Sunday, 26 July 2009

Melt! Festival: Ferropolis, Germany

Astonishing discoveries are one of the things that makes life interesting: finding out what that button on the remote does, what colours food can turn if you leave it long enough and what that thing does you’ve been puzzled about for the earlier part of your life. Melt! is one such discovery. Now in its twelfth year, locals on the site tell me its profile has lifted considerably in the last couple of years with bigger brands, and bigger name acts, drawing the attention of a truly international audience.
Situated in Ferropolis, a complex created from an old quarry complete with a man-made lake and towering excavators, outside Dessau, an hour from Berlin, there’s plenty going for this cheap, large, three-day event.
Largely centred upon the more funky side of electronica - your Erol Alkan, Diplo, Digitalism type acts – there is a good diversity in terms of music, if not food where sausage dominates to a degree never before seen, even the usual dog burger is a rarity. Day one kicks off with some scepticism, Foals and Metronomy proving big name pull outs but ShadowPlay checks out the tenacious La Roux, full of spirit and, more crucially, tunes. Elsewhere, Aphex Twin (pictured below), making a rare live appearance, arrives onstage in the giant concrete bowl which mascerades as a main stage, to put in an hour of glitches, churning fun and a performance to set your teeth on edge – legend. Simian Mobile Disco and MSTRKRFT also prove popular before the torrential rain cut proceedings short at a mere 5am with a soggy Melt! going to bed cold but happy. The switch up in set times, compared to the more reserved, license-bound, UK festivals is notable. Here, the music doesn’t start until 7pm, meaning peak sets are 1-4am, and the freezing nights and wankers-shouting-fueled late night anger of festival camping are replaced by a serene knackeredness which both breaks and energises those in attendance.

The second day continues in a similar vein, Diplo and Boyz Noise put in masterful displays on the ones and twos, the artificial builders merchant sand of the man-made beach adding to the Brazilian DJs best-bits set while searchlights add to the effect, sat atop the humungous cranes. Digitalism also impress, proving more than just bleep-pop also-rans as they dominate main stage activities. The final day is an odd affair, opposite to the previous days, the music starts relatively early with many people descending for the day, doubtless drawn in by Oasis’ name at the top of the bill. Patrick Wolf delivers an impressive display, his stocks (which do in fact exist, he’s backed by Band Stocks) rise as he poses, pounces and prances around the stage in giant black wigs and backed by his increasingly glorious catalogue of pop songs. Various DJs continue to capture the weekend’s spirit, everyone still in seemingly good mood as the only sun of the festival appears. Oasis, for their part, put in an excellent, strangely professional and incongruous display. Along with the usual jibes about Manchester and laddish stuff, Gallagher junior shouts something about playing at Legoland and the band deliver a tight, wide-ranging and ultimately satisfying set. Devoid of the crap that has made going to see them in the UK an unappetising prospect – the piss throwing, chav presence, massive waits to get a spot – this was the best place to see an ace who are, realistically, still capable of putting on a great, enjoyable show. Even if it does involve lots of loud, shouty Swedish blokes.
A truly international festival, Melt! is a gem of an event, full of fun, intrigue and individuality, it’s well worth a flight out. Next year promises to be even better, with the event looking to expand even further size and acts-wise. Pack your muddy dancing shoes in anticipation.

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