For the past few years, since my interest directed itself towards the clubbing scene, there has been one event everyone around me has been talking about. The annual line-up announcements are preceded by weeks of chatter; booking speculations and defiant statements of intent, swearing attendance to this apparently momentous occasion. I never quite understood the hype, the cynic that I am, associating excitement with inevitable let-down; and so with mixed emotions I made my way to Manchester, home of the Warehouse Project, to see what the fuss was about.
One of the most historic Warehouse Projects yet, showcasing the final stand of the 50Weapons label, with Rødhåd, Siriusmodeselektor, Truncate, Dark Sky, Clark, Addison Groove, and the rest testing British build quality. The label’s end has been lamented as the biggest tragedy of dance music this year, as saying goodbye to ten years of service and an all-star roster can be, but there were no tears shed at this event.
The venue is hidden away near Manchester Piccadilly station, the entrance a gap in a wall under a bridge. I say hidden, but it was hard to miss with the amount of security set up outside – from pat-downs to dogs – methodically ushering the crowds into the dark innards of the bridge. There was a feeling that I wasn’t supposed to be seeing this location, hidden in plain sight, that hundreds of people unknowingly walk past every day. Upon entering the structure I was immediately lost in cavernous red-brick (as if you can tell in the dark) rooms full of bustling ravers, all facing two stages at opposite ends of the venue. The light shows were impressive and unique to every artist, each performance is clearly separated from the last, making it seem like a kind of honour for the artist to be present. Surprisingly, I found gourmet food being served in the smoking area and a variety of affordable cocktails at the bar. This is an event that is prepared for anything its patrons might desire, leaving it hard to not have a good time. After a short wander around the space the fuss friends, strangers and acquaintances had been making was explained.
Even more impressive was the religious following of this event, as it seemed people had travelled from around the world for this night. These were not just students or young professionals living in Manchester, they were people who had travelled from France, Switzerland, Spain, even Germany (a Berghain regular proclaimed his love of the event to me) just for the weekend, or even the night. If this is the crowd that attends every Warehouse Project, then it is a crowd that has invested hundreds of pounds to live it up on this one night, undoubtedly contributing to the unique atmosphere.
Of course, the system and the music did not disappoint. I was particularly surprised by Clark’s live set, beginning with the somber melodies that define him before ramping up into, what must have been over, a 140 bpm marathon set. From this Truncate made his appearance on the main stage, delving into what a bystander announced to be “sounds of scratching metal”, in a set showcasing the best of 50weapons techno. From the gloom of Truncate, Modeselektor built up to a live-set with Siriusmo. The performance was unbelievably varied, moving from left-field house to dub before the crux of German Clap and Evil Twin. The level of interaction with the crowd was incredible, Gernot Bronsert grabbed the microphone and began cheering “modeselektor” before breaking out the deep vocals of Evil Twin, joining the crowd’s cheers. Last but not least, I enjoyed Rødhåd’s militant thumping, that I’m sure we are all acquainted with by now, adequately placed in the closing slot. I remember the bitter-sweet, minor-key synths escorting me to my 4.50 am train.
Needless to say, I will be attending the Warehouse Project again. If you haven’t been you should go, there aren’t really any excuses especially if you live in England and enjoy dance music. This is the closest you can get to a festival in the winter months, without the inconvenience (to some) of having to camp out. Those Europeans were having the best time, and you could be too.
Day one at the much-anticipated Amsterdamse Bos site, is like entering a dystopian playground. This is going to be my haven for the next three days and I can’t wait to start exploring it. Some of my absolute favourite sets take place during that Friday. On my first visit to the famous Boiler Room stage I am greeted by an uplifting and feel-good set by Tripeo, who gave us an hour-long House set highly influenced by Disco beats. The bright sun instantly transports my thoughts to a chilled summer in Majorca as I dance along to the sound of summer.
After the attending the start of Robert Hood‘s ruthless set in the UFO stage, my impatience grows as I am aware the time for Ben Klock to grace the Main Stage is fast approaching. Arriving before his set, I am happy to find that his predecessor Model 500 is closing his set with a hard punch. After a long anticipatory silence Ben Klock takes the stage. The sun behind us is setting to the perfect soundtrack and we are all on the same train to sundown as he transitions into darkness, seamlessly easing into a steady beat. The next set by Marcel Dettmann is perfectly complementary. His sound descends all God-like and you know that the darkness has finally taken over. The bright sun has set with Ben Klock and the dark moon is rising with Marcel Dettmann.
I leave the main stage half-heartedly to catch another set I am dying to see in the UFO stage. I arrive whilst Blawan is ending his set with a surrounding embryonic sound as a clash of machineguns blasts through the speakers. Squarepusher has signalled his presence. His signature mask, often slightly different with each appearance, is easy to make out in front of the geometric colourful visuals which appear behind him and his white fencing suit. The white iron mask completely hides his face. Feelings are intense, like stepping into a Matrix world of which he is the leader. The deck might as well be controlling us and not the beat. It’s something amazing to witness; his control of both the unpredictability of the beat and the crowd. He stops after every track to impose seconds of torturous silence before hyping the next one and backtracks the tempo just to test us before the track climactically ends. If I had to use just one word to describe his set it would have to be ‘orgasm’. Pure orgasm. Mixing in Andy Stott’s ‘Damage’ was just the cherry on the top. Definitely my personal highlight.
