Meredith Music Festival 2011
Well, that was a special one. We braced ourselves, mentally and gumboots-wise, for what was set to be a storm to rival that of the infamously soggy 2008 incarnation. It seemed like everyone overcompensated when the weather turned out to be as perfect as you could hope for, with a rubberband effect ensuring the hardest party-hard mindset imaginable.
The lads from populace local outfit King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard have been plugging away for the past year or so, slaying it around the entry-level echelon at venues around town. As such, they made their Meredith debut armed with a cracking arsenal of shit-hot psychedelic punk corkers. Makes you wonder how a band with more guitarists than Skynard can sound so fucking tight. Plus the use of a theremin nearly always guarantees an automatic seal of approval in my book. With a fuzzed out rendition of I Wanna Be Your Dog and a sign-off with Danger $$$, the boys from the Gizz set the bar pretty bloody high.
Expectations were at fever pitch for Kurt Vile & The Violators, with feedback from the two sold-out Melbourne sideshows letting it be known that the hype was more than justified. Above all, Kurt is a consummate songwriter. The one-two of psych-jam Freak Train and the softly sweet Baby’s Arms was an incredible way to round out a set.
Explosions In The Sky fans are a funny bunch. Pretty sure I saw a crew walk down to the stage with their boots pre-emptively thrust in the air before the set even kicked off. The slow orchestral guitar-work proved to be most befitting of the timeslot. However there was the difficult choice whether to get as close to the stage as possible to soak in that all-important intensity of volume, or sit back on the hill to soak in the natural glory of sunset.
To quote the handy Meredith pocket guide, “TOTAL FIRE BAN ALL DAYS AND NIGHTS. NO FIRES, flares, firesticks, fireworks, candles, generators, BBQs or cooking of any kind, inside or out.” There was an understandable fear that the over-the-top pyrotechnics of Barbarion’s live show would be a victim to this steadfast rule. But from the moment of the hearty battlecry of “WE. ARE. BARBARION”, it was clear that it wasn’t the case. Big fuck-off jets of flames spouted from the stage and guitars alike, fireworks rained down from the roof, sparks flew from giant axes. This was meaty cartoon metal at its finest.
Sandwiched in between two of the weekend’s most brutal acts was Kiwi pop star Ladyhawke. While we were served with her breakthrough pop bangers Paris Is Burning and My Delirium, newer material fell flat without the benefit of familiarity.
Future Of The Left were abrasive in the best way possible. Last in the Supernatural Amphitheatre as a trio, the now four-piece kicked straight off with Arming Eritrea. My god, that was the filthiest sounding bass I’ve ever heard. They then proceeded to kick everyone in the head with a pugilistic blast of noise, capping off their set with a handful of mclusky songs. The always-in-the-red dynamic was a tad overbearing for my fragile mind, but kudos for sustaining the tenacious energy in impeccable fashion.
It seemed like Gang Gang Dance adhered themselves to a self-imposed Sisyphean wave of momentum. It could have very well paid off, had it not been for some near-terminal technical difficulties toward the business end of their set. All the fuckery nearly proved worth it for the mind-killing extended reprise of MindKilla – shit, I wouldn’t have complained if they spent their whole set jamming the track out for an hour.
I can’t remember much of Harmonic 313, but I’m pretty sure Niggas In Paris was dropped, and it was amazing. Dat shit cray.
Silence Wedge kicked off all too soon, leading us to bask in the quaint splendour of moonset and sunrise at Inspiration Point.
I don’t like Oscar + Martin very much. The inoffensive beats and shrill vocals which characterise their debut For You makes for the least listenable music I can imagine. However, their early Saturday set proved to be amicable enough – ensuring their fanbase continues on the up and up.
This year’s Meredith had more than a few ‘moments’. Adalita’s early Saturday arvo set was one of them. Breezing through her solo debut (a definite album of the year contender), Adalita was joined onstage by the late, great Dean Turner’s two daughters – who made for impossibly cute back-up dancers/percussionists. Album opener Hot Air was a triumph, making for an uplifting close to an uplifting set.
There was a ridiculously long setlist taped to a side fill as Off! took to the stage. Even so, the set required more than a bit of oratory padding from legendary frontman Keith Morris. Caught in the middle of a dusty circle pit which smelled like body odour and dick sweat, the unhinged dialogue made for a welcome reprise. When they were in full force (as they were for the most part), the hardcore supergroup bled out an infectious aggression with tracks such as Fuck People and their cover of Vietnam War protest anthem Compared To What. Scary awesome.
