Ferropolis, Germany - 16-18 July
03 August 2010
However, after a flight to Düsseldorf, a car share across Germany to Berlin with a guy called Burt, a mattress on the
floor of a mates bedroom (cheers LP), a sweltering train to Gräfenhainichen and finally a half hour bus ride we finally
arrived. 36 hours after leaving London we had made it to Ferropolis.
Described as they 'City of Steel' this beautiful setting set amongst disused quarry has been transformed for most part into an open air industrial museum. For the rest of the time it's used as a giant Mad Max-esque type playground for music lovers across Europe. 2010 marked the 13th year of this festival which has grown in size and popularity over the years.
Overall – 8/10
Arriving at Ferropolis you are taken aback by what greats you. Huge cranes and excavators perched on an island stretching out into a beautifully reclaimed lake. It's like no other festival setting you are ever likely to experience. With the line up catering for electronic, techno, weird (we'll get onto Chris Cunningham later) and indie/rock, it caters for most sorts. With such a mix of acts though it can often seem that the organisers pick last year’s big acts and overlook anyone else. This wasn’t the case at MELT with a variety of established and newer acts to follow.
We start at Black Rose, a collaboration between Jesse Rose and Henrik Schwartz on the Desperados Beach stage. There is gentle slope down to the stage with the lake and beach snuggled round it. With Jesse's love of classic house and Henrik’s love of vocals, the crowd-packed beach area were treated to some energetic tech house. Mixes included The Fields ‘Everyday’ to Burial, so the set was certainly eclectic and set the tone for the weekend.
With a slight reshuffle of the stage and Kieran Holden of Four Tet hit the speakers. The running order here seemed a little odd after having such an energetic performance as Black Rose to follow with Kieran Holden of Four Tet's alternative and often experimental style of music. We stayed round to nod our heads but even with an electrical storm brewing over the lake, setting off his set perfectly; it wasn’t enough to keep us enthralled so head to the Big Wheel stage to see Ben Klock.
Ben is a resident at the Berghain club and has been described as engineering the 'Berghain sound' with infamous sets stretching over eight hours. His set time was very much restricted though to an hour and a half and so the true spectacle of his genius was limited. With the stage set under a huge crane/excavator with a giant disco ball hanging off it, the darkening skies, mixed with the perfectly light arena certainly added to his deep dark techno.
Next up was a little Popof before being dragged across the site to the main stage for the XX. Popof's happy bouncy techno has seen his The Chomper sampled on Fabric's 41 by SMD and Serenity later in the Fabric series by Filthy Dukes. Despite much procrastination amongst us we headed over to the XX to try and meet up with some mates who were desperate to get in touch. We only managed 15 minutes of XX (no mates to be found, no mobile phone signal) before heading back to Popof and missing everything in between. The setting greeting us though when we arrived at the XX was nothing short of amazing. Thousands of people sitting in an almost amphitheatre like setting under the stars with many more laying on the floor arm in arm whilst listening to hits from their 2009 album.
Modeselektor were up next back at the Desperados stage. Another collaboration this time between Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary. Since touring in 2005 on the back of their Hello Mom album, the pair has had phenomenal success. Describing their sound as Happy metal, hard rap, country-ambient, Russian crunk it’s difficult to know what to expect. Dropping ‘Black Box’, ‘Cash’ and ‘Wedding Toccata Theme’. One things for sure they now how to entertain the crowd. The set ended with a plethora of dancers with TV sets on their head. This is weird enough but then for them to blow up spewing sparks all over the stage is something health and safety executives perhaps wouldn’t allow in the UK.
After their exhausting set we decided to have a few minutes rest before we headed to Ricardo Villalobos. Villalobos' sets at Amnesia are legendary (he has been known to play records backwards) to marathon like sets played at Green & Blue and Fabrics On & On (popping up in room three playing Jazz). His set at MELT thought left was a little disappointing though. There didn’t seem to be the magic that normally found at a Ricardo set. It might have been due to the mix of the crowd, many not knowing what to expect from him, but the music didn’t seem to be that fresh, relying heavily on mixes from Carl Craig's 2008 Sessions Series, Paper Clip People – Clear & Present, the beautifully remixed Francesco Tristano - The Melody and the intriguing Carl Craig & Laurent Garnier - Tres Demented. With the heavens darkening as Tres Demented finished we thought it best to leg it back to the tent to try and shelter from the rain.
On day two the rain had stopped, the skies cleared and the sun was out. The tent resembled a furnace so the only thing we could do was head down to the lake to cool down. After trying in vain to get some breakfast (one breakfast stand for the whole event) and some still water (please MELT get some non carbonated water in for the British) we spent the afternoon floating on the lake whilst listening to some dirty techno pumping out from the 24 Hour Dance Floor. Despite the 20,000 attendees the whole event was very chilled and laid back during the day. None of the normal moronic behaviour associated with camping at a UK festival.
