Pic: Cayle Stephens

Festivals, Music, Reviews

Golden Plains 2020 review: the envy of all other Australian festivals

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With most large public gatherings increasingly under threat of cancellation, perhaps it was lucky Golden Plains was able to proceed. Word came through Saturday morning just before Golden Plains started that one of the world’s most renowned festivals, Austin’s South by Southwest, had been cancelled. But apart from a few hazmat wearing patrons dishing out cardboard coronavirus cards, there was little mention of the viral crisis sweeping the world.

Like its sister festival Meredith, Golden Plains draws an eclectic mix of artists from all around the world to the Supernatural Amphitheatre. Genre is an unknown concept for this festival as it swallows acts from an incredibly diverse range of locations, eras and tastes. Jazz, disco, punk, techno, rap, afrobeat – all and much more sit side by side in a menagerie of musical style.

The years may change, the headliners may be different, but what remains constant through any Golden Plains is the unbelievable vibe which coalesces around attendees.

The highlight of the first day was London jazz group Ezra Collective who delivered an absolutely blistering set that had the entire hill jumping around as one. Bill Callahan’s brand of poetic, country-tinged tunes whipped delighted patrons into an almost religious rapture.

French-English group Stereolab were fantastic, yet Sleaford Mods were perhaps a little too aggressive for a late evening slot. Indigenous pop group Electric Fields had the wholecrowd in a much happier mood with some sparkly sugary songs.

The Sunday was kicked off by one of the most critically acclaimed artists of 2019: WeyesBlood. Natalie Mering’s brand of lush 70s-style singer-songwriter tunes was a massive hit on the fields, with many revellers, including yours truly, deeming it worthy of ‘the shoe’ (festival attendees show their appreciation for their favourite act by holding their shoe aloft towards the stage). Her cover of Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale was a particular delight.

Disco legend Evelyn “Champagne” King played a wonderful set that stripped back the years and had the crowd dancing like it was 1978 again. The recently crowned winner of the Australian Music Prize Sampa The Great burst on stage in a resplendent red gown, but unfortunately the festival seemed unable to cope with her majesty. A power outage caused a 30-ish minute delay in proceedings, but fortunately this didn’t cut into her set time.

Pic: Cayle Stephens

Pixies might very well be the biggest ever act to hit the ‘Sup. Very few artists can claim to have diverted the direction of music, but they are one such. While the original incarnation of the group imploded before they were able to lap up the attention of the grunge movement, now more than 30 years after the release of their seminal album Doolittle they are receiving a lot of the credit they missed out on at the time. Their set was packed full of classics: Where Is My Mind?, Hey, Here Comes Your Man, Debaser, Gouge Away.

Following Pixies were Hot Chip whose brand of electronic pop hits is tailor made for late evening festival dancing. Their supercharged set, featuring classics like Boy From School, Over And Over and Ready For The Floor, had many in the crowd pondering if it was the best one-two festival programming in memory.

Melbourne DJ Prequel took a step up from prior years duties as the between acts DJ with a fun set on the main stage, before Detroit techno legend Robert Hood, under the moniker Floorplan, had people dancing all through the night.

Ranking this Golden Plains against prior experiences is an almost pointless exercise – the festival has an almost unimpeachable record in terms of artist bookings. But for most people who go, the music itself is only part of what makes the festival so special. The years may change, the headliners may be different, but what remains constant through any Golden Plains is the unbelievable vibe which coalesces around attendees. It’s something which you can’t manufacture, and it makes this festival the envy of all others across Australia.

Golden Plains took place at the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre, March 7-9, 2020.

One response to “Golden Plains 2020 review: the envy of all other Australian festivals

  1. Suitably rapturous but replete with inaccuracies. Bill Callahan – one of the greatest singer-songwriters on earth – was poorly scheduled and went down like a lead balloon to all but the most dedicated lovers. The Pixies were indeed precursors to grunge, but were pivotal in the movement (especially the absent Kim Deal, who went on to smash grunge and the RiotGrrl movement with The Breeders), while Frank Black continued a successful solo country goth career. Anyone over 40 can probably tell you exactly where they were when they first heard Monkey Gone to Heaven. It was a hell of a moment for a good fifty percent of the crowd to see it done once more.

    Yes, GP and Meredith remain the crowning glories and grand dames of the music festivals. Well articulated. But maybe have a quick chat to a Gen-Xer before your next review 🙂

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