Report: Meredith 2011 Days 2-3

EDWARD SHARP-PAUL* reports on the final two days of this year’s Meredith Music Festival, which saw performances by Oscar + Martin, Adalita, Cut Copy, Icehouse, Grinderman and Abbe May. Additions by **DARREN LEVIN**. Photos by *LEAH ROBERTSTON. Day one report [here](/articles/4390974).

Saturday, December 10

After an epic Friday night, the [11am Saturday slot](/articles/4143028) might sound like a bit of a raw prawn. However, in recent years it’s become an informal showcase for the latest ?hot new thing?. This year it was Oscar + Martin’s turn to be anointed by Aunty, and they didn’t disappoint. As the opening beats and loops of ?Recognise? rolled through the Ampitheatre, ears pricked up, and the hype made sense. Existing between genres, eras, and other such conventional demarcations, O+M are innovative, without making a fuss about it, and pretty, without being sappy. They lifted weary punters out of their stupor, and put them into a whole new, much nicer stupor. The excellent ?Do The Right Thing? closed the set, and it felt like being scrubbed clean. A festival highlight, at the unlikeliest of times.

In the early afternoon heat, Adalita boldly attempted to hold the audience with only her electric guitar – with occasional assistance from multi-instrumentalist JP Shilo – and a clutch of songs from her rather excellent [solo debut](/releases/2000841). It was a tall order, but between the dark raunch of songs like M+N?s [#6 song of the year](/articles/4389357) ?Hot Air?, and her cute-as-pie backing dancers (the late Dean Turner’s young daughters), there was plenty of entertainment value to be had.

DL: Having seen Adalita in intimate mode at M+N?s [Lunchbox series](/tv/4217586) and again at [BIGSOUND](/articles/4327874), I opted to take in her performance perched above the Amphitheatre in a new bar called Eric’s Terrace. The bar is still a work in progress – it’ll make its official debut at next year’s [Golden Plains](/news/4351011) – but it already shows a lot of promise, even if the creatures of habit that attend this festival seem inexplicably indebted to their old friend, the Pink Flamingo. In contrast to the plastic seats and poor sightlines at the Flamingo, Eric’s has long wooden benches and tables (more shelter for Golden Plains please Aunty), sangria and relatively inexpensive tasting plates. It’ll got down a treat with the older crowd at Golden Plains, which reminds me of a crap joke I made when we pulled up next to a particularly garish ute on day one: What’s the difference between Meredith and Golden Plains? 10 years and four tribal tatts.

ESP: The evening brought meat and potatoes, as Graveyard Train, Black Joe Lewis and Mudhoney took their turns. Graveyard Train managed to be both dirgey and fun, a rather impressive feat. In fact, their campy brand of outlaw country went over so well that they were given ?the boot?, a tradition started at Golden Plains, but now co-opted by her big sister. The septet, featuring a washboard player and a ball-and-chain man (all that was missing was someone playing the jug), even trotted out an excellent, swampy rendition of ?St James Infirmary?, while drummer Fran Keaney doubled up on the snare wherever possible, which – as it turned out – was quite often.

Black Joe Lewis* was an unknown quantity dealing in a known quantity: balls-to-the-wall blues-rock. Along with his Honeybears, the Texas native played an energised set. He went over pretty well – particularly with the older couch-dwellers at the back of the Ampitheatre – but there was precious little differentiation between his songs. The same could be said for grunge progenitors *Mudhoney, but they had the star power of the incorrigible Mark Arm to call upon, and he didn’t disappoint. His barbed howl absolutely made non-hits such as ?Touch Me I’m Sick? and ?Flat Out Fucked? back in the day, and in the fading light he proved that age is no barrier, just so long as you were a cool mother to start with.

Meanwhile, the critical mass of an afternoon’s worth of heavy drinking coincided with sunset, transforming the Meredith site into a theatre of the strange. Those with freak flags started to wave them high, long-dormant joints started to glow with intent and the costumed contingent came out emerged – among them bearded santas, metallic onesies, and human gift boxes. As with every Meredith evening, the sense started to build that pretty soon the rules just weren’t gonna apply anymore.

On the subject of cool though, and a lack thereof, we ought to talk about Icehouse?s inclusion. It was a confusing one for [some](/articles/4388479), but for sheer feelgood factor, they were hard to beat on the night – in fact, Gary Numan could have taken notes on wearing the ?nostalgia act? mantle with dignity. Iva Davies and co dished out the hits like volunteers in a soup kitchen, with ?Electric Blue?, ?Crazy? and, of course, ?Great Southern Land? all getting an airing. Davies was never exactly Jim Morrison, but his embarrassing-dad rock moves really were breathtakingly daggy. No one seemed to mind though; there were far too many singalongs and punishing sax solos to be savoured. And if ?We Can Get Together? doesn’t move you, you’re a lost soul.

As excitement built ahead of Cut Copy, the inter-band soundtrack almost stole the show yet again. The tacky innuendo of ?Pony? by ?90s R&B also-ran Ginuwine was dropped. What followed was perhaps the whitest en masse display of bump’n?grind ever witnessed. Of course, little did we know what Big Freedia had in store for us.

Another year, another killer Cut Copy festival set. Three albums in, they now have the luxury of having to decide which crowd-pleasing anthems to leave out. Dan Whitford’s voice remains almost comically thin at times, and it’s hardly a closely guarded secret that there is no great depth to their songs, but they can work a crowd like few others. They even had the Great Architect on their side. As the floodlights went on and the chorus of ?Lights And Music? hit, the long-rumoured downpour finally broke, much to the delight of the more loved-up punters in the pit. This seemed to a cue, an invitation to even looser behaviour. ?Hearts On Fire? brought a rapturous reception, ?Saturdays? got a gleeful reception, and ?Need You Now? closed the set in fine style; with a rather messy cameo by Vincent Juggernaut on the tambourine, and a group hug/wrestle/impromptu twister game between the two BFF bands. Mission accomplished.

