Melt! Festival | 07.17-07.19 | Germany

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Words by: Lindsay Colip | Images by: Steven Walter

Melt! Festival :: 07.17.09 – 07.19.09 :: Ferropolis, Germany

Melt! Festival 2009 :: 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.

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!

Friday, 07.17

Melt! Festival 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany
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!

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.

Cold War Kids :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany
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.

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.

Klaxons :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany
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.

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.

Bodi Bill :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany
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.

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.

Crystal Castles :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany
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.

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!…

Saturday, 07.18

Caribou :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany
Caribou started my day in the Soundwave Tent and they sounded fantastic. The dueling drums were unbelievable, Dan Snaith‘s lilting voice was spot on, and everything sounded as airy and light and soothing as I remembered. The Canadians have a very story-building sound, like West Indian Girl, where everything builds and flows and you feel almost exhausted after each song, like you’ve really been through something with the band – lots of explosions, very dream pop, electronic. “Melody Day” was a highlight for the whole crowd. Really strong show.

Whitest Boy Alive absolutely nailed it again. They might be the band of the summer for me. Seriously, for as goofy as the guys are, they put on a major show – everyone dancing, everyone singing, everyone happy. It’s really one of those shows where you know you are in for a treat, sing-alongs included. “Burning,” “Inflation,” “I Want You,” “Courage”… they played the same songs as Roskilde and it was just as great the second time with funky beats, melodic guitars and Erlend Øye‘s soothing voice. They also dished up the ’90s cover of “You’ve Got to Show Me Love” again and the crowd went nuts. Smooth, jazzy, up-beat, feel good music.

!!! was the next stop and holy adrenaline, Batman! I only caught a little bit because I didn’t want to miss Animal Collective, but they were high octane. There are seven talented members in this group, all with the goal of creating dance music without computers – gritty, dirty, loud, lots of in-your-face lyrics and heavy beats. At one point, Nic Offer jumped into the crowd and enjoyed his ass being grabbed by the ladies. These guys are really fun and a little crazy and if you need to sample a song try “Pardon My Freedom.” You’ll understand immediately what I’m talking about.

!!! :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany
Bad news: Animal Collective is just not good live, for me. I think their recent album is brilliant, and I listen to their music with awe but I can’t stand them live. I don’t think I’m alone in this one (read Kayceman’s assessment from Bonnaroo here). I looked around and the crowd was bored silly. Confused actually. “Summertime Clothes,” a great freaking song, did NOT translate. Even at night with lights and a cool atmosphere with the Transformers staring down at us. Nada. Zilch. For me, this is a band I can only love from home.

Good news: I am biased a bit because I absolutely LOVE the new Phoenix album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, but even if I hadn’t heard it I still would’ve loved this show, which, for me, was the best act of the festival. Thomas Mars‘ voice was pitch perfect, the band sounded spot on and they played with such intensity and fun that you couldn’t help but be swept up into their party. “Rome,” “1901,” “Run Run Run,” “Liztomania” and “If I Ever Feel Better” were just some of the songs they played. This is a dance-your-face-off show. Such high energy, catchy as hell lyrics and strong beats that it’s impossible to stand still. Thank God they were amazing because the next band disappointed big time.

Phoenix :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany
Bloc Party. Okay, I love this band. I have all of their records and yet, this was such a disappointing show. As Walt suggests, perhaps they peaked back in 2005 at Coachella? I mean, Kele Okereke looked bored as shit. I know this isn’t of utmost importance but he was wearing a jersey and it felt like we pulled him from a football match or something. I didn’t even know the first four songs and finally the first song I recognized was “Signs,” a really slow number. Finally, they burst into “Banquet” and everyone went crazy, and then back down they went. Where was the party? Where was the excitement? This was Melt! It was 1:30 a.m.! Come on! I actually left the show. Over some pomme frites I heard “This Modern Love” in the distance and I was sad I was missing it, but by that time I was already miffed at them. Total disappointment.

I heard a little of super popular DJ Paul Kalkbrenner as I was heading in for the night/morning and from what little I heard it sounded great. It wasn’t the terribly boring, minimal techno that I had been exposed to earlier where nothing happens except occasional beat changes. I know that he had a huge following at this festival and everyone was really excited about seeing him, more so than any of the Main Stage headliners but because I was a walking zombie when I heard him I will be checking him out more thoroughly later for sure.

Continue reading for Sunday at Melt!…

Sunday, 07.19

Melt! Festival 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany
Who in the hell is Patrick Wolf? Seriously, who is this person? I happened upon the Main Stage and this guy who looked like Boy George was in this grandiose cloak of sorts with big, poofy white hair. He came sauntering out on stage, sat down in a VERY dramatic pose and started singing. Who sings whilst posing on the floor? Had I stumbled into a rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar? This guy was hysterical, but really talented it turned out. Guitar, keys, violin, excellent voice, check. He took off his cloak to reveal this amazing one-piece, cutout jumpsuit, which immediately reminded me of Zoolander. The songs sounded a lot like the tune of “Relax!” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood combined with the drama of George Michael’s “Father Figure.” He sang with clenched fists, probably had tears in his eyes, all songs about unrequited love, gypsies, standing up for what you believe in, etc. He was so passionate about his cause and such a great performer that I absolutely couldn’t pull my eyes from him. We will either hear him in the next John Hughes movie (if we’re ever that lucky) or on the next “We Are The World” collaboration. Bravo for making my day Patrick Wolf, whoever you are.

