Get To Know MELT! Festival, Germany’s Greatest Hidden Treasure
We sent part-time writer, full-time festival-head Cameron Webley, along to MELT! 2015 in Germany. This is a recap of everything he encountered, endured and experienced on the first day…
Firstly, let me set the scene and introduce you to exactly where MELT! is and what the festival is all about. Just an hour and a half drive out of Berlin is Ferropolis, a giant open-air museum of 20th century industrial mining machines sitting on the Gremmin Lake. This gorgeous open-air site once saw the same machinery actively work in the brown coal strip mining operation. Now, in its eighteenth year the music festival brings together 20,000 people from across the globe to combine their musical senses alike, exploring anything from techno to alternative pop/rock, ambience, electronica and any other genre bending sound substance in between.
Understandably, for most festivals the lineup is key and will often guide your decision to go or not, but MELT! is different. The music programming will always be on point and that’s one thing you can rely on, but as you’ll find with this overview, it wasn’t the lineup or headlining acts that made my MELT! experience. It’s everything about the festival and its origins that surround and loom over you, everything and everyone that you encounter, speak to and get lost with that will shape your MELT! weekend. It’s the hours you shouldn’t be awake, the lack of sleep, food and normality that we’re accustomed to that open your eyes to a whole new realm of festival experiences, and this is where the individuality of MELT! shines through.
Let me take you through my first day and bit at MELT! 2015…
THURSDAY – DAY #0
As campers filtered up the dirt track and crammed into their respective campsites, it became evident just how much of a yearly pilgrimage MELT! is for the European festival goers. Their 2015 wristbands were freshly wrapped around their wrist next to 2014’s, 2013’s, 2012’s and their hands full with just the necessities to get through the four-day bender. With a rather strenuous walk from the car park to campsite, the well prepared had pushbikes, trollies and trailers to ease the pain, showing their years of practice at the ready. While some campers prioritised food, clothes, a tent and torch as their needs, many others opted for cases of beer, a sound system and an auxiliary cord as the weekends rations. If you’re after an even more unique MELT! experience and don’t mind the confined space of a six bed dorm, then the Mixery Melt! Train doubles as your transportation and bed for the weekend. The train brings festival-goes from across Germany to Ferropolis, kitted with a 24-hour bar, DJ and an anything goes atmosphere. This place just keeps giving; every corner something new, intriguing and exciting.
As the campsite came to settle by the Thursday evening, music had already kicked off with several organsied clubs around the grounds blasting bass heavy music that could be heard from any corner of the site. There was no escape and this was to be the case for the next four days and nights.
Kicking the festival into gear one night early, MELT! opened the Intro Tent for its annual pre party, this year headlined by Hercules and Love Affair, Santigold and Gorgon City. What initially seemed to be a low-key night easing into the three-day festival was quickly turned on its head as Santigold brought out all the electronic-pop hits that we know and love her for, while house kings Gorgon City took over the decks for a sweaty love affair with a fresh faced crowd.
Walking back to the campsite around 03:00AM it became evident that the city of iron wasn’t going to be a place of rest or even recovery, as music continued to blast across the campsite melding into one consistent ‘doof’ from different DIY parties and raves. One setup saw a hot dog van turn club booth, lending a simple 240V extension lead to power up a set of decks and speakers, rolling out anything from techno to disco and Kylie Minogue with a crowd of 100+ showing no signs of fatigue with a hot dog in hand. Another crew plugged straight into the phone charging station, hustling a dance floor around the sound waves and together drawing any drop of energy left in them from music. For me, it was sleep.
FRIDAY – DAY #1
Waking up on Day #1 was led with a bag of mixed feelings. Heads slightly hung over as the inescapable sun beamed over Ferropolis to complete the hot, muggy conditions. Despite this, knowing that we had three days of top music set in an environment like no other, with similar minds from across the world gathered in high spirits, trumped any woes. I don’t care if I’m sweating balls and it’s only 7:00AM, somebody get me a beer and into the lake. It quickly became clear where the festival derived its name ‘Melt!’ from…
Pre drinks were had, outfits sorted (which meant drying out yesterdays sweaty shirt for tonight’s mishaps, because who needs hygiene?) and the leisurely stumble towards the festival site began, a fifteen minute walk along the riverbed towards the music. “Just follow the sound and you will be fine”, mentioned a high and happy German girl as she skipped off alone.
