Festival Season 2012: MELT!, Gräfenhainichen (DE)

The 1950s excavator was a big hit at the children’s birthday. (© D. Prahl)


Somewhere in the no-man’s-land of eastern Germany lies Ferropolis, the city of iron. Ferropolis these days is an open-air museum starring a number of incredibly giant disused excavators. Once a year these monstruous machines become the not-so-secret stars of a music festival that draws 20,000 of people from all across Europe. For MELT! Festival, the giants become illuminated by colourful spotlights and the occasional pyrotechnics show for three nights. MELT!, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, has become insanely popular thanks to its internationally renowned line-up of electro and indie artists, among them many DJs. This is why MELT! has a slightly different biorhythm than most festivals: The fun starts with bands playing from 5 pm, then from about 2 until the early hours of the morning the DJs take over. Some of the many stages even see DJ sets all during the day, most notably the Sleepless Floor, which is open 24 hours.

Belle and Manu were on site for indie pen dance and are going to run you through their personal highs and lows. While Manu (he’s the guy who does a lot of the posts on our Facebook page) is a regular guest at MELT! – edition 15 was his fourth visit to Ferropolis – Belle made her debut this year. Here’s what they thought about MELT! Festival 2012.

Also a big hit with children of all ages: the swings. (© M. Weiher)


Manu: What’s most special to me at MELT! is the atmosphere, the way everything is illuminated. That’s quite insane, you don’t get that at other festivals. The line-up wasn’t as good as in previous years, but all in all, it was a pretty cool festival.
Belle: I just bought the ticket at a venture before any acts had been confirmed. Eventually I was a bit disappointed with the line-up, compared to earlier editions, considering the price is about as high as for say, Hurricane. And then they give you Gossip, Bloc Party or Justice as headliners – all of which were cool, but would never have headlined at Hurricane for instance, which is a bit bold if you ask me.

Bangers, not anthems: Mike Skinner DJ’ed at the pre-party. (© D. Prahl)

THURSDAY: The Pre-Party

Belle: I think the pre-party was a good thing, so you didn’t have to be bored on Thursday.
Manu: Yeah, but it was kind of bold to charge an extra fee for that.
Belle: True, but you got a proper line-up for that: Mike Skinner, WhoMadeWho …
Manu: Mike Skinner was definitely happy to do a DJ set there, he’d played MELT! before with The Streets. He had his fun. TOY were quite a surprise, covering electro songs with a full band.
Belle: Didn’t they cover AC/DC too?
Manu: Yeah, right, that was the exception. Mostly they played stuff like Daft Punk and Boys Noize.

Got tomboy lookalikes for their backdrop: The Vaccines played songs off their upcoming album ‘Come of Age’. (© D. Prahl)

FRIDAY: The Vaccines, Bloc Party and gambling

Belle: What were we doing on Friday? Was that when we started hanging out at the Warsteiner casino? We got kind of addicted to gambling that weekend. Anyway, The Vaccines were great of course. Whatever you think about their new look though. They said in Q Magazine that they like bands who look different on each album so you can always tell from photos which phase they were in at the time. That’s why they got a new look for their new album. The new songs they played were definitely amazing, all of them.
Manu: I felt they’re gonna put in even more gas on the new album.
Belle: Now that they finally look like a ‘real rock band’, they can also sound like that. The Raveonettes though, I didn’t really get why they were there, but I’m always pretty merciless when it comes to bands who are past their prime …
Manu: I think their new album isn’t all that bad. Actually I wanted to watch the whole set, but after I’d seen the beginning …
Belle: It wasn’t a really good live show either, and the crowd wasn’t in the mood.
Manu: Exactly, they just strummed down their songs and it all sounded quite the same. Didn’t really make you want to stay. So I preferred going to the The Cast of Cheers, who I’d seen play at Motorbooty! before.

Fidgeters from Ireland: The Cast of Cheers. (© D. Prahl)

