Though many had packed prepared for the promise of torrential rain, with gumboots at the ready after previous muddy Merediths, few would have really been ready for the day’s brutal winds.

The perpetual gusts first woke many from the little sleep they’d managed, flattening the more extravagant campsites and cheapskate tents alike, while the winds turn The ‘Sup into a dust bowl for large portions of the day.

There’s solace in knowing that everyone’s in it together, but the safest – and coolest place to be given the nearly 40 degree highs – is near the music.

The easy jangle of Twerps eased listeners into the Saturday mid-morning and away from the regularly cruel weather… at least they were supposed to.

While blaming gale winds for tampering with the gentle indie caress of their dreamy guitars is a fair concession, playing slacker rock with authentic slack isn’t. They make a mess of even their simpler tunes, including forcing a restart of ‘He’s In Stock’ due to poor timing.

They also seem painfully out of tune and out of synch with each other, both shaggy frontman Marty Frawley and guitarist Julia McFarlane looking concerned that their caterwauling wasn’t vibing with the crowd.

Things aren’t much more forgiving for Chet Faker, the Ned Kelly visage of Mr. Nick Murphy thumping on stage after a long delay due to technical difficulties that left him without his crucial samples and pads, while also struggling with a broken foot from a recent skateboard injury.

Two factors that visibly distracted Murphy as he tried his best to worm into his soulful baritone on ‘Terms And Conditions’ and ‘I’m Into You’. While his drawbacks are more forgivable than Twerps’ half-assed approach, they’re no less noticeable.

His set is scuppered to a short 30ish minutes, finishing with his fan favourite cover of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ – a shame considering he has better material, and by now, he’s earned enough recognition to be warranted off the back of his own graces than a cover version.

There’s still a velvety charm to his textural neo-soul, but for anyone who hadn’t yet gotten on board the Chet Faker bandwagon, they may have been wondering what the fuss was about. Though surely there can’t be many stragglers left, can there?

After two slightly disappointing Australian turns, it was third time lucky for Sydney punk iconoclasts, Royal Headache.

A band of deceptive complexity and contrasts, their ragged energy – particularly of the flailing, no-nonsense frontman Shogun – kicks away the morning blues and sets the Meredith mood onto the path of greatness.

The now-shirtless vocalist tears his way across the quartet’s wiry punk hooks, threaded with the popular moors of lost romance; even cutting short ‘Distant And Vague’ before the chorus (“I just fucking wasn’t feeling it, hey”).

Between songs he delivers self-deprecating humour (“You don’t have a cardiac arrest when you play a shit gig – you just drink the free booze”); and skittish attitude (thanking a punter for his bereaved shoe). Shougn is Royal Headache’s not-so-secret weapon, right alongside a kick-ass catalogue of songs – including ‘Honey Joy’, and ‘Pity’ that closes the set.

As the first dose of big band soul for the festival, Big Jay McNeely and his mature, grinning band do wonders for those starved for it, and earn more than a few golden boots in the process.

Beginning his retro-fitted set from within the front of the crowd, risking dirtying his white two-piece suit and sapphire red fedora, McNeely spends a few rounds shambling towards the side of stage, then finally the 85-year-old makes his way to rest on the drum riser in full view.

When not smirking slyly at his bandmates and treating “his children” (as he calls the enthralled audience) to call and response treats, the jazz veteran fills his gums with remarkable sax playing, mixing the best of old school flair with reliable swing numbers.

His gnarled banter is entertaining in a fuddy duddy way, crossing the passion of an aged bandleader with the eccentric charm of an uncle, and a dapper one at that.

Trading in major James Brownisms (you could make a drinking game out of the number of ‘get on ups’ deployed), he’s slightly repetitive, but a generous showman; and when he makes his final departure from his stoop on stage, he is showered with adoration.

If the wind hadn’t already threatened to blow the greenery from the picturesque scenery, Hot Snakes would have made a meal of it.

Representing another significant leap in musical faith, the style shifts from the proverbial funk parlour with your old friends – to a tight corrugated tin shed of the noisiest band on the block.

Toting savage riffs and harder drumplay, they may not be as old as the swing master that preceded them, but the members of the cult San Diego act are no fresh daisies themselves.

You’d hardly know it though – as they blister, workmanlike, through a large portion of their back catalogue. Hot Snakes are a band of little frills, but many thrills; including the requisite tag team in drummers; from the pigtailed Jason Kourkounis to Mario Rubalcaba, who already proved a powerhouse during his appearance with Earthless the day before.

