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by Peter Moskos

July 5, 2009

Amsterdam Party People

This account of the party scene in Amsterdam is from a person who enjoys such things. He’s lived in Amsterdam for the past 17 years.

The Sensation dance party, Wicked Wonderland, held in the city’s largest football stadium. The dress code was all white. The party goes from 10pm to 6am. Tickets cost about $100 (69 euros).

The placed is filled with thousands--probably tens of thousands people--dancing. [Update: there were 40,000 people on each of the two sold-out nights. Public transportation was excellent, night train schedules were posted in the bathrooms, and special free busses were running between 1 and 5am when the metro is shut down] Top DJs spin. It’s an upscale rave. Does that mean people are taking drugs? Of course.

Nobody overdoses. Nobody dies. A good time is had by all. Many if not most of the people are high on marijuana and/or ecstasy. There’s also a full bar.

[click on the picture to get an idea of the scale of this event. It is HUGE.]
Because of our war on drugs, there’s no equivalent to this DJ-music party scene in the US. It's actually illegal. Nobody can make money on such a large scale event because they all get shut down by police. It would be like closing down Yankee Stadium in the 1920s because people were drinking at baseball games.

In Europe, this party scene is a job-creating industry. This one sounded like fun.
Sensation White was the best or at least the most impressive dance music party I have even been to. It was at the Arena, but they did it up really nicely. The stage was in the center with four thrust parts going into the four corners. That meant that your section of the audience was broken up and smaller and there was stuff close to you.

They did the place up so well with details and hiring hundred’ of models to work there. Everyone was actually dressed all in white, and the atmosphere was superb. And so many hot 20 somethings. Mmmmm. And 30 somethings and 40 somethings too. It was an exciting mix actually. And it sounded good. There, it’s official, a stadium set-up can sound perfect. I want nothing less in the future, please.

Unlike two years ago where police in plainclothes were harassing party goers and arresting joint smokers (for what I’m not sure), this year they were present, helpful and in the background.
It should be noted that two years ago the Amsterdam police were not actually going so far as to take people to jail for drug use. But they were taking people out of the party and giving them citations. Taking any action for marijuana in Amsterdam is pretty much unheard of. Much less "harassing" people who otherwise were not causing trouble. This year was more laid back.
We did one e before getting on the metro and I had two more in my shoe. In the other shoe I had a joint and left a decoy joint in my pockets. When I took it out at the frisking, they said it wasn’t allowed. "Why?" I asked.

You are allowed to have 5 grams [about 1/5 of an ounce] of weed in a bag and roll your own. But not a pre-rolled joint because, “We don’t know what is in it.”

“You can go outside and smoke it right now if you want,” a second security helpfully offered.

I thought that was very reasonable, but let them take it. I smoked the secret one over the evening in their classy, not stuffed, not smoky smoking room. The football stadium had windows the opened!
I wrote back and said I was shocked that anybody in Amsterdam would have to resort to a “decoy joint.” It's "just not mokum," I said. His reply:
On one hand it is ridiculous that I would bring a decoy roach. And it’s not Amsterdam. On the other hand, I think it’s still nice that I can bring a decoy roach just to see what the police/security will do and not be worried that anything bad will happen. Of course I know they are not going to make me take off my shoes, so drugs get in.
Is this man a blight on society? A junkie? A long-haired hippy freak? Quite the contrary. This man, who may or may not be my brother, is a husband, a father, and employees lots of people. He is a businessman.

Were it not for the permissive and successful drug policy of the Netherlands, he would not be in Amsterdam providing jobs and paying taxes. He never would have visited in the first place.


Anonymous said...

Nice! You sir are truly an open minded individual. Sensasation is indeed one of the best dance events in the world. Although I dont think they are very "illegal" in the U.S. For Example there is an event in the US every year called the Electric Daisy Carnival.


Its similar to sensation just not quite as big of a scale.

PCM said...

That's pretty cool. Certainly seems like the same spirit. But event like that are much rarer here than in Europe.

And how do they manage not getting shut down, given the RAVE Act of 2003?

We don't have anything like that here in New York City. Hell, in New York City it's actually illegal to dance at a place without a cabaret license (of which there are just 181). Dancing is literally a crime.

Police should work with club owners (at least the good ones). But they don't. The NYPD sees nightlife as an enemy and actively work to shut down clubs. It's crazy. It could work so much better. I understand quality-of-life for neighbors. But it's also a huge part of the economy that needs to be helped.

Anonymous said...

Not sure how they dont get shut down in the USA. actually there is a number of events in the US like this. Another major one is WMC (Winter Music Conference) in Miami every year. its one of the biggest dance events in the world.

PCM said...

Winter Music Conference is indeed huge.

I guess enforcement (at least most enforcement) is ultimately up to the locality. And if the event is big enough and has political approval, nothing will happen. The police chief is smart enough to want to keep his job.

Miami is smart enough to see its good for the city and the economy. Good for them, I say. If a few people want to be on drugs while dancing, who cares?

I wonder if there are any promoters out there who can add their two cents?

Anonymous said...

I agree, good for miami. It is good for the economy for sure. I live in Canada, and there is no such rave laws / restrictions. They happend all the time. Usually one big event a month in my City.

Anonymous said...

I'm going this year, do you think it will be hard to buy E inside sensation white in amsterdam? Did you see dealers walking around?

PCM said...

I wasn't there. I don't know. And if I did know how you could do something illegal, I wouldn't tell you.

But I will tell you that people who buy drugs from strangers tend to get ripped off. It's just one of the eternal rules of life.