Playlist: Patti Smith’s Meltdown

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 - 12:33

‘Eclectic’ is a word we often use to describe the line-up of Meltdown festivals. It’s somewhat inevitable, as each year curators unspool their creative mind onto our stage, that the line-ups that emerge deliver some stylistic juxtapositions and unusual skews away from the expected. But Meltdown is a festival with high benchmarks, and so when it comes to the term ‘eclectic’ any aspiring curators-in-waiting will have to go some to match Patti Smith’s 2005 festival. 

On paper the line-up for that 13th edition of Meltdown looked like a rambling stream of consciousness; Yoko Ono, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Billy Bragg, an evening of protest songs and lullabies, tributes to Bertolt Brecht and Jimi Hendrix. But at the same time it all seemed to make perfect sense. As Alexis Petridis wrote in The Guardian at the time, ‘the maverick spirit of Meltdown seems safe in her hands’.

Sadly we’ve no footage of our own of Patti Smith’s Meltdown to truly relive the constructed chaos of the event, but we have scoured the internet to unearth a montage of video from 23 June’s Homage to Bertolt Brecht. The Royal Festival Hall concert in tribute to the German playwright and poet featured, among others, Anohni, Dresden Dolls, Neil Finn, Marc Almond and of course Patti Smith, backed by the London Sinfonietta.


Patti Smith Meltdown 2005


In 2005, Patti Smith was also celebrating the 30th anniversary of her seminal album Horses. And on 25 June, the penultimate night of the festival, she performed the album in its entirety in our Royal Festival Hall. Producer of the album, John Cale, was the evening’s special guest, but throughout the concert Smith was joined on stage by a steady stream of performers including (but by no means limited to) Adrian Utley, Flea, Bachir Attar and the Master Musicians Of Jajouka and Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra And Tra-La-La Band.


By anyone's standards, a concert featuring traditional Morroccan musicians, one of Portishead, some Canadian anarchist post-rockers and a Red Hot Chili Pepper is wildly eclectic, and you watch it gripped to see who Smith is going to bring out next: Napalm Death? Cliff Richard? Susan Boyle?
Alexis Petridis, reviewing Patti Smith at Meltdown for The Guardian

That performance of Horses earned a five star review from Petridis in The Guardian, and was far from the only gig of Smith’s Meltdown to be championed. Join us in taking a look, or more specifically a listen, back to one of the most popular and critically acclaimed Meltdowns ever, with this playlist featuring performers from the two week festival.



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listen to more meltdown laylists