Features

Report: Meredith 2013 Day 2-3

Our report from day two and three of the 23rd annual Meredith Music Festival, with highlights including Mac DeMarco, Chic, Joey Bada$$, Hermitude and The UV Race. Band reviews by DOUG WALLEN* and **LACHLAN KANONIUK**. Photos by *KATIE FAIRSERVICE.

Saturday, December 14

Doug Wallen: [CMJ-conquering](/articles/4630222) Courtney Barnett opens the morning – or, rather, follows the traditional Ballarat Brass Band – with a set that’s more rock and jammy than her records. But when you’ve got big, generous bass lines from a guy named Bones Sloane and The Drones? Dan Luscombe on guitar, it’s only right to embrace it. In her usual unflappable delivery, Barnett dispenses with all the ?hits? – ?Lance Jr.?, ?Avant Gardener?, the still-funny ?Are You Looking After Yourself?? – which isn’t surprising since there are only the two EPs. Visibly comfortable playing with each other, and having fun too, Barnett and band seem unaffected by the mounting buzz around them. While the set is shorter than it should be and offers no real surprises, it hits all the right notes with her shrugging candidness and time-honoured rock ?n? roll sprawl. The best moment is the dream-recounting, ramble-tamble closer ?History Eraser?.

Canadian Mac DeMarco breaks three strings early on, prompting a long bout of improvised humour from bassist (and [filmmaker](http://www.vice.com/read/we-interviewed-pierce-mcgarry-bassist-for-mac-demarco-and-maker-of-creepy-videos)) Pierce McGarry, spanning an aborted cover of Weezer’s ?Say It Ain’t So? and the suggestion that movie star Paul Dano is watching the set from a tree. He struggles to fill the time but is actually really funny, adding to the natural charm of DeMarco himself, whose songs are more frantic than on this year’s more mannered album 2. It’s a goofy set, yet not at the expense of the songs. Besides, it’s exactly the un-serious temperament that resonates best with the Meredith crowd.

Lachlan Kanoniuk: There is much joy to be found in the contradictions of Mac DeMarco. A dirtbag with a heart of gold, approaching the microphone in a baseball cap and dungarees, rollie dangling from a gap-toothed grin as the band kick into an effortless run-through of smooth garage rock replete with Knopfler-invoking guitar licks. The banter ranges from belligerent (?How you doin? Sydney?? ?It’s great to be in New Zealand?) to endearing (frequent ?god bless you? sincerities). After an interlude to change three broken guitar strings (DeMarco obviously acting as his own guitar tech), a trio of scrappy half-covers are given the iconoclastic treatment. The opening verse to BTO’s ?Takin? Care of Business? is co-opted into ad-libbed depravity. Limp Bizkit’s ?Break Stuff? is comparatively mellow following a screamo rendition of ?Blackbird?. Dick jokes give way to the legitimately heart-warming ballad ?Together?, showcasing DeMarco’s soaring yodel. A crowdsurf to the mixing desk, then a sea of boots – the most footwear raised all weekend.

DW: Instant anthems are what The Smith Street Band do, and they do it damn well. Whether it’s your first time seeing them or your ninth, you can fall into one of their rousing choruses as easy as pie – in fact, there’s always a gaggle of fans shouting out every word. Musically it’s pretty straight melodic punk, but Wil Wagner spills his guts out in the songs and strikes a nerve every time. ?Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams?, ?I Can’t Feel My Face?, ?Young Drunk?, ?Sunshine & Technology? – every entry is as boisterous as this band’s grassroots rise has been heartening. Freshly back from touring overseas, with Meredith as the finish line, Wagner drinks a Bacardi Breezer from a borrowed sneaker – a Tassie tradition he also broke out as [Big Day Out](/articles/4554362). There’s not a huge crowd, but the communal feeling among fans more than makes up for it.

