Golden Plains Day One @ Supernatural Amphitheatre, Meredith (10/03/2012)
A forecast of idyllic weather made the annual pilgrimage down to the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre that little bit more excitable this year. The approach to little Meredith town saw good citizens help bad cars back onto the road and convoys making the final pit stop for supplies, before vacating civilization for the weekend. The final stretch into bush land greeted us with picturesque plains, united with vivid sunflower fields – the view only slightly impeded by tyres kicking up dust from the gravelly terrain. As settings go, it’s not too shabby at all.
Attending a handful of Australia’s summer festivals can really make you appreciate the little things that make Golden Plains Festival and its sister Meredith such remarkable outings. This year, on top of the staple byo booze and no dickheads policy Aunty opened a new hang-out space for revellers – Eric’s Wine Bar. Providing respite from the raucous Pink Flamingo and sweeping views of the Supernatural Amphitheatre it proved a beautiful (if criminally under-used) addition.
Kicking off proceedings was former triple j Unearthed High winners, Hunting Grounds. The local Ballarat boys put their angst and impressive musicianship to good use, and instigated an early test of the Amphitheatre’s sound with some thunderous drums which rumbled in the sofas and armchairs strewn across the field. It was an energetic performance, however at times their set felt like it was lacking in cohesion, with the six-piece trying to tackle as many genres as possible in their modest forty minute set. This was illuminated with a daring cover of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage, which managed to divide opinions early on. That being said, the opening slot is never an easy one, and the lads didn’t play it safe, taking it on with plenty of conviction and setting the scene for the first day of music.
This positivity was soon un-threaded by Total Control’s antagonistic punk attack. Depending on which stance you chose to adopt (or perhaps how early you’d started drinking) their set was either a tirade of melody-less, shouty nonsense or the perfect way to get you fired up for a weekend of debauchery. A handful of technical mishaps didn’t aid procedures, but you couldn’t help expect something stronger from Mikey ‘Eddy Current Suppression Ring’ Young.
The perfect antidote to the chaos came by way of Real Estate’s sleepy indie relaxants. Just as the bleak clouds were flirting with the idea of revealing the sun’s rays, Real Estate’s surfy tones reverberated out of the Amphitheatre and across the mountains, establishing the perfect soundtrack to the lazy afternoon. Front man Martin Courtney let the music do the talking while he did the whispering, serenading us with most of the band’s sophomore long-player Days. Out of Tune resonated well, while All The Same’s decelerated, lethargic outro was sublime, and concluded the set superbly.
The much-hyped Lanie Lane sure looked the part as she brought her retro country vibes to the fore. All bubbles and smiles, the sassy songstress served up her rockabilly ditties with plenty of charm, and although the raw vigour that is all so present on her debut To the Horses was never going to quite transmit in the same way across the outdoor setting, songs like Ain’t Hungry and Oh Well, That’s What You Get Falling in Love With a Cowboy still shone through with great strength. Lanie even found space to pull out a cracking rendition of The Black Keys’ Gold on the Ceiling. Because she can.
Just as Golden Plains was happily coasting along through the afternoon, Wild Flag exploded on stage, reigniting a spark in procedures. The performance was ridden with mistakes and bung notes, but these girls ooze enough cool they didn’t seem to care, and neither did we. It was all about the energy, and they dished it out in bucketloads. An on-fire Janet Weiss was so tight on the skins that it gave Carrie, Mary and Rebecca the freedom to pretty much do what they want, and they didn’t squander the opportunity, tearing apart their guitars for the set’s duration and providing an especially vicious climax to Glass Tambourine. The chaotic performance passed by at a blistering pace, but Wild Flag still managed to remind us that with tunes like Romance, underneath the band’s angst-loaded surface lies some incredibly infectious tunes.