Meredith Music Festival @ The Supernatural Ampitheatre (12-14/12/08)

On the 18th year God said “let there be rain”, and there was rain. Forty-eight hours of it in fact. Victoria’s heaviest rainfall since Noah boarded the Ark, meant that the 18th Annual Meredith Music Festival was one of the wettest in the events fabled history. The Supernatural Amphitheatre had never seen so many naked bodies sliding in mud, each slippery derrière testament to the Meredith spirit that prevailed throughout the entire weekend.

Upon realisation that the rains were here to stay, fight or flight instinct beset punters. People either packed up and went home (I’m looking at you feather-sporting MGMT fans) or tied plastic bags over their shoes, dropped some acid and embraced Mother Nature in all her glory. It is safe to say that most people went the plastic bag /acid route.

The coveted opening slot for this year’s Meredith was taken by Violent Soho, the Brissie band who have been turning heads all year with their musical homage to the godfathers of grunge. Their growing popularity proving foremost that the 90’s revival has finally extended beyond flannelette-toting hipsters in canvas boat shoes prowling the inner streets of Sydney. I had high expectations of this band that were ultimately left flattened by their Meredith performance. The set list consisted of solid rock songs peppered with dark riffs (which fulfilled the early 90’s criteria) however, little more was on offer from the four-piece. Even their stage presence, which has been touted as electrifying, was deflated in this environment – the highlight being some parodist synchronized hair windmills a la Airbourne. Perhaps it was just festival nerves on their part but Violent Soho failed to win me over.

Next up was Melbourne gal group Beaches. A “supergroup” of sorts, Beaches’ line-up includes members from Love of Diagrams and Spider Vomit. Taking on the Amphitheatre – all bleached blond hair and bangs – the girls eased their way into what would become an amazing set. Once at ease with their surrounds, Beaches were on fire – delighting the crowd with their layered guitars and psychedelic ambience reminiscent of UK shoe-gazers Pale Saints. Playing tracks from their debut self-titled album the girls charmed Meredith for the entirety of their set.

The rest of Friday night was spent changing clothes (twice), eating Krishna, and absorbing the sonic onslaught of Ten East and Man Man. Without the assistance of a lot of Gin, Ten East probably would have bored me to tears. Their improvised psych -rock jams were excruciatingly drawn out but impressive nonetheless. Although the Gen Y in me needs some vocals to avoid losing interest, their moments of Captain Beefheart intensity were appreciated by the noise fiends in my convoy. Man Man on the other hand proved to be far more my bag. Every moment of their gypsy-punk mayhem was eaten up the rain-frenzied crowd.

We all woke up on Saturday with trench foot and fingers crossed. The sound of rain pattering on car roofs and the sites of flattened one-man tents that had seemed like such a bargain two days ago night made us all reach for a breakfast beer, or two.

The kids with more buzz than Schick,Tame Impala, greeted us with hoards of cream-esq feed back and psychedelic fuzz rock on the dampening Saturday morning. The Perth three-piece had a mystery forth member for this set who stepped up from tambourine player to second guitar for most of the performance. The set was stolen by drummer Jay Watson, whose splashy drumming was mesmorising and held the set together beautifully. It seems that Tame Impala’s Schick-tag may actually be here to stay.

By the time that The Mountain Goats trotted into the Supernatural Amphitheatre the mood within the crowd had begun to soften. The weather actually appeared to be in synch with the North Carolinian trio, as each time they launched into a song the rain got increasingly harder. The mood in the crowd darkened as lead singer John Darnielle introduced each song with one consistent theme – “This is about death…this is about a guy and girl thinking about dying…this one is about when death comes knocking at your door”. As the rain poured and our feet muddied we all pondered death by wetness. When Darnielle declared at the end of his set “We know you want to hear This Year”, their radio friendly hit from 2007, our eyes shone with expectancy before he put the final nail in our coffin declaring he didn’t want to. We all retreated to out tents.

If it wasn’t for the electrifying set by Saul Williams that came later in the evening, the rain may have won. But with enough moonshine under my belt to make the ground look dry and dance in gumboots like the whitest girl alive – nothing was keeping my Meredith spirit down.

Little Red owned the Amphitheatre when they jangled onto the stage at 7:00pm as the sun went down and hoards of people began to fully embrace the mud. They set the mood for Meredith alumni Combo La Revelacion who finally graduated to an evening spot after many years of dedication – allowing everyone to get loose and for the party to start swinging.

Many beers later it was time for MGMT – the New York boy-wonders who had drawn a number of newcomers to Meredith when their first shows in Australia unexpectedly sold-out in minutes. If you had no expectations of this band and were drunk, dancing on an esky then their performance was spectacular. The band slipped into some gorgeous psych-jams and drawn out moments that, only be familiar with their radio friendly songs. That said, if you had high expectations of MGMT – you may have been let down. The big hits- Kids and Electric Feel were highlights that shook the bedraggled people of Meredith but their softer moments were mostly lost on the battle-weary crowd..

The rest of the Meredith weekend was spent watching Muscles from the Meredith Eye, crying when the rain finally stopped at 3am on Sunday morning, laughing at the absolute ridiculousness that was Adam Green and finally pulling out of the Nolan Gates in search of Geelong McDonalds with many a naked man in the rear-view mirror.

It may have been wet, it may have muddy but Meredith’s 18th Birthday was one to remember.