Golden Plains remains one of the quirkiest fixtures on the Australian music festival calendar. Like its big sister festival Meredith, it combines great vibes with great tunes, while adding a dash of the bizarre and eccentric for good measure.
However. its slightly shorter running time, smaller crowd size and Labour Day long weekend date, means Golden Plains remains a more relaxed and accommodating proposition than its sister festival.
While it retains many of the same quirks of Meredith: the single stage, BYO alcohol, zero advertising, couches at the stage, late night cult cinema, the ‘no dickhead’ policy, raising a shoe to show appreciation for bands, Golden Plains is freed from slavishly following the traditions of its sister festival. It gives itself more leeway to venture into eclectic line-up choices or new ways of organisation.
In comparison to other years, this weekend’s Golden Plains XII line-up was quite straight, not really featuring any of the weird and wacky selections it sometimes is inclined to choose.
Instead, it contained some of the finest local and international acts in music offering a line-up that was one of the strongest in recent memory – for either it or its sister festival.
Just about every act hit the spot.
Kicking off the festival was Tropical Fuck Storm, the side project for The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin. With a selection of their other band’s hits and their new, they kicked the festival into gear in a blistering display of punk meets psychedelic crossed with rock and roll.
Thundercat was the festival’s first big international act. A funk fusion hero, Stephen Bruner’s masterful work on a six-string hollow bodied bass guitar is mind-bending, appearing on tracks for a whole host of massive acts, such as Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino and Flying Lotus. His virtuoso appearance saw him teaming up with saxophonist Kamasi Washington for a stunning rendition of Them Changes.
Perfume Genius got the afternoon swinging into its strongest section of the entire festival. Mike Hadreas’ songs swing from glam, to punk, spectral balladry and rock with many places in between, and his set showcased all aspects of his canon with joyous panache and style.
Londoner Archy Marshall, aka King Krule, has a voice and talent that completely belies his age. Moving on from the haunting acoustic based sound of his first album into darker electronic territory, he was one of the highlights of the festival.
Kamasi Washington is a modern jazz superstar and his band gave a mind-blowing and raised shoe-worthy performance.
However, he may have been topped by Kamasi Washington. After gaining mainstream attention for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, Washington is a modern jazz superstar and his band gave a mind-blowing and raised shoe-worthy performance.
Saturday night’s highlights were a couple of Australian acts. The Preatures were given a prime slot, yet seemed oddly hostile to the crowd. Singer ‘Izzi’ Manfredi made several comments about the perceived lack of support from the crowd (which was the opposite impression of this reviewer) while also making a couple of very strange anti-Victorian remarks. It took the gloss off what was otherwise a solid showing.
The Avalanches are perhaps the quintessential representation of the kind of music Meredith fosters – local, eclectic and amazing. It’s a surprise then that they had not played here for almost 20 years, before their seminal Since I Left You album was even released. Their sample based ‘plunderphonics’ style, doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a live setting but with a canon of amazing songs, it’s hard not to enjoy.
Sunday was lighter in notable names, yet not so in great performances. Rocket Science gave a great rendition of their pub-rock sound, Jen Cloher got a little assistance from her partner Courtney Barnett on guitar, while Adrian Sherwood delivered a delicious dub display.
The headliner for the night was Big Boi, best known as one half of seminal hip-hop act Outkast.
Ghanian Ata Kak was one of the surprise packets; his mix of African pop, hip-hop and electro got the evening party started before soul singer Lee Fields and his band the Expressions had everyone in rapture, and his callout to the recently departed Meredith favourite Charles Bradley was particularly touching.
Brooklyn’s indie rock heros, Grizzly Bear played a glorious selection of cuts from their critically beloved albums. Baker Boy, a young hip-hop artist from the Top End may have few songs on his CV at the moment, but if his performance was anything to go by his is a name we will be hearing a lot more of.
The headliner for the night was Big Boi, best known as one half of seminal hip-hop act Outkast. While his solo songs are far less known than some of the famous Outkast tracks (the responsibility of his band mate Andre 3000), it was a magical experience to be in the presence of one of rap’s most influential men.
Golden Plains XII was another stellar entry in this festival’s history, a sure-fire example of how it continues to evolve and deliver excellence.