Golden Plains 2013, Day 2: Dick Diver, The Mark Of Cain, George Clinton
DOUG WALLEN*, **DARREN LEVIN** and **LAWSON FLETCHER** report on every single band on day two of the hottest Golden Plains on record – from an Ethio-jazz legend and a couple of punishing rock bands to a perfectly curated night of dance. Photos by *JESSE BOOHER. Day 1 report [here](/articles/4566455).
Doug: Greeting the already formidable 10am sun wearing all black with (at least) shoulder-length dark hair, Bushwalking are clearly the devil’s children. What comes out of them only proves it: dead-eyed, eerie-child vocals; dubby, repetitious bass and drums; spattered, streaky, distortion-soused guitar. It’s droning pop for the morning after, although the people who need it most are probably still comatose back at camp. Instead, a curious sector gradually accumulates, clutching travel coffee cups and other responsible drink selections for the early hour. Bushwalking begin to feel monotonous during the last couple songs, but for the most part – and especially at the start, jolting us back into band-watching existence – it’s pretty ideal to just watch the Melbourne trio hold forth and progress from their beguiling [first album](/releases/2001072).
Darren Levin: If there’s an anthem for Golden Plains it’s Dick Diver?s ?Head Back?, the closing track on their wonderful [2010 debut](/releases/2000956) about writing yourself off as a form of therapy. Here, in its natural environs, it’s pure comedy gold. A quick instrument swap – drummer Steph Hughes on guitar, and dual guitarists Alistair McKay and Rupert Edwards on drums and bass, respectively – sees bassist Al Montfort alone with the microphone. And he owns the stage, delivering a performance that’s part hip-hop MC, part drunken 3am karaoke session, replacing the bit about ?Wobbies World and Gumbaya Park?, with some adlibbed lines about setting up camp at Meredith. It ends with Montfort wearing Ray Ban’s and blasting a sax like Rob Lowe in St Elmo’s Fire. Cobweb-clearing stuff.
They play the jammy ?Flying Tea Towel Blues? and ?Keno? (complete with wonky group harmonies) from the first record; cover Dragon’s ?Are You Old Enough?? like Steve Malkmus just did a few months ago; and air new material from the [forthcoming](/news/4555989) Calendar Days including ?Alice?, ?Amber?, ?Water Damage? and the title track featuring Hughes on vocals. They may not be pitch-perfect and there are plenty of bum notes, but they have bravado and humour to burn. It probably helps they’ve already built up an arsenal of classic songs.
Ethio-jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke is officially the only person at Golden Plains wearing two layers, but he’s cool as ice on this scorching afternoon. Backed by Melbourne’s The Black Jesus Experience, he effortlessly switches between vibes, cowbell (yes, cowbell) and organ, and (with apologies to Jon Spencer) is the only person on the bill allowed to play an eponymous song. The closing ?Yegelle Tzeta? (a song sampled by Nas and Damien Marley) is sullied somewhat by a rapper in a kaftan and an over-excited singer. “It’s Mulatu!” she yells, obscuring the actual Mulatu.
Doug: When a Melbourne band starts thanking the people from specific bars, you know they’ve cut their teeth right. Even venturing to play outside and during daylight hours, Chris Russell’s Chicken Walk do a lot with a little. The eponymous frontman’s rail-riding rhythm work on guitar could keep us nodding even without his reverent blues singing, while drummer Dean Muller (Hoss, Cosmic Psychos) pulls out crowd-pleasing antics without disrupting his totally chill presence. Muller exits for all but the end of one song to let Russell do an a cappella thing with the audience clapping, and later he throws his sticks into the crowd before discovering there’s one song left. It’s pretty straight two-man electric blues, with a strong focus on the genre’s American roots, but boiled down to its rambling, salt-of-the-earth heart and earning an ecstatic boot.
As power-pop goes, Redd Kross are more Cheap Trick than Teenage Fanclub. They’ve got long hair and rock-star moves, and their set’s much louder and more saturated than you’d expect of a genre that so prizes melody. Brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald swap anthems like they’re not only psyched to have a second lease on their cult career, but totally confident in their abilities. And as well they should be.
A far cry from the glitched-out home production of his early days in, um, 2009, Toro Y Moi is now a pretty damn smooth bandleader (although he still records alone) with more populist leanings than ever. The cosmic ?70s jazz voyaging of his second album has given way to easier material tickled with sounds that are nice on the ears but often only generically pleasing. His set is much the same: as lightweight and feel-good as Wild Nothing [the day before](/articles/4566455).
The Mark of Cain are still flexing that iron-clad musculature – and John Scott is still venting – after a long stretch away from our eyes and ears. It’s not John Stanier on the drums – it’s 22-year-old Eli Green from Adelaide’s Life Pilot, filling in ably with a nearly 30-year-old band while Stanier tours with Tomahawk. It’s still The Mark of Cain, taking the toughest bits of punk and post-punk to make something all the more durable. Their return isn’t a nostalgia thing; it’s a continuation, with plenty of [troubles](/articles/4538456) left to tackle.
