Words by: Lindsay Colip | Images by: Steven Walter
Melt! Festival :: 07.17.09 – 07.19.09 :: Ferropolis, Germany
Melt! Festival celebrated its 12th year in the City of Iron, aka Ferropolis, Germany. City of Iron? More like City of Huge Transformers! The stages were built around and sometimes actually built into these five huge iron surface mining machines. Think Blade Runner plus the AT-ATs from Star Wars and the creatures from Alien or Predator all wrapped up into five Transformer figurines. In sum, really amazingly freaky iron excavators and spreaders firmly planted on this peninsula that looked like they might come to life at any moment and eat you. I can only hope this explains how enormous and scary they were, all full of wheels, pulleys, long arm-like extensions, bad ass steamroller parts, narrow sky scraping walkways, etc. It was insanity and Walt captured it brilliantly in his photos. This year's round 'industrial garden landscape' is situated quietly along the beautiful Gremmin Lake.
| Melt! Festival 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany|
The festival brought in 20,000 fans last year and is known for its unique lineups. It's a predominately indie festival with a good mix of electronica and rock. This year, some of the performers (who fit in both categories) were Phoenix, Oasis, Glasvegas, Animal Collective, Bloc Party, !!!, Crystal Castles, Digitalism, Klaxons, Kasabian, Passion Pit, Cold War Kids, Whitest Boy Alive, Travis, DJ Supermarkt and The Dodos. The six stages that are the home for these acts include the Main Converse Stage (open air), Gemini (marquee tent), Big Wheel (open air), Red Bull Music Academy Dance Floor (open air), Coca Cola Soundwave Tent (tent) and the Sleepless Floor (open air/hall). Besides the well-known bands, this festival prides itself on breaking newer bands. A&R companies are known to come here to do some scouting. The campgrounds are about 15 minutes walking distance from the stages (unless you are VIP and then you sleep literally NEXT to the Big Wheel Stage, which means bring earplugs - they spin until 8 a.m.) and the festival area is about two hours from Berlin, easily accessible by train, bus or air. All of this, coupled with the fact that I turned 30 on the Saturday of this festival, made me about as excited as pop rocks in soda!
Doors opened at 4 p.m. to a rowdy, sweaty crowd, all rushing in and immediately heading for the Becks beer tent after waiting hours to get in. The general vibe of the people was completely different from Roskilde Festival in Denmark (see JamBase review here). People looked edgier, grungier, dirtier - not the sea of blondes and blue eyes from before. I think American Apparel must've had a great first half of the year because the part of the crowd that didn't rip their jeans, stain their shirts and purposely not shower for a week before arrival were DECKED in '80s power workout gear, headbands, gold tights, sweat shorts, tall striped socks and neon leotards. The only exception from group A or B was a group of people who dressed as Smurfs - head to toe, blue paint, white hats, the whole deal. That's commitment!
| Melt! Festival 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany|
The first DJ at the Big Wheel (there is an enormous wheel on the back of the iron structure where the DJ spins - DJ at the helm, wheel in the back, a ship of sorts) that I saw was Markus Karva. I'd never heard of him but was swept into the madness right away. Apparently he always opens the festival and treats everyone to acid house, minimal and electro. People absolutely loved him and immediately starting dancing and flailing about on the grassy knoll with the serene lake behind them. He spun for two-and-a-half hours, starting the weekend party off right. The only cover I recognized was a snippet of MJ's "Wanna Be Startin' Something" as I was walking away. Karva was a real treat full of new music. Next, off to catch Cold War Kids at the Main Stage.
Here's the problem playing at 5 p.m. on the Main Stage: It doesn't translate well. The stage is a simple black structure. On both sides, there are two huge, badass black and white photos of fans, courtesy of Converse. In front of the stage is a big, open pit made up of gray concrete with big, gray concrete stair steps surrounding it. A big, gray concrete arena. Did I mention it was gray? CWK, all wearing gray and black, blended right into the stage. There were no lighting effects, graphics on the screen behind them, nothing to help them pop. That being said, Nathan Willet (vocals, guitar) sounded great, per usual. CWK are an indie rock group from California who've been around since 2004 and consist of Willet, Matt Maust (bass), Jonnie Russel (guitar) and Matt Aveiro (drums). The modest crowd was definitely enthusiastic about a few songs, including "Hang Me Up To Dry," "Relief" and "Every Man I Fall For." Although everything sounded great (the notes Willet hits are chill producing) and the energy was high, my gut instinct was that this particular crowd was wanting more techno/electronic music.
