How Did ADE 2021 Go Down?

Tall yellow flags inviting you to the city, electrifying music echoing on every corner, famous DJs roaming around the streets with a bag of weed in their hands. Amsterdam Dance Event is that time of the year when the Dutch capital turns into Ibiza – a Mecca for dance freaks. But how did the famous gathering go, after skipping a year and dealing with all the COVID regulations

The Dutch Covid Situation 

For the past 2 years, Dutch clubs and dance events were closed for the audience. Only online and seated types of events were allowed. There was also a short period during the summer of 2021 when visitors could attend non-seated outdoor concerts and festivals with proof of a negative COVID test or vaccine. During this time everyone hoped that the entertainment industry will go back to normal and ADE 2021 will happen. However, the spike in the number of tests suddenly led to a spike in the registered positive cases, turning the land of tulips into a red COVID area. In less than three weeks of fun, the strict restrictions were back, and dancing was once again forbidden. 

This didn’t stop the Dutch from partying. Many local organizers and event lovers hosted illegal events in the outskirts of the cities – in the woods, under bridges, next to highways, any place that was far from the direct sight of the authorities. Despite these limitations, everyone had hope that the biggest dance event of the year was still going to take place.

Unmute Us Protest in Amsterdam, Photo: Robert Oosterbroek

The prayers were answered in mid-September after a series of protests under the name Unmute Us demanding the re-opening of the festivals as soon as possible. At a weekly press conference held by the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte announced that festivals can start having visitors until midnight under the condition that they present proof of a negative COVID test or vaccine. It was now official that the show will go on. 

ADE Event Landscape

The accumulated collective need for partying and the government’s way of handling COVID determined the nature of the whole ADE. In what way, you wonder? 

After the late notice from the officials, mainly the bigger and most established event organizations could respond fast. They had planned their events earlier during the year when the government suggested that the COVID restrictions would be lifted by August. 

Some smaller organizations also managed to respond on time. Record shops, galleries, restaurants, and stores like De Bijenkorf, Mary Go Wild and Gast Art! would host pop-up sales and in-store DJ sessions, but the vibrance of the city wasn’t as before. In previous editions, you would see many talks by experienced industry professionals, expositions with the latest gear on the market, even ADE itself would organize a series of conferences under the name ADE University, which wasn’t the case this year. 

Mary Go Wild store, Photo: Ned Knows How

The lack of diversity in the “Art & Culture” and “Partners & Friends” parts of the program is most likely due to the overlap with the party hours. All official events had to finish at 00:00 at the latest, and couldn’t start before 06:00. This gave less time to the visitors to enjoy the small treasures spread around the city and made a gap of six hours during the night that left people wondering “What to do now? Go to sleep?”. Before the end of each night, the crowd would text their friends who are scattered around the city searching for an afterparty. 

Small gatherings were the perfect solution for the ones that didn’t have QR codes, but they weren’t enough for the majority of the crowd. Most people missed seeing their favorite DJ playing on a big stage and experiencing the synchronicity between music, lights, and visuals of big productions like DGTL, Audio Obscura, and No Art. Some simply missed being surrounded by thousands of people. 

Installation by Michiel Kingma at Feel It! De Expo, Photo: Veronika Panayotova

How to Get Ahead of the SOLD OUT Wave?

This mass excitement had just one drawback – seeing the words “SOLD OUT” next to many of your favorite events. This year most of the organizers took alternative paths instead of simply giving away the ticket link. Some revealed the ticket links only to their Telegram groups. Others created email campaigns for pre-sale tickets. By the time the tickets reached the public they were already gone. 

One way to be the first one in line to know about the ticket release is to join the online communities of your desired festivals by following their pages, signing up on their email list, or finding their chat rooms as soon as possible. This way you will be regularly updated with what they are cooking next. 

DGTL Festival at NDSM, Photo retrieved from ADE Official Press Kit

Sustainable Partying

No matter how big of a fan you are, you might still not get a ticket before the all-caps words “SOLD OUT” pop on your screen. Other times you just can’t afford the tickets. 

This is where volunteer programs like Revolution Foundation come in. They usually work with the biggest ADE festivals on their list and offer volunteers free entrance in return for a couple of hours of work at the entrance, at the bar, or by cheering up the crowd. It can be a nice addition to your trip as it gives an extra perspective to the whole ADE experience. If this is not the way for you to stay on a low budget, check Plentix’s previous article How To Buy Tickets For A Favorite Concert At The Best Price?.

Such foundations also provide circular systems that help events and organizations reach their sustainability goal. Large festivals like Awakenings, Strafwerk and DGTL use hardcup systems to reduce waste. This way of serving drinks increases the festival sustainability level by 6 times compared to soft cup systems that were more common in previous years. 

Hardcup system using a recycle token on Strafwerk 2019

So How Did ADE 2021 Go Down? 

Amsterdam Dance Event hosted over 350 events packed in the day time hours of 5 days. The streets were noticeably emptier than previous editions (fewer crowds to bump into) which made sightseeing and roaming around the city more pleasant.

Opposite to expectations, getting tested for COVID wasn’t an issue at all. Test booking and procedures were easy and fast, thanks to the extra locations set up by the government. However, the QR code checks at the entrance made having a charged battery on your phone even more essential (I learned this the hard way).

Despite all the extra steps that had to be taken this year to reach the dancefloor, ADE stands behind its name. The whole Amsterdam danced once again. 

Undercover bloopers

One memory I won’t forget from this year’s edition is going to Bordello A Parigi and finding an old release by the Minima House legends Makcim and Levi. I bought it for my vinyl collection and eagerly kept it safe throughout the whole night. In the very last moment of my journey, I lost the record on the metro going back home. Now only the story remains. 

Listening to dœiотсюда by Makcim and Levi at Bordello A Parigi, Photo by Ned Knows How

Want to learn more about ADE? Explore our Event Facts Infographics about ADE.

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