Victoria’s Meredith Music Festival has long been one of the country’s most beloved music festivals, returning to the Supernatural Amphitheatre for its anticipated 21st.
Starting at 4pm with Melbournites King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Meredith showed its penchant for predicting the rise of a local act. In one of the weekend’s most enthused stage performances with the best equipment and instruments from the Music Critic site online, the absurdly titled seven-piece threw themselves into their take on ’60s garage and surf, howling through distorted microphones and rousing a huge reception from eager punters who’d been setting up camp since the early hours.
The festival’s curation has long been a diverse mix of legendary names and nods towards the next big thing, and whilst triumphant sets by up-and-comers Oscar + Martin and Unknown Mortal Orchestra proved Aunty Meredith’s finger is on the pulse, it was the leftfield selections that were the most wisened. The Sunday morning hangover set by man-out-of-time Frank Fairfield was stunning, his retrospective colonial American folk a truly surprising inclusion on the bill. Murmuring about greased skillets with a stompbox and a three-pronged rotation of antique banjo, guitar and fiddle, Fairfield successfully stripped away the post-Saturday hangover.
Scanning the line-ups of Meredith’s past and you’ll notice a thematic series of slots that repeat throughout both Meredith and Golden Plains. The novelty slot (this year filled by the absurd pyrotechnic fuelled metal piss-takers Barbarion,) the heritage slot (the out-of-date retrospect of Icehouse, with a surprisingly rousing version of ‘Electric Blue’) and a what-the-fuck dose of bizarrity, this year – Big Freedia. Strolling on stage with a dozen backing dancers facing the backdrop with legs spread, the New Orleans transgender tour de force delivered a glitchy arse-centric set that stunned purely in how confusingly weird it was.
In terms of the big names though, Meredith had you covered. Kurt Vile & The Violators have a gorgeous songcraft, leaning heavily on 2011 release ‘Smoke Ring for my Halo,’ but they were plagued by muddy sound and an unspirited performance. Explosions in the Sky on the other hand, were phenomenal, their orchestral post-rock brimming with unparalleled expression despite their instrumental leanings. Mudhoney’s unmistakable grunge retrospective stirred memories while Black Joe Lewis’ dabbling in blues, funk and punk (with a left-field cover of The Ramones’ ‘Bird is the Word’) was one of Saturday afternoon’s definitive highlights.
But the festival belonged to Grinderman; featuring the return home of Meredith favourite Warren Ellis, and the first ever Meredith appearance of Nick Cave. Tearing through their first two self-titled records with characteristic vigor, Grinderman filled the amphitheatre with guttural yelps and ferocious moans. Finishing with Cave’s wild eyed admission of their Meredith show being the last the band would ever play (for the next ten years anyway,) Grinderman left the stage for the ensuing club night that Meredith inexplicably turns to past midnight.
Featuring almost every genre conceivable alongside a relaxed party vibe, 2011’s Meredith Music Festival proved that not only was it a place for unparalleled diversity, but that it’s a festival raved about for a reason.