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Meredith Music Festival 2012

You've come a long way in the nine months since Golden Plains. Your tastes have changed and your lifestyle is different. You drink Reschs from the tap at your local, you drink at home by the longneck, and you drag along the leftovers to the warehouses and record stores you call home on weekends. You only really go to see music from a handful of related genres; bands who don't turn a profit, who are strangers to marketing budgets that don't extend beyond a beer case economy. Good on you! You're mostly happy, have found work-life balance and are very fond of your new lifestyle. As you should be — you work hard, mate. Yet, you penciled in the Meredith music festival just to have something to look forward to. You haven't been keen on Christmas since puberty finished, no one really shows up to your birthday beers anymore and you can't afford to go to Bali to buy My-First-Bintang-Singlet. The promise of Meredith got you through 2012 and you're damn fucking sure that the two day bender will be there for you too. Whatever happens, it doesn't even matter if you enjoy it now.

You leave from Sydney in your Dad's van. Try not to dwell on the fact that it has your childhood mattress in the back and is stocked with a first aid kit your Mum was smart enough to slide under the dashboard — that will only get you down. You are an independent young man, you have a job, you mow your lawn once a week and smoke the same Winfield Reds you were brainwashed into desiring as a 10 year old watching Andrew Ettinghaussen take off down the right side of Shark Park every Sunday. Be honest — you don't smoke and you used to watch Cronulla from behind the try-line during their troublesome season of 1994. Whatever, try not to think about it. You are who you want to be now. You are the captain of your own ship.

You meet with the group of people you see twice a year at Meredith and Golden Plains and you rejoice in their company. This is the reprieve for all of you, that weekend that bucks the shit you went through day-by-fucking-day all year prior. You crack your first tinny of bargain piss at 7am, shudder at the thought of doing this when it's lukewarm, then get in a line, drive in, get drunker, set up tents, try in vain to help with the 8 metre tall teepee and start to slur your words by noon.

It's 4pm and you groan when Pond arrive on stage in matching suits. You don't like music scenes and offshoots you aren't a part of. Pond-via-Tame-Impala, psych-revivalism, Geelong, The Murlocs, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Melbourne funk and soul, you don't understand it. You carry on your deadshit conversation about your job with the mate-of-a-mate you just met during Pond's set, crack another can and you find that you're having a pretty good time. You're not looking forward to much today, but you convince yourself that you are. Truth is, you've gotten used to your lifestyle of careful life choices back home in the Inner-West and all of a sudden you've been torn out of your comfort zone and thrown into a place where the decisions are all made for you. Snakadaktal are playing that song you heard on the J-Tuned work radio and they're too placid to make you smile. But you're with your mates, and it's okay — even when so much is out of your control. You can't have your stock-standard Vegemite and cheese hangover toast tomorrow, you can't cook up a dollar pot of Mi Goreng when hunger hits and you can't find your mate with your stuff, so you source whatever shit the guys at your campsite have hanging around in the zip lock bags that sit tentatively in their glove box. You also have to sleep under a thin layer of fresh rural Victorian dust. Yet, you are having the time of your fucking life.


