Tuesday 15 March 2016

Golden Plains X: Day One

2016 and my first Golden Plains is the 10th anniversary of the festival. Normally on the March long weekend I head back to Adelaide for Womad, but this year I decided I wanted to go to Golden Plains because Eddy Current Suppression Ring were headlining. ECSR are a Melbourne punk band who played at the first Golden Plains 10 years ago, and haven't played for over six years.
First of all, I had to get tickets. Golden Plains only offers a certain amount of tickets per year in a ballot and I missed out. Fortunately, my old flatmate Brad got them, and unfortunately he couldn't go.
As usual I asked anyone on Facebook if they wanted tickets, and as usual no one responded in time. So, as usual, I went by myself. Thanks to The Equipment Library, I hired a swag and sleeping bag, got a cooler bag filled with cheeses, olives, stickmeat and Pirate Life and Jack Hammer pales, and caught the Supernatural Express to the Nolan Farm in Meredith, Victoria.
Map of the venue. I was camped in "Elwood".
From the moment I got there, I knew this festival was something special. As I was strolling along people came up to me and offered to look after or help carry my gear. One British guy actually insisted on helping, and walked me about the camp, explaining this at that feature. When I discovered there was a street called Highway To Hell, I knew I found my camping spot.

So I go camp on my own, leave on my own, go home and want to die... due to lack of sleep
It was the British guy (whose name I have forgotten) who suggested I go to the opening ceremony. He said it was very special. And it is.You see, the Nolans, who own the farm, have a son Chris. In 1997 he suffered multiple organ collapse. He is fully cognisant of all around him but now is confined to a wheelchair and can only communicate in blinks, vocalisations and facial gestures. Along with the traditional acknowledgement of Aboriginal ownership of the land, "The Long Blink" signifies that Chris is happy to have people on the farm, and kicks off the festival.
I wanted to get closer, but you can see, the Opening Ceremony is very popular.
Kicking off the music was Melbourne band Gold Class. Most people who know me know that I love the Smiths but hate Morressey; however don't get the wrong idea when I say this - singer Adam Curley sounds like the Morressey (or possibly Ian Curtis), and it sounds great! The rest of the band is great too. I strongly recommend all of my friends go listen to them right now!
Gold Class: In this case, I'm not using Morressy pejoratively.
Wandering back to camp to get a beer, I realised I had chosen the perfect spot. It was 10 minutes away from the stage, so during the band change over I could wander back, fuel up, and then hit the stage again. However, this would turn out to be a problem, as I'll explain later... Getting back to the stage I got to see the incredible Emma Donovan and the Putbacks. I saw this funk / soul outfit led by the Queen of Australian soul music at Womad and they were spectacular once again. 
Emma Donovan and the Putbacks: Because sometimes you need a little soul.
Even though I only ever heard of them just the night before, the U.S. Girls were now a major draw card for GP and were as amazing as the night before. Meg Remy is the creative force behind this music, one of these "DIY" pop maestros with an extraordinary stage presence along the lines of St Vincent. Her colleague whose name I don't know was also a dynamo! So much sass on stage, a punkish "fuck you" attitude backed up with solid talent. 
US Girls: Who's that girl? No, seriously, can anybody help me out?
After US Girls I decided to go back and loiter around camp for a while, eat some food, and do some exploring. In the background Natalie Prass played some nice pop/country/blues stuff. Not my thing really, but I did discover she's done a tune with Matthew E White, who I am a fan of. And that's what is really good about the one stage set up at Golden Plains - you discover music you might not normally listen to. 
One act such as this was John Grant. I'd never heard of him before, but I endeavour to listen to more now. Like the aforementioned Matthew E White, John Grant doesn't look like he should sound like he does. When he started, my friend asked if they were playing Bowie, and when we realised it was John Grant, we were just drawn to the stage. My word, he was phenomenal! Singing live, he's reminiscent of Bowie or perhaps David Byrne, and hits the deep, long notes in his songs seamlessly. 
John Grant: A case study in not judging a book by it's cover
Until this point, I was of the opinion that Golden Plains might be pretty tame, along the lines of Womad. I thought the whole "no dickheads" thing prevent people from doing what others might refer to as dickish things, like mosh and crowd surf. For the record, I don't think moshing or crowd surfing is dickheaded at all - I've partaken in the past, and it's a lot of fun and on the whole people people are nice in the pit. But the Buzzcocks put that theory to bed with a boisterous display of perfect British punk. The band were having it, the crowd were having it, it was frenetic and fabulous for a band who are fourty!
The Buzzcocks: Old but still fucking rocking!

I've wanted to see Royal Headache for a while now, since they released their first album in 2012 in fact. However, for whatever reason, I've missed all of their shows until now. But funnily enough, I've now seen them every month of this year! And they're as great as I expected. Shogun, the lead singer, has an intense energy on stage, prowling back and forth like a caged animal, just waiting to get out of the cage and rip your throat out. 
Royal Headache: Like a tiger. Reow!
After going to see the Jesus and Mary Chain on Monday night, and Sleater Kinney on Friday night, as well as being up early to pack and travel, it was at about this time I started to feel a little tired. I wanted to push on through though, as CW Stoneking's swampy throwback sound is always an interesting and fun set to listen to. I think this was probably the first time I was disappointed in the sound as his voice when talking wasn't all that loud, and he loves to talk on stage, but it was fine when he was singing. 
CW Stoneking: How does a suit stay so white in a swamp so dank?
Unfortunately I hit the wall hard during his set, and wandered back to camp. I wanted to stay awake, but also wanted to see how comfortable my swag would be. I laid down and was up for a bit listening to the beautiful sounds of offtap people talking shit and they "pwssshfar" of nitrous canisters and laughter. I drifted on and off for about an hour or so, waking up to what I think was No Zu's cover of Hunters and Collectors Talking to a Stranger. It could have just been the interstitial DJ, but it was very loud.

However, with music sounding like Joy Division and Sisters of Mercy met in a (black) cab on the way to see Kraftwerk, it was another Melbourne band I had not heard before, Black Cab, which got me out of the sack and down to the Sup dancing again. And boy am I glad I did - these guys were incredible and I hope I get to see them again soon.
Black Cab: Catch an Uber to their next set!
I wandered back to camp where I laid down and discovered one negative thing about my spot at about 4am - the bass of the main stage where the DJs play late night sets is still as ridiculously loud as it is during the day, and carried directly up the hill. And it will wake even someone who has spent the week at gigs and even fallen asleep at a rave before... Which means tomorrow I will be even more tired... or will I?!

To be continued!

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