Melt Festival 2018: Discovering the Different

I arrived at Melt festival to grey clouds and the threat of rain. The night before in Berlin, I was caught in a horrendous thunderstorm after England were (deservedly) dumped out of the World Cup, which had quite literally dampened my spirits and expectations for the weekend. However, any potential lingering thoughts surrounding the night were quickly put to bed when the festival was up-and-running. On Thursday, the pre-party began at the Sleepless Floor, a stage which would run continuously from Thursday night until midday Monday. The German, Boys Noize, and the Icelandic Kiasmos were two of the acts chosen to get the party started, the Hamburg artist playing classics like Green Velvet’s ‘La La Land’ to get punters in the mood. Whilst later on in the night, resident Resom took the pre-party in a more Berlin-esque direction with her dark style of techno.

On the Friday the full festival starts, and the intense sun forces everyone to be get up earlier than they would have liked. But isn’t too much of a problem, as right by the campsite through the trees there is a beautiful lake to cool off in. The crowd is older than most UK festivals, which probably contributes to the festival having a mature, chilled vibe compared to its UK counterparts. After spending a lot of the day alternating between lying on the beach and lying in the shady forest, I headed to the main arena to catch Superorganism. The start of the set was delayed due to sound issues, but thanks to charismatic frontwoman, Orono Noguchi, the crowd were left entertained with her anecdotes about Tinder and other things. When the problems were resolved, they broke into the first song on their self-titled debut It’s All Good, with a catchy synth riff and uplifting chords. I was impressed at the power of Noguchi’s voice and stage presence, which was almost surprising given her small stature. The three backing singers also played their part, with their brilliant choreographed dancing to fit the lyrics of the songs. After ‘Night Time’ finished, they all yawned pretending to settle down to sleep, which I found to be an amusing touch. The visuals were great as well, as their trippy music videos were combined with fun extra animations and age old footage of space travel.

On Friday night, one of my favourite artists was given the main stage to perform his much-heralded live set. Opening with an extended version of the title track from his new album Singularity, Jon Hopkins showed that the near five-year gap between this year’s album and the previous one has been well worth wait. His glitchy homemade techno sounded incredible on the mainstage sound system, and once again the visuals were superb and fitted the moment. It felt special to be witnessing such a performance in the beautiful setting, of the main stage coliseum surrounded by huge mechanical machines lit up with beautiful illuminations. Hopkins predominantly played extended versions of tracks from his new album, but still played classics from 2013’s Immunity such as ‘Open Eye Signal’ and ‘Collider’. To finish, he played his own cover of Disclosure’s ‘Magnets’ which was the perfect emotional end to a breath-taking set. Credit has to go to the programming team for giving him such a significant slot on the main stage, and of course Hopkins who certainly repaid the trust given to him.

Saturday night started at the strange Superdry Sounds stage, where Lanark Artefax played mostly intense noise music in what was more of an audio-visual spectacle than dance music, but enjoyable nonetheless. Towards the end of his set he played his 2017 breakthrough ‘Touch Absense’, an emotive breaksy track which had people dancing. Later Jayda G played to a packed out Forest Stage, opening with Glenn Underground’s ‘Don’t U Ever Stop’ (which samples The Clash) and continuing with her funky selection of soulful music, but was unfortunately let down by an oddly quiet sound level. At the big wheel stage later on, Nina Kraviz played 2 hours of relentless hypnotic techno, which included her own remix of Special Request’s ‘Curtain Twitcher’ before finishing with some hardcore tracks. Again, the visuals on the screen behind enriched the experience. What impressed me about Melt was despite the mainstream appeal of the headliners, there was an impressive and varied amount of quality underground DJs and live acts on show throughout the weekend.

After watching France beat Croatia in an entertaining final, the rest of Sunday during daylight was spent relaxing on the beach by the MeltSelektor stage, exhausted but determined to make the most of the final day. As the sun began to set on the MeltSelektor beach, Fatima Yamaha finished up his live set with his hits ‘What’s a Girl to Do’ and ‘Araya’, which followed a varied set of synth heavy beats. On the main stage, headliners The xx were the final act to grace the coliseum. Playing new music as well as the classics, a highlight was when they played Jamie xx’s seminal summer tune ‘Loud Places’ which of course singer Romy does the vocals for. Another big moment was when they played Jamie’s remix of ‘On Hold’, which sounded brilliant on the main stage system. Finishing with arguably their two biggest hits, ‘Intro’ and ‘Angels’, many in the crowd walked drearily towards the exit afterwards, but I’m glad I didn’t. I dragged myself back to the forest stage to catch the last chunk of DJ Boring B2B DJ Haus, which proved to be a great decision. The pair are certainly two of the most interesting and varied DJs to come out of the LoFi scene, and they played feel good house and acid, finishing perfectly with the extended version of ‘Free’ by Ultra Nate. As my friends and I finally left the arena, we were greeted by a masked stranger playing live using a sample board and a strange instrument which looked like a really long saxophone. This unusual sight sort of summed up Melt Festival, unpredictable, unusual, but ultimately a lot of fun. Walking past this, we arrived at the sleepless floor, where it all began just 3 days previously. Here the stage was predictably rammed, being the only music on at this time, but this didn’t detract from the vibe. Melt, despite a considerable corporate presence and a huge crowd, still manages to create an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance towards all, which helps distinguish it from other mainstream festivals. At 3am, Ellen Allien took the stage for a 5-hour closing set. Starting off where the DJ before her finished, playing trippy minimal techno, she gradually built up the tempo until she was playing music that wouldn’t sound out of place out of Berghain. When the sun started to come up, my friends and I knew it was time to leave. As we walked along the lake for the last time back to the campsite, we looked over to appreciate the beauty of the festival site for one last time, and I couldn’t help thinking to myself that I’d love to return.

Lawrence Cwerner

Featured Image by Stephan Flad for Melt Festival