Born of a collective with accolades including a booking agency, label output and a party whose past guests reads like a whose who of achingly cool techno, Dekmantel Festival really hit the UK shores this year. Still in it’s infancy at only two years old Dekmantel has grown twice in size since it’s inception and with a back-to-back laden line-up of just about every techno legend this side of the Universe, you can see why.
Entering the site on Friday, sun beating down and everything untouched it was straight over to the Forest area to meet San Proper b2b Melon on the Selector stage. There certainly is nothing like the energy of a crazed DJ who’s so into the music he’s playing he’s dancing more ferociously than anybody in the crowd as he twists knobs and syncs tracks. In fact, it’s infectious and an aide to those initial dancefloor nerves one gets when first landing at the dancefloor. As is an illustrious set ranging from disco edits to tribal infused beats and those familiar tracks that help your joints let loose.
The stage itself, like much of the festival was simplistic but effective – the set centre piece a huge Willow tree that showed potential to create a magical uplit atmosphere that evening.
After finding our feet and energy, the site was explored in its entirety, Martyn & Inga Copeland embraced the beaming sunshine with a vibing set filled with steel drums and beats remniscant of a Brazillian Carnival. Talaboman fed the mainstage dancefloor with sleazy house and techno while I marveled at the modest but impressive Main Stage arena. Naturally the production across the entire festival was reflective of the Dutch people from which it was born – restrained and modest yet inviting and effective – basically super fucking edgy – with a smile on!
Realising the time I strode over to watch the main man of the day (in my opinion) DJ Harvey get an otherwise fairly tame crowd into a full array of body twisting, arm-waving and hip swinging. There is something to be said for ending the day on disco, and wile some might argue it’s better placed in the beating sun, I couldn’t think of a better end to a day than the highly anticipated disco-master taking the serious out of the crowd. Stand out tracks included ‘Down To Love Town’ by DJ Lion & Sebastian Ledher and Late Nite Tuff Guy’s ‘Do I believe in God (Muscle Mix)’.
Jamie XX closed the mainstage, building his set excellently with staples including Four Tet’s ‘For These Times’ and his remix of Gill Scott Heron’s ‘I’ll Take Care of You’ to ‘Sandwiches’ by Detroit Grand Pubahs into a deep eery techno that resembled an underwater whale argument…
Having avoided a visit in the blazing heat the previous day, Saturday saw me finally visit the UFO tent for Levon Vincent protégé Joey Anderson and boy am I glad I did… This man brought the Big-Top down with a journey through acid to techno to mellow to groovy with some dub tecno thrown in between for good measure. His repertoire was vast to match the appetite he was impressing on me and still he came with more.
It was hard to spend time in the XLR8R tent at Dekmantel with the weather being so good to us, but once inside the dynamic lighting and (mostly) substantial soundsystem was able to hold the crowd inside. The tent was largely housing the deeper techno acts of the lineup, but as Rodhad took to the decks later on that day, I couldn’t help but feel the hard hitting sounds of a thudding techno beat was best served in a damp brick warehouse or a dingy basement. It appeared I was in the minority as the tent stood full to the brim and the crowd was rapturous with energy for the Berlin stalwart.
Three Chairs packed The Woods each DJ coming forth with no cohesion in mind, but still putting it out with harmonious energy, Kyle Hall & Jay Daniels in tow having had their set cancelled earlier in the day. The fresh energies only added to an enviable party behind the booth that lifted the crowd and closed day two in a less than serious fashion.
Having observed what I had about the achingly cool Dutch techno-heads, it only made sense that Sunday was the busiest and most natively anticipated day – Robert Hood, DVS1, Steffi b2b Answer Code Request and Ben Klock b2b Ryan Elliot – the techno contingent was out in full force, but before heading down that road I jumped in on homegrown Ben UFO whose broad spanning set was received with open arms and the previously edgy crowd was really letting loose. Andrew Weatherall built on his crowd one by one in synergy with the records he was loading onto the decks. Other highlights included Robert Hood on the mainstage and Marcel Dettman & Luke Slater in the XLR8R Big Top. It certainly was a surprise to walk into ‘Burnin – MK dub’ at the end of their set…
Just when I thought I couldn’t do any more Ben Klock b2b Ryan Elliot slapped me round the face and told me I would with their hard-bodied techno that is incongruously accompanied with a constant groove that brings a depth and longevity in Klock’s sets that leaves you hoping they just aren’t going to end.
Outstanding music aside, the festival was operated with a Germanic efficiency boasting fast queues through to impeccably clean toilets and it felt that everything had been thought of – the open air mainstage dancefloor was covered by a sun-come-rain protector that looked more UFO than the UFO stage itself, little bottles of deodorant and sun tan lotion were chained up outside the toilets and wooden floors throughout for the Dutch to exercise their Euro half time shuffle.
One thing I would change for next year is the sale of water bottles without their lids on paired with the lack of drinking tap water in circa 29º heat. You’d think in a country famous for it’s water management they may be able to offer some drinking water taps, or perhaps they just chose not to.
Hitting the nail near enough perfectly on the head, Dekmantel 2014 can be stamped with a solid 8.5 out of 10. It’s going to be interesting to see where they can go from here and how they can build on such a comprehensive lineup for 2015. It’s definitely one for the annual calendar, that’s for sure..