Curated by the grand master of gloom himself, Robert Smith, the Southbank Centre’s twenty-fifth annual Meltdown festival is a heady celebration of alternative music in all its kohl-eyed glory.
Grabbing the baton from illustrious previous curators like Nick Cave and Yoko Ono, The Cure’s founder-frontman has used his icon status to assemble a stellar ten-day line-up. Smith’s hand-picked mix of festival headliners, cult heroes and exciting lesser-known talent manages the same deft trick as his revered back catalogue: it’s somehow cohesive and eclectic at the same time. After all, Smith is a musician who’s been sliding between haunting melancholy (‘A Forest’), jazzy new wave (‘The Love Cats’) and perky pop (‘Friday I’m in Love’) for decades.
Trent Reznor’s noise merchants Nine Inch Nails will bring industrial swagger to the normally genteel Royal Festival Hall, just days after its foundations are rocked by beloved indie rabble-rousers The Libertines. Manic Street Preachers will blast out their arsenal of big-hearted arena anthems and Deftones will frighten a few tourists with their pummelling post-metal. Meanwhile, Placebo will attract a crowd of proud outcasts and emo warriors with angsty classics like ‘Nancy Boy’.
Other highlights include sets from shoegazing pioneers My Bloody Valentine, rock oddballs Mogwai, Throwing Muses heroine Kristin Hersh, sublime singer-songwriter Kathryn Joseph and Welsh indie queen The Anchoress. The Psychedelic Furs are another major coup; their ’80s jangle-banger ‘Love My Way’ is enjoying a revival after soundtracking a key scene in ‘Call Me by Your Name’.
Smith’s Meltdown also has a Brexit-defying European presence with sets from German indie legends The Notwist, Italian electro-rockers JoyCut, French post-metal crew Alcest and Swedish experimentalists pg.lost. And if you’re feeling cerebral, you can dive into Sigur Rós’s Liminal Soundbath, an immersive ambient sound installation that looks as trippy as a ’60s San Fran freakout. Expect the QEH foyer to be bathed in the soothing sonics of the Rós between June 20 and 22.
The whole shebang will culminate with CURÆTION-25, Robert Smith’s career-spanning extravaganza where he’ll be joined on stage by a succession of special guests. He’s keeping their names close to his chest, or perhaps hidden inside his splendid nest of jet-black hair? But given that he’s worked with everyone from Siouxsie Sioux and Crystal Castles to Billy Corgan and Blink-182, not to mention all those ex-Cure members, we can expect to be dazzled by a rock legend or two.
Meltdown runs at Southbank Centre Jun 15-24.
Royal Festival Hall
Jun 16 Kælan Mikla (supporting Placebo)
Jun 17 Yonaka (supporting The Libertines)
Jun 18 Death Cab For Cutie
Jun 20 pg.lost (supporting Deftones)
Jun 22 Black Moth Super Rainbow (supporting Nine Inch Nails)
Jun 24 CURÆTION-25 (supported by The Twilight Sad)
Queen Elizabeth Hall
Jun 16 Drahla (supporting The Notwist)
Jun 17 Emma Ruth Rundle (supporting Alcest)
Jun 18 God Is An Astronaut
Jun 19 Frightened Rabbit
Jun 20 Low
Jun 24 Maybeshewill
Jun 15 JoyCut
Jun 16 Jambinai
Jun 17 Loop
Jun 18 Emma Ruth Rundle
Jun 19 Vex Red
Jun 21 Moon Duo
Jun 22 The Joy Formidable
Jun 23 And Also The Trees
Jun 24 The Soft Moon