Features

Report: Golden Plains 2015 Day 2

Our report from the closing day of Golden Plains Number Nine, with powerful scenes, powerful voices, and powerful cranes. Words by MARCUS TEAGUE* and **LACHLAN KANONIUK**. Photos by *JESSE BOOHER. [Click here for our day 1 report](/articles/4688098).

Lachlan Kanoniuk:* Only a gentle hint of *Aldous Harding?s Sunday-commencing set drifts over the campsites immediate to the stage, the Kiwi’s pristine, traditional folk is optimised for earlybirds seated in an array across the amphitheatre ground. Once in the vicinity, the performance sounds fantastic, tracks from last year’s self-titled debut showcased with sonic precision through a festival PA that has let others down in the past. In fact, this is the first Golden Plains or Meredith where the sound quality couldn’t be faulted. In contrast with the ornate compositions, Harding projects an awkward charm as she jettisons her acoustic guitar for the penultimate song. ?There’s no guitar stand. That’s alright, I didn’t want one anyway,? she deadpans. Then to drive home the impact of her powerhouse vocal, the accompanying keyboardist and electric guitarist abstain for a closing a capella Edith Piaf cover, in French. All class.

Producer-vocalist Banoffee, aka Martha Brown, takes to the stage while a few morning amblers rise to their feet, shuffling to the fore. Not a solid turnout, but respectable for the AM hour. The crowd builds throughout the set, Brown feeds from the incremental excitement. By the time we hit ?Let’s Go To The Beach?, Banoffee’s most dancefloor-friendly cut, the amphitheatre is packed. Really packed, rivalling most primetime showings. An organic slice of magic, and Banoffee owns it.


Aunty has hit her stride in recent years in terms of hip-hop, the focus reined into the local sphere at Golden Plains Number Nine, with Melbourne duo Milwaukee Banks being the weekend’s only overt purveyors of the genre. They carry the torch well, especially on the heady Rat & Co collaboration ?Monitor?, though the crux of pitched-down vocals can feel a touch played out at times throughout the set.

Memphis trio Oblivians feel vital. It’s their first Australian sojourn, despite Eric Oblivian being a constant champion of our garage best with Goner Records. Two guitars, played loud and nasty (again, the Meredith PA sounds a treat), no-nonsense rock ?n? roll rhythm. Downstroke ferocity, dealt effortlessly. There’s a slight pause as Greg Cartwright takes to the drumkit, all but one cymbal removed, but the momentum never stalls as Eric tags in from drummer to guitarist-vocalist.

Marcus Teague:* I can’t rightly say what kind of music Omara “*Bombino” Moctar’s band plays, but when secondary guitarist Avi Salloway booms ?DO YOU FEEL THE RHYTHM OF THE DESERT IN THE HOUSE?? mid-way through the set, I think to myself, ?Goddamn. Yes. Yes I do.? Bombino ticks all the boxes for a hotly-received afternoon at Golden Plains – wild musicianship, boundless grooves that flitted between rock, latin, blues, and psychedelic post-rock, and a lively commitment to celebrating the occasion. Moctar, a member of the Tuareg people of Niger, was undoubtedly the only musician on the bill who has escaped an oppressive regime that once executed members of his band for playing the guitar. You don’t need to know that to hear the spirited expression of joy pulsing through his group’s blistering post-Hendrix Experience melange, but an unbridled declaration of freedom is obvious all the same.

When I’m not striding around in intimate communication with the cosmos, I write review notes in my phone. When I’m not accidentally sending those notes to friends in confusing text message replies, they help me remember stuff. Like this: Soil & ?Pimp? Sessions – ?lobby music on speed?. How else to explain: billing themselves as ?Japanese death jazz? was somehow both correct and less exciting than it sounds. Six jazz musicians in full on freak-out mode, but more akin to Bungle than Brubeck or Basie. If there’s a comparable spirit to the cartoonish sextet’s spectacle, it’s their pushing the limits of genre. But the Tokyo band don’t so much lead the crowd on a journey as slash and burn all lines of communication via intentionally ridiculous flights of fancy. Their afternoon spot is clearly designed to accelerate the heart rate, but the hectic spectacle is more bent on overwhelming.

Tucked away behind the massage tent, Oblivians guy Greg Cartwright appears under a little marquee for a set of raspy solo tunes. Like Lou Barlow’s sidestage showing a few years back when Barlow’s other band Dinosaur Jr played, the moment allows a side of Cartwright that’s absent from the Oblivion’s set. Also like Barlow, Cartwright’s rudimentary music is laced with straight-faced ruminations on love, and while he doesn’t have the same way with poetry, there’s again something quietly beautiful about an unfashionable grown man singing his heart out to a small, appreciative crew splayed on the grass above the gorge.

