Reacclimatising to the ‘real’ world can be a shocking experience after two days in the land of Golden Plains where people come together to whimsically frolic and play. There’s a bittersweet feeling that fills the pits of your stomach as you enter a grey and sensible city landscape in stark contrast to the colour and nonsense you quickly grew accustom. Looking back though, you can always be comforted by the scattered memories of strangers who quickly became friends, the incredible feats of human creativity and spontaneous moments of groupthink that will never leave you. It’s in this respect that we look at the time that was the ninth incarnation of Golden Plains and keep ourselves warm by the nostalgic fire of those lifelong memories.
First Aid Kit Just Being Their Lovely Selves
The Swedish sisters provided one of the best sing-alongs of the weekend with one of their older hits ‘Emmylou’ as they stepped away from the microphones and led the crowd through the chorus. It was a moment when groups of friends and soon-to-be friends grabbed each other’s shoulders and howled into the sky even if they didn’t know the words.
Radio Birdman Crapping All Over The ‘No Dickhead’ Policy
In a massive breaking of the No Dickhead/No Moshing policy, a flurry of human bodies broke out front-of-stage during Radio Birdman’s set. Never was it admonished or seemingly attempted to be stopped by the security and it grew to encapsulate a fair whack of the audience. At one point, a gentleman loaded with scarves around his neck joined in the action only to have one of his woolly warmers unravel and tie up most of the pit. That put a quick break to the whirlwind of body parts for the sweaty group to untangle each other before launching back into their rampant dance attack moves.
Courtney Barnett Full Stop
The queen of slacker rock was in fine form and amassed a huge crowd for her prime set time at 11pm on the Saturday night. She was her usual down-to-earth self commenting she didn’t know how the band had snuck their way onto the time slot. Barnett enlisting The Drones’ Dan Luscombe on lead guitar duties adds a real meatiness to her sound while ‘Avant Gardener’ and ‘History Eraser’ turned the amphitheatre into another huge chorus.
Aldous Harding Cleaning Up The Crowd’s Dirty Souls
Opening the stage at 10am on Sunday, the New Zealand songstress cleared muddied hung over and strung out souls with her incredible operatic voice. Her nonchalant attitude and desert dry wit coaxed chuckles out of the shuffling crowd as she admitted the energy drink can she was drinking was spiced up with a little whiskey. One of the finest and most spine tingling moments of the weekend was her final tune which seemed to fill the entire festival grounds and stun the audience into quiet respectful stillness. Channelling the French cabaret singer Edith Piaf, it was Harding’s unaccompanied voice alone that held the audience in awe showing hers to be one of the most beautiful around in contemporary music.
The Felice Brothers’ Early Arvo Set
Owning the stage in the early afternoon of the second day, the group are one of the best purveyors of contemporary country tinged folk music rolling around the world today. They sent the crowd into foot stomping dosey do-ing with their songs ‘Honda Civic’, ‘Cherry Liquorice’ and ‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’. After a whole set of high energy folk numbers, guitarist Ian Felice ended the set singing a rather sombre number with the band abruptly leaving the stage at its conclusion. It was a strange finish that didn’t leave any feeling of closure but perhaps that’s just them trying to leave the crowd wanting more.
Bombino Is A Bonafide Guitar Legend
Omara Moctar (aka Bombino) may just be this generation’s seminal guitar legend with a style reminiscent of the psychedelic masters such as Jimi Hendrix. Originally from Niger, Moctar is no stranger to struggle having been forced into exile twice due to war in his country. There is a distinct African flavour to his psychedelic sound as he sings in his native tongue of Tamashek. Almost every song of his set divulged into a mind-bending psychedelic jam as he shredded over the top of his three-piece backing band. Although the solos seemed never-ending, there were no points where Moctar looked to be losing steam but instead constantly built tension with each run and lick.
Spontaneous Set Change Cricket Match
During the set change between Bombino and Soil And ‘Pimp’ Sessions, a spontaneous cricket match broke out front-of-stage complete with self-appointed officials and thong cricket bat. One of those brilliant moments of spontaneous group participation saw the crowd gather to include almost everyone around with roars erupting for wild smacks and one handed catches. I feel tradition in the air.
Soil And ‘Pimp’ Sessions Were A Strange Surprise
One of the strangest and most surprising acts of the festival were the Japanese ‘death jazz’ maestros Soil And ‘Pimp’ Sessions who threw the crowd into a frenzy with their erratic soul/funk/jazz tunes. Decked out in plush purple, gold and leopard print outfits, each member of the group showcased incredible skill including the best piano solo of the weekend (maybe the year) by pianist Josei. The band leader Shacho is listed as playing the role of ‘agitator’ in the band which seems to mean his job is to yell at the crowd to never stop dancing and say “death jazz!” as many times as possible. However, for sculling a beer bong on stage that was handed to him from the crowd, Shacho is triumphantly awarded the illustrious ‘No Fucks Given’ trophy.
Inspiration Point’s Sunday Sunset
A costumed and colourful crowd gathered at the hilltop overlooking the vast valley and distant windfarms near the festival site to cheer the longest running residency in the world: the sunset.
Watching a sunset is something generally associated with a soppy romantic picnic but nothing compares to a mob of rowdy boozed up festival hounds egging the sun on its way. Cheers of “Go son, go” and slow claps made sure the very hot ball knew it was appreciated as it slowly declined and basked the lush valley in a warm orange hue. After it had tucked itself away and only an ember of it hugged the landscape, chants of “One more sun!” echoed throughout the crowd. Whoever thought up that gem I would personally like to award the coveted title of Golden Plains Pun Master.
The Village People Slayed!
Most punters probably saw the decision to book The Village People in the prime Saturday night slot as a risk usually taken by a corny wedding DJ and they’d be right. Only two original members still remain in the group (the Indian Felipe Rose and the Soldier Alex Briley) and the fact they perform to a backing track meant there wasn’t going to be many musical surprises during the set. However, it was a feeling of being about to witness a cultural phenomenon that grew inside me as I stared at the iconic row of six microphones. This is a phenomenon that didn’t just smash charts either but stereotypes as well when they brought gay culture to the world’s attention. That was no mean feat in the late 70s when you recognise they boomed in the same time frame as the assassination of gay rights activist Harvey Milk.
Police presence was high as the 20th Century Fox theme announced the arrival of the six most fabulous men in the world with a giant disco ball lighting up over the Supernatural Amphitheatre. There weren’t many surprises in their set list as disco hits followed one another including ‘In The Navy’, ‘Go West’, ‘Macho Man’ and obvious closer ‘YMCA’. Their first single in 25 years ‘Let’s Go Back To The Dance Floor’ sounded like a new age caricature of the band with its EDM influences and chances of it reaching the pop heights of their other tracks are slim. Top points to Rose who despite looking like he was about to keel over at times pushed through the entire set which included his solo Native American flag dance routine. At times it was a bit corny and felt a little too much like a choreographed Chippendale show but its pretty hard to be a wet blanket when you’re watching six grown men suggestively in those outfits.