An ode to Meredith, the greatest music festival on the planet

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An ode to Meredith, the greatest music festival on the planet

Meredith Music Festival, 2018
Photo by Steve Benn
Words by Tom Parker

This is my Meredith story.

My Meredith Music Festival journey began in 2013. At the time, I was a fledgling music lover. I pedalled the festival Spotify playlist in the preceding weeks because I wasn’t up with it. I didn’t know who The Brian Jonestown Massacre were a mere two weeks out from the event but listened to Anemone once and became an instant expert.

I went to Meredith as a result of word of mouth. “The best experience ever”, I heard uttered. “Like nothing else”, another said. Through ubiquitous praise, I had to get there. I had to be in the “supernatural amphitheatre” the festival calls its mystical centrepiece.

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One stage, one home for music; no clashes, no missed adventures. So on I went to a festival that would welcome a characteristically heterogeneous lineup  – Chic, the aforementioned Brian Jonestown Massacre, Deerhunter, Melvins, The Bamboos, Jon Hopkins, Dick Diver, Clary Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes as well as an emerging Courtney Barnett and Mac DeMarco.

My group’s punctuality afforded us a spot in the supremely popular Bush Camp – one of the six main campgrounds at the festival. I shared space with members of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard alongside two close mates.

The first tinnies were cracked and we were off and away. From there, Meredith put its spell on me – for two nights and three days, life’s rigid structure was thrown out the window. For two nights and three days, there was a reprieve from life’s eternal anxieties.

Because at Meredith, there is no expectation nor judgement. Go as you please and let others come along with you. Wear whatever you want whenever you want, as long as you’re not insensitive or being a dickhead.

Many say that the most satisfying part of Meredith is the time right after you’ve set up your tent and gazebo and gotten your camp chair into place – lighting that first ciggie with the UE BOOM pumping looking around at your circle of mates, each of whom are riding the same space shuttle.

“Care for a game of Beersbee?” one asks. “Why the fuck not?” I say. We set up two cricket stumps, fastening two empty beer cans upside down and it’s off to the races. Split up into two teams, space yourselves out ten metres, whip out a frisbee and try and knock the opposing tinny to the ground. It’s as easy as that.

Time nears 4pm before the first act takes to the stage and everyone races to get their outfits sorted, or not – you could be wearing your favourite flannie and stonewashed jeans and no one would give a fuck.

In 2013, beloved Geelong rock’n’rollers Warped kicked off proceedings, however in more recent years, Meredith has commenced with a Smoking Ceremony and Welcome to Country. Keeping punters’ feet on the ground and understanding the significance of the festival and the corresponding site is imperative in appreciating what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

Much analysis goes into the festival’s set times. Being the opening act is always an honour. The spot is usually offered to the hottest act on the lineup: an artist or band who is rapidly on the rise. In recent years, Jesswar, Amyl & The Sniffers, Cable Ties and Power have kicked things off, setting the tone for what’s to come.

Positioning yourself under the third lantern on the left, the fifth lantern on the right, “that big red couch”, the left side of the sound desk, or any other position you can figuratively muster, is not only a festival practicality but a whimsical survey of what is the Supernatural Amphitheatre: Meredith’s holy cauldron.

As you belt out the lyrics to your favourite song from your favourite band, groove to the tracks embodying the “interstitial soundtrack” (a phrase I still don’t understand to this day) or engage in a lit conversation with your best mate, take a second to pause and observe the blissful nirvana with which you stand in.

A 360-degree spin looking high and low will momentarily take you to another place. The sky-high trees, ethereal lanterns and lush grass surround a stage that’s beautifully modest but functionally unparalleled.

Across Meredith’s two nights, you’ll listen to rock, pop, hip hop, punk, soul, disco, house, techno and everything in between. You’ll be exposed to cultures for the first time; voices and stories that buck the status quo.

You’ll be inspired and illuminated. Meredith is not just a playground of merriment but a sanctuary of enlightenment. Not only will you leave the festival site with new artists and bands to supplement your Spotify playlists, but you’ll come away with a greater understanding of society in all its parts.

I’m your regular white male and if it wasn’t for Meredith, I wouldn’t have the same perspective of the world we live in. I’d be more naive than I am today.

Meredith Music Festival is transcendent, yet intangible. It’s a culture creator and perpetual educator. It’s endlessly inclusive and ethically minded. It’s fucking awesome and that’s all there is to say.

Keen to reminisce? Read our review of Meredith 2022.