Days Two and Three: Meredith Music Festival @ The Supernatural Ampitheatre, Meredith (08-09/12/2012)

EDWARD SHARP-PAUL reports on the second and third days of the 22nd annual Meredith Music Festival, which saw performances by the likes of Twerps, Royal Headache, Regurgitator and Primal Scream.


And so, to the morning after. If you were lucky, you were woken by the searing sun or the inimitable sound of tent flaps a-flappin’ in the gale-force wind. The less fortunate, though, started their morning with a marquee slamming into their tent. Yes, those of us blessing the heavens for providing clear skies were forced to come to terms with just how shit wind can be. The rest of the day brought collapsed tents, dust, effing dust, and then more dust. Frustrated would-be finger-painters had a field day with the inviting rows of dust-encrusted windshields, but everyone else was merely reddish-brown, bloodshot, and slightly skittish.

Down at the Sup’, an inviting triple-header of local contenders whetted the appetite almost as much as the fish tacos (so tiny and expensive, and yet so crazily popular. What am I missing?). Twerps might have blamed the swirling winds for compromising their set, but no-one would’ve believed them. Sure, the gusts messed with the mix, but they had only themselves to blame for the abiding half-arsedness of their set. Out of tune, out of time, and under-rehearsed (Patrick O’Neill’s ham-fisted drumming brought ‘He’s in Stock’ to a grinding halt about 40 seconds in), Twerps squandered the sought-after 11am Saturday slot. Much of their charm comes from their shambling nature, but this was too much.

A cranky Chet Faker emerged late for his slot, later blaming an “epic technical failure” for the delay. Funny thing is, he seemed more disappointed than we did. Faker, aka Nick Murphy, has a beautiful caramel voice and a terrific band, and the unplanned absence of samples and backing tracks just provided more space for him to fill. As with his Thinking In Textures EP, ‘I’m Into You’ and his completely straight-faced cover of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ proved shimmering, seductive highlights. Unfortunately, he barely had time for anything more than that.

Royal Headache kicked an unnatural amount of arse for a 1pm set. Shogun stalked the stage like a less terrifying Henry Rollins, cutting songs short (“Sorry, wasn’t feeling that one”), heckling a shoe donor (“Enjoy walking with a limp for the rest of the festival, ya dickhead”), oh, and tearing into songs with that primal wail of his. The band were all on edge, and seemed far from comfortable, but their songs speak for themselves and Royal Headache’s performance here did those songs justice. Even Joe, the rudest bass player in rock, couldn’t ruin it.

Soon hereafter, the curious phenomenon of the mid-Saturday lull kicked in. Sleep-deprived, sweltering in the heat (mercifully, the predicted high of 37 degrees didn’t come to pass), and running on piss and vinegar, a decent proportion of festival-goers retreated to their campsites for a nap, for some sunscreen, for more booze, more water, or just for some shattered (relative) silence. Or to check on their shelter, after Aunty warned of “extreme weather conditions”. Sure enough, there was plenty of carnage, particularly in the more exposed sections of Top Camp. One takes such things in one’s stride, though: for all the good times, Meredith is still at times something of an endurance test, and a steely temperament is essential.

Those who toughed it out down by the stage got an unexpected treat in the form of Big Jay McNeely. The 85 year-old jazzman was introduced by his bandleader after the third song, performed the fourth song as a disembodied voice from side-of-stage, and then, just as I was beginning to suspect an elaborate prank, the man himself shuffled out and slumped onto the drum riser.

McNeely was careful not to over-exert himself: he would honk on his sax a little, before lifting his sax to bark into the mic that was mounted on the bell. Both his playing and his singing were surprisingly powerful, though, and coupled with a crack band and an emphasis on crowd-pleasing old standards, the set was a delight.

As always, the famous “no dickheads” rule was proudly invoked, but as always, one suspected that there were plenty of semantic loopholes being exploited. Though there were no dickheads, the provoking mix of sun and wind did bring out a couple of knobs, duffers and clowns, et cetera (special mention to the guy that kept poking my bag, saying, “what the fuck is that?”). Also, it doesn’t make you a dickhead by constantly repeating “it’s Meredith, mate” like some kind of protective mantra. Just sayin’.

The predicted change came through a little late, but it was sweet relief when it did. The temperature dropped to manageable levels (it would get pretty chilly later, but that’s later: this is right now), and more importantly, that cussed wind finally died down.

So Regurgitator have recently bowed to the inevitable and embraced nostalgia, much to the delight of most of their fans. These fans let them know as much, with a surprisingly fierce reception that hinted both at fan loyalty, and the imminent return of The Wildness. While not exclusively a Unit love-in, that album provided the overwhelming majority of their material, with choice cuts from Tu Plang (‘FSO’, ‘Kung Foo Sing’) spicing things up a little. The ‘Gurge played with impressive conviction, tearing through the likes of ‘Everyday Formula’. The fact that the Sup’ was going bonkers for them probably helped. Despite a few smart-arses requesting ‘Fat Cop’ (seriously, guys?) ’! (The Song Formerly Known As)’ brought the curtain down on an absolutely bang-on festival set.

At this point it was deathpunk luminaries Turbonegro’s turn to bring the schlock. Theoretically, greasepaint affords a band the opportunity to defy Father Time, if not indefinitely, then for a fair while at least (example a: Kiss). Turbonegro disprove this theory, looking like a band of camp, undead sailors on shore leave. Lead singer Tony Sylvester has an, ahem, considerable presence, and a mean line in stage banter (“are there any Australian nihilists out there?”). He also has a five-eyed tiger tattooed on his stomach, which adds an extra layer of ridiculousness to an already ridiculous show (imagine a five-eyed stomach tiger singing a song about cross-dressing entitled ‘Mister Sister’). No doubt it’s silly, but in the right frame of mind, Turbonegro are a heap of fun.

“The improbably youthful Bobby Gillespie exuded confidence, flouncing about the stage like Peter Pan in a chambray shirt.”

Saturday night headliners Primal Scream provided an earthbound contrast to the weightless sounds of Tame Impala on the previous night. They drew heavily on their Screamadelica material, and really, why wouldn’t you? Their Stones-via-Madchester sound was perfect for that moment: a fitting end for more sensible souls, and a groovy, dance-inflected primer for those with grander, more depraved plans. In short, Primal Scream were something that just about everyone could agree upon.

The improbably youthful Bobby Gillespie exuded confidence, flouncing about the stage like Peter Pan in a chambray shirt. The man even abused a heckler with style, rattling off some choice expletives without even missing a line. Accompanied by a patchwork band featuring long-time members and fellow British rock survivors, Primal Scream tore through ‘Country Girl’, ‘Swastika Eyes’ and the aforementioned welter of Screamadelica tracks, before closing in style with ‘Rocks’.

This was the jumping-off point, when you either shook off the dust and the fatigue and went for broke, or you simply broke. Sad to say, I broke. There was a too-small tent with my name all over it – actually, my name was just on the inner flap, but you get the point. It was easy to identify those whose nights were just starting – they were the ones that were drawn to the Meredith Sky Show like trippy moths to a psychedelic flame. For them it was Itch-ee and Scratch-ee, Yamantaka Eye, bad-vibe visits to the Echoplex Cinema, getting lost, stumbling into the wrong tent, and endless walks: talked out, danced out and strung out. Oh, how I envied them.

Click through to page two for Sunday review and photos

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