Live Review: Golden Plains

11 March 2013 | 6:01 pm | Cassandra FumiDylan StewartGuido Farnell

George Clinton conducts the band (and us) effortlessly. While we all like the funk, many comment that the set may have been a tad too long.

At the Avalon service station it's realised that not all tickets are accounted for, and that one is still sitting on the wardrobe at home. Not the best start to Golden Plains Lucky Seven, but one that is dealt with amid much politeness and little judgement from the brilliant staff on the gate this morning. The Supernatural Amphitheatre is heating up, so once the tents are pitched and the first cans open, it's down to the stage.

Despite a foot/leg injury requiring a moon boot and a wheelchair, Money For Rope's lead singer Jules McKenzie rocks out as hard as anyone can to open up proceedings. The six-piece kick out the jams (pun intended) and provide a bitching soundtrack to accompany the many catch-ups taking place around the 'Sup. The band surely garner a few new fans today, and set the tone for what is arguably the best music festival of the summer.

In the almost hallucinatory heat of the day's scorching temperatures, Psarandonis comes on like a high priest in a Cretan temple high on top of Mount Psiloritis. Looking a bit like Moses with a beard that could only be described as 'biblical', it feels as though Psarandonis is trying to impart some mystical and ancient knowledge as he utters incantations in Greek in a deep, growling voice. Lost in reverie, Psaradonis closes his eyes and seems to achieve a trance-like state as he vigorously plays his lyra. Accompanied by a bouzouki and Jim White's gentle tribal beats, Psarandonis's set is a frolic with the Gods ahead of the bacchanalian delights of the festival.

In-between DJ, MC Stew Farrell (RRR), plays Slayer's Angel Of Death but Le Freak by Chic is our housekeeping song choice. Wild Nothing take to the stage; initially it's easy to pass them off as an ensemble of skinny-legged jeans, with a barrier of three expensive looking guitars. Wild Nothing's second album Nocturne is a recent listening fave so expectations are high. We're all at the Amphitheatre now and ready for the party to kick off but these boys are just mellowing us out. (Timetable mishap perhaps?)

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Things get even hotter when No Zu give us a blast of their day-glo concrete jungle fever. Their set builds on extended funk jams that are tight but simultaneously maintain loose and easy vibes. It all comes together with a kind of no-wave mutant disco feel that suggests this bunch are deep under the influence of that distinctly New York noise and acts like the illustrious KONK. They are one funky gang but Nicolaas Oogjes, in shiny red short shorts, seems to be having the time of his life as he sings and gives us shrill blasts of his trumpet.

As the sun sets and Kristian Matsson appears on stage as The Tallest Man On Earth, the evening takes a turn for the gorgeous. Solo, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, Matsson encapsulates the sunset moment as many singer-songwriters have done on this stage before him. He is the worthy winner of The Boot, a huge mark of respect from the crowd and one that Matsson receives graciously.

Kicking off her set with a mesmerising version of The Greatest, Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, and her band deliver a more stripped back sound that loses the flourishes for a more straightforward rock sound. The arrangements leave plenty of space in the mix for Marshall's vocals and these days she often uses two microphones, which seems to accentuate the beauty of her deep husky voice. Much to everyone's delight, J Mascis guests on guitar for a simply amazing version of Metal Heart. Feedback across a number of tunes is the only unfortunate aspect of an otherwise brilliant set.

There's a massive cheer when kings of the indie rock scene Dinosaur Jr take to the stage. The atmosphere in the 'Sup is convivial, and with many people having returned from their campsites with additional refreshments and a clean change of undies, there is a sense that the night session has just started. Dinosaur Jr rock out for a solid 80 minutes, which sees their fans in awe and the rest of the crowd loving life.

As duo Client Liasion step on stage something must be commended off the bat – these guys have committed to the '80s in every way (down to water cooler, lights and even Ansett video footage). Singer Monty is a known massive Prince fan and by channelling his idol tonight he's taking us through a time warp. These Melbourne boys are playing their biggest gig so far and they have us in the palm of their hands. Their choreography looks self taught from Rage. It's so bad it's good. Monty's best line: “Hello Australia, the country of Christopher Skase”.

Deep into the heart of Saturday night Purity Ring mysteriously emerge on a darkened stage hung with paper lanterns that flicker with led-light illumination. Megan James is bewitching in a black evening gown, and at times suggests Stevie Nicks. Filled with otherworldly intent James' soft vocals float above the celestial electronica that Corin Roddick produces from behind a lot of strange synthesisers. Purity Ring bring the lusciously dreamy electronic pop of their debut album Shrines into a live context with plenty of style. When James beats her bass drum and it lights up yellow like the sun, it is an invitation into their quirky musical universe that is hard to resist.

Hotly tipped dance producer Flume, aka Harley Streton, washes the day away with eclectic beats that bring R&B and hip hop into more purely electronic climes. Everyone cheers when Flume announces that he has plenty of unreleased material to play tonight. It gives his set an extra dimension that takes it beyond just being a showcase of a self-titled album. As soft multicoloured lights and lasers dazzle the eyes, there is nothing to do except dance the night away with carefree abandon.