Belle: We watched all of their set, didn’t we? I don’t think that was necessary actually, but we were only waiting for ‘Family’ *cough* Of course we were only waiting for the hit, same for every band. 😉
Manu: Not at all, I think they were good. Just as ecstatic as back at Molotow, but the atmosphere at Molotow was a lot better than on an afternoon in the tent at MELT!
Belle: Yeah, not really a memorable performance. What I found funny though is that they really fidget about just like in the video, where it’s been cut to look that way, but they actually do move like that. Anyway, to me they were just another band sounding and looking like every indie band does at the moment … don’t think they’re gonna last very long. The Rapture were a lot better.
Manu: Really cool band, at least they have managed to last for a while now.
Belle: That’s an achievement in fact. And there were tons of people there and everyone was totally excited. One of the best performances in my view.
Manu: And they are a real ‘MELT! band’, they fit the bill absolutely. After that we took a stroll down to the Desperados beach, which was a really cool stage right by the water. There were mainly electro acts, as it was the “MELT!Selektor” stage, for which Modeselektor had picked the artists.
Belle: Then M83 – I don’t really remember much of their set. I had listened to the album before and found it quite underwhelming in the end.
Manu: I couldn’t stand listening to the album full length either, but live I think they made a better impression, especially with the light show.
Belle: The stage just sucked, there was not enough space for all the people who wanted to see them, so we were just sitting on the stand …
Manu: I think most people just waited for the hit anyway. Caribou was also amazing. Especially live he’s even a tad better than on record.
Belle: I totally agree, I just listened to the album again and thinking about buying it. Even though it’s a little bit too slow or calm sometimes to really go crazy, it was definitely a nice show. So what about Bloc Party? I’m not their biggest fan myself, but I definitely liked what I saw.
Manu: They’ve always been a great live band. This time they were almost better than the first three times I saw them. Maybe it only semeed like that after the long break … I think they played about four new songs, opening with ‘Octopus’, which was also the official MELT! anthem this year. The band were in a good mood, even when it started raining, which didn’t bother me personally at all, or anyone else in the audience, and the band also kept their good spirits up … I think once Kele said something like: ‘It’s raining, but MELT! said: Fuck off!’ Surprisingly, they played ‘Here We Are’ off their first album, one of my absolute favourites, which fit the place and atmosphere really well. They never played this at any other Bloc Party show I went to, so this was the craziest moment of all for me. I think as the intro for ‘Flux’, they played a Rihanna cover, ‘We Found Love’ … but when it’s Bloc Party, it’s kind of cool.
Belle: But that’s a normal thing, citing other artists. Gossip also played some covers, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and stuff.

Bitch, I’m fabulous: US/Canadian indie diva Rufus Wainwright (© D. Prahl)

Manu: During Rufus Wainwright‘s show, I just stood outside the tent and thought: That’s an impressive voice.
Belle: Rufus Wainwright was kind of the exotic bird of the festival. His set was surprisingly up-beat, I’d had him down as a kind of gloomy singer-songwriter, but it was more like glittery pop, with a lot of piano of course.
Manu: I’d thought he was a calmer kind of guy.
Belle: He is actually, but this set was more cheerful. He had a seven-piece band on stage I think, including himself, which was kind of decadent in a good way, Vegas-style, with his sunglasses and glitter vest … He’s this dramatic person with big gestures and poses, a real showmaster. He made his jokes, but there was always a certain distance, like ‘I’m the star and you are the audience’.

‘And now look like you were really having fun!’ Citizens and, erm, girlfriends? (© M. Weiher)

SATURDAY: Two Door Cinema Club, Gossip and the odd German

Belle: Citizens! were nice, but nothing for eternity … As Spector would say: ‘Enjoy it while it lasts’ 😉
Manu: You might as well have sat on the campsite listening to the album … Would have been the same.
Belle: They look like clones out of some secret lab, or like a computer-generated band.
Manu: Build-an-indie-band!
Belle: An ugly printed shirt, standard hairdo, skinny jeans … Like a cheesier version of Friendly Fires with less electro to it.
Manu: And what was the point getting all those girls on stage in the end …?
Belle: Probably some pathetic attempt at making the performance memorable. Think it’s gonna be a one-hit wonder. Other than Two Door Cinema Club … In the very beginning I also thought they would be gone in a flash. But then they made the album … then they made the album.
Manu: But they did have some good tunes then, I already knew them before the album came out.
Belle: When I saw them for the first time, I didn’t know them at all, nobody did. And the peformance was pretty bad, they were still really new and didn’t even have a drummer. But the show at MELT! was good. They had new hairdos, had to get used to that …
Manu: So did the drummer in Blood Red Shoes.
Belle: Yeah, he had short hair too! We need to discuss hairdos.
Manu: Especially at MELT! you need to discuss hairdos … I mean, there was a hairdressing tent on the campsite. It’s just that kind of a crowd …
Belle: So, new songs by Two Door Cinema Club …?
Manu: They sounded pretty much like the old ones.
Belle: They were ok, but not overwhelming. Probably gonna be a second album like the one by The Strokes: ‘We’ll just do the same album again!’ I mean I don’t expect big leaps from them artistically, they better just do what they do best. Experimenting should be left to album three …
Manu: It’s hard for a band to decide whether to do something completely different on the second album. It’s always a risk – it could turn out amazing, but it can also go totally wrong. Next … Gossip.

