udie runs, a mysterious yet romantic arch, and of course, amazing musical performances – Meredith Music Festival has grown from its humble childhood as a party in the bush for 200 friends, through tempestuous teenage years (an electrical storm in 2004) to get to where it is today – a pulsating yet simultaneously relaxed festival which sells out almost instantly. It celebrates its twentieth anniversary this weekend.
Located on a farm in a small town between Geelong and Ballarat, the first ever Meredith consisted of a simple ‘stage’ on the back of a truck. While that stage has since improved, nature’s gift of a natural bowled amphitheatre, fringed with picturesque ghost gum trees, is still the same as when it all began. This year, the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre and her guests will be graced with the presence of Meredith stage veterans and virgins alike, all gathered to bring in the festival’s twentieth birthday with style.
Different genres will come together to create the diverse sound that has come to encapsulate the Meredith vibe. Aussie indie rock group Custard, Peruvian hip-shakers Combo La Revelacion, Dirty Three and CW Stoneking are amongst the ones returning to perform at Meredith. For the first time, the soulful, deep and ultimately powerful sounds of funk and soul band Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings will have you moving like it's the sixties again. They share the stage with the totally danceable Cloud Control, the minimal tech sounds of Pantha du Prince and the smokey voice of Kimbra, to name a few.
However, Meredith has always been not only about the music, but the overall experience itself. The famous Meredith Gift, also known as the 80-metre nudie run on the Sunday of the festival, was conceived in 1992 when one of the bands was running late. The solution was to entertain the masses by inviting them to a running race, the winner gets beer, and one man upped the stakes by proposing to do it stark naked. Since then, dignity and clothes have been discarded yearly all in the name of good fun and Meredith spirit.
You are also likely to see a curious looking cane arch at about seven feet tall, which appeared at Meredith circa 1997, and has been reappearing ever since, each year dressed in a different costume. It came to be known as the Arch of Love, and its owners are a mystery – Meredith organisers had nothing to do with it, and in 2006 offered the Archkeeper life membership to the festival, if only he or she would get in touch with them. A tradition sprung up that if two people walked under the arch together they had to kiss, and interestingly, it has been noted that while girls would deliberately walk under it, guys would go out of their way to avoid it.
In general though, Aunty Meredith hosts what must be one of the most laid-back festivals on Victoria’s calendar. The idea here is BYO: booze, bare feet, raincoats and gumboots, and a sense of adventure. Some even bring their own velour couches from which to sink their tinnies. Along side the good music, this is what Meredith is all about.
Meredith Music Festival runs this weekend in Meredith from the December 10 to 12.