Cue the gasps: up until this year I’d never been to Meredith before.

It had always been a topic I dreaded coming up in conversation. I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked/shouted at, “What do you mean you haven’t been to Meredith?”, to the point where my huge levels of FOMO turned into jaded cynicism. I mean, it couldn’t be that good, could it?

Turns out that yes, it could. And it was. To all of those people who claimed I hadn’t yet lived, you were right. My pre-Meredith life now feels like a complete waste and I’ve already erased it from my memory.

This year I was finally able to try the old if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them trick and see what this whole Meredith business was about. My expectations were exceedingly high, given that I’d already felt like I’d vicariously experienced at least three of them just through overhead stories. Seriously, you people talk about this festival a lot, though now I can understand why. Still, somehow Aunty Meredith managed to greatly exceed my first time expectations and deliver what was easily my best musical experience of the year.

Now, let’s relive the weekend that was in all of its magical (and inebriated) glory, all of its musical greatness, and all of its strange and unique rituals. Honestly, there’s no place quite like the Supernatural Amphitheater.

My First Campsite

My Meredith started with the sound of an alarm at 4am. The group of wise seasoned veterans I went with insisted on an extremely early convoy to secure a spot in the revered Bush Camp area – a mission we eventually achieved but at the cost of a nap that lasted through Warped and Stonefield. Sorry, but there was no way that tent wasn’t being put to use as soon as those final pegs were hammered in.

I didn’t know how seriously people take Bush Camp. Whenever I’d run into an old friend/co-worker/acquaintance/ex-Masterchef contestant and tell them where I was camping they would gasp in sheer jealousy. Then again, the people next to us made a huge poster with Ron Burgundy saying “Stay classy, Meredith”, so I guess it was quite a good place to live for the weekend.

My First Boot

You could easily argue World’s End Press played the best set of the weekend. Helping usher in the first starry night, the Melbourne quartet transported Meredith back to the neon-dripped era of the ‘80s with the help of backup dancers, sequins, a killer light show, and of course their infectious disco-speckled pop anthems. During the final soaring chorus of their new single, ‘Drag Me Home’, wrapped in a hug with four or so strangers, I think my ice cold heart officially thawed. So many feels. World’s End Press’ set sent the crowd over the edge and into complete rave rapture; setting the mood for the rest of the weekend and a truly memorable moment that rightfully earned them my first ever Meredith boot, aka the first bullet point to cross off on my mental Meredith bucket list.

My First Friday Night

I was the unfortunate designated driver, so Friday night was my time to shine.

People were losing their shit for Le1f before he even hit the stage, so when the green-haired rapper strutted out in Air Max’s and started vogueing to the earthquaking bass, you can only imagine the reaction. There’s a lot of love between Le1f and Australia. It’s his third visit to the country this year alone, and he even gushed that he wants to move here – “for real”. The avant-garde New York native had us in the palm of his hand, making us grind to his spitfire raps on ‘Soda’, gyrate to the slower rhythms on tracks like ‘Damn Son’, before causing a complete frenzy with his breakout anthem, ‘Wut’. There were lots of feels going on in the crowd, but not of the emotional kind. Le1f was the most-talked about act at our campsite’s next morning debrief, and was also probably the most fun I had on the hill all weekend.

Meanwhile, Jon Hopkins was spine tingling. Testing the crowd with cruel builds before finally giving us the cathartic drop of ‘Open Eye Signal’, the modest producer was everything the wide-eyed night owls still in the ‘Sup were craving. Despite wanting to push on and continue my first night on the Supernatural hill, at the end of Hopkins’ set I had lost 91% of my friends, my feet were beginning to hurt and the thought of a sleeping bag was starting to look like a good idea. Maybe next time when I’m not a rookie I’ll survive until sunset. 

My First Hungover Saturday On The ‘Sup

How I managed to get up in time for Courtney Barnett at 11am, no-one will ever know. I took refuge on a rug by the shade to protect my paint-stained face and to hide from the beautiful hipsters who somehow manage to look good after a night’s rave, and ordered one of my friends to fetch me a coffee because everything was hurting. Thankfully, there’s no-one bette than Barnett to bring you out of the dumps. Her signature deadpan, ocker vibe was perfect for the warm summer heat, though surprisingly she sounded a lot rockier in the flesh than when I’ve seen her in the past. If only I could sound that good with a croaky morning voice.

Loveable goof Mac DeMarco won all the Meredith boots; more than anyone else on the lineup. He doesn’t even care if it’s 12 in the afternoon – he’s going to turn up every notch anyway. From breaking three strings in one song and crowd surfing all the way to the back of the stage before parting the crowd like a gap-toothed God, Mac DeMarco was a refreshing and infectious pick me up that reminded you it’s the last full day of Meredith so you’d better stop sipping your skinny latte and replace it with a beer. Which is precisely what I did. He also gains props for hanging out in the crowd afterwards, like Le1f who I actually stood next to throughout Joey Bada$$. (While we’re talking about claims to fame, I also spotted ex-circumnavigator of the world Jesse Martin and various ex-contestants of Master Chef and Big Brother. Top that.)

Dick Diver started a “Fuck Kochie!” chant. They had dancers wearing boxes with Gina Rinehart, Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump and Clive Palmer’s faces on them. They had dancers dressed as birds. And this was all only during the final song, ‘Headback’. Early on in the set, frontman Alistair McKay self-deprecatingly asked the crowd to give them their boots of approval, but by the end they didn’t need to ask. As if they needed to prove it any further after this year’s stunning album Calendar Days, Dick Diver showed exactly why they’re one of Australia’s most sacred gems. 

My First Sunset Strip

Watching the sunset at Sunset Strip was another classic activity I was advised to cross off, but I kind of messed it up. I was there with the hundreds (or thousands) of others there to bring in the final night, but then I accidentally took this photo right as the sun officially set so I didn’t even see it happen. Still, I joined in on the communal cheering even though I felt kind of like a wanker who claps at the end of movies, but then again it’s Meredith and anything can slide. Minus the wearing a onesie to a festival trend that needs to die, ASAP.

My First Meredith Gift

I’d heard many a tale about the Meredith Gift, and it didn’t let me down. So much unrestrained genitalia; so many bits flapping in the wind. I felt like I was watching some Dionysian cult, waiting for one of the unfortunate contestants to be sacrificed for the enjoyment of the laughing crowd. Maybe I’ll have the balls to run the race one year, but this time I was content to watch the charades from the sidelines. So many kudos to those participants – especially the guy who stacked it right in front of us. Carpet burn in all the worst places.

My First Emotional Departure

Passing out the gates to leave Meredith’s alternate universe-slash-nirvana and re-enter the real world was more than depressing. Memories are all a bit blurry, but it’s a glittery, messy, reckless blur and even though I can only make out glimpses through the haze, I know it was easily the best festival experience I’ve ever had, and one that I plan to experience annually from here on out.

Of course there’s the big things you remember from your first Meredith – like the first time you waved your boot over your head, or your first Friday night – but it’s also the smaller things that only you and your circle of pals experienced. You know, things you reminisce about on the car ride home, like when you stumbled on a campsite giving away free goon complete with a goon of fortune clothesline, playing a big game of beer pong with the girls at the campsite next door, or finding one of your lost pals at the front barrier of Jon Hopkins at 3am. Meredith is one of those places filled with tiny miracles and wonderful coincidences. However you spend your time at Meredith, you’re bound to enjoy it.

Thank you Aunty Meredith, my first time was brilliant. For those who haven’t had their first Meredith: I can now smugly say you haven’t lived.

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