DJ Supermarkt, THANK YOU! Markus Liesenfeld of Berlin kicked ass. He spun songs that I listen to at home (Lykke Li, Cut Copy, Daft Punk) and kept us going up and down and up and down for hours. This is the DJ I’d been waiting for, the party that hadn’t started yet. I won’t miss his show if he comes to the States. Great DJ.

Kasabian :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany
Glasvegas was next up on the Main Stage and I listened to two songs before I became extremely bored. Walt was hyped to see them, but really nothing sounded too unique or special to me. You might love this but it sounded just way too anthemic to me. I will give their album another listen but live they didn’t really grab me. It seemed that the party was going off at the tents and so I went… back to DJ Supermarkt!

Kasabian came next and they brought the energy waaaaay up. The crowd was huge, and Tom Meighan (lead vocals) and band sounded great and offered a really high-energy performance. I was really impressed with this rock & roll band that really knows how to entertain and enthuse – apparently, the only band Oasis thinks can compete with them. Sort of. Not really, but they’ve become friendly after touring together. Kasabian are trying out a new sound on their latest album, West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, and as guitarist Serge Pizzomo says, it’s a blend of Daft Punk, The Clash and the Rolling Stones. Sounds great to me. Meighan kept mentioning how tripped out he was that everything looked like Optimus Prime and Decepticons but I’m not sure anyone knew what he was talking about. We did and I couldn’t have agreed more. They played a new song, “Where Did The Love Go?” and I am predicting this will land in a commercial for sure. In fact, lots of their songs sound very commercial friendly.

Sunday’s headliner, Oasis, took the stage at 11 p.m. They played the exact same setlist as Roskilde, and again it was flawless. You can’t deny how good these guys are and I know you either love them or hate them, but you can’t deny their talent. “Lyla,” “Champagne Supernova,” “Wonderwall,” “Slide Away,” “Live Forever,” “Rock n Roll Star,” “Don’t Look Back In Anger”… yes, yes, yes, all good, all crowd pleasers. Liam was in a good mood again (shocker) and Noel sounded great as always on his solos. The touring drummer, Chris Sharrock, is insane to watch. He throws his sticks HIGH in the air, twirls them, beats the shit out of his kit and all with a precision that is mind blowing. Well done, boys.

Oasis :: Melt! 2009 :: Ferropolis, Germany
To end the festival, Passion Pit. I was nervous about seeing them because they so disappointed me at Sasquatch! (read the review here), however, they were amazing. What a show. Lead singer Michael Angelakos sounded perfect, if you like really high pitched yelping and singing. Where earlier his voice was cracked and strained, here, inside a tent, he sounded great. The crowd wanted to dance and celebrate the weekend and the guys put on a high energy, super fun show. Everyone rocking out on their equipment, be it a guitar, keys, turn table, whatever, they were all JAMMING up there. They actually did two encores, the crowd was so into it. It was a great way to end the night and the weekend. Check these New York natives out for sure. “Smile Upon Me” or “Sleepyhead” will do the trick.

Overall, this was a yin-yang festival. One yin was rock ‘n’ roll like Oasis, Kasabian, Klaxons, Glasvegas, Dodos, etc. while the yang was dance, dance, dance music provided by DJ Supermarkt, Crystal Castles, Röyksopp, DJ Kalkbrenner, Passion Pit, etc. You could go either way at all times since there was always someone playing to feed your need. Besides the music, the venue itself was so strange and beautiful with the iron structures situated next to a beautiful lake. The mainly German/U.K. crowd was young and hip and never seemed out of control or too wasted, just excited about life and about dancing their painted faces off. The security was pretty loose, the food was great (lots of vegetarian options and sausage alike), and prices weren’t too bad either, about $5 for a beer, maybe $7 for a plate of good food. It was definitely do-able on a budget. If you are into great techno/electronic music but also enjoy powerhouse rock bands this is your festival. The smaller crowd made it a lot easier to navigate around and a lot easier to actually see the bands. In sum, a loud, all-nighter festival that brings high-octane music to you. This is not for the faint of heart or ears. MELT!

Continue reading for more pics of Germany’s Melt! Festival…

Friday, 07.17

Cold War Kids
Delphic
The Dodos
Klaxons
Crystal Castles

Continue reading for more pics of Germany’s Melt! Festival…

Saturday, 07.18

Animal Collective
The Whitest Boy Alive
Bloc Party
Bloc Party
!!!
!!!
Phoenix
Phoenix

Continue reading for more pics of Germany’s Melt! Festival…

Sunday, 07.19

Glasvegas
Kasabian
Passion Pit

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