Melt! began in 1997 as an open-air techno party by a lake 90 minutes north of Berlin. About 2,000 people attended the first edition. 20 years later, the festival has moved site a handful of times and expanded exponentially, growing to a capacity of 20,000. It started booking bands and rappers as well as DJs, and gained a reputation as a destination for music fans with varied tastes. Slowly, over time, it became one of Europe's must-see festivals.
But despite its transformation, Melt! has kept its original spirit intact. Sleepless Floor, a large, sandy, colourful stage that sits outside the main grounds, is basically an open-air techno party by a lake for roughly 2,000 people. (The only difference is the site—Ferropolis is 90 minutes south of Berlin.) The music at Sleepless ran non-stop for a mind-boggling 90 hours, hosting a range of up-and-coming (Dan Beaumont, Julia Govor, Volvox) and more established (Ellen Allien, Fatboy Slim, Radio Slave) acts. The sound, which blasted from all four corners, was up there with the best I've ever heard, while the atmosphere, at its peak, was spine-tingling. I spent the early hours of Saturday there dancing in the rain, and I can honestly say it was as rich a night of music as I've recently experienced.
This same feeling of wild abandon didn't quite extend to the site proper, but it wasn't far off. The larger stages—Melt!, Medusa, Big Wheel, Gremmin Beach, Meltselektor—were all loud and impressive in their own way, while Sisyphos At Forest—essentially a treehouse in the woods—offered a more mystical and low-key alternative. In line with Melt!'s MO, the bookings varied enormously, running the gamut from Ben Frost and Warpaint to Bonobo and Sonja Moonear. Match this with Ferropolis's awe-inspiring machinery and a crowd that gave their all, and you had a party unlike any other, where everything felt geared towards showing people as great a time as possible.