- "London, are you listening and taking notes at the back there? Of course you're not!" Posted on September 14th, this was the top-rated comment on an RA news story announcing the opening of Amsterdam's newest nightclub, Shelter. In the ongoing conversation about saving London's nightlife, Amsterdam—joint with Berlin—is constantly held up as a beacon of best practice, an example of the wide-ranging social and economic benefits that come from open dialogues and progressive policies. In the past six months, while London mourned the loss of Dance Tunnel and fabric, Amsterdam added two more clubs to its already impressive portfolio: Claire, opened on the site of the former Studio 80, and Shelter.
Located beneath Amsterdam's A'DAM Tower, just a five-minute ferry ride from Centraal Station across the IJ river, Shelter is a new, purpose-built, 700-capacity club with a 24-hour license. A short walk away is the world-renowned EYE Film Institute Netherlands. The club opened its doors for two nights of test runs last weekend, gearing up to the official unveiling on Thursday, October 20th—the second night of ADE 2016. You enter down a steep flight of stairs, coming out into a spacious, dimly lit area that connects you to the only dance floor. Once you pull open the heavy-set doors, several things are immediately striking: the size of the space, the classy lighting, the stark, industrial aesthetic. Like De School or London's fabric, it felt clean but not clinical, with a warmth that only comes from great design. But then competition is fierce in Amsterdam, so the bar is set high.
The rectangular room is loosely separated into two zones: the square dance floor, which is framed by four Funktion-One speakers hanging from the corners, and the back bar area, where the music is less loud but still punchy and clear. As is popular these days, the floor-level booth sits separated from the wall, meaning punters can crowd the DJ from all angles. There's a raised platform behind, though no speakers point down at it, which was either an oversight or a subtle way of telling people to get onto the dance floor. In the sweet spots—just in front of the booth and a little further back and to the right—the sound was about as good as it gets, responding just as well to colourful soul jams as lean techno tracks like Bjarki's "I Wanna Go Bang."
Jackmaster was the night's host, supported by Moodymann and Tom Trago—three DJs especially well-versed in whipping up celebratory atmospheres. The Detroit star was on particularly good form, leading with timeless cuts by Jimi Hendrix, D'Angelo and MK before rolling out 90 minutes of gorgeous soulful house. That he didn't lean on his usual barrage of hits felt like a compliment to the crowd and the occasion. Next to him in the booth, Louie Vega and Joe Claussell looked on impressed—Claussell repeatedly clenched his jaw as if to say "damn!" Jackmaster and Trago followed with a back-to-back, dropping big room house cuts heavy on moments, like Trago's remix of Tiga VS Audion's "Fever." During both sets, I made a point of wandering throughout the space, testing the sound and mingling with the older, good-looking crowd. Maybe it was ADE (the weekend is still young and spirits are high), but the vibe was silly and jubilant, like all good housewarming parties should be. It was a fun, easy night, packed full of promise.