Less than a decade in the making, Amsterdam’s most unique event producers are poised to take over the globe. Known for delivering experiences in places you’d never expect, Audio Obscura have built a reputation for throwing parties you won’t forget. Ahead of their busiest week of the year, Amsterdam Dance Event, we met with co-founder Jeroen Fontein to hear what goes on behind the scenes of these massive affairs.
The venue is a strong focal point at the center of all projects, scanning the list of past events it’s quickly evident that Fontein’s team is taking scouting to the next level. After getting their feet wet hosting label showcases for artist-led outlets like Maceo Plex’s Ellum and DJ Tennis’ Life and Death, Audio Obscura set out to fulfill their mission of ‘obscure’. A turning point in the journey was iconic raves as Amsterdam’s Dutch National Art center, the Rijksmuseum. Bringing Underworld to a medieval-inspired museum that’s never had a party, what more needs to be said.
Constantly evolving with a growing program of events and even more shocking locations, it’s safe to say that Fontein and team spend a lot of time in red tape. He admits that ‘when you walk up to a museum they’re not up for a rave. It takes a lot of time and effort to convince them… we really try to approach the conversation in a different way.’ Partnering with Dutch treasures like Amsterdam’s Centraal Station is just another problem that the team seems to solve year after year. This approach to electronic music has put the team in a league of their own.
Fontein admitted that it wasn’t always easy. Since launching the event brand in 2013, the Audio Obscura team has had their troubles and handled them gracefully. Last year at the center of their program, the team planned to host Nina Kraviz at an abandoned prison. Permits didn’t come through and the party was called off just weeks before the date. The team swiftly reconciled the thousands of tickets and went on Dutch news with an explanation. The brand is clear about their intentions and faults, a type of integrity rare in nightlife. 2019 aims to be their biggest year yet with more events than ever before. Fontein and team are continuously evolving and more ready than ever.
We challenge the artists to approach this musical trip a little bit difference so our audience gets another experience
Audio Obscura’s heavy investment in the ADE week has paid off, their featured events have become larger-than-life festivals for the attendee who needs something more than a bare warehouse. Operationally, this poses quite the challenge as they throw multiple parties in such a short time. Fontein explains that each venue has a dedicated team ensure that each unique project is executed from start to finish. These focused production teams become experts on the venue and delivery scaling from intimate club shows to four-room mini festivals. It’s this well-oiled machine that gives peace of mind to museums, concert halls, and train stations when handing over the keys for a one-night thousand plus rave.
In addition to the concept venues, Fontein and co have quickly cornered ADE’s afters market with a series of sunrise parties dubbed the Loft. Welcoming each day of the festival in a penthouse overlooking the city central, these exclusive affairs have connected day to night for those up for the challenge. This is just a small expansion to keep visitor’s options open, but the growing list of concurrent parties is a scaling issue that the Audio Obscura team have solved.
‘First and foremost is that attendees FEEL that they’re in an impressive venue… we usually don’t work with visuals, we let the venue be to visual. It’s more about very good sound and lighting inside the venue’
Fontein’s roots lie in artist management where he still handles artist development on the side. Audio Obscura as a whole is evidence of his dedication to pushing the boundaries of dance music biz. The team’s next project takes a new angle on the experience blending gallery and performance. During a month-long residency at the Westergas, light artist Christopher Bauder and musician Kangding Ray will present SKALAR, an audio-visual kinetic art installation. The show will boast daytime exhibitions and evening performances by the group, blending dancefloor production with daily life.
Hints from the team indicate expansion from the Audio Obscura brand. Unlike many event massives, Fontein and crew seem to have mastered the bureaucratic side of rave. Making a lasting impact on one of dance music’s global hotspots was just the beginning as the team learn to go bigger. We’re excited to see what will come from this experience-driven team. Keep watch.