Grime, techno and apocalyptic thunderstorms—the 22nd edition had it all.
Since 1999, Melt Festival has taken place at Ferropolis, AKA the City Of Iron, an open-air museum of mid-20th century mine excavators. The museum sits on a peninsula in Gremmin Lake, about two hours south of Berlin. Each measuring roughly 30 by 120 metres, five imposing industrial structures lay dotted across the dusty, barren site, which recalls the dystopia of War Of The Worlds. On Saturday night, as the festival temporarily shut down due to freak thunderstorms, it was like being in the apocalypse.
The storms put into practice two things: German efficiency and crowd solidarity. A tannoy alert urged punters to evacuate the site, with security swiftly ushering out any stragglers. At one point I saw eight people, howling with laughter, crammed into a single portaloo as the rain lashed down. After less than two hours, the site reopened. Save for a few puddles, it was as if the storm had never happened.
This year, Melt welcomed more than 50 nationalities to Ferropolis. The crowd was young, trendy and respectful—I saw zero trouble of any kind across the weekend—and the organisation was slick. Despite its size, the 24-hour programming and wild setting made for a fiercely liberating atmosphere. On Sunday night, as Arca asked the lighting technician to "fuck it up," she went on to say, "Assault the audience with love and respect." This sentence, for me, summed up the whole festival. Melt is intense and unforgiving, but it's also curated by a team who care deeply about delivering a seamless and unifying experience.
Here are five key performances from across the weekend.
Giant Swan's live show at Big Wheel on Friday night was the perfect introduction to what Melt is all about. Abrasive, industrial sounds went down best at the stage. Set back in the booth, the table packed with hardware, the Bristol duo thrashed around like a punk outfit. As strobes flashed across the crane above our heads, warped, screeching renditions of tracks like "Pax Britannica" and "Celebrate The Last 30 Years Of Human Ego" sounded raucous and menacing on the banging soundsystem. I saw a man with his hands over his ears, a smirk plastered across his face.
Formerly a three-piece and now a duo, Berlin's "techno boyband" FJAAK also played live at Big Wheel. On Saturday night, with the sound encased by a back wall of corrugated iron, their brand of goofy, unpretentious techno had a male-heavy crowd at fever pitch, with tracks like "Turn It Up" and their remix of Missing Channel's "Onslaught" triggering a rapturous response. At one point, a red firework from Stormzy's set nearby exploded in the sky behind the tallest of Big Wheel's metal girders. The crowd let out a huge cheer and threw their arms in the air. FJAAK did the same, merrily waving around a huge spliff.
There were so few people milling around Melt's main stage on Sunday evening that I wondered if Skepta's set would be poorly attended. But no. As the opening bars of "That's Not Me" rang loud, people came running from across the site. The rumour mill suggested Skepta may have rolled through from his Sónar show. If he was tired, he didn't let on. Within moments, the crowd was packed and moving furiously. "Mosh pits are definitely back," someone said next to me. Skepta's track with Wizkid, "Bad Energy (Stay Far Away)," was accompanied by strange starry visuals that looked like an Apple screensaver, but otherwise the vibe was stark and powerful. As he rattled through material from Konnichiwa ("Lyrics," "Man") and new album Ignorance Is Bliss ("Pure Water," "Redrum"), the sky darkened and the lighting grew more intense. "We've gone from day to night," said Skepta. "I love them sets."
Park Hye Jin
Hidden away in the trees, overlooking the shores of Gremmin Lake, was Forest Stage. Small and intimate, it felt like being at a different festival altogether, bright and colourful compared to the industrial structures beyond the woodland. When the up-and-coming South Korean artist Park Hye Jin played on Sunday evening, the clearing was bathed in a turquoise haze, with flags and flashing casino signs decorating the stage. Unfortunately, the sound fell flat, but nevertheless she impressed with grooving percussive cuts like Silversix's "Mongo Man" and a couple of tracks from her own IF U WANT IT EP. Deftly flicking her wrist to execute each tight transition, she went darker and harder in the final 30 minutes. The next day, I saw a post on Instagram in reaction to her set: "Santa is real!"
Sleepless Floor, which sits just outside the main site, boasts 24-hour programming. With a sandy dance floor partially covered by a canvas awning, the stage reminded me of arid festival sites like Strawberry Fields in Australia. Every year, Ellen Allien plays one of the closing sets. Wearing big sunglasses to combat the sunrise, she played from 3 AM through 8 AM on Monday, the dance floor filling up early into her set as the main site shut. The energy was high and tireless as she opted for big-room tracks like Deevai's "Peroni" and recent dance floor bomb "Kisloty People" by Schacke. I sadly had to leave early to catch a train back to Berlin, but the first few hours showed why Allien has become a yearly Melt tradition.
We've compiled a YouTube playlist with some of our favourite tracks from Melt Festival 2019. Check them out here.
Photo credits /
Christian Hedel - Lead, Modeselektor, Crowd
Ben Mcquaide - Skepta, Slowthai,
Marc Prodanovic - Park Hye Jin, Jorja Smith
Camille Blake - Ellen Allien
Magnetic Meat - Melt Stage, Industrial Seat, Sleepless Floor,
LEA GK - Mask