The Adventures of a Meredith Music Festival Tenderfoot

My journey to Meredith Music Festival (MMF) began at 3am on a crispy August morning outside Greville Records in Prahran, as I sat on a milk crate that I pinched from a nearby cafe for six hours.  Having secured a ticket, the trek to the 26th MMF resumed at 1:30am on the 11th of December, as we wearily headed off to acquire the illusive and highly sought after ‘Bush Camp’ camping position.  The appeal of Bush Camp’s greenery and shade was muted slightly by the 10 degree weather and icy winds, but the vast acreage which sat before our tents made the painstaking journey worthwhile.

Too buzzed to take a powernap, we draped ourselves in thermals beneath our jeans and coats, fastened our boots, and familiarised ourselves with the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre.  Unlike most festivals, Meredith has only one stage, situated at the bottom of a steep incline, meaning that even the shortest of people could get a clear view of the performers without having to battle their way through the dense wall of bodies and potentially suffocate in a sea of leather jackets.

The lineup on Friday was certainly the most exciting, with Swedish act Dungen playing at dusk, Sheila E wooing the crowd in the late evening, and my personal favourite, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, sandwiched between them.  Meredith’s ‘No Dickhead Policy’ contains attendees from intense moshing, although the movement of the 12,000+ people radiated a natural, yet unsavoury, cloud of heat.  Despite being stripped down to my child-like rainbow thermal top, my fashion was tame in comparison to the glittery faces and bodies of trippers and boogiers, whose attire (or lack thereof) created a mesmerising spectacle beneath the stage lights.

It’s not Tom Baker and chums in a forest, it’s Dungen

Come Saturday morning, an array of sunglasses plagued the lines of coffee trucks, as limp bodies began the process of rejuvenation for the day which lay ahead.  Archie Roach, BadBadNotGood, and Angel Olsen were the standout performers during the day.  Olsen’s track ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ drew in the indie-rock enthusiasts, as her carelessly cool vocals were complimented by the smokey sediment beneath the long-awaited emergence of the sun.  Daddy Cool’s Ross Wilson played some classic hits which I found myself belting out alongside the rapidly increasing crowd, despite my normal dislike for the band.  I am uncertain whether my enthusiasm for his performance arose from a loss of cynical inhibitions by the influence of substances or the crowd’s peer pressure, but either way this was definitely one of the most surprisingly enjoyable moments of the weekend.

Headliner Peaches graced the stage around midnight with a giant vulva headpiece, accompanied by men in similar costumes, as she played hit tracks ‘Dick in the Air’ and ‘Vaginoplasty’.  Though her music may seem overtly crude to the conservative, her messages tackle gender norms and attitudes, with an underlying message of female empowerment fuelling her set in a captivating manner.  But on a superficial level, she certainly knows how to entertain and hold a crowd, throwing and thrusting herself across the stage in a variety of getups.

Peaches a la hirsute

I’m not entirely certain why MMF provides free access to a ferris wheel to the mass of intoxicated people, or more importantly, why it seemed like a good idea to board it.  As the wheel span at an increasing pace, so too did our heads, with the muffled pleas to be let off reverberating through the carriages.  Regardless of the illness that it induced, the views from overhead were undeniably phenomenal, even if I had to squint a little in order to steady the haziness of my gaze.  Retiring back to my yoga mat, which rippled with hard lumps of sticks and rocks, my attempts at sleep were made increasingly difficult by CC:Disco!’s pumping dance beats and the hiss of nangs from the camp next door—a typical festival lullaby.

Being the only early-riser in my group of friends, I awoke to the sound of Chinese flutes, which was enough of a motivator for me to shove my feet back into the dusty boots and shuffle down to watch the Master Song Tai Chi.  Unfortunately, the only clean pair of jeans that I had left were pretty tight, so I was unable to join the movement.  However, I did enjoy it from afar, with a cup of juice in hand, which I had paid six dollars for (I was tired and vulnerable to the inflation of festival economy at this point).

Aside from the incredible performers, I was most impressed with the facilities of the festival.  Never before have I attended a festival as clean as this, with each attendee showing a concern for their footprint on the property, with many carrying around portable ashtrays and rubbish bags onto the dance-floor.  The kindness of the crowd was also incredibly comforting, with numerous people asking if I was okay and having a chat with me as I waited for my friends to return from the toilets.  This overall atmosphere preserves Meredith’s reputation as one of Australia’s best music festivals, and I can now understand why the tickets are so hard to come by.

Japandroids at Knitting Factory
A wincing Japandroid; what is this emotion you humans call confusion?

Having enjoyed a vast array of genre representatives across the weekend, ranging from punk to brass bands, I was incredibly pleased to finish the festival off with the Breadmakers’ bluesy presence.  Sobering up for the journey home, it was great to conclude the weekend with their foot-tapping bends across the harp and wiry riffs along the guitar.

Though the music had ceased, and the drinks began to stagnate, the party was not yet over.  My MMF experience ended with the annual ‘Meredith Gift’, i.e. the most competitive nude race in Australia.  My hat (and only my hat) went off to those who entered, competing in different men’s and women’s heats, with the top three from each one progressing into the composite finale.  I’m not sure if the prize of golden undies would be worth it, but The Gift certainly encompassed the carefree and insouciant nature of the festival.

Following a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, made possible by the Nowlan family who own the property and volunteers that keep the show running, attendees’ safety continued to be ensured through free breathalyser tests on the way out, which was followed up by the real-deal 10 minutes down the road.

Meredith Music Festival was undoubtedly the most well-organised and friendly event that I’ve been lucky enough to attend, providing opportunities for each festival-goer to enjoy themselves without having to worry about the safety of themselves, their families, or their friends.  Tickets to the 2017 Meredith Music Festival will likely be released in Winter, so I recommend either taking a blanket and pillow to the ticket stakeout, or partaking in the risky business of online sales.



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