As the second day kicked off, I move straight up to the tower between the Main Stage and the entrance. Aphrohead’s ‘Let’s Prance’ echoes from Mano Le Tough‘s set, who played before John Talbot took the Main Stage. I move to The Lab stage in time for Palms Trax. The vibe during his set reminds me of an exotic house party; chilled, light groovy house music with a nice selection of vocal samples and melodic synths. I notice the groovy track by Jack J, ’Thirsting’ come on and instantly everyone is whistling and swaying to the beat.
The glorious weather persuades me to leave The Lab and return to the tower. The vantage point towards the Main Stage and the crowds gives me no reason whatsoever to want to move. The long silence between John Talabot and Four Tet was agonising but the soaking sun and friendly vibe on the tower made up for it. When his set kicks off I know I’ve made the right choice. His musical choices such as ‘OAR003-B’ by Oni Ayhun are another perfect soundtrack to the perfect sunset. My only regret on that day is not witnessing what must have been an impressive 5 hour long set up to the end of the day by Antal RH, Hunee and Floating Points at the Selectors stage.
On the last day I decide to see a majority of female artists. Helena Hauff in The Lab is going to be my first lady. I see her standing behind the deck, nonchalantly smoking one cigarette after the next whilst she spins the crowd into motion. To my surprise the German techno artist shies away from her usual acid techno touch and brings in some hard-core bass lines into what can only turn into an extremely ruthless set. Instead, she surprises us with some ‘on your feet Disco’ beats and RnB samples which put the pop and lock into her classic techno. It turns out to be a highly experimental and varied set impossible not to dance to. One look at the stacked speakers in the lab and you can see them helplessly emerged into a continuous tremble. Each beat feels like a punch and the more she punches the more we yearn for. She is certainly giving us all she has.
The other lady I am dying to see is Nina Kraviz. Upon my entrance to the UFO stage the black widow of techno descends like a dark cloud. The vibe on the dance floor is animalistic and she is ruthless from start to finish, playing some of her favourite tracks such as the relentless ‘All Aboard The U.S.S. Severe EP’ by Barcode Population from 1996.To finish, she brings in some groove to calm us down with Cafe del mar song ‘Energy 52 (remix by DJ Kid Paul)’. And although the energy and undeniable talent bursts out of the stage, part of me leaves the stage with a desire to see her bring something new to her next sets.
I return swiftly to catch a bit of Clark‘s visually stunning dark set before setting off for the main stage to catch UK hit artist Carl Craig. His set brings the UK scene to Amsterdamse Bos with its groovy and vocally rich tracks. It is now only one set before the end of the last day and the crowds are going wild. A drone-like voice echoes around the main stage ‘You have been the best audience that we ever had’ and the words are being projected on the massive screens ahead. Germans Siriusmodeselektor (Modeselektor + Siriusmo) appear on stage. Hip Hop, RnB vibes and vocal samples blast from the speakers after a majestic intro. Their monkey logo appears playfully on the screen as the presenter stands on the control panel with a microphone reaching out to the audience. the hype is rising as he waves his hand in the air as if saying ‘Dance monkeys dance!’. He does the same throughout random moments of the set; a powerful figure on top of our world reminding us to dance as if it is our last chance …because for some it is. Some of their hit tracks featured in the set include ‘I’m not into twerk I’m into Kraftwerk’ and ‘Evil Twin’, which comes in towards the end to leave the Main Stage in a cloud of smoke and dust for the last time.
Special kudos have to go to the techies for putting together a jaw dropping personalised Siriusmodeselektor visual show. I would also like at this point to congratulate all visual artists and lighting technicians as the level and quality of atmosphere was truly amazing to witness and added a serious bonus to the whole experience. Each stage both at Amsterdamse Bos and the Melkweg had its own personal atmosphere and the variety between stages was fascinating. Special mention has to go to Heleen Blanken, visual artist of my visually favourite UFO stage and to the lighting team of The Max in the Melkweg, who managed to add a colourful touch without compromising the underground and eerie set up of this main stage.
On the third and final night I am visiting the Melkweg, the after-party which runs till the early hours of the morning. I am pleased to find that it’s refreshingly different to the day site; a predominantly underground vibe with four stages and an indoor smoking area, each stage with its own unique character – its perfect for an after-party. There is one person I am lucky to be watching playing a live set tonight; Andy Stott. Well before the clock strikes 2am I abandon my roaming of the spanning three floored club and enter the Oude Zaal stage. I arrive just as the last set ends in a funky disco tune which I find odd as a prelude to Andy Stott. However, the short silence and the slow emergence of an intro as he takes his place beneath the smoke and swirling lights has me catching my breath. A hypnotic, angelic voice sounds from the speakers reminiscent of a combination of his two tracks ‘Leave’ and ‘Time Away’ I can’t shake the feeling that there is incredible pain in his intro and the same feeling remains throughout the entirety of his set. It is influenced by various genres such as Industrial, Noise and Dark Techno but he surprises us with some Gabber, which through his dark dexterity feels like repetitively and mercilessly being shot by a shotgun. All in all, what I’m feeling is a disturbingly beautiful pain and strangely I do not want to let go of it. His final beat comes as a sigh of relief and a cry for more.