Undoubtedly one of the festival’s highlights: Beth Ditto meets a fan dressed as a bloody pad. (© D. Prahl)

Belle: I think it’s really accessible, musically. Even if, like us, you’re not a Gossip fan, you can get something out of their performance.
Manu: Well, I actually used to like them a lot, back in the ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ era … But now they’re totally on this pop/synthie track. I haven’t really listened to their new album, and well, Beth Ditto’s voice is amazing live, but I think the older songs they played were much better and got the whole thing going a lot more than the new stuff.
Belle: As you said earlier, it was a real one-woman show. Everything was focusing on the lead singer. Her outfit, her whole demeanour. And this guy who came up on stage dressed as a pad – I still wonder if he was an actual fan or if the whole thing had been planned.
Manu: She always does something strange like this at shows, in any case.
Belle: I have the impression that even though they are this huge now, she is still really fan-friendly and accessible.
Manu: I actually buy it when she says ‘Germany’s my favourite country.’
Belle: She also talked in German, that’s rare enough.
Manu: They’re a lot more famous over here than in America, anyways.

Epic bromance: Cult indie rocker Thees Uhlmann lifting hype-rapper Casper. (© D. Prahl)

Belle: Looking at Thees Uhlmann, I just noticed that while there are a couple of German acts at MELT!, e. g. Frittenbude, in general it’s a very small percentage. Sure, Germany’s pretty big in the electronic music scene, but I think Thees didn’t really fit in to the whole thing. MELT! is a festival for a ‘cool’ crowd, as you can tell from the people who go there, and Thees just doesn’t fit in there because he’s so anti everything that’s superficial or based on looks, he’s like ‘I’m this guy with heart and I’m so down to earth’. His music is really emotional and celebrates the authentic, while MELT! celebrates the false, the surface.
Manu: But PeterLicht was also there, he’s kind of similar. I think a little bit of German rock does fit to MELT! and a couple of people do go to see those acts. I mean all the hipsters don’t need to bother, they can just go watch something else. I was quite surprised by Thees’ performance, I hadn’t even planned to go at first …
Belle: What, you were the one that wanted to go there! I said I didn’t want to …

Manu: Didn’t you say: Let’s go see Thees Uhlmann?
Belle: Yes, I did …
Manu: And then I liked the idea.
Belle: I thought you totally wanted to go. Anyway, we stayed the whole set, and then Casper came on as well …
Manu: Well, there was nothing else to watch really … well, Modeselektor …
Belle: Yeah, we wanted to go there too, but that didn’t really happen in the end. Yeah, but I did like Thees. I mean I like him anyway.
Manu: It was quite refreshing after all that indie stuff and Gossip and all that we saw, just listening to a bit of German rock.
Belle: And the album is very different from his band, Tomte, very up-beat, very catchy anthems.
Manu: Well and Casper coming on, a lot of people liked that of course.
Belle: I was quite surprised that Casper seemed so easy-going there up on stage with him, as his music is somewhat angsty and aggressive … He doesn’t seem to be that kind of guy at all, as you might think from his music.
Manu: I also liked it when Thees ranted against the festival crowd a bit, those ‘young men who dress funny’ …
Belle: He has to comment on this, with his outsider status at MELT! He’s pretty much expected to. Yeah, and then we were on the Sleepless Floor. That was amazing.
Manu: I liked it how they let some pretty cool acts just play outside the festival area, which was accessible to anyone, even without a ticket.

The Sleepless Floor during Matias Aguayo’s set on Sunday afternoon. (© D. Prahl)

SUNDAY: The Whitest Boy Alive, Justice and the benefits of cycling

Belle: Sunday … we gambled away our last money.
Manu: Yeah, the casino … That was a nice passtime activity, gambling for free drinks.
Belle: And we cycled too, we didn’t only do bad things.
Manu: Bad things!
Belle: Gambling is dangerous, it spoils the youth.
Manu: The “Morgen-Stage” was well cool, with its beer garden attached. You could cycle to generate the electricity needed by musicians to play.

