Features

Report: Meredith 2014 Day 2-3

The second and third day of Meredith’s 24th year included Tiny Ruins, Mia Dyson, Ghostface Killah, Phosphorescent, De La Soul, The Skatalites and Lemonheads. Coverage by MARCUS TEAGUE*, **LACHLAN KANONIUK**, **CHRISTOPHER LEWIS** and **DOUG WALLEN**. Photos by *JEESE BOOHER.

Saturday, December 13

Christopher Lewis: 11am Saturday has become Meredith’s unofficial ?next big thing? slot, with recent alumni including Courtney Barnett, Twerps and Oscar + Martin. This year the torch is passed onto the literate folk musings of Tiny Ruins. Led by Hollie Fullbrook, the group arrives fresh from winning Best Alternative Album for [Brightly Painted One](/releases/2001350) at the New Zealand Music Awards. It’s easy to see why the accolades are rolling in, with shades of Laura Marling and a voice that would rival Sarah Blasko for austere beauty. She captivates a growing crowd that should be too interested in their morning’s loot from raiding the Tucker Tent to notice what’s happening around them. Hollie’s acoustic finger-picking works beautifully alongside Tom Healy’s electric guitar, but it’s that voice that resonates through the crowd. Once again Aunty Meredith has scoured the nearby goldfields to find a gorgeous and untouched nugget, and if the performance of Tiny Ruins is anything to go by, the legend of 11am is likely to live on.

Marcus Teague: Tiny Ruins sounds gorgeous. From my tent. We put too much emphasis on people having to stand in front of the stage at gigs. I’d much rather lie in the leafy shade and let Hollie Fullbrook’s ghostly voice frisk for serotonin than just about anything else on a Saturday morning. Tent music for one.

By the time Mia Dyson comes on at midday it’s roasting. Such is the evolution of Meredith that, in 2014, the foundation stone of stern guitar rock has been rolled away in favour of costumes and music for costumes. That’s fine. But Dyson’s axe shredding and crackled howl goes a way in realigning the frame a little: on a really hot day, guitar rock is the only kind of music that won’t wither. In particular, the stirring ?When The Moment Comes? seems just right.

That’s at least true until The Harpoons. Like a sea breeze, they blow in all casual and cool things down for the wonderful Bec Rigby to prod some sludged hearts. Rigby’s dexterous voice is incredible, especially couched in a trio of syrupy back-up vocalists, and she looks luminous in a colour-spattered shawl thing. Dyson’s music makes you nod; The Harpoons glassy, goof-tinged R’n?B starts a sway. The beaming locals come at their biggest crowd yet with an addictive charm, and by the time they’re done there’s a bunch of trainers in the air.

The shoes come off again pretty quick for what turns out to be part three of a strong mini-run. US chameleon Phosphorescent – a.k.a. Matthew Houck and friends – scoots between wet-eyed Americana, bar-rock and a louche arrogance that’s eminently appealing on an afternoon. The day’s most gorgeous moment comes with the bass throb into ?Song For Zula?, which spools out through pedal steel, the tinkle of synth strings and the grizzly Houck’s redemption-seeker shtick soaring into melancholy even as it stays fun. For the next three hours, that mercurial slow jam was a clear festival highlight, even though ?Ride On/Right On? finished on an up, with a bunch of woo’s from Houck and a frond of thongs in the air.

CL: Aunty never goes too heavy on the ?it? bands and why should she? In a festival calendar that doubles as an endless bidding war for [BNM](http://pitchfork.com/best/) acts, Meredith has proven that it would rather stamp its authority through different means. But she chose well this year, with the rough edges of Cloud Nothings counterbalancing the more colourful, slick characters gracing the ?Sup over the weekend. Actually, Dylan Baldi might be the most introverted and neurotic man at the entire festival site, with his tortured, no-fi fuzz echoing through the inescapable sunshine like a glorious juxtaposition. With Jayson Gerycz on percussion and backing vocals, the caustic textures are lightened at times. And although lyrically it is harrowing stuff, Baldi knows when to give himself hope, stating on ?Now Hear In?: ?I can feel your pain and I feel alright about it.? ?I’m Not Part of Me? is one of the year’s best singles and serves to momentarily puncture any mid-afternoon, heat-induced fatigue, but as he finishes the set with ?Wasted Days? the band looks exhausted. The term punk might be a misreading for Cloud Nothings, as Dylan is a closer soul to Elliott Smith than anyone might want to recognize, but if comparisons to Heatmiser and Roman Candle are due, he’s on his way to his own form of immortalisation.

