Splendour in the Grass

North Byron Parklands, Wooyung NSW
July 20 – 22 2018

IMG 6846 Splendour 2018/SITG Media

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.

But we here at Loud love our rock and heavy music, and despite Splendour being a little left of field for us there are some awesome rock bands playing this year. This is what we thought of our weekend away to Splendour.
I won’t bother with details of the twelve hour drive from Wollongong, the camp site set up or how I managed to bring a case of beer in. Just know it was all an effort, but oh so worth it to crack a tin on that sunny Thursday afternoon. The first night of the festival is to get your bearings, check out all the markets and maybe an act or two rocking the Mix-Up tent. I caught “Mr Ladidadi” himself, Baker Boy, who had the ten thousand strong crowd moving, grooving and shaking. Joined on stage by the soulful voice of youngster Kiarn, busting out hits “Cloud 9” and Triple J favourite “Marryuna”, Baker Boy knocked out a solid tune on the didgeridoo as well as some sweet dance moves courtesy of Fortnite.
For others, the first night of the festival is go hard or go home, and judging by the number of people stumbling and/or chewing their faces off, they were going hard. I myself sampled all the wines around the fire at The Winery, played Cards Against Humanity with some stall holders, danced to HOOPS and stumbled into my tent sometime after midnight. All in all a good first night.
Friday morning, Splendour is officially open, a few breakfast beers and I was ready to go. Awaiting punters at the front gates was a formidable showing of police and sniffer dogs. It was quite intimidating, even for those not carrying drugs. I would later over hear one officer bragging how he caught one person with twelve pills. Good job, mate – you’re saving the world. (Edit, sarcasm).
Down at the amphitheatre and the first band of the day, West Thebarton. Hailing from Adelaide, the seven headed rock monster had the pit swirling, sun beating down and the dust rising high. With two drummers and four damn guitarists on stage, West Thebarton churned out a sound that’s distinctively South Australian. It’s loud, it’s brash and it rocks.
IMG 6843
DZ Deathrays/SITG Media
After a few delays and technicalities, UK pop punk outfit Marmozets hit the stage with all guns blazing. Front woman Becca Macintyre looked rightfully pissed, presumably that their set was cut short, but that just served to amp up the crowd more so. Ripping through a short, fast set including their massive breakout track and singalong ‘Habits’,  Marmozets would be better suited to a smaller, more intimate stage but nonetheless the quintet killed it on the main stage.
Still at the amphitheatre, basking in that North Byron sun, the hill started to pack out, and fast, for Brisbane boys DZ Deathrays. Moving closer, I was sucked into the pit, the trio crunching through an hour of wild rock and roll. Introducing a special guest, they were joined on stage by none other than Murray Cook – the Red Wiggle, rocking the crowd for a smashing version of ‘Like People’ and closing out with AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’.
IMG 6845
The Bronx/SITG Media
A quick dash to the bar for some beers and it was back to the barrier for some hardcore action with The Bronx. The small crowd that showed up was almost criminal, nonetheless that small crowd went hard, and the moment burly front man Matt Caughthran jumped into the crowd that intensified tenfold. ‘Heart Attack American’, ‘Shitty Future’, ‘Knifeman’ and the rabble rousing ‘History’s Stranglers’ to close the set, they ended with a promise they will be back in October.
By this time the sun had set and the cold was beginning to set in. I had food in my belly and beers in my hand for brother and sister folk duo Angus and Julia Stone. The hill was lit up with phone lights, waving in the air, singing along to every soulful word. ‘Snow’, ‘Big Jet Plane’ and the gorgeous ‘Chateau’ illuminated the night.
IMG 6844
Henry Rollins/SITG Media

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.

Rollins is a travelled man, he’s funny and sincere, he tells the truth and he’s not someone to mess with either. Overall a small crowd are richer for having taken the time to listen.
One of the most talked about sets was Dune Rats and Friends, but who might the Friends be? Violent Soho members had been spotted during the day, would Murray Cook get up again?
They turned out to be a revolving door of who’s who of Australian music.
Joining the long haired yahoos on stage by way of an arch made of cheese, guests included Hockey Dad, DZ Deathrays, Gooch Palms, Tkay Maidza, Alex Lahey, Mallrat, Drapht,  A.B Original and many, many more.
The set included originals and covers, Hockey Dad played ‘Dalai Lama Big Banana, Marijuana’ before slipping into a cover of Nirvana, Drapht rapped his track ‘Mexico’ and A.B Original helped them out with Basement Jaxx’s ‘Where’s Your Head At’. It became a guessing game of who would we be surprised with next, finally bringing it to ahead with all of their friends returning for a cover of Justice vs Simian’s ‘We Are Your Friends’, naturally, changing the lyrics to ‘Dune Rats and Friends’.
In complete contrast to the craziness of Dune Rats, I made one final hill climb to the main stage for the amazingly gorgeous-voiced Lorde. The natural amphitheatre awash with phone lights as the songstress held the crowd in her grasp as she soared through hit after hit: ‘Homemade Dynamite’, ‘Tennis Courts’, ‘Supercut’, the whole crowd singing back with her. A hauntingly beautiful cover of Powderfinger’s ‘My Happiness’ silenced the entire audience. Bringing the first day of Splendour to a close, Lorde gave us one last hurrah, with the massive sounding ‘Green Light’.

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.

IMG 6964
WAAX/SITG Media

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.

IMG 6965
Amy Shark/SITG Media

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.

IMG 6963
Franz Ferdinand

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.

IMG 6962The 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.