Ever been to Gräfenhainichen? Are you a fan of 1,980-tonne bucket wheel excavators? Chances are not, but Clash recently found ourselves balls deep in Ferropolis, 'The City Of Iron'.
Normally you wouldn’t be likely to bump into an alt-J fan at an open-air machine museum. However, this isn’t a normal day at this beautiful yet somewhat eerie industrial crane orgy. We are, in fact, here to overindulge our senses at the four-day adventure that is Germany’s diverse Melt! Festival.
The desire to climb these Mad Max-as-fuck mechanical beasts is somewhat diluted by security that look like they could bend the metal their mohawks protect. But other temptations of distraction are stronger, so our attentions are, fortunately, drawn elsewhere. Firstly, there’s the swimmable lake – the festival is held on a peninsula in the middle of Gremminer Lake – but then, of course, there’s the music.
With a line-up that gleefully smashes techno and indie together like sweaty bedfellows, Melt! offers much variety among their most industrial backdrop. That one could trudge effortlessly from Autechre to Young Fathers, or Hudson Mohawke to London Grammar over the weekend is testament to the festival’s offbeat legacy.
It works, too. Nils Frahm worked his magic on the Main Stage, crafting luscious neoclassic melodies for Friday’s late-night revelers, and exactly 24-hours later, Kylie Minogue is there, offering shimmering pop to the gathered throng. The following night, it’s alt-J’s turn.
Even the weather caught the changeable bug. Intense sun fought with torrential rain throughout the weekend, toying with each day’s sartorial choices, but German precision and organization was in full effect with ponchos being handed out readily across the site. Similarly, with water being distributed free by volunteers, anyone not choosing a dip in the lake is kept nicely hydrated.
We lost ourselves in the magnetic thrall of Years & Years, Gengahr and Django Django, and got a bit carried away during The Bug’s 2am set on Saturday. Dream-pop duo Aquilo are up for it, too. Clash caught their majestic Friday evening set on the Gemini Stage, then crept backstage for a quick chat. Five minutes later, and we are all in the lake, the Lancashire lads showing off their ability to chat and tread water at the same time. While drinking beer.
An interview with Catfish And The Bottlemen later proves less wet, but just as enlightening, as effusive frontman Van McCann discussed the recurring presence of Ewan McGregor in their music and the band’s subsequent friendship with the man himself. If Clash’s banter wasn’t electrifying enough, McCann took it upon himself to shock himself onstage mid-performance, continuing their energetic set regardless.
For us, though, Jamie T took the biscuit. Not all of the 8pm crowd knew who he was, but they were definitely drawn in. A trim-looking Jamie blasted out a selection of hits culled from his three albums – ‘If You Got The Money’ from debut ‘Panic Prevention’ got the mosh pit rumbling, while the aggressive heartbreak of ‘Back In The Game’ proved flawless. ‘Sticks ‘N’ Stones’ and ‘The Man’s Machine’ from 2009’s ‘Kings & Queens’ blew us away, and the most recent crowd pleaser – ‘Zombie’, from last year’s ‘Carry On The Grudge’ – couldn’t fail to ignite.
Melt!, when you get yourselves there, is well worth it. Considering how abstract the location actually is, Clash is slightly baffled to have attended in person. You really need to see it with your own eyes to understand the scale. With serious scenery, efficient and friendly staff and such an engaging line-up, what more could you ask for in an Orwellian industrial crane park? Fancy finding out more?
Check out Zalando's interactive festival guide HERE.
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Words: Tom F
Photography: Aluapa Waymore (unless stated)