MT: Cloud Nothings score the misfortune of the afternoon satellite party slot. Next to the sports field, the unofficial Deep Sea Disco goes down, filling a red tent with a hazy array of Facebook friends in undersea garb. There’s a dude in undies, neon orange facepaint and dozens of blue tube balloons (jellyfish?); another in a captain’s hat, tropical sunnies and a selfie-stick (first-timer tourist?); another in black rubber gloves, boots and an old-timey diving suit trying to suck VB through a straw (BDSM?). Somewhere between the silver-blue streamers, people are dancing around two big vats of suspicious punch. At the same moment up in Bush Camp, an all-out old-school hip-hop party has people heaving on several big podiums trucked in for the occasion. (Podiums!) Who needs even one stage?

The now-a-bit-traditional afternoon hip-hop slot still comes on like a surprise. Rap legends sweating it up out in the bush? Will they just shill the whole time? Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah walked that line: multiple merch mentions, a set of medleys, covers and abridged versions, and his DJ takes the mic nearly as much as he does. But the trio – including co-MC Sheek Looch (of The LOX) – bring a thus-far-unrivalled blast of excitement to the festival. ?Who here knows the Method Man and ODB verses on ?Protect Ya Neck?? We want someone up on stage to help us? sounds like the worst idea in the world. But after a couple of people are pulled up, tested and unceremoniously rejected, one kid in hat and sunnies is selected. He’s soon joined by a guy hoisted over the barrier in a wheelchair – he happens to be paralympian Dylan Alcott (who on Thursday completed a 24-hour tennis marathon). The song kicks off and when it comes to Method Man’s verse, Alcott nails* it. Then the guy in hat and sunnies *nails ODB’s verse, finishing his stint with ?Geelong represent!? The best bits of Meredith are when an unplanned transaction takes place between an unsuspecting artist and an up-for-it crowd. This is that.


After Ghostface Killah there is a mass exodus of kids moving away from whatever on earth Painters & Dockers might be. I have a shower and can hear them being belligerent from the stall, and when dressed and back down to the stage I see sinewy frontman Paul Stewart performing half naked too. They dedicate ?Eat Shit and Die? to Violent Soho and their recent [t-shirt hijinks](http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/violent-soho-guitarist-james-tidswell-stopped-from-boarding-flight-because-of-painters-and-dockers-tshirt-20141009-113pqa.html), and the drummer returns the favour by wearing a Violent Soho shirt. To the Painters? credit, the old punks still sound for all the world like the contemporaries to Soho they are.

Doug Wallen: There may be a thin crowd for Painters & Dockers, but they’re super anthemic nonetheless, a pub-tilted party band that can cover James Brown without missing a step. And to keep the anthems going, the DJ drops GOD’s ?My Pal? directly after their set. Well played.

MT: Glenn Richards’s voice floating through the Amphitheatre is a familiar sound to most Meredith-goers. Augie March have played the festival a bunch of times over the years, so it seems apt they’d return to sunset having reunited after a five-year hiatus – their weird, recondite pop seems purpose built for it. The tense ?Definitive History? into an explosive ?Brundisium? sets the tone, the five-piece deftly barrelling between languid (?Never Been Sad?, ?There is No Such Place?) and large (?One Crowded Hour?, killer closer ?This Train Will Be Taking No Prisoners?.) ?Cold Acre?, from 2006?s Moo, You Bloody Choir, finds a generous portion of the crowd shouting along, suggesting that for many, Augie (and their parking spot here) never really left.

