They say that Christmas comes once a year, but for those fortunate enough to possess the golden ticket that is a Meredith wristband, the feeling upon entering the festival’s hallowed grounds is that all of our Christmases have come at once.
Screw the birth of baby Jesus – this is the real reason for celebrations come December.
It’s the bacchanalian free-for-all that’s looked forward to all year long; the chance to get out of our systems all the weird, wonderful, and depraved things we’d much rather be doing in the spirit of the festive season – but that might not go down so well if carried out at Aunty Sheila’s or Cousin Joe’s family Christmas lunch.
Kick-off time for the first band may not be until 4pm but many eager souls have been up since before dawn to stake their spot in the vehicular conga-line weaving its way from the festival entrance to the town of Meredith.
Even the supposed “secret” entrance is backed up with carloads of impatient patrons well before 10am. Meanwhile, securing a prized spot in Bush Camp these days is as unlikely as Tony Abbott declaring his support for same-sex marriage.
But no one really minds; there is honestly no more fitting a location for the sentiment ‘it’s just great to be here’. The cloudy sky and a peripatetic smattering of rain are no match for the collective enthusiasm radiating across the rapidly-filling festival site.
If the first band to grace The Sup’ stage can be likened to the popping of the champagne cork, then Warped’s scuzzy Geelong rock gets the party going with a resounding bang.
The Meredith veterans and local rock mainstayers (the band celebrated its 21st birthday earlier this year) are all dirty ‘mos and ragged riffs, and are the perfect candidates to launch the weekend’s revelry via a set of no frills, balls-out rock n’ roll.
They’ve been gushingly described as an all-female Deep Purple but if there is one word to sum up Stonefield for Meredith 2013, it would have to be ill-fitting.
It feels somewhat mean-spirited to hate on the performance from a group so earnestly enthusiastic about pleasing their audience. There’s no denying their act is polished, moving seamlessly from one song to another including their signature track ‘Through The Clover’.
The four-piece rely heavily on their tried and tested formula of wailing vocals, stocky riffs, and driving beats, and the Findlay sisters’ 70s derivative rock just feels a little too safe for the rough and ready Meredith crowd.
Those who caught Deerhunter’s excellent pre-Meredith show at the Hi-Fi bar in Melbourne midweek would have been expecting more of Bradford Cox’s delightfully uninhibited ramblings.
However, apart from drawing everyone’s attention to a “giant fucking poisonous spider” on stage, the frontman is less verbose tonight and more concerned with the job at hand.
And what a stellar job they do. Their musicianship is near faultless, and in contrast to Stonefield’s careful display, Deerhunter play with palpable feeling.
‘Revival’ is a jaunty, shimmering outing that has audience members bopping and shimmying. Cox’s voice croons with crystal perfection amidst the long, echoing guitar notes and thumping beats of the ever-popular ‘Desire Lines’ and a taste of their new album Monomania comes in the form of the raucously drummed-out ‘Neon Junkyard’.
After the Deerhunter peak, there’s a noticeable thinning of the crowd as Melvins assemble on stage. Clearly the band’s sludgy metal is not to everyone’s taste, but those who do stay are suitably rewarded.
Rocking, rambling, and always loud, the group blitz through an impressive set of older numbers mixed with material from their recent release Tres Cabrones, winning themselves more than a few new fans and proving that they’re much more than a nostalgia act.
Sunset has come and gone, and darkness filters in with Melvins’ set. The wildness is setting in and under the cover of the night, heartbeats are increasing and pupils are dilating with reckless abandon.
In the natural order of the universe, there will always be one disappointing act in each Meredith line-up and the burden this year falls, unexpectedly, to Brian Jonestown Massacre.
That is certainly not to say that the group sounds bad – their eclectic, psychedelic San Franciscan cup is overflowing and pouring freely from their extensive back catalogue.
It is more that their presence is strangely muted; the mood feels a little flat, and with Anton Newcombe’s infamous reputation for animosity preceding him, the quietly executed performance that follows is a touch underwhelming. For many punters the group’s set quickly unravels into the most undesirable of results: the background music to a drunken conversation.
Clairy Browne’s brassy RnB carries those drunken conversations well past midnight, and from then on the night can be divided into those who conserve their energy and take themselves off for an early night, and those who party on into the dawn hours to the tunes of Le1f, Jon Hopkins, and Roland Tings.