Walking into the entrance of Ferropolis and veering our way amongst the rusty iron jungle, we came to the main stage of MELT!. Sitting neatly at the front of a man-made outdoor amphitheater, the stage is surrounded above by four of the key pieces of machinery that make up the walls and foundations of Ferropolis. Tonight this breathtaking setting will be host to Australia’s own wonder-boy Flume, British trio London Grammar and Germanys most well-known advocate of neoclassic music, Nils Frahm. Over the weekend it will also shelter the likes of Jon Hopkins, Django Django, Alt-J and Kylie Minogue, proving the vast scope of genres MELT! seamlessly blends together.
Moving around the grounds and taking it all in, it became evident that each stage held a purpose and offered something unique and different compared to the last. The Intro Tent housed mostly small-medium live acts; in particular, the up-and-comers and quite often the ones we will see headline the main stage in a year or so time. The Gemini Tent was the home for all forms of house, electro, trip-hop and the lighter side of techno, varying in live performances to DJ sets, with highlights coming from Claptone, Young Fathers and Kaytranada. Hidden out the back was the Big Wheel Stage, where you could hear just about anything, but by the early hours all roads led to techno, led this year by Sven Vath and Nina Kravis. This leads us to the final two stages, The Desperado Melt! Selector Stage sitting freely on the beach, and The Sleepless Floor, an inescapable dance floor that awaits you on arrival and departure…
Friday night had passed and as the sun rose over the Desperados Melt! Selektor Stage set on the lakes beach, MELT! alumni and Berlin electronic lords Modeselektor proved just why they have a stage in their name and lineup handpicked by their own experimental tastes. Dropping anything off their early works ‘Hello Mom!’ and ‘Happy Birthday’, to their blissful Appart collaboration project, Moderat, the crowd kept constant like it was 10 hours earlier and the sun was setting over the other side of MELT!. With their friends covering the stage and dance floor filled back to front, Gernot and Sebastian closed out Friday Day #1 and welcomed Saturday Day #2 with the warm, electronic-warped Modert anthem ‘A New Error’, before bringing it back to 2011’s tech-glitch release ‘Berlin’ and waving goodbye… until next year.
It’s 6:30AM and just as you think Day #1 has come to an end,a slugged rush of partiers kick-on towards the entrance of the festival in no mindset to head home. The Sleepless Floor is about to open and with that the official mark of the beginning and never-ending weekend of MELT!. At the dong of a tribal-like bell, the Sleepless Floor opened right on 7:00AM Saturday morning and from then continued non-stop for the next 53 hours, without break, until midday Monday. For first timers it’s an eye-opening experience, but for the veterans it’s another MELT! ritual, and it’s those same people that you will encounter in a slow ecstasy-sway Monday morning as they see MELT! 2015 out.
By 9:00AM I had lost my friends, made new ones and lost those again amongst the sandy Sleepless Floor, deciding to make my way back to campsite. The sun was well and truly up and heat making it impossible to sleep inside a tent, seeing the open-minded venture down to the lake with their blow-up mattress, soap and toothbrush for a refreshing swim and sanitize. The whole lakefront that meets the back of the MELT! campsite is lined with dense bush land and trees, creating the perfect environment to escape the heat for a scattered sleep. Hundreds of campers take down their towels, beds or sun chairs and get a few hours rest under the trees shade before the next evening’s bender continues.
At about midday on Saturday’s Day #2 we laid in a soft patch of dead leaves amongst the trees, eyes closed taking in any silence possible, before the relaxed vibes were broken. A huge storm rolled over Ferropolis and what started as a few drops of rain quickly turned into heavy hail, followed by screams across the campsite as people took cover. This went on for about five minutes and then as quickly as it came, sun shone through and the whole campsite erupted in a cheer of relief, excitement and a combined, “What the fuck just happened?!”. At this exact point Day #2 had begun with a kick-drum taking over the airwaves, base line under our feet and high spirits restored. I had just completed my first full day at MELT! and I couldn’t be more ready to take on the next two…
Photos courtesy of Robert Winter & Stephen Flad MELT! See the full 2015 Photo Gallery here.