After struggling through massive crowds of tourists eating stroopwafels, an undeniable ‘haze’ fills air, sunshine glimmers over a picturesque canal and I stop to pick up my bike – I’ve officially arrived in Amsterdam.
I’m here to cover Dekmantel Festival; an upcoming festival focused on electronic music put on by world renowned hosts. These include Resident Adviser(RA) – an invaluable source in the electronic music industry, Boiler Room – an exclusive and cutting edge live music project, Red Bull Music Academy – a worldwide company sponsoring workshops and festivals, and FACT – an expanded digital magazine focusing on young talent. It’s no wonder that this festival has a packed line-up. It’s almost like each host dug deep into their treasure chest for this one – and pulled out gems some didn’t even know existed.
This includes Jamie XX, John Talabot, Tour Tet (who unfortunately cancelled), Ame, Scuba, Blawan and Surgeon (Trade), Ben Klock, Joy Orbison, Pangaea, DJ Koze, and Carl Craig – to name a few. Going to a festival like this, you can be assured that if you don’t know some of the artists, there’s no need to worry. You’ll be well taken care of.
In the beautiful setting on Amsterdamse Bos (a forest in the south of the city) the festival calls itself home. Although it’s a great location, the 45 minute bike ride back to Amsterdam West felt like a lifetime at the end of a full day of dancing. As you enter the RA stage immediately catches your attention. Massive speakers stacked atop of one another and graphic screens in a half-cylinder shape incase the crowd. Passing several food trucks and Warsteiner bars (one furnished with a couple of hot tubs for guests to soak), you saunter towards the FACT stage and the Red Bull tent. Of course, the Boiler Room is hidden behind the other stages and is always packed.
Compared to several other festivals, this one was probably one of the best organized ones I’ve attended. It’s not as sprawling as bigger festivals so catching most acts is easily do-able. Several bars made for shorter wait times for drinks, there were more than enough toilets, and they even had lockers to keep your valuables. If you trust yourself enough to keep your personal belongings with you- congrats- but let’s be honest, if your dancing for three days straight, you’re bound to lose something.
It’s hard to choose favourites at a festival like this, but Jamie XX was brilliant as always, John Talabot is a musical genius and Blawan and Surgeon(Trade) were pretty amazing as well. To top it all off, several massive smoke machines and intricate lighting filled the sky each evening, making each set epic regardless of the artist.
I wouldn’t say Dekmantel is a hidden secret; it’s definitely not as well known as some other Dutch festivals such as Tomorrowland or Lowlands, but it definitely has potential to become something big. With a beautiful location, massive line-up of known and underground artists, good organization and overall good vibes it feels natural that Dekmantel came to be.