Dekmantel is certainly an event no one should miss. The selection, variety and dexterity of the artists is like no other; the team is devoted like no other; the site is breathtakingly beautiful like no other and the experience, well, it is like no other
This will be the third, ongoing year of the young festival of electronic music, hosted in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. From the opening concert on the 30th of July to the last beat of the closing act in the early hours of August 2nd, Dekmantel will vibrate all the way throughout the capital with its new improved and expanded layout; and I sure as hell can’t wait to be shaken by it.
For the past two years Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) has been the main and only location of the festival. The 1,000 hectares of the entirely artificial landscape park –that is three times the size of Central Park if you need a comparison are located just outside of the city on the borders of Amstelveen. Although artificially created, don’t expect to see fake trees and little ponds. The site is a host of immense natural beauty and amongst other things you can expect to see lush forests, grassy meadows and large water areas including lakes and rivers. It is also a host of a variety of animals but I doubt you’ll get to see any before they are chased away by the boisterous vibes. De Heuvel (The Hill), is one thing you shouldn’t miss; an artificial mountain turned massive slippery slope in winter for kids to enjoy winter sports on. But who says you can’t use it for your regular adrenaline rush tumble? And if you want to fully embrace nature in all its glory there’s even a ‘Naturalist area’ where you can ‘kick your clothes off’ and relax. This year, the space will host five stages (MAIN, UFO, THE LAB, SELECTORS, BOILER ROOM) and not only will you have the chance to experience all of the above, but also another two additional venues!
Treating the opening concert (30th July) as a proper concert, the team have decided to host it in the concert hall for contemporary classical music, Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ (Music Building on the IJ). The building features two massive venues -one for music, one for theatre- and is located above the IJ tunnel by the waterfront, just a 10 minute walk from Centraal Station.
The second, newly adopted venue for the night programme is one of significant importance to the Danish electronic music scene. Former dairy factory, the Melkweg (Milky Way) has been the city’s most well-known electronic music venue ever since its renovation and re-opening in 1970. Located in the nightlife hotspot of Leidseplein, the venue features a number of multi-purpose rooms including two on the ground floor with ridiculous capacities (Max: 1,500 and Oude Zaal: 700) which will most likely be used for the purposes of the festival.
The Dekmantel team lives by the ethos they started with: quality over quantity. The music scene is grand and there really is something for every taste.
I for one can’t wait for some of the big names that will hit the stages of Amsterdamse Bog. The king of the infamous Berghain in Berlin, as well as producer and label owner, Ben Klock, will be gracing us with his presence, followed by the equally influential techno master Marcel Dettmann. Both will play on the Friday evening as a perfect reminder of what is to follow in the next couple of days. Two of the biggest American names in techno, Carl Craig, Detroit master and experimentalist and Jeff Mills with his relentlessly hard and industrial sounds are certainly going to grant some life-changing dance floor experiences I do not want to miss. One of my personal favourites, Nina Kraviz, will be one of the last to share her unique blend of acid house and techno with the festival crowds on Sunday at the UFO stage, clashing with the deep beats of Dixon from the Main stage –it’s going to be a hard choice. Incorporating more styles into his techno beats than anyone, from hip-hop to jazz, grime and live instrumentation, our very own U.K. artist Four Tet will also be gracing the Main stage and is certainly someone I never tire of seeing. Certainly, there are more names that strike a chord and a lot more genres for you to look out for. Squarepusher will be bringing us some drum & bass, musique concrete and acidic beats with jazz influences, Ricardo Villalobos his mad dance beats, Madlib his hip-hop influenced sounds and Siriusmodeselektor will give us the opportunity to feel his mad bass live. And if you need a break from all the electronic music just for a little while, Roy Ayers will be there to chill you out with his funk, soul and jazz.
Last but not least, I have to mention the treats the team has lined up for our evening entertainment in the Melkweg. Again, I just have to praise one of the headlines as I am monstrously excited to see this guy. After his recent release ‘Faith in Strangers’, Manchester dub and techno producer Andy Stott will be playing a live set. Another highlight will certainly have to be watching the U.K. father of disco/garage/house, DJ Harvey, mix another one of his incredibly varied sets. Moreover, two artists will be returning to the Dekmantel stage after their successful sets last year: the granddad of U.K. techno Surgeon and U.S. experimental house boss Traxx. Once again, there will be something for every taste. Answer Code Request will be bringing the industrial punch and fierce determination, Basic Soul Unit the deep house, Boris Werner the house and others a lot more.
My expectations are big, but my excitement is bigger. I know I’m not missing this for the world… why should you?