DW: From opening with [my favourite Australian song of 2014](/articles/4679729) to closing with the massive hoedown of ?This Train Will Be Taking No Prisoners?, Augie March do everything right for me. There’s horn-kicked clamour, crowd sing-alongs (not just for the ever-popular ?One Crowded Hour? but for this year’s ?No Such Place? and others) and even a 12-string guitar borrowed from Paul Kelly for [Havens Dumb](/releases/2001388) opener ?AWOL?. Glenn Richards can disappear into his prodigious, spilling lyrics on record, but on stage he seems like any other frontman in his position: personable, quietly in control and downright chuffed at the impassioned fanbase his band can still command after five years away.

Ty Segall is just a ridiculous amount of fun, fuzzed to the gills and tearing into his axe like it owes him money. Generating enormous heat with an ace three-piece backing band, Segall burns through a set that goes by way, way too quick. In fact, the San Francisco guitar hero starts asking for requests before realising aloud that they’ve only got five minutes left – and then proceeding to cram in two more songs. His fresh-faced enthusiasm, both for the heavy-then-poppy-then-heavy-again psych/garage onslaught at hand and for Meredith itself (?Skatalites? Are you kidding* me? De La Soul? Are you *kidding me??), is utterly infectious. He should play every year, and for at least twice as long.


CL: An underrated quality of every Meredith lineup over the years is that the scales are weighed pretty evenly between chin-stroking, cerebral artists and let-your-hair-down party bands. There’s no need to guess which category first-generation Jamaican ska legends The Skatalites fall into. If you haven’t lubricated your body into booty-shaking mode by sundown then the joke is on you, because it quickly becomes apparent they were not booked for novelty factor alone. There are nine or 10 of them on stage, but it’s hard to tell because everyone is dancing so much. The sound emanating from the alto sax seems to flirt with the tenor sax, and founding member Doreen Shaffer’s vocals ring out like a call to attention. To state that the entire ensemble is tight is self-evident; they’ve been around in one form or another for 51 years and they know how to put on a show. Playing classics – and I mean classics – like ?Guns of Navarone? as well as quirky, reggae improv pieces, the band seem to genuinely enjoy themselves and that fever can’t help but be caught.

MT: Mobile lighting gadgets have really come a long way. Before De La Soul take the stage, the heaving Amphitheatre looks like your Christmas party at Laser Tag got double-booked. The venerable hip-hop icons are celebrating 25 years in the game, which accounts in part for their show (totally invested entertainers), their sound (when the fat kick-drum and the brittle snare first claps, a friend yells: ?THIS is the sound I’ve been waiting for all day!?) and their timeslot (the likeable trio are very, very fun). They open with The Grind Date?, ?Dilla Plugged In? and ?All Good?, and by the time they run ?A Rollerskating Jam Named Saturday’s? into ?Me, Myself & I?, the positive energy in the house could eclipse that of the permanently booked massage tent. The most surprisingly triumphant set of the weekend.

After De La Soul it’s game on. While waiting for a beer messenger’s return, a glitter-faced longhair asks my friend and I if we want our faces painted. While I determinedly do not at all, my mouth says yes and I choose gold. His touch is gentle. The interstitial DJ plays ?Superstition? and it’s a warm night again under pink lamps and everyone keeps dancing and it could be any one of Meredith’s 24 years.

That wormhole beckons us warmly into Dr Phil Smith?s cheese party. Phil turns out to be DJ Ransom, who leads the glowsticks through everyone’s darkest guilty pleasures. Toto’s ?Africa? into ?Total Eclipse of the Heart? doesn’t just seem right, but predestined. Maybe the guise allows Ransom to drop his guard a little, but from 1am to 3am it’s a ravenously received victory lap for switched-on wedding DJs everywhere. On the critical transition from Saturday to Sunday, that’s a high compliment.

