INDUSTRY INSIGHT // Amsterdam, Nightlife, and COVID-19: The Uprising Of The Rave

To return to two years ago would render images of completely emptied streets in a once bustling, alive city. The usually crowded canal lanes were silent and still, left with nothing but the open air and its resonating tranquillity. A bizarre and unwelcome feeling, to say the least. With it, came a blunt and deadening end to an innately characteristic trait of Amsterdam: its eclectic and diverse nightlife scene. As much as this similar uncertainty was shared by many globally, Amsterdam’s clubs and venues, by some degree, have taken a particularly hard hit over the past two years. As much as the pressure to follow governmental restrictions was rightly focused upon the importance of the health guidelines, at times, it felt as though the country’s regulations were comparatively confusing and debilitating. A sensation of feeling ‘left out’ was tangible, as the restrictions seemed to continuously worsen, while friends in other countries enjoyed heightened freedoms. A few notable venues, includingDe School, shut their doors in response to the pandemic, creating a gap in the cherished scene.
I recall my last gig in early March of 2020. It was actually a King Krule concert at the Melkweg—translated to the Milky Way— a beloved concert hall and one of the main music venues seated within the heart of the city. I remember that it was mere days before the seemingly abrupt announcement of closing doors and empty streets, and despite the foggy backdrop of hundreds enjoying the rasping tones of Krule, there was most certainly a taint within the air. Since then, Melkweg has practically had its doors shut and its events consistently postponed or removed. Presently, to mark March two years onward, the municipal regulations in Amsterdam have almost ceased. Movements such as ‘Unmute Us’ and ‘De Nacht Staat Op’—‘The Night Rises’—have lingered on the horizon and resounded through to this moment in time; while they weren’t causal to the lessening of the restrictions, they have perhaps played an integral role.
Last July saw a huge gathering crowd in protest of the tight stronghold that the authorities had on clubs and their rules. People adorned in a colourful array of party outfits and neon hues sported signs that demanded a change, and advertised their simple and just desire: to dance. ‘Unmute Us’, while perhaps seemingly banal in its simple slogans to dance, was brought about to express concrete notions of the untimely and somewhat discriminatory attitude that the government possessed towards the club scene.
It feels almost too obvious and blatant that, once something is restricted and ‘not allowed’, the yearning for what is forbidden translates into the underground. Thus, it becomes messier, in a sense; harder to monitor and control in a way that is the safest for the public and its general health. That’s precisely what happened in these periods where we had a strict curfew in the early months of 2021, and severe limitations on the number of people allowed within a space. The discontent that it was met by was largely due to the fact that it felt imbalanced and disproportionate to the number of cases and to the general response of neighbouring countries. The entertainment and cultural sectors within the city opened in varying intervals throughout the pandemic, for institutions such as museums, art galleries and cafés—and so, the question was posed: why weren’t the clubs allowed a moment to breathe? It felt almost as if the colourful night-scene was discarded with a superior stance for other segments of the entertainment industry.
Last month, “De Nacht Staat Op” combatted the lessening of restrictions with an explosive notion of putting a middle finger up to it, basically. Most aspects of life were filtering into normality, aside from, again, the club nights and the underground party scenes. Hence, the larger clubs made the bold move of ignoring the guidelines, stating that their doors would open regardless. Clubs advertised safety and health awareness such as renewed and improved ventilation systems to ensure an air of precaution, and promised free shots to stimulate the party vibe.
Most importantly, the air of dissonance was there to stand up for the freedom and rights that Amsterdammers felt entitled to after this long slog of continuously waiting; to reclaim the night and to reclaim the space that had felt so previously constricted and confined. Clubs opened amid governmental threats of large fines of up to €4,500, because it really felt like it was finally time. It felt as though these freeing crowds were tired of adjusting, when the numbers felt, at time, seemingly futile and didn’t add up. The message of awareness towards the importance of social gatherings to general mental health were rampant, proving how important this mentality is to personal development and the essence of enjoyment.
Now, by next week restrictions are practically being dropped. The party scene has had a few weeks of freedom, and the returning bustling city seems to be following in its footsteps. A sense of optimism is tangible.
Works Cited
Written by: Emma Betts of South Lanes Studios
Emma's Instagram - @somrmaughm
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