The second edition of Dekmantel knocked our clogs off – here’s our two cents in pictures and words…
Expectations were sky-high for the sophomore edition of Amsterdam’s Dekmantel with aficionados unanimously proclaiming it to be the ‘most-forward-thinking-electronic-music-event-of-the-year’. Excellent on-site organisation, the most exquisitely refined line-up of the Summer and a lavish forest setting nestled snugly in Amsterdam’s hinterlands provided for optimum vibes all weekend long. The small production team responsible deserve a standing ovation for absolutely nailing-it.
Following a doubling of capacity on last years inaugural event, the festival saw around 10’000 visitors grace it’s forest floor over the course of the weekend. The upscaling did little to reduce intimacy and you could navigate your way around the entire site in under five minutes – making it perfectly feasible to catch a little bit of everything. An array of space-aged installation pieces, forest stages draped with lush green canopies and timber-decked flooring all kitted out with Funktion-One rigs were vitally captivating, so much more than the circus big tops that frequent too many faceless UK weekenders. The main-stage, a concept which seems redundant at niche music festivals, was the best we’ve ever seen. The combination of a perfectly poised sound system, panoramic LCD monitors and heavy duty smoke machines preserved a club sensibility in the sizeable central meadow.
With what is sure to become traditional to future editions, Magic Mountain High opened the festival with a rare performance on Friday afternoon. The sublime grouping of David Moufang and hometown heroes Juju & Jordash chugged out analog-jams while the crowd at the main arena was enveloped by a thick cloud of reefer haze. Meanwhile Chicago’s underground favourite Rahaan continued along the vein of his killer Hyp Mix under the corrugated shell of the Boiler Room. Pender Street Steppers & Hashman Deejay represented the Mood Hut camp with gusto in The Woods area, living up to the excitement that’s been circling the boutique Vancouver imprint these past months.
Heavily animated, they dished out a selection of woozy House jams and feel-good anthems such as the Dimitri From Paris edit of Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” & Jack J of PSS’s “Something On My Mind” – a sure contender for tune of the year. It proved the perfect way to ease into the spirit of things. There was disappointment for a no-show from Martyn who was scheduled for a live performance alongside Inga Copeland, but it was announced the following day that the Dutch heavyweight has just become a father – so congratulations to him!
The festival was noticeably programmed around interplay between DJ’s going head to head. Two of the finest selectors in the game, Gerd Janson and Prins Thomas stepped up to bring us rolling into Friday evening before handing over to Dj Harvey who’s set was a sure highlight for us. He held the crowd in the palm of his hand, chuckling to himself whilst sifting through his bag of golden Disco wonders. The maverick DJ must be having the summer of his life following the release of his self-sufficient Psychedelic Rock album “Wildest Dreams”, a tour of Japan and and a smashing closing set at Barcelona’s Sónar back in June.
Near disaster was avoided on Saturday afternoon when the festival site had an uncomfortably close encounter with a seasonal monsoon. You could feel the tension in the air as the sleeping beast loomed menacingly over the grounds. The forest stages were closed for the afternoon as a safety precaution and swathes of people occupied the main arena and UFO areas while humidity levels rose. Luckily the areas were re-opened for the evening after the coast was clear, but as a result we missed out on a live performance from the Moritz Von Oswald Trio. Jay Daniel & Kyle Hall had also been scheduled to play in the afternoon but luckily their Detroit elders invited them to join in their all out six-hour experimental session that transcended genre and fluctuated invariably. Rick Wilhite got down, Moodymann mixed with a towel wrapped round his head and a frantic Theo Parrish cleared out half the space with an insatiable desire for bass.
Other Saturday highlights were Ben UFO who represented well dropping classics like Scott Garcia’s “It’s A London Thing” to superlative effect. One of Berlin’s best import, Mr. Ties had persons dancing in trees whilst he brought Disco rollers around and around with feverish panache. Joy Orbison’s set on the main stage was a bit lacklustre for a Saturday afternoon in all honesty. He’s someone in particular we would always favour to see in a small room. Shackleton’s live performance was an intricate, melodic and texturally lush and proved much more engaging. Traxx – who had been tipped as a festival highlight, proved a bit rough for wear. The intense Acid he was channeling through a system in ear-splitting overdrive proved too turbulent for comfort after an intense afternoon. Daphni provided a thoroughly uplifting close against the backdrop of a stunning light show on the main stage to conclude Saturday’s festivities.
Sunday Afternoon’s programme was jam packed with quality acts and thoroughly dominated by Techno. Dj Koze gave a heavier set than I’ve seen him do before, Marcel Dettmann and Luke Slater had the UFO tent rolling with peak-hour Berghain intensity and Robert Hood delivered a dark and fearless set that was stripped bare ironically during what was undoubtedly the hottest and sunniest spell of the weekend.
In the heat of this action the Boiler Room played host to a ridiculously upbeat succession of House & Disco tunes over the course of three hours on Sunday evening with Space Dimension Controller, Young Marco & Motor City Drum Ensemble each proving to be some of the most masterful young men you will find behind a set of turntables and a rotary mixer in the case of the latter.
A silhouetted Jeff Mills closed out the weekend in the most fitting way imaginable. The Wizard brought us on a four-turntable expedition through the deepest quadrants of the Techno-sphere before building up to the final half hour, and the moment everyone had been waiting for where he would bash out an intense solo section on his 909 in true fanfare like it was an extension of his very demeanour.
The sound was tip-top for the most part. Tuning at the Boiler Room area was immaculate and multiple Funktion-One towers positioned strategically throughout the jungle glades formed a 360 degree party environment. Resembling a war-bunker to some degree it provided the best vibe over the course of the weekend. The Selectors stage, which was the most picturesque area, was painfully loud on Saturday evening with bass bleeding offensively into the Woods area which was noticeably quieter over the course of the weekend. Onsite catering was exceptionally good. Queues were short, the the bars were well-staffed and it trumps other European festivals by a mile for value, quality and variety.
The crowd was a mixture of locals, Europeans and an expectantly large proportion of UK scenesters. Everyone was friendly, approachable and unanimously there to enjoy the music. One German couple memorably approached us asking for directions to the Latin music stage. When met with puzzled stares they laughed and retorted, “we came for the techno” in deadpan unison as they marched off into the night.
The festivals after-parties deserve a mention as they had as much of a draw as the festival itself with the likes of Mala, Livity Sound, Mr. Ties, Move D, Marcell Dettmann, Ben Klock, Tama Sumo, Gerd Janson x Prins Thomas & more playing in the city’s institutional Trouw and neighbouring Canvas club on the 7th floor of the suave Volkshotel over the weekend.
Having chosen to stay relatively nearby the festival, in the quaint and thoroughly Dutch suburbs proved not to be the best decision for logistics. Once you venture outside of the central-zone, Holland’s public transport routes become weird & expensive. Multiple bus routes were long and laborious and Dutch taxis made London’s rates looks attractive. With the allure of after-parties drawing crowds into the city after dark each night, it’s been noted as an absolute necessity to secure a place to stay in central for future editions. With this small observation taken on board next year’s trip is already in the works. Dekmantel is golden.
Words: Conor McTernan
Photography: Rachel Walsh