Musicology: Meredith Music Festival

IF you need proof there is no festival quite like the Meredith Music Festival, consider these two wildly different scenes from the same day of this year's event.

In the early afternoon, in the baking hot sun, thousands of punters held a shoe aloft as a sign of appreciation for Big Jay McNeely, an 85-year-old sax player, and his blues band and their 1940's R&B.

Later that afternoon, those same thousands of punters gleefully song along to the choruses of Aussie band Regurgitator's infamous 1997 techno track I Will Lick Your Asshole.

This year's Meredith took its reputation for eclecticism to new heights, taking in everything from Syrian electro-dance music to Norwegian "deathpunk", and providing 11,500 with yet another excellent weekend to remember.

The opening slot on Friday used to be a quiet affair, but organisers have started putting bigger drawcards into poll position, bringing larger crowds into the Supernatural Amphitheatre to kick off the festivities in the early afternoon.

This year the honour went to Perth band Pond, who began Meredith 22 in superb style, merging dreamy Pink Floyd verses with riffy Black Sabbath choruses. It set something of a recurring theme for the weekend - psychedelia and jamming are back.

After a largely unimpressive set from up-and-comers Snakadaktal (although the crowd responded well to their hits), Californian instrumental trio Earthless took up the theme. They had no time for hits - their excellent 40-minute set comprising two or three "songs" and near endless jams that strove higher and higher.

Occasionally, when you least expected it, Earthless locked together and smashed out a mammoth stoner riff. They were so good they overcame the fact there was barely any bass in the mix, one of the few mis-steps from the sound engineers over the weekend (who traditionally do an amazing job).

Grimes proved popular, but the welcome reserved for iconic Sydney power-popsters Sunnyboys was that of returning heroes. It was only the second gig for the original line-up in 28 years, and while time may have wearied them slightly, they pulled together a strong set of old hits and new material.

The psychedelic jamming continued with Spiritualized, whose lengthy space-pop tracks occasionally touched on the spiritual thanks to the two female backing singers and seated frontman Jason Pierce's lazer guided melodies of uplifting lyrics.

The big throng of the night followed, with seemingly everyone at the festival flocking to the Amphitheatre for Tame Impala.

"This is the best festival in the world," exclaimed frontman Kevin Parker to the crowd, "but you already knew that."

More psychedelia followed, with tracks from their two albums bursting forth in a compact but tasty sonic wall. Kudos to the sound engineers - Tame Impala had the best sound of the festival.

The post-1am DJs began with Omar Souleyman, all the way from Damascus, who played to a crowd that seemed to be made up of people just discovering they liked Syrian electro or people that were on drugs that made them love Syrian electro.

The Meredith weather gods love to throw everything at the punters - one-in-100-year storms, 40-degree-plus weekends, 48 hours of rain. This year it was the wind, which whipped in 60km/h gusts on Saturday morning as people wrestled to keep their tents from flying off like the house in The Wizard Of Oz.

The cyclonic breeze lay waste to shelters, turning the camping grounds into a disaster zone. Then came the news that even stronger winds - gusts of up to 90km/h - were predicted for the afternoon. Many festival-goers gave up trying to keep a roof over their heads and went to the bar.

Melbourne's Chet Faker was apparently goose-bump inducing in the 30-degree heat, but it was the octogenerian Big Jay McNeely that stole the show. Despite being the oldest performer to ever grace the Supernatural Amphitheatre, McNeely received an unanimous "boot" - the shoe-in-the-air sign of appreciation that began at sister festival Golden Plains and has spilled into Meredith - for his saxy blues and old, old, old school rock'n'roll.

The highlights kept coming on Saturday afternoon. The "undisputed beatbox champion of the world", Rahzel dug deep into his bag of tricks, tackling one-man versions of Black Sabbath's Iron Man and his own track If Your Mother Only Knew by singing lyrics, basslines and beats simultaneously - and blowing minds.

Alt-country troupe The Toot Toot Toots also took some hip-hop inspiration, blasting out an awesome cover of Fatman Scoop's Put Your Hands Up and building to a massive finale (earning a scattered "boot"), while Melbourne funk band Saskwatch brought the good times.

The second most enthusiastic "boot" of the weekend was for Regurgitator, who dug deep into their catalogue, rocking the likes of Kong Foo Sing, Black Bugs, The Song Formerly Known As and Blubber Boy. They got the Saturday night party started and were a definite highlight of the weekend.

Norway's Turbonegro were impressive and confirmed the suspicion that they are the punk world's answer to Kiss, while Primal Scream stormed through hits such as Loaded, Movin' On Up, Rocks and Swastika Eyes, despite the seeming disinterest of singer Bobby Gillespie.

More minds were blown by the now-traditional Meredith Sky Show and DJ Flagrant's VJ Show, which kicked off the dance party of Sunday's wee hours.

The crawl home began on Sunday morning. Some stuck around to see Boomgates and The Murlocs or to run in the "world's stupidest footrace", the nude running race that is the Meredith Gift, but as always, no matter what time you leave the Nolan farm it is bittersweet. You don't want to leave the greatest festival in the world, but you really can't wait for a shower and a proper night's sleep.

Click here to see a photo gallery from this year's festival.

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