When did you realise that the first flush of youth was over? Was it a lunch hour like this one, like any of the others, when you ripped open the egg & cress triple and it dawned that this is literally all there is. Was it that Monday night sunshine pint with your stolid all-weather mates, where the conversation teetered between work and work related misery and it dawned that this is literally all there is. Or was it that that idle scroll through the '21 BABY' album on Facebook, sighing at that irretrievable waistline, staring at hair rich temples, tutting at the death of acceptable irresponsibility.
It's a sledgehammer realisation and it hit me full-force last weekend. Squatting in the departure lounge between Saturday night and Sunday morning, I looked at my shirt. A needy floral number, baggy enough to camouflage paunch, and just tight enough to suggest a form under the fabric. I looked at the shirt, then up at the lithe, utterly beautiful fist pumping masses around me. Then I knew. In the blink of an eyelid, under the hot fires of a dubious sartorial choice, it was clear, what you always knew but could never articulate: I am now the uncle at the disco. I am now old as fuck. I am 24 years old and I have never felt so alive.
This is a very long and self indulgent way of saying that I was at Melt!, one of the biggest and best loved open air festivals in Germany. While the sobering realisation of age and its advance might not be everyone's idea of a ™ festival weekend experience, I will put my swingers on the line and say that it's probably the best one I've ever attended. And I've been to the Derbyshire Sausage & Cider gala. As criticism, it might be complete rot, as a reviewing stratagem it might be utterly unincisive, but let's be frank: no amount of faithful play-by-play reproduction is going to 'take you there'. But, if you have any inclination towards watching live music backdropped by absurdly striking scenery, under actual European summer weather, surrounded by actual- hyper attractive- European people then you don't need 800 of my words to convince you it's a good idea.
As a festival and an event it is also easily the most 'vibey' I've ever attended and will probably ever attend. From the skyline dominating cranes (the site is perched on the Ferropolis, or 'City of Iron' replete with mid-twentieth century mining machinery), the streetwear clad crush of revellers, the proximity to inky, glass-smooth water and a workably lopsided lineup, the entire weekend oozed with knowing self-confidence. Almost every single attendee possessed the same aura. It's worth the repetition just to state how uniformly absurd the good looks of the crowd were. For a podged out, dad-shorted reviewer bred on tent burning at T in the Park, it was an absolute astonishment. Even the dark, weird hours (which were thoughtfully catered for at the festivals Sleepless Stage) felt like the residue of a feverish Leave London anxiety dream, which makes the idea of 'moving to Berlin and starting that gourmet taco catering company' seem like a plausible and positive option.
Oh, and the music. Among the copious vibes, there was a lot of music. Ranging from thumping techno bangers, to Tame Impala, to Skepta and Andy Stott, it was pleasingly mad and varied. Black Madonna screamed through a thumping Sunday night set that did more to restore my bruised body than any amount of fitful, jerky sleep ever could. The Skepta set (with Konan cameo) was—as you'd expect—full of faintly manic energy. Lady Leshurr unexpectedly dominated the Saturday night with a batshit set of dizzying adlibs and hyperactive rewinds.
Even the hedonism seemed to have a gloss of good nature that you'd struggle to find in this country. After my mini-epiphany, there was a moment that will stay with me until the very end. Sitting on a grassy mound, vainly trying to roll a fag between my sweaty Chipolata fingers, I got chatting to a young German bloke who put a hand on my shoulder and helped me pack the crumbling rizzla with tobacco. We got chatting (I am sorry to say there might have been some earnest gentrification chat) and he parted with the immortal words "the party never dies". I don't think I can express how much that moved me at 7 in the morning.
While the relentless vibe and cheerful excess left me feeling every inch of my years, depleted and decaying, there was another thought too: same again next year?