Review: Dekmantel Festival 2016
It’s hard to determine one particular highlight from this year’s Dekmantel, with the programme boasting it’s most impressive lineup to date and set times carefully curated to ensure each day weaved a pattern of excellence from the onset. This year more than ever the crowd possessed an immense energy that lent itself to some of the most remarkable sets in recent memory.
The level of production was exquisite. With five stages positioned in close proximity, you could walk from one side of the festival to the other in five minutes. The UFO tent was strictly techno. With its flittering lasers and acidic lighting igniting the canopy, sweaty and pulsing sets from the likes of Nina Kraviz, Robert Hood and Japanese legend DJ Nobu coaxed the crowd in to the only enclosed arena on the site. It was at times difficult to find the courage to leave the sunshine, but the atmosphere inside was electric from its conception at Friday lunchtime to the final tune played by Ben Klock on Sunday evening.
Although the most intimate arrangement on the site, the Boiler Room stage was vamped up this year, boasting four sets of FunktionOne speakers that faced inwards injecting the now world-famous hanger with a weighty surround sound. Their programme this year appeared set on showcasing new and raw talent as opposed to headline sets from the festival’s old guard. Whether it was oozing out sun-drenched squelchy disco in the afternoon from Chicago’s Sadar Bahar or packing the floor to bursting point with jacking 4×4 delivered by old friends, The Black Madonna and Mike Servito, the stage proved as vital as ever. Whether it were clinical techno from Pearson Sound, resounding electro from DJ Stingray or irresistible acid house from Young Marco or Antal, there was always the sense you were witnessing something special.
At the Selectors stage, the programming meant that often artists were afforded an opportunity to breathe with longer set times spanning three to six hours, allowing them to dig deeper than usual into their collections. A prime example, DJ Harvey took his crowd through a journey of cosmic ambience, house and disco over the course of three and a half hours. As the dark clouds that hung over the first 45 minutes of his set parted and the sun beamed down on the leafy setting, Harvey opted for a jovial selection of jaunty bass lines that forced hands aloft and plastered smiles across the sea of bodies.
Later, Marcellus Pittmann and Theo Parrish traded jam for jam, teasing the crowd into an absolute frenzy at points with Alex Dimou’s ‘ Nina and the Band’ and Beckie Bell’s ‘Music Madness’ the picks of the bunch. Driving through the dusk hours and into darkness, the woody paradise came alive with flamboyant, fairy-like lighting; the sound system guided the crowd perfectly with orchestrated thuds and crisp hi-hats as the old friends laid it down in style.
A few steps away lay The Greenhouse, a tropical paradise littered with overhanging palm trees and plants which evergreen surroundings seemed to glisten and twinkle across the weekend in the Dutch sunshine – and perhaps never more than during Moodymann‘s bustling set. In whatever setting he plays, Kenny Dixon Jr. always seems to maintain a compelling level of intimacy. Sporting a bandana and trademark bucket hat, he frequently took to the mic to toast the crowd with his characteristic Detroit drawl. At one stage he even left the decks to occupy the role of bartender as he poured out drinks to the front row.
Slamming out a collection of vintage hip hop and disco, highlights came in the shape of ‘Boogie’ by Uptown Funk Empire and Wilbert Longmire’s ‘The Black Coffee’, which got the girls bumping hips. ‘The Guitar Man’ by Weiss nearly lifted the roof clean off, while ODB’s stomper ‘Got Your Money’ produced a real ‘Were you there?’ moment. Even amidst such a vast array of world-class sets, this one felt particularly special.
But without doubt the most impressive physical feature of Dekmantel is the Main Stage. Open air with a large, alien-like dome hoisted high in the middle of the arena and rectangular LED screens spanning about one hundred metres, there were more Funktion One bass bins than you could shake a stick at. Aesthetically impressive, sonically stunning and fit to bust with an outrageous lineup on each day – and so, we’ve outlined five key performances that we feel deserve extra focus…
Five key sets from the Main Stage
5. Ben UFO b2b Joy Orbison
Anyone who has been following either of these two in recent years will know their versatility knows no bounds, and on Saturday afternoon they traversed through the decades; ‘Dooms Night’ by Azzido Da Bass rolled back the years whereas Midland’s ‘Final Credits’ (which is fast becoming the soundtrack to the summer), Karizma’s ‘Wall of Sound’ and Kink’s interpretation of Unit 2’s ‘Sunshine’ provided some fresher sounds, all the while exhibiting an impeccable energy and faultless mixing.
4. DJ Koze
Koze’s set lay toward the end of the weekend yet his experience was evident, showing himself to be keenly aware what his audience required and delivering a bright and breezy set. He rounded off two glorious hours with his own edit of Låpsley’s ‘Operator’ prompting a sing-along from the few thousand that turned out to watch him.
3. Fatima Yamaha
Upgrading from the Boiler Room stage this year, Fatima Yamaha began with a lengthy synth-heavy build up, swiftly followed by his 2004 cult classic ‘What’s A Girl To Do’, a contrast which deliciously complemented the huge sound system. Cuts from his 2015 album ‘A Girl Between Two Worlds’ and some unreleased material produced some incredibly euphoric moments, perfectly epitiomised when the shuddering bass of ‘Love Invaders’ cut through the floor for a groovy finale.
At night the main stage truly comes alive and the full force of the LED display becomes apparent. Alongside bellows of smoke that erupt from cannons down at the front, it’s an audio-visual overload. Saturday night’s closing set came from the Innervisions boss who opted for up front, slamming techno, best exhibited by Eagles and Butterflies’ forthcoming one of the label, ‘Unknown’.
1. Motor City Drum Ensemble
It seemed like most of the festival turned out to see MCDE for the last couple of hours, despite clashing with both Digital Mystikz and Ben Klock. Delivering a typically multifarious set, he spanned disco, reggae and funk. On dropping Teddy Pedergrass’ ‘You Can’t Hide From Yourself’, 40 people jumped the stage and started dancing on a raised platform which proved for a mesmerising show in front of the LED screens. His set was constantly uplifting; Sparque’s ‘Let’s go dancing’ and Lood’s ‘ Shout n’ out’ squeezed the last drops of energy out of the crowd while Zogo’s ‘Africa’ fulfilled to the last. A monstrous end to another monumental Dekmantel festival with MCDE proving an apt closing act.
Photography: Bart Heemskerk