2011 Meredith Music Festival Review

While I was not originally intending to write about Meredith, since every man and his blog seem to do it, I thought I’d add my contribution anyway. Keep in mind that I was intoxicated and didn’t make gig notes, but you’ll get the general idea.

You know it’s a bad time for festivals when even the Big Day Out is struggling, but none of this seems to be a problem for the organisers of the Meredith Music Festival, who continued their tradition of delivering one of Australia’s best festivals for the twenty-first year.

After leaving for Meredith at 7am, my camp decided that the best way to celebrate the beginning of the festival and ward off lack of sleep would be to drink everything in sight. And seeing that the festival has such an amazing BYO policy, Friday was quite a blur.

King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizard kicked off Meredith with a lot of noise and a cover of I Want To Be Your Dog.The set went down well with the newly arrived punters and it was a great way to start the festival. While Cash Savage played moody country that while decent, failed to set the amphitheatre alight.

Kurt Vile and the Violators were once of my most anticipated acts, especially after hearing wonderful things about their sideshows. Unfortunately muddy sound dampened things a little, however all was redeemed by hearing  Baby’s Arms live.

On paper Barbarion seemed like an odd choice for the festival, given the fact that they’re a medieval hair metal band. But the over the top guitar riffs, costumes (including what appeared to be bondage gear) and ridiculous lyrics were just what the festival needed and were an unexpected highlight. The pyrotechnics added another level of awesome to the set with giant flaming axes and flames whenever appropriate, which is always, of course. Their songs ranged from cocaine wenches, to favourite wives, shouting Barbarion repeatedly and axes. It was hard not to spent the rest of the weekend randomly shouting “Put down your sack/ Pick up your axe.”

From our spot in Top Camp Explosions In The Sky sounded great and I heard reports that they got a well deserved booting. My attempts to stay awake for Future of the Left thwarted by falling asleep in a camping chair, but the first few tracks sounded great.

I kicked my Saturday off with a bacon and egg sandwich and the sounds of Oscar +  Martin. The 11am Saturday slot is often regarded as a showcase of the next big things and judging by the eager crowd at the front of the ampitheatre, it seems the organiers chose wisely.

The Rechords bought retro rockabilly to the festival. With just two guitars and a double bass they caused some serious dancing. While it was nothing new, it was highly entertaining.

Deciding to skip Adalita,  Off! and Joelistics after a quick judgement from top camp, we ended up at a cocktail party in Bush Camp. We weren’t sure who was sponsoring it, but watching a guy in a wheelchair hitting a playboy model shaped piñata was one of the more surreal moments of the festival. Luckily he wasn’t hurt when he inevitably fell out.

The dark rock country sounds of Graveyard Train came complete with  members playing the ball and chain and the washboard, a clear sign of how country a band really is. Having wowed audiences at Golden Plains it was great to see them higher on the bill, and it was clear most people felt the same and dozens of boots made their way into the air. It’s a mean feat for a band to sound sinister in the bright afternoon sun, but they pulled it off perfectly.

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears would probably have received he boot if Graveyard Train didn’t get in early. Every year Aunty adds relatively unknown bands to the line-up and this time she picked a winner. Described as a rock band with horns, they were exactly that and at 6:30 on a Saturday, who could ask for any more.

Icehouse are a strange choice of nostalgia act. Sitting in that awkward space between being legends and completely daggy they seemed to leave a large amount of the crowd underwhelmed. That’s not to say that their set was sub-standard, as hit likes We Can Get Together and Great Southern Land could have easily have come from a slightly cheesy album recorded this year. But coming before Cut Copy, it meant that most of crowd just weren’t in the mood. However it sounded good from the Meredith Eye, so that’s a plus.

There’s no denying Cut Copy are a great festival act, and now with three albums of crowd pleasers under their belt they were sounding better than ever. So Haunted and Need You Now got great responses but it was Lights and Music that really got things going with the threatening rain finally reaching the festival, seeming to encourage even crazier behaviour among the animal costumes and genral debauchery.

Nick Cave is a hero for many and even seeing him in the flesh was enough for most people in the amphitheatre. Little did we know at the time we were witnessing what could possibly be  Grinderman’s last ever show. With a silver curtain, red carpet and a million stage lights the band completely owned the stage. Nick Cave looked like a creepy sex-depraved uncle and crawled all over the barrier engaging everyone in the crowd. I sincerely hope nobody was having a bad trip during Kitchenette as the sight of him screeching “I JUST WANT TO RELAX” was frightening enough. No Pussy Blues went off as expected, and Worm Tamer was sufficiently sleazy. And a special mention must be made of Warren Ellis’ majestic beard. Leaving the stage with the words “that’s it for Grinderman, see you all in 10 years when we’ll be older and even uglier” it was hard to know if Cave was joking. Reports suggest he wasn’t.

The lunar eclipse was hidden by cloud but that didn’t stop Angus Sampson from getting up in a cherry picker and causing a mass sing-a-long to the national anthem of the moon, Total Eclipse of the Heart, before showering everyone in confetti.

The Juan Pablo Family Hour just turned out to be Yacht Club. Lame.

Big Freedia on the other hand was something else completely. Specialising in New Orleans bounce music, he/she gathered 10 or so scantily clad ladies to shake their asses on stage. It was a sight to behold at 2am and it seemed we all shared a look of confusion and amazement. Musically, there wasn’t a lot going on, but it’s hard not to get tracks like Azz Everywhere stuck in your head.

Silence Wedge were awesome.

Sunday started out with Master Song’s Tai Chi. Joining the other hungover bodies (as well as some bodies drinking goon at 9am) we stumbled our way through the exercises and tried not to laugh when the soundtrack gave out.

Eagle and The Worm sounded fantastic, especially after all of the reports from my friends of how terrible they are live. Catchy pop with horns was almost enough to make us forgot about the impending drive home and that Meredith weekend is a sometimes weekend.

We couldn’t see much of the gift but Denis Commeti’s commentary was spot on as he showed massive favouritism, encouraged a fight between naked girls and was just the right amount of sleazy.

The best thing about Meredith wasn’t just the carefully crafted line-up or the egg and bacon Sandwiches. It’s that the organisers have created a festival that encourages new and random traditions, and attracts the kind of people that are happy to see men dressed as dogs do beer bongs at 9am, yet frown upon dick heads. There’s less pretension, friendlier security and more couches than any other festival I’ve been to. Which is exactly why it has lived on to its 21st year. Bring on Golden Plains!

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