Niche artists, outstanding line-up, best vibe on the dance floor and a sound system to blow your brains off. The 5th edition of Dekmantel Festival was Intense and Unforgettable!
Appropriately set in Amsterdamse Bos, Dekmantel Festival has shaped its identity by setting the latest trends in electronic music and elevating its core artists to new heights. Again, true seekers of electronic music came together for a five-day long bonanza on what has become Holland’s most anticipated event of the summer. From disco to house to techno and beyond, many key artists clashed the Dekmantel timetable this year. Honourable mentions to British Murder Boys, Helena Hauf, Joy Orbison b2b Jon K, Hunee b2b Antal, Arca DJ & Jesse Kanda and DJ Nobu.
KEY PERFORMANCES OF THE WEEK-END
Like all best moments in life, there is a sort of tension, impatience and excitement at the dawn of the first day of a festival rave. I followed the path trough Amsterdamse Bos in what became an increasingly larger horde of electronic-music lovers, slowly getting in line to enjoy the weekend. As I approached the gate, I could hear the banging sound of all the stages clashing together and see the main-stage's neon lights drawing the skyline of a new musical landscape.
First, Steve Reich opened up this year’s Dekmantel Festival with a memorable performance at Muziekgebouw on Wednesday. He is an American composer and pioneer of minimal music. Although very classical, he is proof on how much the festival has opened-up itself from old school artists to avant-garde performers over the years.
Next, legends Jeff Mills & Tony Allen (live) packed up the Greenhouse for a live performance Friday afternoon. The Greenhouse stage is a closed up space with soft flickering lights, surrounded by climbing plants and palm trees. A sort of devine jungle meditation bringing your body slowly into movements -pure mastery.
Another renowned ambassador of the scene, Robert Hood honoured the closing of the main stage on Friday, closely preceded by timeless techno favourite Rødhåd.
The highlight of Saturday was a back-to-back set by Joy Orbison & Jon K in the Greenhouse. Starting out smoothly with a crowd in a state of relaxed fluidity, the set soundtracked one of those moments were everything just clicked. A summer shower pressed the people inside a damp greenhouse, between wet ponchos, blinking lights and a loud sound system. A reggae track out of the blue warmed up the crowd and those dancing in the rain with increasingly silly dance moves and out-of-beat jumping and twerking. What followed is a genius two-and-half hour set which ended up in a chaotic happy dance floor filled with strangers hugging and flirting with each other.
Another key performance of the day was the live-set by Dorian Concept, a sort of genius fusion between soundscapes, jazz influences and electronic music. And finally Ben UFO who represented UK to the fullest by exploring sounds both old and new, from garage to house, with a stellar stage closing performance.
The third day gets the crowd into a hypnotic festival haze. Everyone seems more relaxed, happily confused, finding more (or less) their ways between stages. Motor City Drum Ensemble kicked off Sunday's opening in the intimate surroundings of the Selectors stage. They served music’s finest hangover cure.
Next, the UFO stage felt like entering a dark and deep Berlin club. Probably the perfect setting to wake up to a freshly brewed coffee from the Food trucks. It was a next level techno rendez-vous with Karenn (Live) (aka Blawan & Kariah), Peter Van Hoesen b2b Donato Dozzy and killing it at last the guys from British Murder Boys (aka Regis & Surgeon).
Finally, the climax of the day was DJ duo Antal & Hunee. Those two closed the main stage with pure house bombs! Dekmantel protégé Palms Trax even commented on Facebook “I cried”. The audience was left speechless. It is indeed known to artists that the Dekmantel crowd is the most educated/vibrant crowd of them all.
Special sparks & CHILL
With such a killer line-up it is hard to go by without wanting to mention and honour every artist of the line-up. Besides familiar faces like Midland and Palms Trax, I highly appreciated the discoveries of newcomers like Volvox & Umfang, Voiski, Dr Rubinstein and Ge-Ology.
Beyond just music, Dekmantel takes care of its audience with special attentions and a careful organisation which I really enjoyed. Like the free drinking water at the bathrooms, free ponchos at all the bars when it rains and the non-stop shuttle buses from the Festival to the nearest metro station of Amsterdam-Zuid for 5€ each trip. Also, the limited capacity of the festival allows one to breathe and not feel squashed while dancing--which is delightfully surprising for a sold out festival. Last, the location of Amsterdamse Bos is simply stunning! The festival takes place in a clearing surrounded by a flush forest, conveniently located just 15 minutes away from the city. It's easy to get there and back (with a bit of planning), and hence to choose between sleeping at the camping or a comfy bed at home or a hotel.
On the down side, I would love to see next year more chill-out spots, like seats made of wooden panels (not so fun to sit on wet grass when your body needs a rest), but also green initiatives like eco cups and a digital wristband to keep the festival clean and green.
In conclusion, Dekmantel 2017 was yet another successful and brilliantly organised festival. Full of touching moments, and ever so incredible artists. Dekmantel sets a definite benchmark of line-up curation, giving a huge boost to the artists each year. As Resident Advisor so impeccably concludes;
“In five years, Dekmantel Festival has developed into a magnet for young, clued-up lovers of electronic music.”