Meredith Music Festival at the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre, Victoria, Dec 13 – Dec 15, 2019.
Words | Kara Fraser
Images | Craig Johnstone; see Craig’s full gallery of magnificent snaps here
From the moment I arrived at my first Meredith, it was clear I was entering a well-oiled machine – entry was seamless, staff were friendly, and my Meredith seal was cracked along with my first beer. This set a well deserved tone for the next two days.
Fittingly, the 2019 Meredith Music Festival kicked off with the legendary Uncle Barry leading a particularly stirring Smoking Ceremony, rightfully showing a moving homage to the traditional owners of the land, the Wadawurrung.
Enter Indigenous MC Briggs, whose infectious raps had the crowd immediately jumping. His signature track ShepLife – from the breakout 2014 album of the same name – was when he really hit his stride, and launched the sea of festival-goers into an electrified unison, like only a truly exceptional hip hop performance can.
I have no idea why I thought Liam Gallagher would be anything less than ridiculously impressive; maybe due to the notoriously temperamental singer dealing with a noise restriction fiasco in Melbourne a few nights earlier? However, two semi-trucks of his own sound and lighting gear later, Gallagher gave us a nice touch-up. This exercise in “How To Own a Rock Show” was complete with smarmy swagger, palpable distain, and most importantly, a precision performance in every regard. The notorious Gallagher brother combined new solo tracks with dishing out nostalgic Oasis treats like Morning Glory and Wonderwall, into an immaculately delivered set. If you had to pull at threads, the exclusion of Champagne Supernova was lamentable – but with such a catalogue of gigantic hits, sacrifices have to be made. What can I say? Tidy work, Liam. Very tidy work…
I wish I could elaborate on what happened from here on Friday night, but I cannot: the delights of the Pink Flamingo bar were calling. I have a vague recollection of drifting off to sleep to the (not so) dulcet electro tones of what I believe by looking at the set times was either Logic1000 or Vanessa Worm. I have no clue as to which one – my mind and body were now on Meredith Time, and there was no going back.
Day Two’s blessed Silence Wedge was shattered with the City of Ballarat Municipal Brass Band launching proceedings along with my breakfast of champions (meat pie and can of Melbourne). I’m going to assume the inclusion of CBMBB is maybe tradition, and paying respect to the nearby local town? Originating from Ballarat myself, this wasn’t my proudest moment, but ballsy effort none the less…
Eagerly anticipating the Viagra Boys, it was hard not to be awed by the Swedish post-punk outfit – and looking around the crowd, the feeling amongst us was mutual. The unpredictable five-piece effortlessly lived up to their critically acclaimed reputation, with singer Sebastian Murphy delivering what the people came to see: VB-spraying, stage-writhing, and (my favorite) side-stage dry reaching. But do not for one second mistake the stage persona as loose or gimmicky: the band delivered a meticulous set and favorites like Sports and Slow Learner were delivered with expert precision.
From the politically incorrect to just straight-up political, New York hip hop duo Dead Prez commenced their business with a typically confrontational tirade. The approach continued between each track with some exorbitantly long speeches, but more power to them: when they did get around to performing, it was well worth the preceding rants. These Black Panther activists gave us all an incredibly energised schooling in both social upheaval and classic hip hop beats, proving with crowd-pleasers like It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop that they are exactly that.
Melbourne punk pub rock band Amyl and the Sniffers were up next, and not devoid of their own message – they delivered an at times empowering/at times absurd selection with all the subtlety of a blunt force trauma. Proving their 2019 ARIA for Best Rock Album was no fluke, frontwoman Amy Taylor led a manic ensemble that draw on their pub roots to deliver a gritty, purposefully obnoxious performance that without question provided boot moments for many. It did however feel like a very long set for such a hectic band, and like their namesake, might perhaps be better in slightly smaller doses.
By now a calming margarita on the terrace at Eric’s Bar was necessary, with the mistress of art-meets-disco Roisin Murphy the perfect accompaniment. Despite some disappointment from punters about the ex-Moloko singer excluding the 1998 international hit Sing It Back from her set, the Irish queen of dance-pop proved with poise and passion why she is revered as an international festival favorite.
After this, a thumping combination of acid, techno and house DJs permeating my tent and head in the form of Eric Powell, Helena Hauff and Rambl, keept the still-kicking masses alive until 7am.
With a piece of Aussie pizza the closest thing to breakfast I could find at the time, the Meredith Gift in all its naked, giggly glory was the final crowing majesty of what I can only describe as a truly exceptional three days. The ‘No D-ckheads (apart from me) Policy’ clearly remains intact, and an imaginative and eclectic line up was a testament to all concerned. Bring on Golden Plains!