Golden Plains Day Two @ Supernatural Amphitheatre, Meredith (11/03/2012)
After forty-five minutes of furious dancing, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s country balladeering seemed to somewhat sober the party spirit, although it cannot be denied that the man can write a goddam song. Appearing with his backing band, The Cairo Gang, consisting of drums, electric guitar and a fantastic backing vocalist, who stripped back contributions complimented Bonnie’s (or is that Billy’s?) acoustic guitar and mournful voice.
The music they made was beautifully soothing, but one nagging thought made concentration a difficult task – the knowledge that in a short amount of time we would be treated to a rare performance by the legendary Roky Erickson. For someone who began their career in the 1960’s, Erikson’s band were noticeably young, taking the stage and diving into the trademark rhythm of Bo Diddley’s Hey Bo Diddley, as the large and shaky frame of the Godfather of Psychedelic Rock was helped on-stage.
It has been a long and tumultuous journey that has led Erickson to becoming the man he is today, and at various stages throughout his set he seemed to drift off and ceased to play guitar, while his lead guitarist encouragingly sang the words to him as a reminder. The years, however, have not taken away the power of Erickson’s distinctively gravely voice, which shone through on classics Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer) and Night of the Vampire, the band delivering note perfect renditions that remained true to the original recordings.
Roots Manuva brought some South London dub action to the proceedings, initially focusing on the more reggae-oriented material from his new album 4everevolution, but not really convincing the crowd until he pulled out his ace card – 2001’s hit single Witness (1 Hope), backed with an upbeat version of Let the Spirit, from 2008’s fantastic Slime & Reason. After those energetic renditions, Manuva and band could do no wrong with the festival goers, who by the stage were beginning to get quite rowdy. Early casualties could be seen taking some forced shut-eye, sprawled out on the grass, while the air was thick with the smell of spicy cigarettes.
*Urge Overkill’*s dated rock styling was hard to engage with, something that would not be a problem with the act following act, Charles Bradley, AKA The Screaming Eagle of Soul! (must be said with an exclamation). Bradley’s set was one of the festival’s highlights, as he and his fantastic backing band whipped through his various single releases with the Daptone label, including This Love Ain’t Big Enough For the Two of Us and This World (Is Going Up in Flames), as well as his 2011 album, No Time For Dreaming. Ever the consummate showman, the sixty-three year old singer engaged the crowd with costume changes and dance moves, even managing the splits at one point. It seemed that no sooner had Bradley’s set begun, it finished, leaving at least one member of the audience feeling like they could happily sit through the entire thing again.
There would be no time for that, however, as Aunty Meredith was hitting her stride and pulling out the big guns. The Black Lips deserved a boot for every song in their set, and were another of the day’s highlights. Their energetic and melodic punk rock was matched with incredible musicianship, in particular from bassist Jared Swilley, and great songs. Closing their set with crowd favourite Bad Kids, from 2007’s Good Bad Not Evil, it was a fantastic feeling to see thousands of people simultaneously losing their shit and jumping around with pure joy.
But the boot for day two of Golden Plains inevitably has to go to Chic, who proudly brought their disco boogie, sounding every bit as ridiculously funky as they did in 1978, despite the fact that frontman Nile Rodgers is the only remaining original member. Rodgers, flanked by two younger women who provided lead vocals for the majority of the set, and constantly beaming widely, clearly loves playing music and is proud of the work he has achieved. So he should be, as it turns out, the audience was visibly surprised and impressed as Rodger’s began performing songs that he either wrote or produced, both for Chic, as well as for other artists.
These included Madonna’s Like a Virgin, INXS’ Original Sin, and Sister Sledge’s We Are Family, but the biggest highlights and those that received the warmest welcome, were from Chic’s own catalogue. Picture a field filled with mostly drunken festival goers, dancing furiously and singing along to party anthems Good Times, during which Rodgers included the opening verse from Rapper’s Delight, The Sugarhill Gang single that liberally borrowed Chic’s music, and the band’s signature tune, Le Freak.
How can one man be responsible for so many classic songs?! The man really is a freak, consistently churning out one ridiculously catchy and unifying hook line after another. With the words “Le Freak, c’est chic, ahhh freak out!” still echoing in our brains, it was now time to let Naysayer and Gilsun take the party in another direction, with their updated take on the disco and one of the best video DJ sets witnessed by anyone ever.
The entertainment kept on until the break of dawn, roughly 6AM, with the highly original and enjoyable Two Bright Lights DJs closing off proceedings, as the sun rose and we searched for our tents.