Melt! walks fine line between alt and mainstream | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 20.07.2014
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Melt! walks fine line between alt and mainstream

It's 30 degrees in the shade - in Saxony-Anhalt, people are dancing, listening to sound experimenters at work and then cooling off in the lake. Melt is an electronic music festival in a unique setting.

The Melt festival is kind of a Garden of Eden - especially for lovers of electronic music interested in all the various trends of the vast genre. This year, more than 100 artists, bands and DJs flocked to the former brown coal field near Dessau in eastern Germany over the course of the festival's three days (July 18 to 20, 2014).

Edgy surf-rock sound, mixed with dance beats - that was Melt 2014. Spanish DJ Kid Simius played his records in the welcome tent, while Swedish singer Robyn displayed her (musically interesting) collaboration with Norwegian electronic tinkerers Röyksopp on the main stage.

Melt Festival 2014

Unique location: abandoned brown coal site near Dessau in eastern Germany

'Most beautiful location'

The Melt Festival's five stages are erected against a backdrop of gigantic coal diggers in an abandoned industrial site in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. Festival grounds have been nicknamed "City of iron" - or Ferropolis.

"Of course we're a festival that defines itself by its music - but this location has helped us become a proper brand," said the event's organizer Stefan Lehmkuhl. He added that Melt has been offered various other sites, but organizers in the end decided against changing location. "We managed to resist the temptation of giving up this atmosphere in order to sell more tickets. We can only see this festival happen here in Ferropolis," stressed Lehmkuhl.

Bizarre and edgy

Many bands consider it a privilege to play on a Melt stage. It was the second time for Berlin-based rock band Bonaparte this year. "You do become slightly addicted to this feeling," Bonaparte's Tobias Jundt said of Melt. "The longer you do it, the less you want to hit the stage actually - but the moment you do, the music flows by itself," he said.

Melt !-Festival Tobias Jundt

Tobias Jundt, singer of Berlin-based rock band Bonaparte

But how do you stand out in the lineup of more than 100 artists at Melt? Tobias Jundt and his band Bonaparte have developed their own strategy, with a mixture of revue, happening, rock concert and bizarre stage performance: "Your key to success is to do something original and not care about what others do."

And yet he does in fact care about what other do, he admitted: "When I read the names on the Melt posters, I always know a couple of people because they're my friends. But others I hardly know or don't know at all." This year, the lineup consisted of acts like Moderat, Fritz Kalkbrenner and Metronomy - but also Darkside, Four Tet or Bombay Bicycle Club.

Also big business

At Melt, it's easy to feel like you're at a big fun fair - where you can do electric rodeo or have your face painted in glittery makeup. Melt seems miles away from other traditional independent festivals. Nothing's left to chance at Melt - a professional event organizer with years of experience is in charge of sound and technology. And the prices for drinks are similar to those at other large events in Germany, such as Rock am Ring or Summerjam.

Melt Festival 2014

Fun fair atmosphere at Melt? Some people love electronic music and rodeo

Clash of genres

Melt started off as a techno festival and has been around since the early 1990s; those origins can still be felt today. But organizers don't want Melt to be limited to electronic music.

Singer/songwriter Thees Uhlmann made it to Ferropolis this year. "Trip-hop" co-founders Portishead, who broke through in the 1990s with the genre, were also main acts this year.

"This clash of genres is now more en vogue, compared to 10 years ago when we first started mixing them," was how Stefan Lehmkuhl described versatility as a core festival concept. "What's different about Melt is that we still look for quality rather than mainstream aspects when we put together the program. We always hope to set trends in music."

Chilling in the lake

Festival-goers have long described a very special "Melt feeling" one can get, for example when you're swimming in the nearby lake on a beautiful summer evening, looking over to the stage and listening to the soft DJ sounds being carried over the water.

Deutschland Musik Melt Festival in der Baggerstadt Ferropolis

The special 'Melt feeling': light show and industrial backdrop

The "Melt feeling" also consists of this moment "when the sun rises, you're dancing, there are no clouds in the sky and it's a picture of stars, sunrise and lake." Stefan Lehmkuhl called it a sense of bliss. It's shared with the roughly 20,000 participants every year, who come to dance and sweat in this Garden of Eden for electronic music lovers.

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