With its most impressive lineup to date, Meadow Festival 2021 felt just like home

With its most impressive lineup to date, Meadow Festival 2021 felt just like home

Photo by Jake Cuthbertson
Words by Alex Callan

Victoria's best-kept secret is out.

What an absolute pleasure it was making our way back to Bambra for the seventh instalment of Meadow (FKA By The Meadow.)

As evidenced by the rapid sellout time of tickets, Meadow’s 2021 addition boasted its most impressive lineup to date. And with only 1,000 lucky punters in attendance, collectively swaying and sinkin’ some cans on the hill; it was hard to not feel at home. As if, after the clusterfuck that was 2020, everyone realised how much of a privilege it is to attend these events. You could see that being back at a festival was something that no one in attendance took for granted.

Kicking off the weekend (for me) was Surprise Chef; an act that has been the subject of many ‘shit yeah, they are going to get big’ pub chats amongst the Melbourne music community over the past 18 months. And, it was evident why.

Performing their set as if it was a DJ mix, the Melbourne based funk group flowed between songs seamlessly; at times, even feeling as if they had just played one continuous song. Tracks like ‘New Ferrari’ got the crowd moving early, whilst ‘Blyth Street Nocturne’[s] delivered mesmerising synths reminiscent slightly of a Middle-Eastern sound. Considering Surprise Chef were most of the crowds opening act of the weekend, they definitely stayed at the forefront of the people’s memory, with many later stating that they were the weekends highlight.

Close Counters’ eclectic combination of electronica, techno, jazz also amazed the crowd, who quickly embraced their dancy off-kilter percussive breaks. Having recently sold out a string of dates on their ‘Flux EP’ tour; the two-piece performed with finesse, effortlessly merging between genres whilst still maintaining consistently catchy rhythms. It was impossible to stay standing still whilst watching. Having recently featured Alyssha Joy of 30/70 on their song, ‘Speak In Truth’, her guest appearance on stage got the crowd buzzing. Tearing through a handful of songs with Close Counters, Joy’s unique vocals were a perfect addition to the group. With one of the most impressive ranges and tones in Melbourne, it was truly special seeing Joy fronting a group with quite a different style to her current projects. Performing an unreleased song with the duo, it seems Close Counters feel the same; with Joy seemingly becoming a slightly more permanent fixture to the group.

After C Frim’s bass-heavy jungle grooves closed the night for those still looking to party on the Friday night (everyone), quite a lot of people nearly missed Bones and Jones on the Saturday morning. As we walked down to the stage to see the Bellarine based act (that is easily one of my favourites from the region), it was impossible to miss the mass of others also heading down to the stage.

Whether they were heading for Bones’ or for their morning coffee it didn’t matter, because every single one of those people ended up staying at the stage. Showcasing newer songs such as ‘No More Worries’ and ‘Reckless’, Bones’ adopted a slightly heavier approach than normal. I’m not saying they covered Sleep’s ‘Dopesmoker’, but for an act that has primarily rooted themselves into the realms of Blues Rock, some newer material highlights a push towards more rockabilly shredding, especially since the addition of George Wilson on lap-steele has really begun to flourish into the bands overall sound. That being said, slower ballads such as ‘Heaven In The Home’ were the perfect way to bring in the Saturday morning with Finn, Jasper and Bailey’s vocals blending perfectly alongside each other. By the end of their set, there was no question that Bones’ had commandeered the crowd’s attention and won over a tonne of new fans in doing so. Meaning, when they dropped a surprise cover of The Romantics’ ‘What I Like About You’, the vibes of the audience couldn’t have been higher.

Photo by Jake Cuthbertson

Being one of my favourite acts to perform at the 2019 addition of By The Meadow, The Seven Ups made for an exciting addition to the second-round lineup. It made it even more special when one of the members humbly said on stage, “We saw the lineup and straight away called the organisers to get on board. We couldn’t miss playing a festival with King Gizz.”

Although a portion of the crowd initially cleared due to rain, they all came back pretty quickly…a little bit of water was never going to ruin the party vibes of The Seven Ups. Giving the crowd a glimpse of their wider catalogue, the Melbourne based funk-jazz group performed some older songs like ‘17 Hour Trip’ and ‘Stampede’, whilst newer material such as ‘Abode The Clouds’ got the excitement buzzing for what the group will bring out next.

Considering Private Function were the only punk act on the bill, it was pretty amazing to see how accepted the changeup was by the crowd. ‘Speed Bumps’, ‘Talking To Myself’ and ‘No Hat No Play’ all made blistering additions to their set, but it was the inclusion of a cover that really won the uninitiated over. It was hard to miss the 1,000 smiling faces when it was announced, “ahh fuck it, here’s ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay.’

Photo by Jake Cuthbertson

Marking the Saturday night and festival’s headliner, there was a sense of awe when King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard hit the stage. Having previously sold out landmark venues such as Sidney Myer Music Bowl and Colorado’s ‘Red Rocks’ (upcoming), it felt like a slightly nostalgic treat seeing Gizz perform to such an intimate crowd again. It also felt all the more special with how openly grateful Gizz were to be playing.

With their two latest albums ‘K.G’ and ‘L.W’ (album number 16 & 17) marking part 2 & 3 of their ‘Exploration Into Microtonal Tunings’ series, it felt natural that the lads performed an entirely microtonal set. But when they stepped out and opened with ‘Rattlesnake’, the audience went frenetic.

It was at this moment I realised that for quite a lot of people in the crowd this was the first time they witnessed just how tight Gizz is live. You could see the visible amazement on peoples faces.

‘Automation’ and ‘Minimum Brain Size’ (which feature Joey Walker handling the majority of the vocals) brought in the newer material before ‘Doom City’, delivered something for the headbangers. ‘The Hungry Wolf Of Fate’ was a surprising song when it appeared on ‘KG’, the group’s 16th album as it was immensely heavier than any of the other songs (not complaining). It’s sludge-doom riffs live were mindblowing and clearly a crowd favourite, with many getting straight into the mosh to then walk back out with a blood nose and smile on their face.

Any time that Ambrose dons the mic with Gizzard is bloody special, so when he sang ‘Billabong Valley’; the psychedelic ballad which tells the story of a bushranger, the crowd was in awe (even a couple of security guards who kept having some swift looks over their shoulder at the stage.)

The disbelief kept coming. By the time the heavy riffs of ‘K.G.L.W’ kicked in to conclude their set, everyone was blown away; with many punters visibly shaking their heads in disbelief and grabbing their mates yelling ‘how fucking good is this.’

Considering last year saw Meadow cancelled, it was incredible that the organisers not only bounced back but also delivered the most impressive edition of their event to date.

For what has previously been regarded as one of Vic’s best-kept secrets, there is no doubt that the coming years will experience growth for the event, let’s hope it does. It truly deserves it.

Thank you to Meadow for having me, I’ll see you in 2022.

Photo by Jake Cuthbertson

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