This year’s Golden Plains saw the Meredith debut of Melbourne horror-country darlings Graveyard Train. Here they make an unprecedented twice-in-one-year return, this time in a deserved evening slot. Leaving behind the grand theatrics of their Halloween extravaganza, the band tore through a no-bullshit run through of their much-adored catalogue, earning an unsurprising ocean of raised boots. The Meredith love was reciprocated by the band, with lead singer Nick pointing out a spot on the hill where he threw up the night before. Nice.
I didn’t know what to expect from seminal Seattle outfit Mudhoney. I hadn’t heard much of what their recent live sets were like, and there was a slight fear that their enduring legacy might not be given the proper treatment. Turns out they’re as awesome as ever, with lead singer Mark Arm proving to be an incredibly commanding frontman. A no-nonsense run-through of classics such as Touch Me I’m Sick ensued, with a few new tracks thrown in for good measure. The band were joined onstage by Keith Morris for a version of Black Flag’s Fix Me – an incredible way to close out a set.
All power to Icehouse for staying true to their original sound. Not being too familiar with their back catalogue, I felt it was best to head back to the campsite to freshen up. From afar, Great Southern Land sure did sound like Great Southern Land, but that’s about all I can say.
It was time to don the ol’ gumboots and ponchos, as the threatening rain finally made its presence felt.
Since the release of Zonoscope earlier in the year, Cut Copy have been inclined to garnish their live sets with a ridiculous serving of lights and props. For their return to the Supernatural Amphitheatre, however, the giant LCD door had been left at home – and their set proved all the better for it. Whoever was in control of the lights pulled off the masterstroke of the weekend, with the rain and the crowd being illuminated at just the right point during Lights And Music – a moment worthy of Meredith lore.
Grinderman were on the attack from the get go. Mr Cave made his way directly to the crowd barrier, and stayed there for the majority of the performance. “I hear he’s somewhat of a legend in these parts,” Meredith debutante Nick said while introducing Warren Ellis – referencing Dirty Three’s landmark Meredith performances. The band had their way with the crowd, brooding with menace and animalistic lust under subsiding storm clouds. After snarling through the likes of Heathen Child and No Pussy Blues, we received the news. “That’s it for Grinderman. It’s over. See you in ten years.” The ultimate fuck and run if there ever was one.
I can’t remember what happened for the Total Lunar Eclipse. Was it too cloudy? Oh well.
While not nearly as hyped as the ill-fated 2005 mystery act, speculation about who was behind The Juan Pablo Family Hour. Rumour has it that it was a half-Avalanches, half-Yacht Club DJs duo. Whoever it was, their Gold 104-core set wasn’t really what the night was calling for, but it was still good fun.
Then Big Freedia happened. A crew of ridiculously babin’ back-up dancers graced the stage, then the Queen Diva herself made her undeniable presence felt. It was the greatest. There was azz everywhere during Azz Everywhere, cheeks were clapping, drinks were flowing. Sheer energy and sexual liberation condensed into its purest aural form. So fucking amazing.
I caught Virgo Four at Sugar Mountain earlier in the year. They were incredible then, and even more so at Meredith. The somewhat cheesy Chicago house offerings were fleshed out beyond the core duo, making for some very good times. Speaking of which, the set was capped off with a surprise cover of Chic’s Good Times, with that iconic bassline played both on backing track and live to great effect. The track also functioned as a cosmic bridge to next year’s Golden Plains, in which we’ll be treated to the real deal. Can’t wait.
Tim Sweeny crushed it. Admittedly, it was a bit of a blur. But what a blur! If were went up at an ungodly hour getting down to Boney M’s Daddy Cool, you were doing it wrong. Yep, time to drag my sorry carcass off to bed.
With the exception of Frank Fairfield, Sunday was all about good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. Though the odd one out for the day, Frank Fairfield proved to be an absolute delight. The vintage style of fiddle virtuosity proved to be the feelgood antidote many of us needed at such a point in the weekend.
Abbe May rocks, and she does so pretty fucking hard. Borrowing a barrage of licks from the golden age of rock, Abbe blew ‘em away with a selection of tracks from her album of this year, Design Desire.
Eagle & The Worm are a very good band. The only sticking point is the high-pitched vocals of the frontman. I usually dig it, by my sore Sunday head struggled. Having said that, the mega-extended jam of All I Know went down a treat.
MCing the day with characteristic dagginess, iconic commentator Dennis Cometti came into his own calling The Meredith Gift. After all was said and done, Dennis promised to inform his friend Bruce that “You haven’t lived until you’ve called The Meredith Gift.” And to paraphrase Bruce, this weekend was a little bit special.
Stay beautiful, Meredith.
Loved: AZZ OVER HERE, AZZ OVER THERE. AZZ EVERYWHERE AZZ EVERYWHERE.
Hated: The long trip home. Actually, it wasn’t even that bad.
Drank: One million Melbourne Bitters, one Ballarat Bitter.
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