Raw and Esoteric – A night out with These Guys

These guysThe leering ‘Shell Tower’ is the first thing that greets the ferry as you disembark on Amsterdam North’s shore. It is a phallic display of an industrial super-power erected for another time, but today it would like you to call it A’dam. No doubt, some anthropomorphic marketing attempt to disassociate its corporate history with its ‘culutral’ future. It’s in the process of redevelopment and is set to be the offices for ID&T among other music-orientated brands. It’s top floor, previously labelled the Sky Lounge, is where the main attraction will feature a nightclub. Jesus, you can only surmise the hellish extent of A’dam’s ominous future and I                                                                 am content in the fact that I am here for a completely different reason.

Tonight I am patronising the lobby bar, Toren (not to be included in A’dam’s next phase) to meet These Guys! I first came across this fairly young Dutch night during my escapades at ADE, and was keen to re-visit the encounter. Toren offers some similarities to the venue at ADE in re-appropriating unused space for the event. I soon learn that this is very much the modus operandi of any These Guys night. Their first event featured a venue built from the ground up using old shipping containers as the walls.

“Most of the events take place at non-club locations. This means we have all the space to create our own atmosphere that suits the music the best. In the ideal case, we don’t have to do anything with a venue because it’s already so raw in it’s essence.”

The stark concrete surroundings of Toren definitely carry on in this tradition and the raw element is also very present in the music selection as I make my past a very friendly security guard. What is the Concept around These Guys?

“What we hope to achieve is the same with every party, show people a new and interesting mix of music, music which is constantly evolving and which goes beyond boundaries. We program for people who like to be surprised.”

It’s reflected in the line-up for Toren too. If any Dj encapsulates music that goes beyond boundaries it’s the one on the bill tonight, Randomer. I’ve seen the London producer on several occasions now and every time it’s completely unique. He can go from eighties infused Electro to Grime without batting an eye-lid. And for tonight it fits in perfectly with the selection that’s currently being selected by Kowloon Odyssey, a.k.a Funs Ebus, one of organisers of the event. Jumping from Techno to House and Bass, all punctuated with a darker sound, K.O. and These Guys definitely have a handle on the trending aspects of electronic music at the moment. I try to get a chat with Funs and the other organisers, Daan van Tulder and Flip Peeters r who makes up one half of  DJ collective, Clairvoyance – after his set, but it doesn’t quite work out. I’ll have to catch up through email later. At the moment, I’m rather enjoying my trousers vibrating against my leg, as the NY Stomp Remix of Child thumps away through the Funktion One system. These guys do put together some amazing line-ups. Their ADE event featured the best program of the festival in my opinion with Jimmy Edgar, Objekt and Tessela all making an appearance. I later get some Idea of their booking priorities via email.

“We book the artists that stand out, the ones we like and that are blowing our minds. Often these are new and relatively unknown names. Also, we book artists that are true DJ’s, putting together a surprising and diverse set. At the end we are organizing parties, so it’s important that a DJ really knows how to get a crowd ecstatic through his/her own point of view”

That last remark is key here, because as I gaze around the smoke filled space I can see a crowd reciprocating in their admiration of the music. With Amsterdam still very much centred on the more accessible side of house, I find that the audience at Toren unique. They are diverse and esoteric, all very instinctively focussed on the music. These Guys first noticed this “hunger for obscure and exciting music” in 2012, which resulted in that first event at the NDSM werf. Since then the crowd have definitely caught on as indicated by this fairly densely populated venue.

Just before Randomer is set to hit the decks a group of girls, no longer content with dancing amongst the tall Dutch contingency, scale a sub bin to dance nearer the action of the DJ Booth. The walls reflect the resonances of a snare and I am eager to hear Randomer follow on from the bass heavy house track that’s currently being pumped through the system.

The scene is an interesting contrast from many nights I’ve been to in Amsterdam. There seems to be something of a cult following here. As Electronic music culture is currently enjoying a height in popularity, it must be quite hard to stand out, especially in Amsterdam. Funs sees it as blessing nonetheless. “Amsterdam offers a wide range of interesting club nights, almost every weekend. People are getting more open-minded and that’s a good thing. ”He is however quick to remark how it’s getting harder for a promoter “to distinguish itself from the norm with innovative programming”. These Guys seem to be doing something right nevertheless and as I look around me I can confidently surmise that the audience is in agreement.

That metallic percussive grime sound, one that Randomer frequently acknowledges, finally kicks at around 3am. I wonder about the general direction this phase in electronic music is taking. With A’dam still looming largely over us it can’t be good I propose. These Guys are in agreement and assume that it will lead to: “Saturation. Amsterdam remains a small city. The number of promoters keeps on growing and growing. Some will survive and some won’t. It’s a pity though that those organisations, which are really doing something different and exciting, won’t always get the credits they deserve.”

I personally believe These Guys will be here for some time. Their tendency for playing smaller, more personable venues plays a distinctive role here and Funs concurs. “People are searching for more intimate and smaller festivals, but at the same time more diversification on the same night”

If they keep doing what they are doing in the way they are doing it, I am sure the cult following will nurture and that I too, will be in throws of it all just like I am now shuffling away to Randomer’s set. I look forward to attending their next event at Trouw, where they will be taking over the subterranean space of De Verdieping on the 14th of March. The last email I get from These Guys gives me even further hope in their cause. It seems they are not merely content in what they’ve created so far, but are constantly looking towards the future.

“We’ll continue throwing events with artists that are bringing something fresh and interesting to the table. Offering those artists a stage that they really deserve. At the end, we hope that people will blindly trust us in putting a night together that will blow their minds. No matter how famous or unknown an artist is. Also, we are preparing some new and exciting concepts… But we can’t say anything about this yet.”

*Photo’s by Stefan Lucassen and Ilsoo van Dijk