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December 16, 2013 Music , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Removing the Checks and Balances – Meredith 2013

Well that was a big one.

I have no voice left, can barely see straight, and don’t really know how I’m going to make it through the rest of the day, but such is the price one pays for channelling my inner Raoul Duke all weekend and bringing the annual LTBT Meredith wrap-up to the table. Suffering for my art has never felt so good!

It was always going to be dangerous, being my last one before the imminent arrival of baby LTLT and without the calm voice of reason provided by Mrs LTLT; who decided that it was wise to sit this one out rather than deal with the logistical challenges of being 6 months pregnant and camping. In fact, our crew arrived at site almost totally without the usual checks and balances that keep things in order, an ominous start…

Joining up with a different crew to usual, our first great move was to set up in the new(ish) Tom Mankeys campground up the top of the site. Spacious, green, well serviced and close to the exit, it was a great move and one that will be repeated in years to come. Highly recommended.

After getting all classy with a glass of Rose in the sun, Warped kicked things off with a bang; riff heavy festival fodder to get the heads nodding. Stonefield up on stage next, the sisters from Gisborne have a great sound and a singer with a great set of lungs. The sound was great (and loud) from the outset, which always helps lift the mood and get the party going. Late call-up D.D. Dumbo soon went about winning the crowd over with his rather delightful mix of blues, roots, bluegrass and all sorts of stuff. A sound that was hard to pin down but a great replacement for Vance Joy and an early highlight. One to watch.

Deerhunter

Deerhunter

The highly touted Bradford Cox ego show aka Deerhunter were next to grace the sup. I want to love Deerhunter, I really do, and their moments of brilliance are just that; but they had a lot of ground to make up with me after the last time I saw them play and they were fucking terrible to put it mildly. Yes, Bradford Cox writes lots of songs; so have weezer and look how well that’s served them. After a comical opening where Bradford stopped the first song due to ‘the most terrifying, enormous poisonous spider I’ve ever seen’ crawling across the stage at him, they started to build up a bit of steam as they worked through the better cuts from their last 3 records. All in all it was a pretty solid set that got better and better as it went along. Nothing Ever Happens was great, as was Revival and Desire Lines. Vast improvement on last time, and you could see the flashes of something even more visceral, but not life changing. Retreated to the camp for The Melvins, heard favourable things from peeps that like that sort of stuff.

First bona fide highlight of the weekend came from Worlds End Press. With the sup well and truly dark, WEP took the stage and it was immediately apparent that they had put a LOT of effort into preparing for the show. They strode out with all the chutzpah of a band that were headlining a 100,000 person stadium and were there to give people their money’s worth. Headline attitude and a headline worthy performance. Great visuals and lighting, a monstrous and perfectly mixed sound, and a bunch of great tracks in their back pocket from their long overdue (and excellent) debut from this year. ‘This was a loving house’ came out early, set highlight for me was album opener ‘To Send Our Love’ which was tricked up with a more driving bass-line than on record and turned into an arena-destroying electro-bomb. Rapturous. By the time they finished up with choreographed dancers, things were absolutely ticking in the sup. In fact, I reckon you could hold them directly responsible for one of the loosest Friday crowds I can remember, and it was only 10pm!

Worlds End Press, turning a 10pm set into a 1am headline-worthy slot

Worlds End Press, killing it

Brian Jonestown Massacre were ok, but never drew me down the front, while Clairy Browne brought the good time party tunes and had all and sundry grooving on the hill. Le1f proved to be a great choice, dropping loads of deep bass bangers and preparing the arena for what was about to happen.

It’s fair to say we had a lot riding on Jon Hopkins’ set. The whole night had been set up to fly perilously close to the sun at around that time, in anticipation of the performance of a heap of tunes from his outstanding 2013 record ‘Immunity’. We had no idea just how incredible it was going to be. Listening to ‘Open Eye Signal’ in sober daylight is enough to put the listener in some sort of altered mind-state as the sounds shift and twist around your headphones. It feels like you’re listening to heaven and hell simultaneously, with everything tied together by the pure unadulterated heartbeat of the earth. Buy the record. With the sup well lubricated and the sound system absolutely firing, Mr Hopkins stepped up to the plate and proceeded to bend space and time as his music bypassed the ears and went straight for the centre of the soul. Dense, dark, heavy, textural and at times achingly beautiful, something very very special happened for the 55 minutes he graced the stage.

Mind. Blown.

Jon Hopkins. Look closely and you might be able to see the future

After what we’d just witnessed, it was always going to be difficult for Roland Tings, who did himself no favours by playing a set that felt like all introduction and no payoff. After a bit of time listening to tunes up at the camp, I felt the urge to go for a bit of a campground walk and met some lads from Bendigo who I hung out for a while until…..

