Dekmantel Festival 2023

The deep love for the diversity of electronic music

Dekmantel 2023 (Photo: Felix Nisble)

I’m sitting in the IC direction Berlin. After four days at the Dekmantel Festival in Amsterdam, I’ve just shared some visual impressions on Instagram, when I get a message from Kaput’s editor-in-chief saying they’ve seen my story, feel the post-event FOMO and want a follow-up report for Kaput. Sure, why not, I think at first.

But then I start to have doubts and a chain of thoughts develops, at the end of which the following questions arise:
What remains of such a festival experience?
How long is it still interesting to report about a past event in our media-saturated present?

After an event, recap videos of the artists involved in the festival continue to circulate on social media for about a week – then it’s over. There’s something almost disreputable and backward-looking about dwelling on the past for too long. After all, the next major event is usually just around the corner, or at least the next party weekend.

So what remains of those ecstatic moments for which so many people came together and so many others worked hard?
Memories of heartfelt hugs with perfect strangers, fleeting moments of musical immersion, the cool rain shower on the way home at night….

I’ll try to capture some of that. Here comes my report from Dekmantel 2023:

Poly Chain (Photo: Felix Nisble)


It starts on Thursday with the “Aan het IJ” supporting program, which takes place in various venues in downtown Amsterdam. At the Club Shelter, Poly Chain opens the evening with an ambient live set. The Ukrainian artist is actually better known for her energetic electro sound, but on this evening crystal-clear bleeps, deep basses and flowing FM pads buzz through the room for a good hour and let a pleasantly warm feeling rise in the body.

After that, my companions and I take the ferry across the river and head to the Muziekgebouw to catch the Sevdaliza concert. Their mighty hyperpop with a strong band smashes through the large concert hall, which is otherwise more known for classical and jazz concerts.
In the meantime, the stomach is growling and calls for a portion of Dutch fries, which unfortunately is nowhere within reach. It doesn’t matter, perseverance is the order of the day, because my highlight of the evening follows: the tape loop performance by William Basinski, an iconic appearance in the fluorescent backlight of spotlights and fog. The exceptional American artist draws the crowd, which mostly sits or lies on the floor, into an orbit of sounds of graceful beauty, which unfold their full splendor in the acoustics of the room. Inspired by the performance, we then walk through cool Amsterdam in the direction of the midnight snack.

William Basinski (Photo: Felix Nisble)


The festival begins on Friday on the grounds of the Amsterdamse Bos park. The journey is traditionally comfortable by bike from the city. The weather is still stable, so rays of sunshine accompany us as we step onto the Greenhouse floor for the first time, where Nosedrip is just firing off a song by Joy Division. The old indie and post-punk records don’t sound that great on the Function One towers, but whatever, the mood is great and the euphoric anticipation of three days of festival is in the air.

We explore the terrain, which has changed slightly since my last visit in 2016, and finally end up in The Loop. Here, Carista takes over the DJ booth as the sun comes out from behind the clouds to meld with the artist’s driving, Detroit sound. The positive-energetic set gets more and more technoid over time and sets the mood for the coming weekend. It continues in the tube-shaped UFO II with a live set by Buttechno, which fires off a wonderfully pounding sound, so that the floor quickly turns into a small sauna.
The first day of the festival ends in the Greenhouse, where Helena Hauff performs her solid, blaring electro.
At 11pm sharp, we hop on our bikes and after a night bike ride – past the glittering lights of Schiphol Airport – end up on the waters of the Nieuwe Meer for a little unofficial after-hour.

Carista (Photo: Felix Nisble)


The next day begins with two realizations:
Firstly, the line-up is once again so good that it’s impossible to see all the artists you want to see.
Second: the good weather seems to be slowly but surely letting us down. We hang in front of the rain radar and try to find a reasonably dry slot and then jump on our bikes at the next available opportunity.

