Music: Recollections of an old fart at Meredith

By Andrew Fithall

In 2008 I attended my first Meredith. Some people think that is a little bit weird for a then 49-year -old. And some people might be a little bit right. But I have come late to this music festival scene. In fact, live music generally has not taken up a lot of my time since I left behind the university college balls.

Not that I am completely musically ignorant. And my tastes have been a little bit left of centre, notwithstanding the now thankfully lost REO Speedwagon album. I was actually a Triple R subscriber in 1979. And I am now, but it has not been continual, interrupted by periods of residence in country Victoria and several years of free-loading.

The morning of 16 December 2008 began early – the traditional OB by the Triple R Breakfast team, this one at the Corner Hotel. The previous year I had won a subscriber prize of dinner with the breakfast team, comprising Fee B-Squared, Sam Pang and Tony Wilson. The night I was contacted about the prize, I was out attending an event which featured John Harms and Waleed Aly. I actually invited Mr Harms along to the dinner as well. I didn’t know John but he was a regular contributor to the Breakfasters. Other commitments (he was to be in Brisbane) prevented him attending.

The Meredith Music Festival is held in the “Supernatural Amphitheatre” on private property about 10 kilometres outside the town of Meredith. I was picked up from home by my co-festival attendees Baz and Ken. Both in their early 50s, neither had been to a Meredith, but knew the venue through attending Golden Plains – the March equivalent. Our mode of conveyance, and accommodation, was a Mercedes Sprinter converted motor home, the outside of which had been tastefully decorated with decals of blown-up facsimiles of album covers – one side Australian and the other side international. The front of the van has the Midnight Oil Diesel and Dust cover and the rear the Beatles’ Abbey Road. Needless to say, it attracts a bit of attention.

The trip into the Supernatural Amphitheatre can be slow. Ours was expedited by Baz’s contacts and a vehicle pass which had us bi-passing the queues. The set-up was reasonably smooth, although it took some time constructing the annex, attaching the walls and checking for leaks. The weather forecast was fairly threatening, and as demonstrated throughout the weekend, fairly accurate, if not a little bit “under” in the estimate of weekend rain.

The Friday night highlights were many. We had first seen Dan Sultan at the 2007 Queenscliff Music Festival and had been blown away by his energy and music. His performance as the sun went down at Meredith was just as entertaining. I have gone out of my way to catch his shows since, including one at the Toff in Town when Ken presented him with a new pair of Texas-purchased cowboy boots. Dan with his collaborator Scott Wilson has a new album coming out this week. I will be at the front of the queue.

Also on Friday night was Spiderbait drummer Kram doing his first ever “solo” show. With Ash Naylor (Even, Ronson Hangup, etc) on guitar, it was well worth seeing and hearing. Others on the night were Architecture in Helsinki, and Man Man, the highlight of the latter’s performance being when all seven members of the band played the drums simultaneously.

Saturday started sluggishly. An illegally-cooked breakfast and numerous coffees before we made our way stage-side. The lead singer of international act The Bronx was the first (successful) crowd surf of the weekend. Their music was not to my taste but Ken loved them. The Mountain Goats brought their Connecticut/North Carolina brand of American country (I have never been any good at categorising music).

As the sun set, New Zealand’s The Datsuns played what many thought was the highlight set of the weekend, before headliners MGMT took to the stage. I had been an early adopter of MGMT music. They were one of my drawcards, and I really enjoyed the show. I have subsequently read that they themselves were disappointed with this performance and were looking to redeem themselves when they re-visited Australia recently. I hadn’t felt let down, and made my way back to the van content with what I had seen and heard. I must be easily pleased.

If Saturday was sluggish, Sunday was listless. With running repairs on the Saturday evening, the annex had only just survived the weekend storms. However, judging by the number of flattened tents in the immediate vicinity, I think we had camped comfortably. We packed everything up and returned to the stage area. For the first time for the weekend, the waterproofs were carried rather than worn, and were not required. The crowd had thinned.

I could have done without former Mouldy Peaches collaborator Adam Green, although Ken did covet his red leather jacket. The Black Diamond Heavies played some suitably heavy rock, the attraction of which eluded me. Perhaps this is where age does become a factor in the enjoyment levels. Strangely I was not at all tempted to participate in the Meredith Gift. The remaining crowd expressed their gratitude.

