Splendour In The Grass, an annual pilgrimage to sunny north coast New South Wales for the lucky few who nabbed a ticket in those short few minutes they were on sale. The music and arts extravaganza situated in the gorgeous setting of North Byron, headlined this year by the biggest name in hip hop, Kendrick Lamar, as well as indie stalwarts Vampire Weekend and New Zealand darling Lorde.
With no time to spare I raced up and over that ridiculous hill from the amphitheatre to the G.W McLennan tent in time to catch the one and only Henry Rollins. Taking his stance, front and centre, the man spoke for the entire hour, barely taking a breath, barely moving from his spot. He spoke of his band days, travelling around the world and all the bloody Aussies he’s run into, David Bowie and whether he and RuPaul are an item.
With the main stages all closed, it was off to Teepee Forest to dance the rest of the night away. I wouldn’t get to bed until 4 am.
Saturday morning, bright and sunny, and no hangover, beautiful. Bit of breakfast and some vodka with the neighbouring girls and before long it was time for day two of Splendour in the Grass.
First act of the day got me up and going straight away: the four girls of Haiku Hands in their retro ski suits, choreographed dance moves and killer beats supplied by former Thundamentals DJ Pon Cho (I guess Bitcoin doesn’t pay as well as hoped.) ‘Jupiter’ and closer ‘It’s Not About You’ had the morning crowd dancing away.
Over at the G.W McLennan tent, Melbourne youngster G Flip was all over the place, jumping between the mic, her drum kit and a smaller cocktail kit at the front, every voice in the tent singing along to her massive hits ‘About You’ and ‘Killing My Time’. Easily the biggest show in her short career and with out a doubt we will see her on that Main Stage in no time.
Only moving as far as the 4Pines bar for a beer and back, Brisbanites WAAX burst onto the stage, tearing straight into ‘Wild and Weak’, ‘I For An Eye’ and ‘No Apology’, whipping up an early arvo pit. Joining them on stage, special guest and rock royalty Bernard Fanning performed the Powderfinger track ‘Don’t Wanna Be Left Out’. It was only a year ago that Powderfinger joined Bernie on stage, causing a stir. Fingers crossed for more special guests.
My first waltz up the hill to the amphitheater for Alex Lahey. I chose a lovely spot under the trees, beers and a banana in hand. The crowd were enjoying the sun and the tunes, ‘I Love You Like a Brother’ and ‘Every Day’s the Weekend’ but every voice joined in for a surprise cover of Avril Lavigne’s ‘Complicated’.
Back down the hill at the GW tent for the amazing Alex The Astronaut. She has a dorky charm about her that I can’t help but smile the entire set. ‘Rockstar City’ and the anthemic ‘Not Worth Hiding’ were sung by all.
Today was one after the other of amazing Australian female talent, and main stage was no different. Having just been awarded an ARIA #1 debut, Amy Shark took the stage to front a huge crowd. Opening the Sunday last year, it’s a big step up to play mid afternoon on the main stage, pumping out plenty of tracks off her latest album. We were treated to dozens of inflatable sharks thrown about the pit. And in what seems to be the trend this year, a cover of Wheatus’s long charting hit ‘Teenage Dirtbag’. Kids these days still know the classics.
At this point it was back to the tent for a feed and a few beers. I felt like a nap so I switched to bourbons. Before long the sun had set, a quick costume change to something warmer and I made my way to the G.W McLennan tent for Sydney funksters Ocean Alley. The tent was full to the brim and just as deep outside. ‘The Comedown’, ‘Mellow Yellow’ and their Like a Version ‘Baby Come Back’ were drowned out by every voice in attendance. There was no room to dance but boy did we try, girls on shoulders, people climbing tent poles, it was a reggae and funk infected dance party.
Navigating my way through the crowd, up that hill to the amphitheater, which is really making my calves work at this point, and into the pit for Franz Ferdinand. The Scottish four piece were jumping across every inch of the stage, and I was doing the same with hundreds of others.
Hit after hit: ‘Do You Want To’, ‘Dark of the Matinee’, ‘Ulysses’, Take Me Out’ – it was a indie rock best of from the Scots. Setting the stage ablaze, ‘This Fire’ rocked the hell out of the pit; having travelled to Brisbane once before to see them, this was one heck of a good time.
So in complete contrast to most of the acts I’ve caught at Splendour, a friend convinced me to come check out Lil Xan, and as if seeing Lil Xan over Jungle Giants wasn’t a stupid decision. Sure the stage was pretty packed, but what is it with these Soundcloud rappers, they all look like they’ve passed out at a party and have been drawn on by their mates. But enough of that.
The long walk back to the main stage from Mix Up stage blessed me with the gorgeous harmonies of Chvrches. Front woman Lauren Mayberry, despite hailing from Scotland, was certainly feeling the cold as she donned a puffy parka mid-set.
Dressed in a flowing pink dress, her golden voice extended into the night, haunting synth swirled and surrounded, warming the night air. ‘Graffiti’, ‘Get Out’, ‘Miracle’; festival set lists are just massive numbers, one after the after. Chvrches being this amazing set from one of the most soulful pop indie acts of this decade to a close with ‘The Mother We Share’ and the brilliant ‘Never Say Die’.
One of the most anticipated sets on the second day of Splendour, Adelaide rappers Hilltop Hoods drew a monster crowd to the Mix Up Stage. Shoulder to shoulder, once more people climbed the tent poles to get a better view. Opening with a salvo of hits, ‘Chase That Feeling’, ‘Nosebleed Section’ and ‘I Love It’ the crowd were completely nuts from the get go. The music was temporarily cut as the mosh collapsed during ‘Won’t Let You Down’, allowing punters time to pick themselves up.
One of their biggest guests of the night, lending her vocals to the track ‘1955’, the gorgeous voice of Montaigne joined the trio on stage. With this the guests started to roll out, Adrian Eagle joining them for latest banger ‘Clark Griswold’, hanging around to help out for a few other tracks, before bringing the house down on ‘Cosby Sweater’ featuring Coda Conduct, Drapht, Illy and A.B Original. Talk about some friends.
By this time of night my legs were starting to get heavy, but there’s no rest for the wicked so a quick dash up to Main Stage for the last time tonight to catch the tail end of Vampire Weekend. Before long I would find myself at 2am around the fire at Teepee Forest, dancing with friends I had only just met. It’s all about the good times at Splendour.