“How are you doing Melt Festival?” asks Parcels‘s ‘tache-sporting guitarist Jules Crommelin, as Sunday (July 15) of the German music festival heats up. “Are you literally melting?,” he says, like a man born to pun. “Because I am.” Looking like they’ve strode off the set of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, the Byron Bay-hailing five-piece – who now live a few miles down the road in Berlin – are scheduled on the main stage against the World Cup final and they play with the euphoria of collaborators Daft Punk celebrating winning the title.
Tonight, they demonstrate precisely why the Gallic robots reverentially tipped their helmets to them, giving them the ultimate stamp of approval by co-writing last year’s ‘Get Lucky’-esque ‘Overnight’. They open with the sinuous disco of ‘Hideout’ and ‘Tieduprightnow’ – which couldn’t sound more like something from Studio 54 without Bianca Jagger rocking up onstage astride a white horse. Despite being in their early 20s, they lock into a groove with the tourniquet-tightness of grizzled studio veterans – to the extent that drummer Anatole Serret is nicknamed ‘Toto’. Powered by Noah Hill’s funky bass undertow, the pristine majesty of ‘Overnight’ elicits delirium, while the mirrorball-flecked ‘Gamesofluck’, the blissed-out ‘Bemyself’ and ‘Clockscared’ see the spacebarhaters throw down the gauntlet for being the weekend’s most impressive pop band.
Fresh off the back of her “emo mix tape” ‘A Girl Cried Red’, Princess Nokia fittingly performs an a capella of Blink 182’s ‘I Miss You’, to a swarm of people on the Meltselektor stage, where tracks like the anthemic ‘Brujas’, Mortal Kombat-referencing ‘Kitana’ and the body positive ‘Tomboy’ from last year’s ‘1992 Deluxe’ slay, in a show filled with genre hand-brake turns. Diversions into angsty recent material – where she apes the elongated adenoidal drawl of Tom DeLonge etc – such as on ‘Flowers And Rope’ and ‘Your Eyes Are Bleeding’ (think: Papa Roach on Tramadol) – make you hope someone’s left a saucer of Snakebite out for any stray goths in the audience, and afterwards, she seems touched, thanking the throng for “letting me pour my heart out.” “I want more hands on me!” she commands, like a human Twister board at the end of her set, as she’s held up at the lip of the stage.
If there’s been a theme running throughout Melt’s festival headliners, it’s been gender-defiance and sexual liberation. From Florence Welch brandishing a rainbow flag on stage to Fever Ray’s creative and carnal carnival of queer rebirth, it’s continued by tonight’s bill-toppers, the xx. Midway through their set, Oliver Sim says: “We’ve been on tour so I’ve missed one of my favourite days which is Pride. Can I dedicate this song to all the beautiful LGBTQ people here tonight? I love you, I see you,” before launching into a pounding ‘Fiction’. Asking for the lights to be turned on the crowd, he’s feeling frisky; less xx more XXX. “While I was walking around this festival, there was only one word I can use to describe it….sexy!”, he purrs. Touring warhorses now, their finely-honed set pulls off the impressive high-wire act of being both intimate and gargantuan, while the sci-fi aesthetic of their staging is amplified given the surroundings – a former mine where looming industrial equipment and 30ft cranes tower above bathed in glowing hues with furnaces billowing. During ‘Reunion’, gloom-dance-doyenne Romy Madley Croft sings snippets of Madonna’s ‘Ray Of Light’; the unbridled ecstasy of the original replaced with muted introspection. The hushed reverence that greets her shivering, whispered solo ‘Performance’ causes bottom lips to quiver, but as Sim notes, “We’ve spent the last hour dancing to Honey Dijon – we’re pumped for this”, and as Skittles-bright multi-coloured lasers erupt to the ‘Shelter’, ‘Loud Places’ and ‘On Hold’ with Jamie XX tossing out samples of party-starting classics like Donkey Kong barrels, few here tonight disagree with him.