The final act was Even. Ash Naylor on lead guitar made his second appearance of the festival. With Matthew Cotter and Wally (Meanie) Kempton, the threesome put on the best show of the entire weekend. Part-way through, two female dancers in very brief dresses took to the stage for a song or two before joining the under-populated throng front of stage. As Ken wanted to remark to one of them, if at any time in the future you require 119 photos of your bottom, I think my mate Baz might be able to provide them.

The band Even have been around for more than a decade, but are unknown to many. I had been introduced to them by Baz and saw them for the first time at Queenscliff in 2007. They are a great live band whom I have now seen quite a few times. At Meredith, they deserved a bigger audience.

As designated driver, I guided us all home safely, my first Meredith safely navigated. It was a great experience and I would love to do it again. Family and other commitments mean I wasn’t able to take up the offer when my number came up in the 2009 ballot. Although Golden Plains in March in 2010 is looking tempting. In the meantime there is Meeniyan (another of my favourites, The Audreys, are on the Saturday night) in a couple of weeks’ time and Queenscliff the weekend after, where Dan Sultan and Even are both part of a very good line-up.

I had my fiftieth birthday last month. That doesn’t mean I have to stop being a little bit weird. In fact – there should be more of it.

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Nothing weird in any of this Andrew.

    As another old fart, my only confusion is why more people would prefer, say, Farnsie’s 15th farewell tour to a decent festival.

    There’s no accounting for taste.

    PS: love the sound of the van.

    PPS: the Ken and Baz mentioned wouldn’t have been recent participants on Brian Wise’s New Orleans tours by any chance?

    cheers

  2. Andrew Fithall says:

    John,

    Thanks for that. As for Ken and Baz, their notoriety extends internationally. Ken picked up the Dan Sultan boots on the most recent tour you refer to.

  3. John Butler says:

    That’s nefarious company you’re keeping there Andrew.

  4. Andrew,

    Great piece, which despite the obvious wet and cold at Meredith, is written with lots of warmth.

    I will now need to make sure my music mates checkout Dan and Even when they go to Queenscliff this year.

    My only recent multi dayers were a few years back when we went to the Bluesfest at Byron Bay. Fantastic times. Very mixed crowd with lots of old farts like me there. Something for you to consider and save for after the kids are a little older perhaps.

    Paul

  5. Andrew Fithall says:

    Paul,

    We took the kids to Sunday at Queenscliff a few years back. Difficult to keep them interested. The Audreys on the main stage were first up. Tasha Coates is a personal favourite and Helen’s suspicions are similar to Jo’s and a certain overseas trainer’s daughter. Tex and Tim were next on and very entertaining, although they didn’t sing the “hidden” track from their album. By this stage the kids (aged 9 to 12) were over it but we got them back by a trip on the Blues Train.

    It will be a while before the entire family attends the same musical event. I did sneak a look at the Byron 2010 festival. As you predict – wait until the kids are a bit older.

    As a 50th birthday present, Baz has given me a ticket to the Laneway Festival (in Footscray in January). Great line-up. You should consider coming along. One day only. The Saturday after BDO (and I attended my first one of those in 2009 as well). The Meredith threesome (that reads just a little bit dirtier than I would like) will be there.

  6. Great story Andrew, I agree that Even are a very underrated band – Ash Naylor is a fantastic songwriter.

    Don’t wish to rub it in, but i’m lucky enough to be going to Golden Plains next March. Looking forward to the reunion of Pavement!

    Hope that I can be still visiting Aunty Meredith when i’m 50, and then some!

  7. Andrew Fithall says:

    Have spent the last 2 weekends enjoying the company of Baz and Ken (amongst others) at Meeniyan and then Queenscliff. Absolute highlight for me at Queenscliff was when Dan Sultan joined Even at the conclusion of their set on Saturday night and they belted out Gimme Shelter. Dan had already put on a fantastic show earlier on the main stage. He had previously performed Gimme Shelter at the EG Awards night on 20 November. This man is headed for the stratosphere.

    BrenLuke. I have a ticket to Golden Plains. The “music bus” will be there. I am currently in negotiations for leave pass. The cost of the ticket could be insignificant compared to the price of the leave pass! The negotiations include trying to also attend Apollo Bay (Megan Washington is my new infatuation).

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