said inhabitants warped and evolved through a process dubbed ‘genetic algorithms’. Hoveling determined the initial forms of the images beforehand, but their development required no further human input, producing entirely emergent results based on their ‘DNA’.

Check out a video preview of Hoveling’s piece below:

The formal absence of independence – preview from Vera Tan Hoveling on Vimeo.

On my way to the 18th annual ADE Demolition Panel – I bumped into Janneke Taanman and Andy Shiach from ACS, who spotted that I was wearing the official ADE x ACS earplugs they designed.

“These earplugs are unlike other products on the market in that they retain a modicum of fidelity,” said Shiach. “The frequency curve isn’t quite as responsive as our custom-made products, but for an all-purpose earplug you’ll still hear a relatively good amount of high frequencies whilst protecting your ears.

“People don’t take ear protection seriously enough,” continued Shiach. “It’s so easily avoidable, but there’s still a stigma attached to it. The main challenge for us is to make ear protection cool.”

“ACS’ main thing is making custom earplugs and in-ear monitors for artists such as U2, Lilly Allen, Tiesto, and the Prodigy,” added Taanman. “However we’re present at Glastonbury, Creamfields, Awakenings, Dance Valley and Tomorrowland, amongst others. We mainly work backstage, but we’re hoping that more festivals in the future will partner with us to promote officially branded earplugs. It’s important that more people protect their ears at gigs and festivals.”

After speaking with ACS I took a seat in the main conference room of the Felix Meritis hotel for the Demolition Panel – in which aspiring producers submit demos of their own work to be judged by a panel of music industry professionals. Hosted by DJ Dave Clarke, this year’s panel included such luminaries as DJ Gina Turner, Ed Karney, Mute Records founder Daniel Miller, and Soma Records Co-Founder David Clarke.

Demo Panel 1

Having submitted a demo of my own earlier in the day, I was pretty nervous, especially since every track played was a high-octane club banger and my music is the kind of stuff you listen to when it’s raining outside and you’re sat on Tinder in your knickers, looking for a connection with someone you know you’ll never find because you’re a 5/10 at best in the looks department and people tend to swipe left when your About Me includes the words ‘proud single mom’.

So after around eight tracks Dave Clarke announced that there was only time for one more. Invited onto the stage to pick the final demo out of a crate was the organiser of ADE, and he happened to pick up my CD.

Thoughts running through my head as the intro started playing included but were not limited to: The low end on this PA system is too hyped, my guitars could sound a little warmer, I wish I hadn’t bought coffee at that coffee shop and accidentally inhaled a large amount of second-hand weed smoke in the process, why are people looking at me, the judges definitely despise both the song and me on the basest possible level, and I should have made this track three minutes shorter so I could have committed Seppuku already.

Luckily when the ordeal was over the judges unanimously declared it the best track they’d heard all day and I won. Which was really neat. Amongst the prizes I received were tickets for ADE 2015, a Pioneer RMX 1000, a Novation Launch Pad XL, Ableton Live 9, Native Instruments Komplete, a Stadiumred mastering session, a bunch of ADE merch, and some FLOWERS. So thank you ADE, you made my year.

I'm on the right, pregnant with glee.
I’m on the right, pregnant with glee.

Check out the second part of our ADE coverage here.

Photo credits: Flickfeeder