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Golden Plains Lucky Seven @ Supernatural Amphitheatre , Meredith (09-11/03/2013)

Day 1

Arriving quite early, and scoring a much sought after spot at the perfectly placed Bush Camp, we had time to chill and sink a few cold ones before heading down for the first act of the day.

Opening proceedings were local garage rockers Money For Rope, a last minute replacement for veteran rockers Six Foot Hick who cancelled due to illness. Having seen these guys rock the car park of St Kilda’s Paradise Records on Record Store Day in 2012, I knew these guys could rock with the best of them, and they did not disappoint. However, I’m still yet to figure out the need for two drummers!

Wild Nothing’s dream pop was a fitting soundtrack to a lazy Saturday afternoon, with most punters seemingly content to chill out with a cold one on the hill or even playing pool next to the sound board (on a perfectly level snooker table no less!).

No Zu was where the day really started to pick up for me. Bringing together a hodge-podge of influences, they create a unique sound which is all their own. At 6pm most people were ready to boogie to the loose, percussive and carnivale-like atmosphere No Zu conjured. Quirky lead singer Daphne Shum provides a nice focal point amongst the chaos (and looks rather fetching in red hot pants, just for the record).

I’d never come across The Tallest Man on Earth before. His breezy, charming and inoffensive brand of folk music was a nice lull in the evening, but it certainly didn’t blow my mind. So why then were several hundred girls simultaneously losing their shit at once? Apparently being handsome, Swedish, and sensitive enough to bring your wife on stage for an encore might have something to do with it (according to the girls I spoke with). He wasn’t even tall, just for the record.

The oft-erratic Cat Power’s set was actually quite solid, but her dreamy sounds failed to ignite too much of a spark at 9pm in the evening. The clear highlight of her set was when she invited Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis on stage, and proceeded to cover The Boy’s Next Door Shivers. Given the importance of Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard to the local scene, it was no surprise that it received a more than a rousing reception.

The biggest surprise of the evening for me was upstart producer Flume. It felt like he went at least 45 min over his allotted time, but no one on the dance floor seemed to mind at all. He kept everyone shaking their arses to a healthy mix of originals and remixes, sampling The Notorious B.IG. to great effect. Granted, many of the songs hadn’t been greatly reworked for a live setting, but they had much more impact on the clear, punchy sound system. The bassline from More Than You Thought came alive, and sounded positively menacing.

Day 2

Having had no sleep, and struggling to find shade even at our campsite, I was rather excited to hear the swampy, foot-stompin’ blues of Chris Russell’s Chicken Walk filter from the main stage. Arriving at The Supernatural Ampitheatre at 1:30pm, it was around 40% capacity. By the end of their set, the place was packed with punters clapping their hands, and stomping their feet in time. No surprises from this reviewer when the boot was unanimously raised aloft by many in the appreciative crowd. For the uninitiated, this is a huge honour to receive at any Meredith or Golden Plains.

‘Chill Wave’. The term implies pleasant, but certainly not mind-blowing. Toro Y Moi have apparently moved beyond this rather limiting sub-genre of music, so let’s discuss the performance itself. Chaz Bundick and co. certainly provided a note-for-note replication of the hits, however, the set provided few surprises. After the funky, and slightly conservative vibes of Toro were over, it was nice to get a bit of a wake-up call with the no-holds-barred punk-funk of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

From 7pm onwards on Sunday night it was all about getting one’s boogie on, commencing with the skankadelic riddims of local outfit Melbourne Ska Orchestra. They had sections of the crowd skanking along to such classic as Rudi’s A Message To You, and Night Boat To Cairo. Keeping in with the classic vibe, veteran Scottish DJ Keb Darge mixed a tasty set of rockabilly and Northern Soul that kept the punters going whilst waiting for George Clinton.

George Clinton’s new look was so dramatically different, that it left some fans wondering whether an imposter had been sent in his place. Gone were his trademark multi-coloured dreds, matted grey beard, and loose-fitting garb, replaced by a neatly groomed man wearing a pin stripe suit, with a fedora hat. Perhaps somewhat more befitting of a man his age, but I couldn’t help feeling like he was slightly pandering to the generation he had influenced in the first place.

At any rate, it was all about the music, and it has to be said, the set was a little all over the shop. Between P-Funk classics such as Flashlight, (Not Just) Knee Deep, and Give Up The Funk, were some relatively pedestrian raps by his grandchildren, some extended guitar solos (excluding the brilliant Maggot Brain) and a couple of originals by Mary Griffin. Who? Yes exactly. While there’s no doubting that she had a very fine voice, if we’re only going to see two hours of P-Funk, we want two whole hours of P-Funk! The whole set left me with the general feeling that perhaps I’d seen a P-Funk cover band.

The rest of the evening belonged to the DJs, and this is possibly why you’re reading this review in the first place. Commencing with Melbourne’s own pair of VJs, Naysayer and Gilsun. Their specialty is to synch banging, and at times cheesy techno / electro, with iconic, and quite often ironic visuals. To give you an idea of where they’re coming from: everything from Heath Ledger’s joker blowing up a hospital, to Rebecca De Mornay showering naked in 80’s comedy Risky Business gets a look in.

Julio Bashmore is a great producer, but tonight we also witnessed what a great DJ he is. His set was predominantly made up of early 90’s influenced house and garage, mixed up with his own bass heavy productions. It was amazing how he managed to go from Tronco Traxx’s banging ghetto-tech anthem Walk With Me, to the souful, disco-infused classic Open Up Your Eyes by Henry Street duo Johnick. Spot on Julio, spot on.

So just who are Zanzibar Chanel?, many people were asking before they hit the stage. Possibly an enigma, wrapped in a riddle. More accurately, they Lil ‘Baba-X’ Luis, a shadowy figure in the background who pumps out what could be best described as a pastiche of late 80’s / early 90’s garage and hip-house. Then out front we have Big Zack, a rather large man as the name implies. As Big Zack free-styled some ridiculous lyrics, he gradually took off layer by layer until he had no top on and was swinging around his, errr, ample breasts. Such a combination could lead to a train wreck. What we actually got was pure unadulterated awesome.

Closing out the festival, and the reason I was still up at 3am after absolutely NO sleep all weekend was to see Detroit’s finest purveyour of deep-tech-soul, Moodymann. The initial concern that his generally downbeat grooves might be inappropriate for the 3-5am slot proved to be unfounded, as he proceeded to hit the crowd with a blend of up-tempo, deep and sexy, house and tech. Detroit was represented early in the set with the deep, smooth, and sexy sounds of Rick Wilhite’s classic City Bar Reopen “Live” Dancing.

A highlight of the set was when Moodymann pieced together a moving tribute to the recently departed Ajax, sampling an interview with the great man. Over the course of two hours we got a blend of house, techno, and even a bit of The White Stripes with Seven Nation Army. Closing out with the new Three Chairs single, he had the crowd begging for more.

It should be noted that this reviewer managed to lose both his phone AND wallet over the course of one evening. Both items were returned completely intact by two amazingly honest people. At the end of the day, Golden Plains is a lot more than the sum of the artists that play. As one punter said, “Give a guy a tambourine and I’ll watch it”. And isn’t that the point? People come to the Meredith for the atmosphere: great friends, cold (and often warm) booze, and general good vibes.