Meredith Music Festival Review: Music is the medicine prescribed by Aunty Meredith

classicu 2022-12-12 172825.674 2

It’s Sel’s first time at The Sup! Here’s her recollection of the wonderful weekend that was Meredith Musical Festival 2022…

I arrived at the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre (or the ‘Sup’ as it’s known to the locals) around 2pm, which is apparently quite late in the day for Meredith festival goers. Some of my friends were catching party buses at 7am that morning, all to get a place amongst the gums with eager friends and share house couches which would line the outer edges of the Sup.

After setting up my swag with the help from a few lovely friends, and lacing it in fairy lights (also recommended to do so by a Meredith veteran) so as to act as some sort of lighthouse in the night, we were welcomed by a smoking ceremony by Uncle Barry Gilson and Meninyan – who encouraged the entire crowd to come and ‘smoke’ themselves one by one. At first I thought this might have been some sort of a logistical nightmare, however I was surprised by the ease at which punters who were donning Crocs and Blundstones, patiently waltzed and weaved on down, in between the mismatched couches which appeared to be arranged in an organised chaos, and with sheer reverence guided the smoke towards themselves. I instantly felt a part of something bigger than just another three-day-bender in the bush.

Naarm’s punk supergroup Rot TV were the openers for Meredith, who seemed to match the energy of the audience who were basking in the shockingly hot sun – hungry for the weekend ahead. After taking photos of the set times to save as my lock screen wallpaper (yep), I looked to my right and there seemed to be an unbelievably long line for the merch desk, which I thought seemed too good to be true. After closer inspection, it wasn’t for the general artists merch. It was for the Meredith festival merch. Cogs began to turn in my slightly dehydrated brain box.

The man who appeared to have hip-hop running in his veins, Tasman Kieth was the next artist on my list to see. Covered in traditional body paint, and actually parting with his shirt at one point, Keith was someone who appeared to be endlessly cool, and looked like he was naturally born for an afternoon set in the Sup. There were also a lot of shoes being hoisted up onto people’s hands, which I, incredibly naively thought was to signal the classically annoying Australian festival tradition of egging the artist on to do a ‘shoey’, which is defined by drinking a beverage from a shoe (usually lukewarm beer).  I could not have been further from the truth. More on that later.

It was soon time for housekeeping with Fee B-Squared of fellow Melbourne community radio station Triple R, who gave us some words of wisdom to “…err on the side of good,” and “…don’t get cooked too early.”

As the sun began to lower itself behind the hills I was told of the gorgeous ‘Sunset Strip’, a literal strip of lawn on a hill where people go to watch the sunset (wholesome, right?), usually on Saturday night. Although it was the perfect night to go and watch, I decided that I couldn’t miss the queen of Melbourne millennial wit, Courtney Barnett, who was scheduled to be on after I’d re-filled my drink bottle, alive with endless options to seize the night.

Barnett was electric – in more ways than one. She began with ‘Rae Street’, a single from her latest album Things Take Time, Take Time. By now, the crowd was nestled in tightly, shoulder to shoulder as she whipped through Barnett cult classics such as ‘Elevator Operator’, ‘Depreston’ (which even scored a “beautiful singing!” remark from Barnett) and ‘Pedestrian at Best’. This was refined rock at its best – Barnett at hers. Again, a sea of shoes-on-hands covered the sky of the Sup.

A highlight of the entire festival for me was the next act, Arnhem Land’s Yothu Yindi, who had a unifying effect on a receptive audience, who appeared wide-eyed and grateful to be in the presence of an act whose main message rests upon the sentiment of harmony, which seemed to almost float through the air throughout the weekend at Meredith. Whilst (almost) no one knew any of the lyrics aside from a few mumbles in Yothu Yindi’s iconic super-hit ‘Treaty’ (mainly the song title) – this didn’t matter. The reciprocal energy was enough to keep the fire burning, deep into the wee hours of the morning.

It wasn’t until those wee hours of the morning that I found out what the whole ‘shoe-in-the-air-thing’ meant – it is a declaration. A declaration of dusty-boot-love for your favourite song of the entire festival, the BEST song in your humble opinion. With this newly-found esoteric knowledge, I now felt like I’d been let in on an insider secret. Onwards.

