ADE Co-Director Meindert Kennis Reflects On 2021 Festival

The co-directors of Amsterdam Dance Event:
– The co-directors of Amsterdam Dance Event:
Jan-Willem van de Ven & Meindert Kennis

“It’s been quite a ride, to be honest,” said Meindert Kennis, co-director of Amsterdam Dance Event. He was referring to the Dutch government’s Sept. 14 announcement of the new coronavirus restrictions, and everything that’s happened since. “We had three and a half to four weeks to set up what we normally do in a whole year. It was quite challenging, everybody had to work around the clock to make this happen. And, fortunately, we did.” 

The challenge: putting together ADE Festival, a nightlife club festival, under restrictions that included a 12 a.m. to six p.m. curfew, coupled with a 75% capacity limit on shows. “We could have sat down and cried about it, but everybody decided within an instant to just go for it, and reschedule everything to the day and evening. It went pretty well, people just started early,” Kennis recalled, “having said that, I think it’s important to get the night back in nightlife. Obviously, it really depends on who you ask. If you ask someone over 30, they’re super happy with the curfew. Someone in their twenties is not.” 
The crowd waiting for Weval.
– The crowd waiting for Weval.
More than 350 events took place in the day and evening across Amsterdam’s many famous venues, like Melkweg pictured here.

The toughest decision, according to Kennis, was cancelling the Conference of ADE, one of the world’s most important gatherings for the electronic music community. “We had to chose, are we going to focus on people talking about music and dancing, or are we going to focus on people actually dancing?,” he explained. What is more, international travel restrictions, which vary massively from country to country, would have caused a booking nightmare for the team that usually flies or drives in thousands of speakers from all over the world. Kennis praised the local government for clearing all the required permits for all of the 350-plus events that took place across some of the city’s most famous venues in mere weeks, instead of the usual months. 

The Netherlands pride themselves on being home to a long list of world-class artists. Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Nicky Romero, Oliver Heldens, Tiësto, Weval, and many more, all performed in Amsterdam, Oct. 13-17. A small selection from the many A-listers from the rest of Europe includes Adam Beyer, Amelie Lens, Art-bat, Charlotte de Witte, David Guetta, Fritz and Paul Kalkbrenner, Sven Väth, and Vini Vici. The led a bill of hundreds of acts from all genres electronic music has to offer. The audience loved it, according to Kennis, who said he’s “never seen so many smiling faces, everybody just held each other in pure happiness and relief, DJs, visitors, organizers, all felt the same way. The most rewarding part is giving the younger generation that [experienced] two unnatural years of what it means to be young, some of that feeling.” The Dutch entertainment sector has been one of the most vocal in Europe about some of the arbitrary differences that were made between festivals and other types of social gatherings. It led to two of the biggest protest marches in the Netherlands’ recent history, showing just how much live music means not just to the people working in it, but the fans as well.  
The months since the first lockdown in March 2020 taught Kennis, that “it’s harder not to work in uncertainty than to work very hard with some certainty.” They also taught him that the people working in live events are “even more resilient than we anticipated, ” those, who are left, at least. The organization of ADE Festival revealed just how many professionals from all important supply chains fueling the live machine have left this industry during the employment bans. A 75% capacity limit places promoters outside the profit zone, the circumstances under which the team pulled this year’s edition off aren’t economically sustainable. The plan is to bring back the conference next year, a date that’s usually marked red in the calendars of the biggest names in EDM. “That’s super special, and something we need to nurture. So, yeah, we’re going to focus heavily on bringing back the conference twice as good as as we know it. We have to move forward, and I think it will be fine,” Kennis said, adding, “on the other hand, we said that last year, too.”