The early morning rise; the obligatory line for toasted sandwiches in the servo; the excited festival goers that are as excited as they are bleary eyed. For many Meredith Music Festival represents one of the most hotly anticipated musical experiences of the year, as well as being a chance to get loose in the bush in an almost unbelievably friendly environment, the ‘no dickheads’ policy somehow deterring the usual negative forces.
By the time 4pm came around most had long since established a camp and consumed a few beers in the ever changing weather. A large crowd gathered to see Amyl and the Sniffers kick things off with a loud, audacious performance that perfectly showcased the band’s power. The four-piece sounded huge through the big PA and looked right at home, with Amy Taylor’s punk rock posturing translating well to the enlarged setting.
Tokyo’s Kikagaku Moyo then took things in a different direction with their tripped out take on old school R&B, which went from spacey, bluesy solos, to some fairly intense sounds at times.
US hardcore band Pissed Jeans wasted no time in picking up the pace with some straight ahead rock’n’roll that had plenty of fists pumping the air.
With the sun beating mercilessly down, my biggest weekend regret is that I retreated to the tent for a quick nap and missed the first half of Aldous Harding’s set. Donned in all white and making bug eyes at the audience, the New Zealand singer is a striking figure to behold, the sound seeming to emanate from some tortured hyper-real plain in which she exists. Her band were tastefully understated, not that anyone would have been able to take their attention away from Harding. Whether playing an also white guitar, sat at a keyboard or stood at the microphone, flailing her arms, her intensity was a sight to behold, with songs from this year’s Party translating very well to the stage.
ESG may not be a household name but those familiar with the hip hop’s golden era will recognise many of their grooves, with the New York band’s early ‘80s output being some of the most sampled songs in history. Back with a revised lineup, which includes original members Renee, Marie and Valerie Scroggins as well as two of their daughters on bass and guitar, the group showcased their heavy repetitive grooves. The simple, often distorted bass lines were complimented with energetic, funky drumming, bluesy vocals and hand drums. The entire family outfit looked like they were having fun, with 1983’s ‘You Make No Sense’ being a standout.
Melbourne post punk darlings Total Control received a warm welcome with their stripped back, basic rock that relied heavily on electronic drums, guitar and synth. Tipping their hats to those who laid the groundwork for minimalist, rhythmic rock’n’roll, the band dedicated a song to ESG, which was a nice touch.
Warpaint’s set was surprisingly, yet decidedly, lacking in dynamics, with the band clearly having chosen to push many of their songs to make them more danceable. Some of this worked quite well, as the LA quartet certainly know how to write a hook, but after a while it all started to feel the same.
!!! picked up the mood in a big way, with their dance heavy pop music that straddles indie rock, disco, and LCD-style electronic post punk, which showed a nice evolution through the previous acts on the lineup.
The following morning was kicked off by the soothing sounds of the City Of Ballarat Municipal Brass Band, whose instrumental take on well-known songs provided an easy way to wake up. The familiarity of The Stevens’ ‘90s indie rock also made it an easy and pleasant start to the program, with the young Melbourne band managing to nail the sound of Pavement’s highly melodic yet oddball rock. It was when they got a bit heavier that things got slightly more interesting, channeling Sonic Youth at their most accessible.
Big Thief were my big discovery of the festival, as I had somehow avoided properly hearing them prior and was completely blown away. Frontperson Adrianne Lenker was a mesmerising image of restraint, her delicate voice communicating emotional complexity through folky but always catchy melodies. In an interesting twist on the singer songwriter mould, Lenker also brought a certain edge to the mix by pushing her vocal at times and introducing a startling array of tones out of her guitar. Her playing was always tasteful and understated, yet when she wanted let loose she could really use that thing to express herself. The lyrics were of a storytelling nature, with ‘Pretty Things’ from this year’s Capacity yielding an extremely dark and captivating performance.
It was around this time that it struck me that the lineup had been purposefully booked to create a well balanced gender representation, with a refreshing number of female–led bands of different genres featuring throughout the program. This was by no means tokenistic, and Aunty Meredith should be applauded for putting in the effort for making stage seem like a more inclusive place, which also resulted in a richer musical experience.
