Report: Day 2 & 3 - Meredith 2012
Supernatural Amphitheatre, Meredith Victoria
Saturday 8th & Sunday 9th December 2012
by Luke Ryan and Andrew Crook(Photos: Leah Robertson)
Luke Ryan: Waking up on the Saturday I was immediately struck by something: the wall of my tent. While the forecast temperature for day two had been steadily creeping up in the days before the event, nobody had really taken notice of what was happening with the wind. When I poked my head out of the tent at 8:30, the sound of canvas trying desperately not to rip was thick in the air. Already a couple of gazebos had been torn down around us. Our own would only last another two hours. As we took the second one down, cyclonic winds abounding and temperature already soaring into the 30s, I quietly contemplated leaving. Now wholly exposed to the buffeting, blasting elements, we decided to up sticks and settle in the shade overlooking the ravine. I broke briefly to get a Bloody Meredith – nectar of the Gods – but otherwise spent most of my time as prostrate as is humanly possible. I was pain. By 2 pm I began to feel something approaching human, so I braved the heat and dust to descend into the Amphitheatre once more.
Andrew Crook: Twerps vocalist Marty revealed he'd been banned from the festival the night before on account of his predilection for partying. It’s true – the set was well before midday -- but given his band’s staunchly lackadaisical approach it probably wouldn't have mattered. With a hellfire dust-storm sending the last layer of Omar Souleyman’s reverie from the night before to the heavens, recent breakup single ‘Work it Out’ did the business as the first of the day’s many lukewarm cans slipped away. Go Betweens-esque ‘Bring Me Down’ from last year’s debut LP got ripples of recognition, although it was the hazy drunk/stoned/high/drunk refrain in ‘Who Are You’ – the band’s best song -- that righted the ship. They even threw in a shit hot cover of Psychic TV’s ‘La La Song’, featuring undoubtedly the most disturbing opening line in pop history: “I will wash my feet in the river of your blood”. Awesome, but probably would have benefited from a bigger 4 or 5pm slot.
Local beats vocaliser/Age Melbourne cool lister Chet Faker is now apparently so popular, countless Meredith acolytes have sprouted their own version of his trademark Ned Kelly beard. (“Excellent headdress”, remarked one such beard to a female suitor later that night at Eric’s Terrace, who stifled a bemused giggle in response). Alas the real Faker, huddled behind a Triple R-stickered laptop and struggling with a broken foot from skateboarding, endured a raft of technical difficulties that weren’t helped by an appalling mix that meant that keyboards were basically inaudible, at least from where we were perched. Obviously a massive production and vocal talent, as hinted at by tracks like ‘Love & Feeling’ off Thinking In Textures from a few years back, but through no fault of his own he failed to cut through the Saturday heat. Really better to catch him at the Toff or some other enclosed space. A closing cover of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ – on a weekend with only Rahzel for hip-hop succour -- got some hands in the motherfucking air however, as it should.
Time for lunch, so I shuffled over to Jerry’s Burgers, the obvious champion in the “biggest queue” stakes. Jerry’s is also famous for its employees’ awesome Vikingcore t-shirts, although it seemed that only sub-Superheist nu-metallers Karnivool were represented at this particular juncture (the other guy was possibly out the back, anyone?). Hot chilli and satay with lashings of hot plate oil squirted straight from Jerry’s can, can't beat it.
Back at the stage, Royal Headache’s vocalist Shogun was prowling around and with the cool change yet to come, shirtlessness was only ever a few tracks away. What screamed festival favourite sadly went off a bit half cocked compared to their recent boxing ring triumph. All the proto-classics got a run – ‘Psychotic Episode’, ‘Eloise’ and closer ‘Honey Joy’, but the set seemed a bit too similar to 2010’s Golden Plains show for comfort (a same-stage affliction which also affected Regurgitator’s effort -- who played most of the same songs at Meredith in 2008). Implored to remove his pants, Shogun explained that as he was wearing briefs it was likely one of balls would become exposed. The songs are bloody catchy though; a challenge for these guys will be to keep up the energy for three, four or five albums to come.LR: It’s strange saddling up to review something like Meredith, because the music, while at the core of the experience, also sort of sits outside it. This is a festival that more than any other I’ve been to is built upon the experiences of the crowd within it. As much as the bands themselves, it’s how the heaving, chaotic and charismatic masses in the Amphitheatre respond that makes it.
No more was this true than when I found myself in the presence of saxophone legend Big Jay McNeely. Now, the man is 85. He had his first hit in 1949. He could well be the oldest performer to ever grace the Meredith stage. And he’s sitting there in 37 degree heat, blowing sax like a maniac and the entire Amphitheatre (or the perhaps 2000 hardy souls that defied the sun for him) are losing their goddamn minds. The first shoe went in the air halfway through the first track. By the third last song it seemed like every person in the crowd had their thong/sandal/sneaker/boot in the air. I’ve never seen a more uniform “Boot”–ing.
I couldn’t help but feel like this was Meredith at its very best – the point that reminded me again why the festival is so unique, and so endearing. A musician so far outside the primary demographic as to ensure that almost no-one would have heard of him before stepping foot inside the festival, plays a set of big band blues and jazz interspersed with hilariously incomprehensible stories and every single person listening and watching seems to realise how unlikely and wondrous this event is. When he finished – 20 minutes over time, but seriously who is about to stop an 85-year-old legend in full flight, especially when he and everybody else is having this much fun – the applause seemed unending. Fittingly, he ended with ‘The Deacon’s Hop’, the song that made him famous 63 years ago. I left and evangelised the experience to everyone I could find.
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