The risk with Dick Diver was repeating too closely their great [Golden Plains set](/articles/4566680) from just last March. There turns out to be no danger of that, despite the load-bearing presence of all the recent singles: ?Calendar Days?, ?Alice? and – cue Al Montfort’s ARIAs joke – ?Water Damage?. It’s a total party set, with guests crowding in on lap steel, keyboards and horns. Instrumental jam-outs aren’t really necessary when a band is this lyrically gifted, but they still come off a treat. Each of the four members gets a turn at the mic, with a highlight in the country dirge ?Amber?. But who can compete with Montfort’s daggy appeal? Closing with his [New Start Again](/releases/2000956) capper ?Head Back?, he pulls out his usual unstudied sax solo amid dancers wearing cardboard boxes made into masks of billionaires Trump, Palmer, Rinehart and Murdoch. Even if you’re 100% sold on ropey guitar jangle, it’s joyous and disarming.

For all their own patent party-starting, The Bamboos can’t really connect with me. Kylie Audist sings lead on the few chunk of songs and then Ella Thompson and, while it’s all catchy enough, it’s for whatever reason not nearly as effective as the likeminded Melbourne Ska Orchestra at Golden Plains this year. Still, it’s nice to hear [?I Got Burned?](/news/4443817), even without Tim Rogers.

A close cousin to the Melvins? no-nonsense set the day before, Helmet prove surly, blurted and lurching, yet also surprisingly melodic at the core. There’s a mechanical endlessness to it, as well as whiffs of both the metal pioneers that came before Helmet’s glory days and the QOTSA-style bands that came after.

Whatever the lineup, a Beasts of Bourbon set means a great frontman/showman performance from Tex. Here he’s gruff, intense and silly all at once, periodically talking to a toy parrot when not throwing himself into the songs? boozy, bedraggled charisma. Spencer’s guitar is ace as usual, too. The vibe might have been more powerful at night, and with a bigger crowd, but let’s not underestimate the fun of drinking too much by daylight under Tex’s watch.

Blue Mountains duo Hermitude are reliable underdogs, having snatched [last year’s AMP](/news/4565444/) from sure things Tame Impala. It’s harder to call them underdogs in this setting, drawing such a big and enthusiastic audience, but Angus Stuart and Luke Dubbe retain that sheer happiness of just being able to play music for people. (That’s confirmed over and over in their banter, too.) Augmenting their squelchy instrumental hip-hop production with live scratching and keyboards, they keep things bouncy, feel-good and overflowing with heart. Unfinished new songs are showcased to an ecstatic response, and the more familiar singles get people to – in the words of [?Speak of the Devil?](http://www.youtube.com/watch’v=tb_Ogb0zzhA) – ?dance dance dance.?

LK: New York MC Joey Bada$$ deals in no-nonsense, heavy-hitting, classic hip-hop. The bombast is overwhelming, the packed sun-drenched audience bouncing as one while Joey leads call-and-response. The talent displayed on recent mixtapes translates to an resoundingly energised commitment to performance, his ownership of the amphitheatre belying his 18 years of age.

There are good Spiderbait songs, and there are lousy Spiderbait songs. The Meredith veterans manage to lean towards the former, particularly on crowd favourite ?Calypso?. Even the elongated ?Black Betty? jam goes down a treat.

Chic featuring Nile Rodgers could have suffered a case of diminishing returns for those who were pleasantly blindsided by the initial disco marathon at [Golden Plains 2012](/articles/4443625). It’s safe to say that no impediment present as the inimitable Rodgers conducts an all-killer hit parade, stepping things up from his last appearance. The cavalcade of Rodgers-produced tracks is pulled off with ease, Bowie’s ?Let’s Dance? being a definitive highpoint.

It’s been an eventful year for Rodgers, to say the least. He reached ubiquity as one of the faces for Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and, as he explains towards the end of the set, made it through a cancer scare. Chic don’t perform ?Get Lucky?, probably out of courtesy to the not-yet0touring Daft Punk, but the studio version blasts out the PA as the band bid farewell. It’s good to have them back. Let’s do it more often.

