Very rarely in life do you get the opportunity to utter the words, ‘I’ve just spent the weekend dancing on a beach, in an abandoned mine next to a lake’, but such is Melt! festivals charm it transforms into this geological anomaly so completely it feels like you’re an extra at a disco in a Mad Max film.
Monstrous machines dotted around the site tower above the peak of each slope, allowing each stage to form a natural bowl like shape. Imposing and awe-inspiring they’re a monumental testament to man’s capacity both to build and destroy. Ferropolis, is known as ‘the city of iron’ and represents a huge open air museum showcasing Germany’s industrial heritage. With the rest of the mine flooded, the festival site sits at its highest point allowing a shore to form around its manufactured edges.
The effect leaves a colossal techno playground complete with unnatural mechanical fire-spitting beasts. Melt! started in 1997 and there’s definitely an air of maturity to its set up and how it’s run. The camp site is conveniently laid out with a road along one side that connects each camping area to a row of bars, food stalls, toilets and a supermarket were the beers are cheap and cold.
On the other side the open field turns into a forest and beyond that the lake, where a single road arcs around the lake to the festival with regular bus transport. The Sleepless stage sits just outside the main entrance acting at the first and last point of call for the more dogged reveller.
I kinda jus’ want to neck someone
We arrived at the camp-site early afternoon having taken the two hour train from Berlin, our friends had arrived the day previous and set up, leaving me only to secure my wristband before the festivities began. Around the camp-site an air mixed with impatience and excitement was punctuated only by the whooshing sound of nitrous oxide as it filled each balloon. What was to be the first of many crude ‘efficient’ German references there was to be made, was my envious admiration for the ingenious idea our German friends had for sticking the cold empty noz canisters into their drinks to keep them cool despite the obvious health risks.
Pantha Du Prince started the weekend’s musical proceedings beneath the Big Wheel stage as it blocked out the sun as it set behind me. The huge bucket wheel excavator cast a lively shadow, with each track sparkled across the sky as it made the transition across the entire blue spectrum, twinkly synths and drawn out whirrs helped me crash straight into the first of many ecstasy highs over the weekend.
Delicate sparkles flickered in and out as he ploughed through what seemed like the entirety of his Black Noise album. With the MDMA coursing through my body we scuttled over to the Gemini stage to catch Lulu James whose soulful voice was undoubtedly beautiful but wasn’t quite in tune with my initial rush. By this time my group of friends had veered off in all directions chasing their own indescribable fix with loose plans to meet at star signs and times that didn’t exist.
The rest of the night fractured by with a puzzling uncertainty beginning with a Fuck Buttons DJ set. I’m not sure whether it was Fuck or Buttons but his one man show was unexpected, as he wooed the crowd with a lively, metallic techno set, like the noise from a working anvil factory with a an impetuous bassline.
Next, we crammed into the Intro tent for a haunting, emotive set by Darkside which prompted a friend to yearn, “I kinda jus’ wanna neck someone” (neck being what Liverpudlians call a kiss). Maybe we should have just ‘necked’ at that point but with all the different chemicals rushing through me it was hard to tell whether the comment was inviting, playful or non-existent. Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington flickered on and off the stage from the slightest corner of the packed tent. Somewhere amid the smoke the eerie wails of a guitar washed over us with swooning vocals, making for a clammy, affectionate performance.
Dixon started off well at the Melt!Selektor stage which slopes onto the beach, but his set trailed off like so many of the drugs I had taken so we opted to see Baauer close the Gemini stage for one night with a more up-tempo glitchy set, chocked full of hip hop samples and unwavering drum and bass.
There are vague recollections of Mano le Touch, Actress, and Daniel Avery b2b Erol Alkin, who all seemed to blur past like a science fiction film I wasn’t quite following. Daniel Avery’s album Drone Logic was an engaging journey through acid-techno and was one of my favourite albums of last year but their set unfortunately sounded like a long time married couple who had grown to hate each other.
With the Sleepless stage not open for another hour we trudged around the lake back to the campsite where I watched in awe as the sun rose above the mine for the first time. The huge fiery ball hung low as the daylight built across the edge of the horizon made for apocalyptic viewing.
I’d love to write a children’s book about you
I was awoken by barely a breeze fully dressed and baked in yesterdays excess beneath the midday sun. Dehydrated and debauched it was a struggle to get changed without touching the sides of the canvas like oven I opted to rest. One of many great things about Melt! is the lake and as I would discover later the forest. The first dip in the lake is what I imagine being baptised must feel like for idiots. The icy water washed my weary bones and cleansed me of all the previous night’s excess, almost to the point of mild euphoria.
The day loitered between bumps of ketamine and life-affirming dips in the lake with a late afternoon visit to the sand built coliseum-esque Sleepless stage (below), were the steady trickle of uplifting house music was revitalising and infectious.
