Aunty Meredith, let us count the ways we loved you this year
There are two kinds of people living in Victoria: those who have bathed in the glow of Meredith’s Supernatural Amphitheatre, and those who have not. There’s no shame in being in the latter category – it’s just difficult for Meredith devotees to describe the experience without going all teary-eyed and mumbling words like “BYO booze... only one stage… Ferris wheel… Inspiration Point... music?"
Still, we must try. Over two decades ago, a dude named Chris Nolan invited some mates to his farm to listen to his favourite local bands. Now, thousands of music-lovers plan their social calendar (and their personal finances) around one weekend in December. And if we didn’t see you in the crowd this year, then here are some moments that might make you reconsider your choices in 2015.
Best on-stage banter
Friday night, 10pm. A saxophonist in a sharp skipper’s outfit addresses the audience with a very serious expression on his face. “There will come a day in your humdrum, workaday lives, when adventure will come knocking on your door,” he says, in the deepest of voices. “On that day, you will ride through the tundra on a wild tiger.” Behind him, a seven-piece band whips up their loud, fast, insanely addictive vintage Bollywood sound. In front of the stage, a giant, glittering blue elephant floats by. The crowd goes wild for Melbourne outfit Bombay Royale. Which leads us to…
Biggest understatement made by an audience member
At this very moment, metres from the Amphitheatre stage, a girl turns to a stranger, and in a loud voice, proclaims, “These guys are a bit different, aren’t they?”
Most irritating on-stage banter
We expected big things from New York hip-hop pioneers De La Soul. And for the most part, they deliver. The trio effortlessly stomp across the stage, laying down famous lyrics over huge beats, beaming to a sea of outstretched arms. But then, in the most frenetic, fun moments of nearly every song, they stop. They laugh. They pretend to forget the words. They point out members of the audience. They ask us to sing along harder. “You guys, we’ve made SO many great songs since 1989,” they say, chuckling. Well yeah, that’s the point, guys. So play them.
Strongest collective nostalgia
People have feelings about Augie March. Big ones. And when Glenn, Dave, Adam, Kiernan and Edmondo launch into a heavenly rendition of ‘One Crowded Hour’ at sunset, tears glisten, arms wave from side to side and big men hug one another. It goes without saying that they receive the ultimate Meredith mark of approval – boots held high for the band to see.
The song of Meredith 2014
You could hear it playing on car stereos on the way into the festival. You could hear it on the iPod docks of every campsite. ‘Red Eyes’ by headline act War On Drugs was one of the best tracks of 2014, and watching Adam Granduciel close his eyes and sing the infinite, dreamy song under strings of coloured lights felt like the fulfilment of a Meredith prophesy.
The unexpected dance music sensation
Sydney's neo-psych electro-pop trio Jagwar Ma are one of those bands that sound pretty good on the radio. You don’t expect them to fucking kill it on stage. Jono Ma doesn’t hold back when he unleashes a throbbing ’90s indie dance beat, overlaid with Gabriel Winterfield’s hazy vocals. The guys know when to pare it back, wait until the crowd is crying out for the beat to drop, wait a bit longer, then hit them even harder with a wall of sound and blinding strobe lights. If you missed out, but you’re heading to Falls Festival, they’ll be there. Do. Not. Miss. Them.
Most undeniable talent
So you don’t like moody, introspective electronic music? That’s fine, but if you can’t recognise the genius of Oxford mathematics graduate James Holden, then we’re not sure you’re a person. The guy appears at 2.30am on Friday night as a skinny silhouette, hunched over a mad scientist’s station of synths, knobs, dials and strange swirling screens. From a simple looping arpeggio, Holden weaves melodies, beats and sound effects into huge, hypnotic crescendos. As if to prove he’s playing his whole set live, a man plays the drums beside him.
You’ve got a problem when most people would rather listen to the music playing between acts then one of the acts themselves. At least then we get to listen to a guilty pleasure like ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ in its entirety. Late on Saturday night, Melbourne DJ Dr Phil Smith hops on stage and begins iPod-shuffling through a grab bag of (admittedly super fun) pop music, skipping tracks every 30 seconds. We don’t mean to sound like your grandpa, but surely we could do that. Surely.
It’s minutes before the sun rises on Sunday morning, and Ukrainian DJ Vakula has an impressive number of dedicated dancers locked in a world of deep house. One man stands dead still in a huge, heavy diving suit, complete with metal helmet. He robotically rises his arm up to the metal grill shielding his face, and pours a beer through the bars and into his mouth.
This reviewer’s biggest regret
Daytime powernaps are a Meredith necessity. But why did it have to be during a set from Wu Tang’s great Ghostface Killah? He was all everyone talked about for the rest of the day. Apparently his stage presence was incredible. Apparently he played all his classics. Apparently he invited Paralympic basketball star Dylan Alcott onto the stage in his wheelchair to perform a verse from ‘Protect Ya Neck’.
Cutest crowd moment
It happened during the Gift (Meredith’s famous nude race), but don’t worry, it’s not what you think. Amidst flashes of snow-white bums and flappy bits, one man decided the time was right to propose to his girlfriend. Immediately, the camera panned to the couple, and before a crowd of thousands, special guest MC Jess McGuire asked the woman what her answer would be. It was yes. Even the guy passed out under the tree clapped for the happy couple. Aunty Meredith would have been proud.