Pond

By 3am on the first night of Meredith, Four Tet is pissing dial-up internet handshakes over his silver DJ booth, and you're doing a solo lap around the Amphitheatre trying to sort your head out. A while back, you took a Mushroom cap then turned around to see your closest mates saying goodnight. Bad Decisions. There is no escape now. You can't sleep, you can only ride these last couple of hours out and hope it doesn't get ominous. You take another lap to find a mate on the same level, but find only pill-fucked ferals licking their lips and climbing trees. You're not on pills, you're not up a tree-trunk, but it's time to realise that you're one of them too. You go back to camp and bump into a mate you haven't seen all day. You know that he was doing the same laps you were — that aimless 'where-is-the-party' stroll — then he leaves to go to bed and you do a few more laps just to look at the lights and dancing trees and you're preeeeetty sure he's doing the same. You remember back to Earthless' lengthy jams in the late arvo, how it was all a bit too early for 15-minute riffing, but at least it had the balls the kids before them didn't. You stroked your chin to Brous, who was whistling Bjorkisms under a Race-day hat. You find out that Mick Harvey was playing guitar in her band, and that weirdly makes you think you should have been paying more attention. People describe Grimes to you before she comes on as being really cute, but they don't address her music and you think that's sexist as fuck. You come to half enjoy it, but you feel the need to file it as 'I-don't-get-pop-music-why-isn't-this-sitting-in-the-Top-40-ignore-list-with-B3y0nce' and go back to camp for yet another beer. You return for Sunnyboys, who come on stage with their Dad-shirts and the kind of gear that a successful '80s band can afford to cart around, and it transports you back to that first wave of Australian garage, where they and their contemporaries were entertaining your old man. Now they are entertaining yooooouuu. You smile along with the hallucinogen rush and sing Alone With You with the rest of the amphitheatre who pick up the chorus the second time around. You turn to the guy next to you to say, "How good is this?" You find that nobody is there. All weekend, people ask that question, almost in desperation. You become aware of the fact that you're actually trying to have fun sometimes, and when you are having fun, you want your mates to know. It's when the colours become more vivid that you start to eagerly await Spiritualized.

Spritualized arrive, and they are beautiful. The shaky platform of the relationship you had all year gets solidified under the stars during your quiet freak out to Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. It's perfect romance, and the rest of their set is too — regardless of the emotional context. You discover your fondness for Tame Impala. Despite their first album giving you the shits, the success of their second and their rich live set leaves you wondering why people aren't as proud of them as they could be. People just seem to enjoy not liking them. You stumble into your van to grab a beer and kiss your sleeping girlfriend on the forehead, only to terrify her because you're some drunk asshole crawling into her bed without warning. That's when you find that second mushroom cap.

Then Omar Souleyman gets on stage and you enjoy it for the freedom it lends everyone's excitement. You dance freely, and enjoy yourself because you're coated in this sense of respectful irony, because the whole thing is so strange and foreign and somehow wonderful despite the repetitive, monotone drone that you eventually realise it to be. In hindsight, you notice that the shelter of irony covers a lot at the festival, from fashion to dead jokes and bands; a lot of people hide behind it in 2012. You wear a shitty hat you find in your old man's van and don't feel self-conscious because you can laugh it off with everyone else's hats that spruik the 1996 Optus logo or some defunct NFL team. You enjoy Souleyman in the same way you did Big Freedia last year, as a cultural event with a very real sense of fun at its heart. But it's long and repetitive and it irks you. It's not something you need to take seriously in order for you to judge it though, you just go with it for the night, then talk about it with non-committal confusion the next day.

On Saturday morning, all the strange things that happened last night are given a sense of unsettling truth in the daylight. A lot of weird shit went down for you last night, but you can't trust last night's Shroom haze, so you try to keep your distance from the people you think hate you and now you wonder why you ever bothered with drugs in the first place. You're better off just dealing with a hangover. So you kiss your girlfriend good morning and share her American mate's ADHD medication, open a beer, pocket some more Shrooms for later and start Day Two with Twerps. There's four-fifths of a gale blowing through camp, your tarp has come down, your van shakes in the breeze, and in the Amphitheatre, you reckon it's the wind that makes Twerps sound a bit flat. They fuck up a few times and have some of the meekest, most meaningless on-stage banter you have ever heard, but you don't let this dampen your enthusiasm. Twerps were one of the few bands you were looking forward to. They're on your hit list, they put out one of your favourite albums, you are a fan. When you later criticise Chet Faker's sluggish set and gear fuck-up's, people are nice enough not to hold a mirror to your hypocrisy.

