3am wakeup call. A ninety minute road trip with Pulp from pitch black through to sunrise. Waiting in a dusty vehicle queue nursed by Neil Young’s ‘Rust Never Sleeps’ and setting up camp before 8am and an isolated thunderstorm. Meredith slips into a comfortable journey from the outset. With no music until 4pm, the preamble is up for interpretation and the making one's own enjoyment. The twenty-five year old festival, along with its sister act Golden Plains, is the benchmark for festival intimacy. Pitch perfect lineups that skirt the expected, the "No Dickhead" policy, and a small capacity keep the masses away and allow for a relaxed grass roots environment that caters for music lovers of all ages. The single stage will see two and half days of clash-free acts from all spectrums of sonic definition.
The rain comes to a halt with impeccable timing as the large clock counting down the offical start time reaches its final seconds and the first band shoulder their instruments. Notorious off the grid locals Power draw first blood with a rollicking Friday afternoon shred-fest. Somewhere between early AC/DC and the Stooges, the trio air much of 2015's excellent 'Electric Glitter Boogie' with plenty of guts. It’s wild-eyed fun and the perfect way to open proceedings.
Two bands in and the mulleted frontman gauge is still registering 100% accuracy. Pearls have had a firm grip on turntables and playlists all year, and it was a real treat to finally see them play. Augmented to a five piece for the live appearance, Pearls shimmered beneath waves of delay and 70s synth and while Ellice Blackeney, dressed as a Patsy Clinesque cowgirl, pummels away at the drums.
Ex-Sonic Youth noiseman, Thurston Moore, brings his new band to the Amphitheatre as the Friday sun begins to wane. Moore’s squad deliver noisy, cathartic art-rock with heart and humility. A cult guitar anti-hero, Moore flexes his knack for marrying melody with drone, working every angle of his Fender Jag to frequently thrilling effect.
Shellac appear next. Described online as a "post-hardcore" act, these guys are wildly intense and somewhat polarising. The enigmatic Americans fill the (Super)natural Amphitheatre with tight, heavy rock and bellowing vocals that garner strong reactions for good and ill.
90s icon Big Daddy Kane ends the reign of the guitars with a strutting display of classic hip hop. Kane revitalises the Sup with velvety smooth vocals and an encompassing presence. "I know I can get the job done," he boasts. "I want to see if you can get the job done... show me you can get the job done!” Pausing only to receive some gold chains from a punter, Big Daddy holds court like the dog-gamn professional we deserve.
Swedish septet Goat stun instantly. Their swirling world music-inspired psychedelia draws spirited Booting (the Meredith tradition of demonstrating appreciation by holding waving your footwear when clapping wont suffice) from an enamoured crowd. Dressed in a variety of masks and veils, Goat take on a hypnotic and otherworldly aura. Tribal acid-house beats, funk guitars and intensely danceable bass lines coupled with a face-melting light show put forward a strong argument for highlight set of the festival.
The only obvious programming blunder hits Unknown Mortal Orchestra hard with the band delivering an underwhelming set that fails to keep the vibe going or successfully shift gears. Dull guitar tones and limp vocals amount to a sound that feels consistently lacking. They may have faired better during an early afternoon slot when the stakes aren't so high. Or maybe not.
The Meredith Sky Show lasers and accompanying DJ turn the heat back up in time to grease the wheels for Tkay Maidza with 50 Cent's 'In Da Club' dropped in celebration of the festival's Silver Jubilee.
Julia Holter welcomes Saturday morning with an easily digestible and chanting set. Droll humour and gorgeous vocals quickly win attention as the festival comes to life for round two. Holter's 2015 LP ‘Have You In My Wilderness’ has been getting a lot of love on end of year lists and she represents it here with great poise.
The volume skyrockets when Moon Duo take the stage at 2pm to unleash their kraut-rock storm. Fuzz, garbled transmission samples, pulsing synth bass and wiggy solos bludgeon their way into minds and hips for the forty-minute engagement.
Backed by an airtight live band, Shepparton's finest rapper Briggs has plenty of swagger and more than a pinch of soul. He carries the early afternoon well before handing the baton to energetic sets from electro poppers GL and punk thrashers The Peep Temple.
British doom act Uncle Acid arrive at 6pm with declarations that they’re here “to ruin you night”. They instead succeed in leading a headbangers ball with a splash of air guitar. Low-tuned guitars, classic Sabbath stylings and long hair dominate the hulking performance as the sun starts to sink in the clear sky.
Holding prime position in the dwindling light, Father John Misty storms through his triumphant sermon with charisma and vigour. Tracks from his stunning ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ album go down in a treat in the magical natural surrounds as Father John works himself relentlessly for the crowd. He leaps and embraces punters between falling to his knees with each furious proclamation. He appears visibly puzzled by the ecstatic Booting he receives. Hopefully someone filled him in once he finished.
When you wanna boogie; boogie with the Fatback. Classic American 70s act The Fatback Band more than fill the festival’s funk quota with wall to wall R&B-disco bangers. Decades of musical prowess kept the Sup dancing effortlessly, ensuring that everybody was ready to do the Bus Stop. The festival site is positively luminous at this point.
With their enormous sound and equally enormous visual light show, Ratatat back up the veterans with a blazing midnight set. The duo straddle a synergy of live guitars and electronic production to deliver a strong hour of thumping dance numbers before a string of DJs see the faithful revellers into the early hours and sunrise.
The option for an early getaway on Sunday stirs many to action, while others choose to see the whole thing out. Jess Ribeiro provides the perfect swan song to my Meredith with her 11am slot. Sipping a bottle of Jameson and munching on an apple that is later donated to the crowd, Ribeiro and her band issue their dark folk vibes with the right kind of luxurious lethargy to prop up sagging heads and send us on our way. Back in the car with Neil Young, we slowly re-enter the real world at our own pace. A little weary, eyes on the road, and next year.
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