This article was originally published on THUMP Brasil.
If you're reading this right now, you've probably already come across a review of one of Dekmantel's events praising it relentlessly. Those reviews aren't wrong—even those referring to the Amsterdam-bred festival's first edition in São Paulo, Brazil, that took place weekend at the city's Jockey Club complex. This is no small feat either, because we've got to admit that most of the time when we talk about music festivals in Brazil, we end up discussing the bizarre situations and trouble our country occasionally produces. Music itself tends to linger in the background, while earthly ailments like mud, robberies, the price of beers, unprepared security are often at the forefront.
Dekmantel was an exception. It was the first real time I went to a festival where the music could actually be heard the way it was intended to. I was there on the Sunday of the event, and there's not much I can tell you about the production and the folks behind it because, well, it all sounded, and looked great. There were no long lines coming in or to get drinks, prices were alright (considering that a bottle of water usually costs about seven bucks on these kinds of festivals), the stages were evenly distributed, and the levels were just right. There were even some people handing out sunscreen during the afternoon, when the sun was trying its best to burn all of us to a crisp. All in all, the production crew was competent and went unseen, which is how things should be.
But let's get back to the music of Dekmantel Brazil. Yes, it was awesome. I only made it to Sunday, but THUMP reporter Amanda Cavalcanti
was there on Saturday. Below are both of our reflections.
Amanda Cavalcanti: I arrived at the Jockey Club really late but still on time to see half of Awesome Tapes from Africa's set, the first thing I really wanted to check out on Saturday. Playing to a small and apathetic audience, Brian Shimkovitz played what felt like a greatest hits set, not really caring about mixing the tracks, but just straight up dropping one classic after the other. Eager to see what was going on in the other stages, I ventured throughout the Jockey Club before his set fully wrapped
I managed—luckily—to catch a glimpse of the ending of local heroes 40% Foda/Maneiríssimo's set, in which the "No Wave" group blasted tunes as fun as the records put out by the label. After getting literally fried—the UFO stage, where his set went down was in a space between two rooms, and the sun was painstakingly hot there—for a few minutes at New Yorker Anthony Parasole's set, I set out to the main stage and had a good surprise in Kornél Kovács' performance, who unleashed some house jams that had even the slightly melting crowd bust out a move or two. Thankfully, the heat eventually started to fade, and about 5 PM, in the middle Kovács' set, it started pouring rain. The impending storm soon caused much of the crowd—who had been split between the main stage and Brazilian famed group Azymuth's classy concert at the Boiler Room stage—to head for the venue's shielded bleachers section. Many took the chance to enjoy the awesome and frantic set by Dutch producer Young Marco at the Selectors stage, the only covered area, a blessing in disguise if there ever was one. Finally it stopped raining right on time so everyone could focus on the star of the night: Nina Kraviz.
Employing her attuned brand of heavy, well-built beats that made the stage's puddles of mud tremble, the Russian DJ captured my full attention for the entirety of her set. At 8:30 PM all the stage's lights went up, and I had to squint to be able to see the man, myth, and legend, Jeff Mills going up into the DJ booth and taking the floor by storm with his finessed techno. Mills was more concentrated and melodic than Nina's thumping run down, although he had some issues in grabbing the public's attention, many of whom left the stage to go home or just take a last look around and see the other closing attractions for the day. The best surprise during the end-of-night portion was Dutch producer Tom Trago, who wrapped up at Gop Tun stage delivering one disco hit after the other, inviting the pumped-up audience to get on stage with him.
Eduardo Roberto: I've always felt that live electronic music from São Paulo should lean closer to jazz, especially on larger scale events, spaces in which I feel some planned musical diversity always helps and never gets in the way. Thus I was really happy seeing Brazilian instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal and his flawless band at Dekmantel on Sunday. Hermeto is one the world's greatest musicians, and his band should be part of music's global history.
I'm a layman when it comes to jazz but I feel that Hermeto's attitude towards music is what I always seek at festivals, where artists are often put on a (literal) pedestal. I prefer less of the fan/idol situation and more spontaneity, breaking off that consumer relationship and relying on the audience's willingness to explore something new. Thankfully, that's what I saw in Hermeto's set.
Overall, Dekmantel as a global franchise manages to channel that dynamic. It's a place where it's ideal for a label (to name just one of the many roles these Dutchmen fulfill) that wants to get some great exposure and make money without leaving what really matters behind, which is a love for music itself. After Hermeto, Moodymann played a set of electro-for-roadside-motels, Fatima Yamaha's unleashed the days most charming tones, Palms Trax flew high and low between techno and 80s slow jam disco. It was all over the map musically, and all the better for it.