Live Review: Golden Plains

13 March 2018 | 1:28 pm | Bryget ChrisfieldNatasha Pinto

"It's wonderful to see Mary Nolan, whose farm we party on, awarding Baker Boy The Boot from the centre of the front row!"


You know the drill. Drag out the dusty sleeping bag from the top shelf, overpack all that unnecessary crap into the boot of the car, set six alarms for an ungodly hour on Saturday morning, down that scalding hot coffee and hit the road. Fingers crossed that person's couch - destined for Supernatural Amphitheatre and tied precariously to the roof of their car - doesn't fly off in the middle of the M1! Blast your Spotify playlist until the internet connection cuts out and then sit tight in the sleep-deprived queue of restless party people, all itching to grab the perfect position in which to pitch their tent before breaking into the esky.

And what a warm welcome we receive. Literally. The golden sun burns down on us as if squeezing out every last ray of light as summer bids us a fond farewell. For a large portion of the morning and early afternoon, it's a cacophony of happy festivalgoers hammering tent pegs into the ground. And then, after slathering on thick layers of sunscreen, it's time to swap the hammers for an icy-cold Furphy and stroll down to the beloved Sup' at the first sound of a guitar.

Seeking solace from the sun, the trees on the outskirts of the Sup' seem to be prime real-estate as most search for the shadiest spot to settle into for the afternoon session. We kick off with Tropical Fuck Storm -a new band formed by The Drones' Fiona Kitschin and Gareth Liddiard alongside Lauren Hammel (High Tension) and Erica Dunn (Harmony/Palm Springs) - what a combo! Already, there's a horde of fans sweating it out at the front of stage, lapping up every last bit of frenetic energy that spills off the stage. It's a wild performance, with all four up there kicking us in the face with screeching guitars, heavy drums and vocals. There's a huge outro and Tropical Fuck Storm finish with the insanely reverberant sounds of wonderfully maniacal guitars, leaving our ears ringing.

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After an intro of one or two quick chords, Batpiss realise there's some technical problems, which are thankfully resolved really quickly before the band is welcomed with another encouraging round of applause from the crowd. Take two and everything falls exactly into place. Paralyzed is definitely a crowd fave, but the real winner today is, without a doubt, Weatherboard Man - especially the song's final line, "And it always was and it always will be, Aboriginal land." It's met with one of the loudest applause of the day. Batpiss give us a solid, gritty set that'll surely see new fans checking out their local touring roster upon returning home. The band's limelight is only stolen by a couple of attention-seeking punters who get told off by security for smoking ciggies in a tree. These rebels are then forced to climb down immediately. A few little kiddies have a giggle at the whole situation and ask their mum if they can climb the tree, too. Mum isn't impressed.

Mmm, it's 4pm and the perfect time to cure any impending heat-stroke with a frosty Pink Flamingo. That ice-cold, tangy, baby-pink drink just tastes like Golden Plains, doesn't it? The Sup' is now filling right to the brim for acid-jazz, funk, R&B producer and all 'round bass/musical sensation, Thundercat. Stepping on stage to casually continue sound-checking, in glittery pink sunnies to match our drinks, he opens with Captain Stupido then proceeds to melt our brains with insane bass improv and interludes that go on forever. Every beat is punctuated with varying syncopated punches from each different instrument in this band. One fan is so into it that she yells out, "Yaaassss! YAAAASSSS!" after every single song. And she's right. "Some big-ass flies out here, man!" he observes before Friend Zone. The Sup' explodes when he invites none other than Kamasi Washington to the stage to join him for Them Changes, which, of course, is a damn dream. Understandably, this set could be a little difficult for some to get through, as it is very technically driven with a lot of emphasis on the musicality, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. If anything, punters are just getting a kick from watching how fast Thundercat's hands move when running up and down the bass. Crazy stuff!

We’re told by Emma Buckley Lennox (Saturday’s MC) to ignore the rumours going around that Meredith bull ants are hallucinogenic, but we’re pretty sure some munters weren’t paying attention and will have a crack later on. She also points out that “blocking views” qualifies as dickhead behaviour and therefore will not be tolerated in accordance with the festival's famous No Dickheads rule.

