When it comes to festivals, AboutToBlow rarely needs more than a gentle nudge to embark on a 3 to 5 day (or in some cases 14 – see Outlook & Dimensions) action adventure involving the very best in electronic music. Yet upon scoping the breadth of what 2014’s festival landscape has to offer it’s quite clear there’s a greater scope and variety than we’ve ever seen before.
Despite this our on-going quest to discover the best festival’s on offer meant the decision making process was actually quite easy. Having previously sampled a plethora of the copious options taking place across the Croatian coastline, as well as an earlier stint on the stunning Balearic isle of Ibiza we were yearning for something new. Look no further then Dekmantel, a festival where you’ll be hard pressed to find a weightier line-up anywhere encompassing so many incredible acts into the space of 3 days.
With such a discernibly strong line-up to match the organiser’s impeccable reputation as a label and club night, it’s no surprise that after a year the festivals population had reportedly doubled in size. Throw into the equation its basis within the ever-glorious, incomparable locale of Amsterdam and you’ve got yourself an occasion that offers the complete package.
Having made the short, 20 minute journey from the city centre into the gargantuan forest of Amsterdam Bos, it’s worth mentioning how awesome the cabin-accommodation was. As far as we’re concerned this is the future of festival camping; a compact, mobile home that’s ready assembled with beds, home amenities and power sockets – so often the bane of any festival-goers existence. Yet with the music well underway and the sound of a distant bass rumble it was time to take a stroll through the forest and into the main site.
Before dissecting one of the most impressive line-ups in a while it is necessary to applaud the setting and scenery of each stage. The main stage was the most spacious we have known to date because 1. The visual focuses the attention to at least 180 degrees and 2. It’s is more of a corner than a stage, eliminating the typical ‘everybody stare at the DJ syndrome’ with no space to dance. Whilst being refreshing, outdoorsy and comfortable the main stage undeniably packed a hard punch, playing host to the likes of Joy Orbison, Hessle Audio, and Caribou to name a few.
The Hessle Audio trio showcase was a solid highpoint with Ben UFO, Pearson Sound and Pangaea showing multiple executions of mixing with incomparable execution. Admittedly hearing the Bass heavy delights of UK favourites like Champion & Fis-T through the utterly ridiculous main stage sound system were never on the agenda until the Audio trio hit the stage, culminating in a relentless set packed with energy, surprises and a dignified UK feel that left us pleasantly surprised.
Ben UFO in particular had a weekend to remember, showing once again why he was such a key figure in the excellent Dekmantel spotlight series prior to the festival as he took to the selectors stage for a 3 hour spectacular of creative mixing and faultless choices. It wasn’t hard to see that he’s a graduate from the school of no frills, cakes, screens or lasers – just good selections of groovy and soulful vibes alongside the funky 808 clad aggressive beats that always appear to seamlessly fit, (see below).
The second largest of the stages was the highly-acclaimed XLR8R marquee which accommodated some heavy techno beatsmiths including Marcel Dettmann and the prolific Ben Klock whose intent was quite patently clear, unleashing a display of Techno with a groovier edge. Despite this being credited as the most intensive stage it still carried a relaxed atmosphere, a sense of unpretentious maturity and calmness with no awkward altercations or annoying first time ravers, an ever-increasing rarity on UK shores.
The Smaller stages quite often become our favourite, leaving us with the fondest memories and once again this was the case at Dekmantel. The 3 smaller stages had more of a charisma than presence with the wonderfully curated Selektors Stage being almost hidden away like a boudoir in a rainforest. The RBMA area resembled a draped teepee above a wooden decking and the Boiler Room stage, undoubtedly the most creative of them all, was essentially a bomb shelter which really worked well as music blared out from either side of a half cylinder. Note that it’s always nice to see a Boiler Room crowd actually dancing, with not much pretense about, again showing testimony to the festival’s culture, possessing an easy going and mature yet fun-loving vibe.
The RBMA stage was another highlight of Dekmantel with the most diversely selected artists variety (as always) delivering a wide-range of styles with excitement. The Three Chairs ‘disco variety’ experience is a tried and tested formula that doesn’t usually fail; it’s just such a shame it couldn’t be heard as loud as the other surrounding performances. Also on the RBMA stage was Oneman and Jackmaster’s ‘Can You Dance’ formula of party bangers from two DJ’s who relatively know each other’s Rekordbox inside-out. It’s always a fascinating sight to whiteness as Grime and Techno aren’t something you tend to hear regularly together outside out the UK yet it’s unpredictably refreshing to hear a ‘SoundClash’ that you don’t seem to get from your average tech house back-to-back. This was pure energy and fun is the key word (hence the name).
Having experienced an amazing few days thus far, the steady if somewhat daunting notion of Dekmantel soon coming to a climax began to peak on the penultimate day, where headlining performances from producer/DJ and the all-round extraordinary Caribou brought everyone together as he played an extremely diverse range of tension building and releasing party tunes such as MK’s Freak’ N’ You remix, Four Tet’s danceable version of Lana Del Ray and his summer collaboration ‘Julia’. He set the tone nicely to finish up on his latest single and sing-a-long anthem from the new album ‘Can’t Do Without You’ which went down as one of the festival’s stand out moments and nicely built up adrenalin only to then be hit by the prompt 11pm closing time.
All in all Dekmantel exceeded our expectations, with a heavy music focus and excellent array of artistry it was a lot more classy, relaxed and unique than we had imagined. Although the early finish time left us wanting more it at least seemed to work well alongside all the Dekmental by night line ups taking place at Trouw & it’s rooftop neighbor Canvas which thankfully gave us the chance to experience it all again in a more traditional clubbing environment.
In terms of class, maturity and credibility, Dekmantel has managed to blow its rivals out the water this summer and having sold out well in advance is testament to the excellent job the organisers have done.
As far as we’re concerned, the countdown to 2015 has started already.