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Nature ruled at Lente Kabinet’s 2022 edition. Feet restless from a festival-less period, small formations of cyclists peddled their way through the picturesque countryside just to the north of Amsterdam. On your way, you could catch whiffs of blossoming Fluitenkruid or a can of beer offered by a fellow cyclist. Excited conversations (“did you hear they have two new stages?!”) mingled with tech-house beats played through a set of iPhone speakers. The speakers were just an amuse-bouche. Soon we’d enjoy a real sound system, which would be so much better…

And better it was! Often referred to as Dekmantel’s little sibling, Lente Kabinet has flourished into a well-established destination for unexpected electronic music. Equipped with four stages and a playful art program, this year’s edition drew out about 15,000 visitors. Those visitors might have come for the whirlwind lineup (well-established acts like Eris Drew and Cinnaman sound alongside new talent like Charmaine and Passion Deez — more on those later), but they stayed for Lente Kabinet’s inviting and intimate charm. Backed by a sharp organisation, lines were always short, drinking water was always freely accessible, the banana splits were delicious and the sound system’s volume seemed to be exactly right. “It’s one of the better festivals to work, the vibes are good” a freelance stage manager mused. Coincidentally, an iPhone field note from Saturday mysteriously read: “No words, just good vibes.”

Saturday’s main stage, or Eerste Kamer, was similarly inviting and accessibly danceable. Here, you could hear celebs like Suze Ijó and Skatebârd, the latter recharging tired dancers with his usual brand of violent Italo disco — 1987’s Mata Hari anyone? New was the Patta Soundsystem stage, courtesy of the local phenomenon’s musical side. Patta may strike you like an innately cool sneaker and streetwear label. But it’s mostly a community — a family, even. This intimate spirit reverberated through the stage. Programmed with love for all, crowds enjoyed an energising and surprising range of acts.

Charmaine warmed up even the stiffest of dancers with a set that was silky smooth and deliciously rhythmic. Later on in the evening, Passion Deez served some utter musical chaos that somehow made perfect sense. What do you do when you hear anarchic jungle, ravy garage, cheering audiences and Beyoncé’s Halo all at the same time? You dance, of course. Over at the elbow-to-elbow tent known as the Tweede Kamer, Eris Drew closed down the festival for that night. Sharp breakbeats mingled with ecstatic disco synths, smoke from the smoke machines and condensation from the hundreds of sweaty bodies. To be fair, from a legend like Eris Drew, you’d expect nothing less.

Lente Kabinet’s Saturday was idyllic, approachable and pleasantly cheering, with the sun’s yellow rays shining down on everything. Yet by Sunday, the only yellow around was the code yellow weather alert on everyone’s iPhones, reserving this day for only the most devoted of dancers. Despite the drizzle, attitudes remained sunny at the Eerste Kamer, as Esa’s Afro-Synth Band took dancers on a mood-boosting journey of 80’s African synth-pop, also known as bubblegum. It was soulful and groovy, full of percussions and (as you might’ve guessed) synths. Backed by an infectious stage presence, frontwoman Chisara Agor even orchestrated the poncho-clad crowd to dance along. And soon, everyone was gleefully singing, pointing and swaying to the sound of Indaba Kabani.

As the rain got stronger, the festival’s Derde Kamer started to fill up. At that point, the metal hangar-like space was home to Otim Alpha. Part of iconic Ugandan label Nyege Nyege, Otim Alpha is known for adding fast-paced electronic beats to traditional Acholi Larakaraka wedding songs. Usually a breezy affair, the dark and clubby stage turned the whole thing into a poly-rhythmic and fervent dance party. Outside, the rain relentlessly turned grassy fields into puddles of mud. But inside Cinnaman and Mor Elian were getting dancers sweaty with their relentless German techno, structured beats and hip hop randomness.

Sure, we’re not made out of sugar — as the Dutch like to say. But as everyone’s sneakers collectively transformed into kiddie pools, a thought presented itself: “What if we’d all melt like the Wicked Witch of the West?” Of course, we didn’t. Instead, we headed over to Carista, who was closing down the Eerste Kamer with an irresistibly danceable set. She dropped banger after banger, drenched with vogue-y rhythms, euphoric synths and surprising plot twists. The turnout was disappointingly low on the open-air stage, but the people who remained danced until their feet got permanently stuck in the mud and it was time for everyone to go home. On a bike, of course. We’re not made out of sugar.

Marjolijn Oostermeijer
Pierre Zylstra, Stef van Oosterhout, Tim Buiting, Yannick van de Wijngaert

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