On stage, there are more pussies than Meow The Jewels. “Melt Festival, are you ready for a shoooowwwwww?” enquires Pansy Parker of the House of Presents – on the second night of the riotous Berlin weekender – before his troupe of avant garde drag queens strut and lip-synch to Khia’s ‘My Neck, My Back (Lick It)’ dressed in hoods that look like vaginas. As a warm-up act for Fever Ray’s headline set on the main stage, it couldn’t be a better fit: for the ever boundary-pushing Karin Dreijer’s latest album, last year’s ‘Plunge’ – her first under the Fever Ray alias since 2009’s self-titled debut – is a celebration of outsider queer culture; and a sucker-punch against 2.4 children normcore. “Destroy nuclear,” as she puts it in the killer electropop of ‘This County’(which boasts the brilliant chorus of ‘This country makes it hard to fuck’).
Certainly, it goes down well at Melt which is an admirably LGBTQ-friendly festival. Faces are painted with rainbow flags and the big screens flash images of gay crowd members lustily kissing. Whereas the crepuscular shows that greeted her first album, a treatise on sleepless new motherhood, used to see the ex-member of The Knife subsumed in dry ice, now the aesthetic is day-glo and of cartoonish defiance. Her and her backing band posse of dancers look like a superhero movie designed by Leigh Bowery and Peaches. She resembles Heath Ledger’s The Joker dressed up for a night down Berghain; another member is wearing a foam muscle suit, while the keyboardist looks like Maleficent. The concept is – like the original drag houses – of society’s excluded finding community in each other. Add in synchronized dance routines and track arrangements that have been given a club-ready spray job, and the result is a surrealistic, gleefully subversive rave perfectly suited to a 1am crowd.
As pop music fetishes youth and sexuality, it’s still joyously arresting to see a 42-year-old woman singing about queer sex on her own terms, free from the male gaze, with sly wit – and it chimes perfectly with the time of #MeToo and rise of 20GayTeen pop stars. ‘To The Moon And Back’ sees the audience enthusiastically joining in with Dreijer’s rallying call of ‘I want to run my fingers up your pussy’, while ‘IDK About You’ is given a percussive leg-up by twin drummers. “This is our last song so let’s get those fanny-flaps moving!” commands the dancer in the muscle suit, radiating BDE, before ‘I’m Not Done’ brings their set to a delirious conclusion. Banging music and a show which makes sex seem like a fun, anything goes, all-you-can-eat buffet: frankly, we’d love to see what would happen if Dreijer was enlisted to produce Love Island.
Earlier in the day, on the Meltselektor stage at 10.30pm, IAMDDB is taking a more laid-back approach. “Does anyone have a pre-rolled spliff read to go?” asks the fast-rising Manchester rapper, as a mushroom cloud of weed smoke fills the night sky. Asking for the lights to be different colours – as she’s bathed in red or pink (“The colour of my pussy” – which seems to be some kind of unofficial theme today), Diana DeBrito plays a set of low-slung jazzy trap that includes new song ‘XOX’. Unfortunately, her chatting to the audience means she’s cut off in her prime. “I’ve run out of time but you know me, I break the rules everywhere I go,” she says, signing off with ‘More’.