Undercover chats to Matt High, co-director of the legendary Meredith Music Festival, which is celebrating twenty incredible years.
While the festival has been a huge and ongoing success, High and the other organisers have been staunch opponents of the expansionist idea. “It’s very deliberate,” he says, “No question that it could’ve got bigger.” There have been overtures to franchise the festival around the country, but the organisers have consciously kept it small.
“Since the early days our policy was always ‘Better Before Bigger’,” he continues, “Also, because we’ve only got one stage – and deliberately so – we always make sure that the last person through the gate has still got a good campsite and the person at the very back of the amphitheatre didn’t need a screen to see the acts.”
They hit that level many years ago, and now High says that it’s about refining the festival experience, one that makes Meredith legendary. “That’s quite enjoyable,” he says, “It’s like having a classic car engine and tinkering and tinkering until it’s running like a dream.”
One of the most significant complements to the staging of Meredith (and sister festival Golden Plains) is the choice of line-up. Every year people trust the organisers to choose acts that may be unknown, or underground, but are of undeniable quality.
“Without sounding disparaging, there are enough events in Australia for people to go see whatever type of music they want,” he reasons, “We don’t need to be just another stop on the circuit.”
“Meredith was set up to provide a certain space for artists who you don’t see every day, or every week, or even every year.”
“Years ago we realised that people loved the festival as much as the line-up,” he notes, “So then we started getting more adventurous with the line-up and not really putting acts that sell tickets at the top of the priority list. We found that not only was it more fresh and exciting for us, but the whole crowd got really turned on by it as well.”
Over the years, the Meredith and Golden Plains line-ups have become somewhat of a tip sheet to music fans looking for the best new tunes.
Often, local promoters will pitch out new acts to them, like Band Of Horses and The Shins, far before they become big indie names. On a more personal level, massive Husker Du fan High loved getting Bob Mould, “Having him on stage playing a few songs from Candy Apple Grey was really really good.”
He also raves about The Church’s set at Golden Plains, “I’m personally a massive fan and seeing a whole lot of people younger than me responding to The Church was pretty cool”. He also notes Cornelius and Girl Talk as highlights.
This, the twentieth year of Meredith, is sure to see scintillating sets from Meredith veterans The Dirty Three, the soul revue of Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings, icon Neil Finn, Atlanta rap duo Clipse, underground pub rock legends Hoss, retro rockers Little Red, cranky UK genius Mark E Smith and The Fall, and scores more.
But Matt’s best tip for this (and every) year: BRING GUMBOOTS! And have fun.