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Report: Day 1 - Meredith 2012

Report: Day 1 - Meredith 2012

Meredith Music Festival
Supernatural Amphitheatre, Meredith Victoria
Friday 7th December 2012

by Luke Ryan and Andrew Crook

(Photos: Leah Robertson)

Andrew Crook: There were some brand new things at Meredith this year, and some very, very old things. The new? Way more P-platers (and more people generally), more car boots heaving with Pabst Blue Ribbon and – in flagrant violation of the official rules -- several dickheads (there was one psychotic topless dude munching his jaw off stageside all weekend in Oakley wraparounds. See him? He’s probably stabbed someone by now).

What about the old? Two mid-90s UK headliners in Primal Scream and Spiritualized, both on the late-career comeback trail, Wally Meanie in fine Pink Flamingo form and all the regular Meredith accoutrements like Tucker Tent coleslaw that make this the most consistently pleasing festival anywhere in the world.   

It’s not just about the bands – every ounce of extra preparatory effort pays dividends. Set the alarm for 4am on Friday and snag a shit-hot shaded camping spot. Find time to chop up limes and decant some vodka and enjoy cheap cocktails all weekend. Rig up hundreds double Ds for some cranking sound system action -- twenty-two years in it’s safe to say that Meredith has now subsumed Scouts as the prime educator of outdoor survival skills among Melbourne’s inner north.

Luke Ryan: There’s not many things that can get me out of bed willingly at 6.45 on a weekday morning – a house fire might come close – but I am willing to throw all personal proclivities out the door when it comes to the Meredith Music Festival. As I see it, we’re about to spend 48 hours in next best thing to a separate dimension, so may as well start the character reformation early.

Still, the crowds are getting earlier and earlier at the festival and even though we joined the car queue at the relatively civilised time of 9.30 we still found ourselves not only waiting for over two hours, but also getting pushed out of our preferred camping spot and into the relative boondocks of the South Pines. Obscene earliness is almost a ritual now; if you have any interest in getting somewhere like Bush Camp, you pretty much have to delegate someone to camp along the road the night before.

But after setting up shop and reacquainting myself with the folk I hang out with almost exclusively at Meredith, it was time to make that first heart-lifting trip over the lip of the Amphitheatre and down into the grassy dustbowl that will consume life and liver for the next two days. Kicking off proceedings for Meredith’s 21st were Tame Impala’s little cousins Pond. Pretty much an automatic addition to any festival that also features Kevin Parker’s psych-rock juggernaut, the guys held things together well in the perennially strange Meredith opening slot. While swapping some of Tame Impala’s impeccably packaged revivalism for a more freewheeling, improvisatory ethos (and featuring Parker losing his shit on the drums) they do sound awfully alike, but in the glorious, still Meredith afternoon they seemed to coat the Amphitheatre in early golden light. Needless to say, the stench of pot was thick in the air.

Following on their heels was obscenely young five-piece Snakadaktal. Winners of Triple J’s Unearthed High comp in 2011, theirs is a polished and uncomplicated brand of indie pop – I place them halfway between Phoenix and The xx – but one that feels considerably more fun than it has any right to be. Dressed in what looked weirdly like their dad’s clothes and occupying the stage as if they were a band with a decade of festival experience behind them, they were welcomed readily into the fold by an already packed Amphitheatre. As they finished, I looked across and saw a man in his hairy, balding mid-40s, dressed only in a Borat mankini, stumbling unevenly down toward the food tent, two probably unnecessary beers in his hand. That seemed like a good reminder to pace myself, so it was back to camp to prepare for the evening ahead.

AC: Friday at the Supernatural Amphitheatre is now an event in its own right – no more ‘Saturday only’ tickets -- and it was the psych-endurance specialists Earthless, driven by former skateboarding hero-turned stickman Mario Rubalcaba – (also of Saturday’s Hot Snakes, Rocket from the Crypt etc) that pleasingly ripped any sense of lingering joy out of the wafting perfume of pristine pop cuties Snakadaktal. Despite being one of at least four bands on the 33-strong bill with crossover members (“it’s called efficiency” remarked my camping partner), they dominated in their own right, playing two extended jams over 40 minutes with about 10 seconds between them. Initial scepticism was met with howls of demonic approval by the first breakdown (and there were many).

LR: I returned in time to see Melbourne’s Sophia Brous jumpstarting the night’s proceedings with a beautifully paced, joyous set of upbeat nouveau-soul. Brous and band manage to mine the rich veins of 60s-era soundtracks without feeling beholden to them and the result feels startlingly modern even as its constituent elements read as warm and familiar. There’s just something intimate and immediate about Brous’ voice that makes it hard to do anything except pay rapt attention. The Amphitheatre seemed to agree and when she launched into ‘Streamers’ the place broke into widespread dancing for the first time. Before her final song she told us this was the venue she’d always wanted to play and you could hear genuine emotion in her voice. The crowd lost their shit; an early reminder that this is one of those all-too-rare festivals were the bands playing seem to love the occasion as much as the crowd does.

After the obligatory bit of Housekeeping saw Biggie’s ‘Hypnotize’ and Pharaohe Monch’s ‘Simon Says’ comprehensively trounced by The Boss’ ‘Dancing in the Dark’ (think the recent tour announcement may have galvanized the Springsteen fan base), it was time for pop-darkwave songstress-of-the-moment Grimes to take the stage.

I keep on forgetting how big Grimes has become since the release of Visions and the place was absolutely packed for her arrival. Heavily face-painted,  in green tights and a black dress and embedded in what I’ll call “Fortess Korg”, she was also flanked by two dancers whose style could best be described as electro-fluro-kabuki-goth. They paused for a second, Grimes said hi, then the first beat dropped and the place went nuts. Grimes is a lot more kinetic live than on record and she tends to finish her songs with extended beat breakdowns and an explosion of bubbles. Behind the mass of equipment, she lashes out, throwing her body about the place and piling vocals upon thrumming keys and pounding drums. Her excitement was palpable and the Sup responded in kind. When she finished on the Blood Diamonds song ‘Phone Sex’ – an ecstatic, shameless Balearic number she helped produce and which she describes as her “ultimate pop fantasy” – I was gripped by the image of her as some sort of indie-Minaj figure: audacious, singular and absurdly talented. The sun set as she left the stage, an early (if expected) highlight.

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