By the time Royal Headache start sound-checking, you realise that despite seeing them a dozen times this year, you're here to see how they go in front of a 10,000-strong crowd. You tried that when they supported The Black Keys in October, but few showed up before the headline act. You're somehow proud watching all these strangers from Melbourne pump fists and raise footwear in respect to Royal Headache. (As they fucking should.) You laugh when Shogun cuts off Distant and Vague because — "nah nah, it's too boring, nah, it's too hot for that shit," and wonder what the mildly curious up back think of their lack of professionalism. But "Fuck them," you think. "What would they know," you think. "I bet they've all got their hands on it waiting for the Toot Toot Toots," you think. You can be a self-righteous knob sometimes, but as long as you're aware of it...


Royal Headache

With Royal Headache's triumph, the festival regains that sense of wonder for you, and that's strengthened by the appearance of Big Jay McNeely. Behind his bright white moustache, he's your festival highlight. You wonder why you ever stopped listening to Rhythm and Blues in favour of all this punk and hardcore shit. You know that you own more Soul and Blues records than you do Hardcore. You're exposed to the latter only incidentally, through support slots and unknown headliners, and yet you're unsettled by the fact that you're exposed unwillingly to so many things at Meredith. When you're dancing in the dust with a handful of new best mates, you have time to consider what makes you, you. What crafted this persona of yours? You will go home and try (and fail) to open your mind again. It will be one of many temporary breakthroughs you'll make throughout the festival and it's why Meredith is so important to you. McNeely is seated and leading his band through sax-driven hits from a bygone era. It's one of the most genuine musical moments you've seen at this place since Charles Bradley's highlighting set at Golden Plains in March. Think about that for a second. For all the scrappy low-fi Garage shit you listen to, it was not a Garage band that was the highlight at both of the festivals you went to this year. If the Shrooms aren't making you reconsider your views on life, then maybe that fact should.

You sit out much of the rest of the day to relax and sip at some more cans. Hot Snakes aren't exactly what you were told they would be, but you have a good time nodding along to it. All those big riffs are somehow appropriate in the afternoon sun, a beer going steadily warm in your sweaty palm. You ignore Rahzel because you know it's going to be a failed experiment, and you ignore The Toot Toot Toots, 'cos "who the fuck cares about this punkabilly shit that's entertaining the newly tattooed and Bryl-creamed twenty-somethings who try to find solace in this shitty subculture?" You change out of your torn and muddied RIP Society T-shirt and again, you're lucky that your hypocrisy isn't spat back at you.

You're back at camp clothed afresh and you're having a lovely time again. The drugs are still on the up, and you get to make cracks about the Special K advertisement that is Saskwatch's funk/soul/#Melbourne/revival without actually giving them enough of a glance to judge them fairly. Good on you, mate! You try to tap into the nostalgia of Regurgitator, but just find the presence of Polyester Girl amongst the punkier stuff absurd. They probably do too, and you wonder why they bother with those hits considering how hard-and-fast they're capable of being. They're at their worst when they placate their audience and they're pretty good when they're enjoying themselves. Turbonegro play All My Friends Are Dead while you're back in your van assembling your next phase of experimentation on a dinner plate and you're half devastated. By the time you head back down, you realise that this time slot is home to a Meredith aural staple, the end-of-song cut-off guitar and drum thwack, followed by a rising cheer from the crowd. It's that moment when you start to feel like this place is getting a bit formulaic for you after the small handful of times you've been down here, but you are having the time of your life again. You can figure that thought out once you get back home.


Regurgitator. They still do.

Everything takes a dark turn for you once the cold wind sweeps through. You didn't pack your warm but stupid-looking jacket, so you shiver through Primal Scream and aren't excited enough to deal with it. You say they're not a proper headliner, that even Rocks Off leaves you flat and limp. You're too far up the back of the Amphitheatre, you're not drunk enough, and you're on your back staring empty and medicated at the searchlights that make dueling paths through the night sky. What did you expect to think of Primal Scream from that position? You hold out for the laser show, try to sleep, and instead are irked by the never-ending DJs who you bemoan from bed. You complain internally about their sameishness, but you are in bed. How the fuck did you expect to enjoy them from there?

