Features

Meredith 2010 Pt 1: ?Peaking Early

DARREN LEVIN* reports on day one of the 20th annual Meredith Music Festival, which saw performances by the Puta Madre Brothers, Cloud Control, Rat vs Possum and UK duo Broadcast. Photos by *LEAH ROBERTSON.

Friday, December 10

First, a disclaimer. Here at Mess+Noise, we’re committed to editorial integrity, to words unencumbered by advertising – unless we’re offered a free [Maui campervan](http://www.maui.com.au/) with all the mod cons (fridge/freezer, toilet/shower, LCD TV/DVD, retractable pergola, heating/cooling, front/rear stereo, kitchen facilities including a microwave) for a three-day music festival with a 20-year history of sketchy weather.

My first Meredith experience in 2004 involved huddling in a tent with a panicked friend while the region’s famed ?Hundred Year Storm? thrashed around us. Two years later, in 2006, I spent three days under a pergola taking limited refuge from 40-plus degree temperatures. Some friends vowed to never come back – and they still haven’t since. In 2008, it poured for 36 hours straight. There were mudslides and bogged cars and broken tents everywhere, and I seriously contemplated spending the night in a motel in Geelong. Last year was comparatively mild, but I still wasn’t taking any chances. The Dirty Three were playing on Saturday for the first time since 2004 – and we all know what happens when they take the stage.

As the weekend of Meredith’s 20th anniversary approached, Victoria was ravaged by flash floods and torrential rain. Thankfully Meredith didn’t feel the brunt of it, but it was enough for organisers to issue a warning a day prior. Parts of Bush Camp – especially Kevin and Spring Valley – were left ?uncampable? by the downpour, while other areas were described as ?extremely soggy?. They also warned of limited mobile phone reception and no ATM facilities, and urged everyone to prepare themselves for long delays at the entrance. There was no way I was turning down this van.

We heeded Aunty Meredith’s advice and aimed to pick up the camper when the offices opened at 8.30am. That somehow turned into 1pm after several back-and-forth trips to the supermarket and bottle shop. (You’d think, after seven consecutive years, we’d have the shopping part down pat?) There was a mistake with the van booking, so we were upgraded to a four-berth ?Platinum Beach? complete with a double-bed loft, which appeared ridiculously indulgent compared to my usual $20 tent. A friend joked it’d be like turning up to Meredith in a BMW, and then we looked at the dash: it was actually a Mercedes Benz.

When we arrived at the gate, a tick before Melbourne’s Puta Madre Brothers* opened the festival with mustachioed Tex-Mex aplomb at 4pm, there were no lines or said long delays. I sometimes forget that people get up at 3am to go to this festival, which explained why the Supernatural Amphitheatre was chockers by the time *Rat vs Possum hit the stage just after five. The Melbourne five-piece totally nailed the vibe when they dedicated the weekend’s unofficial anthem ?Pills? (?I think I love you/But it might just be the pills?) to their mates in Bush Camp ?peaking early?. The band have come a long way from their notoriously messy early shows, and won a lot of people over with their auxiliary percussion (it’s the [new Auto-Tune](/articles/4025699), right?), mantra-like vocals and neo-tribal aesthetic. They started the party ludicrously early, and when I walked past a guy passed out next to a Heineken keg, I swear I checked my watch three times.

Twenty-year-old, New Zealand-born singer Kimbra* took the diva challenge up to **Sharon Jones** early on, but the second half of her set didn’t match the energetic soul bounce of opener, ?Cameo Lover?. I returned to the campervan for some supplies during *Jeff the Brotherhood, and noticed a few new additions on my way back. There was a photo wall near the Pink Flamingo Bar, which documented the festival’s 20-year history (there was a touching image of festival co-founder Chris Nolan at the front); a guy on a kilt in a unicycle who I hope to never see again; and The Rochester, a new section of hired private canvas rooms (aka tents) complete with a parking space, which are set up for lazy people in advance. That’s the thing about Meredith: changes are minor and incremental, but if they make your weekend even one iota better, organisers make them happen. Another awesome thing about the festival: a friend coming up on Saturday morning was offered a lift because shuttle buses had stopped running from Meredith township the night before, and Aunty didn’t want to leave him ?high and dry?. Heartwarming stuff.

