Text: Henry Cornwell
Photos: Kirsten van Santen

The artistic director of Tolhuistuin once told the Wall Street Journal that Noord used to be to Amsterdam what Australia was to England: a place to send criminals, alcoholics, outcasts and miscreants. According to the Journal, today it’s becoming closer to Holland’s Berlin: “still poor in parts… but sexier all the time.”

Last Thursday night Pleinvrees and Straf_Werk turned the precinct’s future into its past. De Overkant, until now, has been better known as a convention centre than a dance hall. By matching a stellar international line up with the high roofs and industrial design definitive of Amsterdam Noord, they may well have changed that forever. 

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Both areas kicked off with brighter sounds that peaked in Area One with Claptone’s ‘Wrong’, before their descent into a more minimal 4/4 standard. By 2am, the vast, packed outer hangar of Area One played tech house for the sweaty masses, while Area Two offered deeper music, a warmer air, and an environment more intimate but open enough for enjoying both personal and shared space.

The artfully curated line-up saw sets build and bleed into one another as DJs transformed their output to match their time of night. Sympathetic transitions like that from Claptone to Andhim showed an effortless attention to detail that brought the night along an arc that made it near perfect. By 3:30, Oliver Schories’ minimalistic sound had transformed Area One into a sea of raised hands and concentrated faces, while in the other room, Monkey Safari wound up a set of danceable, euphoric fun. Taking over from them, Joachim Pastor embraced the opportunity to depart from his more familiar style to delve further into the dissonance and quarter tones of 4am. Of the washed out summer sound he brings to daylight, he left only traces to meander and disappear above driving rhythms and deep bass.

The walls towards the exit were plastered with posters for Pleinvrees’ 020 edition in December, which will see the likes of Illesnoise, N’to, Oliver Schories and Joachim Pastor return to Amsterdam. It can’t come soon enough.