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GP2017: The sup’ that Jack (& Mary) Built

I never met Jack Nolan. In the 13 or so years of visiting the Supernatural Amphitheatre I’ve never had the guts to walk myself into the Nolan stand for a chat. You’d think it would get easier with repeat attendance but it’s been quite the opposite: Every year I leave more and more of my soul in that magical place, and every year I appreciate more just how much of the Nolan family’s soul has been, and is continuously shared with the attendees.

It’s unfathomable how much of their collective spirit is embedded in that farm, it’s unfathomable to consider what Chris’ relationship with the festival means to Mary & Jack, and it’s unfathomable that they have continued to welcome us all so thoroughly for so long. Jack’s shadow loomed large over this year’s GP, and I guess if I had the chance to meet him now I’d just say thanks. My sincerest condolences to the family, and a ginormous thank you for everything you’ve given to us.

With this noted, I’m still kicking myself that I missed the opening ceremony. I expect the words were poignant and the tears were many, but a slightly longer than usual travel time & setup meant I was distracted by the unmistakable feeling of melting stresses that oft consumes my initial few hours in postcode 3333.

Good mate Alli getting into the spirit: Can't stop, won't stop

Good mate Alli getting into the spirit: Can’t stop, won’t stop

Thanks to the new sound system and a favourable wind direction, you could hear AusMuteants from the tent and they sounded RAD, which was soon confirmed by a few witnesses. Margaret Glasby & Benny & the FlyByNiters contributed to a very solid opening stanza but things took a huge lift when Cash Savage took the stage. I’ve never been a huge fan, but this was undeniably her time on the sup’ and over the course of her set she wound the crowd in, up and over with a forceful performance that people were still talking about by the end of the festival. Camp Cope aka’ I can’t believe it’s not the Smith Street Band were up next; and a couple of years I would have meant that description as a bit of a sledge. Now, however, the emergence of Camp Cope has made me warm to the Smith Street Band; so the likeness they share is, like both bands’ songs, earnest. Despite best intentions I missed the set, which was moderately received but I heard a few people say that they seemed like they were still learning how to fill the bigger stages that they’re now playing.

Finally getting myself in permanent position for Kurt Vile, we all shuffled forward to see… a well-intentioned but totally ill-timed performance. The spirit was right, and it was a damn sight better than last time he graced the sup’, but the quiet introspective songs played even quieter and more introspective than usual was out of whack with the revving first night crowd. You only need to listen to one of his records to realise that Kurt exists very much between his own ears, and someone that introverted just didn’t have the firepower to capture a crowd in that state.

After the Kurt Vile downer things were looking a little grim for the first night: enter ‘The Damned’, who absolutely ripped the lid off it. I mean, I really enjoyed the Buzzcocks at the last GP and I didn’t think that any of the other bands from that era could be any better but holy smokes the Damned were incredible. A perfect mix of power-shredding and rock opera that in the space of 40 minutes turned the first day from ‘ok’ to ‘on fire’. Highlight (aside from Improv rock Opera on the hill) was singing along to Ignite and their classic banter: “We may be old farts, but we can still kick arse. Anyway, here’s a song we recorded in nine-teen-seventy-seven”. I missed J A Z Z Party but by the reports I didn’t miss much (to put it more eloquently I’ll quote my mate Murph: A jazz party don’t sound like the sort of party I wanna go to) and now it was time for Nicolas Jaar.

When the program dropped, there was a lot of chat about ‘Nico Jaar is on too early’. I disagree. There is no one in the world who makes music like Nicolas Jaar, either on record or in the live arena, and it was entirely the right decision to put him in front of as many people as possible. Before the set I tried to explain it: it may not be your cup of tea, but you’ve gotta see it because it’s so unique (if you want a good starting point, check out his glorious, meandering composition on the BBC essential mix a couple of years ago).

I need not have worried about his set being esoteric. He killed it. With a smoky, back-lit light show he captured the attention of the entire crowd in with about 6-8 minutes of film-score-ambient before embarking on a journey through space and time that had the entire crowd absolutely losing it for the last 20 minutes of the set. By the time the set climaxed and the smoky blackness turned into the brightest lights you can fit on the stage, the place was in meltdown. Phenomenal.

Nico Jaar: Backlit beauty

Nico Jaar: Backlit beauty, dark like the night

After that, Total Giovanni put on some sleazy fun times that kept the crowd on a high, Habits played some abrasive electronica that I liked but most didn’t, and Brooke Powers took it home as we loped up the hill to bank a few hours’ sleep.

*Sun Rises*

Walking out of my tent at precisely the moment the bacon and egg truck drove past, Sunday felt good from the get-go. Catching the first act (excellent indigenous act whose name I don’t have written down) while getting ice (ahem, frozen water) and writing ‘thanks’ on the Jack Nolan wall, I steadied myself for the day ahead. With a 40th birthday celebration about to kick off up at campsite (Happy Birthday Gemma!) first order of the day was ‘delicious drinks’, a tradition started by some mates with whom we combined camp sites this year. Having seen some of these so called ‘delicious’ drinks in the past I was dubious (in year one, the delicious drink was ‘Up-N-Go & Vodka’, and I’m vomiting a little bit in my mouth right now just thinking about it), but everyone brought their A-Game and by 11:30am I was about 3 genuinely excellent cocktails deep with another 3 sitting on the ground in front of me. I guess this level of organisation means we’re all getting old…

The deliciousness of said drinks and a few catch-ups with friends was not however conducive to moving down the hill so I’m relying on others to tell you that Oren Ambarchi split the crowd (brilliant/horrible/ sounded like a walking clock / wish he’d played Classical Gas were a couple of descriptions I heard), Olympia drew a solid crowd to a set that started slowly but finished very strongly (and not just for the cover of TV on the Radio’s ‘Wolf Like Me’ that she closed the set with), and the mysterious Confidence Man retained their mystery (I could not tell you what they sound like) but everyone who saw them raved about them.

Moving down to the stage for the entertaining Billy Davis & the Good Lords, it was Chain & the Gang who we were really there to see. A huge historical link to the sup’ here; the band are fronted by Ian Svenious who was in a group called ‘The Make Up’ who were the first international to ever play the sup and were so good that Aunty is still talking about it. Well I tell you what, I don’t reckon he’s been to bed since that set, not that it lessened his ability to put on a cracking show. The band were tight and deadpan in their slick shiny suits while Ian climbed stage barriers and launched himself into the crowd. It’s clearly a character-based performance piece, but the art is a beautifully uncomfortable as it’s impossible to distinguish how much craziness is ‘character’ and how much is ‘2 decades of shooting speed’.

There was no such ‘life imitating art imitating life’ confusion for Orb, they were simply fucking excellent. Holding the stage in tight garage-band-stance they powered through a heavy, Black Sabbath influenced set that perfectly positioned the afternoon for the night ahead. It felt not so much that they were trying to sound like Sabbath, it was just that was how they are. If you were trying too hard to sound like Sabbath you’d stuff it up, and Orb had that bit of swing in the drums where the beats don’t hit perfectly on time and it gave the whole thing this little bit of groove that took it to the next level. Closed with a 15 minute tune off their latest album (can’t remember the name, maybe ‘My Reflection’) and we were all screaming. Get the record. Go see them.

Somewhere around this point (I’m sketchy on the time) was THE interstitial set. You know the one; the volume is up, the crowd lathered, and the hits come out to rapturous ‘shout singing’. This year, the tune that got the sup’ fully turnt was ‘Beds Are Burning’ by Midnight Oil. They’re on tour next year around GP time and I believe they have a slot in the schedule, the mind boggles.

Teenage Fanclub were up next and there were so so so many people who were excited about this. I don’t have quite the same history with them as many others and went to get changed about half way through the set just as the guitars got a little more distorted and they started to delve into their grunge-era material. Sounded good, and made a lot of people happy, but I had to make a sacrifice and it turned out to be totally worthwhile.

Most of the words written about GP11 have ignored what happened next, but for me it was arguably the set of the festival so I’m going to give it a decent run.  Worth noting that my knowledge of all the song titles mentioned below happened after the set; I didn’t go in as a massive fan but listened to these albums intently as a result of this performance.

We all still split hip hop into ‘Hip Hop’ and ‘Australian Hip Hop’; with the ‘Australian’ tag signalling “it’s a bit shit still but they’re trying really hard and sometimes the shows are pretty good”.

Remi is different. He has unmistakeable flow, and his songs cover complex territory: like taking drugs to self-medicate your depression (Substance Therapy), and your realisation as a school kid that you have been racially profiled when talking to your friends about a run in with the police (Lose Sleep).

Coming on stage with his collaborator Sensible J on drums and veteran N’fa on vibes, Remi was confronted with a mostly empty sup’ after all the older gang disappeared after Teenagoe Fanclub. About 15 seconds into ‘Forsaken Man’ and the place was 2/3 full, another minute and it was jumping. On stage, the kid has unmistakeable star power. It’s a common complaint that hip hop acts spend more time telling people to ‘get their hands up’ than they do entertaining the crowd: he compelled people to party without breaking stride. ‘Sangria’ had everyone vibing, a quality freestyle verse from n’fa had everyone screaming, and as the sun set the intensity of delivery just kept rising. With darkness descending and the crowd in the palm of his hand, Remi brought out Sampa the Great to duet on ‘For Good’ and I can still hear the crowd screaming in my ears, but what set this performance so far above was just how raw it got for the last couple of tunes. Clearly revved on the performance, Remi had gone from the jovial ringleader to fire breather, and he prowled the stage absolutely spitting out ‘Livin’ and ‘Substance Therapy’ a helluva lot harder than on record. It was visceral, which is not something you usually associate with this type of music.

In the first song of Remi’s debut album he declares: We’re here to change the face of Australian Hip Hop. Achieved, and then some.

Where to from here? Onwards and upwards. I’m almost ashamed to admit that when I first saw The Peep Tempel a couple of years’ back I thought they were a great band who were great in pubs but would be lost beyond that. I’m pleased to say I was totally and utterly wrong. What a band they’ve become. Their latest album, Joy, is a masterpiece that plumbs an uncomfortable emotional space not all that removed from the Drones and I enjoyed the Peep Tempel at GP more than I have enjoyed the Drones since their Havilah tour. We got nice and close for them band, with the screaming guitar of Kalgoorlie hitting us asquare in the chest. For the next 45 minutes they grabbed the entire crowd by the scruff of the neck and took them on a glorious, abrasive, cathartic ride. Carol is an anthem, Rayguns not too far behind, but Neuroplasticity took the chips for me. Bravo.