Hailing from Rhode Island in the US, Downtown Boys were there to make sure that everybody woke the fuck up, delivering a punishing set of energetic garage rock with a certain amount of metal influence and punk rock attitude. Singer Victoria Ruiz quickly got down into the crowd, screaming into the face of those in the front row with a manic intensity. Her powerful vocals and charismatic stage presence were a sight to behold, while the drums and bass kept a frantic and furious rhythm going the entire time, and a sax player, donned in a striking sweatsuit and headband provided some wild horn work that somehow fit very well. The inclusion of a cover of ‘Dancing in the Dark’ surprisingly worked perfectly, attracting the few remaining stragglers to get on their feet.
Those who know me will be aware that I have been championing RVG for a little while now, so it was such a thrill to see them take to the big stage and completely nail their Meredith moment. The band were concentrated and tight, obviously aware of the importance of this set, and consequently delivered one of their best performances. Romy Vager’s vocal was dramatic and powerful while her guitar work was intricate and concise, utilising the classic quietLOUDquiet arrangement technique to startling effect. When they played the stunning five minute epic ‘That’s All’, which closes their album and here was the centerpiece of their set, it was one of those rare Meredith performances, with just about every other person raising their boot in approval. You don’t get a second chance to have that moment, and Vager couldn’t hide her smile at the song’s conclusion, it felt like they had just won Meredith.
The Teskey Brothers provided some old school soul tunes in the Sam Cooke vein; with lead singer John Teskey’s voice a strong, sweet instrument that helped carry their classic balladry.
Having released the very well received mixtape Telefone last year, Noname’s appearance was hotly anticipated and she came through with a stellar set, showcasing her sweet, sing-song rap style and charismatic stage presence. Her band provided a down-tempo, jazz-inflected backing that recalled Erykah Badu-styled neo soul. Her attempts to get the crowd to sing along proved a little confusing for the audience who were presumably in various states of sobriety, but the Chicago MC took it well, at one point stopping to question why everyone was waving their shoes at her. “Is that a custom or something?,” she asked, slightly perplexed.
Harvey Sutherland & Bermuda got people prepared for the evening ahead with a set of tastey, soulful instrumental beats. Though dance orientated, the use of live instrumentation, utilising drums, synths and violin made the music really come alive in an effective way.
Miss Blanks then brought a swagful of sass to the Sup, rapping over club beats, her collaboration with Moonbase, ‘Skinny Bitches’, closing out the set.
Future Islands are renowned for their live shows and did not disappoint, their synth heavy, ‘80s indebted sound managing to feel decidedly modern. Samuel T. Herring is a natural frontman, his confidence and command of the stage proving a captivating point of interest and energy throughout, his voice a strong and versatile force. ‘Seasons’, from 2014’s breakthrough Singles, was always going to be a high point of the set and did not disappoint, with many singing along.
Todd Terje & The Olsens stepped things up in a big way, with their, also ‘80s influenced synth heavy beats declaring that it was time for everyone to hit the dance floor. Terje himself held things down on keys and beats, while the live drums and soulful bass left plenty of space in the grooves, knowing when to let the tracks breathe and when to add extra interest.
The Meredith Light Show swept across the Sup, before Late Night Tuff Guy took over with a disco heavy DJ set filled with the likes of Michael Jackson, Prince and Chic that kept us all moving, at least for the next couple of hours.
The final, dusty morning, was welcomed by the indie pop of Japanese Breakfast, who provided a catchy take on early 2000s dance rock, before the Meredith Gift provided the usual spectacle of flesh, dirt and eventual triumph.
Melbourne’s Suss Cunts admirably closed the festival, despite being fairly dusty themselves. Their bratty yet melodic punk is certainly not groundbreaking, but they played with plenty of energy and attitude, with their awkward between-song banter an endearing element. And with that, it was time to make the long trek home, dirty, tired, and very happy. See you soon Auntie x
Published in Beat Magazine. Photos by David Harris.