The "Golden Shower" outfit, complete with circular gold shower curtain attached to a rod sitting above a dude's head, wins the Golden Plains costume award (if there was one) - although you wouldn't wanna be stuck behind it trying to catch a glimpse of whoever's on stage. For the sake of modesty, its wearer sports gold hot pants and matching bow tie.

Perfume Genius reaches into our hearts and rips them out. Not to mention the slow, passionate dancing he executes during each song - ever so naturally - and incorporating body movements that only really seem achievable with an elastic skeleton. The entire set is slow-building, powerful and completely captivating. Everyone's eyes remain glued to the stage. We feel sorry for the dudes who choose to sing a six-minute cover of Sweet Home Alabama out the front of their tent instead of checking this set out. Huge loss for them.

Some of the concoctions punters drink directly from large plastic containers that sit in the blaring sun look radioactive as they're passed from reveller to reveller.

The sax, the screaming vocals, the delicious, clever, fleshed-out chord progressions - oof! King Krule's ability to capture deep emotions in such a raw and intense way is incredibly satisfying to witness live, especially with the addition of a band giving us all the spicy little solos and runs that make us swoon. There's a yearning in Archy Marshall's voice that is relatable and gripping. Little Wild is angsty and beautiful and, of course, one of his biggest hits Baby Blue sees punters yelling out the words with eyes shut. The air is totally stagnant in the Sup' at the moment and every rare gust of warm wind that blows past picks up the scent of eucalyptus trees to refresh us momentarily. Time for another pink drink, perhaps?

Eric’s bar's logo really says it all: "Heavy On Romance, Light On Dress-Code."

Kamasi Washington tells us we're gonna go on a journey together. "Ya'll ready!?" he asks. Well, no, we're absolutely not ready for what follows. We're flung headfirst into a dazzling vortex of time signatures, chord progressions, solos and key changes that have punters shaking their heads in disbelief. The sun sets on a keys solo from the heavens and Washington comes in with the mellow sax that floats effortlessly over some double-time drums that makes our hearts race. A keen punter starts clapping on the 1 and 3, and it's physically painful. Washington gives each of his bandmates their own little slot in which to wow the crowd and each of them take us on a delectable jazz detour - all wildly different, all incredible. "One thing I've learned is that diversity is not something to be tolerated, it's something to be celebrated," he says before Truth, telling us we're about to hear "five different melodies at the same time and it's a metaphor for how beautiful this world can be if we all come together". Finishing off by bringing Thundercat out on stage for another jam, everyone leave's Washington's set truly moved and blown away.

It gets super-intense in the Sup' next. Mogwai's Party In The Dark is very timely and gets super rowdy. Loads of punters pull out their mates from the crowd to grab some air as the set gets increasingly intense. "MAMA! I'M A BIT SCARED, MAMA!" yells a horrified young punter as soon as the screaming guitars kick in. There's lots of dudes ripping their shirts off and swinging them in their air to wild applause from their mates, plus way too much gross, invasive gyrating on other punters. Clearly, the No Dickheads policy is temporarily forgotten here.

Now onto something with a bit of lighter vibe. The Preatures have punters running in from all directions for a boogie, from the first chord of Somebody's Talking. "We never pretended to be anything other than a rock'n'roll band!" lead vocalist Isabella Manfredi tells us after Ordinary. "You're a tough nut to crack, Victoria. Are you a hazelnut? Are you a chestnut?" she says before Is This How You Feel?. At this point in the evening, punters are just ready for a dance so, unsurprisingly, the most attention is given to these two hit tracks. Towards the end, we hear Yanada, and Manfredi gives a brief background on the songwriting process, telling us the band spent 18 months collaborating on this track with Indigenous communities who taught her to sing in one of the Indigenous languages of Sydney, Dharug.

Time for The Avalanches. Just what everyone's in need of to limber up for the next four-or-so hours to follow. Because I'm MeFrankie Sinatra and Since I Left You, of course, have punters in their absolute prime. The dance moves out here are ridiculous to say the least: trees are used as poles, people do push-ups in the mud and one lone punter even dances with a burger in one hand and a packet of steaming hot chips in the other. While the majority party it up perfectly well, it is definitely fair to say that the dude-bros are well and truly out to play right now. It's a pity, but there's always a few who ruin it for the rest of us. This reviewer gets spontaneously grabbed around the neck while taking notes. Time to call it a night?

