Live review - Golden Plains 2010 - Sunday - The Vine

Waking up in one's tent at Golden Plains is first like a visit to the doctor's, then like leaving the house. Physical check: Am I bleeding? Sunburnt? Do I have any pimples? Hallucinations? Need to vomit? Offensive slogans in texta on my face? Secondly, possession check: Do I have my jacket? Wallet? Phone? Shoes? Sunglasses? Pants? Gloriously, we tick all 'No' for the former and 'Yes' for the latter, and thusly stride from our tent as if being told we passed out precisely between the tracks of last night's train to miraculously survive unscathed.


But sleep is neither a priority at Golden Plains, nor a particularly practical pursuit, with the Saturday DJ sets stretching all the way to breakfast time and Silence Wedge's set slashed again this year to just 4 hours and 10 minutes.

The organisers' enthusiasm for Melbourne's Super Wild Horses didn't gel with the nightmare 10am slot chucked the duo's way, in an amphitheatre still thick with the previous night's excess. There's no tougher task for a rock band than convincing 50 antsy stragglers on the fag end of a pill that you're worth staying up for, but the piercing shards of treble-heavy grit wafting up from the stage during 'Standing on the Corner' seemed to put paid to (some of) the doubters.

Forty minutes later, but still well in the AM, Jack Ladder's murderous Cave meets Cohen approximation knifed across an ominous sky, but a curiously aloof set didn't reveal the quieter balladry I was craving -- a jackhammering 'Bible' perhaps a sign to leave Saturday behind, grab some breakfast, and begin another descent into mid-range inebriation. Same initials, but on a different plane altogether, Jeffrey Lewis & the Junkyard recalled a simpler era of gaffer-taped zine fairs and Daniel Johnston worship. An uppity 'Slogans', from last year's 'Em Are I (on which Saturday's main attraction J Mascis scrawls guitar) piqued radars but it was the 3 minute "gangster rap" of 'Mosquito Mass Murderer' - essentially about avoiding Mortein - that won the crowd over. 'The Last Time I Took Acid I Went Insane' even produced some unhinged sniggering at the irony of it all. Saturday's stars Pavement got the Junkyard treatment on a ingenious mashup of 'Cut Your Hair' and 'Louie Louie'.

A surging Wooden Shjips rung the last knotty dregs out of any remaining Sunday refuseniks, blasting the Meredith gums with a thicket of clammy, primitive guitar mayhem worthy of Jim Morrison's darkest hours. Two covers --'Vampire Blues' by Neil Young and 'Buddy' by New Zealand's Snapper were piled on to the 5 heavy tracks from Dos. And they didn't outstay their welcome either, an economical 50 minutes proving much more workable than the 80 minute blowouts gifted to Saturday's legacy rockers. The Young cover received the festival's first boot too, which seems reserved these days for mid-afternoon performances that manage to exploit the slowly emerging beer buzz. At this point, MC Stew Farrell enlisted everyone to participate in a mass clean-up bizarrely set to MIA's 3-year old hit 'Paper Planes'. This aural annoyance would arise again during Opulent's DJ set later on, but good on him for tapping the collective goodwill that's always lingering in the background of Meredith and Golden Plains. And which fed nicely into Nashville Pussy's all-inclusive sleaze attack.

Wooden Shjips

Random vox pops taken later on the Sunday said Nashville Pussy were the clear standout, the no-frills, near-glam riffage a revelation amid lineup tilting towards the Pitchfork-approved. It's tough to know whether self-described "white trash" snarler Blaine Cartwright is the real deal ("we've been touring this country now for...several years") but it hardly mattered with perfect sequencing and the day's best sunlight spreading good-natured boorishness all around.

Cartwright's version of a "Slade song", 'Why Why Why', produced huge laughs after this genius line on family love gone wrong: "I caught her and her uncle making out in a ditch / and I asked myself 'did I shave my balls for this"? A cover of 'Nutbush City Limits', by "the greatest Southern rock band in the world" received the afternoon's second boot, interstitial soundtracker Max Crawdaddy nodding sagely from behind the DJ booth. The band were clearly bouyed by the reception, with Cartwright's wife Ruyter Suys slashing through endless solos, most memorably on a closing, riotous 'Go Motherfucker Go'.