Oh dear, it’s 10.30 and Courtney Barnett is on stage in 30 minutes. Time for a quick costume change and down the hill she made full effect of the highly touted ‘first band on Saturday’ slot. With a fantastic version of ‘Avant Gardener’ ringing in the background I drifted off for a quick kip on the hill in the shade. Somewhere in my dreams I remember hearing the odd Mac de Marco tune (who by all reports was incredibly excellent and got ‘shoed’) but didn’t properly rouse until the Smith Street Band were shouting at me through the PA. I don’t really get these guys, overly earnest and delivered with all the subtlety of a brick flying through a window.

My attention at this stage was a little distracted while I was hanging with some late-arriving friends. They  joined the party sometime just after Joey Bada$$, who was pretty entertaining although I didn’t catch too much of his set.

The Bamboos brought the soul to the sup, a nice mid afternoon set in the beautiful sunshine, although for mine I preferred them when they were more of a hard funk proposition. And speaking of hard, say hello to Paige Hamilton and the crew from Helmet, who wound back the clock with their crunchy, rhythmic rock’n’roll. At first I was a little sceptical but as the set wore on they just got stronger and stronger, absolutely killing it by the time they swung into the classic ‘meantime’. Those who weren’t interested at the start were all of a sudden dancing on chairs and rocking out, definite Saturday highlight.

Continuing on the gruntier tip, up came the Beasts of Bourbon, replete with the inimitable Tex Perkins and Spencer P Jones in fine form. It’s been a smooth transition for Tex from ‘hard man of rock’ to ‘stylish gentlemen’, something noted by one of the crew who didn’t know the beasts and remarked “that singer seems out of place, he looks like Simon Le Bon” as Tex belted out ‘I used to give my money to the mother–fucking poor, but I don’t care about nothing anymore’… classic.

Have Australian beats ever been better or more relevant on a global scale? Listening to Hermitude you’d have to say no. ‘Hyper-paradise’, ‘Get in My Life’, their bangin’ remix of ‘Ghosts’ (by the Presets) all came out and lit up the place. I was dancing in our spot but I’d be very surprised if the shoes weren’t up in earnest up the front. And speaking of which, it was nice to see the shoe thing has backed off and is no longer coming out every time someone plays their biggest single. Spiderbait brought the party next. No surprises in this set; some new stuff, old hits, a massive version of ‘Black Betty’ and a lot of smiling faces.

At the end of Spiderbait, it was still kind of quiet (numbers-wise) in the sup. This all changed as it approached Chic-O-Clock and every person in the amphitheatre crowded in to see the one-man-hit-machine that is Nile Rodgers. I discovered this when I tried to make a toilet run about 30 minutes into their set and seemingly had to squeeze myself past every one of the 10,000 or so attendees on the way. There’s not much to say about this set, a tight band playing an incredible array of party tunes, written over the course of a generation. Their set at Golden Plains preceded their recent transcendence and they fitting finished the set by playing ‘Get Lucky’ over the PA, a tune that will enshrine Rodgers’ legend for yet another generation.

Retreating to the Flamingo Bar for a pink flamingo while Tranter took the stage, we took stock and looked forward to the solid finish coming ahead of us. Tranter was fun, but probably tried to do a bit too much across a few different styles and so never took it to crazy party town. Opening with Kanye’s ‘Black Skinhead’ was a pretty sweet move that sounded absolutely BOSS coming out of the speakers at full tilt. Have I said yet how epic the sound was all weekend? I’ll re-iterate. The sound was epic, all weekend.

Expectations were high for Tim Sweeney and while he was solid, he never really made it melt like he has when I’ve seen him in the past. Derrick May also did a pretty sweet job at keeping things moving with his distinctive percussive tech but by that stage we were longing for the campsite and shuffled back up the hill to welcome in the new day

After an unsurprisingly deep sleep I awoke feeling relatively refreshed and we packed up the tents to the cool and largely instrumental sounds of Baptism of Uzi. We missed the supremely talented Oliver Tank and made it down on the hill in time to catch the Davidson Brothers rocking some sweet banjo including ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ from the O brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Waiting for the free breathalysers to hit <0.05 we watched Beaches for about the 50th time. They sounded much better than usual, but were still incredibly boring; I don’t see the attraction. At the end of their set we ducked out to beat the traffic and ensure a safe drive home.

It was a classic Meredith, with a really special vibe floating through the sup for the whole weekend. A fitting way to kiss goodbye to the place for a year or so until I’m in a place to farm off baby LTLT for the weekend and come back again. See you soon Aunty.

Cheers,

Pete