The promise of the human beatbox himself is imminent, but before Rahzel, DJ JS-1 takes to the stage first to warm the crowd with a show of his turntable chops, so much so that when the vocal domo himself begins, it’s slightly less impressive.

As he slinks into some goosery about an insufficient rider and just wanting to “give the people a good time,” it’s soon clear that Rahzel is more a vaudevillian than a musician, a performer rather than a perfectionist.

He delivers scattershot snippets of popular songs, before frustratingly cutting them loose just as they hit their groove, to deliver his own beatboxed renditions of Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’, and medleys of Wu Tang Clan and Otis Redding.

It’s brash, and certainly gets the hip hop fans going, but a gurning round of ‘where my ladies at?’, contrasted with a call for the lads’ location, kills what little momentum the MC had.

Finally he finishes with, “If Your Mother Only Knew”, his signature trick (yes, ‘i’ not ‘a’), the same one this old dog’s been flogging for more than a decade.

Start-stopping before boasting the same old catcall, “beat, chorus, bass line, verse AND background vocals… at the same time!”

For newcomers it would seem a marvel, for the rest, it’s a bit of a novelty set that feels phoned in, complete with Rahzel’s monotonous hyping of an attendance that just wanted to hear more than a minute’s worth of a tune.

Once he departs, whoever the smart cookie in the Festival’s DJ booth is has the foresight to quickly sate the amped-up hillside with a few choice selections.

Finishing what Rahzel couldn’t with Big Boi’s ‘Shutterbugg’ seguining into Jay-Z & Kanye West’s maximal rap hit “N*ggas In Paris’.

Waiting in the wings, The Toots Toot Toots look discernibly nervous as they set to face the largest audience of their career, cut to twenty minutes into their rugged set of bushwhacked blues folk, and they look right at home.

As bombastic horns rough up the spaces the jagged guitar lines don’t, their sound conjures up an image of Nick Cave brawling with Tom Waits in the pub with no beer – which isn’t too far off the truth considering the cinematic narratives of their black humoured lyrics.

All the while, guitarist Danny Eucalyptus and trombonist Giuliano Ferla try to outdo each other in the gravelly vocal stakes, whipping the crowd into shape both aurally, and visually, with the assistance of three 20s-era go-go dancers.

With molls, rhythms, and a chorus of raspy voices in full flow, they finish with a raucous rendition of Fat Man Scoop’s ‘Put Your Hands Up’. It shouldn’t work, but it does – brilliantly.

The Toot Toot Toots give a splendidly unique display and are an early evening highlight, setting the bar impressively high for Saskwatch, whose bombast isn’t as rash by comparison, but a taut, big set in other ways.

Rounding out the other half of the soul-shaped curves that Big Jay McNeely began tracing earlier, the Melbourne nine-piece are a well-honed live act, having toured fairly relentlessly since the release of their debut LP Leave It All Behind earlier this year.

They may be beholden to the classic funk and RnB of old Motown and Stax, but there are modern concessions – such as their bouncing take on Robbie Williams and Kylie duet ‘Kids’, alerting there’s more to them than mere pastiche.

Nkechi Anele is a dynamo upfront, slid into a slinky one-piece, her boisterous vocals steer the tight engine of her backing band. The fizzing chop of ‘Your Love’ is pure class, while ‘Leave It All Behind’ seems to get better with each performance, and there has been a lot of them, with Meredith being another to pop into the excellent category.

Another bout of Meredith Housekeeping follows, and as the strains of The Boss fails to ‘start a fire without a spark’ once more, the costumes begin arriving over the horizon for the next band on the bill, a group who no doubt appreciate such silliness: Regurgitator.

As furries, pokemon, angels, and all manner of fancy dress flood the Ampitheatre, the ‘Gurge waste no time in infantilising the people with their biggest hits – in a true love it or hate it performance.

If you were donning an animal costume on the shoulder of your mate, proud that you still recall every lyric and melodic phrase of ‘Black Bugs’, you were probably having the time of your life; fail to see the irony in Ben Ely and Quan Yeomans succumbing to nostalgia – and you were probably in some kind of mid-90s hell.

Interestingly though, even the most polished ends of Unit (which forms the foundation of their set – and the roof, and the walls, and most of the furnishings), is delivered with the same roughneck attack of the Tu-Plang material.

‘I’ve Sucked A Lot Of Cock’ fizzes with the same energy as ‘Everyday Formula’, while ‘Polyester Girl’ relies as much on the energy of the stomping amassed as it does its bubblegum synth line. The closing explosion of ‘! (Song Formerly Known As)’ again lacks the necessary studio polish, but more than makes up for it in the throng drowning out anything coming from the stage.

