With the Amsterdam Dance Event set to break loose on Wednesday, all eyes are on the Dutch capital’s energizing club scene.
To coincide with the dance festival, the city archives Stadsarchief opened a new exhibition To Dance is to be Free this weekend – featuring club flyers, art, music mixes and photographs from 1980 to the present.
Much of the memorabilia on show comes from the private archives of DJ, composer and pace-setter Eddy de Clercq who was there at the very beginning. He is also celebrating his own role in the city’s dance scene with De Koer Memorabilia Box – a blast from the past for anyone who was there in the early days, complete with poster, fanzine and the ubiquitous cassettes, or “mix tapes”.
“I kept everything,” says De Clercq, a Belgian national who started Amsterdam’s first club nights in 1977. “Amsterdam was boring to go out in then,” he says. “There was no night life. It was all brown cafes with carpets on the table, no dance floor. There were a few places I knew I could go to, but they were overpopulated by hippies.”
De Clercq started out as a DJ in Belgium “because he was too young to serve behind the bar”. A spell in the second hand clothes trade brought him in contact with the owners of legendary Dutch vintage store Lady Day, and a move to the capital at the age of 19.
“But I came from a middle class, bourgeois Belgian background and we used to dress up to the nines to go out. We would go to Paris to go to a club… there was nothing like that in Amsterdam, until I started my own.”
De Clercq organised his first party in 1977 in De Brakke Grond, capitalising on the hip, creative crowd who hung out at Lady Day. “I never stopped after that,” says De Clercq, who has been performing behind the turntables since then.
First came De Koer, then the Pep Club parties at Paradiso and then in 1987, the Roxy – the legendary club in a converted cinema where De Clercq, as co-owner, brought house music to the Dutch. The Roxy eventually burned down in 1999 thanks to indoor fireworks at the funeral wake for co-founder Pieter Giele.
The Roxy features large at the Gemeentearchief exhibition, but it is De Koer where, says De Clercq, it really all began.
The entrance was tucked away down an alley close to the palace on the Dam and De Koer quickly became the place for night owls – from black clad punks and squatters to sharply dressed New Wave kids. Bands, from local heroes to the likes of the Raincoats and Mecano performed on the small stage.
As well as being owner, De Clercq was the club’s main booker and has amassed a huge collection of cassettes handed over by bands who wanted to put on a show. They are now part of his vast archive.
It is only fitting, therefore, that a compilation tape made up of demos of the day is part of the memorabilia box, alongside the work of Necronomicon, a collective that began making completely electronic music before, says De Clercq, anyone else was doing so. A fanzine, celebrating the era is also part of the mix.
The poster in the memorabilia box was printed shortly before the club closed down at the end of 1982. “I had 300 of them, and I’ve been wanting to do something with these posters for 20 years,” says De Clercq. “Then this exhibition came along, and it all seemed to fall into place.”
“I love paper, and making this box, gluing all the bits together,” he says. “It is handwork, its craftsmanship. It’s what I love. People forget sometimes that it is not easy to follow your dream. My dream has always been to do what I did. I can call myself a lucky man.”
The De Koer Memorabilia Box is a limited edition of 60 and is available from the Stadsarchief book shop, Atheneum bookstore on the Spui and Boekie Woekie on the Berenstraat, priced €25-€28. Eddy will also be taking part in a event at Atheneum on October 27, featuring “more memories and music”.
Amsterdam Dance Event takes place from Wednesday October 18 until October 22.
To Dance is to be Free runs at the Stadsarchief until February 18.
Thank you for donating to DutchNews.nl.
We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.Make a donation