Waking up hungover in a hot tent is an inevitability on the second day of Golden Plains Sixxx, however it was unfortunate that this came at the cost of seeing Harmony.
After stumbling down the hill and queuing for a coffee for fourty minutes, it was interesting to note the number of festival goers who had put an effort into maintaining their appearance, despite obvious problems with remaining upright. Ties and waistcoats were in place, costumes were re-donned (if indeed they were ever unadorned), which this year included the Yip Yip alien Muppets, a Teletubbie, and the majority of the animal kingdom.
The line for the burrito truck stretched just as long as that for the coffee, but it was worth it. Many festival goers could not resist the Community Tucker Tent’s promise of $5 bacon and egg rolls, although those joining the line were assured to remain there for the duration of the following act.
Lost Animal were impressive, with singer Jarrod Quarrell’s Joe Strummer-style vocals somehow blending beautifully with the minimalistic beats, which were complimented by dreamy, reverb-laden melodic guitar and piano parts courtesy of Quarrell and guest Kirin J Callinan.
First Aid Kit offered a pleasant change in tempo, as their sweet folk-country harmonies soothed our thawing brains and battered bodies. The Swedish duo earned points simply for having cute Swedish accents (sample of between song banter: “this is from our new album, ya? Ya! We hope you like it, ya? Ok, ya!”), as well as for waving their hair around and rocking out whilst performing a slow acoustic-based set.
New York City’s Endless Boogie are perhaps the most aptly named band in living memory – their songs are long jams built around a simple repetitive groove with regular guitar freakout spots whilst singer Paul Major shouts out psychedelic lyrics with little apparent melody or narrative. This was perhaps a turning point in the day’s programming, as many were initially turned away by the sudden outburst of noise, clutching deckchairs and picnic rugs. One bemused passer by was heard to complain “that drummer has literally been doing the same thing since they began!” However by their last song, Endless Boogie had a respectably sized crowd nodding their heads in front of the stage and holding up boots.
It has been a few drinks since The Celibate Rifles last album in 2007, and several more since their formation in 1979. Many in the audience (very few of whom were born 1979) quite obviously did not know who the band was when they took the stage, and consequently they performed to a diminished crowd, littered with a few older die hard fans. Struggling with sound problems for the first few songs, The Rifles found their feet belting out Aussie punk classics such as Killing Time and Bill Bonney Regrets, a request from a particularly excited front row fan. Even if they did not win over the crowd, singer Damien Lovelock’s dance moves and attitude remain intact, and the band proved that they can still hold their own.
One of the (many) things that makes Meredith and Golden Plains such exceptional festivals – the eclectic nature of the programming, jumping from one style to another with little discernible reason besides that the more famous groups play later in the evening. Case in point – the previous night’s sleepy set by Bon Iver, sandwiched in-between the strange psychedelia of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and the ridiculous but awesome Kisstroyer.
This remained true on Sunday, as Aunty Meredith moved from punk to funk, with Melbourne eighteen-piece Saskwatch taking the stage and basically setting it on fire. Making a strong case to be seen as successors of The Bamboos’ throne, the band quickly had the re-populated Amphitheatre busting grooves and throwing shapes with newly discovered energy. After two instrumental funk pieces, singer Nkechi Anele walked onstage and blew everyone in the vicinity away. Although obviously equally nervous and excited to be there, Anele has an incredible soul vocal and infectious sense of showmanship. She had the audience eating out of her hand and her confidence noticeably grew, particularly later in the set when she re-emerged following a costume change (!).
After forty-five minutes of furious dancing, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s country balladeering seemed to somewhat sober the party spirit, although it cannot be denied that the man can write a goddam song. Appearing with his backing band, The Cairo Gang, consisting of drums, electric guitar and a fantastic backing vocalist, who stripped back contributions complimented Bonnie’s (or is that Billy’s?) acoustic guitar and mournful voice.