Between Cut Copy and Grinderman, the ravers filed out and the Gen Xers filed in. It’s always remarkable to note the way that people from all parts of the musical, chemical and demographic spectrum find so much to like at the one festival. Girls in bunny suits politely let biker-looking dudes pass; out-and-out hipsters worked their volunteer shifts alongside wide-eyed first-timers from Ballarat. I laid out for a while between Icehouse and Cut Copy and had security checking up on me in no time at all. Once satisfied that I was lucid enough to take care of myself, we bonded over a mutual distrust of inflatable mattresses. At Meredith, one comes to expect encounters such as that. No dickheads? Not quite, but it was closer to that utopian ideal than I can ever remember.

Both revered and reviled, Nick Cave’s id project pulled out all the stops, and justified their midnight timeslot with the sheer filthiness of the performance. ?Honey Bee? was deranged, ?Kitchenette? even more so, with Cave taking his wayward preacher shtick right into the red zone, hissing, squealing, and generally chewing the scenery. However, the gleeful reception of the many Cave acolytes was tempered by Cave’s announcement that the performance would be Grinderman’s [last for the foreseeable future](/news/4390855). At least they didn’t close with [?I Shall Be Released?](/news/4303570).

Oh, and the [lunar eclipse](/news/4308741) was a bust due to cloud cover, but in honour of Meredith’s 21st, confetti rained over the crowd courtesy of two giant cannons at around 1am. Another once-in-a-lifetime event.

Now, we have to talk about Big Freedia. Words can’t really convey the majesty of watching an queer, transgender black woman from New Orleans with a car battery in the trunk. Words really can’t convey the sight of a dozen fetching women bent over double, shaking their arses in furious unison, as said performer spits salacious, ass-centric rhymes. Musically there was nothing much there, just was stuttering drums and sub-bass, but songs like ?Ass Everywhere? were more than enough entertainment for the assorted human wildlife at 2.30am. By turns funny, sexy and terrifying, it was a hell of a way to draw the curtain on the evening. Corn chips, dirty water and a sleeping bag beckoned.

Sunday, December 11

DL: Dave Graney & The Lurid Yellow Mist did the best they could with arguably the worst slot of the festival: 10am on Sunday after two days of back-to-back partying and following a tai chi master, which perhaps they should’ve brought on stage in homage to Lou Reed. I busted down the hill just in time for ?Feelin? Kinda Sporty?, which was followed by a suite of classics from this year’s collection of re-recorded ?greatest hits”, [Rock’n?Roll Is Where I Hide](/releases/2000865). As the lounge-y slink of the title track made its way over the early-risers/insomniacs, I pondered the contrasting fates of two great Australian rock frontmen – Graney and Cave, who were contemporaries in the early-1980s, but have since taken wildly divergent paths. While Cave has carved out a lucrative and slavishly adored career overseas – not to mention a ?headline? slot at this year’s event – Graney seems to relish his role as a perennial underdog. And yet in his weaker moments, he’d surely wonder what it’s like to drive (not simply play) a Jag?

Next, some more comedown music from Californian folk singer Frank Fairfield, who seems like he’s been hiding in the Appalachian Mountains since 1866. Fairfield – a single mic kinda guy – seamlessly switched between guitar, banjo and fiddle, singing songs about the vagabound lifestyle, and making that whole bearded nu-folk scene centred around Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver seem like the most inauthentic, contrived thing you’ve ever heard. There’s no hint of that about Fairfield’s set: it’s genuine, heart-wrenching, primal and everything folk music is supposed to be. Guy even talks and looks like a Civil War colonel. Points for authenticity.

ESP: With the sun slightly higher in the sky, Abbe May* put on a solid show. However, she was up against a double-hangover’s worth of lethargy, alleviated slightly by an egg-and-bacon sandwich. The band held together just fine, and ?Design Desire? really pummelled. However, high noon on a sunbaked Meredith Sunday simply isn’t the time or the place for neo-grunge stylings. **Eagle and the Worm, on the other hand, were a no-brainer, a hand-in-glove, a perfect fit. Their horn-driven helium pop seemed to bring the sunshine, or vice versa, and ?All I Know? from their debut [*Good Times](/releases/2000897) did just what it says on the box, although a [Juiceboxxx cameo](/news/4369844) would have really made my day. In among the good timey vibes, though, is a proper band. Plenty tight, and with a mean songwriter in Jarrad Brown, they are no lightweight novelty act.

And so to the Gift, a nude race across the Supernatural Ampitheatre that traditionally closes the festival. Always a laugh, this year promised even more. And now, after years of speculation, it can now be confirmed that nudity + Dennis Cometti = funny. Cometti carried on like a drunken uncle, talking himself up, insulting his hosts, and generally pushing his luck. When he couldn’t see the starting line for the women’s heat, he demanded a box (to stand on). He noted a ?Jewish-looking fellow? emerging from the pack in the men’s heat, and he flirted with the Town Bikes, despite forgetting their names. He revealed his unbridled admiration (and shameless favouritism) for Jarred Kennedy, two-time winner and sentimental favourite, bending the rules to get his man over the line. After a comical dead heat, a nude wrestle and a re-run, Kennedy did indeed win his record-equalling third crown. Amid the excitement, Cometti compared it to Kieran Perkins in Atlanta. And that, except for Matt Sonic and the harrowing drive home, was that.


REPORT: [Meredith Music Festival Day 1](/articles/4390974)

MORE PHOTOS: [Day one](/galleries/4391866), [Day two](/galleries/4392164)