That many present wouldn’t have bothered to check in with Regurgitator in 15 years (maybe 1999’s …art at a stretch), it’s hard to deny that they’ve quickly regained the mantle as one of Australia’s most reliable festival acts.

With the sun’s rays quickly slithering away, if you hadn’t wooed away that festival sweetheart by now, attempting to close the deal to the sounds and sights of a gang of biker clowns, whose latest album is called Sexual Harassment, was an exercise doomed to failure.

The cloaking of night was actually beneficial for Turbonegro, as searchlights emphasised the Norwegian’s tongues literally planted in their cheeks as they worked through their catalogue of homosexual innuendo with raggedy vigour.

Newly instated frontman Tony Sylvester, his beer gut paunch crested with a tattoo of a multi-eyed tiger, offering colourful stage natter that hits squarely on the nose and the funny bone, cuing “Fuck The World” with a declaration to fuck “each and every one of you here.”

Turbonegro’s entertainment is an acquired taste, and conceivably are to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden what The Darkness are to AC/DC and Queen.

Does that make them enjoyable? Only if you’re in on the joke, and not if you’re simply baring it up the front in order to capture the forthcoming festival headliners up close and personal.

Primal Scream show that suffering the Oslo outfit is worth it. With 30 years under their still cool as fuck belt, Bobby Gillespie’s rock institution make a regular habit of inducing ecstatic moods.

There’s nothing formulaic about their approach though, with a set littered with euphoric highs – such as the gospel-tinged trip of ‘Movin’ On Up’, or ‘Rocks’, remaining the greatest song the Rolling Stones never wrote – they are nothing short of splendid.

With naught but a tambourine and a pouting sense of purpose, Gillespie doesn’t look a patch on his five decades, having triumphed over a lifetime of hedonism without the craggy complexion (of say, oooh, Keith Richards?).

He is a consummate frontman, tapping the crowd’s energy when called for – tearing through ‘Swastika Eyes’ – or lulling them into a Madchester stupor for ‘Loaded’, but his band are there every swaggering step of the way.

Closing with ‘Come Together’, the distance of 21 years and entire continents couldn’t stop the Screamadelica standard’s revelatory power, and as the final a capella round of the chorus is lifted with the full lung capacity of the swelling Amphitheatre, they’re at their professionally elated best.

As they depart, with their frontman’s ‘thank you Merdith’ warped, looped, and chopped into an extended, almost unbearable loop – it’s to the sound of deafening whoops of approval, with more than a few boots caught in the silhouette of the blinding lights.

At this point, many see the guitars being rolled away as a sign to retreat to the arms of sleep and perhaps, an early morning departure, but for more still the Meredith Sky Show marks the night as still very young indeed.

Though a slight disappoint from the DIY marvels of previous years, lasers are still lasers, and these ones possess a cutting colour of green against the smoke billowing from the maw of the stage.

Setting the scene for DJ Flagrant’s purported VJ show, re: billing in the requisite mash-up slot for the late-night revellers.

Colliding big pop songs with dirty hip-hop with a lack of subtlety that’d make Girl Talk blush, habitually linking segues by nothing more than their song title (eg. The Rolling Stones/Benny Benassi’s ‘Satisfaction”).

This isn’t a set about invention though, it’s about re-starting the energy of those in for the long haul, catering to the primal joy of recognition in chart hits, internet-savvy visuals and all.

Finishing with Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’ is a mawkish stumble in the final dash, but almost everything until that point is a sleek marathon of functional beats and pacing.

If mash-up artists seem a little passé however, then Itch-E & Scratch-E would have seemed a complete and utter throwback.

The miraculously revived Sydney pair of Andy Rantzen and Paul Mac had little diversity (or melody) to their set, offering only pounding pulses with hammering drum and bass drops, ironically with a lack of ‘Sweetness And Light’.

Helping revellers forget their internal body clock, the duo also wound the large and small hands back to a 90s bush doof rave – complete with aging punters whisking glowsticks as their dilated pupils flicker against the Windows Zero visuals beaming from the stage screens.

While many are content to just wind to the deep house grooves, some seem to be finding ways to reinvent the wheel – random strangers begin to make out, small dance pits are formed, while the graveyard of couches at The ‘Sup’s fringes begin to be occupied.

Your humble writer included, and rousing between snatches of DJ Yamantaka Eye (of The Boredoms) blasting the crowd with his avant-garde (re: Japanese) approach to dense techno, the steely Meredith endurance was quickly fading.

Check out the review of Day One of Meredith here.
View all the snaps from Meredith Music Festival 2012 in our photo gallery:
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

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