Music & clubs

Meltdown: Saying goodbye to MELT Festival

After 27 years of excellent programming, we bid MELT Festival adieu and ask: was this inevitable?

Photo: IMAGO / imagebroker

This summer will see (or saw, depending on the time you read this), the very last edition of MELT Festival. After almost three decades, the indie and electronic jamboree in Gräfenhainichen, situated between Berlin and Leipzig, will cease to operate just like the festival ground’s iconic giant excavators did a long time ago.

Has anyone stopped to check if young people actually want to go to festivals anymore?

It’s easy to see why the organisers are calling it a day, with the event struggling to attract the big names that it once did. In its heyday, MELT saw the likes of Oasis, Björk, Pulp, Soulwax and Portishead play in the middle of the iron city known as FERROPOLIS. Over the years, I was lucky enough to witness Aphex Twin play to a handful of ravers, see Bonaparte in their pomp and catch Fever Ray, Junior Boys and Modeselektor play almost every time.

And herein lies the problem that so many festivals face today. Next to the explosive rise in the costs involved in running a large-scale event, there’s a lack of headliners available for booking. (Sorry, Sugababes – even though I liked you 25 years ago, you just don’t cut it anymore.) Across the world, independent festivals have been shutting down with lacklustre line-ups unable to warrant rising ticket prices.

It’s not just indie events either; even Coachella and Glastobury increasingly struggle to bring on board artists of note. There are many reasons why larger acts shun festivals, but ultimately it boils down to two things. Firstly, modern festivals can no longer afford to book the bigger acts that people are interested in, and secondly, the industry has failed to help support and foster newer acts that could have the pull of the mostly older, legacy artists.

Photo: IMAGO / USA TODAY Network

Rising costs and a lack of talent aside, has anyone stopped to check if young people actually want to go to festivals anymore? Are Gen Z music lovers willing to sacrifice their hard-earned money to stand outside in the rain, squashed together with a bunch of strangers, pay €10 for a beer and listen to a bunch of DJs they can see in Berlin week in, week out?

It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if younger music enthusiasts wanted something more communal and meaningful, something with fewer cynical old people such as myself. Let’s face it, most modern festivals are just a paradise for craft beer-swilling old folks who still buy their music on vinyl.

So, as we wait to see what festivals of the future might look like, I’m happy reminiscing about my MELT memories: dancing all night at the Selektor stage, discovering the wonderful sound of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, the vibes of TOMM¥ €A$H, coming to the realisation that Travis are actually a great band, somehow finding myself working behind the bar at the all-night stage, and getting to hang out with the Junior Boys. Good times!

  • MELT Festival Jul 11-13, FERROPOLIS, Gräfenhainichen, details.