Report: Meredith 2013 Day 1
Our report from day one of the 23rd annual Meredith Music Festival, with highlights including Le1f, Jon Hopkins, Melvins and World’s End Press. Band reviews by DOUG WALLEN*, **LACHLAN KANONIUK** and **EDWARD SHARP-PAUL**. Photos by *KATIE FAIRSERVICE.
Doug Wallen: After you’ve been to enough Merediths – and kid sibling Golden Plains – the differences from year to year start to blur together. This year, though, the requisite vibe of escape can’t help but be magnified by a long winter that refused to stay truly dormant, and a summer that seems like it hasn’t quite begun in earnest. While there’s scattered rain on the Friday, everyone is visibly in good spirits and relishing the sojourn. From there, Saturday and Sunday pack enough sun to leave more than a few limbs and necks bright pink by the weekend’s finish, without ever getting unbearably hot. Nice balance, Aunty.
Other details? More PBR cans than past years, thanks to that cheap US icon undercutting the competition (though VB was still well represented). Fewer costumes (cue superheroes, Flintstones and one party-happy Power Ranger) but a bit more glitter paint on faces. Fewer teetering beer-can towers in the Supernatural Amphitheatre (thankfully), and more Bloody Marys (genius).
Lachlan Kanoniuk: Marking 12 years since they commandeered a Valiant RT Charger to the Supernatural Amphitheatre stage, long-serving Geelong bastions of hard rock Warped take to the festival’s 2013 opening slot in a more conventional fashion. A serving of meat-?n?-potatoes hard rock could have proved to be a jarring introduction, yet the sheer riff-worshipping vitality is a welcoming salvo for the already well-populated crowd.
Continuing the weekend’s recurring thread of heavier rock, Stonefield manage to parlay the clean-cut corporate-ness of their studio material into something slightly more dangerous in the live setting. Former Inches/Galvatrons drummer Manny Bourakis takes to the kit behind the sisters Findlay to accommodate the more aurally fleshed-out album cuts, before lead singer Amy subs in on the skins for a run-through of earlier material. It’s proficient rock, done loud. Serviceable, but never overly inspiring.
DW: Live looping isn’t usually a thrill to watch, but Oliver Perry offsets that piecemeal assembly process with a laidback demeanor and a noteworthy facial expressiveness. As the much buzzed-about D.D Dumbo, he commands the crowd well. Of course, it helps that he’s got his local contingent of Castlemaine fans up the front, and that he opens with his breakthrough single [?Tropical Oceans?](/tv/4626960). Replacing Vance Joy at pretty much [the last minute](/news/4631905), Perry seems undaunted by the prospect of his debut Meredith performance. Swapping between Chet Faker-style gruff soul and an older strain of rustbucket blues, he builds winsome creations with just guitar, vocals and minimal percussion. His songwriting is still developing, but the instant hooks and emotional cues are already there.
After an on-stage spider scare – one band member thought it was a crab, says leader Bradford Cox – early in the set, Deerhunter fall into their woozy, shoegazing majesty. It’s fine but feels stilted and routine for the first half. Then the band comes alive with the last two or three songs – noisy and free. A bit like at Laneway back [in 2011](/articles/4186731), they save their best for last.
Fucking Melvins: there’s such a stubborn single-mindedness to what they do that it’s entrancing even from a distance. From everywhere I stand (and wander, and meander) it sounds just as potent, setting chugging riffs against entropic drone only to show the way through with satisfying solos and Buzz’s throwback growl.
A stark contrast from the Melvins, to say the least, World’s End Press emerge to hanging horizontal mirrors and frontman John Parkinson’s super-sparkly jacket. Summoning synth-pop and New Order flashbacks as well as traces of earlier Cut Copy, the quartet make the most of their percolating dance anthems. On the other hand, the set feels like back-to-back hits; on the other, it exposes a sameyness to some of the singles, taken out of the context of the [debut album](/releases/2001254)?s more offbeat and risky tracks. That said, this is a king-making set in terms of timing (despite a light rain), reception and exposure; it feels like everyone is there to witness it, and everyone is into it. By the time a group of dancers comes out for the closing song, we’re all in full-blown rapture. Appropriately, I wind up having [?Drag Me Home?](/tv/4631903) in my head literally all night – it’s the first thing there every time I wake up at regular, surreal intervals.
