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For many, Golden Plains is more than just a music festival. It’s the sister festival to Meredith Festival and although younger in age it’s often referred to as the more mature sibling. A smaller ticket allocation makes for a more intimate experience. Some of this year’s headliners, including Public Enemy, and LA-based beat making extraordinaire Flying Lotus attract a more mature, discerning ear.
This festival has a loyal and loving cult following, but what is it that keeps people so enthralled? Lee, 43, from Melbourne says, “It’s just good to be in the outside in the country watching proper bands for 2 days, away from the pollution and the city and it always has good vibes”.
Gold Panda took the stage at 4pm on Saturday afternoon, drawing a sizeable crowd for the time, but we can’t help but think it would have been more appropriate a little later in the night. Adalita followed up, delivering a gritty performance, tugging at the nostalgic heartstrings of the rock fans who had amassed.
Man of the moment Chet Faker was always going to be a crowd favourite. As the sun sets over the hills, American indie rock-band Yo La Tengo, who also have a strong cult following, played a repertoire of songs spanning their decades.
The Drones took the stage, treating the swelling crowd to their trademark raw performance, with frontman Gareth Liddiard oozing old-skool pub rock prowess. Shark Fin Blues had the audience chanting along and enticing our air-guitars to come out to play.
Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires were a hotly anticipated arrival to the evening, and the mutual love between audience and band when they arrived was overwhelming. Bradley preached the importance of love and peace to the crowd, and while everyone was hugging their loved ones (or the complete stranger next to them), put on an unforgettable funk performance, with three costume changes and a few attempts at the splits for good measure.
Flying Lotus managed to retain a sizeable crowd after midnight, his hour and a half set incorporating his Layer 3 AV show. Designed as a journey of sound, the 30-year-old’s understated, experimental soundscapes drew us in early on, and the second half of the performance exploded into the sophisticated, detailed beats that fans of his early work were yearning for.
JPS of The Operatives did a fine job of continuing the beats and feel where Flylo left off, his dubby remix of Lorde’s Royals an absolute winner. At 3am on the first night, there was a lot more people still up for the party than seen in recent years.
After a little sleep, the next morning we head down to the stage and lay out our rug for Michael Leunig’s Keynote speech, which addressed the beauty and the soul of being in the county. Sunday’s music program began with a sensational performance by Grammy nominees Hiatus Kaiyote. Seekae made the 33 degree day bearable with their mix of serene electro sounds, Japanese funk ensemble Osaka Monaurail helped the hangovers fade away (with the help of a few pink flamingo cocktails), and veteran alt-country singer songwriter Neko Case whiled away the afternoon with her stories.
Festival favourite Fat Freddy’s Drop’s smooth, soul-surging set was evidence of just how popular this dub–reggae group really are. Mid-way through the set, the entire crowd sat down in unison to honour the beauty of what was being played, polished by vocalist Joe Dukie’s flawless performance.
Headline act Public Enemy finally arrived to dazzle and delight. It’s good to know that Chuck D’s performance is still as tight as ever, joined as always by the more gregarious Flavor Flav (sans his iconic giant clock, which is now hanging in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, he told us). Their energy has not faded, and proved they’ve still got the ability to keep a crowd amped for the duration of their set.
During a short interlude between the hits and a smattering deep cuts, DJ Lord goes mad, pumping out crowd-pleasers. One odd note – Chuck D repeatedly asking the crowd to get out their phones to purchase merchandise from the Public Enemy website. Shouldn’t someone have told him that most people are phone free at Golden Plains and struggle to even get reception? The lasting message, however, was to continue to fight racism and separatism and together we raised fists in the air to signify our solidarity.
Keeping the party going well into the evening, Cut Copy had the crowd bopping around but without really puling out any new tricks. Producer and DJ Mark Pritchard, also known for this work with Africa Hi-Tec and Harmonic 313 played a captivating drum n’ bass set into the wee hours for those who were yet to put on their dancing shoes.