What is there to say about Neil Finn? I’m not going to give into temptation (see what I did there?) and compare his two performances at the sup’ as it is reductionist and distracts from the most important fact: To see a Neil Finn gig, in any capacity, is to see someone who will never be duplicated in this nor any lifetime. Most bands of his era trade on the memories of better times: when you hear their songs you are transported to a time and place in your life that you remember fondly. The relationship with the music is not about the artist, it’s about you.

Neil Finn’s performances, and his canon of songs, are so good that they break free of the gravity of nostalgia. No matter how many times you’ve heard it before or seen him before, to see him perform, say, ‘Fall at your Feet’ is to be confronted with the full beauty of the song as if you’re hearing it for the first time, the impact undiminished if not magnified. The experience is about the artist and the song, and the quality of both is greater than your nostalgia for either.

Everyone has a favourite, and for me that song is Private Universe. No amount of repeat listens diminish the impact, and on Sunday at GP he opened with it. Time stopped, the crowd and the chatter went silent around me, and the universe folded in on itself for just a few moments.

No time no place to talk about the weather, the promise of love is hard to ignore

I’m sure everyone who was there had a similar experience at one stage or another during his set, but my nirvana was in the first 30 seconds. He played overtime, he effortlessly charmed everyone, it was everything you wanted and more. Don’t dream it’s over.

Opening with ‘Ghost Town’ and moving through their staggering collection of hits, the specials put on a mighty fine show which we enjoyed from the hill, reflecting on what a jam packed afternoon it was.

From here, early decisions started to take their toll (see: delicious drinks) and while I remember thoroughly enjoying Wax’o Paradiso, details are thin on the ground: Thankfully their set has just gone up on Soundcloud so I can try and piece together the latter parts of the evening. We moved back home after the start of Pilotwings and while I hear Harold was exceptional, I enjoyed the few extra hours in bed.

It’s almost laughable just how consistently excellent the experience is at the sup’ every time we attend, yet never is it repetitive. Aside from a stellar bunch of acts on the stage, GP11 brought a reminder that every one of our experiences in this magical place come back to the generosity of the Nolan family and Jack’s departure from this mortal coil brings it sharply into focus that nothing is forever. I don’t know what this means for the future of MMF or GP, but I’m  sure-as-hell glad that I’ve been able to share so much of my soul with this place, and it’s been able to share just a tiny bit of its soul with me. May the plains always be golden.

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March 26, 2017 Music , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Moments, Momentous: The 26th Meredith – 2016

Meredith: the event, the myth, the legend, at its most fundamental is a collection of moments and stories. Roughly 12,000 stories, to put a number on it, all comprised of a series of different moments that form a unique tapestry for every attendee, every year. This is no accident. The design of the festival – the one stage, the BYO policy, the self-policing ‘no dickheads’ policy – all conspires to create an environment where the festival happens around, with, and for the crowd rather than the standard festival operating procedure of imposing a bunch of hassles and costs that everyone puts up with for the sake of seeing a few bands play.

And that is why, for this year’s review, I’m going to focus on the moments that make for a momentous weekend – the communal experience of the crowd.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t purely a literary device, my relationship with this year’s event was a little different for a number of reasons. From a ‘group’ perspective, it marked the realisation of a very long held goal for long-time-attendee (and great mate) Alli L. Several years ago, Alli decided that she’d put her December birthday to good use and hold her 40th celebration at MMF. Given the logistics and costs associated with getting tickets and mobilising a group to a whole-weekend event in the country; that she managed to gather a troupe of 45+ people is testament to the esteem in which she’s held by her mates. More about that later.

From a personal perspective, Mrs LTLT and I very recently welcomed a new son (Xavier) into the family, 7 weeks ago to be precise, and this added an extra layer of complexity to making a celebratory trip to postcode 3333. Somehow, against all odds, the universe aligned and allowed us to travel with child to the sup for a decent if abridged taste of the weekend that was. This does however leave a gap in experience that stretches beyond the usual lost hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning so I’m going to call on a few others to help explain what was ‘that moment’ at the 26th Meredith Music Festival

Proud Dad moment at MMF. The kid liked Angel Olsen!

Proud Dad moment at MMF. The kid liked Angel Olsen!

What lies below is just a glimpse at the tapestry of MMF, a woven collection of voices and experiences that possibly even exceeds my usual first-person word count, I hope you enjoy.

(Note: one of the contributions was such a brilliant blow-by-blow rundown in a more conventional ‘how was the music?’ sense that I chose to insert it as a ‘Bonus Review’ after the main body. Thanks Matty H for your epic contribution)

 

Friday

Pete: Not the usual Meredith Friday as we were at home. Photos from the convoy were dropping all over the place, FOMO was high. Not so high as for the two mates (Rory and Rach) who made a last minute play and found some spare tickets for a scoot up on Saturday afternoon to join in the party. So many questions: how was the setup? Which bands were good? What was the new sound system like Just how good would King Gizz be? In the lead-up to bed I was exchanging a series of increasingly loose/excited motivational text messages with some of the crew up there.

“You are ageless in the sup. Enjoy 48 hours of immortality”

“Leave nothing in the tank, wake up tomorrow, find a new tank”.

“ You are my tank”

“ I’ll be your tank”

As I hit the bed, the phone rang. I left it and woke up on Saturday morning to a pretty excellent voicemail of King Gizzard playing Gamma Knife

Jen Jen: “King gizzard always put on a top show, I don’t care how many times I’ve seen them. The atmosphere was awesome, great graphics on screen & lots of love in the crowd around is. It was my pick of the weekend.”

Pipi: “We seriously shook it old school to the amazing pipes of the soulful lead singer from the Sugarcanes. Being completely overwhelmed by primal exhilaration when King Gizz started letting their talent LOOSE”

Q-Tip (Generally focusses on the electronic selection, which makes this first paragraph even more remarkable): “King Gizzard farking slayed it. Their whole set just kept on getting better and better until the last 15 minutes just kind of become one long conjoined song and it was just incredible energy. Band of the night, and it will take something serious tomorrow to top them. As for after that? Perhaps it was the effects of First Night Fever™ but my view on Mount Liberation Unlimited was that they served up a pretty solid set that was never boring, but yet never provided any particular memorable moments. Next up, Sticking to the well-worn tenet that people at a festival who have been drinking for 14 hours want to move, the aptly monikered Miss (Chiara) Kickdrum kept the energy high playing a crisp brand of minimal techno that took us pleasingly through to stumps. The crew drifted up the hill to Tom Mankeys to grab a few hours of sleep before what promised to be a day of epic proportions.

Oh, and I’m pretty sure Brent was Best on Ground”

 

Note: There’s a simple, time-honoured test for determining Best On Ground at MMF. After some initial groundwork, ask the likely candidate: who was Best On Ground? and if they reply “I don’t really know, everyone was pretty well behaved” then you have found your winner. I asked, Brent Answered.

 

Brent (Usually sees every band, husband of the birthday girl): “To be honest, there was a bit I missed yesterday, and for once I was totally fine with that. The vibe going up at the campsite was so strong, so celebratory, that we missed a bit of stuff early on.

Cable Ties killed it as an opening band and I know that the boot salute has lost much of its profundity as these days every band seems to get at least a couple…but I think during ‘Difficult’ they got more boots than I remember an opening band getting ever before and probably contender for most of the weekend.  The bassist mentioned that this performance commemorated the 10th anniversary of the first time he had a spew on that tree over there – which is a nice way of saying that they have a long history with this festival and a great love for Meredith.

Everyone’s cocktail and food game has lifted tremendously.  Amazing birthday cake both days and a Reuben making station are above and beyond the call of duty for camp food.  And good job on anyone who tried all of the cocktails and still managed to walk up and down the hill.  I blame cocktails for my hour or so of non-verbal communication late Friday night.

Housekeeping was kind of a debacle.  They had four song options – three of which were pre-1960 and Inspector Norse which is a straight up banger.  These options lead me to believe that Aunty Meredith had a pretty good idea about which song she wanted to play for Housekeeping.  Somehow – by virtue of crowd reaction Fee B2 declared ‘Wipeout’ the winner.  Of course Alli (who has a long-held distrust of just how democratic the housekeeping song selection really is) once again declared ‘that’s it – she’s dead to me’ and decided she would not be picking up garbage during Housekeeping for the duration of the weekend.  In an extraordinary turn of events – about 5 minutes later they announced there had been a mistake (perhaps due to some teething problems with the new sound system) and that Inspector Norse would indeed be the pick-up song for the festival which is of course the correct song given the circumstances. To me this is a sign from God that Burkey (one of the usuals who couldn’t come this year and who would have inspector norse as his wedding dance were he allowed) should never miss another Meredith.”

 

Saturday

1pm on Saturday: We've all been here before

1pm on Saturday: We’ve all been here before, maybe not wearing a gold-sequinned footy jumper but, y’know, YOLO.

Pete: Commencing the drive towards the Sup on Saturday morning, we were reflecting on how the experience could/would be different; parachuting in just as the Friday cobwebs are brushed off, watching the crew all start to clock on for the afternoon shift, and then waving good bye with train starting to run uncontrollably downhill towards the late late late evening session. Would we feel like intruders?

Lobbing up at midday to find a campsite already in full costumed regalia (Brent: If some genius ever investigates whether ‘glitter’ can replace ‘soil’ as a medium for growing plants – the Nolan farm will be a perfectly primed test location)

After saying hellos and catching up on the night before, I asked a group of people: How was Sheila E? and got a couple of half-replies along the lines of ‘you know, there was some good funk but it was a bit up and down’ before Fred, the resident turbonegro-loving-Swede (now Swedish-Australian) in our group chimed in over the top “you know what it was mate? It was fucking Eurovision in the sup’ *sips cocktail* And not good Eurovision, I’m talking Estonia 1997 Eurovision” Coming from a man who knows his Eurovision, clearly.

Cocktail in hand, with the van-bar and party tunes in full swing under our shelter (which would have held legit 70 people), looking out over the valleys near Tom Mankeys, it felt like any other Meredith were it not for having my right hand continually rocking a pram an in effort to convince a newborn to have a sleep…

All who floated down early spoke highly of Archie Roach, and thanks to the new sound system we could quite clearly hear Sheer Mags and Mondo Freaks rocking out while we sang happy birthday and enjoyed some luxury campground nosh. A few Pisco Sours into proceedings, I strapped some earmuffs on the little dude and traipsed down the hill to catch the last 10 minutes or so of BadBadNotGood who had whipped the crowd into a fair bit of a lather with some harder groves after a jazzy start.

