Nice one- thanks Sembrini! That was a lot of help. Just wanted to see if the set up was similar to Sonar/off Sonar but without the good weather....I went to ADE for the first time last year and really enjoyed it. I'm fortunate enough to live a 30 minute plane journey away from Dam (they don't really have enough time to push the trolley up and down the aisle before it lands) so have been there more times than I can remember. It's a great place to visit any time of the year but ADE is special for a number of reasons. Firstly, the talent on offer is second to none and you'll struggle to find so many DJs of this calibre in one place at one time (waits for boarders to come back with other examples of festivals of this kind such as WMC, BPM, Sonar etc....). Secondly, the range of venues they use is astounding - from conventional clubs to art galleries, restaurants, warehouses, boats....the list goes on. Thirdly, the majority of people are there for the music so you don't have to worry about annoying tourists or hipsters trying to look cool or score brownie points by being seen at the best parties. Fourthly, it's Amsterdam - what's not to like! Yes, there's the coffee shops and the fact it's the European hub for Class A narcotics but there's much more to it than that. The tram system is great (although loads of the venues are within walking distance of each other), there's a plethora of fantastic restaurants, museums, cultural and historical venues and shops, miles upon miles of canals and that's without even entering the Red Light District.
Due to work commitments, I wasn't able to fly over until Friday evening (it runs from 12.01am Wednesday until Monday morning) so I missed the first couple of days. Tbf, you would need to be seriously hardcore to do the whole thing so two nights was more than enough for me and my mates. Got in around 8pm and met my very stoned friends (who had been lucky enough to get the 6am flight that morning) and we did a bar and coffee shop crawl until it was time to set sail to the first party (yes that's right, we had to take a boat to the venue!!). I've got some friends who live in Rotterdam so we met up with them at the club, which was an industrial unit on the water called Undercurrent. The party was hosted by CLR and featured Monoloc, Tommy Four Seven, Terence Fixmer and Chris Liebing amongst others. Needless to say it was superb on so many levels - music, production, crowd and venue (the chill out was a deck overlooking the water across to the centre of Amsterdam) were all spot on and even the weather was unusually warm for that time of year. Left there around 5am for a pit stop at the hotel before heading to Air for the Electric Deluxe after party. The doors were from 6am to 2pm but by about 10am I had to admit defeat and headed back to the sanctuary of my bed. Managed to catch a good bit of Speedy J though but sadly left before Gary Beck hit the decks.
Saturday was all about R&R (predominantly in a variety of Coffee Shops) until we went to the 10 Years Watergate and Mixmag party at Studio 80. The venue is a dedicated club but still pretty intimate at about 800 capacity. Main room had Heidi, Miss Kitten, Karotte and Ellen Allien (who changed her set time and didn't come on until 10am - which was the same time I had to check out of my hotel, so I missed her) whilst the back room had Russ Yallop, Mr C and Clockwork. Really liked the place and they had some of the best parties on over the festival, including Diynamic, Rejected, Saved and Desolat.
Having been to Amsterdam for a number of clubbing weekends, I can't say I noticed a huge difference during ADE but that probably says more about the quality of the events they have on week in, week out than the event itself. You won't find sound systems on every street corner like they have on Queens Day (or Kings Day as it will now be known) and in that sense there were probably loads of people in town that weekend who, aside from the flags and banners dotted around, didn't even know ADE was happening. That's not a bad thing though as it helped the event to keep an underground vibe. It's not the kind of place though where you hop from venue to venue during the night (unless you have some great connections as each party requires a separate ticket and there's no pass you can buy to access them all) so in that sense all the amazing parties on offer each night are irrelevant really - you choose one and spend the whole night there.
If you've happened to pick up anything remotely negative from my self-indulgent and exhaustive review then disregard it - ADE is amazing so go as you'll love it. I suppose what I've tried to convey through my ramblings is that it wasn't quite what I was expecting - it was, for me, the usual manic 48 hours in Dam with two (and a half) mental nights out. You could engross yourself in the music and festival 24/7 if you want but that wouldn't leave much time for the many other pleasures the city has to offer so my advice is chill by day and party by night.
If I could, I'd go every year. That's probably the simplest and best recommendation I can give for it.