It’s funny. If you’re in Amsterdam the first weekend of August, you can spot exactly who’s going to Dekmantel. The festival always attracts a distinct collection of style tribes (weathered ravers who look like the cast of The Matrix, Brits bedecked in glitter, people wearing Patta…). But this year, the style was predominantly Gorpcore. Logical – as one of Europe’s most iconic electronic music festivals, Dekmantel takes up a large percentage of Amsterdam’s ‘forest.’ Over the course of three days (not counting its two-day pre-programme), you strut past oak trees and meadows and dance at the festival’s eight stages. The result? Sore feet! Per illustration: my Oura ring claims I took about 38,000 steps daily. 
However, excessive grooving and forest vibes aren’t the only reasons for the abundance of Arc'teryx and Salomon (there’s a limited-edition Dekmantel collab, obvi). The summer’s torrential rain, which already plagued a handful of European festivals, descended on Dekmantel too. However, Dekmantel was prepared. Stages that historically weren’t (fully) covered were now dry and cosy. Rain ponchos were handed out and most spaces were equipped with wooden dance floors. So, when Peach went deep on Sunday’s main stage, the vast crowd didn’t sink deep into the mud – but comfortably swayed (Salomons and Wellipets dry) on the provided flooring.
(style Tribes  Dekmantels Salomons) Atmosphere   Dekmantel Festival 2023  Please Credit Martijn Kuijvenhoven .jpg
Photo: Martijn Kuijvenhoven
But let’s leap back to Friday, when the weather was actually quite lovely and sunny. Last year, Dekmantel introduced The Nest: a stage tailored to UK garage, drum ‘n bass and other irresistibly booty-shaking genres. On Friday, C.Frim spun everything from Bubbling tracks and Jersey club to bangers like Heads Will Roll. Although attempts were made, nobody actually danced till they were dead. Luckily, because over on The Loop (Dekmantel’s main stage), Carista was giving proper main-stage energy. Unlike many headliners, she favoured Shazamable techno tracks over familiar party anthems – and it worked oh-so well. Later that day, Helena Hauff closed off the Greenhouse with unyielding acid and techno (honestly, who would expect anything else?). The Greenhouse was home to another style tribe too: a friend group wearing red, matching, hand-crocheted strawberry hats. What an adorable way to keep track of your mates in a crowd! 
Saturday started at The Nest with Passion Deez. Clad in Barbiecore Patta pink, he played a sped-up version of Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone, Bloc Party’s Flux and Chase & Status & BackRoad Gee’s When It Rains (to be fair, it did rain). Passion knows how to excite a crowd like no other, and soon everyone was bopping around like a bunch of over-caffeinated Duracell bunnies. “It felt like playing a house party,” he laughed after the show. And why ever leave the house party, when it’s just so fun? The metal platform behind the DJ booth transformed the dance floor into something of a trampoline. Yippee! The DJ booth itself was now claimed by Ehua and Toma Kami, playing back-to-back and dropping banger after banger (even Britney made an appearance).  
Large festivals like Dekmantel can easily feel overwhelming thanks to their sheer number of visitors. But bangers unite; they cause that shared moment of recognition followed by a collective urge to dance, together. When Toma surprised the audience with a mad, breakbeat edit of Sugarhill Gang’s Apache (and Ehua masterfully rewinded it, iPhone still filming in her hand) everyone at The Nest was my BFF and dancing buddy. Speaking of back-to-backs: things were madness in the hangar-like UFO 1 stage, powered by Aurora Halal, DJ Nobu, some rock-hard techno-mixed-with-ambient and a mind-altering light show. There was barely time to gobble down a Beyond burger before savouring Shygirl’s performance at the Greenhouse. Backstage, even the forest’s local ducks seemed to be having a good time. 
Aurora Halal   Dj Nobu   Dekmantel Festival 2023 Day 4  Please Credit Yannick Van De Wijngaert .jpg
Photo: Yannick van de Wijngaert
By Sunday, the weather got ultra-dreary and anything that wasn’t a wooden dance floor was now a mud bath. Everyone ditched their aforementioned style tribes – blister patches and rain gear galore! Fun fact: you could recognise the really enthusiastic dancers by the mud splashes on their thighs. There were plenty of those at the Selectors stage (mud splashes and enthusiastic dancers) – thanks to Rey Colino and Roza Terenzi. A few soggy steps away from Selector’s crisp sound system, you could already hear the beat from the Radar stage. Co-hosted by Berlin’s Hör radio, Radar was a new, three-floor, monkey-bar-like arena (but with absolutely no climbing allowed), replacing the iconic yet cramped Boiler Room stage that Dekmantel had long outgrown. Although Michail Stangl’s narration will forever be missed, Radar’s line-up was equally strong as that of its predecessor. Here, Fafi Abdel Nour opted for non-stop dancy beats and euphoric piano tracks when – like magic – the sun peeked out from under the clouds. After Fafi, Octo Octa took over the stage. In Dekmantel’s accompanying zine, Octo Octa was asked what emotion she wanted her set to evoke. “Love,” she answered. Barefoot and accompanied by a gleefully dancing Eris Drew in the DJ booth (if they aren’t couple goals, I don’t know which couple is), she spread disco and house and pure love.
So, where do you go after a set like that? As Dekmantel was nearing its final hours, with such an array of good options, that conundrum suddenly felt monumental. They call that FOMO, right? The Loop’s sound system made a housy: ‘unsh-unsh-unsh,’ accompanied by vocals fittingly singing: “New York, London, Amsterdam…” courtesy of Peach. Things were much gloomier in the UFO 2 stage: a dark and intimate hangar-like space with two screens serving visual effects. I’m not sure if it was the programming, set design or track selection (or likely, a combination of the three). But Tzusing’s intense, deep and emotional set matched the dark and steamy vibe of UFO 2 perfectly. Nearing the end, he threw in a final, nostalgic remix of How to Save a Life (I’m not crying, you’re crying). Our feet sore, legs muddy and souls well-fed, it was time to bike home – returning Dekmantel’s patch of forest to the real Gorpcore hikers and the local duck population. 
Radar 3   Dekmantel Festival 2023  Please Credit Tim Buiting .jpg
Photo: Tim Buiting
Octo Octa   Dekmantel Festival 2023 Day 5  Please Credit Tim Buiting .jpg.jpg
Photo: Tim Buiting
Fafi Abdel Nour   Dekmantel Festival 2023 Day 5  Please Credit Tim Buiting .jpg
Photo: Tim Buiting
Carista   Dekmantel Festival 2023 Day 3  Please Credit Jente Waerzeggers .jpg
Photo: Jente Waerzeggers