When a label like Armada Music hits its 10th anniversary, it can be a difficult feat to pull off a party that accurately captures the excitement of the number-one label in electronic music celebrating such an achievement. Luckily, this milestone occurred around the time of the Amsterdam Dance Event, which augmented the overall grandeur and brought along with it a slew of electronic music fans from across the globe. Taking place at Escape on the night of Oct. 17, Armada Night was more than a celebration–it was a testament to the colossal achievements of Armada as a label, to co-founder Armin van Buuren as an artist, and to the Netherlands as the global epicenter for dance music.
The night kicked off in the main room with Alexander Popov and Heatbeat. I unfortunately did not make it in time for Alexander, but I showed up right as Argentinian duo Heatbeat began smashing the main room of Escape with their signature electro-trance stylings. Following the Heatbeat boys was another duo, trance mainstays Cosmic Gate, who kicked off just as the clock struck midnight in Amsterdam with a powerful set that married the emotive sounds of vocal-driven trance with harder, “2 a.m.” sounds.
Orjan Nilsen (pictured above) was up to bat next, and the baby-face of trance did not disappoint with an hour-long set that included many selections from his new album, No Saint Out Of Me. Orjan briefly spoke with us about the vision behind his new album before he took the stage.
“I didn’t want to be limited by anybody or anything,” Orjan said. “I just wanted to make whatever I wanted to make. Some tracks are housey, some tracks are trancey, and some tracks are more techno. For me, it was about stepping out of boundaries. It seemed to work, because now in my sets, I’m not held back by any certain sound.”
After Orjan, it was time for the man who started it all: five-time DJ Mag #1 Armin van Buuren (pictured below). The crowd was, unsurprisingly, the most raucous for Armin, a man who has stood as a symbol for dance music in the Netherlands and worldwide for more than a decade. Though his set was shorter than he typically plays, he still pulled off what he does better than anyone–build a set that is a journey rather than one that is only as good as its last drop. He featured many tracks from his new album, Intense, and at the end of the set, fans were given a special treat: a live vocal performance by Christian Burns of his collaboration with Armin, This Light Between Us. Christian’s voice sounded even better live than it did in the studio recording–a very difficult feat to pull off for a singer in an environment as loud as a club.
Following Armin, Aly & Fila threw down the most “classic trance” set of the night, undoubtedly pleasing many of the 138-BPM diehards sprinkled throughout the crowd of Escape. Andrew Rayel ended the 10th birthday bash with the best set of the night. His performance left little doubt why he is the name to watch right now in trance music, as the Moldovan producer wowed the crowd with hit after hit, including festival destroyer Dark Warrior, his breathtaking remix of Clarity, and the track that started his meteoric rise, How Do I Know. With an astonishing 50-spot leap to #28 in the DJ Mag Top 100 this year, Andrew has barely had time to let the depth of his success fully sink in. When asked what it was like to play for such an important evening as this one, Andrew said, “I always feel welcomed by Armada–they are like a second family to me. I know how to create music, but Armada knows how to promote it. I’ve learned a lot from them.”
With music, artists, and parties like this, Armada is more than a label–it is a movement that has created a loyal following that numbers in the millions. With a god-like DJ at the helm, the largest music radio show in the world, and diehard fanatics following for miles back, there is little doubt that Armada will be around for many anniversaries to come.