You wake up on Sunday in regret. You went to bed too early. You treated your body like a carefully planned Science experiment and it failed. You should have drunk more. Now you're wincing at more of that trained-vocal soul-scene stuff that Hiatus Kaiyote is yelling at you through your hangover. Fraser A Gorman shits you too, a brand of folk that even you wouldn't have listened to in your softer days. Later, The Murlocs' turd-squeezed-through-a-cheese-grater vocals and Bittersweet Kicks' dull brand of revivalist classic rock is taken far too seriously by others to allow your fractured psyche to enjoy it, but it's not like you're in an open frame of mind right now. When Boomgates arrive, they finally deliver the goods for you, and they make up for all the other complaints you make in the hot/cold turmoil of a Victorian day in the sun. They make it worth getting out of bed, the interplay of Brendan Huntley and Steph Hughes completely overshadowing the reserved guitar and bass of Gus Lord and Rick Milovanovic, all names you've read add nauseum throughout the last few years, people you respect and adore and feel like you know intimately. It was perfect for you and your sense of dread at having to tackle the Hume (fucking) Highway in a couple of days. Their songs are so simple and honest and spread with love and respect. Even when Huntley is missing cues, or when the sound mix ignores his melodica, it still makes you smile. When Curb Your Enthusiasm's JB Smoove later recycles jokes about Eucalyptus leaves and Tim-Tam's over, and over, and over the fuck again, you've been healed enough to not really let it bug you. Plus, you soon get to giggle at small dicks and nice boobs once the nude race that is the Meredith Gift fires, so it's not all bad.

All of the people you spend time with over the weekend — the mates who you get to know better every year; the new ones you met that weekend; your newly defined partner; the friend you wronged the last time you were here; the ex-girlfriend you finally made peace with; her boyfriend who doesn't know how much you like him; your mates from back home who you didn't get enough of a chance to see — you're all refugees from the capital cities. You need Meredith as a light on the horizon that you can collectively look forward to. That's why you came back and that's why you will come back again. Meredith, with all the brutal weather conditions and challenging emotional gauntlets is an event for you to dream about from your desk job. For you, and those who have become regulars (and almost anyone who goes for the first time swiftly becomes a regular) it will define the next three months leading into Golden Plains, and it'll define a handful of your life decisions for the nine months that lead to Meredith. Whole lives can revolve around two events in rural Victoria for completely illegitimate reasons, and it will always be a constant surprise to you how much it will dictate your own. All that dark shit you went through over the weekend will eventually be ignored, forgotten and improved upon the next time around. For now, you'll get yourself home to Sydney, put on a collared shirt and sit behind your desk until the holiday break. Then you'll tell your colleagues that you had a really nice time hanging out with your friends, but, all things considered, you probably had a few too many beers.

Photos stolen/borrowed from @gemdilem. Thanks!

Filed Under
Articles
Meredith Music Festival
Pond
Tame Impala
BROUS
Royal Headache
Boomgates
Regurgitator
The Twerps

 

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Comments

Tupelo

Writing this in the second person is so unnecessary, bloody annoying to read, nonsensical and just plain stupid. It makes no sense recalling in second person a personal Meredith account in exact detail as if you're broadly speaking for everybody... you're not. Oh and lay off the drugs dude... Meredith is still enjoyable without constantly throwing hallucinogens and pills down your throat like a tool. No wonder your girlfriend went to bed early on the Friday night and you had the distinct feeling both mornings you'd pissed some people off.

4 years ago

Rav

^ Dad get off the comments section - you're embarrassing me!

4 years ago

Adam Groucott

If I was your uncle tupelo I would hold a gun to your head and say 'just don't tell me which way I outta run or what good i could do anyone because my heart was a gun but it's unloaded now so don't bother' and then I would say that you are crazy! That was a terrific review and the second person gave it beauty and detachment but dude you are long gone.... Kudos to the author though, great piece.

3 years ago

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