Melt! Festival 2016

15th - 17th July 2016

Some take quick disco-naps while the sun as it at its highest; many are highest when the sun is lowest.

One hundred years ago, when Einstein had a bit of a clever moment and said that time was a relative concept, he might as well have been talking about his own nation’s festival Melt!. That’s not to say that Melt is poorly organized; everything is exceptionally punctual and runs quicker than you can bust-out a boring recycled British quip about ‘German efficiency’. However, from the festival’s beginning day and night become confused, mere concepts than don’t hold any practical meaning whatsoever. Some take quick disco-naps while the sun as it at its highest; many are highest when the sun is lowest. Others simply choose not to succumb to sleep and stay awake from dusk ‘til dawn and dawn ‘til dusk on the Sleepless Floor, existing in their own time-barren bubble. Body clocks stop as if some sort of raving Uri Geller has intervened and stopped time. No wonder there’s punters from all walks of the globe; it’s impossible to feel jetlagged in a festival with no time zone.

That aside, it’s not completely barmy – there still are of course set-times – and the first act to whet appetites on the main stage is M83. It’s a set packed with huge electro-pop bangers, injected with waves of echo to create a spacey sound that’s as ethereal as it is surreal. The set truly lights-up when they play ‘Midnight City’, its triumphant synth hook proving that it’s as at home at festivals as soundtracking Made In Chelsea.

Melt! Festival 2016

Even better are Tame Impala. Floating on stage with the Nitrous-inspired haze of 'Nangs', their set is gloriously mind-bending and boosted by one of the finest-sounding live mixes imaginable. Throughout new tracks 'Let It Happen' and 'New Person Same Old Mistakes' the bass is groovier than a disco-flavoured packet of McCoy's crisps (if only that was a thing), and it's all embellished with trippy visuals, pedals galore and some guy in the crowd holding a weird glow-in-the-dark jellyfish umbrella thing. Kevin Parker is the kind of frontman you'd be happy to bring home to your parents; he charmingly thanks the crowd after every song, and also (assuming your ‘rents like screeching guitar riffs) smashes every solo.

Over in the Medusa stage, BBK boy Skepta brings a bit of North London to Ferropolis, ripping through a polished set of deep cuts and new bangers from 'Konichiwa'. Sure, 'Man' and 'That's Not Me' go-off, but all the talk of 'feds', 'energy crew' and 'middle fingers up' feels a bit out-of-context. Far more engaging is Saturday's up-and-coming grime queen Lady Leshurr. Playing at the more intimate Melt Selektor stage, Leshurr smashes through a bizarrely oral-hygiene inspired set ('Brush Your Teeth' and 'Crispy Bacon Lips') that's packed with gnawing beats and canine-sharp delivery. Add a quality smorgasbord of samples ('All Day', 'Rhythm 'N' Gash', 'Why You Always Lying'), commanding of a #PushPit and bouncing back on stage after asking the crowd to pretend she's their favourite artist coming on, and you've got an absolute winner-winner-chicken-dinner of a set.

Melt! Festival 2016

Later is Jamie xx, with a set that opens with the post-punk of 'Atmosphere', sounding hauntingly industrial among the setting of looming cranes and concrete. It's a set that expectedly is filled with the best cuts from 'In Colour', but with twists that don't go unnoticed. The mix is boosted by a sped-up take on 'Good Times', the original sample of 'Loud Places' and Four Tet's version of 'Seesaw' that results in an ideally-crafted soundtrack to the peak-fun of Saturday night.

Visually, the final night is littered with fallout from the previous ones. One man near the main stage walks around in a dressing-gown, half-conscious. Another, merely metres away, decides to go down the opposite route, seemingly enjoying the dregs of his last intoxicants all at once. But, no fear; Chvrches play a invigorating, fresh set to a rammed crowd, working their way through the synth-pop goodness of their two albums. The night, for most, is wrapped-up by a Disclosure set that's slightly marred by some dodgy on-stage commentary (saying several times that they are sorry that their German is bad before subsequently just speaking in English) and a slightly underwhelming special guest in the form of Brendan Reilly. Nonetheless, by the end of the set as the final tones of 'Latch' wub around the festival site, everyone is sonically satisfied; a motley crew of the hyper-awake and near-asleep, some wonking-out in slow-motion and others shuffling quicker than Dynamo after a gallon of Club-Mate. Sure, time is pretty warped at Melt! – but no matter what conception of it you choose to adhere to, you're sure to have a hell of a good one.

Melt! Festival 2016

Photos: Stephan Flad for Melt! Festival

Tags: CHVRCHES, Jamie xx, Tame Impala, Melt, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

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