A community in every way; 24 hours at By The Meadow 2016
One night festivals hold an interesting place in the music landscape in Australia, falling somewhere between a long haul camping festival and a classic urban one-dayer. It’s not enough to exactly take a week off for, but definitely enough to grab a gang of mates for a weekend away… chuck a sickie on the Monday.
BY THE MEADOW is the perfect example of a one-nighter, not too far from the cozy comforts of Melbourne, yet situated seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Atop a range of off-green (it’s been dry in Bambra) rolling hills and brushy flora, By The Meadow delivered a very mellow 24 hours, mixed in with some hard partying after dark.
And although there was open space as far as the eye could see, for their second installment of the festival, the team moved to the “Bambra Bowl”, a private farm that kept the campers close to the action all weekend long. This close proximity kind of affair created a community vibe between punters; everyone ready to mingle, share old couches, dance in the campsite, watch the sunset together. It was an apt reminder the festival itself is built on the help of the local community, and that really showed across the weekend.
As we literally spent a full 24 hours at the site, it made sense to document the adventure, diary style. So for a full run down of the acts, vibe, classic anecdotes, food and so on, here’s Purple Sneakers’ 24hr Guide to By The Meadow 2016.
1pm: Arrive after driving two hours from Melbourne, one and a half of those hours driven without an exact address for the festival site (Shout out to Lanks and Planete who helped us out). Spend 45 minutes attempting to put together a four-person tent in strong winds, get laughed at in the process.
2pm: Walk about 100m from campsite to the stage, aka the ‘Bambra Bowl’, sit down to watch the psych stylings of Melbourne’s Uncle Bobby. Bobby, aka Robert Downie, definitely channels the same kind of energy of POND and combines it with the live experience and charisma of Connan Mockasin. The whirling, glitchy and tepid rolls of sound are perfectly suited to the rolling hills we’re looking at. I note that there seems to be a lot of wasps around.
3pm: Mid-way through Anthonie Tonnon‘s set, the only non-Melbourne or Australian act on the bill, he sets a couple of loops to hold the stage, and runs down onto the grass with the mic, dancing alone in front a hill of people sitting down eating baked potatoes (aka me). It’s strange to watch, but oddly beautiful; wielding the ability to spin mundane ideas into poetic and enthralling tales – Tonnon is a true songwriter, and he can definitely hold his own on stage. He eventually achieves what he set out when he ran to the grass, getting a large portion of punters down the front of the stage to sing-a-long and follow some odd choreography. Each to their own, I guess.
4pm: Seriously, why are there so many wasps here??
5pm: The Ocean Party literally take up every inch on the stage (which I finally figure out is actually the inside of a truck), and of course, the guys slay. They make some of the most depressing sounding yarns (in a very youthfully ignorant way, a la, how much does it suck having to go out with no money and a hangover) into bright, fun tracks. And in a crowd of mostly mid-20’s Melbournites, we can all relate to everything they spin.
6pm: Damn, these Bambra locals know how to make a damn Pizza. “Son that shit is lit” – I say to my pal. (I didn’t actually say that, I would never actually say that). Walking through the campsite we see a decent amount of people dancing to Vengaboys, instead of like, I dunno, watching the bands. Sometimes I really just hate people and really wonder why I leave the house.
7pm: A large number of people think “fuck it, let’s go past this taped off area around the campsite” at the same time. We join to see the sunset, it looks like this:
8pm: Crepes don’t have a shitload of stage presence to be quite honest, but boy, are they extremely proficient on stage. Their laidback tunes, and melancholic vibe are great, and their potential is really on show – but I am left feeling that they may have suited a late arvo slot a bit better.
9pm: Oh man, it’s ridiculously cold now. At least the wasps have gone.
10pm: Headliners, The Harpoons, had some solid sets to try and beat, and damn they did. The four-piece work in so many worlds, genres and soundscapes. At points it’s poppy, at others it’s extremely dancy (serious club vibes), they even have some slow, emotive and genuinely lovely moments. It’s swoon city, population everyone. Also the harmonies are so on point and Bec Rigby‘s vocals are some of best I’ve ever seen live. Note: Must learn how she hits those notes.
11pm: It’s not surprising that Milwaukee Banks have such an intense live show, their music is loud, powerful and full of energy; and for this performance it’s delivered in the right way, at the right time. Regardless of your feelings towards hip-hop, there is something on offer for everyone.
12am: Okay this is when things begin to ramp up a bit, Planete takes us ever so gently into doof territory in vibe and crowd energy, but keeps things very clean and smooth. Don’t get me wrong though, you can hear that bass from the furthest points of the site – but the great thing about a Planete set is that you can admire the softer more subtle intricacies of his music, or you can just head off chops. The choice is yours.
1am: If you thought Planete was loud, Habits threw you into a meltdown. At points their set is so hard hitting I have to take a time out, but when engaged, it is everything. Pulsating bass, tribal rhythms – industrial soundscapes; an insane amount of loud, punching energy flows through the crowd. Blistering performance.
2am: I’ll just go grab a few beers from the tent before Couture…
9am: Fuck, sorry Couture… Still not sure if they actually play music on stage or if this project is an elaborate get.
10am: The conclusion of daylight savings isn’t helping me get out of my sleeping bag.
11am: Pizza and coffee for breakfast, watching Luke Howard on the hill, surrounded by rolling hills and overcooked punters – this is heaven. Howard takes the cake for best act of the weekend. At this time of day, in this location – a full band set-up knocking out atmospheric, emotive instrumental tracks was truly captivating. Creating a cinematic soundscape with slow buildups and gentle keywork, this is unlike any festival set I’ve seen.
12pm: Lanks is a supremely talented lad, and alongside his bandmates, it’s a great show. There aren’t heaps of frills today, but that doesn’t matter, the new tracks are sounding fuller and more complete, and the classics have that beautiful mix of folk writing and contemporary production. Although ‘Heavy As A Heartbreak’ is an odd touch for early arvo, it’d go down a treat at his upcoming venue shows. Great way to close the festival.
1pm: Catch ya later wasps, ya dogs. Thanks for having us By The Meadow.
Words & Photos by Tom Hutchins