After priding myself for years on being untouchable by the sun’s rays due to my mixed heritage, I woke with quite a shock to find that I think I might have actually had a *touch* of sun stroke. So after downing four bottles of water with not one but two hydralytes, I found myself nodding to the sermon which was ‘sung’ by Our Carlson. Who is Our Carlson, you might ask? He’s straight out of Blackwood, South Australia, and his head is home to a mullet and speed-dealer sunnies. He’s got rock-singer Cash Savage (from Cash Savage and the Last Drinks) as his DJ, and essentially, somewhat comically, rants over club beats. But his look should not deceive – his tracks covered the grounds of “freeing the refugees”, “ACAB”, and making a statement about the fact that “…strobe lights are ableist,” after he himself was diagnosed with epilepsy at 33. I liked that his set took me by surprise, and I liked that it challenged the way I would usually consume messages of social justice. Most importantly, I liked that it made me think.

Later in the day, and in the true spirit of diversity, we were presented with another act who stood out amongst the rest. The UK’s post-punk rockers, Dry Cleaning, are almost the definition of unique. The band are characterised by their unconventional spoken word lyricism, which contrasts distinctly with scratchy punk chords. On stage the lead singer, Florence Shaw, added one more layer of distinction as she stood completely still, shoulders hunched forward, a sultry look painted on her face – like she’s not supposed to be on stage at all, but rather standing in the street, waiting for an uber – looking up to each corner of her eyes from time to time. This, to me, added theatrical artistry to a genre which Dry Cleaning has re-defined.

At this point I was also surrounded by a sea of doof sticks which ranged from Britney Spears, to Elmo with a blonde wig and the Japanese Homer Simpson (you know the one I’m talking about) all hoisted up on a broomstick.

Whilst there wasn’t much sun around, I knew I had to make it to the Sunset Strip at least once. I walked on up, past the compostable toilets and found myself immersed into a netball game on Sunset Strip. Festival goers were draped in netball outfits, complete with a referee, someone handing out oranges, and another person even posing as a human hoop. It was at this point I decided that I wouldn’t have minded if my tyre went flat the next day.

The night began with US slow-rock-superstar Sharon Van Etten, who taught us that dark catalogues don’t have to be dull, that they can be full of life and gorgeously awkward dance moves which coalesce the crowd into a sea of humble smiles.

Feeling all giddy but slightly sad that the festival was nearing to a close, I stuck around after Australian hip-hop royalty Tkay Maidza’s polished performance to witness Canadian composer Caribou’s spine-tingling (and destroying) set. Starting with slow builds which would erupt into anthemic ambient masterpieces which felt as though they belonged in another universe entirely, half way through the set Caribou changed genres into his sample heavy track ‘Home’, and finished with his world-renowned ‘Can’t Do Without You’.

After waking up with an overwhelming feeling of love and connectedness from Caribou’s set, the excitement of the annual Meredith Gift drowned out any feelings of tiredness or post-festival blues. In fact, the festival was still roaring with lanky bodies and bands and some tattered couches which were left behind.

Folks – the Meredith Gift was like nothing I have seen before. Three races, oodles of naked people, all running on zero battery for the one prize: The Golden Robe. Unsure of what else aside from ever-lasting glory the robe bestows upon its winner, the mere fact that it existed was enough for me to be satisfied, and begin the journey home.

After witnessing what I have, I’ve come to the conclusion that the rumours are indeed true. Meredith is not a three-day-festival-banger in the bush, I’ve decided it’s actually a synonym for community. A community of avid art lovers, supporters, and friends – who come together to simply weave themselves into the common uniting thread: music. Wrought with esoteric traditions and built upon nothing but pure passion for people themselves, I raise my Blundstone for you, Aunty Meredith. Happy 30th Birthday.

Sel at The Sup
Words by Selin Kaya, pictured above, waving her boot above her head. Sel is amongst a sea of lights and people at Meredith’s Supernatural Amphitheatre.