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by bernard.shaw 2016-08-23 17:07:09

Dekmantel Festival 2016

An Easy, Effortless Adventure

Dekmantel Festival 2016 - An Easy, Effortless Adventure

“Big ain’t always better” - this is the rally cry that Dekmantel Festival operate under. A snug, fine tuned machine that has both soul and substance - an epic microcosm of the monumental city it’s set in. Dekmantel Festival is all heart coupled with solid, efficient vibes.

Conference to Kick Things Off

The festival kicked off Thursday in Amsterdam Eye with 4 hours of Resident Advisor recorded interviews (watch this space). Highlights from the sofa of insights and anecdotes? Serge from Clone chatting about the reissue culture and the difficulty he sometimes faces trying to track artists down. His searches have had some interesting results - one producer was in prison, another homeless and other found playing lounge music at a piano bar in Vienna -  as expected, he would not name names.

The iconic Marcellus Pittman then chatted about his love for the horror genre and how it’s influenced his productions. There were many animated stories about his early Three Chairs days, including descriptions of their epic games of Tekken. On the creativity panel Dasha Rush explained ruthless consistency is key to the creative process, while Objekt advised working on a few projects at once - if you get stuck on one you can still work on the other,  so you don’t lose pace.


5 Star Set Up

On to the festival itself - Dekmantel Festival’s selling points? They make things SO easy peasy. Getting to, and around the compact forest location was effortless (not to mention hangover friendly).  The smooth and quick float between stages, coupled with zero wait time for a pint, shuttle busses between city and forest or a (clean) portaloo was a huge happy point. I honestly don’t think I had more than a 5 minute wait time for anything. Its five stages can be walked to in about six minutes yet, remarkably there is no bleed of sound (gold star for the production people). It’s a sophisticated, pint sized set up - they say 10K in attendance, but it genuinely feels like half that amount. It’s this subtle yet efficient festival ethic that makes me wave an angry fist at some festivals who refuse to get the basics right. Couple this with the gorgeous green play patch that is Amsterdam Bos and heaps of new and vintage festival friends (I think there were more Monaghan people than native Dutch). Everyone entered a dandy ‘here for a good time, not a long time’ stratosphere.

Disclaimer - it’s not without it’s tiny, tweakable faults. The pints were less than average (are they ever any use at festivals?). The aptly christened Grolschpiss left me craving a can - and don’t start me on the death wine. This was easily fixed by switching to the spirits - it was Aperol Spritz all round. Dekmantel is not a what you would call a boutique festival, if you want art installations (not counting the bad tattoos, cartoon faced after dark faces or Villalobos’s fringe), then go elsewhere. But if dancing around a leafy green forest filled with friendly souls floats your canal boat, then this is the festival for you. It’s an a la carte adventure of heads down or a hands in the air experience when you want it.

Fridays talking points? No better way to start ANYTHING than 3.5 hours of Harvey, followed up with Moodyman and a side by side extravaganza of Pittman and Theo Parrish. I've Kenny Dixon Jr. to thank for randomly bursting into Willie Beaver Hale - Groove On on various street corners since I’ve come home (much to the amusement of those around me).

Pittman & Theo served up the forest fun at Selectors Stage for an immense record swapping adventure - kudos for Lil' Louis & The Party and a delightful swing to Gino Soccio as I wrestled with a death wine.


As the sun set, Jeff Mills taking over the main stage was both masterful and magnificent.  Enveloped by giant half moon video monitors that encased the main stage, they lashed out scalding, jaw breaking visuals that complemented his conjuring, warlock moves (I would love to see the size of that ‘leckie bill). I’m not exactly sure where this combination took each and every one of us, but I really, really want to go back.

Jeff Mills @ Dekmantel Festival from Rachel hegarty on Vimeo.

We rounded up day 1 with brief stop at the stately Stingray thrashing the Boiler Room stage - he was the masked chocolate at the end of our cornetto.

The Machines Finally Take Over

After bottomless cans of coke we were ready to take on day 2. Hat Tip to Midland for getting us off our shaky feet and Pender Street Steppers b2b Beautiful Swimmers for their moral support (heroes don’t always wear capes).

Saturday sentiments were dished out courtesy of a minimal techno live set from the legend that is DBX. I would never have guessed a set like that sprawled under a Dutch blazing sun would work (I’m conditioned to dark, basement vibes), but everything worked magnificently.

Meanwhile at Greenhouse, Juju & Jordash totalled their toys (bravo lads, I can barely work my UPC remote), where once again the hardware brought home the happy bacon.

In a nutshell, Saturday belonged to the machines.

Last Day to Leather It

Sunday most deffo had an air of ‘let’s leather this’ from both those attending and those playing. It was the final day, and no one was going home unless all tanks were empty. After a steady start to our day thanks to Palms Trax  (my shoulders loosened the second I heard this) and the momentous Fatima Yamaha letting loose on his buttons and creating more metal magic - I could have watched him forever.

Enough of that steady start - it was then over to Robert Hood in the UFO/Top Off tent. It was debauched hedonism all round - including the inception moment he dropped Floorplan on us. A walk about to catch some of Veronica Vasicka and master finisher MCDE under those heavy weight visuals (everyone else recons he throws amazing house parties, as he wants everyone to go home happy?). And was it just me or was that sound cranked up extra loud? We were a slave to that main stage thanks to Blo and good ol Teddy Pendergrass.

Motor City Drum Ensemble @ Dekmantel Festival from Rachel hegarty on Vimeo.

It’s nothing short of blasphemous not to finish on anything that isn’t Intergalactic Gary for our final limb stretch - with IG fittingly dropping Change - The End as one of our spacey swan songs.

The sum of our Dekmantel exploits most deffo belonged to 3 solid days of sideways laughter, catch up chats, back and forth banter all seasoned with an exceptional soundtrack. This is definitely a festival where you take a lot away, yet somehow leave a little piece of yourself behind. Till next year Dekmantel Festival.


Words : Rachel Hegarty

Photos : Desiré van den Berg and Bart Heemskerk 


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