Amsterdam Dance Event 2016: Five key performances

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  • Amsterdam becomes the centre of the dance music universe for one weekend every October, as RA's Will Lynch put it back in 2010. The rise of Poland's Unsound festival, held on the same weekend, has given fans of leftfield electronic music a sure-shot alternative, but the continued importance of Amsterdam Dance Event, AKA ADE, is indisputable. For five nights, you can walk into almost any of the city's 100-plus clubs and find a world-class selector at the controls, while well-attended daytime panels cover topics like sustainability, modular synths and corporate branding. More than 2,000 artists played during this year's ADE. They ranged from trance and EDM superstars like Armin Van Buuren and Tiësto, to just about every house and techno heavy-hitter around, from Maceo Plex (who spun for 2,000 people at the famous Rijksmuseum) to Dixon and Richie Hawtin. There's something for almost everyone, which might be the simple reason behind its success. There are charming DIY venues like BRET (a multi-story space constructed entirely from shipping containers) and cavernous clubs like RADION and De School‚ all with programmes to rival any club in any city in the world. Here are five key performances from this year's ADE.
    Vera Vera is an extraordinarily reliable DJ, which made her set on Thursday night the perfect way to start my ADE weekend. A cool, calm, collected selector with 20 years of experience, she's technically gifted with a keen ear for pacing and flow. At ADE, spinning for promoters VBX and Loud-Contact at BRET (on a lineup that also included Treatment and Francesco Del Garda), she was on typically strong form, mixing electro-tinged techno with occasional excursions into more loopy fare. Almost every track had a loud, complex bassline, which made the smoothness of each transition all the more impressive. She seemed in total control of the energy level and mood in the room, achieved via a combination of well-timed mixes and nuanced track selection. She let the intensity gradually rise and fall—something that's hard to do when playing such varied tunes. In Vera's hands, subtle tracks that would be warm-up records for other DJs became bombs. That's a sure sign of a great DJ.
    DVS1 A busy afterhours might be the best clubbing situation to walk into completely sober. Late in a session, there aren't many drunk people left, and anyone still around is probably there for the music. It's even better when whoever's playing adjusts their set to the situation. At Breakfast Club at RADION on Saturday afternoon, that DJ was DVS1. For a serious techno DJ he's got a surprisingly funky side, which really came through in this set. He hopped between house, techno and electro, offering up appropriately sentimental melodies and trippy atmospheres with almost every tune. There were plenty of melodic basslines (Kausto's Sudden Aphasia Mix of Terrence Dixon's "Return Of The Speaker People") and moody percussive bangers (XDB's edit of Aaron Carl's "Crucified"). Breakfast Club is one of Amsterdam's most-loved parties, and its two-part annual ADE special is one of the weekend's best-attended events. With sets like DVS1's, it's easy to see why.
    Slow Life Some say the most interesting music at a party comes at the beginning and the end. Someone like Nicolas Lutz playing the middle slot—which happened at Slow Life's showcase at BRET on Saturday—would make this theory redundant in most cases, but not when you sandwich him between house music's cheeriest crew. The Slow Life DJ trio of Cecilio (a Spaniard with the temperament of a monk), DJ Tree (a curly-haired Adam Sandler lookalike who plays some of the group's toughest tunes) and Laurine (an energetic Italian with mixing skills sharp enough to beatmatch a country song with a gabba record) were in top form over the weekend, serving up their usual bag of pad-heavy house and oddball techno, mostly drum-focussed but with plenty going on up above. During Slow Life's three-hour warm-up, spacey tunes like DJ Skull's "Bring It Home" laid the foundation for a night full of bombs. When the group returned to close the night a few hours later, they were perfectly in sync.
    Beautiful Swimmers Six minutes after 5 AM on Sunday morning, Andrew Field-Pickering (AKA Max D) raised a beer to the crowd as The Love Symphony Orchestra's "Let Me Be Your Fantasy" pumped out of the speakers in RADION's Room 2. The crowd cheered and whistled in response. It signalled the end of a consummate three-hour session from Field-Pickering and his Beautiful Swimmers partner, Ari Goldman. The DC duo were at their party-rocking best, rapidly working through tunes by Aardvarck, Outkast and Mark Seven's new one, "The Fatal Flaw in Disco." It was another reminder of Beautiful Swimmers' broad appeal—they dig deeply for their tunes, but they're never afraid to throw in a dollar-bin classic like Oliver Cheatham's "Get Down Saturday Night."
    Âme There are plenty of high-brow talks and panels to check out at ADE, but, at the end of the day, for most people it's about one thing: having a good time. As one of the bigger names to spin at De School's non-stop Saturday-through-Monday session, Âme's Kristian Beyer knows a little more than most about getting people to move their feet. He took a more populist route compared to most of the other acts I'd seen across the previous days, going heavy on melody and breakdowns during his 11 AM set—just as expected. At times, Beyer's big-room sound didn't seem to match De School's pitch-black interior and serious crowd, but it was a fun, easy-going way to round out an ADE stacked with killer DJ sets. Photo credits / Lead - Slow Life - Het Rijk Alleen Beautiful Swimmers - Isolde Woudstra Aaron Coultate contributed to this piece