Amsterdam’s club scene is the best its been since the 1990s.
Amsterdam’s reputation for house and hedonism was built in clubs like the RoXY and iT in the early 1990s. Ran by artists, punks and one very driven Belgian called Eddie de Clerq the RoXY opened in 1987 and was the Netherlands first proper house club, hosting Larry Heard’s Fingers Inc. as early as 1988. The iT opened in 1989 and was originally owned and managed by Manfred Langer an extravagant entrepreneur from the gay scene who’s Dutch version of the branded super-club reflected his supernova personality.
Not to be forgotten the small Mazzo club on the Rozengracht moved from booking post-punk bands when it opened in the early 80s to booking acts like Public Enemy in 1988. Promoters at the Mazzo such as Paul Jay and Cellie had DJs like Darren Emerson (CREAM/Underworld), Paul Daley (Leftfield) and Mike Pickering from Manchester’s Haçienda flown over from the UK whilst by the mid 90s the venue was holding the first Dutch drum and bass parties. Steve Rachmad, San Proper, Steffi, Steven de Peven, Bart Skils and Melon all held their first nights in the Mazzo. All these DJs would go on to big things in the Amsterdam scene.
Over the end of the 1990s and into early 00s the RoXY, iT and the Mazzo all eventually closed to the pressures of personal tragedy, crime, changing political attitudes towards drugs and the night time economy and the growing influence of the property market.
By the mid-00s Club 11 and Studio 80 had arrived to help the stumbling AMS club scene. Up on the 11th floor of a derelict sorting office overlooking the city Club 11 was an experiment in using the creative industries to regenerate urban areas. Amsterdam’s modern art museum had temporarily relocated to the privatised PTT postal company building in 2004 and Club 11 grew out of the opportunities this generated.
A popular restaurant by day Club 11 was a fertile breeding ground for sonic and visual art with Djs such as Patrice Baumel, Sandrien and Carlos Valdes all running nights there. Club 11 concepts can be seen further developed and explored with Trouw and De School. A temporary project from the start, Club 11 was closed in June 2008 when Oostersdokeiland was redeveloped making way for apartments, offices, shops and the new city library. It was Europe’s largest city centre development project at the time.
Studio 80 was conceived as a space to reinforce and strengthen the underground Dutch electronic music community in the wake of Amsterdam’s multiple club closures and negative media attention. Set-up in 2005 by former owner of ID&T Duncan Stutterheim, Dick Koopman and music journalist, DJ and promoter Gert van Veen Studio 80 programmed new Dutch DJs, producers and promoters. Dave Clarke was on hand to give classes on DJ techniques and the Institute of School of Audio Engineering hosted workshops in the club. By the late 00s the Studio 80 had become synonymous with the Dutch tech-house and minimal scene. In 2013 under the direction of Tessa Nydam and Pieter ‘Presk‘ Willems Studio 80 changed direction toward rougher acid, techno and electro sounds before closing unexpectedly in November 2015.
Clubs Trouw and Canvas in particular can be seen to reflect the creative cities agenda: using creative industries to gentrify formally depressed areas and increase tax receipts without extensive government investment using public funds.
Both clubs were housed in an area known as the ‘Parooldriehoek’ in Amsterdam Oost, a site formally owned by the media conglomerate ‘De Persgroep‘. Persgroep had come under the majority ownership of the British venture capital firm APAX in 2004 following a €120 million loan. Under APAX, between the years of 2004 and 2007 when APAX decided to sell off their shares in the business, Persgroep increased their long term credit from €24 to €367 million, an increase in debt of 1429% whilst profits increased by just 4.3%. Then 2008 hit. In 2009 the now derelict Parooldriehoek was sold to the Netherland’s public housing corporation Stadgenoot who in turn urgently needed to generate revenue until the market settled allowing for further investment and/or sale.
Both Trouw and Canvas were opportunities seized from the chaos created by wider economic forces in play from the 1990s through to today. Both clubs arose in part out of the need for government to generate revenue in the wake of the debt crisis, leasing publicly owned buildings to creative organisations until favourable terms of sale could be reached with private developers.
The Trouw building was sold to developers Boelens de Gruyter in 2012 for €60 million and is now the site of a luxury student hotel. Trouw the club closed after a marathon closing session whilst members of the Trouw team went on to open De School in Amsterdam West in January 2016.
Amsterdam is changing fast and its only true to say that since the 1990s a lot of the city’s anarchic personality has been lost in a tide of development and property speculation. The alternative community suffered a big blow in 2010 when squatting (kraken) was officially made illegal and most of the squats were forcibly closed down. Now very few squats and the communities they hosted remain.
Change has also brought opportunity however as the national and local governments seek to increase their revenues in order to pay off huge debts built before and as a result of the 2008 Financial Crisis. The booming club scene of Amsterdam today is partly due to the city government’s desire to create a 24 hour city (with its corresponding tax receipts) and through their policy of harnessing the creative industries to encourage urban redevelopment without busting shrinking public budgets.
Venues such as Radion, OT301, De School, Shelter, Canvas, de Marktkantine, Claire and the OCCII operate in different ways and with separate aims but all host credible, quality international artists and promising local talent.
These are some of our favourites spaces:
‘Kraken’ or squatting used to be big news in Amsterdam and kicked off at the end of the 1960s. In the face of increasing property speculation squats were a statement against the commodification of space and functioned as venues for creative activity. Squats were places that could operate outside of the demand for profit acting as dynamos for art and culture in the process. The OT301 was one kraakpand, squatted by punks and anarchists in the 1980s when the building was due to be demolished to make way for a cycle path.
Kraken was offcially made illegal in 2010 and most squats and the people that lived in them have been closed and the property sold to developers. By buying their property the OT301 became a legal cultural and community centre, but still retains some of its anarchic spirit and squatter vibe. By far the most eclectic programming in Amsterdam, this place stands as a testament to the fact that communities need cheap spaces to fire culture, places to meet and share ideas. Weekends will usually feature one jungle/dub-step type event and one house/techno event whilst live music, dance and theatre is scheduled during the week, there is also a vegan cafe and bar featuring live music and a small cinema.
Consistently under pressure from the neighbourhood for noise etc. the OT301 is fighting hard on the front lines of gentrification.
A. Proper. Nightclub. Its big, its dirty and its in a nuclear air raid bunker in the cellar of a former dentistry school. Yes, its that good. And the sound is punishing.
One of our favourite large clubs in AMS, its ran by people who love what they do and their bookings are amazing.
Radion is also a broedplaats, functioning on a ten year licence.