After numerous indoor events, Dekmantel decided to take the next step (and risk) by organizing two outdoor festivals this summer. Last June the organization left a positive mark with their “lentekabinet’ festival and a week ago the ‘Dekmantel’ festival took place. What started out as a two-day festival quickly became a full-weekender due to an overwhelming demand for tickets. Julian Gijsen ventured into the Amsterdam woods with fellow music-purist Zwaan on both Friday and Saturday to, hopefully, be blown away by artists such as James Holden, Laurent Garnier and many others.
Though we set out to explore the secret facets of the festival, we immediately dropped this idea when we entered the festival on Friday afternoon. Dekmantel had chosen for simplicity; 4 stages and the necessary facilities – nothing else. The MC emphasized: “You’re not here to pick flowers or create artistic drawings, you’re here to listen and dance to exceptional music”.
Starting off with Dixon and Âme at the main stage, we soon discovered that the Innervision-stars had set their mind on playing dark house and techno. Tracks like Mathew Styles’ remix from “Falling Angel” and unreleased remixes from both Chasing Kurt & Clockwork’s “Running Searching” and Michael Gracioppo’s “Creep” made their set ominous, but epic. The spacey wide screen visuals that surrounded the stage complemented the vibe perfectly.
The Dekmantel crew wanted to keep things simple, but they didn’t want things to be cheap. Beers were sold for a pricey €2,70, but in return you received a premium Warsteiner beer. Due to a large team of well-dressed and perfectly-organized barkeepers you never had to wait long before you’re enjoyed your next batch of beverages. But the pricing kept bothering us. Allowing another thousand visitors wouldn’t hurt the party at all (the terrain even felt a bit empty at times) but would have made it possible to drop the price of tickets and tokens. It’s a side-note that has to be mentioned.
The sound system was excellent. Funktion 1 speakers were piled up all over the place. The sound in the Red bull tent even got a bit too heavy at times with baselines pounding so intensely that the resonance inside the tent was too much to bear – causing us to avoid it most of the times (which also had to do with the weather).
The Wood-stage – hosted by Fact – concentrated on straight-to-the-point techno and frankly said: that’s just not our cup of tea. So we headed back to the Resident Advisor main stage for another few hours, where Zwaan in particular enjoyed Underground Resistance: “What’s so great about their set is the intense amount of high tech soul. Their live setup, consisting of wild improvisations on both sax & synth, sprayed its energy all over the place”.
Later on we found ourselves at Laurent Garnier’s closing set. His set was a bit broader than usual, but perfectly tailored to the mass-crowd. Energetic tracks like Justin Jay’s “Static” pierced our bodies and the crowd had a magnificent time at the perfectly set main stage. When Garnier dropped his classic – Man With The Red Face around 10 PM – the place went wild.
A brilliant moment, but we had to get ourselves going to listen to an artist we certainly wanted to hear. Midland is one of our favorite artists at the moment and man; he did blow up the forest stage! Tracks such as “Trace” and a brilliant remix of CLOSE’s “Wallflower” (feat. Fink) made sure everyone had a blast at what I would call one of the most picturesque stages I’ve ever seen. A great way to end day one, but we were even more enthusiastic about what day two would bring…
Saturday began with a stack of clouds which could tear open at any moment – something they did, but luckily after we enjoyed a few rain-free hours. First up was Move D who did a proper up-tempo vinyl house-set whilst peacefully enjoying a fruity Clomanet Merlot-Cabernet. The man has style; you have to give him that. It’s one of the few acts that wasn’t all about up-tempo dark deep house and techno. A welcome variation and much more to our liking than the Red bull Tent where (at 4PM) 130 bpm-techno was being pushed through the speakers. It’s a matter of taste, but that’s way too fast for us considering the fact the day just started.
Not to worry. At the main stage, Resident Advisor throwed us a two our set from nobody less than James Holden. Holden was in a pleasant mood, and so was his immensely loyal fan base. Whatever the man plays; the crowd goes wild. Never on Dekmantel have I seen so many hands rising into the air. His set was both dreamy as it was powerful. A personal highlight for me was Koreless’ “Sun” which he played in full, creating an amazing bridge in his set. Zwaan: “Holden simply has a special place in the hearts of many, allowing him to play pretty much whatever he likes. Add a wall of Funktion 1 speakers and tracks such as Four Tet’s “For These Times” and Âme’s ““Errki” and it will create the ultimate festival experience”. I never remove my protective earplugs – but for James I did. I had to enjoy this in full glory, and it was worth every second of it.”
But even though Holden was epic in the first 85% of his set – many agreed with me that the end wasn’t that special at all – something that surprised me. 85% is still a very decent score, and it was without a doubt one of the best sets I’ve heard on the festival, but it just missed the icing on the cake at the end. Maybe his performance at Into The Woods festival will have that extra dimension – I’ll let you know!
Mathew Jonson showed up with his deep and mysterious live set that turns out to be a buildup to a more rave-like approach. But it was still early for that kind of sound. Although it’s my cup of tea, the majority of the crowd lost its interest due to this odd timetable-timing.
7 pm and it started raining. Lots of it, you could literally watch people rushing their way into tents and other sources of cover for the falling water from the sky. Joy Orbison seized the opportunity and started off with Mano Le Tough’s remix of Tyson’s “Mr. Rain”. But due to social reasons (in other words – all our friends left) we decided to head for the Red bull tent. In terms of resonance, things had improved drastically. But man, am I grateful for those earplugs! The volume was overwhelming with baselines literally pounding through every vein in our body, and it was extremely dissappointing to find out our friends couldn’t buy earplugs because they were sold out – at 7 pm. On the other side, this is no wonder when Hessle Audio (consisting of Ben Ufo, Pangaea & Pearson Sound) are located behind the decks. And the crowd totally loved it.
When we returned to Orbison we immediately found ourselves dancing manically to Batongo’s “Aguirre”. His timing in playing this rainforest tune was impeccable as the rain was pouring down on our heads, turning a disadvantage into a moment to remember forever. I could never imagine that dancing in the rain with a crowd dressed in ponchos would be so great! A truly memorable moment.
You might have noticed we barely visited the BoilerRoom stage. The thing with recorded sets is that they can be listened to time and time again. So it seemed like a waste of time to spend too much time there because we could watch it all later on. Nonetheless, our attention was drawn by Makam and Rod. We arrived late and only heard Makam breaking down the tent. What Rod later on achieved was simply insane, and we didn’t care at all that this could be listened to later on, so we decided to stay the entire set. I could try to describe his set, but you can watch it yourself! Follow BoilerRoom on facebook and watch it as soon as it’s published: fun guaranteed. There are people actually dancing (sometimes really weird) on screen – a rare occurrence as far as we know from previous recordings.
Suddenly we realized Saturday was almost over. Time flies when you’re having fun, and we’ve had loads of it. So after visiting Ben Klock, which was a perfect closing act with a bunch of groovy techno tracks that brought harmony to the main stage, we regretted having to go home so soon. Though the hype might have come too soon for the guys at Dekmantel, they delivered the goods without any real hiccups except for some overpriced products here and there. That is quite an accomplishment regarding the size of the festival and the fact they never done it before. From what I heard around me, people genuinely loved every minute of it, and I believe a lot of them will definitely come back next year. Well, if the guys decide to try and top things even more, I’m pretty sure we’ll be there as well, and so should you!
Pictures | Merlijn Hoek