Melt is not the most traditional of ‘Bucket list’ festivals – but continuously earning a well-deserved place among the likes of Resident Advisor’s Top 10 July Festivals, and entertaining some of the world’s best electronic acts, it was enough to catch my eye. However the main draw (which clinched the deal) was the location – the ‘Iron City’ of Ferropolis, an old, lake-side mining site in East Germany, revamped to accommodate a couple of thousand international music lovers to celebrate summer, love and freedom.
While still very broadly electronically oriented, the music genre is widely varied; the stages host everyone from OG techno legends to West Coast Jazz newcomers. As a result, you are never at a loss to find something to suit whatever your mood may be. To complement the variety of music, the location really is the shining star. Artists perform on a colourful, steampunk-style amalgamation of old mining equipment (we’re talking massive cranes and big wheel bucket excavators) and crates cobbled together into stages, but you also have the option to explore out through a light-strung, mystical forest (complete with its own stage) to the lakefront, discovering other acts and art installations on the way. They also have a 24 hour Sleepless Floor located in between the Festival and Camping site which serves up non-stop techno (An amazing continuous 90 hours over the weekend), where you can abandon all inhibitions and dance recklessly at any time your heart desires.
This year the big headliners were Florence + The Machine, Tyler the Creator, ODESZA and The XX – which highlights just how diverse the music selection tends to be. Melt had to share the dates with two other European heavy hitters, Mad Cool Festival (Madrid) and Lovebox (London), so prior to arrival the main grumble amongst other festival-goers was that the line-up was quite weak in comparison to previous years, as current crowd-favourites were drawn away. However, I would actually consider this an advantage – I discovered some new loves, reignited a passion for some old ones, and ended up seeing acts I wouldn’t normally gravitate to. In addition to this, the artists were a good mix of male and female, which is always excellent to see.
The feeling I took away from the whole thing was very much good-vibes only. My days were spent basking in the sun and swimming in the lake, the nights were spent getting hyped and grooving away to some mighty fine tunes. People were curious and friendly (there was a surprisingly large international crowd), everyone looked out for each other, and there was a refreshing lack of pretention. Melt very much embodied what a summer festival should be, full of good music, good people and good vibes in an amazing setting.
*Map image provided by Melt
All weekend tickets included access to the campground, which was divided into two main sites, North and South, as well as a car park and caravan site. If you’re speedy, you can pay a little extra and book into one of the pre-built bougie tent sites – you essentially just rock up to your tent which someone has assembled for you (some of them even had little beds in them), and when you leave again, no pack-down was required. This option sold out pretty fast.
You also had the option to pre-register (for free) for Green Camp where I stayed, which I would 100% recommend. It’s part of the North ground (a closer walk to the festival site), they give you different bags to separate and recycle your waste, and have set night time hours from 2am to 8am (which didn’t mean it was dead quiet – the bass from the sleepless floor was definitely omnipresent, but there were definitely less drunken screamers).
The campsite was well fitted, with camping gear for rent, a huge variety of food/drink stands (pricey though – 4 EUR for a 330ml coke), including several veggie and vegan options. There were plenty of port-a-loos about, and a fully plumbed toilet/shower facility if you wanted to feel a bit cleaner.
The one disadvantage was that there was little to no shade – every morning we were burned awake by the sun circa 7am, and the poor sods who didn’t have a pavilion up really suffered in the day.
Need to know
- If you opt in to camp, make sure to arrive early to secure a spot. Green Camp was completely full on Friday midday (the first day). We arrived the night before to register and set up and it was almost full.
- All payment in the campsite and festival was managed by a chip on your festival wristband. You needed to pre-load your wristband with cash, and you paid for everything by scanning your chip. You could top up at both the festival and camping site, but this cost 1 EUR (a bit of a rip off).
- I took 75 EUR over 4 days and didn’t need to top up. I spent 15 EUR to have access to the shuttle bus, toilets and showers, and the remaining 60 EUR on food and drink.
- For 5 EUR, there was a shuttle bus between the camping site and festival site which took a 3 minute drive, instead of a 15-20 minute walk between the Festival and Green Camp. While this wasn’t necessary, it was definitely appreciated.
- For 10 EUR, you had access to the shuttle buses and to the fully plumbed toilets (otherwise a one off payment per use). The toilets were reasonably clean by festival standards, always had soap and clean water, and also had electrical outlets for hairdryers etc. There were the aforementioned port-a-loos around as well, but this was definitely a more comfortable, hygenic option and I would recommend it.
- For 15 EUR, you had access to the buses, toilets, and showers. Because it’s high summer, it was hot and sweaty, so this was a welcome relief. The showers were cold to lukewarm (but because it was hot this wasn’t a problem), and they were open without cubicles. If you are not used to, or comfortable with full on public nudity (Europeans are very chill about this), this may be something to bear in mind (some girls wore swimsuits to get around this).
- You could bring your own free standing grill and equipment into the campsite, but no open fires were permitted.
- You were allowed to bring your own alcohol into the campsite in non-glass containers, though this wasn’t enforced.
- Going into the campsite and festival site, I was not asked for ID to match my ticket, or at any other point.
- Going into the campsite, my bags were not searched (but they were at the festival – not strictly though, they were looking for glass or weapons)
What to bring:
- Water: After you drink it you can refill the bottles for free – it’s so important in the heat to stay hydrated with alcohol, sugar, etc. coursing through your body.
- Sun protection: If you haven’t already picked up on it, it was hot with little shade. Having a hat and SPF (and after-sun to deal with those hard to reach spots), was a god-send.
- Pavilion: Take one for the team. Literally. Bring shade, make friends.
- Bandana: Not just to look cool – when a bunch of people are raving hard on the dusty ground, it helps to cover your nose and mouth if you want to get involved while saving your lungs.
- Portable speaker: When you’re all chilling at the campsite, it’s nice to have some casual background beats.
- The App: Free to download, the festival app included the line-up in real time, site maps, bus schedules and other handy information.
Ferropolis is located around 130km south of Berlin and there are a number of ways to get there.
- Driving from Berlin takes about 2 hours, via the A9. Take the Dessau Ost Exit and follow the signposts to Ferropolis.
- From Berlin (or anywhere in Germany actually) you can take any train going to Dessau, Gräfenhainichen or Wittenberg – the free shuttle bus to the festival leaves from all of these stations. Check the DB website for times and prices.
- There is also the legendary MiXery Melt Train (read: Party Train) which travels from Köln (I believe there is also one from Amsterdam) to Melt. The huge selling point? You can sleep on and use the facilities of the train for the duration of the festival. This usually costs 199 EUR.
- You can take a FlixBus from Berlin to Dessau, then the free shuttle bus on-wards. This costs around 6 EUR and takes an hour for the main bus, then a further half hour for the shuttle.
- If you’re flying in especially, Melt provides direct shuttle buses from Berlin Schönefeld Airport and from Berlin Hauptbahnhof (the main train station easily accessible from Berlin Tegel Airport) for around 30 EUR one way.
Highs and Lows:
Highs: The lake, the people, the varied line-up, the enthusiasm and kindness of the festival goers.
Lows: The lack of shade, open public showers (not my favourite), the drink prices.
Recommend: Yes, 100% – it was a unique, yet classic summer festival experience.