Melbourne band Eddy Current Suppression Ring hasn’t played a gig in six years. The band played the first Golden Plains in 2007 and on the weekend it played its 10th; the giant ghost gums surrounding the stage are slightly taller now. It is one of this city’s favourite bands, and one of the most difficult to see live – it rarely plays gigs or tours. So just before midnight on the final night, everyone in the amphitheater was absolutely fanging for them.
Singer Brendan Huntley drew power from the crowd through his serious stare – individually taking in every beer-drenched fan in the first 20 rows. Through Cool Ice Cream, Memory Lane, Insufficient Funds and Which Way To Go Huntley reached full charge, furiously pacing the stage and conducting the crowd with his gloved hands.
Last time Eddy Current Suppression Ring played the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre [Meredith Music Festival 2009], Huntley walked through a parting crowd singing Precious Rose. This time, his legs weren’t needed. During Rush To Relax he sailed deep into the crowd, lying on his back, like a boat moving slowly through tangled, drunk weeds.
The big “X” in the sky formed by two light-beams was there to commemorate the 10th Golden Plains, but it’s also the cross on the treasure map; this is the moment we’d been waiting for, ever since Aunty shocked us by listing Eddy Current Suppression Ring on the line-up months back.
Golden Plains created its own “Memory Lane” for its 10th birthday, hanging large photos of key moments from the past 10 years (starring musicians and the crowd) in the walkways from the stage to the campsite. “Doing the YMCA with the Village People live last year was pretty farkin’ special, hey?”, was one phrase overheard there.
On Sunday afternoon underground US rapper Freddie Gibbs said, “I thought y’all motherfuckers were ‘gonna start throwin’ shoes at me and shit.” Nope, that’s The Boot, and it’s a good thing. A decade-old tradition at Golden Plains is removing your shoe and holding it high when you witness something extraordinary on stage.
Other boot-worthy moments included John Grant playing Queen of Denmark on the keys while his powerful voice got stuck deep in a chamber of our hearts. Shogun from Royal Headache imparted life advice before each song in the first half of his set before declaring, “Alright, enough with the sentimental shit”, and tearing the stage a new one with Electric Shock.
Melbourne eight-piece NO ZU had at least 12 people on stage at all times, stirring the amphitheater into a pulsating soup of dancing jellyfish, whoopee cushions, astronauts and at least one golden turd during its final song Raw Vis Vision on Saturday night.
After Sampa The Great brought the sun out for the first time all weekend with her bouncy rhymes, Songhoy Blues took the stage. Crowd participation can be difficult on Sunday mornings, but this group from Mali was so impressive it was physically impossible for your limbs to remain still, despite the dustiness.
Sleater-Kinney slayed. During Modern Girl the crowd flung its arms in the air, waving them from side to side while shouting “My wholeeee ly-effff …”. Drummer Janet Weiss forwent the crowd sing-along for drumming while playing the harmonica (an amazing display of coordination), as the darkness descended on Sunday night.
Violent Femmes surprised everyone by dropping Blister In The Sun first up. It was slapping and raucous, and was pretty hard to do the whispering part without yelling. Singer Gordon Gano smiled through the whole set, obviously pumped that such a “good-looking crowd” was losing its mind to his songs, 33-odd years after he wrote them.
About half of the Golden Plains attendees probably weren’t alive when Buzzcocks formed, but the pink-hoodie-clad three-year-old girl rocking out on someone’s shoulders throughout the whole set proved age doesn’t matter when appreciating music in the ’Sup. (And that punk isn’t dead – she wasn’t wearing those big neon kids’ protective headphones.)
The toilets are worth mentioning, too. Not just because their genius compost system is environmentally friendly, but because sometimes you hit the jackpot and realise you’re peeing in a shrine to AFL, with vintage footy Records plastered over the walls; or the corporate-takeover toilet; or the gold-glitter toilet; or the wedding-chapel toilet.
The decorated loos are an example of what makes Golden Plains so special: the people. The people decorate the toilets in strange themes; they pick up rubbish while dancing to Bowie songs. They volunteer to cook up bacon-and-egg sandwiches in the Community Tucker Tent; they share their couch they lugged from home with you. They’re not dickheads (there’s a policy on that) and they realise how magical this festival is and want to make sure others enjoy it as much as they do. They’ll be picking glitter from their beards and belly buttons for weeks.
Seeing one of Australia’s best-loved bands, which so rarely plays live, on one of the most respected stages in the country was a top-shelf treat for so many people. So when the Eddy Current Suppression Ring bassist, known as “Rob Solid”, took off his shoe and waved it at the crowd, it wasn’t just rock-theatre. It was acknowledgement that Golden Plains is something special for all of us – for those losing their shit in front of the stage and those standing on it.