Is MzRizk ever boring? Absolutely not. She treats the Sup' to the best tracks to get down to - from SZA to Luther Vandross. One group of punters who've gotten cosy in their PJs for an early night are seen crawling back out of their tents, opening up a few more beers and having a low-key boogie around their car with some mates - super cute!

The multi-coloured lanterns and neon bulbs that frame the Sup' continue fading in an out throughout the night - a lovely kaleidoscope of changing colours. It's not too warm or cold tonight with just a slight breeze to keep the party people refreshed as they dance 'til morning only to rest up and do it all again tomorrow. Good night, Aunty Meredith. We'll see you tomorrow for round two.


This scribe accidentally wears her dress inside out to go get a coffee, which seems kinda fitting going into day two of Golden Plains.

"Hello sleepy hillside friends," is how Leah Senior welcomes us, performing in trio mode this morning. The swelling harmonies and gentle strumming provide a soothing soundtrack while we queue for coffees and piece together memories from yesterday's festival frivolities. Introducing Pretty Faces, Senior tells us the song is about a "pretty" man who tricked her into thinking he was interesting for a couple of weeks before she actually realised he was boring. Senior and co then present Loser, a song about self-acceptance, and there's a bewitching, plaintive lilt to her timbre. After explaining her favourite song of all time is Thirteen by Big Star, Senior presents her own rendition. We find Senior charming as well as super-talented.

Where to start with Waterfall Person? Random is an understatement. A mum friend reckons that what we see on stage is similar to when her kids drag her into the living room to watch a spontaneous 'concert' of their own creation. Footage of a waterfall graces the back screen. The project of artist Annabelle Kingston, everything about Waterfall Person's performance is amateurish including the two backing dancers. "Sorry, I just realised this is the version with my singing, so just imagine I'm not lip syncing," she instructs during one song. Every song is about waterfalls. Here are some sample lyrics: "It's a miracle/It's a waterfall miracle/I can't believe it!" A punter raises a hand-held bubble machine in the air, which adds to the watery atmosphere. There's laughter among the crowd and some even (ironically?) hold up The Boot. Yep, we get that Waterfall Person is supposed to be craptacular, but it's a waste of a time slot given it's a lifelong dream for many local acts and bands to grace the Supernatural Amphitheatre stage.

Signs reading, "Wetter The Better," and, "Wet Is Best," are held up in the front section and we're unsure whether these were handed out by Waterfall Person or were specifically brought along in support of Wet Lips. All three band members sport gold ensembles, gold boots and even gold eyeshadow. It's a bit rough and ready to start off with, but their riffs and rhythms thrash out more confidently toward set's end. We'd love to hear what singer Grace Kindellan's on about, because lyrics seem worth tuning into, but her poor diction/the windy conditions make this an impossible feat today.

A four-piece backing band plus trio of back-up singers take the stage alongside Kaiit, even though that magnificent voice would serve perfectly well performing an entirely a cappella set. "This is so cool!" Kaiit marvels while looking out into the large crowd gathered in the Sup' to watch this astonishingly accomplished relative newcomer. And what an extraordinary talent Kaiit is! She switches effortlessly from speak-singing to vibrato-drenched singing perfection and lyrical content empowers. After teaching us how to correctly pronounce her name (Kai-eat), closer Natural Woman, with its scatting intro and soaring chorus, receives The Boot from an impressive number of punters. We'll be keeping a keen eye out for any upcoming releases from Kaiit since there are only two songs available for our listening pleasure on Spotify at present.

This year's clean-up song was voted in as Venus by Bananarama, although more people seem to dance and act out this song's chorus rather than actually pick up rubbish.

There's some mad adrenaline at the start of Rocket Science's set, which is understandable given the band have only played a couple of gigs since re-forming for a benefit concert for Mick Blood of Lime Spiders in 2014. Lots of directions are barked toward the sound desk between songs. Do a sound check, maybe? The band are an unchained beast live, with Kit Warhurst's drumming the chaotic brilliance that holds it all precariously in place. They play Something For Nothing by Rush as a tribute to the band's founding member/drummer John Rutsey (RIP), ripping into this song with ferocity. During the excellent Being Followed, with its creepy bass line, frontman Roman Tucker gets so into the unco dance moves that he comes in late on keys. Tucker sometimes dances like he's riding an invisible hobby horse and looks like a lost accountant up there in white shirt, black tie and grey ribbed socks. He then momentarily leaves the stage, blaming a "logistical issue". Once Tucker returns, he taunts and pokes a theremin like it owes him money and then leans back for a brief crowd-surf. Rocket Science close with the shambolic Burn In Hell, which riles up the Sup' thanks to its clapping patterns and Paul Maybury's wild guitar solo.