So it's close to 3am and we are still pinging. Post Percy is doing something that is a mark of all great DJs: he's responding to the crowd. Giving us what we want. Totem poles are less in numbers but very much still around. The music is easy, which is not the norm for this time slot in the Amphitheatre. We are all very hug-friendly and loose with the 'I love you's, especially as Percy plays There's Nothing Better.

Morning arrives and hand-held hot breakfasts and lattes are not in short supply. Local act Bushwalking open with an extended and psychedelic number. The harmonies make a lovely contrast to stark and repetitive basslines and guitar licks. Bushwalking have created something new and exciting and their ethereal music is perfect for easing the masses into the new day.

MC Stew Farrell's hoarse voice introduces the farm's owner Jack Nolan to the stage. Nolan says he is amazed to see so many people having a good time and quips that the festival-goers are easier to handle than 30,000 sheep. The farm has been in the family since 1855 and Nolan shares that the famous Supernatural Amphitheatre used to be an unused part of their property covered in bracken fern. Jack's son Christopher first approached his dad with the idea of starting the festival to bring the city to the bush and this tradition is still going strong – sometimes all you need is space and the stars. 

With just enough time for a quick bloody mary pit stop (they've got some kick) we return to the Amphitheatre to see Dick Diver. Their cover of Dragon's Are You Old Enough is a strange choice for the set but seems to go down well. Their stage presence is friendly and inviting. It seems like these guys could be a) in their garage, or b) playing a massive festival, and the banter would remain the same. Vocalists are rotated and each singer has a strong Australian vernacular – this is always lovely to hear.

It's great to see that Melbourne is spawning some really exciting big bands, unafraid to offer something different. Joining this list are the Black Jesus Experience (or BJX) posse, who are a bunch of locals who mix up Ethio-jazz and hip hop for maximum feel-good effect. It's great to hear them play their originals but the drawcard this afternoon is the legendary Mulatu Astatke. Disappointingly when Astatke joins the band on one of his tunes the vibraphone he plays cannot be heard and when he starts on a cowbell it falls down. It takes some time before they truly start cooking but everyone's dancing by the time they get to the absolute classic Yegelle Tezeta.

Chris Russell's Chicken Walk might have been dealt an early afternoon timeslot, but their brand of down-home juke joint blues goes down as well as the first beer of the day – and that is bloody well. Russell and skinman Dean Muller work off each other brilliantly, and Russell's axemanship is damn fine. There's a-hollerin' and a-shakin' down the front, and a whole lotta love in the air.

Keeping the guitar rock fans happy, veteran Californians Redd Kross certainly have the sound turned up to 11 for their set. Their crowd tends to be a shade more advanced in years, but they enjoy themselves immensely as the four-piece throw down riff after crunching riff. The volume does make it hard to carry on a conversation – or ask your mate to pass the sunscreen – but for those loving the tunes, this is how rock'n'roll should be done.

Trendsetters might want to label them as chillwave but four piece Toro Y Moi, headed up by Chazwick Bundick, know how to work a house groove to their advantage. Leaving chillwave behind and avoiding all those indie dance clichés, the outfit offer a big and bright take on disco house that speaks irresistibly to the feet. Today the layers of luxuriant electronica feature low in the mix and bass and beats dominate. The outfit have released an album every year since 2010 and while they have grown with each release, their latest opus, Anything In Return, is perhaps their best yet. The rockers Red Kross left behind and those waiting for Mark Of Cain are left scratching their heads.

Heavy rockers The Mark Of Cain seem slightly out of place in a festival line-up that is electro, funk and soul heavy. However, the mosh is going off even though sun is scorching (misters are in high demand). 

One of the most hotly anticipated acts on the bill, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion live up to the hype in the sunshine of their late afternoon set. Despite the gut-wrenching distraction of a waif-like young woman climbing the limbs of a big pine tree at ridiculous heights, the rest of the JSBX set goes off like a frog in the proverbial sock. Conversations such as, “Yep, these guys are fuckin' good. Yep,” are overheard, and JSBX offer a set where everything comes together.

Whether there was an introduction or not, it's been about 45 minutes since the last band before the realisation sets in that these northern British soul and rockabilly tunes that have set the 'Sup on fire are the work of Keb Darge. Taking the reins in the interstitial booth next to the stage, the veteran DJ drops classic tunes by Elvis Presley and The Beatles and gets the party started for a damn crazy night.

Anticipation has been building all festival for the headline act George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. The 17-piece band bring all the energy (and funk) that we have been craving. The devil's lettuce is being passed freely around the musicians and the crowd. George Clinton conducts the band (and us) effortlessly. While we all like the funk, many comment that the set may have been a tad too long. However after the sixth ending of the final song, there are no shortage boots being held in the air.