Back at the tent there was barely enough time to drop the acid we’d bought and head back to the tent for Akkord who my friend promised, “there’s lots of good sounds an that.” With the Melt!Selektor stage almost to ourselves the bass reverberated through me as the acids peak threatened the very structure of the machinery around me, so solid before looked as if it was about to collapse deliriously all around us.
Akkord played a sort of creepy, ominous dub-techno mixed with a foreboding jungle sound that makes you want to ring your friends neck. Descending basslines would come to an almost cataclysmic halt before menacing drums would crash back down on top of us. Similar to the sound of two galaxies colliding into each other in space. Each clap added to the warm encompassing dread that filled me up inside.
There was something mysterious about the whole performance, and the fact I could feel each individual grain of sand against my foot made for an otherworldly ordeal. Addison Groove returned the favour with a slightly more traditional precise set of hard techno complete with a pleasingly whimsical performance. Four Tet set was full of building soundscapes and familiar songs yet his set seemed disjointed, although I remember being lost amid a rhythmic Pyramid at one point.
After all that noise we retreated to the edge of the stage to rest, realising we’d been stood in the same spot for several hours, we sat at the waters edge. There we giggled as it took us around four hours to decide what to do next, distracted by our own melancholy. There we adopted our very own adorable techno bear as one of the American lads we had met slipped into a k-hole.
Omar Souleyman must clearly be some sort of genius as his combination of what can only be described as Arabian techno was a surreally entertaining experience. Dressed in traditional Middle Eastern dress he awkwardly clapped and paced his way through an entertaining set complete with analogue keyboards, which provided the perfect soundtrack to the mesmerisingly beautiful girl hoola-hooping nonchalantly in the ankle deep water at the shore’s edge beneath a tangerine crescent moon.
Modeselektor saw out the rest of the early morning with a reactive set that bowed to the whim of the crowd. Susceptible to the soaring, joyous crowd around us we finally stood up again with the rising sun to a remix of Donna Summer’s I feel love. After that, all that was left for another day was to trudge back to the forest and collapse under the safety of its shade.
I can’t really talk for a minute
Disoriented and surrounded by strangers I summoned the strength to jump straight in the lake before retreating to the shade until the late afternoon. A relatively cooler evening allowed us to return to the tent to take stock and muster the strength to make it through another evening of responsible lewdness.
We joined Tensnake at the Gemini stage as a remix of Thriller slowly merged into Coma Cat. His uplifting, bouncy house set was eventually brought to an end by the Tensnake dancers with a rousing performance Romeo. Moderat opened the Main stage with the obligatory A New Error, a song whose slow, captivating intro built until the drop demanded nothing more than a steady nod and appreciative stomp; before quickly mixing into Bad Kingdom. Meanwhile the full pill I’d taken earlier had rendered me hands-on-head-speechless.
Portishead’s performance spoke to all the emotions I’d been throughout the weekend and the end of their performance brought with it the realisation that the festival was also coming to an end and at that moment there was truly nowhere else I wanted to be. The beauty of Give Me A Reason gnawed away inside of me and judging by the blissful silence around me it did so for everyone else. Maybe it was the downer I was on from the weed an the ketamine but I was grateful for our group had stayed together for a change apart from the two who’d made their way to the front and sobbed lovingly.
Acutely aware I could come the festival again, with the same people even, but it would never be the same, I almost welled up at the sheer needless joy of it all and became immediately grateful to have shared it with the people perched around me; snapped from my contemplative mood only by the last scoops of ketamine being passed around with the end of a sunglasses arm.
Somewhat bored of the downer I was on I popped the last pill as we tried to make it to see John Talabot, but got distracted by the ‘children’s’ park were we rolled around on the equipment and in the sand. There a guy on a swing was miming the words of a love I song I hardly knew blaring from the bratwurst van to his girlfriend as they swung from peak to peak.
As the last flames spat out beneath the stars we stumbled arm and arm out towards the Sleepless Stage for the last time. The short walk gave me just enough time to come up on the ecstasy and fumble around for enough to change to buy cocktail. Usually full of no more than about 200 people, thousands spilled onto the road and around the lake as we the last defiant, sun-kissed souls for one last romp. The buzz from the ecstasy made it seem like I was taking multiple separate images of the night with my eyes as I bathed in the warm house music.
By the time the sun rose again we’d retreated to the reeds were a group of Swedish and Germans a friend had plied us with speed prompting an impromptu skinny dip in the lake. Exhausted and resigned to defeat, at around 9am I made my way back the tent to pack what little belongings I had and make the journey home.
If I remember Melt! for anything, it will be for… well, everything that is written down here really, the highs and the lows, the music and the people. I very rarely wear a cravat but Melt!, I fucking take it off to you, safe in the knowledge that I will be back to wear it again next year.