Musically the day started with Mathias Tanzmann whilst having a few beers and a fishcake sandwich. We decided to take it a little easy as Chris Cunningham was up later that night. Chris Cunningham has produced some of the most visually intriguing music videos. He's worked with artists ranging from Aphex Twin (‘Come to Daddy’) to Madonna (‘Frozen’) and Iceland's own little jack in the box Bjork (‘All is Full of Love’). Over the last few years though he has begun to focus on his own music and videos. With the set times being changed at the last minute between him and DJ Shadow the crowd were left waiting around whilst his set was constructed around him. As brutal as ever the sequence kicked off with lasers and three huge images of Grace Jones form her ‘Williams Blood’ video. Her body squirming around the floor began to set the scene until we were then hit with a naked mutilated woman's body and naked man standing over her. The scene that followed was nothing short of gruesome. The punch up between them set perfectly to Chris' warped tunes had most of the crowd enthralled but some running for the exits wondering what was going on. Many of Chris' more famous videos then started to make an appearance including Rubber Johnny and the weirdly deformed (but still strangely attractive) girl from the Playstation campaign. Many of the videos used were quite old now and although it was a brilliant setting to watch such videos it would have been nice to have seen some newer material. In an interview with the MELT magazine he did divulge that he has been working on new 'films' so watch the man like a hawk. He isn’t to everyone's taste but his visuals are stunning.
Chromeo were up next before heading over to the main stage again for Moderat. The Bench Gemini stage was certainly a family affair with A-Trak (younger brother of David Macklovitch of Chromeo) up after Chromeo had finished and even made an appearance on stage to show his support. Chromeo's charm is in the lyrics. Happy tunes to bounce around to and forget about what ever else is going. With repeated references to the audience for those that had 'stuck with them from the beginning' we were treated with ‘Tenderoni’ and ‘Fancy Footwork’. It was time to cut short the Montréal duo though and head over to Moderat.
The guys behind Aparat (Gernot Bronsert) and Modeselektor (Sebastian Szary) have been making music together since 2002 but after some 'creative' disagreements they have begun to tour on a more regular basis. Of the entire weekend the Moderat show would have to be one of the stand out performances. Standing on stage behind tables, almost like teenagers about to sit an exam they bopped round the stage with the enthusiasm all DJs should show when playing (it’s about having some fun). As the set began tune after tune cam billowing from the speakers. ‘Rusty Nails’, ‘Headhunter – Prototype’, ‘Black Box’ and performing new material ‘A new Error’.
Tiga was next after a short introduction from Carl Craig. Carl's set seemed a little lack lustre and after the furore of Moderat as we ran over to Tiga to see him manipulating the crowd with his electronic wizardry. Tiga's ‘Shoes’ had the crowd brought to one of the more successful sit downs of the night and when the bounce came the crowd exploded. Exactly whats needed as the sky is turning blue and the sun beginning to rise.
One of the most unexpected sights of the night was the party bus rounding up the last straggler and calling them to the door like an African-inspired bongo playing Pied Piper. It did the trick with hundreds of fellow festival-goers bouncing out the gates before them being locked behind us like the opening credits of Willy Wonka as Charlie, Verucca and the rest of the gang finally get to meet the greatest choclatier the world has ever seen.
Day three begins pretty much the same as the day before. Beers by the lake, fishcake sandwiches and a sip in the pool. With the last day it begins to dawn on me how much of an impression this festival makes on first-timers. There are a few criticisms. No water points, not enough food stalls, no bins (this did surprise me in a country famed for its love of recycling) and the threat of having sun tan lotion confiscated on entering the site despite it being the hottest day the world has ever seen. However all this is a tiny irritation. Many festivals begin to lose their charm as they entice more and more sponsors to an event. Converse were there distributing free tee shirts that could be customised, Desperados beer stage, the corporate list goes on. However MELT have managed to incorporate this and still keep it charm. Some of the friendliest people from Germany, Ireland, UK, Sweden, Spain and many other European countries are all here to enjoy the music and the venue.
So Sunday begins with an attempt to see Slagsmalsklubben, a Swedish electronic band. Their set was 6-7.30 and having arrived there at 7 it was disappointing to see they had packed up and gone. Sunday seemed a more chilled day with a lot more focus on bands and the Desperados and Big Wheel stage also closed it may have felt a little crowded. However, it would appear many of the local German folk had headed home that day with it being a Sunday so it still felt relaxed and not too busy.
The real highlight of the day was Massive Attack. The Bristol based trip hop trio were to play the headline slot for Sunday night. With a subtle remix of ‘Teardrop’ and further classics such as ‘Inertia Creeps’. The setting couldn’t be anymore perfect. Back in the amphitheatre main stage with two other excavators flanking us the atmospheric nature of their music combined with looped bass lines it was set to perfection. The crowd thinned out towards the end of the set though as it became apparent there were other acts that needed to be seen.
Crookers and Ellen Allien were to round the night off. With the rest of the festival stages closed off Crookers were to play in the Bench Gemini stage. A strange little 'greenhouse' like stage that is the smallest area of the festival. Crookers. What's left to say about them. The Italian duo have been together since 2003 and are still playing out the same electro as they were and the sound is becoming tired and dated. It was good to get the body jumping again after the melodic Massive Attack but surely someone else could have taken to the decks and left everyone with a bigger smile on their faces? With Glade being cancelled Claude Von Stroke would have been a perfect finish to the event.
And so MELT drew to an end. As discussed earlier there were some issues with the site. It definitely needs more food stalls in the campsite as the festival grounds do not open until later in the afternoon. Some of our neighbours soldiered down to the village to the local Lidl but its not something you want to have to do everyday. The lack of bins was something not often seen at a festival. Even UK festivals have more bins/rubbish collectors and despite the promise of 5 Euros for a full bag of rubbish, the site was a complete mess by the end of the event. Bottles, bags and all manner of rubbish floating in the lake. It’s such a shame as it is a beautiful setting and you're left with images of it being tarnished.
However, this is a MUST festival. It leaves you wanting more and not wanting to leave and it has taken a full week to stop pinning over the videos on youtube.
By Daniel Welton.