From the moment Jen Cloher (wearing an Australian Aboriginal flag T-shirt) and her superb band hit the stage we can tell their recent international touring off the back of her phenomenal self-titled fourth album has translated into even tighter shows. They are certainly a force to be reckoned with today. Bones Sloane is an absolute gun up there on bass, which he just has to be to keep up with Courtney Barnett's immaculate guitar work. Jen "Sholaki" Sholakis remains unflappable behind her minimal drum kit. Forgot Myself, song two, sees Cloher looking genuinely chuffed as she gazes out and catches glimpses of punters singing the lyrics back at her. Barnett sports one of Camp Cope's anti-sexual assault T-shirts and constantly tunes her guitar between songs, barely looking out at the crowd throughout to ensure the focus remains 100% on Cloher. "Fuck, yeah!" Cloher enthuses of her first time playing Golden Plains and we all know it won't be the last.

"I guess I'm never gonna be/The Joy to your Slim Dusty" - it's such a joy to watch these confessional, autobiographical songs performed by Cloher with her partner Barnett by her side on stage. Cloher delights in singing the bit about the plebiscite during Analysis Paralysis, smiling knowingly after the lyrics, "If I can have a wife," before screeching, "Stick it up your arse!" in acknowledgement of the Yes vote. For this she receives The Boot galore. Strong Woman is powerful and Barnett absolutely unleashes during this standout track. Cloher commends Golden Plains for continuing to put on local bands alongside international acts and the crowd whoop their agreement. Her diction is perfect throughout Great Australian Bite, which pays respect to the artists who have helped pave her way. Cloher gets The Boot from us.

There's a few fun anti-fashion crews rocking around the Sup' including one party posse who are dressed like grannies. There are also many bros wearing leggings this year. Even in this heat? Lycra don't breathe, people. Just imagine those pongy gussets! And so many festivalgoers have chosen gold as their colour palette that the hillside has a sheen to it.

The bush camp's permanent composting toilets just get better every year although it's hard to score a turn in one of the festive, decorated cubicles. Our favourite is the Miami Vice-themed cubicle, number 36, which contains a blind with sun-setting-over-palm-trees print, telephone and a photo of Don Johnson. When one reveller warns there's no toilet paper left in the cubicle, a sheeky chick cheerfully suggests, "Shake the lettuce!” to the young lass who's up next. 

Ata Kak's dancing gets us going. The Ghanaian rapper moves about the stage like a human Berocca. A ten-or-so-strong group of revellers bust into a synchronised, spontaneous, hillside Bus Stop. "Have fun!" Ata Kak encourages, before suggesting, "If you wanna somersault, somersault!" Supernatural Amphitheater is always a captive audience for audience participation and Ata Kak's, "You do the clap/I do the rap," segment works a treat. Joyous, celebratory, pulsating rhythms help limber up our joints for more serious move busting down the track.

"Put your hands up!" When Lee Fields hollers, we obey pronto and The Expressions bring the party atmosphere. Taking it down a notch, Fields introduces Wish You Were Here, pointing out he lost two dear friends in the last year: "Mister Charles Bradley" and, "My baby sister Sharon Jones, she was just like a sister to me." He apologises in advance if he gets emotional while singing this song and we're grateful Fields is here to keep their memories alive since both aforementioned funk and soul legends have graced the Supernatural Theatre stage in previous years. "How long, 'til I see your face?" is a heartbreaking line. Fields is the genuine article and we've just gotta mosey on up closer to the stage to clock his shimmering suit jacket, which features a combination of green and gold sequin detail. The brass stabs are just what we need right now. Fields charms us all by calling us "good lookin' folks". Such positivity! "We can make the world better/If we come together" - Fields requests that we help him sing this chorus and we actually feel like our combined energy is capable of achieving great things. "Did you come here to party?" Fields doubles as gee-up merchant. His vocal performance dazzles throughout, but during Faithful Man? Oh, Lordy! Time to remove a boot to hold it aloft once more.