Darren: Just watching Jon Spencer* and his **Blues Explosion (as he continually reminds us) is exhausting. Their shtick is familiar, but their attack is relentless. They play crowd favourite ?Bellbottoms?, a Beastie Boys cover (?She’s On It?), new track ?Black Mold? and ?2 Kindsa Love?, which stirs wonderful memories of the time they [trashed a stage and scared the bejeezus out of an audience of kids](http://www.youtube.com/watch’v=cbwxLGohUM0) on *Recovery in the ?90s. Spencer is the rockstar and Judah Bauer is as solid as a rock, but it’s Russell Simins and his endless supply of facial expressions that’s the band’s real heart and soul. Keith Richards once said ?the rock’s easy, but the roll is another thing?. Simins gives this enduring New York band their roll.
Doug: Not content with being a 30-ish-piece party band, Melbourne Ska Orchestra are educational too: frontman Nicky Bomba charts the courses of rocksteady, reggae and more in his between-songs banter as well as across a wide range of covers (Madness, The Specials and, best of all, Millie Smalls? ?My Boy Lollipop?) and originals (the hometown-proud ?Lygon Street Meltdown?, the postcards-from-around-the-world ?Dean Went to Mexico?). Guest singer Rebecca Ari is a highlight, but this is already an unfailing formula for festival success: sheer gobsmacking numbers and old-school showmanship plus equal parts novelty and familiarity.
Scottish DJ Keb Darge is given the task of keeping people dancing between all that ska and what turns out to be a delayed start for George Clinton and band. He does it well, sticking to the more obvious side of his Northern Soul and rockabilly specialities. When a group of young revellers come running across the hill to dance to Elvis, you’d swear they’d heard rumours of a hologram of Mr Presley himself.
Darren: Like all those Motown franchises in Vegas, George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic will continue long after he’s gone. I wasn’t even sure he was on stage at first, with his trademark multi-coloured dreads replaced by a white fedora. Looking like a 1950s Godfather, he’s a strange presence up there – more a figurehead these days than band leader – and at times it feels like a bunch of session players just glad to be up there playing his classic songs. He asks the crowd for a joint and they willingly oblige. He invites family members on stage. One of his back-up singers does a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s ?Crazy?. The obligatory ?We Want The Funk? is trotted out for what seems like an eternity. And the 10-minute-plus Eddie Hazel tribute ?Maggot Brain? provides at least some respite from the on-stage chaos. Out in the crowd an impromptu dance circle forms around some LED lights, and it feels just as free and fun as Chic the year before – you just have to put your inner reservations about all this being a ?revue? aside.
Lawson: Sunday night delivers perhaps the best curated night of dance the Supernatural Amphitheatre has ever witnessed, provided you like house music. A pitch-perfect run through of acts, all focused on exploiting different aspects of the deep grooves of the genre as well as heading in new directions, led to a building synergy that made for a truly enjoyable night.
This was the second time Naysayer and Gilsun?s audio-visual litany has thundered through the Amphitheatre, and with a stage that was perfectly simple: a big screen and no real sign of the pair, who obviously prefer to let their meticulously orchestrated spectacle be the centre of attention. And wasn’t it! Naysayer and Gilsun are multimedia archaeologists who, while trawling through Blu-Ray copies of classic Hollywood films and eye-popping enviro-porn, seem to have at some point discovered the secrets of the shared bio-rhythms of sight and sound.
The experience is transcendent, full HD synaesthesia, as bass-driven house and the occasional Aphex Twin track communes with glorious montage. Many of the images the pair deploy are titillating – littered with sex, blood and horror – and the result is a kind of surrealism that is playful but never sloppy, calculated to access primal endorphin receptors. New senses emerge out of the spectacle, and watch-listening to their set is a trance-inducing highlight of the weekend.
United by a similar professionalism, not to mention a love of Joy Orbison & Boddika’s ?Swims? (?Walk for me! Serve!?), Naygil and Julio Bashmore* segue beautifully. Bashmore spins a spot-on nocturnal set, centred on house but also mutating into fractured offshoots of bass and funky. His own hits, ?Battle for Middle You? and the throbbing, instantly familiar synth pops of ?Au Seve?, are notable moments, but it’s a set without highlights per se; more just one long, coasting wave. This was echoed later in the night when *Moodymann delivered a marathon history lesson in house and dance, an extended groove that played on all the best music that had come before it.
But the glory of the night really belongs to Melbourne’s own Zanzibar Chanel – simultaneous performance art, comedy act and dance duo who, in a little over 25 minutes, turn the crowd into a delirious, sweaty mess. They flip all the familiar tropes of the house acts before them with trashy but infectious loops and a lead vocalist, the enigmatic but charismatic ?Zac,? a commanding presence. The groove is infectious, the declarations ridiculous, the performance sensual, sassy, sexy and absolutely shameless. By the time Zac had flung off his jean-jacket and unbuttoned his denim [skort](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skort), demanding everyone ?dance the pain away,? he had the crowd eating from the palm of his hand. Obey his command.
Perhaps what stood out most both nights at Golden Plains was just how fruitful fully committing to an aesthetic can be – not just the house cornucopia of Saturday’s nocturnal shift but also the two local acts, Client Liaison and Zanzibar Chanel. Both embrace their respective shticks with abandon, but also understand how to play a catchy song.
More Golden Plains
REPORT – DAY ONE: [Dinosaur Jr, Cat Power, NO ZU, and more](/articles/4566455).