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Favorite This[REVIEW] Germany's MELT! festival is still one of the best in all the EU

Published: August 1, 2014

By: Gracie Roberts

Melt! Festival is a slice of paradise that takes place during the middle of summer each year in a remote part of Germany. Just about two hours outside of Berlin is Ferropolis, a curious place that is otherwise known as “the city of iron.” A former site of a strip-mining operation, Ferropolis is now used as an open museum for mid-twentieth century heavy machinery. It’s almost too convenient that this spot worked out to be the perfect venue to hold a music festival —the organization of the festival grounds is immaculate, the surroundings are strikingly picturesque, and there’s virtually no one to disturb from all the late-night shenanigans that come along with placing 25,000 people together to party on a peninsula for a weekend. Melt! attendees either arrived Thursday for the pre-party or on Friday afternoon, when most of the festival began to come to life and people settled into their campsites. From the campgrounds, it was just a short shuttle bus ride to the festival grounds, where festivalgoers stepped out in awe of the unique, industrial environment that surrounded them.

As the sun set, the machines lit up the grounds with a myriad of lights and pillars that periodically spewed fire. SBTRKT was first to light up the main stage with live keyboards and drums that gave the band’s famed songs more of a full, jungle sound. Next up, it was time for Robyn & Röyksopp to pop in and turn things up. The trio are currently on their Do It Again tour, which began in June and continues through the rest of the summer. Röyksopp opened with “The Drug”and explored tracks from both their early years (“Remind Me”, “Eple”and “What Else Is There?”) and more recent releases (“Senior Living”, “This Must Be It”and “Running to the Sea”featuring Susanne Sundfør, who provided live vocals for many of the group’s lyriced tracks). After Röyksopp had their run, Robyn took the stage and delivered her usual energy-packed performance that is known and loved by her fans. Surprisingly, the two groups took ample time to supply their own respective music to the audience, giving them a proper taste of their differing styles, and only came together near the end of the set to perform their collabs from the recent Do It Again mini album.

The Desperados Melt! Selektor Stage served as another awesome place to hang out. For the fourth time in a row, Melt! frequenters Modeselektor curated a list of performing artists for the festival and were given their own stage to do so. On Friday night, Skream was up to bat. Fans who haven’t seen him in the flesh for a while might have been surprised to take in Oliver Jones’ performance at the lakeside stage. While Skream is known to be somewhat of a founding father of dubstep, he’s recently taken a left turn in his selections and has glided into a revamped style with plenty of disco, techno and house genres thrown into his sets.

Melt’s lineup also included a couple big names from the European deep house scene —namely, Mano Le Tough and Âme. Mano is an Irishman who now lives in Berlin and can be spotted frequenting some of the city’s biggest and most sought after dance clubs, including Berghain’s Panaroma Bar. Âme is comprised of German duo Kristian Beyer & Frank Wiedemann, who describe their sound as ‘Detroit-influenced deep house and music with soul’. Pretty Lights and Baauer represented the American names on Friday night’s roster, while Maya Jane Coles held it down for the United Kingdom. Coles closed the night, playing an early morning set from 5 to 7 a.m. on the Big Wheel Stage.

If festivalgoers got any sleep on Friday night, they know that the only thing possible to do on Saturday afternoon was to hit the Gremminer See, the lake surrounding the peninsula, for some much-needed relief from the sun. There, volunteers walked around selling Eiskaffee that was quickly snatched up by thirsty swimmers. Leisurely activities stretched long into the early evening, when temperatures finally became bearable enough to socialize in. 

Inside festival grounds, it was a balmy Saturday evening. The lakeside Selektor Stage welcomed Four Tet, whose set was deliciously moody and experimental. The fact that Four Tet always knows how to keep a crowd guessing makes it easy to see why he made it onto Modeselektor’s list this year. Speaking of wildcard performances, Modeselektor themselves turned out to bring an astonishing mixed bag of sound to the table during their back-to-back performance with Vienna-based producer and composer, Patrick Pulsinger. Prior to arriving at Ferropolis, Modeselektor has been touring half the globe, performing under the banner ‘Modeselektion’and proving that their musical forte ranges far beyond electro house and hip hop. The pair, featuring Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, really went out on a limb during their Melt! performance, mixing bass-heavy beats with the likes of Donna Summer’s 1977 hit “I Feel Love.” In the audience, fans grooved along to this eclectic mix of sound in the most natural manner: hands in the air and feet in the water, enjoying the serenity brought on by the sunrise over the placid waters surrounding Ferropolis.

On the Gemini Stage, Tiga, the Montreal native who has established a comfortable spot in the EDM scene on a global scale, performed back to back with Seth Troxler, an American DJ who hails from Kalamazoo, Michigan and specializes in underground house and techno. Take note —these guys played for four hours straight (and from 3 to 7 a.m. to boot), and where a set like this might have closed off a night at another festival, this gig was merely the middle of Saturday’s roster at Melt!. Saturday’s Sleepless Floor, the hub for music performed around the clock, was home to Alle Farben, a name that is well known in Berlin, but not necessarily on an international level quite yet. Alle Farben is Frans Zimmer, a Berlin-born guy with a love for making music that began early on in his life. He’s only been around since 2010, when he started DJing in various cafes and clubs around Berlin, and in 2012, when he made a real name for himself performing at the city’s Tempelhof Airport. Zimmer’s sound is warm, bouncy house, and his diverse DJ sets are really something to stop and give an ear to. His first full album, Synesthesia, was released on May 23 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and is to be released this summer worldwide.

Sunday’s main stage headliners were Moderat and Portishead, two big names that offered two very different flavors to the musical provisions present at the festival. While Moderat delivered a passionate performance to an emotionally invested crowd, people swayed along and listened to a well-rounded collection of the group’s top songs from their self-titled album as well as from 2013’s II. Portishead was a bit of a different story, as the band’s melancholy, soul-wrenching sound came across as a bit out of place on the otherwise energy-filled, upbeat roster of artists that had largely dominated the festival’s stages up until that point in the night. However, the sheer talent shown by Beth Gibbons and Portishead’s band members succeeded in winning over many fans present at the festival who were able to truly appreciate the group’s musical genius.

John Talabot rocked the Big Wheel Stage with a two-hour DJ Set, and once the festivalgoers were ushered out of the festival grounds, they happily kept dancing without missing a beat once they saw Ellen Allien heading up the Sleepless Floor. People had the option of bringing in the sunrise one more time, as the Sleepless lineup lasted until 12 p.m. on Monday. 

With all it has to offer, it’s no surprise that Melt! took home the Best Medium-Sized Festival 2013 gong at the European Festival Awards last year. This event is a great example of a successful European EDM festival that knows how to have a great time while still managing to keep things under control, an impressive feat given the popularity and esteem of the festival. Until next year, Ferropolis!

Tags: BreaksDowntempoDrum and BassDubstepElectroGlitchHip HopHouseLivetronica