The main purpose, however, of our trip down the hill was to see Angel Olsen; and she blew the sizeable crowd out of the water. Drawing heavily on her excellent 2016 album ‘My Woman’, the band just sounded fantastic with the new sound system adding an extra bit of gloss to a fantastic live outfit. At times she really channelled the intensity of early PJ Harvey, which is about as high a compliment as you can pay anyone in my books.

I was pretty pumped for Baroness, what I’d heard sounded like some mighty fine riff-heavy rock and they got off to an absolutely cracking start. Great sound, great intensity, and most of all they just seemed like they weren’t taking themselves too seriously and were having a grand old time. Quality.

Towards the end of Baroness we retreated back to the camp to see how long we could survive until the tiny family member got cranky and we had to head home. Thankfully, the universe was kind and we made it quite a few more hours, singing along to Eagle Rock from the campsite and then heading down to catch the mighty Japandroids. Surely the easiest band to schedule – Saturday sunset is the perfect slot for having a flat our rock’n’roll set filled with ‘Whoa-oh-oh oh-oh-oh’ chorus singalongs – they came on stage saying ‘we don’t have long so we’re just gonna go for it and launched into ‘Fire’s Highway’ (the one with the chorus that goes ‘Whoa-oh-oh-ohhhh-ohhh-ohhh ) and didn’t let up from there. Soon to drop their 3rd record, we were treated to a few new songs including “Near to the wild heart of life” and an absolute belter that starts with a pulsing keyboard tone and builds and builds. For me it was all about screaming out ‘Long lit up tonight’ at the start of the nights of wine and roses (that’s the one with the chorus that goes Whooo-oh-ohhh-ohhh-ohh ohh), and the place going into meltdown for the closer ‘House that Heaven Built’ (That’s the one with the chorus that goes ‘Whoa-oh-oh oh-oh-oh-oh-oh). Incredible

Boots up for the one that goes 'whoa-oh-ph-ooooh' Jokes aside, Japandroids are fucking incredible.

Boots up for the one that goes ‘whoa-oh-oh-ooooh’
Jokes aside, Japandroids are fucking incredible.

And with a voice hoarse from singing along we left to let the rest of the crew steam headlong into the night, starting with Peaches. Before canvassing the crowd it’s worth noting there were a few nervous responses when Peaches was dropped as the headliner a few months ago. Sure, she’s a known performer and arch-provocateur, but was it really going to be the right thing for 11pm on Sat night at Meredith? Read on to find out…

 

Pipi: Saturday for me was really about bounce-dancing and shout-singing. Taking baby Xavier for a dance/bounce while shout singing Bohemian Rhapsody. A couple of hours later shout-singing ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ and ‘The Voice’ with a few thousand of my best friends, Feeling sexy dancing and rhythmic bouncing go hand-in-hand when Peaches took the stage. Being completely overtaken by love for the 39 people and a baby in our crew. It was a Meredith to treasure forever.

Jen: Ladies rocked it this year – Sheer Mag, Peaches, Angel Olsen were the best by a long shot; but I also really appreciated the morning vibes of Archie Roach and Terry. CC Disco was also a great warmup for Ben UFO. There were some quality Saturday moments too – Crowd going totally nuts for Ross Wilson, it seemed like ‘pants down’ was the new boot?! Who knew. There were a bunch (haha) of people dressed as Bananas who took over the crowd during Jagwar Ma too. Why? Why not.

Brent: The peaches show was full on. I mean, aside from the dancing vulvas, and when she got into a giant inflatable penis costume to sing ‘Dicks in the Air’, she was pretty much naked the whole show and just doing costume changes on stage. It was quite the spectacle and really brilliantly confronting. I don’t love all of her songs but the quality of the experience cannot be denied. She is an amazing performer.

At some stage on Saturday night, Alli and Rory suggested a ‘now or never’ food run to get potatoes before things spiralled out of control. At the time, Alli and Rachel were looking like they would be locked into a fierce duel for Saturday’s Best On Ground award. Unfortunately, we missed the window for the girls and next thing I knew I was getting out of my tent at 6am and Rachel was standing there about an inch from the exit, wordlessly staring me in the eye. Hindsight tells me she probably should have eaten the potato.

Someone put this doll in the back seat of Brent’s car for the drive home. Brent claims it to be the second most terrifying event of the weekend after the wordless staring incident

Someone put this doll in the back seat of Brent’s car for the drive home. Brent claims it to be the second most terrifying event of the weekend after the wordless staring incident

 

Rory: Peaches and Angel Olsen. Girls kicked Ass!

 

Q-Tip: The whole Peaches thing was just totally sexually charged, really. Expectations were high for Jagwar Ma after they left the sup a sweaty, tangled mess a couple of years back, with ‘Come Save Me’ ringing through my head for days. This time the set followed a similar pattern – with a bit of slower, moody buildup before smashing out Come Save Me and slaying the higher energy tracks from their newer record. Many rumps shaking, expectations met.

“The Worst DJ Set to grace the Sup” is, unfortunately, a hotly contested title. The primetime slot after the Saturday headliner is throwing up more than its fair share of contenders of which Throwing Shade was one. The hour or so of plodding disco at the start sapped the energy buzzing through us after the brilliance of the Ma and had the crew yearning for the afro-tinged beats of the interstitial DJ that preceded her. Couple that with train wreck mixing, sound problems at the start, ill-advised microphone chat with huge feedback screeches made it one to forget and sent a few of the gang searching for their sleeping bags. Just for the record Aunty, I am available for bookings as ‘Throwing Sade’, a set in which I’ll play an hour of red hot Sade straight after the Saturday night headliner / final band.

Things picked up with CC Disco. A bit of a slow start caused some worried looks from those hoping to make it to the last set of the night but she soon picked and up and the sprinkling of classics had us grooving with our Pink Flamingos! Also props for bringing her dad up on stage to pronounce him a f#$king legend!

From the very first tune it was obvious that the man from London (Ben UFO) was a step up in quality. This was noticeable whether you were stomping your feet on the hill in the Sup or nodding your head in your sleeping bag… Earlier in the night we had someone who can’t DJ, then someone who can DJ and thankfully now we had someone who is a master of the art. There were hugs a plenty, drinks poured onto crotches, and phones ran out of battery trying to Shazam all of the boxfresh house and techno laid down… That moment from Meredith 2016 was when the new soundsystem really came into its own – UFO dropped the pure acid house fire that is 808 States ‘Cubik’ (27 years old and still sounding fresh)! It was an absolute blast and a reward for all those hardy souls who made it through to dawn.

Fred (Metal Fan, Eurovision Savant, and resident Troll): The moment of the weekend was Japandroids, which was extra special considering I hadn’t really heard much from them before. I could only imagine what they’d sound like if they had a bass player

 

Sunday

A day of rest.

img_6994

 

 

Brent: I made it into ‘tell us something we don’t know’ for the second time. The entry said: “Just at the climax of the set, a man in a Scrabble Suit showed that he too was equally as enthusiastic as myself by screaming all sorts of hyperactive involuntary guttural sounds in my face” I have a scrabble suit and that behaviour is definitely mine.

Nina: It seemed that the shadow cast by Peaches made it all the way through to the Gift. Aside from the usual range of jiggly bits, and an ‘almost-crash’ in the Mens that saw a few hungover festival goers a little bit closer to a high velocity teabagging than they’d probably wished, the real winner was the girl who raced in the Women’s wearing a strap on while waving fluffy balls on a string. Skipping joyfully behind the pack for the whole race, it was a great thing to see to end our weekend.

For the final word on the festival let’s throw to Rachel – who only made a last minute call to come down, picking up a ticket from someone who couldn’t go, lobbing in on Saturday afternoon and then rocketing through to undisputed Best On Ground after a long tussle with the birthday girl.

That moment from Meredith 2016 was:

When I realised that the camp had a bar that really needed to be the dance floor.

When I soon realised that I had no real footwear.

When you hit the sup and the band that you go down see have stopped playing the minute you get there, only for the interstitial dj to play some awesome 80s tuuuunnnes.

When a potato dinner is bought for you by your husband but you only realise it at 9am the next day. #tooexcitedtoeat

When you realise there is no need for footwear when you have socks, in fact there is no need for socks when you have gloves.

When you get sent this photo (see below) from a random number on Monday at lunchtime.

When you are so so hanging but still would love for it to be the start again.

Saturday it's a Saturday, Saturday it's a Saturday-ee-ay

Saturday it’s a Saturday, Saturday it’s a Saturday-ee-ay

 

Bonus Review – Matty H on the music.

Meredith moments are prized nuggets that have lasting impact.

From the first handle of frosted lager at the pub to the protracted goodbyes when the music grinds to a halt, those magical memories from onstage and off continue to be the festival’s enduring lure.

While a little light on in terms of big-name drawcards, the 2016 edition of Meredith continued to be jam packed with those special Supernatural moments.

The McCombs were the first to tickle our eardrums on arrival to the lush-looking Sup, firstly through North Carolina native Cass whose languid folk rock put us in the all-important laidback headspace necessary for the (bi)annual escape from our normal lives. How the bloke is not a household name is baffling.

 

Perth muso Dave McComb may be long gone, but his legacy lived on in grand style thanks to his former band mates from his legendary act The Triffids. In what was exactly 30 years to the day since the release of the celebrated Born Sandy Devotional record, a rotating cast of stars including rob Snarsksi, Clare Moore and the incomparable Gareth Liddiard filled the vocal duties, the latter’s typically gritty and guttural interpretations one of the weekend’s highlights and giving the new Sup sound system it’s first genuine workout.

Swedes Dungen served up a wondrous set of their trademark psych-folk, getting so lost in space and time that they only just managed to sneak in big hit Panda before unleashing the most mindblowing of outros.

It was the perfect prelude to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, the multiheaded Geelong beast proving why they are the hottest antipodeans in America right now with a raucous set of swirly, surfy, psychedelic deliciousness. Old favourites segued magnificently into the many highlights off this year’s brilliant Nonagon Infinity album and the well-lubricated masses lapped it up.

Sheila E commanded the attention she deserved flitting between Prince hits and her own Latino-flavored goodies, before Mount Liberation Unlimited took the groove and ran with it. Despite their impeccable talent you got the feeling the crowd just wanted to let loose and dance.

While Archie Roach looks a darned sight better than he did after the passing of his soulmate Ruby two years ago, it’s hard not to think that each time he steps on stage might be the last show you’ll see. I don’t think this is lost and Roach and his talented band who play accordingly, leaving nothing in the tank. His songs and tales are as poignant now as ever, and as he departs to a rousing midday ovation, there’s barely a dry eye in the Sup. What a farken national treasure.