DJ Max Crawdaddy wisely plays Sex Machine by James Brown immediately following Fields' set to maximise this vibe. Choice selection, squire!

After admiring a barman's gold manicure, he enthuses, "They're stick-on! Two dollars! K-mart! Do ya want a couple? I've got some in my bag. Hang on. I'll get the glue." And off he goes to retrieve his bag before affixing a couple to this scribe's thumbnails.

The Black Angels have a tough timeslot in that they're competing with the sunset - for which many Golden Plains punters head to inspiration point to optimise viewing/golden selfie ops - but the Texans are definitely worth sticking around for. A dude dressed like a wizard wanders through the crowd, complete with doof stick that spews out bubbles. Trippy tunes abound and The Black Angels channel The Doors. Their sound is super-psychedelic - reverb-soaked, dirgey goodness - to match the visuals and Stephanie Bailey's drumming propels these songs to interplanetary levels.

We wish we could've swapped Grizzly Bear's timeslot with Lee Fields & The Expressions, 'cause we're now ready to party the night away but the Brooklyn band lead us into somnambulant territory. Yawns are witnessed within the crowd who briefly come alive upon hearing the lively piano riff that opens their swoon-worthy hit Two Weeks. There's barely any between-song banter from Grizzly Bear - how could they not even remark on the beauty of this festival site? - and they fail to connect.

But this is certainly not the case with Baker Boy (aka Danzel Baker). His DJ cues a siren sound, but nothing could prepare us for the Arnhem Land rapper's killer popping and locking moves as he hurtles out, opening with Black Magic Master. His treatment of Yothu Yindi's Treaty reiterates an important point: "Still no treaty, it's killing me!" Baker sometimes raps in the Yolngu Matha language, dances like a transformer version of Jason Derulo and his new shit is sounding fly! Cloud 9 song three? A brave move, but no mistake since Baker's set certainly doesn't lack momentum. He plays the didge, dances between two sick back-up dancers and there's a drummer to bring the bashing noise live. Never mind machine-gun flow, Baker's pace sizzles. "When I say 'Baker', you say 'Boy'/Baker/(Boy)..." And it's wonderful to see Mary Nolan, whose farm we party on, awarding Baker Boy The Boot from the centre of the front row!

10.55pm: Big Boi's DJ points to his watch and then does the universal sign for feeling sleepy (placing palms together under one ear and closing eyes) during set-up. Just like the BB call-and-response that preceded this set, Big Boi initiates, "When I say 'Big', you say 'Boi'/Big/(Boi)..." He then introduces himself as, "One half of the mothafucking OutKast!" and So Fresh, So Clean is an early highlight. YIPEE, he's gonna include some OutKast toons! Big Boi then tells us they're gonna "turn it up a notch" and Ms Jackson follows. "The energy is incredible 'round this muthafucker," he observes of Supernatural Amphitheatre, now illuminated by fairy-lit doof sticks, and it's certainly a magical sight. Shutterbugg follows, inspiring some to do The Robot, and then the bass-heavy Chocolate makes the whole hillside bounce. Big Boi's flow is sublime, but the whole zero live-instrumental-element factor is always a challenge with hip hop acts as festival headliners. The cartoony hip hop of tracks like The Whole World is what we love best, but for those lucky enough to experience OutKast at Splendour In The Grass 2014 there's something missing when experiencing Big Boi minus Andre 3000. That DJ sure can scratch, though, and no one's complaining while swaying along with The Way You Move.

A couple we chat to who travelled down from Brisbane just for the Golden Plains festival experience are all smiles, adding it's an atmosphere that couldn't be replicated elsewhere.

Why does Barbara Tucker's set have to kick off at 1.50am? What we would give to switch her slot with Grizzly Bear! But her flawless, powerhouse vocals can be heard from inside our tent as we drift off to sleep, instead playing a game of Name That Tune. MacArthur ParkRespect? Tucker sounds incredible even from up here! Then the song we best know her for, Beautiful People ("Deep inside, deep, deep, down inside") is the last thing we remember.

And as for the genius who forgot to switch the "Every Weekday" alarm function off on the mobile phone in a neighbouring tent to prepare for the Labour Day public holiday? That is the true definition of a dickhead and, as such, should result in a lifetime ban from future camping festivals at this location.