Golden Plains Sixxx: Review

Can you bring yourself to read a review of a festival with just not enough golden tickets? Go on. You might make it in next year

Clementine Ford:
Hordes of music lovers wanting to enjoy the last echoes of summer made their way to Meredith over the long weekend to enjoy the sixth Golden Plains festival. Blessed by perfect weather, festivalgoers were treated to over two days worth of solid entertainment punctuated by some stellar highs. Featuring international and local acts, it combined the thrilling lure of a large-scale music event with the intimate surroundings of the farm that’s home to both Golden Plains and Meredith Music Festival.

After the Opening Ceremony, the festival kicked off with Hunting Grounds, Total Control and Real Estate, providing a suitable backdrop to those still struggling to figure out their tent pegs. The whiskey soaked vocals of the luscious Lainie Lane took everyone through into the late afternoon, followed by Wild Flag who, according to one fan who cited them as her favourite, ‘wailed’. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti was the perfect choice to take the sun down on that first night, followed by Bon Iver with a somewhat ho hum performance given the setting and the atmospheric potential.

Day two opened with keynote speaker Barry Dickins before moving into a spectacular selection of morning acts with the delightful Harmony and the raw yet fragile masculinity of Lost Animal. Hotly anticipated duo First Aid Kit took to a sun soaked stage at midday and moved everyone to silence with their honey vocals and lyrical poetry. Endless Boogie hypnotized everyone, only for Bonnie Prince Billy to awaken them in a strange and beautiful land. Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires brought the soul while Chic appeared to deliver on everyone’s expectations.

As expected, Golden Plains Sixxx was the perfect send off to summer. Nostalgia dominated in both sound and aesthetics, and Aunty Meredith watched out for us all. A note to enthusiastic costumiers however – can you please stop wearing Native American headdresses? It’s super offensive.

Andrew P Street:
I’m biased, I freely admit, but the sixth Golden Plains was pretty much the perfect festival experience. Maybe it was the effect of weeks of torrential rain in Sydney, making me impossibly grateful for two days of (relatively) clear skies, or maybe it was springing for already-set-up-tents at the Rochester rather than schlepping all our gear down on the plane and scrambling for a campsite. Or maybe it’s just that Meredith’s little brother has a more laid-back feel to it, with two days as opposed to three and 8,000 people instead of 12,000. Or maybe it’s everything combined.

You’ll notice that I haven’t said anything about the music there, and that’s because the music at Golden Plains is so essential that it’s easy to ignore. It’s the entire reason everyone was there, ostensibly, and most of the days were spent sitting on the hillside with bands playing, but my memories are mainly about hanging with friends, eating, catching up, and drinking booze, with a particularly good soundtrack in the background. That might sound glib, and there were definite highlights – as we shall get to in a moment – but Meredith and Golden Plains are both far, far more than the sum of their parts.

That said, the parts were pretty awesome too – so let’s go for what’s become my traditional list breakdown of…
 

BAND THAT WAS AS GOOD AS I’D EXPECTED

First Aid Kit. Their new album’s superb, and those voices harmonise with that preternatural beauty unique to siblings. It gave their set a melancholy beauty, even when jogging through upbeat moments like ‘Emmylou’.

BAND THAT I THOUGHT WAS GOING TO BE GOOD AND WAS ACTUALLY GREAT

Wild Flag. The indie-riot-grrl supergroup was never going to suck – their self-titled album from last year is better than the last records made by either Mary Timony or Sleater-Kinney, in my opinion – but live they rock with a joy that was unexpectedly sincere. Also, I could listen to Janet Weiss play drums forever. Lanie Lane was also superb – I hadn’t seen her in band mode before, and she’s really come into her own.

BANDS THAT I THOUGHT WOULD BE GREAT THAT WERE JUST OK

Black Lips. Also, Ariel Pink (who a bunch of people I knew found revelatory but did nothing for me) and, much to my surprise Real Estate. I’m perfectly prepared to accept that it was my expectations rather than anything intrinsic to them, though. On the other hand, Total Control and Harmony were both freakin' superb, and should have been further up the line up if you ask me.

BIGGEST BURST OF NOSTALGIA

A tie between Urge Overkill and Chic. Urge had the songs – ‘Sister Havana’ and ‘Positive Bleeding’, specifically – but Chic had a killer band, top vocalists and a setlist of Nile Rodgers’ greatest moments as a producer, arranger or writer – which allowed him to play things like Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’, Sister Sledge’s ‘We Are Family’ and Duran Duran’s ‘Notorious’ and not just seem like a killer covers band. Which brings me to…

IDEA THAT WAS CLEARLY FANTASTIC AT THE TIME BUT WAS ACTUALLY A HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE MISTAKE

Kisstroyer – or, as I shall refer to them henceforth, Fat Kiss. I can see why it would look like a good idea to put Fat Kiss on the first night: I mean, Bon Iver was clearly the “headliner” but his whisper-to-a-howl freak-folk isn’t exactly ideal party music, and the over-the-top old-school metal of Barbarion was a clear winner at last Meredith, so why not get a Kiss tribute act to rock the party? However, a Kiss tribute act that a) looks ridiculous, even by Kiss standards, b) can’t be arsed with the pyrotechnics and so has them entirely on a video screen (save for a bit of fire breathing), and c) doesn’t even play ‘Strutter’ can fuck right off. Fat Kiss raised many questions, mostly regarding from where one could get a plus-sized Ace Frehley costume.

MOST ACCURATE NAME

Say what you like about Endless Boogie’s stoner jams: the band’s name lets you know what you’re in for. And there was nothing – NOTHING – more perfect for the middle of the second afternoon.

MOST TEARY HERO-WORPSHIP MOMENT

When Roky Erikson came on stage. The set wasn’t amazing (like Brian Wilson’s last few performances, one gets the idea that the band are running the show with the alleged leader just sort of nodding along as and when he feels like it), but hearing ‘Two Headed Dog’ live was one of those moments to take to the grave.

MOST ROMANTIC MOMENT

When the guy proposed to his girlfriend during the last song of Bonny ‘Prince’ Billy’s set. Awwww.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT 

So the organisers followed through on their threat to retire Silence Wedge? Dammit, those guys were about to really break through.

First published on 13 Mar 2012. Updated on 25 Feb 2014.

By Clementine Ford and Andrew P Street   |   Photos by David Payne @pressplay   |  
 

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