Due to the weather-related delay, we unfortunately only hear 20 minutes of the live set by μ-ziq, who is performing in UFO II together with the Czech visual artist ID:MORA. A perfect combination of IDM drum’n’bass and brightly colored abstract visuals. Then we walk to the Selectors Floor to indulge in the dry acid techno of PLO Man. The sun breaks through the canopy of leaves on the outdoor floor again and again and combines with the smoke from the fog machine to create a wonderful afternoon dream. Unfortunately I have to flee in between, because Blawan is performing at The Loop. Having listened to his last EP over and over, I definitely don’t want to miss this set. What awaits me there still gives me goosebumps all over my body when I write it days later. The sound that the Brit gets out of his equipment is so massive and the sound design is so far ahead that I immediately go diving into it: Broken beats paired with chopped vocals are discharged in a suddenly popping 4/4 kick drum that just makes everything shake . I have the feeling that some people find it a bit difficult to get into the set, maybe a tack too far out? But then I discover a crew that goes along with the energy and together we go full throttle.

In general, I think the audience is very positive this year. There are groups that notoriously crowd onto the dance floor and then stand around chatting loudly or nibbling on fun powder from little bags, but there are also spots everywhere with people getting absorbed and happily surrendering to the music and whose warm, friendly presence makes the music experience perfect.

After Blawan, I float back over the grounds looking for my friends. For me, the evening could end now – but of course it doesn’t. After finding my people in the Greenhouse at Avalon Emerson, I’m drawn to The Nest for the closing of Special Request & ANZ. The euphoria that waves through the crowd when the two unleash a thunderstorm of breakbeat and 2-step garage is hard to put into words. Should there be something like a maximum level for euphoria, it has definitely been reached here. The bar is full, more is simply not possible. After this brilliant closing, we ride together with what feels like 10,000 people on our bikes in the direction of the city center. No after party today, but a heavy rain shower hits us shortly before the finish line and soaks us to the bone.

Selectors (Photo: Felix Nisble)


On Sunday, the weather shifts down a gear and turns the festival site into a slippery mud desert in places. Therefore, the covered floors are much better attended. First I end up in the big techno tent UFO I with the live act by Fahdi Mohem. Big room techno isn’t really my thing anymore, but the Berliner delivers such an energetic set that I’m immediately drawn to the dance floor.

I’m slowly noticing the kilometers I’ve danced and cycled over the last few days and then relax and get myself a cup of tea. Then I walk to the Greenhouse, which has definitely become my favorite floor. Here Suze Ijo plays her soulful house and disco sound. Super fitting for the afternoon and a perfect introduction to the following live set by DJ Firmenza, DJ Niggafox and DJ Danifox. The performance of the Portuguese supergroup takes place in office chairs sitting at a table. Their polyrhythmic, stumbling Afro-Deep-House sound with shouted, powerful lyrics develops a strong pull and pulls the entire dance floor under its hypnotic spell. Another musical highlight that you certainly rarely hear.

My energy level is slowly stabilizing again and so I make a detour to The Nest, where DJ Swisha is spinning and is then replaced by drum’n’bass legend Calibre. At some point, however, the crowding caused by the rain gets too blatant for me and I flee to the Greenhouse for the closing of Ben UFO. As the final take falls, a part of me is glad the festival is over, oversaturated with the impressions of the past few days. But another part wants to stay and keep dancing.


On Mondays, on the train back to Berlin, I think about the weekend again – and ask myself the question I mentioned at the beginning: What remains?

Impressions of shared joy in music, moments of intimacy, highlights, ecstasy, stepping out of everyday life.

But there is also another feeling, a kind of anchor to reality, so to speak. It is the fact that this special form of entertainment is quite expensive in the end: entrance ticket, accommodation, travel to and from the airport and meals. If you add all these expenses together, it quickly becomes clear that you have to be able to afford a festival like Dekmantel. Of course, the fees of the top-class line-up have to be brought in. But in the price spiral that is often described, people who simply don’t have the means to attend such a festival always fall by the wayside. And often these are precisely the artists who contribute to the diversity of electronic music. I hope that at least the guest list has given as many people as possible access to the festival. However, the thought remains that nightlife is increasingly getting a participation class problem due to rising prices – or has even had it for a long time. And so it is not wrong to imagine the privilege of participating in such an event.

Even if it’s a bit difficult for me to review the collected musical impressions in a reasonably orderly manner – the sequence is too fast, the number of fantastic acts is too high, the release of dopamine is too great –, the weekend that I experienced still made something in the consciousness inscribed: The deep love for the diversity of electronic music.



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