The 90-minute party set curated by Tranter is one of those moments that wouldn’t really make sense outside the context of Meredith. The barrage of stimuli is as uninhibited as the track selection, confetti cannons firing amongst frequent bursts of lasers. The set list is stream-of-consciousness, jack-knifing between mid-to-late-2000s indie fare and recent mainstream pop-rap. It fosters a nouveau-nostalgia catered for 20-somethings, reliving heady nights in Melbourne’s mid-2000s club scene with a generous serving of Crystal Castles, plus [?Sweaty Wet?](http://www.youtube.com/watch’v=8NzMsktBcmI) from Tranter’s Gameboy/Gamegirl outfit. Spinning Haim’s ?The Wire? mid-set is beguiling if you think about it, but if you’re thinking about it post-midnight at Meredith, you’re doing it wrong.

Esteemed [Beats in Space](http://www.beatsinspace.net) programmer Tim Sweeney returns to clock up a hat trick of appearances, showcasing his knack for unearthing forgotten gems. As is his wont, the mood is positively radiant, Sweeney’s bop-heavy glee behind the decks proving infectious.

Derrick May is more combative in his approach. If he doesn’t like the crowd’s current level of enthusiasm, he cuts the mix entirely to demand roars of approval from dancers deprived of their beat. We oblige.

Revellers are still in the thousands as much-loved local luminary Andee Frost welcomes the Sunday sun. The boom-bap fills the air as I try to catch the sunrise from Inspiration Point, until I realise I was anticipating its arrival from the exact spot we applauded the sunset at dusk. Basic astronomy isn’t my strong suit at that point of the weekend.

Sunday, December 15

DW: Considering that the previous night’s music only ended three hours before, Baptism of Uzi face a pretty empty Supernatural Amphitheatre as they kick off the Sunday bands. But they do well, bookending the set with instrumentals and seeing the crowd grow to a respectable size over the course of it. [?Stray Current?](/tv/4594141) remains a crossover soft-rock anomaly among their nerdy prog-psych crusades, which dole out bass hooks, synchronised guitar leads and many other offbeat details.

Sydneysider Oliver Tank?s glacial electro-pop and ambient-hued R&B is sleepy enough in its own right, making it hard to stay focussed on after a big weekend of music and drinks. ?Up All Night? is thankfully more defined and substantial, while ?Last Night I Heard Everything in Slow Motion? recalls The Postal Service, but ?Beautiful? is full of sappy romantic platitudes and Tank’s reworkings of ?The Sound of Silence? and ?Drop It Like It’s Hot? are quite hokey.

Bluegrass can be a pretty obliging hangover remedy, from those lonesome keening vocals to the lyrics? hair-of-the-dog carousing. And yeah, Davidson Brothers are wise enough to throw in ?Man of Constant Sorrow? and a Johnny Cash cover dedicated to Meredith farm owner Jack Nolan. Moreover, the banter from Hamish and Lachlan Davidson is decidedly likeable, as is the way their fingers go a-flyin? on the banjo and mandolin. (They’ve both won multiple championships.) Recently relocated from Gippsland to Brunswick, the band don’t make a huge impact but still get a select number of people wheeling around in the dirt, forgetting the long night behind them and the coming drive home.

Beaches can sound dense and enigmatic on record, but watching them live it all seems pretty simple: communal jams driven by Gill Tucker’s locomotive bass, with three guitars free to riff, swirl and wash overtop. There are some pop songs in there too, though, like [?Send Them Away?](/tv/4578518). A bit of errant feedback creeps, and all the vocals sit low in the mix, but the jams are the thing. Beaches duly earn a good turnout and reception for the day and time, especially for the heavy, droning closer. After thoroughly doing the festival circuit around 2008?s self-titled first album, this feels like a homecoming of sorts.

LK: Introduced as ?the first band to perform in outer space? (perhaps a teaser for their next feature film), The UV Race are the self-declared headliners of the weekend. It’s full speed ahead, frontman Marcus ?Morcus? Rechsteiner already stripped down to his briefs for opener ?Girl in My Bed?. The few hangers-on post-Gift are treated to one of the best showings of the weekend. The ferocious [?Raw Balls?](/tv/4563489) kicks up a frenzy, Marcus crowdsurfing over a forward-surging contingent. A sweaty and dusty digestif.

REPORT: [Day 1](/articles/4633105)

PHOTOS: [Day 1](/galleries/4633240)

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