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
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)
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.”
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
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.
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
A day of rest.
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.
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.