See the Music XV – Melt Fest 2008 Pictures and Fragments
Photos and Story by Beana Bern
“Possible Germany” rings in my ear as I ride out of Dessau on a bus through what looks like Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia. Windmills turning, wheat blowing in the breeze, my socks still wet from the night before I have time to think…It always amazes me how music can be the tonic to heal wounded ears of too much music. “Possible Germany” isn’t a suggestion this day, it’s a fact.
Rewind 3 days and I’m on the same bus, this time with no music but only the anticipation of 3 days of music to come. Almost 10 years since I’ve slept in a wet tent backstage at a show and I wonder if it’s as brutal and fun as I remember it. My credentials are ready and a kind bus driver drops me right off at the Production office where they set me up with a tent and directions to the Presse Tent. Game on…only 2 hours to spare before its time to sport my gear (almost 40 pounds worth) and make some art and try to stop time.
After nesting a little in the Presse Tent with my bone dry locker (sehr wichtig) and a handful of new friends and strangers I headed out to scout the grounds, find all the gates my “freund” bracelet and Presse pass would get me (pretty much everywhere but up a coal digger…which I found my way up anyway) and timed how long it would take me to get from stage to stage. This last excersice was futile after the earth turned deep brown and slippery and kiddies in their funky shades clogged the arteries.
It’s hard to figure how best to re-cap all the music so I think I’ll just go in order. Perhaps it’s natural to start with the “big dogs” first but instead, I will take you through it as I experienced things and, when possible, I’ll give you my impression in words as well as megapixels…
To go a little deeper, click on each picture to see the whole set of that band. Or, if you feel like sitting back and seeing the “best of” album, click right here.
Markus Kavka kicked things off with beats and an unwavering smile. Not my thing but it was a good way to get the party started.
Fotos was some German indie pop that served as a chance to adjust the white balance on my camera and check the perspective from the pit. The music wasn’t so memorable for me…
Lightspeed Champion was the first band that I was psyched to see. Dramatic and melodic the highpoint was the Star Wars anthem and the furry hat.
Late of the Pier had a super high-maintainence sound check but these Brits (i think) threw down, what I can only guess would be, electro pop with a major emphasis on the drums. The crowd went crazy and it was a good, if a little too loud, 3 songs in the pit.
Turbostaat was some German mediocre ‘power’ rock. I remember it was awful but the boys in the front row wearing Turbostaat shirts and singing every word would probably respectfully disagree. To their credit they were playing in a shit sounding concrete box and that could have been a factor in my disatisfaction.
My new photog friend Adrian, when referring to the band Blackmail said that he “wasn’t sure why these guys aren’t famous yet’” and I pondered that thought as the bass drum layed down a new rhythm for my heartbeat during soundcheck. The smoke machine was annoying and the music wasn’t super memorable…
This guy surprised me a little and I found myself liking his ‘doo-wop-vegas-indie-folk-jewish-pop’ more than I would have expected. He’s one of those guys that, even if you don’t like the music, you cant help but smile when he and his back up singers do their thing. Funny but nice.
I was aiming for Burger/Voigt but caught Tobias Thomas instead. He had this pharmaceutical mellow thing going that would have been nice to stay with for a bit had I had a couch to sit on.
Kate Nash sounds exactly the same live as she does on FM4 but the lack of imagination in her “KATE NASH” visuals and her kind of late-lazy stage show made me like her a little bit less. The pouring rain could have also been a factor in the overall lackluster performance but im pretty sure it was her.
Gui Boratto was cute but, if i’m being honest, DJ’s can start to sound the same to me after a little while
I first heard Modeselektor on a iTunes playlist assembled by Thom York. I liked it then and I liked it live…these were the only DJ’s I heard with the ability to make people dance like animals instead of robots. Fucking awesome.
The Editors reminded me a little bit of “Live” but I think it had more to do with the lead singers voice than with the actual sound of the band. They had a huge draw and a big sound and, though it wasn’t something I would go and seek out, they were good.
Ellen Allien had too many technical difficulties for me to stick around. This was shot around 3am and I had one gig left to shoot…
Robyn was new to me but clearly not new to the stage. Both diva and pimp, she was like a sizzling Swedish gangster with the soul of Pat Benetar. Highlights of her set were covers of Snoop Dogs “Sexual Eruption,” Salt n Pepa’s “Push It,” and what I think was a Prince cover of “I’ll Jerk You Off.” If I get the chance to see her again, I will.
