22 Jul Why Melt Festival is German partying at its best
The towering machinery of Ferropolis framed against the sky across Lake Gremmin gets me every time.
Melt Festival is located on an old industrial site, home to the world’s largest man-made machinery. This makes the perfect dystopian backdrop to Germany’s most prestigious dance music festival. With over 20,000 attendees, Melt is fast becoming a global affair with party-lovers trading the likes of Primavera, Soundwave and Tomorrowland to experience the brutal spectacle.
And for good reason. Melt is German partying at its best. The organisers have made the event almost entirely faff-free. Cashless payment means no queues. Direct trains and buses from Berlin are stress-free. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. The food is exquisite (shout out to Pic Nic Italian Sausage Burgers). And then there’s the line-up.
The weather this year plateaued at 30 degrees for the entire weekend. That’s where Lake Gremmin comes in. Without this basking spot to cool down Melt would be a different story. After arriving on Friday afternoon we went for a dip in the lake and headed over to the Melt Selektor stage to catch Mount Kimbie as the sun set over the lake. Their slow, emotive music filled the space beautifully and party-goers sat watching the sun disappear, beers in hand, friends on side and a whole weekend ahead.
Headlining Melt stage was Tyler the Creator, a festival staple and a safe bet on any line-up, however his performance was emotive and creative. The artist used cinema as a backdrop to accompany his songs and his boyish, skater silhouette stood poignantly alone on the giant stage. He looked vulnerable up there, and as he sang Mr Lonely to a short film of a CGI woman searching for something that she never finds it was clear that this is the performance of a true artist, not a safe bet.
We stuck around for Florence and the Machine. Undeniably she’s a spectacular talent, and we enjoyed watching her barefoot and ethereal on-stage, but after a couple of songs we snuck off to watch Junglepussy over on Meltselektor.
The energy and presence of Junglepussy is unparallelled. The petite, girating superstar mesmerised the crowd with her high-octane, feminist grime tracks. As well as dancing like a maniac I laughed out loud at her sharp lyrics that show as much disdain for men as male rappers show for women; (“It’s a full time job fuckin’ loving yourself”). A wildly powerful and refreshing artist.
Jon Hopkins has experienced exponential success recently with his album Singularity being released to critical acclaim on Domino earlier this year. As a result it’s no surprise that he upgraded from Big Wheel to the main Melt stage this year. And the status suits him well. The artist made use of the innovative production team behind Melt Festival and used video to accompany his set, some of which came from Singularity.
His was one of the stand out performances of Melt 2018. He started his set with hard and fast techno, moving into an exploration of electro and downtempo influences – something the crowd seemed to be craving after an evening of softer performances. He made the most of the coveted 1am slot on Main Stage and as the epic notes of Emerald rang out over the scene his place as one of electronic musics most respected DJs was secured.
Exhausted after Hopkins’ set we took some time to explore the site. Melt has something for everyone. Forest Stage (which belonged to Sisyphos last year) was my second favourite stage of the festival. Set back amongst the trees and looking out through the reeds onto Lake Gremmin, it’s is the perfect spot for the dance, house and disco DJs lined up over the weekend.
Then we headed over to Big Wheel for Ben Klock. His hard, flashing techno set was relentless and meditative. As I listened my mind moved freely and detached from reality. Sometimes people ask what the appeal is of techno and to me it’s just this – 20 minutes into a set when you forget where you are or who you’re with. It’s just you, the music and there’s no space to care about anything else.
On Saturday I was boiling alive in my tent so I crawled out at 10am and headed straight for the lake. The Melt site doesn’t open until 4pm so chilling in the campsite is you’re only option. That or utilising Resident Advisor’s adored Sleepless Stage which is just outside the festival gates.
The Berlin weather this summer has been the best in living memory. We spent the day munching on the delicious festival food on offer and going for dips in the lake. Tired party-goers sat with their camping chairs in the shallow water, using the coolness of the lake as a fridge for their beers.
That evening we explored further and discovered my favourite stage Sensi Stage. It’s tucked away behind Forest Stage and down a fairy-lit pathway. The stage is decorated with crochet tapestries, dream catchers and tie dye cloth. It looked like Fusion Festival had vommed up on it. Here we caught Kurup and were entranced by his cross-genre mix of house, psy-trance and Brazilian acid house. Everyone had dreadlocks and wore those trousers you get when you’re travellin’. It was brilliant.
After spending way too much time at the Sensi Stage we headed over to Forest Stage to catch Jayda G who absolutely slayed for her entire 2 hour set. The Canadian-born, Berlin-based DJ played a signature euphoric disco and house set. Her energy was contagious as she bounced around behind the decks, clearly enjoying herself just as much as the crowd. She ended on a high with Prince’s I wanna be your lover, creating the perfect segue for lo-fi’s golden boy Palms Trax.
And our boy from Bristol can’t step a foot wrong. He’s gone from strength to strength after his explosive collaborations with Dekmantel, his releases on Kobster Theremin and his recent Essentialmix on Radio 1. His set began with lazy house infused with jazz. His knowledge and understanding of music of all genres shines through, hopping from upbeat funk to lo-fi to acid house. Revellers stood on pillars and climbed up trees to get some fresh air and find space to enjoy one of the most packed performances of the festival.
Once again Melt has stood out on the festival scene this summer. Seamlessly organised, the organisers have established the perfect balance of a laid-back atmosphere, an unparalleled line-up, insanely good production and soundsystems and, of course, one of the most jaw-dropping sites out there. Another triumph for Melt Festival – long may it continue.
– By Alice Austin