In the late 80s and 90s, Amsterdam was a hotbed of House Music culture. The genre had originated in Chicago a few years before, but especially the Brits, Germans and Dutch helped the sound move beyond the rather disco-adjacent Chicago sound.
In those early days of House, Amsterdam clubs like iT, Chemistry and especially RoXY were world-famous innovators.
Back then, I frequented many of the “hot” clubs and was a regular at RoXY, Amsterdam’s world famous House temple. I can say that I’ve witnessed some pretty interesting sights and sounds there. Back then, House culture was still finding its feet. The sound, the venues, support acts, after parties and overall style were all still being shaped, and Amsterdam was doing a lot of the shaping.
So in January 1, 1998, when a few friends and I opened The Mix in Miami Beach, the Dutch influences were undeniable. For example, I initially always went record shopping in Amsterdam for our resident DJ David Padilla, often with RoXY-resident DJ Erick E. And those Amsterdam influences contributed a lot to the success of The Mix. But that’s all ancient history…
In the last 10-15 years, Holland has gradually lost its pioneering luster. The Dutch may swamp DJ Mag’s popularity polls, but popularity and credibility are two very different things. So the world doesn’t pay much attention to the Dutch club scene anymore. It’s mostly about playing hits and selling expensive drinks. It’s all very safe, and to my (possibly old-fashioned) taste, a bit boring. The Dutch dance scene no longer impresses. Until summer starts…
Or to be exact “Until the festival season starts”. From May through September, Holland is treated to hundreds of festivals with many million visitors. There isn’t another country in the world that has this many festivals per capita, and the majority is really good. In the Dutch summer, the former glory shines through again.
Avenue21 was invited to the unofficial opening of Amsterdam’s Festival Season; Pacha Festival on Java Eiland, an artificial island in the IJ river, close to Central Station. The weather was gorgeous and the island was well decorated. The original Pacha of course is a renowned club in Ibiza, and this festival clearly has Ibiza-appeal. More so than The White Island itself, the Ibiza-name seems to be a magnet for guys with big tattoo’s on big muscles. Let’s put it this way: Out of the 15,000 visitors I didn’t spot a single hipster beard. Not even one fixie parked outside.
Main Stage clearly catered to this non-hipster crowd. Big name DJ’s like Roger Sanchez and Sander Kleinenberg played their generic blend of radio-friendly House. It’s not my music, but hey if it keeps the crowd happy, who am I to judge it? There were also two tents named “Tech” and “House”, especially the Tech tent catered more to my taste in music. DJ’s like John Digweed and Nic Fanciulli kept the sound sunny, but with underground credibility. Overall we had a great day, obviously helped by the weather, but it was a good party and I expect to return next year.
As always during the Dutch summers, I will visit several festivals this year. I never really plan much, but I think that I will probably go to Amsterdam Open Air. Somehow I haven’t been there yet and it looks really good. Furthermore Loveland Festival was very good the last 2 years, Welcome to the Future is always a favorite, maybe I’ll check out Extrema Outdoor again in the South of Holland and I expect to close it all off with Valtifest.
But you know what? On summer-weekends, there are usually several events to choose from, so I’ll just see where Festival Season leads me…
Photos by Daisy van Knotsenburg (www.photodaisy.nl)