Sleep came but didn’t stay. After about 4 hours it was time to wander the grounds and watch Melt wake up. After some festival food it was time to park myself in the tent and edit some photos before heading out to do it again. Storm warnings and terrential rain put a damper on things (sorry about that) and the mud came out in full effect.
The first act was a German guy named Peter Licht. I forget exactly what it was that I thought at the time but I think it was along the lines of “emo-german-college-pop.” Boring but he did get the rainbow so you have to give him that at least.
Twisted Wheel wasn’t on the bill but found their way to the mainstage for a short set. Out of Manchester and into Ferropolis….aside from the nice light, I don’t remember what their deal was.
After a few songs Dirk arranged a crane tour for us and we headed up one of the 5 major coal digging machines that is Ferropolis. Surreal and scary, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of noise they made when they were unearthing coal and rocks. No doubt they were far louder than any of the noise we were making with our rock and roll. Click on the picture below to see some of this awesome and rustic metal.
Melt by Day
Melt by Night
Ok ok, I got off track a little but after the tour of the big rigs it was time to rock (mostly work) until the sun came up.
Cobblestone Jazz was another DJ thing but live, synthesized vocals and groovier beat was interesting
Fujiya Migawi surprised me with their lack of Japanese-ness but I loved the their sound. A little listen on MySpace confirmed that I liked what I heard and I hope I get to see them again one day.
The Notwist is geekier than all hell but also pretty brilliant. Their set built really slow but after the 4th song they hit a stride and their subdued and melodic sound had some momentum. Not so fun to shoot but they made up for it with the music.
This scary and disgusting dude is called Rummelsnuff. The kind of stereotypical shit that somebody might think would still be happening in Germany. He sings of power and strength and other shit that makes the National nazi-types happy while his oiled body makes the homosexuals happy. His ability to bring these two unlikely groups together seems to be part of his novelty but after 5 clicks of the shutter I got the fuck out of there before the little bit of barf in my throat needed to find its way out.
Franz Ferdinand is so slick and such a well oiled machine that they feel like less of a rock band and more like a vegas act but that didnt stop me from loving every second of their set. They are fucking awesome…and lots of fun to take photos of. Go on, click the pic and take a peek.
Roisin Murphy is such a sexy bitch that its crazy. 3 costume changes during the first 3 songs with the entire stage serving as her own personal cat walk. The music was alright but her stage show was amazing. I would have loved to have photographed the whole set. This is another set that you should take a closer look at if you’re inclined.
Another sleepless night and another day to work, fortunately all my shows for the last day were on the same stage so I only had to scoot out from the press tent between rain showers and acts. I spent the day kicking it with the other photogs, you come to know one another after 3 days of working in the rain.
Los Campesinos had a lot going on with the xylophones, horns and things. Lots of draw for an early show and a sound somewhat derivative of angsty Arcade Fire and insecure but happy Magic Numbers.
Neon Neon’s set was a tribute, maybe homage, to the man who built the Dolorian. Birth was uninteresting but Dreaming was memorable and the old school Casio ‘hand clap’ brought back memories of mine and my sister’s dabbling with our own keyboard many years ago. It got some weird Rusted Root-esque percussion that turned me off towards the end but by then it was time to go anyway…
Get Well Soon is another example of an Arcade Fire want-to-be but, honestly, they are doing it. They are good with the big crecendos and atmospheric rock and, though a little annoying to watch, I liked the sound.
the only word for the Battles are awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome
I didn’t know that I knew Hot Chip until I heard the song about the monkey with a miniature symbol. Damn, that song has a way of staying in my head and running circles. This band saw the biggest crowd of the whole weekend, even trumping Bjork, which surprised me. They were good but throughout the whole set I was wondering whether or not I was going to be one of the lucky few photographers shooting Bjork…
As it turned out, she decided that she didnt want any Press or Photographers in front for her show. Her Management requested a list of media and picked about 10 photographers to cover the pit…I was one of them.
Bjork is more of a life force then a singer…her performance gave me goose bumps and I only wish that I hadn’t been freezing my ass off and suffering from massively cramped hands during her set. By the time these shots were taken I had been working for almost 3 days straight, sleeping for less then 8 hours and shooting what amounted to be about 600 photographs. Believe it or not, I even managed to have a little fun, eject two fucking drunkards (literally, 2 drunk people fucking) from my tent and make a few new friends. This re-cap marks the end of Melt and I hope you enjoyed the pix.
In case you haven’t been clicking and reading, here’s another shot to see the overview…
CLICK HERE FOR MELT FEST 2008