We made it back to the Amphitheatre for UK duo Broadcast, who played one of the most divisive sets of the weekend. The band have a catalogue of great songs – ?Before We Begin?, ?Come On Let’s Go?, ?America’s Boy?, ?Man Is Not A Bird?, etc. – but they took a match to old material and experimented with long song cycles, moody electronics, and delayed vocals that didn’t really showcase Trish Keenan’s voice. Like Animal Collective last year, you weren’t sure if they were trying to broaden the sonic possibilities of a typical festival set or treating their audience with contempt. That being said, I think I heard a snippet of ?Black Cat? somewhere among the echo-y mess, and the visuals projected over Keenan’s torso were trippy, but nice.

By contrast, Cloud Control were genuine highlights of a pretty flat day one (musically speaking, of course, because a whole heap of awesomeness always tends to happen away from the stage). They didn’t seem overawed by the elevated time slot (9.30pm just as the sun went down over a packed Amphitheatre) and recovered from a weird vocal mix that nearly derailed the early part of their set. Their cover of Kid Cudi’s [?Pursuit of Happiness?](http://www.youtube.com/watch’v=7xzU9Qqdqww) was inspired (?It’s the only cover we know,? joked effusive keyboardist Heidi Lenffer), and when they segued their excellent single ?Gold Canary? into a short snippet of The Butthole Surfers? [?Pepper?](http://www.youtube.com/watch’v=g4WUlNSx_Wk), the crowd truly lost their shit.

Enduring psychobilly trio Reverend Horton Heat* played the exact same set at the exact same time as Royal Crown Revue did last year (or at least it sounded this way to me), while *Little Red made their third festival appearance in four years just after midnight. A vast chasm has opened up between Little Red circa 2010 and the endearingly daggy, be-suited revivalists who made their festival debut in 2007. Gone are the try-hard harmonies and awkward dance moves, replaced by a slick live show that’s not eons away from the epic stadium rock of The Temper Trap. Opener ?Little Bit of Something? shows they’ve been boning up on their Springsteen; they brought out a horn section for ?Place Called Love?; melded stadium and yacht rock on ?Slow Motion?; and dedicated the airy ?Get A Life? to Meredith. They’ve been the default summer festival band for a few years now; and it’s a role they’re finally starting to take seriously.

I lost the next five years hours flitting between the campervan and the Pink Flamingo, catching glimpses of US hip-hop innovators Clipse*, who were unusually subdued and ended their set abruptly, and electronica act *The Field, from Stockholm, who made me ponder why the festival has to turn into a rave after 1am each year.

While the Silence Wedge ?rocked? the Amphitheatre, I inexplicably sampled a bowl of dahl at the last food stall standing – a friend had described the dish as ?boring on the palette?, and I wanted to see for myself at 5am – before retiring back to the campsite to watch the [opening scenes]( http://www.youtube.com/watch’v=jtWeQ2StUsI) of Flight of the Navigator over and over and over again. The great thing about having a campervan at a music festival is the toilet/shower option (see dahl story above); the worst is having to empty three days? worth of waste into a compost loo while hungover on a Sunday afternoon. I mean, how many scoops of sawdust would you even need?

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REPORT: [A.H Cayley reports on the final two days of the festival, including ‘that’ performance by Neil Finn.](/articles/4149029)


MORE PHOTOS: [Day one](/galleries/4147812), [Days two-three](/galleries/4148906).

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####To win tickets to Meredith’s sister event, Golden Plains, cast your vote in our Readers Poll [here](http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/readerspoll2010). Voting closes tomorrow (December 14).