Looking back at this year’s Melt! festival, I would summarize my memories as a weekend that was full of good things: Great music, sunny weather, a lot of very nice people and an amazing location.
I had not been there before, but the festival actually has quite a long tradition that goes back to 1997, and an enthusiastic recommendation from a friend convinced me to go this year. I didn’t regret it.
The Melt! festival is held at Ferropolis (“City of Iron”) in eastern Germany at a former site of a strip mining operation. You can still see a couple of the giant machines that were used in former times to dig for coal. They have not been used for decades, but they still create a quite impressive setting for the festival and are also illuminated at night.
In general, the Melt! festival features a mix of electronic music and Indie Rock, attracting a quite mixed audience of music nerds, hipsters, rockers and ravers. I was there with a larger group of friends, so I didn’t meet many new people, but I have to say that I found the overall atmosphere very relaxed and positive. I have been to quite a few festivals before, and I can say that the number of aggressive people and drugheads was much lower here than at most festivals I have been to before.
My favorite place at the festival was the Melt!Selektor stage that was curated by Modeselektor and located right at the beach of the nearby lake. There is nothing like dancing under the open sky to good music with a cold beer in your hand and your naked feet in the sand…
With more than 100 bands and DJs playing, it was impossible to see everything. I focussed on seeing a few acts that I wanted to see for a long time and just kept my eyes and ears open during the rest of the time. Here are my favorite performances:
I wanted to see the two Dewaele brothers live since I got their mix CD “As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt.2” in 2002. Back then, they were among the very few ones who released a mashup CD legally with every single sample cleared – quite an effort that got them a lot of respect.
I had expected a mashup set, but they actually played a set that consisted mostly of pumping Techno, Acid and House tunes with only a few mashups thrown in. Even though it was not quite what I had expected, it was still one of the best live DJ sets I have heard in my entire life. The mixing was fast-paced and you could clearly tell by the selection of their tracks that the two DJs knew which records would get the crowd rocking.
Mixing pumping Techno with classics like “Girls” from the Beastie Boys or “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood is something that you rarely hear – most Techno/House DJs would probably be too much concerned about their underground credibility to do that. This was really inspiring for me as a DJ and put a big smile on my face as a dancer.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a recent DJ set of them online, but here is an older one from 2009 that will give you a bit of an impression:
Another performer that caught me by surprise was Tricky who is probably known to most people as one of the inventors of Trip Hop.
However, when he got on stage with a full rock band, it quickly became apparent that this would not just be about slow beats and bass-heavy synths. Many of his songs were strongly influenced by Rock and even Blues. He also played a few songs in the style that I had expected, but what I certainly did not expect was a cover of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” – during which he encouraged around 30 people from the audience to rock on the stage with the band and I even saw a moshpit forming in front of the stage. Wow!
I had already mentioned Rudimental in my last mix “Sun & Bass” and I was curious to see them live. They entered the stage with a surprising number of people – several vocalists, a drummer, a trumpet player and some others – a pleasant difference to the usual “one guy and his laptop”-shows you often see when electronic music is performed live.
They played the songs in a way that was quite close to their album, but they had a really great and positive stage presence. I saw a lot of people smiling and dancing and during the second half of the show when they played their hits the crowd really went wild. Here is a video that captures the magic moment when this started:
Siriusmo is one of the artists that I discovered at the festival. Even though this was one of those “one guy and his laptop”-shows, I was quite surprised with the range of styles that Siriusmo has mastered. From banging, but intelligent Techno to slow grooves and even HipHop, this was a surprisingly versatile performance. I definitely want to hear more from this guy!
Maybe it was because this was the first DJ set that I heard at the festival, but those two girls really kicked my ass. With a bass-heavy and dynamic mix of Dubstep, Trap, Breakbeats and similar genres, they reminded me of what a good DJ set should sound like.
Before they even entered the stage, The Knife had their own personal warmup program: A guy called Tarek Halaby entered the stage in a colorful custome that vagely resembled a workout dress. He started a kind of a workout called “Deep Aerobics” (“Death Electro Emo Protest Aerobics”) and encouraged the audience to do a couple of exercises with him. Many looked a bit confused, but many also went with it and joined the exercise. Here is an impression of what this looks like:
I had seen live performances by The Knife and also their spin-off project Fever Ray before, so I knew what not to expect: This would definitely be neither a typical band performance nor a typical electronic music live act. Their live shows are always very unique and also very weird – in a good way.
This time, they started their show with a large number of people in hooded cloaks and a set of instruments out of which I couldn’t name most. Plastic pipes, wooden boxes, neon harps and metallic semi-spheres were brought on stage and the people that were playing them created a soundscape that was hypnotizing and strange, but still very fascinating and even danceable.
The middle part of their show consisted more of a dance performance than of a concert, and at one point they even brought a giant TV screen to the stage where a strange-looking guy seemed to be singing the vocals of their singer Karin Dreijer Andersson. It’s very hard to describe what happened there, and you could tell that many people in the audience were somewhat confused.
Personally, I have to say that I liked their show since it was something completely different and done very well, but I can see how that might be too weird for some people. They also suffered from rather poor sound quality and the volume of the main sound system seemed to be a little too low most of the time.
However, with their last song “Silent Shout” they got almost everyone’s sympathy back – they do know how to make fascinating dance music after all.
Flying Lotus was also a new discovery for me at the Melt! festival. With his clever mix of experimental sounds, Dubstep, Glitch Hop and HipHop, I found his performance both danceable as well as intellectually pleasant.
Performing from behind a semi-transparent screen most of the time, you couldn’t really see what Flying Lotus was doing, but the hypnotic visuals on the screen together with his occasional vocal performances and his unique musical style made this a very cool show that definitely deserved to happen on the main stage.
Was anyone else from our readers at the Melt! festival? I would love to hear your impressions in the comments!