September 23, 2014

Amsterdam Dance Event Report: Techno Talk & Talkin’ Tech

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Afrojack & Friends at Air. © Declan O'Driscoll

Afrojack & Friends at Air. © Declan O'Driscoll

Amsterdam—Still grey and dreary here in Holland, but Days 2 thru 4 at ADE saw plenty of partying and seminar paneling. We did our best to do a bit of both. (Somebody’s gotta do the job, right?)

On Thursday, I joined Declan O’Driscoll (from Canada’s BPM TV) at the Air club in Rembrandtplein for Afrojack’s 2 a.m. set. What was it like? Off the hook—and yes, that was Paris Hilton up there, playing booth cheerleader.

With stadium-style bleachers beyond the main dancefloor, the gig really did play out more like a sporting event than what we usually see in clubland. As Afrojack dropped bomb after bomb of vocal hits like “Take Over Control” and his mix of David Guetta’s “Sexy Bitch,” the tightly packed, overly local crowd raised their glasses, hugged each other and sang every word. Afrojack responded with cold blasts from a CO2 gun. Madhouse from beginning to end.

On Friday’s exhaustively titled “Does Mixing No Longer Matter? Push the (Sync) Button—Yes or No?” panel, reps from Native Instruments, Pioneer DJ and Serato sparred with DJ/panelists and audience members about the Sync Button, which has made auto-mixing a much-debated element of modern DJ gear.

Perhaps an audience member put it best: “Most of the people on the dancefloor don’t care what you’re doing in the booth; only the people in here—the other DJs and trainspotters—are keeping score with who’s mixing and who isn’t.”

Moderator Dave Clarke, a renowned techno jock, let out a sigh and said, “One hates to admit it, but perhaps we’re too precious about this matter and ‘the purity of DJing,’ because in five years’ time we’ll be past this one and debating about something else.” Right on, Mr. Clarke.

Later on during the “How to Crack America” panel—moderated by DJ Times’ Emily Tan—plenty of tips were distributed about the procurement of visas, the wisdom of social networking, and the direction of the musical winds Stateside. Considering the rampant rise of dubstep—the American version, anyway—Michael Cohen (Tiësto’s co-manager at AM Only) quite succinctly offered a nod to the generation gap within EDM. “When you think about the kids playing something as aggressive as Skrillex,” he said, “their parents, many of whom grew up listening to hip hop, are going to be horrified—and that’s a good thing. That’s when you know the music has changed and a new generation has found its sound.”

Saturday night, it was back to Studio 80 for the 24 Hour Party People event where we caught German jocks Gregor Tresher and Karotte. Tresher’s taut minimalist techno grooves dropped a heavily hynotic vibe on the cozy, dark room, while Karotte kicked thicker, punchier grooves and offered up a few more rattling moments. Good stuff. Three cheers for the underground, and three cheers for ADE.

-Jim Tremayne