Golden Plains 2013 (or Meredith 2012: Part 2, or Golden Plains 2012: Part 3, or Meredith 2011: Part 4, or Golden Plains 2011: Part 5)
Holy shit, you're back! You spent three months crapping on the idea of fucking up your work-life continuity by throwing another interstate trip on the credit card, then you felt the FOMO, got the fuckin YOLO, and now you're back in the sun at the 'Sup. But are you still an unapologetic arsehole? Are you still fucking sad? Will you still walk around pre-reviewing the festival looking for punchlines? Are you gonna ignore the advice to lay off the drugs and try to broadly speak for everyone? Yeah, you are! Yeah, you will! Welcome back to the Victorian country-side, buddy. Have a green can and a hug.
Mate, isn't it good to be back? Life took a turn, life had a shake-up, but this festival can be your rock, your anchor. Maybe sometimes it holds you down, keeps you coming back even when you're concerned about the red in the bank and green on the liver, but that rope hooked to the part of your chest that yearns for a good time is always there — it's just up to you whether you make it a leash or a bungee cord. With a beer sweating in your hand underneath the ozone-depleted southern sun though, you can't argue that you're at peace. You look around at everyone else and it's clear they're feeling it too.
You settle into the heat reasonably well and after a couple of tinnies, manage to deal with your insecurity about shorts and just accept the fact that when it's 35 degrees, you need to reveal your knees. You go on a round of zealous hugs and talk about everyone's purchase of weird import beer that no one has ever seen before this weekend at an on-special price of $30 a hit. You paid $20 extra a case to drink VB for the weekend. Stop the boats, am I right?
At 2pm, Money For Rope play the prime timeslot for being talked over. They do a very good job of being talked over, trying to rise to the occasion with enthusiasm and guitars. But the magic of this fuckin place is that you half enjoy it anyway. Because that stage, that grassy knoll, those mates, that baited hope for the efficacy of that pill, those beers, that sunset — these all make anything on-stage reasonably good. A band like Opossum, who you would never be caught listening to at home, becomes danceable in the sun. You can lie down in the haze of discussion and be washed over by the "why-now-everyone-wants-to-party" meandering of Psarandonis, who actually perfectly fits the timeslot after all. And as the sun falls through the sunny guitars of Wild Nothing and that ludicrously enjoyable pop of No Zu, you feel Golden.
How did Cat Power fail to move you in the fallen darkness, with the stage streaked with that magical combination of blue and purple lights? She doesn't play the songs you knew when you were lazily flipping your way through university, so thankfully, it doesn't drag back those memories. As her band crashes away at this new progression to a hesitant rock band, you're glad that Cat Power fails on the threat to needle your emotions. Emotions are for pussies. So yeah, of course, when Dinosaur Jr finally come on and you get your first glimpse of J, Lou and Murph, you get a nice big pang of blinked back tears. Then you get beaten the shit out of in a mosh full of twenty-somethings all striving to thrash their way to a time they missed. Is that what was happening? Were you all trying to find nostalgia in a band you never really got to experience at the right time? You can barely hear a word J's singing, but you know these songs so well that you can just fill in the spaces in your head — and you can feel those guitars surging through your chest.
Yeah, you made the right decision in coming. If you could tell the alternate universe version of you — the one who didn't go — that this was how you felt during Dino's set, he'd be really upset. But we do not yet understand how to manipulate time, nor if it is even able to be manipulated at all, and the multi-universe theory is clever and all, but it's also clearly just the advent of Physics nerds... Maybe you should stop trying to keep up with philosophical acid guy and get yourself another beer from camp.
Then somehow amongst hazy memories of zip-lock bags, upturned CD's, rolled up $5 bills and torch-lit tents, the next four bands blend into one long fucked-up dance party. Was it Client Liason who was really good, or whoever filled in the space between them and Purity Ring? But Purity Ring were definitely good, you think... and as Flume took the stage to clean his keyboard you are letting the fuck loose, dancing on couches, grinding against your mates and talking with an enthusiastic conviction along with everyone else. And amongst this flurry of noise and light and friendship, you make up for the mixed bag that was last year's Meredith. You smile and think that this place has as much capacity for joy as any place on Earth.
And then you woke up.
Here are some big questions.
- How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?
- How many ounces of strength does it take to get a man who just slept four hours on the ground with a towel as a blanket and a flanno for a pillow to leave his tent to see Dick Diver?
- What is the conversion rate of ounces to grams?
Answers: It depends on how long each road is, the quality of the paving and the courage of the man in question. Many ounces... Many, many ounces. You're in the bush with twenty mates having a good time, put your phone away.
Steph Hughes plays a solo with a leg up on a riser and her tongue sticking out the corner of her mouth while Al Montfort twirls a microphone over his head in mock coooool for Dick Diver's Head Back. At some stage you actually put your head back. Ba ba bowww. Dick Diver's shared joy and light-hearted mockery of the big-time environment tears apart that disconcerting punter-performer gap built by the huge barrier at the front of the stage, and it's this jovial charm that's just what you needed this morning. Mulatu Astatke is a really cute choice to continue the day; aged, smiling and curled over his vibraphone. But his set is infuriatingly narrated by the members of the Black Jesus Experience employed to perform his compositions of the past. They even have the hide to rap over an Ethiopian jazz legend. Poor Mulatu. He has a song named Mulatu too. Everyone should have a song that they name after themselves; it would be very good for self-esteem.
Red Kross sounded great from afar, but when you actually came down to see them you were kind of put off by those wrinkled up old dudes with long hair and zany pants, cotton wristbands and expensive guitars. But for the moments that they aren't talking all over-enthusiastically (ergh...enthusiasm) and looking like self-described cool Dad's, it's a pretty genuine highlight. More nodding along in the sun, pushing yourself to stay upright. And then somehow Aunty Meredith throws Toro Y Moi into the fold, a welcome sunniness that pulls the clearly exhausted amphitheatre to verticality. To make up for all that positivity, the Mark Of Cain then punches the shit out of you for 50 minutes with withering stares that only three angry middle-aged men can drag from the pits of their supposedly broken lives. When the festival then doubles the guitar dosage with the ensuing Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, you remember how tired you are. Worse still, you didn't get the chance to yell "blues explosion" back at Jon Spencer with any strength on account of having lost your voice and also your will to live.
You squint at your arms to check for sunburn then get worried that people think you're checking yourself out.
Keb Darge is a guy with a huge record collection who plays tracks before making comments like "oh yeah, this is a good one". It would have been a really good time for Dino to play AGAIN! And holy shit George Clinton was more of a disappointment than that pill you spent dry-retching into the drop dunny. You finally get too cold and attempt a midnight power nap, waking up two hours later to your patented bed design. It fails to keep you warm or comfortable and your hips actually bruise from the firmness of the ground. From here you overhear Zanzibar Chanel and wake right the fuck up, doing this kind of half-arsed dance writhing in bed from 500 metres. You make an effort to head down, crawl out of your tent, open a beer, have another dry retch and moan your way back under the relative warmth of the beach towel. You listen to Moodymann from your tent and bemoan your lack of energy... and then it all goes quiet. You feel the first waves of potential sleep flood over you, and as an insomniac, you realise that this is one of the most wonderful feelings a human being can feel. You did good, mate. You finally made it back.
Then you get lost in Melbourne get confused by myki get on the wrong bus miss your flight fall asleep at the airport drink burned coffee walk around aimlessly for two hours vomit on the plane get stared at weird by the flight stewards fall asleep in the cab get home late gag whenever you yawn and decide to never go back again.