Monday, December 13, 2004

As it manages to every year, Meredith proved to be the best music festival ever in the history of music festivals this last weekend. Despite the worst weather they've ever had during set-up and the gigantic tent-destroying, road-washing-awaying, biblically-proportioned storm on Friday night which had hundreds of folks sat in their cars outside the farm for hours while organisers wondered where they could put them all without getting everyone bogged and those of us already on-site battened down hatches and wondered what the hell we'd got ourselves in for, every band hit the stage on-time, and those who managed to get in front of them were rewarded with some standout performances, particularly from Ground Components, who played their hearts out as the storm eased off around midnight.
Were then blessed with blue skies and heat for the rest of the weekend, somehow mercifully being missed by two seperate electrical storms which came through around sunset on Saturday, leaving everyone wondering who the Dirty Three had called to make their set such an experience.
I'm eternally so-so about that band but always end up captivated by their live show, not so much by Warren Ellis' visceral stage presence or the way he uses his violin to wrench sounds from deep in his guts, but more by the way Jim White tethers their sound. His ebb and flow gave the screeching histrionics of Ellis and guitarist Mick Turner a sliding, shifting base that occasionally gave way beneath them as they picked over the possibilities each song provided. He had appeared earlier for M Ward's sloppily fantastic set of gravelly-voiced blues, one of the highlights of the day, more entertaining even than Sage Francis inspiring hecklers, clearly upset that by all appearances someone's dad had been let on stage to hector them about their uselessness and sing New Kids On The Block songs at them.
Dallas Crane were also upsetting, but only because mainstream success seems forever out of reach. Why they're not as successful as Jet is a crime, proof possibly that you can't be an incredible band and rock the leather jacket/aviator sunnies look, you've also got to have youth and good genes on your side to make a real impact. Still, that band has no weak link. Not having heard much in the way of live music this year and being able to see several acts trading in a similar sound on the same day I was really struck by the difference such concepts as 'musicianship' and 'chemistry' can make. Young Heart Attack, who played a few bands earlier in the day, were similarly loud and leather-clad, but despite the right posturing and energy to burn they just didn't shake me; their loudness seemed to lack focus and sounded tired. Dallas Crane by contrast were a ball of momentous momentumn; one killer riff after the other, the drummer absolutely rock solid, the harmonies fantastic, the whole band just cooking in a set that still wasn't near the best I've heard from them, and looking around the crowd as thousands of people pumped fists in unison and shouted 'See you in Hell!' was truly heartwarming. But then, travelling into the country with thirty of your closest to spend a weekend sitting in the sun watching music at a festival where the organisers give the overwhelming impression that actually, they're more concerned with your good time than selling you a beer for eight dollars, ones heart was warmed often.

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