Monday, December 17, 2012

Onesie Menagerie and a Toothless Grin: Meredith 2012 PART 1

As Dane and I drove - or, as he drove and as I twitched violently in and out of snooze - back into Melbourne last Sunday, I felt strangely dazed. Lost, even. All these people, going about their day as if nothing at all out of the ordinary had occurred, as we returned from the most Marvelous Expedition in the country. It almost felt wrong that the world should continue as it once had, considering the two and a half days of hysterical laughter, sweltering heat, night-time adventures and glorious music that had just taken place. It felt wrong, but that may have just been my hangover talking.

The Meredith Adventure (2012 Edition) began at 5am on Friday morning. Truth be told I'd planned to start at 4:30am but as I'm wont to do, I heard my alarm and just kept on sleeping. So, I awoke again to the strains of my phone telling me Ferg was "Leaving now!" and fell out of bed cursing our bearded convoy leader for being so goddamned eager to get a good camping spot. Surely a 5:30 departure time was excessive.


We (myself, Ferg, Dane, Neil and about twenty thousand tents) rolled into the town of Meredith at 8:30am to find it packed to the brim. The main road teemed with convoys of automobiles piled high with couches, tents and slabs. This was obviously the first wave of festival-goers; the campsite-acquirers. Everyone was laughing, wearing festival-gear and stocking up on last minute bags of ice, booze and snacks. I'd only had a couple of hours' sleep, and Ferg had kept me awake and alive for the journey so far by keeping me in a state of consistently cackling laughter, but it was upon arriving in Meredith that I actually began to feel properly excited about the weekend ahead. It was also clear that hitting the road as early as we did was not excessive in the slightest. Ferg, so tall and wise, had played this whole wake-up-early thing well. Stopping only to ease our bladders and partake in an early-morning beer though, we still encountered a single-file line of cars leading up to the gate that lasted at least two and a half hours.

The winding snake of cars and utes and buses and vans slowly slithered its way toward the party zone, with groups of pals piling out of vehicles after every brief few metres of ground covered. Dane, Neil, Ferg and I killed some waiting time by playing BOP IT!  and beginning the weekend's booze consumption. All around us, people had the same idea; some already in costume, most already brandishing a beer, you could almost feel the excitement drifting over the paddocks and through the trees along with the music blasting from cars. The entire weekend was ahead of us, the party times were still to come, the possibilities were pretty much endless.

"Is it too early to drop??"

The Tent Erection Team finally got through the gate, and finally trundled through the dust to the Blue Gums in order to begin construction of The Most Epic Tent Town Ever. That description's probably a little over-the-top, but certainly there were a fair few (quite impressive) tents. Incidentally, mine was the smallest and most wimpiest looking and least ventilated tent of our posse. For those of you playing at home, spending $20 at K-Mart for a tent equates to the exact opposite of camping luxury. Having said that though, when the gale-force winds hit on Saturday afternoon my tough and cheap little bulldog of a tent stood its ground, so I must have done something right.

At any rate, Camp Ass Cobra soon took shape. The guys even managed to construct a true feat of engineering, a double-tarp shade structure hoisted up using caribeenas, multiple epic ropes looped around trees, and Dane's two weeks of experience being a boy scout. Apparently, two weeks was all it took for Dane to become a true wielder of "mad knots".

The rest of the afternoon was whiled away napping, hanging, beering, and heralding the trickling arrival of the rest of Camp Ass Cobra's inhabitants, all of whom proved to be superb company. Friday trundled along as slowly as you'd expect in temperatures as unpleasantly high as those that beat down on us but sure enough, as the sun became ever so slightly less violent the prospect of party times and good vibes became clearer and closer on the horizon.

It's at this point that the whole chronology thing begins to get a bit hazy. I couldn't tell you when we decided to make the first real trek to the stage, arms laden with eskies and travelers. I'm not entirely sure when I put my monster suit on in readiness for the night ahead, in the same way that I know at some point Dane, Neil and Claire were suddenly all dressed as animals as well. Really though, who cares about what the hell order any of these events occurred in when the fact that they occurred at all is such a marvel to behold? Surely what happened when doesn't matter when you're sitting on a couch halfway up the hill drinking beer and listening to glorious music.

When I sing the praises of Meredith (which is often), one of the things I name immediately is the "vibe" of the place, the people and the entire event. While so much of so many other music festivals are spent attempting to avoid douche bags and dickheads, glaring at obnoxious children, and narrowly avoiding altercations with shirtless invisible-suitcase-carrying leftovers from Stereosonic, at Meredith I never feel like one runs the risk of having to deal with any of that. Perhaps I was just hanging out with the right people, or perhaps we were just partaking in the right sorts of activities, but I'm constantly floored at how friendly everyone is at Meredith. Standing or dancing or drinking on the hill, everyone just wants to be pals, to hang out and to have a chat and a beer. It's also the scene I'd vote Most Likely Place to Run Into Just About Everyone You Know.

To my delight, I found at the top of the hill two couches inhabited by a bunch of guys I've known for years through Mitts. Gazing over the amphitheater like kings Jackson, Luke, Sam and co. had acquired themselves the most glorious of vantage points, and with them had brought the comfiest of perches. Luke was giving free and enthusiastic headstand lessons to whoever wanted them, and Sam's limbs were covered in texta. "LOOK AT MY TATTOOS. I HAVE HEARTS AROUND MY NIPS."

