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December 19, 2017 Music , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Meredith 2017: Gettin’ the band back together

Whooooo boy, that was a big one. I always get quite a few people asking me ‘how do you manage to write this thing?’, and it’s always the first few sentences that are the hardest as I start to unpack the moments from the decidedly disorganised filing system that is my brain after a week in the sup. It’s kind of like the feeling you get when arriving back home, looking at all your stuff in the car and trying to work out where to start (or whether you should just leave it there and go to bed!).

Luckily, a bit of time is all it takes and we’re back on board.

This was a bit of a special one for me as it heralded the return to the sup of Ali R aka Mrs LTLT; who has been kindly growing our children and/or looking after them for the last few years while I maintain my relationship with Golden Plains shire. It was nice to have you back. Combining these vibes with the rest of the usual crew, the ongoing adoption of the Heath gang, a few other irregular but well-loved mates, some new faces who felt like old-hands, and a bloody huge campsite shelter and you’ve got the recipe for some very good times. Oh, and we adopted a rainbow dress-theme for Saturday which brought both literal and figurative brightness to the pack.

Saturday Vibezzzzz

Saturday Vibezzzzz

Starting the festival with the unfurling of the T Price memorial Ham & Cheese Sandwich station (BYO Gatorade) we had a good couple of hours to get ourselves in the vibe before setting up our patch on the sup juuuuust in time for a solid start from local up-and-comers Amyl and the Sniffers. Plenty of rock’n’roll posturing on show and what they lacked in tightness they more than made up for in enthusiasm, getting the crowd in from the get-go. Next on were the Japanese psych merchants Kikagaku Moyo, whom I was also lucky enough to catch a few minutes of at Gizzfest last weekend. These guys are excellent, they’ve got such a fantastic sound with loads of quality guitar-stuff going on and a sweet vibe on stage. Highly recommended

The highly rated Pissed Jeans were up next; I only really started listening to them this year and after an initial WTF when I heard album opener ‘Waiting on my horrible warning for the first time, I warmed very quickly. Now, there’s ‘knowing your audience’, and then there’s opening your set at MMF with a cover of Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s ‘get up morning’, repurposed as Get Up Meredith. Good way to get people on board. Performing shirtless with the scraps of a ripped singlet, the singer was prowling the stage while the rest of the band generally rocked the sh!t out of the stage. Now, you’d think that naming your band ‘Pissed Jeans’ would indicate a certain sense of humour, and thankfully that was clear by the end of the second song when the singer left stage, returned in a new singlet, and promptly ripped it apart before starting to sing again. It was an awesome display of not taking yourself too seriously while delivering an incredible rock show. By the end of the set, the singlet count was at about 4…

Excitement was high for the enigmatic Aldous Harding, who was quite the contrast to Pissed Jeans yet managed to firmly hold the crowd’s attention through a minimalist set comprised mostly of her most recent album ‘Party’. Whilst at first I wasn’t sure if I was going stay close in for the whole set, I’m glad I stayed as the last 3rd of the set was incredibly strong and a testament to her magnetism as a performer.

A much-needed change of clothes to counter the rapidly declining temperature meant that we listened to ESG from the campsite and watched first night fever start to envelope a few participants who got a little too excited too early. The struggle is real. Of note however is that both people who succumbed to the fever re-emerged later in the night to push through; incredible effort, was it enough to get Best On Ground? Who knows….

Returning for a pretty strong showing from Melbourne supergroup Total Control who put on a pretty strong showing, although I find myself having a bit of a love/hate relationship with their material: I absolutely love the more driving material (such as epic set-closer ‘Black Spring’) but find their rockier material a bit ho-hum. Thankfully there was plenty of the former in the back half of the set and it set up the evening nicely.

From this point in, the critical appraisal melted away somewhat as the dancing took hold. I love Warpaint, but didn’t realise quite how much I loved them until their set on Friday night. I’ve seen them once in the past but found them to be a bit to chilled, but their show in the sup was something else entirely. They were the first band on stage who really felt like they owned the stage, rather than playing to earn their place, and they absolutely delivered from the first note. Band of the weekend for me, with the highlight being an epic version of ‘Keep it Healthy’ from their Self-Titled record; one of the best opening songs on any record I own, delivered powerfully in all its hypnotic glory.

New York party starters !!! were up next and kept the energy pulsing through the crowd for the next hour. Big cheers from the crowd, lots of dancing, as they pumped through a set that was loads of fun from go to woe. Their live show isn’t quite a loose as it used to be, and a little bit of x factor has accordingly gone as the professionalism increased, but it’s a minor quibble about a band that ooze entertainment factor. As they hit the end of the set they started to lean more heavily on that scratchy punk/funk stomp that really shone through their early records and it was a great way to hit peak time on what had been a superb day of action on the stage.

With no disrespect intended to Various Asses, who I just wasn’t that into, and Rings Around Saturn, who had me dancing til close to some decent bass music, the highlight of the rest of the night was the interstitial DJ dropping Daphni (aka Caribou’s) monster tune Ye Ye immediately before Rings Around Saturn hit the stage. On the newly improved sup soundsystem it sounded super tough and shook us to the core. A few minutes into the always reliable Silence Wedge we decided our night was up.