Edward Sharp-Paul: The Brian Jonestown Massacre aren’t the first – and they won’t be the last – band to descend into that heavy paisley feeling. The custom is to put their success down to the personal cult of Anton Newcombe, but catch them live and the sense is more of a sprawling organism than a charismatic dictatorship. However, it’s a massive downshift in momentum after World’s End Press, and their set certainly takes a hell of a while to build up some momentum. Finally they figure out a way to lace that feeling around some undeniable pop tunes. ?Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth? and ?When Jokers Attack? settles matters, and BJM receive a loose, trippy tick for their labours from this correspondent.
LK: The Supernatural Amphitheatre has time and time again proved fertile ground for new soul, benefiting from the soul revival with Dap-King-affiliated New Yorkers and homegrown talent alike. Melbourne collective Clairy Browne & The Bangin? Rackettes take to their primetime midnight slot and strut across the stage in cinematic panorama, Clairy emanating star power from just to the right of centre stage. They pull off a potent, and highly danceable, embracement of vintage cool – down and dirty horns paired with sultry, finger-clickin? backup harmonies.
Aunty Meredith has experienced a somewhat shaky relationship with rap in recent years, more often than not falling short of recapturing the glory of Pharoahe Monch’s [barnstorming 2009 set](http://www.youtube.com/watch’v=juVU82gBDMk). This year’s bill features two relatively underground hip-hop artists, first up being burgeoning NY alternative rapper Le1f. His most recent mixtape, [Tree House](http://www.thefader.com/2013/09/18/stream-le1fs-tree-house-mixtape/)*, leans heavily towards sensual, bass-heavy R&B, its tracks greeted with a warm reception from the early-AM crowd. The set quickly escalates into boot-raising territory with party-starting selections from the EDM-inclined *Dark York* and *Fly Zone, Le1f constantly leaning outward over the monitors, conducting the crowd masterfully sans shirt. The stuttering horns of ?Wut? elicit crowd-wide call-and-response, rounding out one of the weekend’s many highlights. He is a charismatic, electric, green-haired force, reciprocating the packed amphitheatre’s energy to exponential levels.
UK electronic proponent Jon Hopkins broke through earlier in the year thanks to the meticulously crafted fourth LP Immunity, channelling years of collaborations, behind-the-scenes production alongside Brian Eno and soundtrack compositions into a fully-realised collection of forward-thinking production. Hopkins? material, new and old, metamorphoses into a domineering, laser-spewing beast in the Supernatural Amphitheatre. Hopkins maintains a dynamic that rarely, if at all, dipped below the red, pulling off an impossible chain of carpet-bombing euphoria. The peaks of ?Collider? are intensified, the barrelling drive of ?Open Eye Signal? pulling us in like a tractor beam.
After-midnight artists face an uphill battle when it comes to receiving the boot – chemically-imbued motor skills often restricting shoelace untying capabilities. Still, more than a few are raised for Hopkins, amongst frequent screams of approval during the rollercoaster-level drops.
Maybe it’s the aftermath of Hopkins? cochlear/mind-obliteration, but the mix for Roland Tings? set feels a little undercooked in comparison, lacking force in the bottom end. Still, the rising Melbourne producer conjures palpable, kick-heavy grooves, decked out in all white against his artisanal brand of organ-squelchy techno. It’s a satisfying close to the first day, but maybe a sun-soaked afternoon timeslot would have provided a more conducive setting.
4am, Silence Wedge. There are slurred murmurs verbalising internal debate – whether the Friday night/Saturday morning curfew came too soon. Addled minds craving more, already-taxed bodies begging for preservation. With 1.5 days to come, including Saturday night’s 7am close, maybe Aunty knows what’s best for us.
MORE PHOTOS, DAY 2 REPORT TO COME