This year when reviewing Golden Plains I found out the best way to try and review the inexplicable beauty of the Supernatural Amphitheatre was just to jot down as many illegible phone notes as possible, and try to piece together everything in between.
Hands down, Meredith is my favourite time of year. Once again it didn’t let me down. A lot of things that happened over the weekend that will be burnt into my retinas for the rest of my life. I get teary thinking about it.
Alright. Enough. Let’s look back at the shiniest bits of Australia’s best and most special festival before I get too sappy.
Photographed by Chelsea Dennison
I’ve barely slept. We’re making the convoy to Bush Camp. I’m driving. In my morning daze I forgot to pack a sleeping mat. Or a sleeping bag. Or a goddamn pillow. I’m sleepy, stroppy and sooky. I’m really not a morning person.
Thanks to a staff lane pass we get to skip the line and end up being about the tenth car into the festival. I feel immensely guilty driving past the long queue of cars, and try not to make any eye contact. I don’t deserve this privilege. Sorry everyone.
I’ve had a nap and I’m back to being tolerable company. We scored a camp spot right next to the cinema and the struggle was worth it.
There’s a big party at one of the camp sites nearby. We get lured in by the sound of some Big Dance Tunes in the distance. A Soichi Terada track plays followed by lots of “woos” and we run to see what’s happening.
We get there and there’s maybe about a hundred or so people dancing. Someone hands me an espresso martini. There’s a beautiful Adonis of a man dancing on top of a bar. It’s a great performance. It takes a lot of restraint to not raise my boot.
Three-piece punk outfit Cable Ties are the first band of the festival, and they kick things off very strongly. Possibly the best opening set I’ve seen at the Sup’.
Lead singer Jenny McKechnie is utterly commanding. There’s a powerful anti-neoliberal protest track with screams of “I am not a production unit, I am a human being” and I think I’ve found a new favourite band. It wins them over an impressive early sea of boots.
Someone is raising one of their crutches with a goon bag attached to it. I’m kicking myself that I haven’t caught them live before this. What a way to start the best weekend of the year. Hype.
The Interstitial DJ just played my most hated song of all time. Bohemian fucking Rhapsody. My friends know that it is my kryptonite and they are screaming it at me and I am melting on the ground. This is my worst nightmare, realised.
“If you don’t like ballads you don’t like R&B, and if you don’t like R&B you probably don’t like me, so.”
Kelela was the act I was most excited for when I saw this year’s lineup get announced, and despite a shaky start due to some technical difficulties – how can a mic not work for a full two minutes? – she does not disappoint. The set starts off with slow burner ballads ‘A Message’ and ‘Go All Night’. She pauses at one point to request some blue lighting to set the mood, as if it wasn’t already spell-binding. What a voice.
There’s a turning point midway through, which is good because sadly the crowd around me seem a bit too restless for the slow tempo. So much chatter. But then Kelela launches into a barrage of her biggest dance floor tracks, dropping ‘Enemy’, ‘Bank Head’ and ‘Rewind’ in quick succession and people quickly swap the talking for some grinding.
Cheeky Stockholm duo Mount Liberation Unlimited deliver a huge live house set after midnight. I hear someone shout into their friend’s ear that “this is so groovy” and they are definitely not wrong. I wasn’t really feeling Sheila E, but they just recovered the atmosphere and brought it back tenfold.
I’m walking back to my campsite. Turin-born composer/DJ Chiara Kickdrum closes the night with an hour of techno. It’s exactly what I need at this hour. I catch myself moving with my eyes closed for most of it, pulled into a trance-like state by the hypnotic metronome bell that buoys down the dense beats. Alright. Time for bed.
I surprise myself by waking up relatively early at 11am, just in time to hear Goon Sax starting their set. I jump out of my tent and gingerly run down to the stage. The first morning is my favourite time of the festival. So many beautiful weary faces. It takes me almost half their set to get a coffee and I feel like a bit of a dickhead.
This band are so good at such a young age that it makes my head sting, but their lackadaisical jangle is doing wonders. During ‘Boyfriend’ my friend spots a festival crush she met last night and I’m watching them have a cute conversation and my hangover feels a lot better. I go to a cubicle on the way back to the toilets and it’s decorated with quotes from a couple’s wedding. This place makes me Believe In Love.
Canadian jam group Badbadnotgood released one of my favourite albums this year in IV. They play a seriously smooth set of winding hip hop jazz instrumentals, starting off with more slow improv before running through some highlights of their latest record like ‘Speaking Gently’ and ‘Confessions Pt. II’. I’m seeing squiggles and I feel like I’m floating.
Angel Olsen sends shivers through the Ampitheatre when she plays the aching ballad ‘Sister’. Olsen’s presence is haunting; her voice piercing. The repeated line of ‘All my life I thought had changed’ gets people swinging together arm-in-arm in melancholy. It sees the biggest number of boots in the air for the weekend so far. (And I think the most by the end, too.) It wraps up with a stunning stripped down version of ‘Intern’. It’s a beautiful moment.
I lose track of time so I catch the start of Peaches’ set from the top the ferris wheel. I think about the time I passed out from sun stroke when she played at Big Day Out half a decade ago. I should be amongst it, but at least I’m doing better than that.
I can’t really make out what’s happening but I see some big furry costumes and crazy visuals. Theatrical larger-than-life pop. Crowd are losing it. The carriages on the wheel are swinging more than usual.
Jagwar Ma were a highlight at Golden Plains two years ago. I initially thought it might’ve been a little too early to bring them back, but they delivered another great late-night slot of psychedelic dance. They convert my housemate Cat into a fan. (Then again, she also gave a boot to the ferris wheel before.)
This year’s Saturday night lineup was too big to be true. I’m sitting on Inspiration Point as someone plays Like A Prayer off a speaker. Of course my phone died shortly after Jagwar Ma so I’m trying to piece together the last three sets.
Between Nabihah Iqbal’s diverse and multifaceted sounds as Throwing Shade, through to the uplifting disco of CC:Disco! – who brought her dad out at the end for the Cutest Moment of Meredith and sent the Sup into peak mayhem with Frankie Knuckles’ ‘The Pressure’ – and finally the two-and-a-half masterclass closing set by Ben UFO, it’s all one big swirl. Six hours of sheer joy.
The sun broke out during the last half hour of Ben UFO during a wind-down of ambient jungle. I turned around to see all of my friends hugging and smiling and I think about how much I love this place. It’s moments like this that have us coming back twice a year to do the ritual. Complete magic.
I’m driving home in the morning so I’m allowing myself to sleep in through tomorrow’s proceedings. So this is where we part, Ampitheatre. Until March. I love you.