Torontonians Badbadnotgood were quite the opposite of their moniker and one of the surprises of the fest, their prodigious musical chops and fusion of modern jazz and hip hop attracting one of the bigger boots for the weekend. It was hard to tell who got the bigger kick out of the experience, us or them.

Heck, what to say about Angel Olsen. For mine, the standout set of the fest (and the healthy number of boots suggested I wasn’t alone). Backed by her cracking sharp-dressed five-piece band, she mesmerised as her heavenly vocals rose above the Sup. Her latest material may be dark and ferocious, but those little cheeky smirks to her band mates and those digs about Aussies’ preoccupation with avo on toast suggest she is having a heck of a time enjoying her well-deserved moment in the spotlight. The psychedelic jam on Sister and the rough-edged anthem Shut Up and Kiss Me steal the show. And just like about 50 other blokes in attendance, my brother reckons the “yeah boi” was directed at him.

It’s always good to see the heavy end of the spectrum represented in the Sup, and Baroness did the future of metal at Meredith no harm at all with a ball-tearing set in prime time. Kerosene, March to the Sea, and the mighty Shock Me were obvious standouts.

Ross Wilson was one of those acts that could have gone either way. Thankfully, unlike some other prehistoric Sup flops, he is still in good musical nick (though he did bare an uncanny resemblance to Seinfeld’s Newman) and the Meredith crowd was well briefed on his oeuvre. Next to the earlier heart-wringing tributes from the Triffids and Sheila E to their deceased band leaders, Wilson’s ode to recently departed Daddy Cool band mates (including Wayne Duncan just a week ago) seemed strangely hollow. But then again, is there an Australian honour bigger than thousands of people getting down to their dacks for the Eagle Drop? One for the all-time annals.

11am Sunday morning seemed faaaaaar to early for the first couple of grunge rock, Fred and Toody Cole. It took a couple of songs to warm up but the husband and wife duo – who last graced that very stage as Dead Moon in one of this reviewer’s most memorable MMF sets in 2002 – soon found their voice, their onstage chemistry as cute and charming as any act you’re likely to see. Dead Moon Night was particularly well received by the small and sluggish crowd of diehards.

Terry were solid but went a little over the top with the hired-help silliness for a Sunday morning. It didn’t help that they didn’t play their best song.

At the other end of scale, Miss Destiny took full opportunity to make an impression with a no-nonsense set that provided the perfect soundtrack to the big game of marks up playing out in the Sup before them and put an exclamation mark on the year’s onstage shenanigans.

Away from centre stage, Interstitial DJs were once again on point. It was good to see T-Rex as flavour of the fest (at least three airings at last count) and the spontaneous circle dance off culminating in a Bohemian Rhapsody singalong post-Angel was priceless. Our new mate Chappy wasn’t backwards in coming forwards in giving Fee B2 the boot.

It’s been scientifically proven that Meredith attracts more rooster pubed types than any other Aussie festival (which reminds us that we are probably overdue for another ranga reunion at the red tree). And while no stranger to a lookalike, this scribe found it downright spooky to bump into a doppelgänger who was not only mistaken for me by his partner and friends, but also shared the same first name.

It was also hilarious to see all 2.01m of Joe Daniher try to remain anonymous and every second person heckle him about his lopsided kicking.

The only sour note – the taste of the new Pink Flamingo.

Bring on Golden Plains.

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December 18, 2016 Music , , , , , , ,

X Marks the Spot – Golden Plains 2016

This song is called ‘The Beginning of the Twist’: DANCE, bitch.

And with those fateful words, screamed out just ahead of fits of riotous laughter, we hit the point of the weekend where you’re so deep in the unique Meredith groove that you can’t see the path you entered on nor do you have any idea where the road will take you next. It’s a good place to be.

So how did we get here? Let’s go back to the start: back to the beginning of the twist, if you will.

Has it really been 10 years since GP1?! Since upstarts Eddy Current Suppression Ring started the festival? Since the Comets-On-Fire inspired birth of the shoeing? Since the mind expanding !!! set on the Sunday night, since our escape in the Monday pre-dawn light to get our mates to the airport? It feels like yesterday, and brings with it the realisation that we’ve now been doing this whole Sup thing for a very long time but it still feels like the first time. Some things change, but the important things remain.

My prediction of ‘we won’t be putting tents up in the rain’ held, but only just, as we settled into our little Tom Mankey’s suburb. Whilst this part of the campsite was far from full, it was certainly busier than usual, most probably due to a steadily growing line of new devotees – once you’ve gone the full Mank, it’s hard to go back to your old practices. A relaxing few beers at the campsite and we’re down at the spot in a luscious sup with plenty of time to spare before the opening ceremony. A very solid crowd assembled to all firmly have their sunglasses in place for the joyous and heart pulling ‘long blink’ before Gold Class stepped on as first band up. And what a start it was.

First band, much crowd, epic performance

First band, much crowd, epic performance

If you don’t have a copy of Gold Class’ debut ‘It’s You’ from last year, go and do yourself a favour. Then do yourself another favour and go see them play. A band that are undoubtedly ready for bigger things, they not only sounded brilliant but cut a fantastic aesthetic with the band dressed all in black and a white-clad frontman. Drawing heavily on post-punk and early career Interpol for sonic influence, each band member had a role to play and did it bloody well. Special mention goes to their excellent guitarist, but the whole band were solid. In a scheduling masterstroke, they brought a ginormous crowd down and set the tone for the entire weekend. Well played.

Drinks on the hill to the enjoyable soul-lite kinda sounds of Emma Donovan and the Putbacks before heading down to see U.S. Girls. A short trip down, that one. I don’t know if they had sound problems or they just sound kinda crap (Bass and treble on full, no mid-range, not much stage presence) but it wasn’t a great set and left a few fans of their latest album disappointed. The sporadic appearance of a Spencer P Jones lookalike on guitar, materialising from side of stage to play a solo before disappearing again was either surreal or sublime depending on who you spoke to.

I was a bit worried that Natalie Prass would be a bit ‘nothingy’ but within about 2 minutes of appearing on stage it was clear that I was totally mistaken. Great voice, great showmanship, a well deployed couple of covers, and a perfect late afternoon set to settle people into the groove. A ‘quick’ trip back to the campsite to get changed stretched out and I unfortunately missed John Grant, who by all accounts was incredible, but you can’t win em all.

The Buzzcocks were….. farking amazing. Heritage acts can be a bit middling at times, particularly if you weren’t there to experience them ‘in their prime’, but based on the performance they put on it seems like they are still at the top of their game. They came to rock, and put on an absolute belter of a set, smashing it out with relentless energy and genuinely happy to be there performing for the crowd.

With the sun now well below the horizon and the shadow of the Buzzcocks looming large, Royal Headache stepped on stage and absolutely stepped up to the plate. With the band significantly tighter than the last time they played the sup, and Shogun prowling the stage with nervous energy, they are right at the top of their game at the moment and led a good time garage singalong across both their records. More than a touch of the ‘Cold Chisel’s’ about their live performance, which is not necessarily a bad thing – you could see Jimmy Barnes belting out a pretty sweet version of ‘Carolina’ – but also kind of confronting to realise that if you were around at the time you may have actually liked Cold Chisel.

C.W. Stoneking overcame some risky scheduling to play the set of his life and keep the sup moving for the duration of his set. I didn’t hear too many people waxing too lyrical about it afterwards, but from where I sat he had to play out of his skin to keep up the vibe after what came before him so let’s chalk it down as a win.

While we’re talking about bands playing out of their skin, let’s move onto the 36 or so members of NoZu who swamped the stage for a good time party set that could have well been a headline slot. It was focussed and purposeful, well, as focussed and purposeful as a band who kind of resemble a tropical cult can get, but they came on stage with intent to be party starters and delivered in spades. Massive tick.

No Zu at Golden Plains X

With time and space starting to meld into one, we started to slip deep into the GPX groove. Sass levels within the squad were high, the Bear was back in the sup after some 5 or so years away: Party pants, on. Like a flock of pink flamingos we took flight onto the Meredith Eye during Black Cab, becoming one with the eye of the storm before heading back to earth and getting our D Floor on. Late night acts on the Saturday were all pretty excellent and thankfully got the memo that if you’re playing late: bang it out, don’t get intellectual. Friendships may have sounded a little samey by the end of their set, but Darcy Baylis certainly brought the good times and we also got right down and personal for Kenji Takimi: who may lack the DJing skills generally associated with a touring international DJ (his beat mixing is mind bogglingly awful) but had a few pretty choice cuts in his DJ bag that kept us going until late into the morning. A surprisingly good decision was made on my behalf to not give in to the ‘stay up for a while longer’ vibe that I had going and I retreated to the tent ready to hit it early on day 2.

 

*Dawn Breaks*

 

All of the best intentions in the festival couldn’t compete with the delightfully cool morning and I slept straight through HTRK (who were pretty good by all accounts) and only caught a few minutes of The Necks whilst en route to the ice van. After a bloody mary or two, our crew started mobilising with the first group catching the diminutive ‘Sampa The Great’ and the rest hitting the sup for the as-yet-unknown Songhoy Blues.

GP always has a bit more of a world-music flavour than MMF, a direct result of sharing a long weekend with WomAdelaide, and it didn’t take long to realise that we were in for something special here. The band from Mali bringing a great sound and huge amount of energy to the stage and their performance not only jolted people awake, but brought them to their feet in droves. A set that just kept on giving, song after song, they earned a mighty shoeing from the crowd and a huge roar. Based on the look on people’s faces it will have been the highlight of the weekend for many.

With a glorious day unfolding we started mixing cocktails for locals Tyrannnamen who played a quality vintage-rock set as the sun properly broke through the trees. Up next was Freddie Gibbs, with an epic Gangster-trap party set for the mid-afternoon. I’ve been on record before saying that Clipz didn’t work cause they were ‘a bit too gangster for the sup’ but this came off in style, largely due to Freddie’s infectious personality and million-watt smile. A bit cheesy at times, but undeniably a whole heap of fun. Bringing one particularly loose unit up on stage from the crowd (‘White-boy Will’) with his sprite bottle of jet fuel, after a couple of songs of creating dances on Freddie’s command (White Boy Will I want you to imagine you just got a brick of coke and you cookin’ up some sweet dope) he was asked ‘so what’s in the bottle anyway?’ and righteously replied: “Codeine and promethazine”

Freddie flowing, and no doubt very happy he didn't take up White Boy Will's offer of a drink

Freddie flowing, and no doubt very happy he didn’t take up White Boy Will’s offer of a drink

That sound you can hear? That’s 7000 people dropping the mic simultaneously before screaming WTF at each other. It really brought strangers together and gave us all something to bond over.

Keep it classy, White Boy Will.

Perth Jazz /Hop Hop collective Koi Child brought some very smooth grooves and decent MCing to the stage with their mid-afternoon set before we retreated en masse to the campsite for some cocktails and to reload for the long night ahead. Which brings us to the quote that opens this review – somewhere between leaving the sup and getting to the campsite, things got silly. Our cocktail maker refused to brandish the shaker unless the soundtrack was right, the Canadian-Australians amongst us started marking their territory with maple-flag sticky tape on anything that wasn’t bolted down (and several things that were), conversation took a decided sideways turn and the next 90 minutes or so were spent in a fit of giggles as he afternoon light started to take on the magical golden tinge and illuminate the distant wind turbines on the surrounding hills. We snapped out of it with plenty of time before Sleater-Kinney and moved back down towards the stage at the end of Built To Spill’s set. On walking towards the stage, the interstitial DJs were playing the classic ‘How Soon is Now’ by the Smiths, and they were playing it LOUD. Incredibly loud. At this point we realised something was different, the vocal wasn’t quite the same, but how could it not be a recording? That guitar sound was ringing out so clearly over the golden landscape. It sounded better than anything that could be reproduced live, even by Jonny Marr himself. As we quickened our pace and rounded the corner we found out that it WAS in fact live, and it was Built To Spill with a rapturous crowd enjoying an absolutely monstrous and memorable end to their set. Had to be heard to be believed. Campsite giggles notwithstanding, I reckon we missed a good one there…

Luckily, there was more to come and we assembled closer to stage for the inimitable Sleater-Kinney. Far out, what an incredible band. They suffered from a pretty muddy mix early on but it didn’t slow them down, and as the set went on and the sound improved immeasurably, they worked themselves into an absolutely frenzied rock and roll performance. Whilst their first records were a long time ago now, they play with an urgency that feels as if they are still proving themselves. Tight, on point, frenetic, it was a clinic by three incredible performers.

Sleater Kinney were shredding so hard their music took a physical form as blinding white columns of light

Sleater Kinney were shredding so hard their music took a physical form as blinding white columns of light

From the yin of Sleater Kinney and the Buzzcocks, to the Yang of the Violent Femmes. All three are bands that made their names sometime in the past, but only the Violent Femmes trod the well worn ‘play the hits and get out of there’ path that is so easy for older bands to tread. There was nothing wrong with the set per se, and it provided a nice interlude to have some chats up on the hill, but there was nothing particularly memorable about it either.

Speaking of memorable, let’s talk about Eddy Current Suppression Ring. They’ve played a few Meredith and GPs with varying results, but nothing stands out more than the glorious headlining slot they played at MMF (09, I think) which is in the top couple of things I’ve seen on that stage in over 10 years of attendance and full of moments that are not only burnt into my brain, but hard wired into my emotional response to the Sup. Listening to their records in the lead up to the show, they sound even better than on release, it’s phenomenal. So it was with some expectation on their shoulders that they fronted up at prime time on Sunday night, and wow-wee they put on a clinic. Their sound is just timeless, Mikey Young’s guitar filling out those speakers with so much presence, and Brendan Huntley/Suppression pacing the stage like a man possessed. They are somehow simultaneously a no-frills live prospect and commanding live performers, the guardians and custodians of a legend that is greater than the sum of their parts. Opening with ‘Cool Ice Cream’ and playing everything that anyone wanted to hear, it was a rapturous and triumphant headline slot that wore out the vocal cords of everyone in the amphitheatre. Highlights for mine were Colour Television, the so-good-I’ll-never-get-sick-of-it ‘Which Way To Go’ and ‘Get Up Morning’.

ECSR ominously in the eye of the storm

ECSR ominously in the eye of the storm

Where to go from here? (or should that be: Which way to go, from here…?) Sadar Bahar read the mood perfectly and played an excellent set to transition for rock glory to the long night on the dancefloor in front of us. Adventuring around the sup to find various groups of friends’ and the associated scattered night time conversations, we went in and out for various stages of Tom of England but by the end weren’t paying too much attention. We waited up to catch the transition to the Black Madonna, who burst out of the gate with some pretty jacking house and certainly seemed like she was taking it to the ceiling but in the end the looming drive home pulled me back to my tent for some well-earned sleep ahead of the pack down.

Let’s be honest, any weekend in the sup is good to great, but few of them have the magic pixie dust that this one had – lighting up the stage from go to whoa thanks to incredible performances, rock-solid scheduling all weekend, and above average sound quality. Our campsite full of comrades all being in top form all weekend certainly helped too, love you guys.

For now, over and out, see y’all on the flipside.

Not the author, I promise.

Not the author, I promise.

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March 15, 2016 Music , , , , , , , , , ,

Jungle, Concrete: Laneway 2015

And so we arrived again at Laneway fest, the once-little fest that is now a big one and a permanent fixture on the calendar. With a forecast max of 35 degrees we thought we’d have the run of the place arriving early, but the queues on entry it was immediately apparent that the depth of the lineup was lost on no-one.

As per last year, the site is significantly bigger than at first and is all the better for it while still retaining a touch of ‘concrete jungle’ due to the proximity. The additional room has been lined-to-the-gills with additional bars and food vans (seemingly every one in Melbourne was there on Saturday) meaning that the steady improvement in punter experience is continuing. The long walk to the ‘main’ Dean Turner stage is a bit of a pain if you’re moving in and out but thankfully the scheduling means that (for me at least) there is little reason to head down there with the more interesting acts on the other 3 stages.

So let’s talk about the music…

First up was Peter Bibby, hollering out some Australiana and being supported on drums by Nick Allbrook of Pond (because he’s clearly not in enough bands already!). It was unfiltered and ocker storytelling but a bit rough and raw for my liking. A walk back to the Moreland Street stage to see Raury was against the tsunami of people flooding down for Highasakite, but a worthwhile move as the 18 year old in a hat played with the swagger of a stadium-filler. He moves on stage like a headliner, and oozes charisma:  one to watch, he’ll definitely be in front of bigger crowds in years to come as he hones his sound. Dragging myself away after about 20 minutes I headed to watch Eagulls, who played a somewhat underwhelming set; a pity given the quality that they have to work with from their debut album. I was expecting more nervous energy. A quick hop down to the Future Classic stage and we caught a couple of songs from SOHN, who sounded absolutely fantastic and whom we should have seen more of.

Raury - Playing like he's in front of a stadium

Raury – Playing like he’s in front of a stadium

A quick lunch and we caught a few songs of Ratking, whose low-fi hip hop fit the time of day pretty well, but it was Benjamin Booker who drew us back down to the main stage. Well, half way down, as the lure of the riverside cider bar and big screen proved too much for legs that were already feeling the heat. It was a good set, drawing on some pretty good source material from his 2014 album, but never came close to drawing us closer to the front. Inspired by the constant NPR-hype directed towards them, we moved back to the mistletone stage to catch Perfect Pussy who were…. kind of awful. They have a pretty good stage presence, and by their complaining it seemed that there were some problems with the sound (which was admittedly pretty shite for everyone I saw on that stage all day), but it really wasn’t all that far removed from what their album sounds like. I just can’t get into them, their good press feels like a big case of music-reviewer groupthink and all the pretentious reviews that focus on their lyrics do nothing to disprove that, given that you can’t actually discern a single word over their entire album.

Anyways, I don’t write these things to rubbish bands, and things were about to take a big uptick as we went to see Vic Mensa, who had a huge crowd absolutely frothing before he even set foot on stage, thanks to a pretty sharp ‘warm-up’ from his DJ. It didn’t slow down much from there when he hit the stage and he put on a hyper energetic set that was up until then definitely the set of the day. Moving across a mix of styles, it pumped some much needed party-vibes into the day and really heralded the point where things stepped up to the next level.

Jungle turned out my gig-of-the-year when they hit the corner last July, so it’s fair to say my expectations of their set were pretty high. Somehow, they’ve gotten even better since then and they turned out the unequivocal highlight of the day with a barnstorming performance that left the entire crowd a sweaty, rabid mess. They have the ability to turn album tracks into pure crowd energy and it means that by the time they drop their ‘big’ tunes it sends the place into rapture. Drawing a huge crowd, by the time they got to the business end of the set and finished with ‘Busy Earnin’ and ‘Time’ the audience where we were was hooting, screaming, and generally going absolutely bug fuck. One of the best shows I’ve seen any place, anytime.

After regaining our composure we headed down to see Rustie rinsing out a great trap-style set on the Future Classic stage and then took a few minutes to relax while contemplating the horror clash of Jon Hopkins vs Caribou. Jon Hopkins made space and time converge at Meredith 2013 and I had a feeling that if I saw the start of the set, I’d never leave and would miss Caribou, themselves a fantastic live outfit and touring a new album that I hadn’t seen live. In the end, I managed the best of both worlds and saw most of both.

To see Jon Hopkins perform is to both question and re-evaluate what one defines as music and the sensory impact of sound. After the ‘being-one-with-the-experience’ situation at Meredith there was always a bit of lingering doubt as to whether our enjoyment was somewhat aided by the cover of darkness and all that Friday night at Meredith brings. Thankfully, his performance at Laneway was every bit as arresting as the last time. He went pretty hard from early on, and drew the crowd in immediately. The ~30 minutes I saw felt like about 5 as the sounds bent and shifted, washing through the crowd and drawing a pure visceral response for the awe-struck audience. I heard that by the end of his set he’d been given the Golden Plains ‘shoe’, which is a little odd but I can understand how after the full hour you’d be looking for something, anything, to express what you just went though.

Jon Hopkins – Open eye Signal

With weary legs I bolted up to Caribou to catch the last few minutes of daylight and caught the second half of the epic ‘Our Love’ tune. A brilliant live outfit and armed with arguably their best record yet, they put on a compelling stage show: dressed in white and forming almost a circle. Most importantly, they take some great left-of-centre tunes and rework them into an incredibly cohesive (and often bangin’) live arrangement. The new stuff sounded exceptional (Mars was soooo good), but the biggest  reception came for Odessa and the obligatory 8 minute closing version of Sun that shot things into the stratosphere. A set so good that it would have been the highlight of the day if not for the unbelievable quality beforehand.

Can you feel the heat coming off the crowd?? Caribou, Sun

Can you feel the heat coming off the crowd?? Caribou, Sun

I was a bit worn out after that, and while St Vincent was pretty awesome in a future-pop way she never quite grabbed me as much as I would have liked; I suspect it was more me than her though. Still, there’s no one out there doing anything that’s similar to her and that’s pretty damn cool. Rattlesnake was wicked. I ducked down to see Banks to finish off the night and while she had a massive crowd, she seemed to lack the arresting stage presence that would have really nailed it. The sound was pretty rubbish where I was too, which didn’t help. Still, finishing her set with Beggin’ for Thread I realised what an amazing pop song it is. You could see it topping the charts for weeks if performed by Rhianna, or similar…

15 bands, 10 hours, tired legs. Chalk that down as another massive win for the St Jerome’s crew.

Peter

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February 11, 2015 Music , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

24 Meredith

One year on from this. So many questions: would I again forget to go to bed on Friday? How many Summer ales is too many? Who’s spot is the best spot? (spoiler alert: it’s ours, not Burkey’s no matter what he tells you)

On paper, it was the best Meredith lineup of the ‘modern era’; harking back to a pre-laneway festival landscape when Falls was yet to start booking interesting bands and Aunty Meredith could take her pick of the best of the weird and wonderful. That such a beautiful lineup could be assembled in 2014 when there is hot competition (from other festivals with deeper pockets) for these bands  is a testament to the skill of the MMF booking team.

But high expectations can also be an unwelcome burden: So did 24 Meredith live up to the hype?

Abso-farking-loutely.

So let’s go back to the start. The Friday morning departure from Melbourne went well, picking up a few new MMF types en route in Geelong. Whilst at first they seemed a bit…amused… at the crack squad organisation and schedule to get to the site, all became clear once we were in. Our relatively recent shift to the expansive Tom Mankey’s campsite is proving to be a great move. We had paddocks of space when we arrived on Friday morning and managed to take up a great area that comfortably housed our 25 or so punters, and was also closely located to another 30 or so people that we knew one way or another. Good times. So let’s get into it

Oh yeah, and the weather wasn't too shabby either

Oh yeah, and the weather wasn’t too shabby either – Photo: @BakedBtater

The Hard Ons kicked things off well with some vintage rock’n’roll as we enjoyed a few beers in the full heat of the afternoon sun. Down the front for the enthusiastic Blank Realm next, who were clearly very excited to be playing the sup and jammed through their set with vigour. They sound kind of like ‘Real Estate’ if the songs were played 50% faster and they also earn extra points for having a Key-tar.

Teeth and Tongue were good mid-afternoon fodder that we watched from the hill. I dare say they would have been fun down the front of stage but that’s Friday afternoon for you; I reckon they’ve got a few Kate Bush records in their collection and wear the influence well. A lot of people were excited for Mark Lanegan and he has indeed been behind a long list of influential releases. I’ve never really jumped on board his sound and so didn’t give him full attention although I believe the Lanegan devotees were very happy with the stripped back and haunting performance. According to those down the front, he’s certainly starting to wear the visible marks of a hard life of substance abuse though.

It was around this time that I wandered up to the Nolan look out spot. I’d never actually gone to say hi and had decided now was the time, but was confronted with an empty shed and an ominous ‘Get Well Noelsy’ sign. I hope that all is ok and think I can speak for everyone at Meredith in wishing the best for Chris and the rest of the family, the true custodians of the festival.

Next up was Sleep, arriving on stage looking every bit the hardened stoner rock legends they are, including a guitarist who clearly hadn’t worn a shirt since sometime in the early 90s. Whilst the heads up the front were clearly very excited about what was happening, they never really captured me as they were a bit slow, I prefer the more ‘chugging’ fu Manchu / Brant Bjork kind of stuff. Geez they were seriously heavy though, certainly ticked that box.

After a very long (scheduled) soundcheck, up stepped one of the most highly anticipated bands of the weekend The War on Drugs. Their 2014 record ‘Lost in the dream’ is the clear album of the year for many people and their Dire Straits meets Bob Dylan sound just oozes ‘Meredith’ (as soon as I heard that record I could imagine it being played in the sup). They slayed it. The sound was a little flat for the first couple of songs but got steadily better throughout the set, allowing the tunes (and some absolute guitar shredding) to launch upwards and upwards into the night sky. An ocean in between the waves is my favourite song from the album, but Red Eyes absolutely brought the house down. It was ‘song of the weekend’ kind of stuff.

At this point we reflected on what was to come. A set like we’d just seen would pretty much make any weekend, but there were half a dozen bands yet to come who were capable of doing as well if not better than the War on Drugs. My oh my.

I took some time in the bar for the Bombay Royale before assembling with a big crowd for the madchester influenced Jagwar Ma. They were a great choice for the timeslot as they really bring the loose and have really grown into their bigger songs – they’re now perfectly suited to the big stage. It was a bit of a slow start to the set (but only cause I’ve seen them open things up better in the past), but things got kind of stupid in the back half as they rinsed it out and sent the sup into a dancefloor explosion. Such a fun band.

Jagwar Ma taking it deep and dark

Jagwar Ma taking it deep and dark, Photo by @Quentin_seik

Factory Floor sounded good but split the crowd somewhat, I really enjoyed them but others weren’t so complementary, but by this stage we had all eyes set on James Holden. A bona fide legend of the progressive dance scene, and someone who makes some genuinely interesting but still dancefloor focussed beats. Appearing in ‘live mode’ and playing synths with a live drummer, he was staggeringly good. The crowd had thinned a bit by now but was still significant, and everyone remaining was totally dialled in for his performance. The songs were dynamic, with beautiful peaks and troughs and a pretty decent BPM rate to match. Aunty pretty much banked a request for Renata in her ‘who’s playing’ description of him and it was a pretty epic placement in a pretty special set (the late Friday slot has held some incredible highlights over the years – The first Presets set, Holy Fuck, Tim Sweeney, Jon Hopkins). Determined not to repeat my performance of last year, I made a beeline for the tent to refresh before Saturday began.

With the heat already coming into the tent by 8am, it was quickly clear that a strategy was required to make the most of what promised to be an excellent and very hot Saturday. Lots of water, a bit of food, a walk around and all was well; although we spent a bit longer than usual up at the camp in order to have the stamina to spend the afternoon in the sun. Bloody Caesars helped, significantly. Those who went to see Mia Dyson and The Harpoons spoke highly of them, but I first made it down the hill in time for Phosphorescent, who were incredible! I elected to stay in the shade and thoroughly enjoyed the dreamy tunes filtering through the amphitheatre, those who went down the front came back positively frothing about how good it was.

After seeing Cloud Nothings a couple of years ago, I went from ‘casual observer’ to ‘rabid fan’ over the course of one brutal 40 minute set. Their songs bend, twist and trip over themselves with urgency and raw energy and they’ve got one of the albums of 2014 in ‘Here and nowhere else’. It’s fair to say my expectations were impossibly high and thankfully they were met, and then some. All the time on the road has sharpened Dylan Baldi’s voice, and their guitar sound is incredible, but the drummer is the real showman of the group; one of the best I’ve seen in any band ever. They opened up the set with ‘Stay Useless’ and then moved through a mix off their last two (excellent) albums. It all culminated at the end of the set as the opening riff of ‘Wasted Days’ came crashing through the speakers and took the crowd on 10 minutes of furious, psyched out punk. It’s an incredible weapon to have in your arsenal and they made the most of it right up to the frenetic close of the song, blowing many minds – not least of all the ‘heavy music fan’ in our crew who declared “that’s it, pack it all up, see you next year I’m done” while stomping on empty cans with excitement. What a band, do not miss if they are playing in your area.

A few shoes up for Wasted Days, 10 mins is a long time to hold a boot in the air for...

A few shoes up for Wasted Days, 10 mins is a long time to hold a boot in the air for… Photo by @bakedbtater

Next up were the Public Opinion Afro Orchestra who did well in the Saturday afternoon dancey slot and got a big crowd shaking on the hill, it’s always about this time that people’s Friday hangovers are shaken off and things fire up again. Their music is not really my thing (I find it a bit Vanilla) but there’s no doubting that style of music at that timeslot keeps a lot of punters happy and lifts them up for the evening ahead.

I openly admit that I had low expectations for Ghostface Killah. For one I half expected him not to show up, and then figured he’d just be a bit shit. About 30 seconds after he hit the stage it was clear that I’d massively got it wrong, he was INCREDIBLE. 5 mins of warm up from his DJ and Ghostface storms on stage and straight into a verse. The whole show was ridiculously entertaining, and while there was plenty of the ‘call and response’ stuff, they actually focussed on entertaining the crowd with music and showmanship rather than just demanding ‘make some noise’. Moving through a stack of Wu Tang and his solo work, there were a LOT of excited punters that not only braved the heat, but absolutely lost their sh!t. Things somehow got ever better when he played ‘Protect Ya Neck’ and asked for two people from the crowd to come on stage and do ODB and Method Man’s verses. After a couple of minutes of searching, they pulled down a guy who was in a wheelchair and being held aloft by his mates about half way up the hill. After being passed down on people’s shoulders he made the stage, they started the song and when it was his turn to shine he (and the other guy who was pulled up) absolutely stomped it beyond belief. Don’t believe me? They’ve released the video of the song, my god – watch it, watch it, watch it. Outrageous.

Recovering from the Ghostface set, we took advantage of everyone cowering in the shade and staked out an improved spot on the hill while Painters and Dockers played. With the heat coming out of the sun, Augie March took the stage and sounded beautiful. I have a funny relationship with this band, they have written some of the best songs I’ve ever heard but I find them pretty hit and miss on the live front – which isn’t helped by Glenn Richards’ somewhat tempestuous nature occasionally taking over the performance. Today, they sounded stunning and it was great to hear tunes such as ‘Here comes the night’ and ‘Cold Acre’ given room to breathe in the sup. I left to get changed for the night before the end of the set but apparently they closed with a rollicking ‘This train will be taking no passengers’ that was song of the weekend for more than a few punters.

As the sun set, the sup turned into a sea of costumes and colour. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this trend took hold but it’s pretty fun. We had some great costumes in our crew and special mention must go out to Gill, one of our gang who couldn’t make it but made many of the costumes anyway. See you at GP!

Costumes! And "I've been at MMF for 30 hours" poses

Costumes! And “I’ve been at MMF for 30 hours” poses Photo: @Quentin_seik

Judging by the (lack of) people down the hill after Augie March’s set, it was still taking some time for people to get over the heat and hence the area in front of the stage was uncharacteristically spacious for Ty Segall. Packing one of the best records of 2014, and about 8 other LPs released over the last 5 years, he had plenty of quality material to draw on and went about banging it out with a relentless and fidgety energy. The set followed no rules as to what was played and when, and you can tell that he marches to the beat of his own drum – playing faster and heavier than the songs appear on record, and with more quality guitar work thrown in for good measure. Loud, raw and electrifying; one of the highlights of the weekend.

We kept it chilled for the Skatalites, getting ready for the party jams of De La Soul, who took the stage to a biiiig headline crowd and got straight down to business. They got a huge response, and we had a great dance, although for me it didn’t hit the heights of some of the other sets of the weekend (I think I was in the minority here though). I had high hopes of them playing Gorillaz ‘Feel Good Inc’ and they started to play it at the end of their set and then stopped after the intro, which was a bit odd…

At this point, things get a little less focussed. Dr Phil Smith was a great addition, playing top shelf pop but with clear DJ skills, making for a very tight set that had us all dancing pretty much everywhere and with anyone who wanted to join. Vakula and Misty Nights kind of blended into one as we started to call it a night and then headed off to bed after watching the sun rise. A quality Saturday.

After that effort I was a little slow off the mark on Sunday, packing up the tent and hanging out with some mates around the campsite. The vibe around Marlon Williams’ set was pretty electric – sounds like I missed out on something there, and I also missed Jen Cloher before ambling down in time for the Lemonheads.

And what a beautiful end to our festival this was. We’d thought their Sunday scheduling was a mis-step, but were all happy to be proven wrong. Evan Dando came out on stage solo at first, and broke straight into a stunning, moving rendition of ‘The outdoor type’ that knocked everyone to their knees. It was truly magical but things took a step up next when he was suddenly and unexpectedly joined on stage by Courtney Barnett as they shared a microphone to sing ‘Being Around’. Trading lines through the verse and sharing the chorus it was so beautiful that I was moved to tears, the sort of ‘only at Meredith’ moment that words can never truly describe. The rest of their set was a reminder just how many amazing songs they’re written and we departed soon after in good spirits and heading home for a shower.

Only at Meredith…

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December 18, 2014 Music , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are you being served?

Howdy all!

It’s a big blog this time – a manifesto of sorts.

Earlier in the year I applied for a ‘wine fellowship’ called Working With Wine. It’s open to wine professionals and consists of a few exams, a couple of ridiculously educational seminars (which I covered in part here and here) and an essay submission – which is what I’m publishing today.

When I read one of the essay questions, one stood out clearly above all others: Discuss your work as a retailer or sommelier, indicating the strategies that you use to encourage your customers to try new labels, unfamiliar varieties, or emerging regions and countries

My response allowed me to get to the root of exactly why I do what I love with LTLT – and I thank all of you for coming along for the ride as we take wine retail and service to somewhere that it hasn’t been before. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy this and if there’s ever a blog that you’re going to share around your friends, I hope that this is the one :-)

A big thank you to the LTLT family, from the family LTLT!

A big thank you to the LTLT family, from the family LTLT!

Are you being served?

Let’s be honest with ourselves; for a hospitality sector that is run for the most part by passionate and professional people, wine retail has a service problem. Need some evidence? Just look at the market share held by the minimal-service offerings of the ‘big two’ and the proliferation of online options that sell purely on the basis of a discount.

Not only do all of these customers deserve more from their retail offerings; many of them want more but can’t find it.

These under-served customers will stick steadfastly to the labels and styles that they know because the unknown, without service, will forever remain the unknown. Many will make a purchasing decision based on the size of the “discount” not because they are bargain hunters, but because they use the high initial price as an indicator of quality while using the low sticker price to lower the risk of exploration.

Wine retail is unique in that the veritable sea of grapes, labels, regions and styles, makes it incredibly difficult for the consumer to relate the price on the bottle with their own definition of value. And this is further muddied once you overlay each customer’s personal preference! The opportunity for good service to create a higher value customer outcome could not be clearer and every under-served customer represents a lost opportunity for the retail industry.

Furthermore, people love to talk about wine. They crave a story to accompany their choices. The reason that many of us (myself included) purchase more wine than they need when visiting a great cellar door is because we fall in love with the story behind it. This is no different to why people tolerate a mediocre wine from a ‘deals’ website: they have a story to tell (even if that story is simply about the great deal they received). Give the consumer a story, and it is relived every time a bottle is opened.

So, what if service was the product? What if getting the story was an integral part of every purchase, and you couldn’t purchase without an interaction that focussed on your tastes?

This is exactly the concept I have created with my business ‘Like This Love That’ (LTLT). LTLT is an online retail offering where service is the product. Wine is sold explicitly to the tastes of the customer and not purely on the label, price and/or discount.

I started this business because I saw a huge number of people who seriously enjoyed wine, but had never considered their capacity to truly love it. Without ever being offered the service to nurture and expand their tastes they were ‘happy enough’ but not nearly as well served as they could be.

A recent study (Carpe Vinum) commissioned by the London Wine Fair highlighted that this effect was amplified when observing consumers fitting into the ‘Generation Y’ age bracket – who were reported to feel that wine lacks the consistency of beer and spirits, that many wine lists are ‘overwhelming’, and that they prefer buying familiar brands through traditional channels despite confidence in the online world. Fitting into this age bracket myself I wholeheartedly agree – this is the next generation of wine consumers and these emerging habits should be ignored at the peril of the industry.

Many people know much more about wine than they give themselves credit for. Many can clearly articulate their likes and dislikes via naming a range of brands, and many can go far further than this while still professing to know nothing about wine.

Showing people that they can clearly articulate themselves not only empowers the customer, but forms the most important part of any service relationship: trust. Empowerment and trust, once earned, break down the barriers against exploration and allow visibility into a world of wine that they’d never known existed.

The first time people shop at Like This Love That (LTLT), I generally offer them wines that mirror the tastes they’ve described. This shows that they can both communicate their preferences more clearly than they think, and that a quick email conversation can yield them a selection of great wines without the risk of getting something that is not to their taste.

Once the barriers start to fall, they come down fast. Rules long held are reassessed in the name of ‘trying something new’, and palates open up to styles and flavours that may have seemed incongruous in the recent past. Unknown labels can be viewed with suspicion, but a trusting customer will approach hitherto unknown wines as if they could be new favourites rather than a risky step away from what is comfortable. This is critical to a small independent retailer such as myself whose range is closer to that of a restaurant than it is to a large bottle shop.

The next strategy I use to allow people to make unbiased assessments of their wine is to reduce price-based expectation when trying new things. Unless they have requested specific wines, LTLT purchases are made on the average price per bottle across the mix. This allows me to choose wines at a range of price points while still sticking to the budget range of the customer. Whilst it’s easy enough to find out the price of each bottle by looking at the invoice, most customers will simply try the wine and decide how much they like it without focussing on the exact price. This is incredibly powerful as it stops people from lowering their expectations when trying a cheaper wine and raising them when trying a more expensive bottle.

All of these actions contribute towards one clear goal: to bring good wine service to a section of the market that doesn’t see enough of it. Once people have discovered the possibilities, they are more likely to consider when purchasing: Am I being served?

Happy Drinking,

Peter

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December 1, 2014 Wine , , , ,

The Moomba Mouton

Wine: It’s a ‘time and place’ kind of thing.

I often get asked ‘What’s your favourite type(s) of wine’ and it’s a question that I can’t really answer; as my favourite wine is often determined by the time and place – how so?

On my recent return flight from a family holiday to Bali (with a bit of surfing thrown in for good measure….) we’d had a bit of a rough start to the flight; with Baby LTLT (usually a good flyer) deciding that not only did he not want to sleep but also wanted to scream at everyone in the plane. Thankfully this was relatively short lived and he soon crashed out, and soon thereafter I enjoyed my 150mL plane-issue Sauv Blanc like it was the finest white wine on earth! There was nothing more perfect for that time and place; and as I sipped away in my heavenly place of relief and relaxation I thought of how this was a perfect example of the Moomba Mouton…

Let’s break this down: Moomba is a small town in the South Australian gas fields somewhere near the QLD border, ‘Mouton’ refers to Mouton Rothschild, one of the famed first growths of Boredaux and a wine that won’t leave you much change from $1000 if you had the means and inclination to buy a bottle. At face value, there’s not much that they have in common… Or do they???

The origin of the term ‘Moomba Mouton’ comes from a wine-loving friend of LTLT who works fly-in-fly-out in said gas fields, and at the end of a long shift enjoys a glass of the pedestrian Cab/Merlot blend they serve in the camp ‘like I’m drinking a glass of Mouton Rothschild’. Whilst I can’t quite relate to a long day in the gas fields, I’m sure we can all relate to those moments when it doesn’t matter what’s in the glass; it’s exactly what we need at that exact moment.

Whilst it would be improper to describe any of my wines as ‘pedestrian’, here are a couple of exceptional sub $20 numbers that could well be your Moomba Mouton – whether you’ve had a long day out in the gas fields or not!

Could this be your Moomba Mouton?

Could this be your Moomba Mouton?

2012 Rocky Gully Shiraz ($16.5) – Long term LTLT customers have seen a bit of this wine; it’s been a staple of the portfolio for a while and once the bottle is open it’s easy to see why. It’s amazingly rich for the price, shows incredible balance to the berry and spice palate, and has a great silky texture to boot.

2011 Ventisquero Reserva Carmenere ($18) – South America produce a huge number of great value wines and this is a great example of the native Chilean grape ‘Carmenere’ (which was long thought to be Merlot. With its plummy fruit and distinctive graphite streak through the mid palate you could be forgive for thinking that this wine came from a lot closer to the real Mouton than it actually does…

2012 Hoddles Creek Sauv Blanc ($18.5) – Yep, a Sauv. Not a common wine to be featured in the pages of LTBT nor among LTLT customers, many of them are just a bit….brash…for my tastes. But if I’m going to highlight one I might as well feature a great one from the great folks at Hoddles Creek. This sauv has a great amount of focus and drive – being all about texture rather than in-your-face fruit and grass. Chill it right down and crack it with some fish and chips on a park bench in the sun and you’ll likely have yourself a real Moomba Mouton moment – no other wine will make more sense at that time.

Until next time,

Happy Drinking!

Peter

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November 17, 2014 Wine , , , ,

NebbiYOLO

Nebbiolo – the mysterious and temperamental grape from NW italy – is on the rise at the moment; with an increasing number of people discovering the traditional styles from the piedmont region and an ever increasing number of Australian winemakers starting to have a more serious crack at it.

In concert with the customer interest that I’m seeing at the moment, I’ve spent a fair bit of time over the last year or so trying to ‘get to know it’ a little better, so I thought it’s about time for a blog to shed some light on it.

Goes well with truffles too, ultimate YOLO!

Goes well with truffles too, ultimate YOLO!