Ukrainian deep-house guy Vakula* takes the party in a more streamlined, somehow mellow direction that for the most part seems overly serious for the occasion. Our problem, not his. Someone from what would become *Misty Nights takes over and turns things happy and hard. The glitter-blurred periscope I use to navigate the path back to the tent is busted.

Sunday, December 14

Lachlan Kanoniuk: There’s a drizzle of percussive rain on the fly of my cheap tent, which is approximately four music festivals past its life expectancy, as I try and shake the internal residual disco grooves from Misty Nights? brilliant, sunrise-drenched set. I manage a brief slumber before the echoes of lung expulsions from Master Song’s Tai Chi class. I’m up, feeling fresh. This is a good Meredith. I mean, there are no bad Merediths. But this feels like one of the best.

After a brief cool overcast, the heat, not unbearable, still demands shade. I cut across the Amphitheatre en route to Eric’s Terrace, greeted by tones not really heard all weekend, nor any Meredith in memory for that matter. Krakatau sound fantastic, one of the understated gems in the lineup’s crown, amorphous in genre. Something like a proggy, instrumental Steely Dan, pristine and intricate in composition. I want to soak it in, as close as possible, but a perch from the Terrace’s viewing platform is sufficient.

Meredith’s timetabling can be incoherently spectacular (Wu-Tang alumnus into veteran pub rock on Saturday, for example). Sometimes it flows with concerted genius. Easing a transition from Marlon Williams? acoustic-led set into Lemonheads? loud and raucous showing, Jen Cloher opens with a sparse voice-and-guitar combo, conducting a gradual build from her backing band (comprised of members from The Courtney Barnetts and East Brunswick All Girls Choir) into hearty rock ?n? roll, sustaining brilliant energy throughout the entirety of the set.

CL: The Lemonheads might feel they got a bum deal, because it’s obvious that getting nostalgic about It’s a Shame About Ray* isn’t at the top of most people’s priorities on a self-pity-filled Sunday afternoon. The dissipating crowd, the malaise of those still waiting for their body to metabolise alcohol and the few busily debating whether sprinting naked in front of thousands of people is the best idea or worst idea ever were all factors why Evan Dando plies his trade in front of a smaller crowd than would be expected. But it’s also a brutal truth that the sound of The Lemonheads – that droning wall of ?90s guitars – has dated worse than most of his pop contemporaries; so if you haven’t already fallen in love with Evan’s personal brand of observational melancholy, you aren’t going to be converted now. That said, it’s a real treat for the devoted. ?The Outdoor Type? and ?The Great Big No? are welcomed like old friends and, proving that it’s never too late for a festival highlight, Australian Woman of the Year* (personal opinion, not official award) Courtney Barnett joins Evan on stage for a duet of ?Bein? Around?. The fact the Melbourne lass receives a warmer ovation than Dando speaks volumes, but somewhat typically he seems nonplussed and, as he finishes the set with ?Rudderless?, I wonder if anyone has ever written a more apt autobiography.

It’s a simple game sometimes, this rock music thing. A killer guitar riff, a scream-along chorus, a 4/4 beat and you have yourself something to flick your ash and swill your beer to. Sun God Replica do all of these things with aplomb and provide the exit music for Meredith 24. Led by Meanies frontman Link McLennan, they borrow from the heavy rock and psych of the ?60s and ?70s as well as Australian heroes like Cosmic Psychos. Again, perhaps they are a victim of the lackadaisical crowd, who, worn out from screaming at naked people collide at speed during The Gift, have little left to offer in the way of support. But it doesn’t stop bassist Lance Swagger (Tim Pickering, formerly of Monochromes) from tearing across the stage as they work through cuts from their two albums, [Primitive Clockwork]( /releases/2000980)* and *[The Devil and the Deep](/releases/2001332). It is this relentless pummelling of our ears that soundtracks the long walk back to camp, but thinking of the festival’s history and all that it represents, there’s nothing more apt than leaving the site to the sound of searing Aussie pub rock.

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Day 1: [The War on Drugs, Blank Realm, Sleep, Hard-Ons, Jagwar Ma, Factory Floor + more](/articles/4680269)