Undercurrent is in North Amsterdam – it’s like going South of the river if you live in North London – it’s really not a big deal or very far at all, but our resident mates made out like it was biggest effort in the world to get to. We were door to door in 30mins so I can only assume that our friends are really lazy!
There is a ferry from Centraal that will take you within two minutes walk of the venue but it only goes every half an hour late at night so we got a bus. We arrived at 12:30am to catch the end of Abstract Division’s opening set but spent much of it sorting out bags, coats and bar tokens. We had about €15 in cash and a Visa card, at a venue miles away from any other building, never mind a cash machine. The venue did take cards but not Visa, so by the time we paid €5 for a locker and then got a drink each we were out of money. Luckily friends were just landing at the airport so we asked them to grab us cash on the way. My top tip for Amsterdam is that very few places take Visa, so go armed with cash or MasterCard everywhere.
Next up was Abdulla Rashim playing an hour long live set and I swear to God that for the first ten minutes the loop did not change. One loop on repeat until you literally could not be more bored of it and then it would change and the same thing went on over and over. On occasion the volume would increase a little but there were no other build ups and the tracks performed were very limited and unimaginative. I only saw 20 mins of this set as I went off to carry out some interviews, but upon my return to the action friends who had remained in the crowd assured me that the set had not improved in my absence. Later on in the weekend ROD said that one of his favourite sets of the festival was Abdulla Rashim at Breakfast Club so I guess a lot can depend on the right set up – and Adept was not it for Abdulla. His intensive style requires a very decent sound system and I expect there was a lot of sub bass and subtle nuances that we couldn’t hear from the JBL speakers. I shall definitely be open to listening to him play somewhere else before I pass judgement.
I emerged from interviews to find the rest of our group had all arrived and that Psyk and Jonas Kopp were now playing B2B for a couple of hours. The sound quality was much better and probably set up for the decks more than the live equipment we had heard earlier. There were now a lot more people at the club too which made for a far better atmosphere.
Undercurrent is next to the water, a large space with floor to ceiling windows and views across the water to central Amsterdam. It reminded me of The Lighthouse in London’s East India Docks which hosted Lost for a while about 10 or so years ago and others said it reminded them of being at Watergate in Berlin. It was great to be somewhere different and step outside of London. I’m forever being told by friends that the Netherlands and Germany are far better for clubbing than London but so far I had been not massively impressed. The sound systems was not great; you had to pay €5 for a locker (although a room full of lockers was really handy rather than a cloakroom) and you had to pay to use the toilets – 50c a trip or €2 for unlimited use all night. It’s not exactly much money but if you are paying for the toilets you expect them to be especially lovely and these were not even as good as the ones in my old senior school.
Jonas Kopp & Psyk’s set was cool. Unless you were watching them, you couldn’t really tell it was two separate DJs. They each played with the same style and sound and were very in tune with each other. Personally I like a bit of competition in a B2B set but working as one and complementing each other is a difficult feat and worthy of commendation. It was a great set to jig about to but there was an overwhelmingly large amount of chatting going on. The venue was not even close to full but the speakers are set up at one end only and all I could concentrate on half way back, was people talking all around me. Unless you were down near the speakers, it was difficult to focus on the music.
The bar at Undercurrent operates a token system, with tokens being sold at 10 euro for 4. Beer is 1.5 tokens; Spirits are 2 (plus 1 more for a mixer). So if my maths is right that’s €7.50 (about £6.40) for a vodka and coke. On the smoking side of things, there was a huge decked outside area with tables and stools by the water. When the weather is warm I bet it’s lovely. Should you not want to freeze your balls off then you can opt for the indoor smoking room – or “Hell” as I prefer to call it. The locker room here doubled up as a smoking room and as a non-smoker, I found it disgusting. It was like stepping into a 1970s staff room. It stank, you could only breath in second hand smoke and you went home stinking of it too. Coming from London I can safely say that we are much better off having to go outside to smoke, whatever the weather! Back inside, there are tables and benches by the windows and plenty of sofas and giant bean bags at the back – I can imagine it being quite easy to zone out and get stuck in a beanbag. I’d be the designated driver falling asleep in one if that was back at home.