To many, the feeling of returning to the supernatural amphitheater is something akin to coming home. The general feeling of joy that fills the place, exhibited by each and every attendee, has not changed throughout the years. Guards are dropped and the stress of everyday life is put aside for the weekend.
The traditions have grown naturally and become part of the culture; the boot, the gift, the cocktail parties, Pink Flamingoes, all details that have become part of the wider experience of visiting Meredith Music Festival.
By the time Cable Ties kicked things off the crowd was raring to go, and the Melbourne the band reacted with one of the strongest opening sets the Sup’ has ever seen. Their brand of energetic punk rock and garage held a perfect combination of volume, attitude, and melody, with several shoes being held in the air before the end.
Next up were The Sugarcanes, whose take on 60s RnB and soul infused rock’n’roll was delivered with a conviction and playfulness that was lapped up by the appreciative crowds. The amount of gigs these guys have racked up over the past year really shows, with every part carefully locked in.
For the first time in memory, Meredith have upgraded their PA system, and the sound was noticeably better by a long shot. Previously the bass could only be properly heard when standing right in the Sup’, whereas now it carried throughout the festival site, with a richness that was flattering to every act.
The Triffids carried on the afternoon by performing their classic album Born Sandy Devotional in full, with a series of guest singers rotating for each song in place of the late David McComb. With a wealth of instrumental talent in the current lineup of the band, the songs held up well, but the constant rotation of singers made it feel a little disjointed and naturally some material worked better than others. Gareth Liddiard in particular made every one of his appearances memorable, bringing his trademark raw emotion and ragged guitar sound, which tapped into some of the intensity and darkness of the original recordings.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizzard don’t really have to prove anything at this stage; they are widely acknowledged as one of the strongest live acts in the current scene. Nevertheless, their set was typically high energy, sonically detailed and impressive.
Sheila E. made no pretense about what her set was all about; she was there to bring the party and to celebrate the music of her former bandmate, producer, songwriter and lover, Prince. Walking out to When Doves Cry, there wasn’t much that she could do wrong.
A succession of hits including Baby I’m a Star, Raspberry Beret, Red Corvette and Purple Rain were interwoven with some very funky instrumental jams. Sheila was a fierce and impressive presence, both from behind the drum kit and commanding the crowd from the front of the stage.
The Goon Sax kicked things off the next morning, their jangly melodic pop songs providing a pleasant soundtrack for those lazing on the grass attempting to ingest breakfast. The material has a classic songwriter feel to it with a sort of self conscious and self-deprecating humour that is very Australian, with just enough intelligence to stop it from being twee.
Sheer Mag stepped things up a bit with a very impressive set of dirty, old school rock’n’roll, that had people on their feet. Their singer’s voice was full of grit and blues, and several of the songs sounded like potential pub rock classics.
BadBadNotGood provided one of the stand out sets of the festival, their genre-bending instrumentals moving deftly between tempos and feels. The drummer seemed to lead the way, while other members switched instruments with saxophone, clarinet and flute all getting a showing.
Angel Olsen lived up to the buzz surrounding her recent album, faithfully recreating the dense sound of the recordings, but also stripping back some songs to their bare bones, including a beautiful rendition of Intern.
Ross Wilson was surprisingly enjoyable in the early evening time slot, getting everyone on side immediately with Daddy Cool’s Come Back Again. Many big sing-alongs followed throughout his 12-bar filled set, which finished naturally, with Eagle Rock.
By the time Japandroids took to the stage, the Sup’ was packed and everyone was well lubricated. A giant pile of amps helped make the duo sound massive, Brian King’s guitar split between multiple cabinets to handle both drivey guitar sounds and the low end, while David Prowse pounded the skins. The songs were diverse and the addition of some triggered synth sounds helped add some extra interest to the set.
Peaches was fun but perhaps musically the least interesting of the headline acts, at times seeming like some kind of hyped up work-out music. You can’t fault her stage show though, with back up dancers dressed as giant vaginas and a video display helping to keep the entertainment factor high. Fuck the Pain Away was greeted with cheers as Peaches stepped out onto the crowd’s hands, adding to the general spectacle.
Jagwar Ma brought some big Manchester-rave choruses and synth-heavy pop songs, putting everyone into dancing mood before the DJs carried us off into the night.
All in all, this year’s Meredith proved once again why this was one of Australia’s greatest festivals. The sense of community is what makes this such a gem in the summer roster, and long may it be so. The Gift had wrapped up and it was time for us to leave this beautiful space. Aunty delivered – like always – one weekend of pure bliss.
Highlight: An impromptu mass Bohemian Rhapsody sing-along
Originally printed in Beat Magazine #1555.