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Report: Meredith 2012 Day 2

LAWSON FLETCHER*, **DOUG WALLEN** and **EDWARD SHARP-PAUL** report on the penultimate day of the 22nd annual Meredith Music Festival, which saw performances by Royal Headache, Chet Faker and Primal Scream. Photos by *KATIE FAIRSERVICE. Day one report [here](/articles/4542642).

Lawson Fletcher: The Meredith weather merry-go-round was reliably insane this weekend. Saturday morning’s squall and miniature dust storms signalled pure hell for hay fever sufferers and certain doom for K-Mart gazebos and hastily erected sleeping quarters festival-wide. I saw one bloke stumble bleary-eyed out of his tent at the crack of dawn to hack down what was left of the noisily flapping tarp his camp had strung between two cars, watch it fly off towards the amphitheatre and climb straight back into bed. They say we only leave with memories, but that’s bullshit. We leave also with dust. Dust got into everything, and I still find it with me days afterwards, every particle lodged in my shoes and sinuses a beautiful reminder.

Programming for day two, like the weather, turned out to be a mixed big, even a bit patchy (no rain, though, a definite score). Meredith still can’t manage to get the hip-hop thing right – beat-boxer Rahzel was a somewhat sad and ungracious novelty act, ten years too late – and the bigger names either came off somnambulistic (Chet Faker) or cloying and clashing (Turbonegro jutting into Primal Scream). Still, punk and rising local acts continue to pan out remarkably well each year, as do more unexpected curiosities like Big Jay McNeely.

Doug Wallen: While as laidback as ever, Twerps seem in mid-transition from their well-known slacker/jangle indie-isms to a more universal guitar-pop sound, with shades of Tom Petty and The Go-Betweens and some country tinges to boot. Guitarist Julia MacFarlane sings lead on several tunes, and frontman Marty Frawley’s lengthening hair keeps draping over his face. All the favourites are here – from ?Dreamin?? to ?Work It Out? – and they close with an unknown cover that suits them well. Like Pond the day before, a pleasantly low-key first band.

Chet Faker may have had a dream run this year, but his last set of 2012 is hobbled by equipment failure that means a late start, a shortened duration and eschewing some of his work’s cosy electronics to simply ?jam it out? (his words) with his band. On top of that, he’s playing with a broken foot after a skateboarding mishap. ?No Diggity? and ?Terms and Conditions? are familiar to many, but his slow jams don’t spark quite the same magic they have in the past.

LF: Royal Headache gave Saturday the kick in the guts it needed with frontman Shogun displaying the manic energy of the most rabid fan at a local footy match, only one with self-deprecating banter and unbelievable pipes. Their effusive, warmly received set (?Honey Joy? copped quite a few boots) even had the normally unflappable security guards nodding along.

Shogun’s frenzied delivery contrasts with the soulful, almost classic voice he has. It’s a weird paradox, but one that makes total sense for the romantic brand of punk the band play, songs about being down and out and hopelessly in love. ?Distant and Vague? was cut short before it even hit the chorus. ?Sorry guys I just fucking wasn’t feeling it, hey?, Shogun muttered, topless in the blistering midday heat. ?Nah, too boring. It’s too hot for that shit,? he decided, before the band launched into an excellent version of ?Pity? to close what was probably the set of the day.

If it had any competition, it had to be from Big Jay McNeely. Watching a bunch of Sydney punks shake off the heat is one thing, it’s entirely another to see a bona fide saxophone veteran, 85 not out, puff out a blistering performance beneath its glare. It wasn’t hard to see that the badly dressed dudes up on stage with McNeely were visibly stoked to be playing with such a legend – who even managed to perform his opening number amidst the crowd – and so were we to hear it, as he received the most enthusiastic offering of boots yet.

Watching McNeely’s rhythm and blues honking had to be one of the most enjoyable moments of the weekend, especially when between belting out standards he dispensed advice about love and heartache to the crowd, lovingly dubbed his ?children? – a term that McNeely used with every right, given that he was most certainly the oldest dude on the entire farm. ?This is one of my hits from 1949,? he declared before launching into another number – which is a total mind-fuck if you think about it for even a second.

The strong run continued into Hot Snakes, who for another bunch of old dudes played a brilliant set as the hot winds started to turn. With very limited banter and almost back-to-back tracks, they covered an impressive amount of their back catalogue, at the halfway mark even swapping out Jason Kourkounis on drums for Mario Rubalcaba to cover later material. Fast, loose and intense, they kept it simple and let the playing speak for itself.

