Nov
18

Melt Festival

By R-Katz  //  Festivals  //  No Comments

Hello there and welcome (back) to what will hopefully be the first of many festival reviews. As we get close to entering the new year and people start planning which festivals they may wish to attend next summer, I hoped it might be helpful if I ran through some of the pros and cons of the various festivals I’ve attended. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might give you a starting point for your selection process. I will start with Melt Festival, Germany.

If you haven’t heard of Melt, you are in the same position as I was up until about ten days before I actually went. I actually only ended up going as a friend, who has many connections in many places, called me up and offered me a free ticket to join him and his mates (none of whom I had ever met before) as they had a spare ticket going. Always keen to go on a random adventure, especially one that involves a new group of people, I accepted.

I then thought it might be a good idea to check a couple of tiny details, such as who was performing at the festival, and where it was even held. I had a look on the website and had a quick look through the 100 or so names on the list and couldn’t believe I’d never heard of it before. The ones that immediately grabbed my attention included:  Groove Armada, Goldfrapp, Booka Shade, Riton, Villalobos, Carl Craig, Chris Cunningham, Chromeo, Delphic, Crookers, Simian Mobile Disco, Kissy Sell Out, Ewan Pearson, Fake Blood, Massive Attack, Tiefschwarz, and Tiga.

Next job was to find out where this place was. Melt is held in what used to be an industrial estate called Ferropolis, surrounded by a lake. The nearest city was Dessau which could be reached by train from Berlin. All in all it looked like slightly more of a mission than the 2 hour drive to Global Gathering had been the year before. The next thing to catch my eye was this picture of the location…I was sold:

The only issue I had was the dates, the festival ran from a Thursday to a Monday in July and because of a complication with work, I couldn’t get the Monday or Thursday off, only the Friday. This meant I would be travelling there and back on my own, and would miss the last night of the festival, but wasn’t the end of the world.

The journey there wasn’t too painful. It’s only a couple of hours to fly to Berlin, and the two trains which were about an hour each weren’t too bad either, although as it was mid-summer, they were uncomfortably hot. They were full of people headed to Melt from all over the world. I was surprised to see so many Americans had travelled so far. I befriended a few to pass the time and they gave me the run down on the festivals from their country, in particular Coachella and Ultra, which both immediately went on my to-do list.

Once you get to Dessau it’s a 20 minute cab, or a 45 minute bus, to the site. I opted for the cab as I was getting impatient to meet the others. I walked into the campsite without having to show a ticket or anything, which I found a little odd, but later realised I had to exchange my ticket for a wristband to gain entry to the arena.

I found the group without too much hassle, quickly set up my 2-man tent that I had brought with me, and discovered that even 30 seconds inside the tent in the heat of the early afternoon was enough to leave you dripping with sweat. I was then told that the reason very few people were about was that they were all either by, or in, the lake which surrounded the campsite. I wasted no time in heading over to join these wise people:

After suitably cooling off and letting the worst of the heat pass, it was time to get ready for the night. Getting ready at a festival involves little more than putting a t shirt on, getting the speakers out, buying as many beers as you can carry (which in Melt’s case were all warm, mmm), and sitting around the tents making friends with randomers.

As evening descended upon the campsite, we started to head off towards the arena which is about a 20 minute walk away along the lake. There is a shuttle bus that operates any time the arena is open, but we decided to walk. As the lights from the incredible surroundings got closer and closer, the excitement levels certainly started to build. Once inside, seeing the massive dance arenas which looked like greenhouses with no sides, and the massive cranes towering above us, I fully understood why Melt is so special:

The ravers spilled out onto the steps all around the main arena:

In addition to the main arena, there was one right on the beach leading on to the lake and another two smaller ones based at far ends of the place. The sound systems are good, but they could have done with being a little louder, as if you weren’t at the front of the dancefloors, a lot of the bass was lost and the overall volume was a bit too low.

Drinks were relatively cheap, but they operated this unbelievably frustrating system of issuing tokens with each bottle or cup and returning one euro to you when you brought the empty back along with the token. I wish I could say I did this more than once, but when I returned home on Sunday I had a pocket full of useless tokens and had therefore paid an extra euro for almost every single drink I had. The only other major issue I had with the drinks was the water. I could have dealt with the water being warm from the heat, but I can not fully explain my level of annoyance, which over the weekend turned into anger, of only being able to buy small bottles of fizzy water. In the baking heat you had to stay hydrated and this meant drinking loads of the stuff. I can honestly tell you that there is nothing worse than warm fizzy water to quench your thirst.

As far as the music goes, I was massively impressed. The highlights were Kissy Sell Out’s set at 4am on the first night which had the crowd so pumped up. The other set I was really impressed with was Tiefschwarz who I have seen before and rarely disappoint. I managed to get a video of them playing a tune I had been waiting for weeks to see whilst out raving:

I went to check out Chris Cunningham’s incredibly disturbing and odd DJ/VJ performance, which is basically a collection of gruesome and haunting videos played with some even weirder, twisted music. I’m not really sure who enjoys standing around watching and listening to a set like this. I believe than anyone who claims to genuinely enjoy it is either lying or needs psychiatric help.

The first night ended as the sun begun to rise, which means it is way too hot to sleep in the tents. The day was spent lounging around under the gazebo, which I promise you is the most worthwhile investment you will have ever made, or swimming in the lake. I have never experienced anything so enjoyable or social during the daytime period of any festival with possibly the exception of Secret Garden Party.

The second night seemed to approach so quickly and it was a very similar routine to the first. The music continued to impress, with the only real disappoint for me coming from Ricardo Villalobos, who I have seen and loved since. I felt that the crowd weren’t really the true techno heads who would normally attend one of his Cocoon label nights so he played a set that wasn’t typical of the Villalobos sounds, and perhaps that was the reason for my slight disappointment. Although I missed the final night, I heard that Fake Blood were also one of the top sets of the weekend from my friends.

The second night drew to an end all too quickly and rather worryingly I had to leave the festival at 6am to start the long and daunting process of getting home. If I hadn’t minded the journey out, I was in for a real shock on the way back. I can only advise not doing the journey home on your own. Having to constantly battle off sleep, stay alert enough to work out train times, platforms and changes, all the while the heat of day getting more and more intense and jumping in and out cabs at various points, just to get to the airport for the flight, was definitely not what I’d have chosen to spent the day doing. Perhaps my woes were exaggerated by finally getting to the airport and running to the nearest cafe, seizing a bottle of cold water for the first time in days, paying for it whilst undoing the cap so that I could gulp it down as soon as possible. For some reason I didn’t check the label and it was bloody fizzy water. I nearly cried.

I slept on the plane so the rest of the journey wasn’t too bad. The cool air conditioning on board was actually amazing. It wasn’t long before I was back at home and heading straight for a shower and then bed. The weekend had definitely knackered me out!

I am certain in saying that Melt is something every festival lover should experience at some point. The combination of the days in the lake, the incredible surroundings and the weird but hilarious Germans that fill the place, add to the impressive selection of DJs and bands to create an all round unforgettable experience. As to whether I’d go back, because of the distance I will probably take a couple of years off to try new festivals abroad, but I  can’t imagine I won’t return to Melt again one day. I highly recommend the experience, just remember to take a little electric fan with you, you will seriously love me for that advice. Oh and I hope you like warm fizzy water more than I do.

Wir sehen uns auf der Tanzfläche…or see you on the dancefloor.

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