24 Meredith, Augie March, Blank Realm, Bombay Royal, Cloud Nothings, courtney barnett, De La Soul, Dr Phil Smith, Factory Floor, Ghostface Killah, Hard Ons, Jagwar Ma, James Holden, Lemonheads, Like This Blog That, Mark Lanegan, meredith, Meredith Music Festival, Mia Dyson, Phosphorescent, Sleep, Teeth and Tongue, The Harpoons, The war on drugs, Ty Segall
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?
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
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.
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.
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!
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…