The music they made was beautifully soothing, but one nagging thought made concentration a difficult task – the knowledge that in a short amount of time we would be treated to a rare performance by the legendary Roky Erickson. For someone who began their career in the 1960’s, Erikson’s band were noticeably young, taking the stage and diving into the trademark rhythm of Bo Diddley’s Hey Bo Diddley, as the large and shaky frame of the Godfather of Psychedelic Rock was helped on-stage.
It has been a long and tumultuous journey that has led Erickson to becoming the man he is today, and at various stages throughout his set he seemed to drift off and ceased to play guitar, while his lead guitarist encouragingly sang the words to him as a reminder. The years, however, have not taken away the power of Erickson’s distinctively gravely voice, which shone through on classics Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer) and Night of the Vampire, the band delivering note perfect renditions that remained true to the original recordings.
Roots Manuva brought some South London dub action to the proceedings, initially focusing on the more reggae-oriented material from his new album 4everevolution, but not really convincing the crowd until he pulled out his ace card – 2001’s hit single Witness (1 Hope), backed with an upbeat version of Let the Spirit, from 2008’s fantastic Slime & Reason. After those energetic renditions, Manuva and band could do no wrong with the festival goers, who by the stage were beginning to get quite rowdy. Early casualties could be seen taking some forced shut-eye, sprawled out on the grass, while the air was thick with the smell of spicy cigarettes.
Urge Overkill’s dated rock styling was hard to engage with, something that would not be a problem with the act following act, Charles Bradley, AKA The Screaming Eagle of Soul! (must be said with an exclamation). Bradley’s set was one of the festival’s highlights, as he and his fantastic backing band whipped through his various single releases with the Daptone label, including This Love Ain’t Big Enough For the Two of Us and This World (Is Going Up in Flames), as well as his 2011 album, No Time For Dreaming. Ever the consummate showman, the sixty-three year old singer engaged the crowd with costume changes and dance moves, even managing the splits at one point. It seemed that no sooner had Bradley’s set begun, it finished, leaving at least one member of the audience feeling like they could happily sit through the entire thing again.
There would be no time for that, however, as Aunty Meredith was hitting her stride and pulling out the big guns. The Black Lips deserved a boot for every song in their set, and were another of the day’s highlights. Their energetic and melodic punk rock was matched with incredible musicianship, in particular from bassist Jared Swilley, and great songs. Closing their set with crowd favourite Bad Kids, from 2007’s Good Bad Not Evil, it was a fantastic feeling to see thousands of people simultaneously losing their shit and jumping around with pure joy.
But the boot for day two of Golden Plains had to go to Chic, who proudly brought their disco boogie, sounding every bit as ridiculously funky as they did in 1978, despite the fact that frontman Nile Rodgers is the only remaining original member. Rodgers, flanked by two younger women who provided lead vocals for the majority of the set, wore a wide smile throughout the set, clearly loving playing music and proud of the work he has achieved. So he should be, as it turns out, the audience was visibly surprised and impressed as Rodger’s began performing songs that he either wrote or produced, both for Chic, as well as for other artists.
These included Madonna’s Like a Virgin, INXS’ Original Sin, and Sister Sledge’s We Are Family, but the biggest highlights and those that received the warmest welcome, were from Chic’s own catalogue. Picture a field filled with mostly drunken festival goers, dancing furiously and singing along to party anthems Good Times, during which Rodgers included the opening verse from Rapper’s Delight, The Sugarhill Gang single that liberally borrowed Chic’s music, and the band’s signature tune, Le Freak.
How can one man be responsible for so many classic songs?! The man really is a freak, consistently churning out one ridiculously catchy and unifying hook line after another. With the words “Le Freak, c’est chic, ahhh freak out!” still echoing in our brains, it was now time to let Naysayer and Gilsun take the party in another direction, with their updated take on the disco and one of the best video DJ sets witnessed by anyone ever.
The entertainment kept on until the break of dawn, roughly 6AM, with the highly original and enjoyable Two Bright Lakes DJs closing off proceedings, as the sun rose and we searched for our tents.
Originally published on FasterLouder on 15/03/2012. View original article.