Festival Diary: Melt!

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Photo by Geert Schäfer

Ferropolis. It sounds like the setting of a futuristic film, where machines develop minds of their own and try to usurp human power to become the ruling, master race. Well, in this instance, the thought conjured by the word isn’t too far from the fact, as in there are almighty machines to be found in Ferropolis, but not evil, power mad ones. Ferropolis, situated near Dessau in Germany is in one way a place of innovation and celebration, in another, a graveyard, a place where enormous, retired coal excavators have been laid to rest. It’s a kind of industrial museum, a landmark featuring some of the most incredible machinery that mankind has created, and it’s also the site chosen to host Germany’s Melt! Festival.

At the foot of these gigantic, imposing machines are 20,000 festival goers, all turned out to experience a fusion of rock and indie music in this unfamiliar, yet completely spectacular setting. Once the site of an open mine, the machines which adorn the festival ground were once employed to tear into the ground to extract coal. Now they stand solidly and firmly next to the stages erected for the festival, a remarkable feature and an industrially beautiful attraction, with flame throwers and smoke machines atop of the diggers making them seem all the more lifelike.

Arriving at the site in the early evening, the festival is opened for us today by The Rapture who, bathed in sunlight, serenade the audience with a collection of tracks from their 15 year spanning career. Particular highlights include recent single ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ and of course, the best track to have been released in 2002, ‘House of Jealous Lovers’. On the one hand, it’s a shame that they were selected to play so early, but on the other, the New York four piece provide a bright and powerful introduction to what will be an consistently upbeat festival.

Photo by Geert Schäfer

Rushing over to the Beach stage, we’re just in time to catch a bit of Berlin’s Brandt Brauer Frick who, sporting their smartest shirt and tie combos, are completely mesmerising. As the sun sets over the festival site, the collective’s self styled form of ‘emotional body music’ is irresistible, as is the energy with which the trio interpret tracks from 2011’s Mr Machine.

The next stop is at a tent named after one of the diggers gracing the festival site, the Gemini stage where M83 is whipping his spectators into a frenzy. As we arrive, the opening tones of the hit, recent single ‘Midnight City’ fill the air, inciting a riotous hysteria from a crowd who have clearly been anticipating this moment. When the sax solo hits, the crowd’s excitement reaches fever pitch, and it’s a true pleasure to be part of such a high energy vibe. However, as soon as the track ends, the crowd thins, meaning that the rest of M83’s set feels like a bit of a downhill slide.

Elsewhere, Swiss/German duo BOY are wooing an adoring crowd with their gentle and entrancing songs of love, life and longing. A charming and warming proposition, the duo prove to be a hit with their spectators as rapturous applause intersperses the set, single ‘Skin’ proving to be a particular favourite. A laid back and enlightening set from the pair, it’s time to head back to the main body of the festival to prepare for one of the most anticipated acts of the festival to take to the stage.

Photo by Jan Kapitän

As the opening notes of Caribou’s ‘Kaili’ commence, there’s a notable surge as people rush to the front of the main stage arena, including ourselves. Moving seamlessly into ‘Leave House’, the excitement builds and builds, proving that even though Dan Snaith and co. have been touring latest record Swim for almost two solid years now, they’re still as passionate and as energised as ever, reproducing their acclaimed tracks in front of an enthralled audience. Closing the set with a hypnotic rendition of ‘Sun’, Caribou leave the stage safe in the knowledge that tonight, Melt! Festival has been well and truly won over.

After (for some reason) deciding to check out a few minutes of Bloc Party, we’re quick to realise our error and rush towards the Beach stage, constructed along the banks of the vast man made lake which lines the festival site, in order to catch Hudson Mohawke’s set. Driving beats and hammering melodies greet us, a joyful counterbalance to the laboured notes emanating from Bloc Party’s rain soaked speakers on the main stage. After dashing between stages to catch snippets of Dave Clarke and I Heart Sharks, it’s time to call it a day. Queuing up next to the diggers, which are currently throwing flames into the air, we take a moment to ponder the spectacular setting of Melt! Festival before heading off to sleep and recharge, ready to return for the next day’s music.

Arriving at Ferropolis on Saturday evening, it’s the sounds of Blood Red Shoes that greet us. The duo work their way through tracks from latest album In Time To Voices as well as breaking out some of their earlier tracks such as ‘This Is Not For You’ from debut album Box of Secrets. Today, however, the duo’s trademark nonchalance feels a bit off-putting, so we head off for a closer look at the magnificent machinery adorning the site before making our way to the Intro tent to catch the performance of Niki & The Dove.

The most confident we’ve seen the group to date (and as big fans of theirs at this site, we’ve seen them a fair few times) the Swedish group’s performance is more playful, engaging and involving than ever before. Tracks such as ‘Mother Protect’, ‘The Fox’ and ‘The Drummer’ all receive rapturous receptions, as singer Malin Dahlström cavorts about the stage, as eccentric, pitch perfect and loveable as ever.

Passing by The Gossip, we head to the Beach stage to check out the closing sounds of Lazer Sword before Los Angeles producer Gaslamp Killer takes to the stage. The man’s hair and moves are as entertaining as the sounds emanating from the stage, as Gaslamp Killer, aka William Bensussen writhes and headbangs his way about the stage, his token blend of hip hop, psychedelia and full powered rave proving to be a hit with the Saturday night crowd. Unfortunately Scotland’s Rustie, the next act we’d planned to see, had to cancel his performance this weekend, so we make our way back to the main stage to witness the band which will close our Melt! Festival experience this year, Berlin’s very own Modeselektor.

Photo by Jan Kapitän

Arriving at the main stage, we’ve bowled over by a truly mesmerising sea of lasers, spotlights and graphics as the Berlin duo make the most of their headline slot back on home turf. Tracks from latest album Monkeytown provide the backbone of the set, as the pair unleash the unadulterated power and passion that seeps through their back catalogue. Their audience embraces every shifting tone, and as the bass throbs through the air, there’s a sudden melding of all of the elements of Melt! Festival. The scenery, with the imposing, gigantic diggers mixes with the industrial nature of Modeselektor’s highly refined brand of electronic and techno. The flashes and sparks of the main stage’s lighting are mirrored by the flames shooting up from the top of the diggers, and the glittering glow from the gigantic disco balls which dangle from the rigs.

It’s a festival packed full of details, and one which celebrates its setting as much as it does the music filling it. Remarkably good sound, a veritable party atmosphere, reasonable prices and a brilliant line up all combine in this spectacular location to make Melt! Festival one of Germany’s most promising festival propositions.

All photos taken from the Melt Festival website.

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