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Golden Plains 2012 Day 2: Out Of Place, Out Of Time

MAX EASTON wraps up the last night of the Golden Plains festival in Meredith, Victoria, which saw a mixed bag of performances by the likes of Harmony, Lost Animal, Charles Bradley, Black Lips, Roots Manuva, CHIC and Roky Erickson. Photos by MICHAEL BAINBRIDGE. Day one review here.

Out Of Place

The challenge of timetabling the 10am morning after slot isn’t one easily met - often haphazardly palmed off to the smallest name on the bill - but for Golden Plains Sixxx, the selection of Melbourne’s Harmony proved to be a masterstroke. The accumulated hangovers of the 1000 early risers were treated to Harmony’s heartbroken lethargy jarred by jolts of brash noise – all made cathartic by three operatic backing singers. Impassioned and genuinely moving, guitarist Tom Lyngcoln slowed hardcore riffing to a crawl, rising from these stark moments into his own guttural scream. It was an incredible soundtrack to the rising heat, somehow appropriate as a festival alarm clock.

Overheard: “I like them up until that guy opens his mouth.”

Matching tracked beats to his sleazy pseudo-rap vocal, Melbourne’s Jarrod Quarrel (as Lost Animal) crafted one of the most unique albums of 2011 in Ex Tropical. Adding Kirin J Callinan’s cavernous guitar tones to the live show (tones so distinctive that you could pick them floating over the Amphitheatre from 500 metres away) his dark, almost perverted set seemed at odds with the sun-drenched open-air stage. Regardless, there’s a certain eeriness to his music; sunny tropicalia backing tracks clashing with his depressed poetics, all murmured with half-spat conviction. It could have been a overwhelming set at 4am – crushing and strange – but it was probably the safest bet in that timeslot.

By the time Bonnie “Prince” Billy (aka Will Oldham) arrived in the late afternoon, the day of booze-induced stagger seemed to be a minor influence at the back of the Amphitheatre. Sobering up the festival’s rising anticipation for the night ahead, Oldham deadpanned through his discography to a somewhat mixed reception; the Cairo Gang a brilliant backing to a set placed a little astray between the punk comeback of the Celibate Rifles and the all-in assault of Roky Erickson. Oldham’s appearance always seemed to be placed as a foil to Saturday’s set by Bon Iver, but as passionate as his songs are on record, it just didn’t translate to Golden Plains; his emotional absence in the middle of the day arguably coming across as spiritless rather than tragic.

Endless Boogie somehow managed to polarise as well. They created an exodus from the back of the amphitheatre and received a front row boot nomination. How that happened is another question, a grating continuous jam that seemed to fall mostly on deaf ears.

Endless Boogie

For Sweden’s Soderberg sisters (playing as First Aid Kit) sincerity didn’t seem to be a problem. Awash with grins and mock rock outs among their twee-folk forays, it was only a lack of their own musical identity that was the blight on an otherwise gorgeous set. They may have shaken their label as flash-in-the-pan YouTube sensations with this year’s lauded second LP, The Lion’s Roar, but there’s nothing identifiably Swedish about either of them. Namechecking Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, June Carter and Johnny Cash on ‘Emmylou’, they played through a set inspired alternately by old-school Americana and modern alt-folk. Even the between song banter was painted with Americanisms and accents, but it was hard not to be charmed by the two, as painfully cute as they may have been.

First Aid Kit

The Golden Boot

As finicky as some people are about “The Boot’s” place and the rules dictating its rising, by now it’s time to concede (and come to grips with) the fact that the boot is an evolving tradition. It’s no longer a once-off award, but a sign of respect. In saying that, the boot continues to be driven more by levels of drug and alcohol consumption than a true reflection of the on-stage performance; rising into the afternoon and dying off as it all becomes a bit too much. That’s the beauty of an organically created rating system though, and, well, that’s also the beauty of drugs and alcohol.

Out Of Time

It’s becoming a staple of all Australian festival line-ups to include a nostalgia act or two, but Golden Plains took the cake with no less than seven acts taken or inspired by the backlogs of musical history, none coming from further back than Texan psych-king Roky Erickson.

Erickson has led a life usually reserved for fiction; losing decades to mental care in a prison for the criminally insane. It was an ill-advised insanity plea made to escape a drug possession charge that landed him there in the late ’60s, with his comeback only now resulting in his first ever foray to Australia. Despite appearing visibly lost and confused throughout the set (“Which one am I playing again? Okay!”) his voice had lost none of its bite after 30 years away from a microphone. As historically important as Erickson is though (and as heartwarming as it was to see his smile and patches of enthusiasm), it’s hard not to acknowledge the flaws of his live show. Backed (and essentially led) by 20-something session musicians, it felt more like he was wheeled out by his grandchildren than leading a comeback tour.

