Dekmantel surely is one of the best and most popular festivals for electronic dance music out there. Despite the tickets being sold out within a few hours, I got to visit the festival again for the second time. I was curious to see, what had changed since 2016 and whether it was still worth visiting, with the line-up being a little less dominated by big names this time. And yet again it absolutely amazed me with its big variety of artists, high-quality in music and its beautiful, sophisticated, kind crowd.
The Dekmantel program even starts a few days before the actual festival. On Wednesday night, Four Tet performed a mesmerising sit-down concert for a few lucky ones, that were already in the city. And also on Thursday night there was a big program spread out over a couple of locations in Amsterdam. I saw a peak of Acid Arab‘s live performance and Tim Hecker‘s haunting and piercing electronic sounds. The program before the festival is usually not a must-do, but if you’re already in the city and keen to discover some new artists and locations, you might as well check it out.
The official festival kicked off on the sunny Friday with pure good vibes and positive energy. Bristol’s Shanti Celeste heated up the main stage with groovy, feel-good tunes and got everyone ready for a good day. And it’s save to say that being one of the opening acts at the main stage, especially on a Friday, is certainly not an easy job. Then the one and only Ricardo Villalobos took over and delivered an absolute killer set filled with bangers, that really got the party started and set the main stage on fire. His performances are usually a bit unpredictable. When I had seen his main stage set in 2016 I was not that impressed, but this time he was in best form. Then Call Super took over with absolutely seamless mixing. The beginning of his set was rather edgy and challenging, but still captivating and anything but boring. Some other sets that stuck out on Friday were Clark and Objekt on the UFO stage – both dark, challenging and emotional sets. Objekt got away with mixing in a random pop song. Only a Dekmantel crowd would go with that.
Overall I was well impressed with the whole outlay of the festival. You still have a huge variety of stages and different music genres. The new electronic, live-performance stage UFO II is definitely worth checking out, but was unbearably crammed most times. What I loved about the line-up was, that there were still the typical big Dekmantel names playing, but also a lot of rising talents that are still less known. In fact, the line-up is quite overwhelming and you’ll have to make peace with the fact that you cannot see all of the artists you wanted to see. But no matter what time and what stage you are at, you can be sure that the music is always top, top quality.
Saturday was definitely the big day. The festival grounds were crowded with more people and filled with more energy. Local Tom Trago brought a beautiful house-set to the main stage, playing DJ Koze’s “Pick Up”. Highlight of the day was Matrixxman‘s techno set at the dark UFO stage. He kept the energy consistently high-up without it getting boring for even a second or losing the crowd. I’ve never experienced anything like it. The whole stage was bursting with energy as if the ceiling would come of any second. The night ended with a beautiful, enchanting Four Tet DJ set at the main stage. He playfully mixed together some of his remixes and tracks that sometimes sounded like his own productions and filled the whole main stage with love. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful day.
Another personal highlight of mine was Stellar OM Source‘s set at the Red Light Radio Stage on Sunday. This small stage sometimes seemed to have the best energy and the most fun crowd and could unexpectedly be one of the best stages. The french producer put together a fun, danceable house set, that was all about good vibes and love for music. Her infectious enthusiasm and finely selected tracks made it a really special performance. As per usual the day program finished around 11pm. If you were still keen to dance, you could go to one of the night parties at Amsterdam’s club locations Radion or Shelter, which both presented a great line-up on all three nights. The Night program at Radion was filled with techno artists like Matrixxman, DJ Bone and Intergalatic Gary and was actually a decent follow-up to the festival. But of course the night program cannot keep up with the festival and only serves as a consolation for the fact that the festival ends this early.
Dekmantel remains to be rather a show-case for great artists and new talents presenting high-quality music to a sophisticated crowd. You can expect the absolute best of each artist but also will be challenged as the listener.