Nice place for a bloody mary

Nice place for a bloody mary

Saturday dawned with a Bacon & Egg sandwich being thrown into our tent (thanks Cola!) delivering on a solemn pact made at about 4am the night before, and a decidedly cooler temperature than we were expecting:  great inside the tent but not so great outside of it until the sun started to come to the party around midday. After years of standing around a sparsely populated rug on the hill, the last few years I’ve changed tack and the first few hours of Saturday were consumed by a cocktail hour that started slow and then gained so much momentum that we left a good couple of hours after we’d planned and managed to incorrectly read the timetable for a couple of acts. Oops. Still, the Saturday morning shit-talk that runs from about 11am-3pm is one of my favourite parts of Meredith. So much laughter.

Special shout out to the playlist from DJ Murph which warmed everybody up slowly and made a huge contribution to the stellar vibe at the camp.

I caught a bit of The Stevens while getting breakfast and they had a good, American-indie sound. A fair contingent went down for Big Thief and came back making pretty positive noises, especially about the richness of their sound (considering they’re a 3 piece). From the first few notes I could hear of the Senegambian Jazz Band, you could tell it was going to be the set to wake up the sup and reports from down in the trenches confirmed this; they got a huge reaction by all accounts. A timetable screw up (on our part) meant we missed Downtown Boys and then could only get mobile in time to catch the last bit of RVG as we were walking down the hill. By the account of the always reliable Matty H, both were excellent; with RVG getting an extra shout out for leaving absolutely nothing in the tank by the end of their performance (which was likened to Cash Savage’s efforts last year – high praise).

Excitement was high for The Teskey Brothers and they delivered in spades. Their Warrandyte upbringing, deep in Melbourne suburbia, is testament to the fact that some of the best artists can congregate in unexpected places. Sounding like they come from Memphis, rather than Melbourne, they put on a rousing show that lit up the place and drew a huge response from the crowd. Noname was on next with some super cool R&B / Hip Hop, we had a great vantage point from the Pink Flamingo bar but all who went down the front said it was absolute next level, including from people who would usually run for the hills at that style of music.

The quality continued with the fast-rising Harvey Sutherland and Bermuda, dishing out lashings of tropical house and those keyboard sounds that could have come straight from a soundtrack on a sega megadrive video game. I hereby name the genre 16-bitCore.

Whatever more learned types name it, it built the crowd into a frenzy and was a perfect choice for that afternoon set where everyone finally shakes their hangovers and the festival kicks up from cruisy day-gig into Saturday-night-chaos.

Miss Blanks was a casualty of the evening costume change, and we returned in time to sing Holy Grail with Mark Seymour as we were walking down the hill. It was a solid nostalgia set, and he’s clearly a great songwriter, but for reasons I’ve never been able to determine I’ve just never been able to warm to Mark Seymour. Hunters and Collectors were frequently played around our house when I was growing up, to the point where ‘When the river runs dry’ is etched into my subconscious, but I find a lack of warmth from him that I can’t quite get past. Still, standing arm-in-arm singing along to ‘throw your arms around me’ was pretty cool.

Saturday kicked properly into gear for Future Islands, the band of the Letterman-Performance-Heard-Round-The-World. With a stage set-up and light show expressly designed to highlight the impressive dance moves from singer, Sam, they jumped straight into their set with great energy from start to finish. I realised after about 15 minutes how much their songs actually sound like The Killers – throw a lead guitar in and you can imagine Brandon Flowers singing pretty much all of their songs. Whilst solidly entertaining (at one stage, a friend in the crowd gasped ‘Those HIPS!’ with a sharp intake of breath), the set lacked a bit of the unpredictability that moves things (for me) from good into great; although based on the crowd response I was probably in the minority there.

Getting the whole gang together in our spot for Todd Terje, who went from housekeeping song in 2016 to headliner in 2017, was one helluva dance party. Drawing mostly on the material from his ‘it’s album time’ release, it was a brilliant (and unconventional) headliner for the sup; and from my perspective it also had one of the best, happiest crowds I’ve seen there. Everyone on their feet. Aside from the place going B.O.N.K.E.R.S. (expectedly) for Inspector Norse, deep driving cuts like ‘Delorean’ were also incredible. Well played, Aunty.

It was, however, the next act that many of us were particularly jazzed about. The post-headliner DJ slot can be a bit hot or cold, but this one was only ever going to be pure fire. Late Nite Tuff Guy (also known as DJ HMC) is a 30yr veteran, legitimate underground hero, who has had incredible late career success as a house/disco edit machine under his LNTG moniker. Breaking out of the blocks after the Meredith Sky Show (lasers, so many lasers) he took the crowd on an absolutely ridiculous two-hour journey through Disco-fied versions of everything you want to hear in the sup at that stage of the evening (Fleetwood Mac, Christopher Cross, Hall & Oates, etc). Smiles plastered on everyone within sight, shapes frantically thrown every which-way, it was the best post-headliner slot I’ve seen, and every bit a headline slot in its own right; channelling that pure, unbridled party spirit that abounds in the sup deep into Saturday night. By the end of LTNG’s set I was cooked, both figuratively & literally, and ambled slowly back up the hill as Moopie started, surrounded by an amazing group of friends to help shepherd me home.

On Sunday it was time to pay the piper; or more specifically relieve my mum who had been looking after the kids for the whole weekend… The only act I caught before departure was Japanese Breakfast, who sounded bloody excellent and hopefully have big things ahead of them. With a final breath of that sweet Meredith air we threw the tent and our broken bodies in the car to head home from the golden plains, in preparation for Golden Plains.