Some moments don’t crystallise until they’re done with. Total Giovanni, at 5:45pm on the second day, made perfect, glorious sense. Only listening to the Melbourne band’s music won’t do it: their schtick of theatrical italo-disco has been so wholly embraced, is now so well-curated – so stupidly fun – that live they attain something more satisfying. The band go all out for the occasion – a white Roman arch fronted their decks along with faux-marble plinths supporting a drum machine and Moog, the band in their finest Roman sports chic of Togas, gold chains, white lycra and wreaths aplenty. Before ?Human Animal?, frontman Vachel Spirason speaks of being in the crowd here for years, and their obvious excitement at being on the other side of the stage is infectious. Huge rave-up closer ?Can’t Control My Love? focuses the moment, the band’s beaming grins finally eclipsed by a forest of boots waving in the air. Lovely.

Organisers are going to need a bigger cliff. Seems like every year the festival swarms a little larger at Sunset Point to watch the sun disappear, and this year it was standing room only. Where once mewling couples and pockets of friends used to paw at each other along a grassy expanse, there’s now footy scrum swathes of blasted folk all stoked on cheering the sun down. One guy strips off to acknowledge the ancient changeover of planets with his dick. Powerful scenes.

I saw Conor Oberst*?s sideshow at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne and it was great. I saw his show at Golden Plains and it wasn’t great. It might not even have been good. Where his own gig seemed loaded with revelation and nuance – his backing band *The Felice Brothers (who earlier had turned in their own great set of dusty, cracked Americana) adding a lively, cohesive element to the singer’s vast catalogue – in the festival setting Oberst seems unremarkable. His song-choice doesn’t help – ?Ten Women? and ?Hundreds of Ways? capped a run a run of slow, hook-free tunes that deadens the after-dark mood. Things lift with ?Poison Oak? and ?Easy/Lucky/Free?, but an abrasive mix and a hint of petulance in Oberst seems to sour the communal setting.

Initially I questioned the wisdom of putting on Something For Kate after Conor Oberst – two acts of serious-minded, supposedly dour rock music – but when the locals come on that comparison makes no sense: Something For Kate are a cathartic monster. Playing for a temporary time without Stephanie Ashworth on bass, the all-male four-piece barrels through a career-spanning greatest hits set that does well to remind a) how many songs everyone here just knows, and b) how Paul Dempsey’s booming and surprisingly elastic voice seems purpose made for such grand occasions. Mainstays like ?Electricity?, ?Deja Vu? and ?Pinstripe? vibrate with a crunching power rarely attributed to the group, and a cover of ?Billie Jean? is the big crowd’s first communal singalong. I bet their iTunes sales got a bump this week.

LK:* The snare sounds tight, like a gunshot. *Parquet Courts are all artillery. Whoever they’re warring with, the NYC outfit are winning. It’s all sneer and guitar cyclones, their stamina undiminished as the set nears a close with the machine gun ?Sunbathing Animal?, the title track from Parquet Courts? LP of last year. Singer Andrew Savage projects a stoic brashness, sardonically calling out cultural appropriation of Pharaoh culture. He’s a charming brand of arsehole.

MT:* I’m late to the *Village People set, and with the crowd so squished in I’m forced to stand on the perimeter. From a distance that doesn’t seem so bad – with just the six men on stage dancing to a backing track, the scene teeters between glittery bush doof and the biggest shopping centre karaoke jam you’ve ever seen. I regret not being in the thick of it to record if it’s more addictive, until the giant arm of an unseen crane slowly advances through the fog above the stage dangling an enormous mirror ball. The scene is so surreal, so intoxicatingly, wonderfully, stupidly ambitious, that there’s nothing else to think about. Like everyone else in that moment, I turn to a friend and together we spontaneously break into the ?YMCA? dance. It’s a beautiful thoughtless moment. Just like the yearly chatter about the line-up, the attempt to objectify bands, outfits, people and purpose of this reliably excellent ritual, the best moments never really happen on the page.

LK:* One hour doesn’t seem enough for local DJ **Edd Fisher**, never waning throughout a wall-to-wall four-to-the-floor set, hitting it for six with each selection. The hour of power sets up the festival-closing set from Detroit’s *Theo Parrish perfectly. Parrish eases into proceedings, exuding masterful control as his movements behind the desk mirroring the rising intensity levels. The extended breakbeat indulgence is pure prestige.

[CLICK HERE FOR OUR DAY 1 REPORT](/articles/4688098)