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Meredith crowd 2010
Photo by Andrew Tijs

Meredith Music Festival, Meredith Natural Amphitheatre, 10-12 December, 2010

By Andrew Tijs
Mon, 13 Dec 2010 14:41:58 +1100

Neil Finn, Clipse, Custard, Jeff The Brotherhood and more bring the magic to the Twentieth Meredith.

If I need to remind anyone who has ever visited a Meredith or Golden Plains about how inclusive the vibe is, then you were probably one of those extremely rare “dickheads” that both festivals have a policy against.

Despite some wayward weather (belting winds and sporadic heavy rain), the twentieth anniversary of Australia’s finest, funnest festival included everything that makes Meredith magical. Actually, even the weather is part of the action. So it was another perfect three days, rain included.

Something about the line-up choices for both festivals always seems strangely underwhelming until you realise that every year it throws up huge surprises.

Looking at a part of the Saturday line-up which included throwback power-pop Brisbanites Custard, snoozy dad-pop Neil Finn, and always-exciting-live-but-shrugworthy-on-CD Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, I was considering a four hour nap to recover from Friday night’s shenanigans. It would’ve been a huge mistake.

Neil Finn is an absolutely stellar showman. In the gorgeous surrounds of Meredith’s natural amphitheatre, at sunset no less, Finn entranced the masses with a Crowded House/Split Enz-heavy set, livened by a guest spot by The Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis and guest guitar work from a crowd member to help us through his more unfamiliar solo stuff.

While Finn was a proud stand-out, giving the thousands enough room to sing along when he turned down the stage lights, the surprises came all weekend.

Custard were more fun than a barrel of monkeys, their Weezer-esque classics stirring cheery memories of ‘90s alt-pop. Tennessee indie stoner rock duo Jeff The Brotherhood were a joy, even more because they were so sincerely chuffed to be playing. The Fall, fronted by irascible grump Mark E Smith, baffled many with their surging rock and his slurred, atonal rages, but were always fascinating.

UK’s Broadcast and America’s Washed Out twisted fragile brains with sweeping psychedelic charges, bending the air in front of the stage. Chillwave and dream pop never seemed so mind-warping.

Our own Kimbra (pinched from New Zealand) was a revelation, her dangerously soaring vocals and intoxicating hodgepodge of soul-pop certainly turned many an ear. Sally Seltman’s pixyish nursery rhyme pop and Dead Salesmen Duo’s doomed romance anthems picked up the crowd on a weary final morning.

Virginia’s tough, minimalist hip-hop duo Clipse vexed many with the late-night/early morning slot on Friday but throughout the rest of the weekend punters could be heard emulating the explosion/airhorn sound effect that bracketed every song in their set. Yes, the indie kids learnt to throw their hands up, even if they thought it was a little silly.

And to keep feet moving when downpours threatened to dampen the fun, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings sweated it out with undeniable soul, and stalwarts Combo La Revelacion got reluctant toes tapping (and congo lines snaking) with persistent Latin rhythms.

Naming names aside (the crowd also certainly appreciated the sweet harmonies of San Francisco indie act Girls and the salacious, invigorating world music tunes of Spain’s El Guincho), it was the vibe.

Chicken or egg, it was hard to tell if the crowd or the bands contribute more. Until, of course, you realise that the organisers do it. They choose music to surprise and delight, rather than to pander to popularism. They continue to hone a venue which is the most punter-friendly of every Australian music fest. They continue to foster an environment where everyone takes care of everyone else.

Twenty years on, it’s a testament to their efforts that the greatest thing about Meredith and its sister festival Golden Plains, is that it’s full of Meredith-type people. And it's only full of Meredith-type people because the organisers have turned punters into Meredith-type people for twenty years.

Check out Kimbra's performance in the Undercover studios below.
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