Review: Dekmantel 2016
It’s difficult to describe a festival like Dekmantel. As a first timer at Amsterdam’s three day weekender I tried to keep the hype surrounding the festival at arms length so as not to be succumbed by a wave of sheer disappointment. After all, Dekmantel comes with it a reputation like few others. A festival that for one (long) weekend takes over an entire city and brings together the artists, labels and collectives from across Amsterdam who make the city arguably the best European destination for electronic music. A community that you instantly feel a part of and one hard to find elsewhere. I agree with many when I say that hyped was fully deserved.
A short shuttle bus from Zuid station laden with unpronounceable Dutch beer brought us to Amsterdam Bos, the original home of Dekmantel and Bos both in name and nature. A sprawling field and woodland area playing host to an expertly curated electronic weekender of the highest order. Situated across six stages Dekmantel 2016 welcomed everyone from Rødhad to Randomer, Pender Street Steppers to Palms Trax and Daniel Avery to DJ Harvey, the latter of those opening up the Friday with a somewhat casual 3 and a half hour set from the living legend™.
Playing on the Selectors stage, which shares its name with Dekmantel’s Croatian sister festival, Harvey careered through a balearic exploration of disco, latin, weird house, italo and quite possibly every single other genre in-between. The last minute set-time switch for Harvey proved to be the perfect foray into a weekend that seems to represent his mindset perfectly. Diverse, effortlessly cool and slightly mad.
After a stint watching Ricardo Villalobos enjoying an early birthday celebration over on the main stage the start of a near 6 hour teaching from Theo Parrish and Marcellus Pittmann began back at the Selectors stage, a set that would prove to be my favourite from the weekend. Musical selections aside, and trust me those were at the pinnacle, an entire crowd of thousands were drawn in to the family atmosphere enjoyed behind the booth from the Detroit crew. Accompanied by dozens of their nearest and dearest, including an astoundingly smooth Moodymann who would later go on to compliment my t-shirt ahem, that Friday night was a true celebration of Detroit, a celebration the host DJs could not have been more humbled by. Breaking off at times to hear tunnelling techno from a beardless Surgeon on the UFO stage and Jeff Mills on the appropriately alien looking Main Stage I was always drawn back to the communion brought to us by Theo and Marcellus. A family gathering that we were all invited to.
After shaking off the tired eyes with bagels, filter coffee and a ticket scamming on my friend from a certain ‘Jaco Meijer’ (if that is your real name I GOT MY EYES ON YOU) we were back, this time heading over to the Greenhouse to catch interdimensional romantic and Kangol hat wearer Egyptian Lover. Wandering around the stage on the mic orchestrating mass chants of ‘if you masturbate, say eight, oh, mother fuckin’ eight’ it was hard to dispute the man as anything but an Egyptian Lover.
After AUX 88 lead a journey into the sci-fi realms with a hard hitting live show it was time to get our faces on camera and become the .gif of the festival over at the Boiler Room stage. Pushing our way to the front it was time for a Bulleit Bourbon fuelled B2B from The Black Madonna and Mike Servito, taking over the cave for a two hour set. To be expected the duo had every single corner of the place packed providing 120 minutes of jacking house and acid wobblers synonymous with the Honey Soundsystem mainstays. Undeniably however it was their behind the booth relationship which made the set what it was, two close friends who ‘are just having a bloody good time and let us join in’ according to my dear friend Dave. After a trip back to where it all began at the Selectors stage with Donato Dozzy and a 7am Melkweg marathon for the Rush Hour showcase with Soichi Terada, Hunee and Antal that was it for us. An unfortunate early bow out a day early due to those annoying ‘life commitments’ that tend to interrupt these sort of things. We had bags to pack and flights to catch, all over far too soon.
Let’s take the usual aesthetics of a great festival away for a minute. Yes the sound-system was fantastic. The stages, impeccably curated. The site, beautiful. Drinks, reasonable and transport links, adequate. While all those and more showcased Dekmantel’s finesse as a festival Dekmantel only wants to share with the rest of the world what Amsterdam as a city can achieve. It was the coming together of a capital which proved most awe-inspiring to me and thousands others, one which created one of the best atmospheres of any European festival I’ve experienced and which has given Dekmantel that esteemed reputation I desperately wanted to be proven true. Thankfully, it was.