Meredith Music Festival
Friday: Nothing quite can describe the tingling sensation that the initial walk down into the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre evokes.
After a big drive then waiting in the queue, and having to set the fucking tent up, it’s both a feeling of relief and excitement like no other.
After a trip to the Meredith Community Tucker Tent (which has expanded into a Tucker Shed these days), I head down and catch Puta Madre Brothers and get showered with a bombardment of tortilla chips from the stage. Mariachi band meets garage rock, three dudes – who each look like they’ve been carrying around a guitar case full of guns in the hot Mexican sun for too long – play guitar while simultaneously keeping time on a kick drum.
I avoid the sea of youthful hipsters heading down to the stage to catch Rat Vs Possum and head up to the campsite and chill out. I head back down for UK band Broadcast, whose 1960s-inspired, retro synth pop takes on quite an abstract form in a live setting, and overwhelms the senses. While some seem confused by the focus on abstract soundscapes that seem to bury the vocals in the mix, others embrace the impressive psychedelic journey.
I disappear for a while until Texas’ Reverend Horton Heat take the stage. Their punked-up rockabilly with a touch of country is highly energetic, and explodes off the stage. It’s a welcome dose of diversity in the day’s lineup. After this it’s Little Red, who I find incredibly boring. Then the doof starts: it’s time for a Pink Flamingo.
Saturday: I crawl out of the tent and make sure to make it down to the stage to catch Melbourne’s C.W. Stoneking in full big-band form. It’s the perfect hang over cure, Stoneking’s vintage blues in the Meredith setting is perfect – and in my Saturday morning Meredith state makes me feel like I’m slipping back in time.
San Francisco’s Girls sound way too run-of-the-mill west coast American indie band for my liking. I head up the front to get a spot for British post-punk legends The Fall. The younger members of the band take to the stage and start playing and tease the audience who are waiting for the band’s cantankerous frontman Mark E. Smith – the band’s sole original member. Smith’s eccentric stage manner and personality dominates the show, as he sabotages the drum kit mid song, turns amps up and down on his band members and slags off the crowd stating, “I hate festivals.” It’s just what you’d expect and want from such punk rock royalty, though he does seem to stir a few confused reactions from punters further up the hill. Playing mostly material from their latest album – probably their best in two decades – mixing it up with a few classics from the late ‘70s, it’s impressive to see that Smith has managed to keep this prolific, influential project alive. Smith, however, looks like he’s struggling to keep himself from falling apart and I’m shocked to find out he’s only 53-years-old.
Custard should have kept their reformation confined to Queensland. Combo La Revelacion get many up dancing, though the Groundhog Day -esque sensation is too much for me.
Neil fucking Finn is a surprise highlight for most people I speak to for the rest of the weekend. Who would have thought he could possibly have had so many hits? Just when you think there can’t possibly be any more classics, Finn pulls out another one and has thousands singing along at the top of their lungs. His guitar tone is impeccable and rips through the amphitheatre almost as if Neil Young was there. Finn has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand with a mixture of Split Enz and Crowded House material, mixed up with some solo stuff. Warren Ellis (from the Dirty Three) even joins Finn on violin for a song. It’s incredible stuff. Finn manages to live up to the awesome standard set by Paul Kelly the previous year. It’s going to be interesting to see who they get this year to play what now seems to have become the ‘Saturday sunset legends’ slot.'
Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings keep the party firing with a solid set of top-notch soul. Dirty Three are amazing as always. One of the best live bands on the planet, they are a joy to watch like no other band. It’s great to see them do a diverse set, as the last two times they have played in Victoria they have performed their album Ocean Songs in its entirety – which, while a great album, it doesn’t have the wildness of a lot of their earlier material – from which they draw upon heavily for this festival set. No lightning storms like back when they played in 2004, but some people attempt to recreate the iconic moment by hurling glowsticks everywhere (which just kind of distract from the magic on stage more than anything). They close on Sue’s Last Ride from Horse Stories – fucking amazing.
The Meredith Sky Show is pretty hilariously bad, with a huge crane moving a UFO over the crowd to the sounds of the Close Encounters Of The Third Kind theme. There’s a lot of lasers and smoke, then some DJs start and I’m sad there’s no more bands playing until tomorrow.
Sunday: I wake up on Sunday morning cursing myself for sleeping through Ballarat’s renowned Dead Salesmen, who are on ridiculously early at 11am. Tennessee ladies Those Darlins are my Sunday highlight, I only wish they were on the previous day when I had more energy. They have a great swampy garage rock sound, and intense live show. The girls tease the audience with a promise of them appearing nude later in the afternoon which isn’t followed through. Chicago nine-piece Hypnotic Brass Ensemble attempt to “get the party started” when it’s obviously coming to a close on a Sunday afternoon. Then suddenly there are a lot of penises flying around everywhere, before Hoss bring the weekend to a close with a rocking set.
Review By LOUIS WINTHORPE