Golden Plains Sixxx At The Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre
The picturesque drive down the final stretch toward the Supernatural Amphitheatre was made a little more golden this year, with a horizonless ocean of sunflowers rising to face the day as a line of earlybirds made their bid for Bush Camp settlement. It was like a metaphor or someshit. Being a slightly-later-than-earlybird, we managed to score one of the final remaining Bush Camp plots – no bush, but still no hills to hamper the climb back home. As for discourse on the weather, it was perfect throughout. Moving on.
Boys from the nearby ‘Rat Hunting Grounds got things off to a grinding start, with their facsimile of Beastie Boys Sabotage piquing familiarity and little else.
Even after a solid half-year of touring both internationally and at home, Total Control still can’t quite manage to pull it off in the live setting. Previous sets (especially Melbourne Laneway) have been marred by technical bullshit, but everything seemed to be functioning fine this arvo. The mix was dominated by snaredrum, which plays against the band’s strengths. Still, Retiree was an absolute cracker. The distinctive guitar tone generated by Mikey Young’s Fender Squire did instigate some discussion afterward, with everyone involved agreeing that Eddy Current Suppression Ring headlining Meredith 2012 would be the greatest thing ever. Make it happen people.
The Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti live show is a notoriously temperamental one. I thought they were great when they were last in town for Laneway, and I grimaced when watching the livestream of Ariel’s Coachella ‘meltdown’. Scheduling them in a primetime slot seemed like a risky move, but by god did it pay off. Not sure exactly what elements conspired to make it such an auspicious set, but the ostensibly superfluous efforts of champion Melburnian Shags Chamberlain on tambourine really took things to the next level. Fright Night (Nevermore) and Beverly Kills were fucking great – and Ariel’s heavily made-up face emanated sheer joy under his sweet man-bangs. Oh and it turns out that Round And Round was pretty much made for night-time at the Supernatural Amphitheatre. Magic.
In the past year, Justin Vernon has performed alongside Kanye West in front of 40,000 people at Coachella, sold what constitutes as a shitload of records in this climate, snagged some Grammys and sold out Myer Music Bowl. Pretty decent headliner for what you’d call a boutique festival. Unlike the premature ascension of MGMT at Meredith many moons ago, the live incarnation of Bon Iver was surprisingly a fully-realised affair. The twin drumkit setup was fully utilised for set opener Perth, with the thunderous drumline pounding as Justin led the charge dressed like Mark Zuckerberg. The a capella breakdown of Skinny Love in fact made many in the crowd breakdown, and made many more lift up their boots. I can’t imagine anyone’s half-arsed veneer of mainstream-led backlash withstanding the dude sitting there and pouring his heart out. Even the album-closing steamer Beth/Rest went down a treat. At the tail end of the set, I turned around to notice that my primo position for Ariel Pink meant I was front and centre for the biggest act of the night, which made for a somewhat tedious dash for the loo. So many people.
I placed to provisos on whether or not I would enjoy Kisstroyer. First up, they simply had to open with Detroit Rock City. Secondly, faux-Gene had to nail that track’s bass licks. Turns out the tribute act scored top marks in both regards. There’s artistry in imitation, and to these ears and eyes the only philosophical distinction between these guys and the real deal is that Golden Plains can actually afford to book Kisstroyer. Despite the absence of God Gave Rock And Roll To You II, my boot remained aloft for most of the set – and I don’t even think I was being ironic. Shit, even the banter was pitch-perfect.
Goddamn, Seekae were something else. For some reason I had in my mind that the band were shunted with a daytime slot, which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I was relieved to find out that they were in fact hitting the stage in the early AM, which makes perfect sense. Everything off +Dome was golden and suited the festival environment perfectly. Probably one of the most consistently satisfying bands this country has to offer at this point in time.
There was a lot happening onstage for This Thing, but not a lot which grabbed my attention. I kicked it at Inspiration Point until I realised that it was cold as fuck all of a sudden. Really, really cold. Also, Silence Wedge was changed to Silence Is Golden for some reason. I wish there was more to say about that.
