Having made a song and dance of the festival completing its second active decade last year, the Meredith Music Festival organisers somewhat wisely resisted the temptation to hype the weekend as a 21st birthday party, replete with a techno heavy line-up, cock sucking cowboy shots at the bar and inane speeches at every turn. Nope, this is the ‘same old’ Meredith, with nary any vocal grandstanding to be seen nor daily line-ups reliant on any particular brand of music. As for the cock sucking cowboys, God only knows – this is Meredith after all…
Oddly though, comparisons between a landmark birthday celebration and this festival are worth making in that, behind all the superficial gesturing nonsense all a good party really needs is accommodating company, some good music and an ample supply of booze – enter Aunty and her wealth of charms. It’s as near the perfect festival experience as can be had and while its crowd is certainly diverse, it’s by no means thoughtlessly all-inclusive. oh sure, everybody’s invited but not everybody (‘dickheads’ in particular) gets a gilt-edged card in the post.
A brief (very brief actually-this site is tiny!) saunter past the Meredith Eye and legendary Pink Flamingo bar, pausing only to converse jovially with other Run DMC t-shirt attired revellers, and it’s into a remarkably swelled afternoon crowd to find that King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have the dubious privilege of sending out the first notes at the 21st Meredith Music Festival. The band approach their set by conspiring to make as much noise as possible. whether it’s good or bad noise, truthfully, is of no consequence at this juncture given the excited atmosphere permeating an amphitheatre full of people suddenly aware that: it. Has. Begun. Skirting around The Hives’ express punk by way of Thee oh Sees reverb and the handy addition of a mouth organ, these royal amphibians judge the balance of energy and execution perfectly. Finishing with an amped-up cover of The Stooges I Wanna Be your Dog even prompts an impromptu bout of rumba dancing. Game on, Meredith.
It’s not entirely apparent when Cash Savage’s set actually evolves from soundcheck into first song, and a bluesy humdrum opening number does little to draw the attention of a now energized crowd. The start of song number two provides a welcome increase in tempo but the crowd has hemorrhaged somewhat by the time the set hits its stride. Finishing with a flourish, Ms. Savage eventually acquits her 8-bar take on mark Lanegan’s gravel rock pretty well, but unfortunately minds have turned to the acquisition of Gozleme and Poffertjes, rather than the stage emanations.
This situation is reversed as, mini pancakes in hand, the festival goers return to catch the set of much vaunted 3-piece Unknown Mortal Orchestra who, despite not necessarily living up to the hype, do make for intriguing viewing which is equally as important this early on. dark and Creamy they begin to sound important with the energy levels turned up. But in the sleepy afternoon sun, the slower tunes from their debut, self-titled album drain away any momentum the band builds up. at any other festival the inconsistent opening performances might have been a major issue, but here the musical missteps are digested, accepted and pretty much forgotten about as all negative energy is drained away by an irrepressible air of euphoria brought on by first day fuzzies.
Amidst all the indie cool and food tents, we’re 21 years on and still somehow manage to feel like a group of friends enjoying some lazy summer day with a campfire guitar in the shade of ancient pine trees. The stage is tiny, the audience is pretty much receptive to anything and bands like Kurt Vile and The Violators can benefit from a crowd prepared for anything as long as they can drink along to it. The vocals are muffled which doesn’t help Kurt’s cause, but there is something here that stimulates the now well oiled crowd and, drunk or otherwise, The Violators leave the attendees hungry for more as the ‘housekeeping’ break kicks in.
Explosions In The Sky provide one of those rare occasions where the best vantage point for them is not at the foot of the stage but rather, at the back of the crowd where their passive/aggressive shoegazing can wash over you like warm joy. Earnest strumming gives way to glorious tinkling as Explosions build a set that tensely swings between sweet melodies and abrasive guitar. Their sweeping, wordless jams infect the crowd, carrying them from harsh daylight into the first evening of Meredith madness.
Glam metal centurions Barbarion kick off an eclectic trio of high octane party sets with all the flash bang pyrotechnics of a Rammstein show and about half of the subtlety. Absolutely devoid of restraint, the costumed rockers fill the stage like a camp remake of Gladiator, while wielding KISS-esque flame spewing guitars and generally inciting brilliant, confused, joyous chaos from front row to back. Unabashedly dated hair metal traditions take centre stage and having been lulled into a blissful catatonia by the afternoon line-up, the amphitheatre suddenly finds itself pumping its fists with abandon. it almost seems shameful to suggest that, amidst all the talent and left-field artistry on the bill, this gang of helmet wearing character actors provides one of the highlights of the weekend but sometimes big, dumb fun is just the tonic a festival needs to succeed.
Just ask Ladyhawke who suffers not just from the lack of fire breathing instruments but from Pip Brown’s flat stage presence. For a pop star that deals exclusively in uplifting electro tunes, her inability to express much more than the occasional sideways smile would make an intimate gig suffer, let alone a headlining set in an outdoor amphitheatre. She ambles her way through a great deal of new material, while a dance-hungry crowd waits impatiently for My Delirium which, when it does arrive at the set’s conclusion, satisfies the bouncing masses at the stage barrier and the more mobile revellers cavorting around the fringes of the arena.
Thankfully we still have Future Of The Left. While the crowd shrinks somewhat in numbers its energy expands ten fold as Andy Falcous and co take to the stage and produce one of the most satisfyingly abrasive moments of the festival. Infamous for his onstage banter and acidic crowd taunts, Falcous is surprisingly tight-lipped throughout the set, letting the band’s sound do all the talking. As the restless evening crowd churns they are treated to the best the Welsh punks have to offer, with tunes from 2009’s Travels with Myself and another dominating the performance. Falcous encourages everyone to heckle the moon and dedicates you need Satan more than He needs you to the looming Lunar Eclipse, before sneaking in Mclusky tunes, To Hell With Good Intentions and Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues.
As the time of the band comes to a close, the age of the MC and the DJ emerges from the shadows and, as is invariably the case, the absence of light coincides with an increase in volume and tempo. With the change in dynamic comes an increase in foot traffic as the festival expands away from the supernatural epicentre. Like a nuclear shockwave, debauched revelry pulses ever further out into the site, riding the wave to the bar, the Eye and, by the time Harmonic 313 takes to the stage, generally to bed.
Additional reporting by Sarah Smith.