Indeed, as he was prompted sometimes cluelessly through his set-list of greatest hits (for the most part ignoring 2010’s comeback record True Love Cast Out All Evil) it seemed more like an exploitation of his name than a genuine attempt at returning him to the world.

Overheard: “I don’t even know who any of these old cunts are anymore.”

Eighties Sydney punks Celibate Rifles however, were all too aware of their place in the world, firming as one of the festival’s most successful dips into the past. Their appearance was chaotic; reviving the crowd-clearing effect of Endless Boogie with a set of Aussie garage classics, including the blistering song that broke them, ‘Johnny’.

Urge Overkill should’ve stayed in 1993 - their revival tour more indebted to others than any of their own merits. Even their blurb focuses more on the fact that they once supported Pearl Jam and Nirvana, while their set only ever reached a high when playing their cover of Neil Diamond’s ‘Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon’. For the rest, it was a by-the-numbers ’90s nostalgia slot with most of the crowd appearing about as uninterested as the band themselves.

urge overkill

Into the Groove

It took a while for Golden Plains to warm to Roots Manuva, his nigh on ludicrous introduction and stock-standard hip-hop banter initially being little more than an eye-rolling sideshow for the Amphitheatre’s extremities. As the set went on though, they became the first act to physically charge the festival’s crowd for the night ahead. Indeed, if it weren’t for the soul-laden Charles Bradley or disco pioneer Nile Rodgers (possessing two sounds that informed the evolution of the musical stream that became what Roots Manuva delivered,) he could have had one of the best receptions of the night; receiving a surprising sea of Dunlop Volleys, Vans and gumboots by set’s end.

Overheard: “He’s kind of like Flava Flav … if Flava Flav had no clock or personality.”

Sixty-three year old Charles Bradley may have only released his first record in 2011, but his collation and appropriation of old-school funk and soul influences was the night’s true triumph. Turning his former career as a James Brown impersonator into an incredible hour of grooves, he even managed to make a cover of Neil Young’s middling folk hit ‘Heart of Gold’ one of the night’s most enthused moments. His subsequent backstage reaction to the set may well be one of the most heartwarming posthumous Golden Plains moments to date; the spoken proof of all the heart and soul he poured into the Golden Plains crowd.

Say what you will about disco’s historic role in zapping the heart out of the ’70s funk presented by Charles Bradley, but the appearance of CHIC (featuring legendary songwriter Nile Rodgers) was by far the set of the festival. Of course, by the end of the set, the substance tipping point murdered all chance of overhead shoe raising, but it was the 4000 person dance-along to ‘Le Freak’ that became possibly the most colossal moment of the festival, resulting in a mass strip-off to the left of the amphitheatre and rapturous applause.


The Timetable

The day’s major fault proved to be its timetabling; raising the question of why Aunty Meredith chooses to haphazardly place bands throughout the line-up when it’s potentially the greatest Australian festival environment to deliver themed time slots. The groove-trifecta of Roots Manuva, Charles Bradley and CHIC could have been an unparalleled party to end the night, broken in three instead by the dull return of Urge Overkill and the psych adventure of The Black Lips, who despite crafting a set of polished psych-garage gems, were received ambivalently. There’s a case to be argued for sticking to an alternating diversity of acts (which has been the theme for the Mere-plains’ festivals for some time,) but it continues to be a missed opportunity for a curatorial spin.

Overheard: “I just wanna hear ‘Family Tree’ and go to bed.”

Into the Night

This year, as always, the Supernatural Amphitheatre eventually devolved into an open-air club. By the AM, it’s not even close to being about the music anymore, the DJs featured on the timetable merging into the interstitial soundtrack and back into the obligatory early morning dance band. The result is either a front row of irono-ravers…



…or a back row of slurred discussions marked by shrill screaming, photobombing, bizarre dance troupes and bromancing love-ins.

back row

back row2


MORE COVERAGE: Day one featuring Bon Iver, Kisstroyer, Total Control and Ariel Pink

GALLERY: Photos – Day One

  -   Published on Wednesday, March 14 2012 by Max Easton.
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Your Comments

Dexter Ramone  said about 3 years ago:

I liked the overheard bits. Were you hanging around with the same muppet all day or are idiots taking over?

blake3030  said about 3 years ago:

Amazingly how differently people see things. I thought the Black Lips were the perfect band to stick between the soul and the disco. Roots Manuva's bizarre metal guitar riff hip-hop would have ruined it for me. Maybe he could have come back out and done Witness one more time... as I couldn't sit through the first 2/3rds of his set to hear it the first time.

