Features

Report: Meredith 2014 Day 1

The first day of Meredith’s 24th year included The War on Drugs, Blank Realm, Sleep, Hard-Ons, Jagwar Ma, Factory Floor and James Holden. Coverage by MARCUS TEAGUE* with fill-ins from **CHRISTOPHER LEWIS**, **LACHLAN KANONIUK** and **DOUG WALLEN**. Photos by *JEESE BOOHER.

Marcus Teague: ?This is a good place for lost souls,? says the South African. This stranger’s crashed a friend’s campsite, googly-eyed and drunk, his whole weekend in a big backpack. He doesn’t know where his friends are camped and is already in no state to find them. It’s 3pm on Friday.

?That’s what we do,? says the lady who’s been weathering his increasingly off-colour badgering for the last 15 minutes. His asking if her teenage daughter was ?hot? was the final straw. ?We just don’t share our daughters.?

Meredith isn’t so much a place for lost souls, but the collective tending to them is exactly what it does. Even the rude ones. Gosh it’s all so nice. The drive out, the lip balm, the tinsel in the trees, the glitter and fingernail dirt. With tickets at a premium you might assume a monoculture now plods the lot, but 24 years on, Meredith continues to boast a vivid quiver of contradictory hairstyles.

Each is still intent on bolstering a tradition of some kind – be it their own, their friends? or the one enacted by the Nolan family when they first let their son and his friends put on a party hereabouts. String them all together and it adds up to a kind of parallel life. Utopia with amenities. I think that’s why they always come back – bands be damned. Organisers could sell out tickets with no lineup announced, I’m sure. It’s more about packing another chapter into three days.

You always miss a bunch of friends, yet there are recurring characters you find in the same spot – in a busted green camping chair by the back fence of Blue Gums, perhaps – ready to carry on from a year ago today. As if they just wait here between Decembers. Ready to get sunburnt, to snap a table leg in the Pink Flamingo and again test how the body responds to 48 hours? worth of food consumed solely from the Community Tucker Tent. With real life on pause, Meredith lets you choose your own noble act.

Lachlan Kanoniuk: Certain trends seem to ebb and flow within and without the Supernatural Amphitheatre – inexplicit in form and perhaps unintentional to an extent, yet traceable nonetheless. Continuing a three-link chain of festival opening tilts by local, hardened hard-rock veterans (Warped at [Meredith 2013](/articles/4633105), Six Ft Hick at [Golden Plains](/articles/4645127) earlier this year), Hard-Ons herald proceedings in a four-piece lineup with the supplementary return of founding vocalist-guitarist turned vocalist-drummer Keish de Silva – a fan service that comes at the cost of slight diminishment of the compact, thrash-metal potency of their power-trio formation, a less-than-brutal PA mix not helping either (especially compared to their supersized Blurst of Times festival performance). Still, it’s a charismatic opening, with flanking bandmates going shirtless towards the close of set, which I’m sure would happen even if the mercury wasn’t reaching the 30-degrees mark.

Christopher Lewis: With latecomers to the festival happily settled in by 5pm and the sound of tinnies being crunched underfoot having only just begun, Brisbane quartet Blank Realm take the energy of Hard-Ons and slam their foot on the distortion pedal. The performance is definitive, cementing their position as one of Australia’s most important and influential bands – specifically in the Sunshine State, where it seems every new band from Brisbane is arriving with a respectful nod to their third album [Go Easy](/releases/2001140).

Leaning heavily on material from this year’s LP [Grassed Inn](/releases/2001297), their playful psychedelia strikes the perfect balance between loose wig-out jams and tight melodic structures. People talk in reverence about how important it is to witness The Drones in a live setting to completely understand their raison d’tre and Blank Realm should be given the same veneration. Is it the sibling thing? That seems like too much of a simplification, but it’s undeniable that Daniel Spencer’s voice creates a beautiful texture with his sister Sarah’s. While maintaining experimental flourishes, the band’s sound has benefitted from the sunny, pop accessibility streak that makes them seem so timeless. It honestly feels like I could raise my boot right here and now and leave the festival happy that the $300 or so dollars had been well spent.

MT: Teeth & Tongue?s [Grids](/releases/2001342)* is among the best local releases of the year, and she’s ramped up her stage show to deliver it as such. Cornelius had her five-piece outfit decked in silver jackets and black sunnies, and if it wasn’t exactly warm weather conscious, it did sell the sass that flows through her tunes now. ?Good Man? and a spirited ?Easy Living? installed a requisite melodrama to the early evening. ?Thanks for having us, Meredith,? said a clearly pleased Cornelius prior to *Grids? lead single ?Newborn?. ?What a fucking trip.?

