THE Meredith Music Festival began in 1991 as a party for 200 people on a farm located 13km west of the town of Meredith.
Matt High, one of the festival's co-organisers, was at that party and has been involved in every one since.
On December 9-11, the event will enjoy its 21st happening. Musicology asked High to share with us his top five memories from the history of this much-loved festival.
The first Meredith (1991)
I wasn't part of the organising, I just went as a punter and absolutely loved it. Everyone stayed over and when we woke up on the Sunday morning we didn't want it to end so we kept going. Everyone was meant to have breakfast and leave but it went on 'til dinnertime. When it officially finished (on the Sunday) there were some singalongs in the crowd and then that spilled back on to the stage and started up again. By the time we were leaving everyone said we had to do it again. I talked my way into pretending I was going to help. The (band) that sticks in my mind was Ballarat band Dead Salesman, who played last year at the 20th Meredith. The guys (who set-up the party) had organised to get mates' bands or local bands or bands they'd seen. There was a Celtic band and a funk band. It wasn't just... a bunch of alternative original bands, they went for what bands work for a party, and I think that's right and what we try to do now. The first one had that, there was a rock band and a funk band and Celtic band and no one at the festival would go and see a Celtic band but on the night it worked unreal - (Celtic music is) made for a party. So now we always try to have different cultures and different eras, especially because you're there for three days so you need to have the channel changed every now and then.
Here's how it all started, from a fantastic doco on the history of the festival:
Neil Finn (2010)
The singalongs with Neil Finn - solo at sunset - would definitely be in my top five. We approached Neil Finn to do it and he came back and asked if he could do it and it just be him. We said, "actually that's what we wanted". He arrived nice and early to take the temperature of the festival, as it were, and he was incredible. He played songs from his solo records and heaps of Crowded House and Split Enz... and he got Warren Ellis up to play Better Be Home Soon... (and in the crowd) it was the most passionate, raucous singing I've ever heard. That was a magic hour. It got to the point of "where do you go from there?". We have little formulas and traditions (at the festival) but if you can't equal it or better it (you have to change it). So two years ago we had Paul Kelly and last year it was Neil Finn in that sunset, people's singalong spot. But we can't better Neil Finn, so we've gone to Icehouse in that same slot this year because we've got to change the formula.
Here's Neil Finn starting his set:
Andrew WK (2007)
He's known as this full on metal-party-rockin' dude. He had no band. It was just him and a mic for the first five to 10 minutes and he made almost no noise, he just walked around the stage, talking, and I thought, god this is getting tense. Slowly he started playing the keyboards and getting the crowd involved and 15 minutes later he had the whole amphitheatre banging their heads. (At the start) it was almost like a motivational lecture. He had one mic and a keyboard and the keyboard had a drum machine in it and he started introducing backing tracks with a whole band, but for the first 10 minutes there was no evidence of any of that. At first I was thinking, this is a bit avant-garde, but he pulled it off. It was great because someone took a risk and was rewarded. He finished with a swan dive into the crowd. I'd like to have him back some day.
Here's Andrew WK getting the crowd going before launching into Party Hard:
The Dirty 3 during the 100-year storm (2004)
That weekend's forecast was described as "a cauldron of storm activity". There were storm-chasers coming to Victoria to watch these storms. We got smacked by one on the Friday. There were cyclonic winds, sideways rain... it was what they call a "white-out", where the rain is so hard you can't see more than 10 feet in front of you. And it was tropical - it stayed warm. Then just before The Dirty 3 (the next night) it looked even worse. There was this purple-black cloud coming our way... there were reports on the radio that nearby towns were having to sandbag because of flash-flooding. And just as The Dirty 3 started, we could see it coming across the sky. The temperature dropped and the wind got up. And then (the storm) split - it went a little to the left and a little to the right and the storm sat behind the stage and you could see the lightning bolts over the top of the stage roof. We were watching The Dirty 3 play in front of this big black sky with lightning. The lightning would light up the whole district - as big as the amphitheatre is, it felt tiny compared to the atmospheric conditions. It was almost apocalyptic. It was unbelievable. I don't know if I'll ever see anything as amazing as that again in film or sport or music or anything. It was the most incredible hour.
This video sums up the 100-year storm pretty well:
The Soundtrack Of Our Lives (2006)
They played in 2006 when it was 42 degrees for three days in a row. They're this hard-rocking band from Sweden and they appeared on stage and were playing for half an hour and they had the full amphitheatre going crazy. Their lead singer has a beard and was wearing a kaftan and after half an hour of going crazy, he asked everyone in the amphitheatre to sit down - it was a 'let's bring it down' kind of moment after going crazy for half an hour. So he got the people to sit down while the band quietly chugs along and he looks out and there's one person who hasn't sat down and he looks just like the singer - it's a guy with a beard and a kaftan, and he's just lost in the music. He doesn't even realise everyone else has sat down. The singer calls out 'hi brother' and this guy in the crowd still hasn't acknowledged what's going on, he's got no idea. So the singer gets down and the crowd parts as he walks up to the other guy. When he gets to him, they look at each other and the singer just says to him, "Where have you been all my life?". The two of them hugged, everyone cheered and then the singer got back on the stage and the band builds back up and keeps rocking. It was a weird, beautiful moment.
And here's that moment: