Golden Plains Festival XI, Meredith Supernatural Ampitheatre, Meredith (VIC) March 11 – March 13, 2017.
Living legends Neil Finn, The Specials and Teenage Fanclub alongside rising stars Camp Cope, Olympia and Remi – it’s the kind of collective you’d think could only be experienced in the land of dreams, but 2017’s Golden Plains Festival made this beautiful vision a reality.
On the hallowed Meredith farmland lies over three decades of memories; it’s a place to revel in the moment, forget about what’s bringing you down and enjoy some of the greatest musical produce in the world.
2017 is the first year at the festival site since Jack Nolan’s passing in January; as usual his family appears on stage during the opening ceremony, but this time they honour the late patriarch’s spirit, generosity and love of music.
With one long blink from founder Chris Nolan the festival is underway, and Melbourne’s Ausmuteants are first cab off the rank. Although they claim to be Rancid for a large portion of their set, the five-piece genuinely bring a frenetic energy to the stage.
Cash Savage and the Last Drinks put on a fierce and compelling set soon after, Savage dedicating a song to her wife before commiserating the fact that marriage equality is still yet to be achieved in Australia. Following on is Camp Cope who have most of the crowd signing along to their emotive tracks; Georgia Maq’s voice soars through the ampitheatre while singing, but she’s notably bashful in between songs, making sure to take a photo of the crowd to show her mother.
Kurt Vile doesn’t deliver the electric set we’ve come to expect of him; instead, he’s armed with just an acoustic guitar, which thankfully allows the stunning beauty of his lyrics to truly shine. Pretty Pimpin is a crowd favourite but it’s Wild Imagination which makes the biggest impression, with heartfelt delivery.
The sun sets just in time for Nicholas Jaar, who brings his immersive compositions to the amphitheatre for an hour of sonic experimentation. While there’s plenty of build-up, it’s a slow summit to the peak – and unfortunately when it does get there, it doesn’t feel nearly as powerful as you’d hoped it’d be.
Melbourne duo Habits have landed the coveted 1:30am set on Saturday night, and for the occasion they’re joined by Misha Grace from friendships, who provides accompanying visuals to the visceral set. Habits are the first band of the day to acknowledge the stolen land we meet on, an important and necessary sign of respect to the Indigenous people of our country. While the sound cuts out during their last song, the crowd continue singing along, making the best of a bad situation and leaving a few people emotionally spent.
Sunday comes around and we’re all shaken out of our hungover state by the power of Oren Ambarchi, who manage to sound a lot louder than their two-piece status would have you assume. Olympia dazzles in the afternoon sunshine, grinning from ear to ear in between songs and playing a surprising cover of TV On the Radio‘s Wolf Like Me.
Perhaps the question most heard in the Sup this year was “Who are Confidence Man?”, with the mystery around the Brisbane supergroup following them like ducklings. When the time finally comes to find out, few are prepared for what is easily one of the most upbeat sets the ampitheatre has ever seen.
Chain and the Gang arrive on stage wearing matching silver suits, the band’s ringleader Ian ‘Chain’ Svenonius spending most of the set shrieking and dancing atop the hands of punters, seemingly totally unphased by the danger. A staggering version of Mum’s The Word is a highlight and has Svenovius conducting the crowd in a repeated chant: “Mumma mumma mumma”. His daring performance will no doubt serve as a talking point for many and is testament to his status as one of the greatest living frontmen.
As day turns into night we’re treated to a nostalgic set from Teenage Fanclub, who prove to be in fine form after almost 30 years of musicmaking. The Peep Tempel follow and take us back to their wild 2015 set at Meredith; plenty of boots are raised once again for the explosive favourite Carol.
Then, the moment most of us have been waiting for – Neil Finn playing under a full moon. Pinch me, maybe I am dreaming? When Finn sings Don’t Dream It’s Over‘s lyric “We know that they won’t win”, he follows with “You hear that Donald?” It’s the most poignant thing uttered on stage all weekend, and when the set comes to its conclusion there are few dry eyes in the amphitheatre.
With a hand-picked lineup of some of the most original and exciting people making music, along with an enduring sense of festival community, it’s no surprise Golden Plains holds a special place in Australian festival goers’ hearts. If you need me in between now and Meredith, I’ll be reminiscing about the special time I had, while continuing to be thankful for a festival that remains the perennial highlight of my year.
All clips and photographs courtesy of Aunty. Visit Aunty Meredith’s Home Videos for more.