Last weekend (December 9-11), Melbourne rekindled its annual love affair with Meredith Music Festival. We’ve been seeing each other for 26 years now and the romance is still as strong as ever. The relationship works because the terms are simple: we look after each other, dickhead behaviour is banned and the single stage means clashes don’t exist. The foolproof formula works every time.
Twelve and a half thousand revellers descend upon the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre to embrace a world of music, love and magic, where Pink Flamingos and fairy lights replace phone signal and battered couches stand in for swirly office chairs. For many, pulling into the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre in the early hours of Friday morning feels like coming home. Hello again, Aunty!
As ever, the musical line-up was packed with local favourites and genre-spanning international acts. Peaches’s Saturday headline slot saw her inauguration into the Meredith canon of unforgettable live performances. A troupe of bondage-clad backing dancers supported the electro-punk performance artist as she delivered a sexually charged, beautifully smutty and filthy set. ‘Dick in the Air’ came from inside a huge inflatable condom, which made waves into the crowd before launching Peaches back onto her stage. At one point, her dancers wore vagina costumes and Peaches donned a nude leotard, delivering messages of sexual liberation. Too soon, she launched into her closing number, ‘Fuck The Pain Away’, which sent her audience into a frenzy of obscenities and excitement.
Friday night saw a headline performance from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, who are arguably one of Melbourne’s finest musical exports and one of the most impressive live acts on the scene. The seven-piece psych-rock weirdos (featuring two drummers and five guitarists) created a sonic whirlwind of psychedelic adventure, delving deep into their latest album, Nonagon Infinity, to induce a raucous mosh pit and a serious reminder to “‘look after each other in there”’. Their set saw this reviewer’s bag (containing a passport, iPhone and $200 cash) disappear deep into the mix, only to be returned to lost property the following morning (the cash was still in there!) – a testament to Meredith’s ‘no dickhead policy’.
Tears were in full flow during Angel Olsen’s set. She led a backing band of five (all wearing matching grey suits) through an emotional folk-rock-noise trip of poignant lyricism and building vocals, maintaining complete control of her voice throughout a powerful set. Olsen closed with a haunting, ethereal rendition of ‘Intern’, to which there almost seemed to be no beginning and no end. Many a boot was raised in approval.
Another highlight included Ross Wilson; as per tradition, trousers were dropped in a salute to the Australian singer-songwriter’s performance of ‘Eagle Rock’, Daddy Cool’s Australian classic. Archie Roach interspersed his darkly political set with pearls of wisdom, encouraging us to make regular escapes from the daily rat race. We floated on into Saturday morning with a charming performance from The Goon Sax, whose jangling guitar pop saw us through a foggy morning. Badbadnotgood gave a wildly psychedelic jazz performance on Saturday afternoon and JAGWAR MA returned to the ‘Sup to carry us through to the electronic portion of the night.
Aunty isn’t often one to make changes to the failsafe Meredith blueprint, but after 20 years of service, the ‘Sup said a thankful goodbye to an old faithful and introduced a new sound system, offering a vast improvement on the quality of sound. Music could be heard far into the campsites and the blasting bass kept us dancing through until silence wedge kicked in during the early hours of the morning.
When you’re sick of warm goon and BYO tinnies, Meredith presents the Pink Flamingo: a vision in pastel that combines vodka, pink grapefruit and other mysterious ingredients (rest assured, no actual flamingos are harmed in the making of this adored cocktail). This year, ‘pink flingas’ and Espresso Martinis were delivered on tap, a move that shortened queues and kept us well watered throughout the festival. Good one, Aunty.
But, Meredith Music Festival is so much more than on stage antics. The jewel on the Meredith crown is undoubtedly its people, whose boundless love and warmth keep tickets selling out, year on year. Sunsets at inspiration point, The Meredith Gift (a nude, foot race), late night/early morning rides on The Eye, new friends, old lovers, The Clean Up Song (this year, it was Todd Terje’s ‘Inspector Norse’) – the list goes on and on. Meredith, we salute you. See you at Golden Plains.