Things got a little less certain after that. Perhaps the most interesting set of the night – not because it was particularly good, mind – was Regurgitator. Initially, I struggled to understand why a bunch of hammy and sometimes downright embarrassing tracks (?Polyester Girl?, ?their most shameful hit?, as a friend described it), was getting such a reaction from punters. Until I realised that such juvenile stuff dovetails perfectly with the weird furry vibe that has overtaken an increasing portion of the crowd.

Nostalgia and loss of inhibition at Meredith is rendered via a bizarre combination of naivete – the ubiquitous animal costumes and fancy dress, kitsch campsite adornment, impromptu skipping rope sessions and makeshift slippery slides – and intense adulthood – by which I mean drugs and fucking, basically.

In this sense, Regurgitator was simply a mirror for the crowd, with their playground ditties about sex dolls, videogames and bong hits, they were like the Adult Wiggles, eliciting joyful, dumb reactions from fans. I thought I was pretty funny when I told my friend that they should get back into their [bubble](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandina_Bubble), but later I realised they were already trapped in a bubble, a bubble of absolutely blind nostalgia. Exposure to which is not safe for extended periods.

Edward Sharp-Paul: At this point it was deathpunk luminaries Turbonegro’s turn to bring the schlock. Theoretically, greasepaint affords a band the opportunity to defy Father Time, if not indefinitely, then for a fair while at least (example A: Kiss). Turbonegro disprove this theory, looking like a band of camp, undead sailors on shore leave. Lead singer Tony Sylvester has an, ahem, considerable presence, and a mean line in stage banter (?Are there any Australian nihilists out there??). He also has a five-eyed tiger tattooed on his stomach, which adds an extra layer of ridiculousness to an already ridiculous show (imagine a five-eyed stomach tiger singing a song about cross-dressing entitled ?Mister Sister?). No doubt it’s silly, but in the right frame of mind, Turbonegro are a heap of fun.

Saturday night headliners Primal Scream provided an earthbound contrast to the weightless sounds of Tame Impala on the previous night. They drew heavily on their Screamadelica material, and really, why wouldn’t you? Their Stones-via-Madchester sound was perfect for that moment: A fitting end for more sensible souls, and a groovy, dance-inflected primer for those with grander, more depraved plans. In short, Primal Scream were something that just about everyone could agree upon.

The improbably youthful Bobby Gillespie exuded confidence, flouncing about the stage like Peter Pan in a chambray shirt. The man even abused a heckler with style, rattling off some choice expletives without even missing a line. Accompanied by a patchwork band featuring long-time members and fellow British rock survivors, Primal Scream tore through ?Country Girl?, ?Swastika Eyes? and the aforementioned welter of Screamadelica tracks, before closing in style with ?Rocks?.

LF: With his basic selections and amateurish approach to AV (not that the organisers do much better with visuals most of the time – Windows 95 screensaver backgrounds, I’m looking at you), DJ Flagrant heralded the beginning of what was a fairly average night of dance acts. His set basically consisted of continually triggering that delightful Pavlovian response mechanism that hit songs provoke in all of us, only to fuck with it. Ginuwine’s ?Pony? was played just up until its immortal chorus, when he cut it short and butchered it into some dubstep nightmare.

The following DJs were all technically more accomplished, but also turned out a little too generic or guarded to really crank up the last night. Itch-E & Scratch-E’s* set lacked melody for the most part, but took off when more rave-worthy tracks ?r.E.f.r.E.s.h.? (fuck you Paul Mac for making me type that out) and ?90s hit ?Sweetness and Light? were wheeled out. Being from The Boredoms, I really expected **DJ Yamantaka Eye** to mix things up a lot more. Along with locals *Otologic, nearly four hours straight of deep house cuts was just a bit too uniform to really get the early morning party pumping.

And yet Meredith stuffs so much shit into a weekend that has to appeal to so many niches, it’s commendable that the majority of the music comes off so right. Regardless of this or that band, Meredith is what is it, it occupies a time and a place all of its own, a cyclical event of whose return we can always be certain. We know what to expect from the weekend, and we have come to love it. The quality and scheduling of bands might fluctuate from year to year, but it’s the promise of this magic circle cropped out of daily life that we come back for, and yearly it delivers.

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TOMORROW: REPORT – DAY THREE

MORE PHOTOS: [Day one](/galleries/4542513), [day two](/galleries/4542922)