Melt! Festival

...weekend of fun and frolics
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It’s Friday in an abandoned mine on the banks of a tranquil lake, five huge industrial machines towering into the sky above, six stages throwing up a varied range of breaks, beats, guitars and much more, and 20,000 people ready to party, and party hard, until Monday morning.

Welcome to the weekend of fun and frolics that is the Melt Festival.

We throw up our tent in glorious sunshine, and exploring the site, find the industrial hangar that houses the Melt Klub, and head inside just as Ladyhawke graces the stage. Despite a spirited start, there’s sound problems galore, as non-existent vocals and even an electric shock get in the way of the Aussie’s fairly standard output.

Heading over to the main stage we catch a full set by Blood Red Shoes, and they prove instantly why their debut album was worth the wait. For a two-piece, they crank out a rattling, beast of a sound, one that gears everyone up for the weekend ahead. American alt-folk hero Adam Green’s swinging tunes bring a warm, steady glow to proceedings, especially when he addresses the crowd. “I’m talking to you tripper, and you ecstasy face. Maybe the night has got something good in store,” he says, as the crowd roar back their approval.

Just as all the equipment is laid out and ready to go for the product of Chas and Dave’s crusty wank sock, Kate Nash, the gods above shine on the lucky punters and open their heavens, throwing down the kind of flash flood downpour that had me cursing my decision to put my tent up just feet away from the idyllic looking water’s edge several hours before.

Over on the Gemini Stage, the crowds gather expecting the arrival of Hercules and Love Affair, but due to the rain throwing off timings, instead get to see two DJ dudes raising the roof with some fine 4/4 electronica. It’s banging shit, but nobody seems to know who they are. I’m informed later it’s Alter Ego, but I guess that’s the joy of festivals. There’s always a jewel you don’t know just waiting to be found.

Since the Metalheadz are so prevalent on the weekend’s bill, we decide to see what the fuss is about and head to watch Goldie on the Red Bull stage. This stage is one of the smallest, crammed in between two buildings at the far corner of the site, but the high walls make it seem all the more intimate, and completely fucking rammed to the rafters to boot. With the MC cranking up the crowd, the legendary figure slides on the decks swigging from a bottle of vodka (I’d say it was full of water myself, but not to his face.) Still, alcohol fuelled or not, he bangs out almost two hours worth of dark and skuzzy drum and bass, juggling the beats and laughing as the crowd’s communal ass tries to keep up. Afterwards it’s off to bed for us, while the rest stay up as the beats keep coming until well after 6am.

On Saturday we wake up late, and head to the Gemini Stage to catch Fujiya & Miyagi, but something just doesn’t translate, the textures here just seem too pedestrian for this lively crowd. Thankfully, the bar is most definitely raised by the arrival of Friendly Fires, who were simply stunning. Like Wimbledon, the rain stops play for a good twenty minutes halfway through the first song, but they keep morale up by handing out their rider to the front rows. When they eventually come back, they deliver the set of the weekend, harnessing an excitement that draws comparisons with The Rapture, The Who, and even another band that begin with the same two initials, but more of them later.

For nostalgic reasons, the appearance of Stereo MCs is worth at least two minutes of our time, and that’s exactly how long it takes before we become bored of laughing at the fat bass and the ninja like posturing of Steptoe, and instead head for a tasty bite and a cool beer.

It’s soon back to the main stage for Franz Ferdinand, and it’s amusing to look back on this entire line-up and think just how far and wide their influence has reverberated over the course of their relatively short life. Rightly so, they come out to a heroes welcome, before launching into a true headliners set, reaffirming themselves as one of the UK’s finest live bands. As yet unheard songs like Ulysses stand the test against hits like Take Me Out, with Alex and Nick taking turns to bash out chords on a synth, showcasing an even more melodic and eclectic edge to their sound.

After all this, we’re beat, and slink off happy, passing the fat squelches of Mr Oizo on our exit, and leaving the Melt crowds to enjoy the final day’s top dogs; Battles, Hot Chip and Bjork. Sadly, we missed all that, but you can guarantee we’ll be back next year to get melted at Melt.

Pic by Alison Hull

Click here to view our Melt! photo gallery

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