New addition to the Amphitheatre landscape Eric’s Terrace is a classy establishment, almost a little too classy – though if I saw myself rock up in my hungover state, I would probably deny me entry due to having no shoes. But once I was decked out with footwear, the staff were lovely and the tucker was actually top notch. The raised deck did make you feel as though you were rising above the often madcap scenes below, and provided a more comforting respite than that of the caged Flamingo Bar. One minor gripe though – this year’s 18-plus wristband didn’t feature a select lyric as per tradition. I would have been happy with “These are the good times”, but oh well.
Harmony released one of the records of the year in 2011, and have gone on to rule many of the cosier bars in ol’ Melbourne town. But Sunday morning at Meredith, with a festival-sized PA, the band vehemently obliterated my mind. Seriously. From the first cacophonous breakdown until the final harmonic sign-off, my goosebumps levels were outta control. Probably the best sounding act of the whole weekend.
This was the set Lost Animal was born to play. The core duo of Jarrod Quarrell and man of the hour Shags Chamberlain (seriously, world’s greatest dude) was fleshed out with live percussion and Kirin J Callinan on guitar. The question was raised – is Callinan the greatest guitarist in Australia in the moment? His flourishes on tracks from Beat’s Album Of 2011 Ex Tropical really elevated the set to a higher level. Kirin soared, Shags plucked away, and Jarrod crooned through a corker of a set.
Will Oldham, aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, is a little bit naughty. He assumed the role of weatherman as he declared “it’s a good day to take acid and have sex.” What followed was a fairly breezy set of brilliant country-tinged ballads. You could probably waste a lot of paper listing which tracks didn’t make the setlist, but what was on there was pretty solid.
Sunday somehow turned into a celebration of the crusty old rock dog. Endless Boogie scored top marks for rock and roll stonerdom, as well as immaculate follicle care. Celibate Rifles were gritty and great. Urge Overkill were serviceable, but their take on Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon somehow managed to be the biggest dud in their repertoire.
On my way to catch Roots Manuva, the main strip into the arena was cordoned off to allow a minibus through. Much like a five-year-old waving at a firetruck, I emphatically waved as Black Lips made their way backstage, and the sentiment was reciprocated by all four bandmates. Lovely fellows.
My heart stopped as soon as Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires took the stage. It didn’t start beating again until the one and only Mr Bradley finished having his way with it an hour later. Seeing the man in action is something I’ll hold onto for a very long time, his cries of “I love you” and “Without you, there’s no me,” resonating just as powerfully as his incredible singing voice. His cover of Heart Of Gold was a surefire boot-earner. I’ve never experienced music this heartfelt. I love you Charles Bradley.
Turns out a fairly pedestrian Black Lips set is still a pretty fucking great set. Scenes were no way near as wild as when they took to The Tote many years ago, or in the week prior for that matter, but without the GG Allin-esque gimmicks they still stand as a pearler of a rock and roll band. Boogying down to Bad Kids is always damn good fun.
There really wasn’t any chance of Chic Featuring Nile Rodgers being anything short of goddamn amazing. Nile led the charge with an endearing mix of arrogance and appreciation, stating that the band are pissed off it took so long for Australia to bring them over, but they “don’t get mad, they get funky.” And get funky is indeed what they did. Chic’s own hits were impressive enough, but Nile busted out a string of tracks that he laid his Midas touch upon over the years – Original Sin, Like A Virgin, Let’s Dance, I mean, goddamn. Then of course we were told to freak out during Le Freak. Everyone obliged. All too soon, the 90 minute set closed with Good Times, which resulted in a bizarre but amazing stage invasion. Seeing Kirin J Callinan pulling shapes amongst a gaggle of gnomes was also great in its own way.
Wind back to sunset, the final night – a slow round of applause spreads forth throughout the gathering at Inspiration Point. “They just got engaged!” was the word rising from the picturesque valley. Above all else, Meredith/Golden Plains remains meaningful to so many on so many levels. These are the good times.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
Photo credit: Nick Irving
Loved: Ariel Pink plus Shags, Charles Bradley, Harmony, everything and everyone.
Hated: Inadvertently smuggling a few kilos of Meredithian dirt back home and into my shower via my nasal cavity.
Drank: Boags due to Melbourne cans’ newfound priciness – seriously, $50 a slab, what the shit?
Day one photos here.
Day two photos here.