LK: Stoner rock pioneers Sleep rise like a leviathans from an ocean of sludge, rippling tidal waves of monumental riffs throughout the dusk sky. It’s music you lose yourself within, and it’s easy to do so rather than grab onto. Heavy syncopation commands a metal nod-along, regardless of whether or not your cannabinoid receptors are working overtime. The mountain of Orange cabs sound incredible. It’s beautifully oppressive, paragons of a niche genre transcending any barrier of niche with a magnitude of power unmatched all weekend.

MT: The sunset slot used to be the plum set time at Meredith – now I’m not so sure. In the last few years masses of people have clocked on to the fact that the sun goes down at sunset. That space where couples once shared an unguarded moment along the generous expanse of clifftop grass during sunset now more resembles Gallipoli at dawn. There’s even a caravan up there selling sunset-themed cocktails. As Sleep bludgeoned the stoner-rock-loving nature-haters in the Amphitheatre, thousands of revellers cheered the ball of fire disappearing behind the silhouetted wind farms in the distance. ?And the sun goes down just like every other day,? said a snarky wide-eyed passing spectator, on the cliff watching the sun go down unlike every other day.

Doug Wallen: The War on Drugs crashed indie rock’s major leagues this year with their third LP, Lost in the Dream. That album is all about unspooling forever into the horizon with no clear destination in sight, but its songs find more immediate traction live and Adam Granduciel’s lyrics become more prominent. Still, the widescreen, open-road expanses of album highlights like ?Red Eyes? and ?Under the Pressure? prove a perfect fit for Meredith at the peak of opening night, where absolutely anything seems possible. And putting the early, folky ramble ?Arms Like Boulders? – dating back at least to 2007 – second in the set connects the dots between the growing ambition of the albums. Meanwhile, two more live members are fleshing out the Philly band’s live sound more than ever, stoking those denim-clad forays into the endless hungry night.

CL: The latest trophy heads to be mounted onto the wall of Aunty Meredith’s living room were Jagwar Ma*?s. Delivering a bass-heavy yet melodic symphony, the lighting melee mimics the energy of the crowd as the three boys wear in their headliner boots. Thankfully, *[Howlin?](/releases/2001213)* has aged like a fine brie, and it loses none of its potency in transforming the amphitheatre into a backyard version of the Ha’ienda. Where *The Bombay Royale had provided a spectacle to loosen up collective limbs, the Sydneysiders provide 45 minutes to close your eyes and groove, a near-perfect one-two punch combination that justifies festivals? persistence in booking the group.

All of their most immediate songs are given synth-drenched makeovers and dragged out to elongate the party; the Beach Boys-inflected ?Let Her Go? a particular singalong moment that defines their balance of catchy hooks and stomping percussion. Wearing a bucket hat without even the slightest amount of irony, Gabriel Winterfield gives his now patented high-pitched slurs with full force and he and Jono Ma saturate the grass with reverb. Sure they’re derivative, but more importantly they’re fun and we don’t need every band to create new letters for the alphabet; Jagwar Ma exist to please our most immediate needs, and the crowd’s appetite to dance is satiated.

MT: Somewhere between their booking for Meredith and their 1:40am appearance on Friday night, Factory Floor have pared down to a two-piece. With modular synth guy Dominic Butler seemingly off focusing on his [Bronze Teeth](http://thequietus.com/articles/15648-bronze-teeth-interview) outfit, drummer Gabe Gurnsey has ditched his kit and now stands stoic with [Nik Void](/news/4675158) behind a bank of gear. And while the live duo hasn’t exactly misplaced Factory Floor’s propulsive energy, the live dynamic of Gurnsey being a freak on drums is sorely missed.

Their slot into James Holden?s set at 2:40am looked like party hour on paper, but Gurnsey and Void pair are more intent on bugging out than holding hands with any of the crowd looking for an easy in. The pair focus on the flickering noise aspect of Factory Floor’s recorded techno-attack, and while Holden does appear next alongside a drummer (and a towering modular setup), he too is most intent on teasing out the fringes of his analogue forays than providing repetition.

Which is great, if you have the wherewithal to absorb it in the hour. The burden of the late-night Meredith party is there’s a bunch of people braying for Toto’s ?Africa? again (they only have to hold on for another night). Against that mark Factory Floor and Holden thumb their noses, but as a brain-twisting reminder of the thrill of total submission, both are spectacular.

+

MORE PHOTOS + DAY 2-3 REPORT TO COME