The latest addition to the Disney Princesses franchise: Lana Del Rey, now available in brunette. (© D. Prahl)

Belle: So, Lana Del Rey? Any thoughts on her?
Manu: Yeah, indeed, we dragged ourselves to the festival area on Sunday afternoon to see her after all. She’s a good singer, but well, it was just as I expected.
Belle: She’s pretty withdrawn, she doesn’t really connect to the audience. Kind of like a china doll.
Manu: Well, how are you gonna perform a great deal, with such music?
Belle: Exactly.
Manu: Well, I didn’t expect anything …
Belle: Expected nothing, got nothing. We were not disappointed, but not positively surprised either. Jezabels? Expected nothing here either, turned out kind of how I imagined it. The music wasn’t really my thing, kind of wall-of-sound-ish.
Manu: Standard, really, the kind of thing you book on a Sunday at MELT!
Belle: Destroyer were actually too sluggish for me.
Manu: Well, I saw the whole set, and though it didn’t exactly knock me off my feet either,  I though they just played it through real easily, it was relaxing. Fit for a Sunday afternoon. And they were seriously some of the most laid-back people I’ve ever seen on stage. The singer seemed to just have climbed out of his Volkswagen Transporter.
Belle: Well, I went to see Riton in the meantime. There was a really good mood in the crowd and on stage. The guy seriously had fun, there was a lot more coming across than say at Lana Del Rey’s show earlier. Very danceable music too.

Norwegian indie-pop professor and assistant: some of The Whitest Boys Alive. (© D. Prahl)

Belle: Yeah, The Whitest Boy Alive? Are you going to write us a little insider piece on that – ‘My life with The Whitest Boy Alive’?
Manu: Actually they really got me at their last Hamburg show, though I had seen them before. At MELT! they were perfectly placed, on Sunday before the headliner; it was slowly getting dark, the light show kept getting crazier … Everything was perfectly tuned, not a single wrong note! I mean with The Whitest Boy Alive everything has to be really exact, the drums are not so hard, just grooving along. You could say they are like DJs on their instruments.
Belle: It was a lot more danceable than I’d remembered them to be. I’d thought they were more chilled, but they played a really nice fast set, different from much of the stuff they do on record.
Manu: The records are also good. Their new one’s even better, more electronic too.
Belle: And they interacted well with the audience. The singer’s one weird dude, he looks really strange, like a cute confused professor.

Bass, LEDs and Justice for all. (© D. Prahl)

Belle: The Whitest Boy Alive were great, but Justice capped it all off. One of my personal highlights. The Whitest Boy Alive pretty much did the warm-up, and then Justice just got you going crazy.
Manu: The light show was really awesome, with that LED screen.
Belle: It’s incredible what you can do with a light show only, though it’s basically just two guys on stage twiddling some knobs.
Manu: On Sunday I really noticed how great music can revive you. Earlier I was just hanging around, close to falling asleep, and when the good bands finally came on, I was totally awake again. Although, during Yeasayer

Sadly, we had to say no to New York psych-os Yeasayer. (© M. Weiher)

Belle: Yeasayer were good too, and the light show was amazing as well, but it just wasn’t possible anymore, physically, for me. Shame, I actually wanted to hear ‘Ambling Alp’, I was looking forward to it so much, but it was just impossible to stay any longer.
Manu: I think Yeasayer aren’t such light fare either. It’s kind of catchy, but if you’re not wholly into it, you kind of  feel like ‘I can’t really keep up anymore, I think I’ll let it be’.
Belle: And then there was nothing on anymore, was there?
Manu: Except enjoying the last hours on the Sleepless Floor – for those who still had the energy. Probably numerous people who got through the weekend with some little helpers.

A bit dramatic, aren’t we, love? (© M. Weiher)


Belle: Coming back next year, or were you too disappointed? Or is it a no-brainer? I always felt it was a no-brainer; I just bought the ticket on blind faith and in the end I was a bit disappointed with the line-up.
Manu: It depends. I do think they will book more good bands again next year. For the atmosphere I would definitely return, that’s always good.
Belle: In general I’d do it again, too. But I think it’s too expensive, other festivals have a better value for money. For instance, the Dockville line-up isn’t any worse than the one at MELT! was, and it’s a lot cheaper.
Manu: For the bands, it may not be worth the price, but for the atmopshere, the whole package, I think you can pay that sum. Although, if it’s really supposed to cost €135 next year, that’s a lot of money.
Belle: Depends on who’s playing. Let’s say I’d do it again, but I wouldn’t buy the ticket ‘blindly’ next time. I only did that ’cause I thought ‘You’re not going this year either, just like all the years before when you said you’d go and then you couldn’t bring yourself to it …’ So I just went this time and I’m glad I did.
Manu: It is a good festival, definitely. And when there’s a proper line-up – I mean there have been good years too. And it’s certainly the one festival that deviates from the German average, that really lives up to international standards.


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