Golden Plains @ Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre
Paradox: how can something be predictably surprising? The notches on my wall keeping track of my Meredith trips are starting to resemble a pic of the South Pines; I no longer have to frantically pack the night before but instead have a restful sleep and let my somnambulant self pour the whiskey into the water bottle, wrap it in a change of undies and chuck it in a bag. I go there, I laugh myself hoarse, have the time of my life repeat a few months later.
But the surprise is still, always, a surprise.
Arriving late to the party, I dump my swag at the campsite and run down to the music: Andras Fox and Oscar Key Sung brought their own swag though, rocking Pharrell hats and feeding the good times with hazy, analogue house and heartfelt falsetto. Directly afterwards, Gold Panda’s live electronic set steps things up a notch and I have to check myself: only two hours ago I was in a dark office finishing off some work. Now I’m bathed in sun and getting drunk from the colour, the music and the cans of this amazing fizzy drink I just discovered that seems to somehow intoxicate you. It’s called ‘breer’ or something.
And just as everyone seems ready to tumble into a night of stupid grins, repetitive beats and digital melodies, Aunty Meredith changes gear with Adalita and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – crushing my electronic soul and reminding me how goddamn good humans are at rocking out with guitars.
After dinner I make it back to let Yo La Tengo continue the cleansing King Gizzard had started giving me, their dissonant keys, solid drums and melodic guitar driving demons into and earwax out of my head.
The last time I caught The Drones, at Dark MOFO in June last year, they were oddly placed on a warm-up slot – which, of course, they destroyed. Seeing frontman Gareth Liddiard silence a crowd of 8,000 rowdy punters is something else though, and the band’s eerie control of mood and dynamics is enough to send shivers down your spine, or to make you jump out of your skin when the volume kicks up.
The rest of the first night continues to impress, but perhaps with less visceral force. Charles Bradley’s husky croon is a serious treat to behold at any time, but it’s not as revelatory as the first time he graced the Plains in 2012. The team behind the visuals for Flying Lotus – video artists Strangeloop and Timeboy – deserve huge props. They are the best I’ve seen and, for me, they outshine FlyLo’s music which at this time of the night is a little too florid for me to hold onto.
I start to wane, but hang on to party through JPS’s bassy DJ set and the beginnings of some fine house from Jnett. But by the time Spacey Space hits the decks I’m looking up through the roof of my swag, watching stars fade as I drift off.
Staggering down to the Amphitheatre on Sunday my mind is addled to the same extent The Orbweavers are beautiful: profoundly. I only catch the last few songs of their set, but it is pure tonic, washing away my sins as I lie blissfully incapacitated on the grass, in the shade. Country singer Archer takes the stage for the next act of my Sunday idyll, sounding like a scratchy record sound-tracking my breakfast of coffee and pizza. As the heat starts to kick in, I take refuge in the shade of a friend’s camp and miss out on what was reportedly a sweetly melancholy and inspiring talk from Michael Leunig. Unofficial programming also means I miss a handful of other bands during the Sunday: food, showers, toilets, fashion parades, espresso martinis – these things can take a surprisingly long time.
But I manage to catch Ross Knight of the Cosmic Psychos sing a song about his bulldozer, I dance to some classic Finnish trance and snack-themed hip hop (Darude’s Sandstorm and Y.N. Rich Kids’ Hot Cheetos and Takis, care of interstitial DJ LA Pocock) before I settle back in to catch Neko Case, who delivers a top-notch set that shows just how much studio recordings tempt you take certain talents for granted – Case’s voice in the live setting, paired with her band and a backup singer, shines bright, clear and beautiful, belying the relaxed manner of her delivery.
You Am I were one band I hadn’t given much thought to – they’ve been kicking around for ages, I’ve seen them at Meredith before…blah blah blah I know everything. But man, tracks like Heavy Heart and Berlin Chair just inhabit that special place within that makes you want to howl drunkenly at the moon or shake your body till your head hurts. Familiar and forceful, it’s great to have such songs ring out over the Nolan family’s farm. I really hoped to like Fat Freddy’s Drop, but unfortunately they don’t do much to bolster my belief in dub/reggae “fiyah-fiyah” sing-a-longs.
Public Enemy have no shortage of mindless “When I say ‘this’ y’all say ‘that’!” tricks, but the power of their sound is more than enough to make up for some of the shoddy showmanship. Classics 911 Is A Joke and Fight The Power make the ground shake, and DJ Lord chops up an amazing remix of Smells Like Teen Spirit on the decks. Some of the theatrics between Chuck D and Flavor Flav are pretty hilarious, be this intentional or not. Shout outs to publicenemy.com/free (“There’s no wifi here?”) and Chuck D’s mad skills at throwing the mic in the air and catching it like a goofy child.
Some bands seem built for places like The Tote, some are made to play in corporate-branded sports stadiums. When they play live, Cut Copy seem like they were dreamed up just to grace the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre. Switching from low, bouncy lines to smooth bass guitar, snagging you with pop hooks, strident synth leads and heavy beats that call to mind the English rave scene of the '80s and '90s, Cut Copy’s set is wall-to-wall with jump-in-the-air anthems. Tracks from 2008’s In Ghost Colours shine brightest – my splashing bottle of water isn’t enough to replace the downpour that accompanied Lights And Music in 2011, but those few drops are enough to trigger a brief flash of that glorious Meredith moment. The choice to display the words ‘free your mind’ in Helvetica 20,000pt on the backdrop for much of the show isn’t particularly inspired, but the new tracks from that album hold up pretty well against classics.
Mark Pritchard, liberated to play whatever he likes under his own name now, produces the rug-cuttingest set of the weekend, dropping his own productions such as Out In The Street among other bass bangers of a diverse vintage, such as Dizzee Rascal’s I Luv U and TNGHT’s R U Ready. I dance, I dance, I dance, I die. Trudging back up the hill – now resembling Mt Everest – to my campsite, I drift off to the exquisite arpeggiated techno that signals the beginning of Tornado Wallace’s set.
I expected a fantastic weekend, I got a fantastic weekend, yet Aunty still threw in so much beauty, so much energy, so much goodness I can still hardly believe my luck.
BY PATRICK O'BRIEN
Photos by Rob Perrone
Loved: Perfect weather, perfect music, perfect people.
Hated: Hahaha. No.
Drank: A little.