Did the MELT Festival turn me into a festival person?
Motivated by a desire to embrace a cooler version of myself and immerse in the vibrant world of festival culture, I made a resolute decision to attend this year’s MELT Festival. Held from 8–10 June in Gräfenhainichen, Germany, the festival has garnered considerable acclaim since its inception in 1997, solidifying its status as one of the country’s largest events. Having resided in Berlin for several years, it was impossible to avoid hearing about MELT, which had become a recurring topic of discussion leading up to its commencement.
In the weeks preceding the festival, the question, “are you going to MELT?”permeated conversations at parties and social gatherings, eliciting both awe and excitement from those who had faithfully attended every year since coming of legal age. However, there was also dissenting voices, labelling the event as overly commercial and populated by so-called ‘annoying people’. The festival seemed to evoke strong opinions, further fueling my eagerness to shape my own perspective.
We embarked on a bustling regional train from Berlin to our destination, availing ourselves of the popular 49-euro tickets, a choice favoured by many German residents attending the festival. The carriages were brimming with camping gear, Ikea bags filled with an assortment of groceries, and the scent sunscreen and lukewarm beers emanated from the perspiring bodies aboard. Upon reaching the station, a shuttle bus awaited, driving us through the quaint town of Gräfenhainichen for an additional twenty minutes until we arrived at Ferropolis.
What struck me immediately, and continued to captivate throughout the entire weekend, was the remarkable setting of the festival. Known as the ‘City of Iron’, Ferropolis featured a collection of towering cranes from the 20th century, nestled beside a lake, a small forest and man-made beaches. The beaches ranged from serene and hidden spots to those adjacent to music stages, where people could be found lounging and swimming at all hours of the day. After setting up our tents first instinct was to dive into the Gremmin Lake. I swam with my friends near the Beach Club, a stage positioned right by the camping area where various musicians took turns playing sets from 5 am to 7 pm.
The heart of the MELT festival experience undoubtedly lies in its music. Festival direct and book, Florian Czok, proudly declared that MELT 2023 featured the most diverse lineup in the German-speaking region. “Whether raver or hip-hop head, fans of indie or pop; there is something for everyone in the lineup.” Moving between stages meant transitioning from a beach setting to a forest ambience, before delving deeper into the industrial sections of Ferropolis. These changes in scenery mirrored the wide range of musical genres and styles that could be experienced simultaneously. From the first night on, I could move my head to the soothing pop of Erika de Casier at the smaller 30kv Stage before going to the Gremmin Beach, the stage with the largest capacity, to dance to the hypnotising tracks of Sevdaliza. Their performance was followed by Shygirl, whose concert confirmed her ability to navigate Europop, minimal dance and sensuously crafted lyrics, all while igniting the energy of the audience. As the night progressed, I surrendered to the pulsating beats of Mareike Bautz and Marcel Dettmann, who commanded the Scooter and Big Wheel stages. In just a few hours, I felt as though I had experienced four distinct and vibrant parties, each offering a unique atmosphere and sonic landscape.
On Friday, I danced with the same eagerness to the drum and bass of the incredible Nia Archives, the psychedelic rock of Altin Gün and the electronic emotional breakbeats of Bicep. Once again, it was the breadth of music genres and the seamless transitions between them that amazed me the most. I was very happy to sing along to the songs of the incomparable Róisín Murphy before raving to both LSDXOXO and Brutalismus 3000. Two special mentions: the intimate concert of the Berlin-based rising artist 3LNA, whose cynical yet sentimental songs attracted a motivated and driven crowd to the Rising Stage. Second, to the mesmerising set of Two Shell, who managed to take their audience on a perfectly crafted journey across different electronic sub-genres.
The official after-party of MELT took place at the Beach Stage, hosted by Multisex, one of my favourite Berlin-based collectives. As the sun began to rise, its rays gently illuminated the tired yet determined faces of the crowd, prompting everyone to reach for their sunglasses. Some sat to rest while watching the day unfold, while others continued to dance with relentless energy. A few even ventured into the lake for a morning swim. Taking a moment to soak in the scenery, a mix of sentimentality and reflection washed over me – my MELT festival experience was, indeed, a great and memorable one.
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