Nashville Pussy

The Dirty Projectors offered up a technically brilliant take on their masterpiece Bitte Orca -- a David Byrne-free 'Knotty Pine' getting a guernsey early on (the Byrne theme would be resurrected later by Optimo). An extended 'Useful Chamber' provided the perfect vehicle for Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian's textbook cooing -- the band are at the peak of their powers, with flawless festival outings all the more beguiling considering big outdoor venues are probably not their natural haunt.

Dirty Projectors

Live, Calexico are basically a Latino jam band with limited backflips to their alt-country roots, and that's why they were booked here, as groove merchants rather than dusty storytellers. Given the general sense of unfamiliarity with the collective's recent output (some confused punters wondered aloud if they "were Combo La Revelacion"), everyone else seemed awestruck by Spanish-speaking warbler Salvador Duran and trumpeter extraordinaire Jacob Valenzuela. 'Two Silver Trees' from Carried to Dust was the closest we got to a singalong while Valenzuela's explosion on 'House of Valparaiso' inspired pockets of square dancing. But this was mostly about lolling back and soaking up the skill. The Cruel Sea was the second big throwback act of the weekend (the third if you count Dinosaur Jr). Tex Perkins is no stranger to amphitheatre, reforming Beasts of Bourbon in 2003 for a memorable Meredith performance. Sadly, the same couldn't be said this year, with many of the songs showing their age and the band, while nailing the arrangements, appeared to be going through the motions. 'The Honeymoon is Over' was played last and went nuts, just as the rain got annoying again.


Calexico

Entering mid-Midnight Juggernauts set, positioned in the guts about halfway up the hill, our lightly 'touched' companion soon leaned over to yell, "WHEN DID MIDNIGHT JUGGERNAUTS BECOME THE BEST BAND IN THE WORLD?". I knew what he meant. Midnight Juggernauts until this point have seemed the kid brother to the Presets and Cut Copy, not sure if they want to be a bouncy dance band or a psychedlic rock act. Tonight, in the steam, darkness, rain and pulverising lightshow, they made the separation between the two seem silly. Frontman Vincent Vendetta and bassist Andrew Szekeres appeared like Shamen in the steam, the former toting a neck scarf, the latter a kilt; their low, strange voices less gimmicky that in the past and more like the bridge between the bands dance backbone and their strobing, psychedelic tendencies. Before the band's set we were wondering who would provide the climatic moment of the night - as they rounded out an epic, thumping 'Tombstone', Vendetta brought an inflatable boat on stage. "The organisers said I shouldn't do this", he quipped, before donning a sailor's cap and setting off atop the crowd and up the hill. With the house lights on, the teeming rain coming down, Vendetta saluted before directing his charges back down the slope to be delivered on stage once again. It was perhaps the highlight of the festival, and the kind of triumphant, opinion-shifting union that seems to happen at Golden Plains and Meredith on an annual basis.






Midnight Juggernauts

Opulent Sound saddled up for a second year before a seething mass of gurning face-gnawers, but despite about 7 hype-men, failed to achieve lift-off -- pedestrian mixing murdering Jay Z's 'Empire State of Mind' and Toto's 'Africa' when it would have been better to let the tracks play out in full. At times, a 15-year old wielding an iPod could have produced a more coherent party set, especially if they managed to avoid yet another tawdry rendition of 'Paper Planes'. Which Opulent didn't.

An excellent Gaslamp Killer, the clear pick of the DJs, threw out brazen beats in every direction and only occasionally anchored the floor with something danceable. A triumph if you were in the right mood, but others clearly weren't, with The Vine witnessing an irate Wally Meanie being ejected from the Pink Flamingo bar by heavy-handed security. Optimo were plagued by sound problems early after Gaslamp's relentless fiddling with the setup but quickly redeemed themselves, dropping 'Psycho Killer' alongside some simulated crowd noise to raise interest levels ("the oldest trick in book", according to a DJ accomplice). Cheap detours into recognisable pop were mostly avoided, the set a pleasing melange of techy bleeps and studied mixes. While 1 or 2,000 devotees loved it out the mud, the broader crowd had thinned markedly, indicating a take-it-or-leave-it view of the Meredoof component or a recognition that 19-hours of continuous music in one day is approaching overkill. Like Ransom on Saturday, the still-perky Glaswegians ended with 'Shivers' by Roland S Howard, prompting a Top Camp singalong while a buggered rest-of-the-festival dribbled silently into their pillows.

 

Andrew Crook and Marcus T