Back to the animals, back to the couch, back in time to see Grimes (I would turn for Grimes, just quietly). The sun was going down, and she was wearing crazy face paint, and there was a bubble machine involved when Jess took my hand and led us through the crowd to the front, and soon enough we were all ready for the zone as party animals, all with beers for the road. We wandered around, sampled some music, hit Eric's bar, had a boogie, exchanged shouts of awesome-acknowledgement from other animal onesied up posses. We paused for corn, chicken and for Dane to attempt to dilute the near-undrinkable glass of sangria he'd been given as a reward for being a swell guy at the bar.

I've gotta say, when it comes to festival-posses, I'd be hard-pressed to find one as turbo rad as Neil, Claire (rabbit), Dane and Jess (human). Dane, most rad of amphibious creatures who shares my off-kilter and dark sense of humour, and Neil, most bad-ass guinea pig so adept at getting a good time started (if he were a pokemon, his special attack would be Get On It). And Ferg of course, but he proved to be Feature Attraction the next night.

I also learned something over the weekend: I tend to scamper off in search of adventures while at intensely enjoyable festivals. Maybe it's because every one of my senses was being over-stimulated and I wanted to see all of the pretty colours and say hi to everyone I knew and hear every damn band, but I definitely felt the need to wander off constantly. So Friday I flitted between groups of friends, always returning to the animal posse (favourites), always making pals during the journeys in between.

"HEY, DINOSAUR!" yelled a guy in a tiger suit.

Eventually I ran back to the fence and beckoned the animals "JUMP THE FENCE, DANE! JUMP!" to join me on the hill with the guys on the couches. The seats were full, with eskies and cans littering the feet of the guys. Jackson stood by the tree, grinning and doing a slight jig, his arms and hands waving by his sides.

"Where's dickhead, Reb?" He demanded.
"Huh? Who?"
"Mitch. Where's MITCHELL??"
"Um. Perth?"
"Tell him he's a dick! Because he's NOT HERE."

Were the Sunnyboys playing? They may have been. A sea of people in the amphitheater throbbed along with the music. Neil looked every bit the badass guinea pig, beard and moves off-set by the squeal-inducingly cute cloud of a tail on his costume's backside. Claire was halfway between adorable and terrifying, all fluffy white bunny with evil, red, gleaming eyes. Dane was bright green.

Then it was time for Tame Impala.

My highlight of Parklife 2012 had been Tame Impala, without a shadow of a doubt. In fact, some of my Best Times and Best Boogies of 2012 all bizarrely and amazingly feature a Tame Impala soundtrack. So, along with Grimes - who was pretty good - the West Australian group were just about the only band I needed to see on Friday night. They didn't disappoint, and again Dane brought the skillz required to be a superb partner in rocking out.

Arms flailing and legs kicking, we jumped around and rocked out among the trees. You know, I used to hate dancing. Maybe I was dancing with the wrong people? Maybe I was dancing to shitty music? In any case, with a grin plastered on my mug, my green companion and I Rocked Out and Got It Done while Tame Impala melted our faces off with their tunes. I'm fairly sure we made complete spectacles of ourselves (we were a fair ways away from any big crowd or mosh), arms linked and spinning around in circles, but gosh-darn-fucking-damn was it ever a good time. I challenge you not to dance to this:

Anyway, at the set's end (APPLAUSE! YELLING! SCREECHING APPROVAL!) Dane declared he'd head back to Camp Ass Cobra to join forces with Neil again. I opted to have a few beers with the guys on the couch, and told him I'd meet him at the campsite momentarily. Famous last words. I should have known, right? It's always when you say, "I'll meet you at the big tree in five minutes" or "I'll just see you at the campsite in like, ten" that something goes horribly wrong. And of course, it's only when you're at a festival and you think to yourself, "Fuck, I'll never run into those guys again!" that you end up seeing those guys at every turn. 

And so it came to pass that I fucking for the life of me could not find Camp Ass Cobra. It must have been a sight to behold, a girl in a monster suit stumbling around in the dark looking up at the treetops in order to find a goldfish kite (our camp marker). I did loops and loops of what I thought was our camp road, cursing how dark it was and how un-sober I was. To the strange soundtrack of Syrian DJ Omar Soleyman I resigned myself to the fact that I'd be staying awake all night and that I'd hunt for camp when the sun reappeared. 

And of course, it was once I resigned myself to that and returned to drinking with the guys on the couch that I ended up walking back with Sam and finding the campsite almost immediately. Such was my relief to find Camp Ass Cobra, and to see Dane and Neil milling about that I screeched with happiness. 

In turn, the guys obviously thought I was freaking the fuck out. 
"Reb. Cool your jets. Are you okay?"

Words cannot describe the relief I felt.

The rest of the night was spent wandering around as a furry posse of three, and taking a ride on the ferris wheel, which actually turned out to be more exciting than initially anticipated. We went around a bunch of times, admiring an admittedly pretty epic and beautiful view, and even got to see some carnies crack the absolute shits at some people in another carriage. 

For those of you playing at home, a onesie is a truly amazing investment. Not only are they
epic, but they're also super warm and just about the most comfortable thing you could ever hope to wear.

Here's what's great about Friday night at Meredith? As everyone wanders back to their campsites at 4am, as you fall asleep in your monster onesie, you realise as you drift to sleep that THERE'S AN ENTIRELY NEW DAY TOMORROW in which all adventuring and partying and getting it done can be achieved AGAIN, but BETTER. It's like a surprise Christmas. Yeah, that was cool. In that case, HOW BOUT WE HAVE A BIGGER TIME TOMORROW? Amazing. 

In any case, expect Part 2 tomorrow. Featuring bearded men in dresses, a dancing ark of animal onesies, and hallucinations. 

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