Dekmantel 2015 – A Reflection

Art & Culture

If you’ve never been to Amsterdam before, you can safely assume that an EasyJet flight from Southend Airport isn’t actually the best introduction to such an amazing city. In front of us are a team of absolute berks talking about how they’re going to ‘smash the granny out of Dam’, and just behind we have the worst combination of two humans talking about how it’s “fucking impossible to get smashed on such a short flight”, which, I’d assume, is why they started first thing this morning. But arrive in ‘Dam’ itself and avoid maybe two or three streets in the centre and you’re actually in a beautiful, super-friendly, dare I say it, quaint, city, without a single tit in a novelty ball and chain – the contrast is pretty staggering.

Head over to Amsterdamse Bos at the start of August – a park on the very outskirts of the city – and another contrast is apparent. “Last fling before the ring” tees are swapped for Lobster Theremin tees, and while heavily British, the talk is about Move D, Veronica Vasicka and Model 500. Lads on tour it ain’t.

Friday opens with a three hour set from Ricardo Vilallobos and Zip, with Vilallobos looking thoroughly bored at first, before, presumably, realising Zip’s really pulling it out of the bag, and upping the pace, dropping Baby Baby by Floorplan with a stupidly effortless (but perfect) mix that leads into a couple of hours of Ricardo and Zip sparring, playing tracks like Morel’s Groove by George Morel and All Across The Floor by DJ Qu.

The UFO stage was hosted in what looked like an aircraft hanger – a massive dark, industrial space – the perfect setting for most of the weekend’s techno. Robert Hood was on, at 7 in the evening, for his first set of two at the festival, running through tracks like Ø – Dirtro II and ending with Chicago’s ‘Street Player’.

Over in the food village, NTS and Redlight Radio were hosting a tiny little shack, tagged onto the back of the merch stall. While this probably doesn’t sound like the most inviting prospect for a DJ, this stage saw sets from people like San Proper, Joey Anderson and Intersteller Funk, and the clearing (in front of the ice cream stand) was rammed with dancers most of the weekend. It’s here we met some truly lovely people, too, munching on chips and Fritessaus, talking about Sub Club, the state of techno in Liège, and how much better the mayonnaise is in Holland.

Away from the chips, Ben Klock was taking over on main stage, just as the sun set, providing the highlight of the day with tracks like That Morning Upstairs by Hector Oaks, building and building a set for two hours before handing over to Dettmann, just as the forest grew dark. Dettmann, of course, followed it up in fine style, pushing harder, backed by visuals that made him look like the devil, and finishing on Marauder by HMC. Day one was over and we were more than impressed.

Saturday was opened by the best set of the weekend from Dutch wunderkind Young Marco. We arrived at the selectors stage just as Volcov was finishing up to a large, happy, appreciative crowd. Marco opened with a long, drawn-out, drone-like intro, clearing out a fair few people from the crowd, before working his way through an incredible set of Afrodisco and, well, tracks that only Young Marco plays – Benga Benga by Ajukaja, Talking About Togetherness by Diskoking Burnhart McKoolski and an amazing mix of Batonga by Angelique Kidjo. Less than 30 minutes into his set and the stage was rammed again, the sun shining over hundreds of happy faces. Hunee, Antal and Floating Points followed up to close the festival with a mammoth 5 hour set, starting off with tracks like Mirandolina by Burnier e Cartier and Joyous by Pleasure and taking their time to build their way into closing the day. This slow down of pace worked well as the sun shined, with standout moments being Gwen Guthree – Should Have Been You and Celia – Na Boca Do Sol but as darkness fell it became clear we needed to up the pace, and by God that was happening at the UFO stage, with Rodhad absolutely belting out a set, playing tracks like Clouds – Complete Control and Untold by Keith Carnal (at about 100mph) – easily the most intense performance of the weekend, and a set that saw us wander pie-eyed out of the forest at the end of the night, confused and amazed.

By Sunday it’s fair to say a few of us were beginning to look a little frayed around the edges. We found a Scottish guy (in a Tesco-logo t-shirt reading “Techno”) in the centre of Amsterdam, asking a confused tram driver if they could take him "to the forest”. After helping him out he somehow managed to get lost again and there’s a high chance he’s still wandering around Oud-West at the moment (if you spot him, please send him home). Arriving at the festival, however, there was a real sense of ‘this is our last day, let’s make it the best yet’, with a huge crowd heading over to see Motor City Drum Ensemble picking his way through some amazing slo-mo disco and soul, before dropping Robert Owens – Bring Down The Walls, M&M Theme by M&M and leading into the beautifully odd Syclops – Where's Jason's K. Young Marco’s second set of the weekend followed, on the Boiler Room stage, before Helena Hauff knocked The Lab stage into shape – a heavy, distorted, industrial techno and electro set, punctuated by MPIA3 – Ely – an almost surreal hour and a half from one of the most exciting DJs of the moment.

It was at this point that we bumped into a group of friends’ we’d made over the course of the weekend and, while not being our obvious choice for a closing set, we found ourselves back at the UFO stage for Hessle Audio Trio who worked their way through a set of techno, garage and acid house, finishing with Manix – Feel Reel Good – an odd, albeit unifying ending to a slightly schizophrenic set. Instead of marching straight out of the festival into the darkness, however, it’s fair to say that most of the crowd stayed within the site, excitedly chatting about how incredible the weekend had been and hoping someone would switch one of the sound systems back on for another few hours. It never happened, but as we all wearily headed off, the main topic of conversation was about meeting up next year. Only 363 days to go. 

Kieran Delaney Forever