Dekmantel: From Holland with Love

On the southern edge of the Dutch Capital lies Amsterdam Bos. In recent years, this enchanting forest has been home to Dekmantel’s summer festival. It’s an appropriate location for an event widely considered to be Europe’s best celebration of dance music. Approaching the festival gates, the crisp sound of the Funktion Ones pierces the forest like an inter-galactic transmission. Upon entry, the source is clear: an imposing main stage, flanked by considered lighting but standing alone, calling the dancers to it.

 Crowds gather at the Selectors stage.

Crowds gather at the Selectors stage.

Rising star Peggy Gou gave the turntables their first workout of the weekend. By the time Omar S came - only a few short hours later - to disperse that distinctive Detroit sound, the dance-floor was a heaving mass of hedonism. It remained that way for the next 48 hours, with Robert Hood reminding us that he will never grow old, and a memorable set from the gifted Ben UFO leaving both fellow artists and spellbound ravers lost in the dance. Bristol-born, Berlin-based Palms Trax removed any third day hangovers with a masterclass in authentic house music. As the air filled with big kicks, crisp snares and rolling hi-hats, it was impossible to do anything but dance, with Davina’s ‘Don’t You Want It’ and the dub mix of Victor Simonelli’s ‘I Can Hardly Wait’ setting an infectious tone.

A short walk across the festival site lies the charming ‘Selectors’ stage. This is a special place. Overhung by a weeping willow tree, it hosts a weekend of marathon sets. For the chosen few, it’s an invitation to dig deep into the crate; to push comfort zones; to take those in attendance on an emotional journey. Because she is who she is, Nina Kraviz gladly accepted. Called to cut the ribbon, the Trip boss began in the realms of Italo, before moving through the gears to end in the more familiar territory of acid and techno 3.5 hours later. It set the standard for a golden weekend, with other memorable sets from Red Greg & GE-OLOGY and Young Marco. Of course, too, it wouldn’t be Dekmantel without MCDE sharing some of his gems with an appreciative crowd.

 The infamous Boiler Room stage.

The infamous Boiler Room stage.

A slight bend to the left from the Selectors is The Boiler Room which, quite rightly, has come to acquire a peerless reputation. Cloaked in flora and shrouded in persistent ejections of smoke, it has a mythical quality that attracts dancers to listen to music in a unique and intense fashion – for the unfamiliar, it comes highly recommended. Job Jobse induced riotous scenes as Friday came to a close before, as if by divine intervention, Nina Kraviz made a surprise appearance to begin Saturday’s festivities under the steel roof. Opening with Bobby Konders & Massive Sounds ‘The Poem’ – a song that demands close attention before easing into the groove – it was a performance that left everyone wondering why every Saturday afternoon cannot begin like that.

Later there was a pulsating set from Volvox & Umfang who, in a rarely sighted b2b, traversed breakbeat, electro, acid and techno. On Sunday afternoon, Idle Hands-educated Shanti Celeste stole the show. Fresh from a mainstage performance that had revealed to the uninitiated her exquisite taste in house music - the unveiling of Robert Owens classic ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’ was perfect - the Peach Discs boss nailed the spirit of the boiler room, dropping Ready for the World’s ‘Oh Sheila’ early in the piece. In doing so, this rising star from Bristol reminded us just how much we owe that city.  

 Shanti Celeste at the Boiler Room stage.

Shanti Celeste at the Boiler Room stage.

Located between The Boiler Room and The Selectors is The Greenhouse. Expertly curated to the extent that, like all greenhouses, the line-up is designed to ensure a distinct rise in temperature, this is a venue where many a marble has been lost. Whether it was Helena Hauff sounding the marching orders, Joy-O and Jon K going back-to-back in a raucous tussle, or Jeff Mills and Tony Allen performing live, it was very difficult to emerge without thinking you’ve experienced something very special indeed.

But, frankly, the same could be said for the entire event. Holland is a carefree nation – its people are liberal, happy, joyously friendly and outstanding hosts. But one thing they're not is careless. Although undoubtedly aided by its charming surrounding city, this is a festival where every detail has been considered – from the type and size of the crowd, to the set times and locations – and every problem solved before it materialises. A true lesson in how it’s done, Dekmantel was also a reminder of what it’s all about. To all those responsible, we simply salute and say tot volgend jaar!