| Cold War Kids :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany|
Next up on the Main Stage was Delphic. I'd never heard of them and I was really impressed. Although the band looked like they were dressed for a business lunch (slacks and nice black collared shirts at a dirty festival, really?), they played like they were wild men. From Manchester, they are a really cool blend of rock (heavy guitar, drum solos) and electro/techno dance music (cue the smoke machine, synthesizer and drum kit). At first I wrote down "poor man's Bloc Party" but I think I judged too soon. Manchester used to be known, apparently, for mixing dance and rock music, and Delphic is bringing it back to life. Overall, they were really cool and weird and I truly enjoyed their jams. Good builds, high energy, not too much techno and not too much rock – a great mix and a new band worth checking out.
London-based Klaxons were next and they killed it. They started off with this loud siren noise to get everyone in a frenzy and then straight into the goods. Major dance party, fist pumps, jumping up and down, crowd surfing (apparently that is a-ok here) clapping, high, high energy. "Golden Skans" was the highlight for me, especially when it inspired a mosh-pit that I was safely above. The guys - Jamie Reynolds, James Righton, Simon Taylor-Davis and Steffan Halperin - said it was the craziest crowd of the summer and all I could think was, "Have you been to Roskilde?" This is definitely a band to check out, winning NME's best new band of 2007, Best International Track ("Golden Skans") for 2008 as well as best album of 2008.
| Klaxons :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany|
The Dodos were next up in the Soundwave Tent. These guys are in a zone right now. This is the third festival in a row where I've seen them and they keep getting better and better. It's like they are in this flow of energy and perfection right now. Meric Long is absolutely amazing to watch on guitar, not to take away from his mates, drummer Logan Kroeber and vibraphonist Keaton Snyder who are equally as talented. The crowd was small mostly because people were still at the Klaxons, but they were loud and enthusiastic. Creating 'psychedelic folk' songs, this band reminds me that the blend of music being created today is unbelievable.
Another new act for me was Bodi Bill at the Gemini Stage. These three Berlin DJs/singers/dancers were so fun to watch. Lead guy looks exactly like David Byrne and so that was in my head the whole time. They were akin to Talking Heads on speed. Fantastic, with great dance beats and synth adds, mixed with really high energy dancing and singing. The crowd was wild and it was apparent the Red Bull had begun to kick in.
| Bodi Bill :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany|
From here, things became a bit of a blur. Not because of anything I was doing, but because it started to absolutely downpour. As I watched a little of Röyksopp on the Main Stage (they are such a great, theatrical show) all of a sudden we had to get shelter. When I say 'downpour,' I mean like take a bucket, fill with water and then dump it. That deluge of water continued for hours. People were absolutely soaked. Two of the main stages are open air! That meant EVERYONE ran to see Crystal Castles, including Walt and I.
Crystal Castles is a phenomenal show. Toronto-based Alice Glass kicks ass as a frontwoman. Ethan Kath is equally as mesmerizing on the sound system. The video game inspired music isn't for everyone, I know, but if you want a taste of some really cool techno with interesting beats/lyrics/vocals give "Crimewave" a try. The crowd was enormous, wet, laughing, smiling, cigarettes in the air, drinks spilling everywhere. This is one insane live show you shouldn't miss, trust me. Keep in mind, they went on stage at midnight – a shit time slot - and, this is where I started my birthday celebration, amongst the chaos. Perfect.
The rain stopped a little bit and the crowd dispersed to eat, dry off, etc. and then came back again at 2 a.m. to watch DJ Koze at the Big Wheel. What I didn't like about Koze, and about several DJs in Germany I've heard in the last two weeks, was the flow of the music. It was too steady, too slow, no ups and downs. If I'm going to tolerate techno, I want to be swept up and down. Isn't that the whole point? I wanted a finish or a pop and all I got were builds and descents, over and over. BOOOOOORING. This is when I first heard the term "Minimal Techno" and realized I was about to hear it all weekend. Oy.
| Crystal Castles :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany|
Back to Gemini for MSTRKRFT, who came on at 3:30 a.m. I mention the times because I've never seen anything like this. Trentemoller was scheduled to start at 5:30. 5:30 A.M.! But, alas, the rain stopped everything. It wasn't MSTKKFT in the tent when I arrived. In fact, I have no idea who the DJ was and they weren't compelling enough to hang around and I was soaked. Decided to call it a night. Next day's lineup, weather permitting, was insanely good.
Continue reading for Saturday at Melt!...