I quite like the ups and downs of the timetabling. People enjoy different things at different times. I think it would be kind of boring if it was softer slower music during the day and all party music at night.

Bon Iver proved that a lot of people are willing to listen to really boring music well into the night.

MelonHCST  said about 3 years ago:

Please, please stop it with the GIFs.

NiteShok  said about 3 years ago:

Don't dig the GIFs in this one. Either do text or GIFs, not both. I liked the 'overheard' bits too.

kuroneko  said about 3 years ago:

why Aunty Meredith chooses to haphazardly place bands throughout the line-up

Ya gotta eat/pee/snooze/go back to the tent for more beverages at some stage.

PaulsGrandfather  said about 3 years ago:

I too am quite happy with the timetabling system. If you stack too many similar bands together, I am just as likely to get bored and leave, it's also nice knowing the bands you want to see are peppered throughout the day and you can chill out between them.

I thought the Black Lips were fucking great and that First Aid Kit are the victims of cuteness discrimination. Cute people have feelings to, ya know.

PaulsGrandfather  said about 3 years ago:


not-ian  said about 3 years ago:

every one is having such a great time

PaulsGrandfather  said about 3 years ago:

Pffft, they're listening. I don't cackle manically, grin like a fool or wave my arms around unless I'm watching the keynote speaker.

yokobarron  said about 3 years ago:

Bit surprised you didn't include a write up of Naysayer and Gilsun as their set turned out to be much more then just a DJ set and seemed to be really welcomed by the majority of the crowd. I had not witnessed something like that before. Just wondering what your impressions were of their AV set. But other then that great write up and I agree with the timetabling issues.

FrankieTeardrop  said about 3 years ago:

Y'know... I really like the fact that I can completely agree and also completely disagree with some of Max's assessments. This seems to have been a bit of a recurring theme throughout the commentary on this year's Golden Plains - and therein lies the genius of this festival for me. You may not like every single act, you may even disagree with your best friends, but you will never be entirely disappointed.

Brilliant effort, Aunty Meredith!

For the record, I've narrowed down my Top 5 of the festival:

Roky Erickson
Charles Bradley
Bonnie Prince Billy
Celibate Rifles
Wild Flag

Old cunts, all of them.

josejones  said about 3 years ago:

i worked out a long time ago that your enjoyment of any given band is influenced by three factors:

  • where you're standing
  • how fucked up you are
  • what time of day they're playing

this explains why so many people have wildly different opinions on the same set (except urge overkill, who were shit from wherever you were). ultimately, it reinforces the fact that festival sets are intensely personal experiences.

oh, and how can you not like the gifs?!

FrankieTeardrop  said about 3 years ago:

I can't believe I didn't see you all weekend, Mr Jones. Must have been because you were hanging backstage with Nile Rogers for most of the time. Good shit!

And yeah... gifs are wyld!

MelonHCST  said about 3 years ago:

Totally agree about those factors. I'm sure I wouldn't have enjoyed Kisstroyer quite as much if I wasn't off my nut.

PaulsGrandfather  said about 3 years ago:

I also agree with josejones. I'm always surprised and baffled by the things other people hated about bands I adored or vice versa but I wouldn't change it. Everybody might be attending the same festival but no two people's festivals are the same. I had my Golden Plains, you had yours.

Dexter Ramone  said about 3 years ago:

I'd say familiarity with their back catalogue would have to be factor #4

FrankieTeardrop  said about 3 years ago:

Not necessarily, Dexter.
I knew ever song Urge Overkill played, yet I thought they sucked arse.
I knew only two songs Charles Bradley played, yet I thought his whole set was genius.

____  said about 3 years ago:

music is crazy hey guys

GrantleyBuffalo  said about 3 years ago:

ghoti-max  said about 3 years ago:

Some really beautiful things said about Golden Plains in a review from loud n local:

''Golden Plains, [is] like…the girl you love but can never have. Every now and then though, you share a glance, a casual hug, a hand on the shoulder during conversation, or two days of reckless abandon that make you feel like maybe this could be it. But, almost as quickly as it happens, it’s gone again. She will never know...But somehow that one moment makes up for every other one you don’t get to be together. And somehow you find the strength to actually be happy for the cows and the sheep and the utes and the bikes and the dudes that get to be with her every other day of the year. Because at least you had that one moment, that one weekend where it all made sense.''


not-ian  said about 3 years ago:


kuroneko  said about 3 years ago:

That's a really beautiful GP review, but I can't stop watching that Weng Weng gif.

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