One of the reasons (aside from that whole ‘parenting of a newborn’ thing) why I’ve been a bit more subdued on the blog over the last couple of months has been my application for a wine industry fellowship called ‘Working with Wine’, which aims to both educate the Australian wine trade on international style and recognise the highest performers with some pretty epic wine-education opportunities. I wrote a piece on the first session earlier in the year and with the second session focussing on Nebbiolo I’ve been studying hard and felt like I should capture some of this in a blog

So why all the hype?

For me, the current momentum around Nebbiolo is reflective of a broader move towards the ‘savoury’ in Australian palates; coinciding with the rise in value of the AUD over the last 5+ years and the subsequent explosion in cheap european options on our shelves. Nebbiolo is at once aromatic and brooding, with dancing acidity and muscular tannin. At first it can be a little hard to love; particularly the inimitable (and most would say the only true) expressions produced from it’s homeland.

Whilst the oft quoted mantra is that ‘Nebbiolo doesn’t travel well’, I’m going to challenge the relevance of that statement due to the role it’s playing in helping Australians look outside the common varietals and explore different flavours and textures. I’ll address this directly: It’s unlikely that Aussie neb will have the same structure , weight and depth that nebbiolo finds in Piedmont anytime in the near future – but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as there is nothing that says it needs to!

One of the many reasons for the difference is that the Italians have had a few thousand years head-start when it comes to finding out which grapes work in which sites, and with Nebbiolo being a particularly difficult varietal to grow the following anecdote should help explain things a little.

One of the most insightful parts of the Working with Wine Nebbiolo session came thanks to a member of the audience – Joel Pizzini of the King Valley ‘Pizzini’ winemaking dynasty (and a cellar door that you should not miss if you are in the region). While both Joel and panel member Joe Grilli (of Primo Estate) outlined the trials and tribulations that their families had experienced while trying to grow Nebbiolo, it was Joel’s story which best captured the masochistic experimentation that is required to learn a new grape.

The family first planted the varietal in ’83, with the first commercial release in 90-91. For many years they experimented with pruning methods to bring consistency to the harvest but instead ended up wildly varying yields from year to year. After working out how to prune for consistent yields, they discovered that they had a less-than-optimal clonal mix of vines and upgraded to better nebbiolo clones. After more years they found that the fully ripe grapes were almost exclusively located along ridges and they then planted more grapes along ridges that had the right soil structure. When you consider that every experiment/failure costs you a year of harvest and that it can take several years to be able to detect a trend, you start to understand just what has gone into making these wines (and why the Pizzini’s make such great versions of Nebbiolo).

I get a lot of enquiries about Australian Nebbiolo at the moment because people are really enjoying the aromatics found in these styles, while introducing themselves to wines that are chewier and more bitter than they would see from better know varietals. Rushing people into a full throttle Barolo would be alienating – until you get used to them these wines can seem angular and aggressive (but if you work up to it then it all makes much more sense). It’s not a matter of pretentious ‘appreciation’, simply what you like and what you’re used to – just remember what you thought about the flavour when you had your first ever sip of beer.

Keen to try some wines? Here are a few wines that LTLT recommends are worth your attention:

LTLT customers would be well familiar with the wines of Steve ‘SC’ Pannell, and his Adelaide Hills Nebbiolo ($50) is one of the finest examples in Australia – with a true-to-varietal flavour profile and lip-smacking savouriness. The 2010 has a greater tannin weight than previous years – showing that Steve is developing a more ‘serious’ style and bringing his customers along with him for the ride; it’s exciting stuff. For those looking to ‘dip the toe’ and spend a little less, he’s released an entry level Nebbiolo under his ‘by SCP‘ label and at $26.50 it’s a great way to meet the flavours.

As an introduction to the Italian style, it’s hard to go past the 2011 Matteo Correggia Roero Nebbiolo ($30). Coming from the Northern side of the Tanaro river that runs through Nebbiolo’s heartland near Alba, it’s textbook Neb but with the bitterness and tannin held in check. It’s also absolutely fantastic value and a fine accompaniment to a huge number of foods.

Taking a step up in quality, the 2010 Gianfranco Alessandria Barolo ($70) is a fantastic introduction to the king of Italian grapes from the region that it performs better than anywhere else, with aromatics that leap out of the glass and a beautiful palate core of cherries, briary wood, and warm brown spices. To drink it is pure joy, everything in its right place and it’s just deeeeeeelicious (not to mention very, very well priced for the quality).

Like peas in a pod!

Like peas in a pod!

Happy Drinking,

Peter

 

 

 

 

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September 1, 2014 Wine , , , , ,

All About Acid

I was in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo, and someone was giving BOOZE to these god damn things

I was in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo, and someone was giving BOOZE to these god damn things

If the title of this blog has you dreaming of a Hunter S Thomson-influenced report on a lysergic-enhanced wine tasting, then I’m sorry to disappoint; no ‘suffer-for-my-art’ gonzo this week, as entertaining as that may sound (wait for the Meredith review for those shenanigans).

This week I’m going to talk about the role of acid in wine and why it’s such a crucial element to not only what we taste, but how the wine ‘feels’. As with most of my little dissertations, let’s start by looking at where it comes from.

Unripe fruit is loaded with acid, which is gradually converted to sugar as the fruit ripens. In the primary (alcoholic) fermentation that occurs at the start of winemaking, this sugar is then converted to alcohol. Pick the grapes too early and you will get a wine that tastes thin and ‘hard’, pick them too late and you get a wine that is ‘hot’, with noticeable alcohol and ‘porty’ flavours. Pick the grapes in the sweet-spot, and you get good flavours while retaining freshness and balance. It is no accident that the great wine regions of the old world are located in climates that only just allow the grapes to get to full ripeness, hence retaining maximum natural acidity and freshness.

Acidity is also one of the primary drivers behind a wine’s texture. Think of how a dry Riesling from Clare can feel like a lightening jolt of citric electricity across your tongue; how a sweet Riesling from the Mosel in Germany, where the cold climate often stops the fermenting yeast before it can convert all the sugar to alcohol, manages to be at once sweet but with a seemingly crisp dry finish. The richness of Chardonnay often comes from a secondary fermentation, malolactic fermentation, which converts the angular Malic acid into the rich and buttery lactic acid. Not that this is confined to white wine. In red wine, while tannin is a key component of how the wine ‘feels’ against your teeth, it is the acid that pulls the flavours and textures together, and carries the lingering tastes in your mouth.

With acid helping shape the multitude of styles and textures on offer in the world of wine, it is also one of the pillars that underpins food and wine matching. In the same way that a bit of lemon juice or vinegar provide freshness when cooking and lifts aromatics, acidity in wine not only provides freshness to the wine, but helps refresh your palate and provides contrast to the texture of the dish you’re eating. In my eyes, the matching of acid with texture in food/wine matching is far more valid than simply looking at matching wine colour with protein. Try matching a pinot-dominant champagne with a red duck curry for example – Pinot flavours with duck is a time honoured match, while the acidity of the champagne will slice through the fatty sauce. Give it a go and surprise yourself!

One of the tools available to winemakers is the addition of acid, and while this can add freshness to a wine ripened past the point of natural freshness it will never be as balanced an outcome so should be minimised where possible. This is one of the pillars of the ‘natural wine’ movement and while I agree with it (where possible), I would just call it good winemaking!

So next time you’re drinking, distract yourself from what you taste and instead focus on what you feel – as it’ll open your eyes to one of the great parts of wine drinking.

Happy Drinking,

Peter

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July 23, 2014 Wine , , ,

Life begins at thirty-something

Aaaaaaaaand, we’re back!

It’s been a busy couple of months at chateau LTLT so I took a little while off the writing to do things like… parenting of a newborn…. y’know, that kind of stuff. But I’ve been missing my regular column and I hope maybe some of you have too *crickets*

Self deprecation aside, let’s get on with it.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately espousing the virtues of the $20-or-thereabouts wines I stock at LTLT and it’s time to focus on what I consider to be a bit of a sweet spot in wine retail, the $30-40 bracket. So let’s start with an overview – what are you getting for your money?

This blog is not a paean to early 90s television, trust me

This blog is not a paean to early 90s television, trust me

Well, whilst broadly you get what you pay for in terms of quality, the sheer number of wine brands means that not all equivalently-priced products are created equal, nor will they be to your tastes – which is exactly LTLT exists – so I’m going to focus on what I look for when stocking wines in this price point. For me, I see a bit of an exponential rise in quality somewhere around the $25 mark that starts to slow down a bit before you get to $50. Below $25 and I *generally* look for wines with great up-front appeal that are built with good quality parts, over $50 and I’m *generally* looking for complexity with the structure to develop well if aged (not to say you can’t age cheaper wines, far from it, but there’s a whole blog I could write about that). Up the top end, this can often translate into wines that are a bit precocious when young and need some time to really settle into their skin.

At $30-40 you’re getting what could fancifully be called ‘gateway wine’. You’re getting the peak of the ‘quality rise’ and are seeing wines with an extra layer of both flavour and structure when compared to your knockabout $20 bottle. In this way you’re getting a glimpse into what is possible at higher price points but still in a way that is easy to appreciate and understand. I love it when people have that: “Wow, I really see the quality in that” moment; and this price range is often when this happens as it’s a bit of a step up but not so much as to be intimidating.

So I guess you’re waiting for some examples yeah? Well why not.

Right now I’ve got 3 wines from LTLT favourites BK WINES that all sit at $30 and are all. just. delicious. I don’t have much left of the 2012 Skin n Bones white but on top of my effusive praise I’ve received a huge amount of positive feedback from my customers about it, and the 2013 Cult Syrah and One Ball Chardonnay are textbook examples of how good wines can be at this price: true to varietal and with a little extra somethin’ somethin’ that makes them worth the spend

As featured in a recent mail out, the 2012 Alpha Box & Dice Mistress and 2011 Paxton Graciano Grenache are both blends that show their quality with the amount of ‘stuffing’ packed into each mouthful – bucket loads of spices, everything in balance, some great tannin – meaning that if you stop and think about it you’ve got a heap of flavours in your mouth but the overwhelming experience is one of harmonious bliss.

Other LTLT favourites in this bracket include the luscious 2012 Ocean Eight Pinot Gris and the sumptuous and rich 2012 Jamsheed Rousanne, which are unique, iconic, and the sorts of wines that you will find by-the-glass in a tonne of top restaurants due to their malleability with a range of different flavours and food textures.

I can generally include at least one of these wines in a dozen with an average bottle price of $22+ so next time you’re looking to stock up why not consider an extra one (or more!) of these wines to help you see why life really begins at thirty-something.

Happy drinking,

Peter

 

 

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June 24, 2014 Wine , , , , , ,