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Now in its ninth year, Golden Plains feels more ritual than festival. Arrange convoy, stock up on tinnies, argue about where to camp and then, finally, arrive to remember you forgot at least a few vital items. But once the tents are up and you stop lamenting about how bad your campsite is compared to the huge teepee down the road, you can relax and enjoy the weekend.
The Meanies begin proceedings in the Supernatural Amphitheatre – which is looking greener than ever – with a bout of furious punk rock. Gangrenous sounds as angry as it ever has. To balance it out, Twerps play a pleasant set of tinny pop that floats above the crowd to ease everyone into the weekend.
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks are more than just a Pavement spin-off. Bright, twangy guitars stretch for kilometres, while the sun shines and people really start cracking open beers and running into friends they haven’t seen for a long time.
Someone yells out “Shazza!” during Sharon Van Etten’s haunting set, and she says that it’s her favourite nickname. Playing a set of down-to-earth folk-rock, it’s easy to see why Van Etten is happy to embrace the casual. The slight twang of it all is decidedly fitting for country Victoria.
With golden melodies and adorned in flowers, First Aid Kit entrance the crowd like no one so far. Stay Gold has become a favourite of sensitive, acoustic-minded souls world-wide, so it’s no wonder their melodic folk strikes a chord. A rollicking good time for anyone with a heart.
Radio Birdman featuring Rob Younger, Deniz Tek, Pip Hoyle, Jim Dickson, Dave Kettly and Nik Reith is iconic for sure. The Aussie punk group sound more punk than ever, their age not hampering their flailing energy. A grateful audience of young and old enjoy the history, and the spectacle.
Compared to her afternoon set at Meredith a couple years back, it’s obvious that Courtney Barnett has made quite a name for herself as the crowd turns out in droves late at night. Feeling like the return of a hometown hero, her set opens with soon-to-be classic Depreston, as everyone in the crowd under 40 realises they too will never be able to afford a home.
With her band, including The Drone’s Dan Luscombe, in tow for the rest of the set they blitz through what are fast becoming great Aussie singalongs. Barnett is a master storyteller and this set proved she can really turn on the rock when needed.
For the rest of the night, DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist explore the origins of hip hop with six turntables, loads of ’70s vinyl and heaps of talent. At once nostalgic and fresh, it’s certainly an impressive feat and memorable nightcap.
Kicking off the second day to a smattering of punters, Aldous Harding is delightfully sarcastic while playing her delicate brand of Kiwi folk. Finishing her set with an Edith Piaf cover, she certainly captured the hearts of those who slipped out of their tents early enough.
The same for Banoffee. The inventive RnB future-star started slow, but soon drew in a crowd of gangly dancers, her honeyed vocals and innovative beats washing over the Sup’. By the time she reached Let’s Go To The Beach, she already had a dance party going.
Dyl Thomas fronts Milwaukee Banks with an animated presence that seems almost at odds with their laid-back, cloud rap aesthetic, his wiry frame traversing up and down the stage while MCing like few others in Australia. The late-night club lyrics seem more poignant in the light of day, and his flow is impressive to witness in this bass-heavy set. MB really are changing Aussie hip hop for the better.
Conor Oberst gives everyone a chance to relax and lament, with his signature vocals sounding just as angsty as ever. Playing a range of material spanning his entire back catalogue across most of his projects, it’s the perfect post-sunset set as everyone’s inner teen comes alive to cry into its pillow, just for a tiny bit.
Without Stephanie Ashworth, Something for Kate feels a little more like a Paul Dempsey solo show than a Something for Kate set. Not that it matters. The band play hit after hit from their entire career, literally the perfect fit the generation X audience which sings alone in droves.
And finally, the headliners are here. Village People. Sure, their set may rely a little too much on a backing track. Sure, most of the originals members are no longer around. Again, it kind of doesn’t matter.
Especially not when a giant mirror ball is suspended from a crane over the stage. Or when part of the dance routine for Macho Man involves actual push-ups. Or when thousands of people in the middle of nowhere are singing Go West together, or — freshly instructed — doing the dance from YMCA. Did you know the ‘M’ goes in front of your chest, not above your head? Golden Plains knows now.
These are what memories are supposed to be, and this is why Golden Plains is the place to make them.