Oh Splendour in the Grass, that golden time of year where one can abandon the trivial social conventions of “personal hygiene” and “giving a heck” in favour of a soul encompassing bender that will require weeks of healing. As my girlfriend Kristen and I geared up for a long weekend full of incredible live music, we thought it wise to make sure that the weather was going to be agreeable – it wasn’t. Preparing for the worse, we abandoned our tent in favour of a van and an RV pass, loaded it with everything we needed and set off on the nine hour drive from Sydney to Byron.
After spending Wednesday night sleeping in the van at a rest stop on the highway – a glamourous affair I can assure you – we entered the festival grounds at around 10:30am Thursday morning. After assuring security that the silver bag inside the 10 litre box of water was definitely just water, (this isn’t my first rodeo, guys) we drove to the patch of grass (mud) that would be our home for the next 4 nights.
We got acquainted with our surroundings, had a few cups of water and decided to head into the festival to see the layout and grab something to eat. It was at this point that we realised just how much it had been raining, as most of the main thoroughfares were now a thick layer of slippery mud that was difficult to negotiate. Praise be unto the glorious gumboot. We watched some comedy at the forum tent and decided that an early night was a wise decision, given the carnage that was inevitable over the coming days.
As with every year, I awoke on the first morning of Splendour with the giddy excitement that would far outweigh my desire to wait 45 minutes in the shower line. Instead, I cleansed my soul with a delicious cup of water and readied myself for a big day of music.
Kristen was keen to see Mansionair, whom I was previously unacquainted with but I must say, their set was very enjoyable. I was particularly impressed with their cover of Future Islands’ ‘Seasons’, though with less enthusiastic dance-growling from their front man.
As any Splendour veteran will tell you, the Mo’Rockin Wine Bar is absolutely the place to kill time between bands. We wet our whistles with a few exorbitantly priced wines and soldiered on to the main stage to see DZ Deathrays via a giant inflatable Nicholas Cage head, in a cage of course. Banging out their raddest of tunes, the DZ boys nailed it, pulling a rather large crowd to the amphitheatre which was still green at that stage. Crowd favourites ‘Black Rat’ and ‘Gina Works at Hearts’ garnered the most attention, evident from the mass of Triple J’s red “TUNE” rags flailing around with a frightening passion.
We headed back over to the Mix Up tent to catch the better half of Client Liaison’s set. Only having heard a couple of their songs, I had no idea that their live performance would be one of the most entertaining of the festival. It would not surprise me if their front man Monte Morgan was actually a time traveller from the 80’s. In all seriousness, these guys put on an incredible show and I will be in attendance at their next Sydney gig as a result.
We headed back to the amphitheatre to see San Cisco who had amassed an impressive crowd. The set was predictable, but you can’t fault them for that at a festival. You gotta give the people what they want and the people want the radio singles god dammit! Personally, the set highlight was the smooth syrup that is ‘Super Slow’, a bloody sterling track if you ask me.
So continued the ping ponging between stages as we ventured over to the Tiny Dancer stage to check out Seekae. Opening with ‘The Stars Below’, a track that is surprisingly energetic in a live setting. Playing a variety of material spanning the entirety of their catalogue, it was a well-rounded set sure to keep fans happy.
Enter a hazy period that I don’t really remember much about. It happens, don’t judge me. We met up with a friend of ours, forming a mighty convoy that trucked on over to the amphitheatre to see Death Cab for Cutie. Being a long-time fan I was excited but sceptical, expecting a set full of new material in favour of old favourites. Like many moments in my life, I was quite wrong. They opened with ‘The New Year’ carrying straight into ‘Crooked Teeth’, one of three songs they would play from 2008’s ‘Narrow Stairs’. The better songs from their latest album ‘Kintsugi’ also made a welcome appearance (‘The Ghost of Beverly Drive, ‘Little Wanderer’ and ‘Black Sun’). Closing the set with ‘Soul Meets Body’ and all-time favourite ‘Transatlanticism’ made it a performance that was very hard to beat.
Feeling warm and fuzzy after the above, we headed back to the Mix Up tent to see Porter Robinson. This felt less like a festival and more like a huge party where everyone was rather inebriated. I was somewhat distracted by a young woman who was having a great time with a toothbrush and some straight vodka, periodically dipping it in followed by a thorough brushing of her friends teeth. Dental hygiene is vital.
We hung around to see Peking Duk, as did the rest of the festival, battling an incredible swell of bodies trying very hard to get to the front. After one (1) entire song, we decided that being crushed is a game for the children and spent fifteen minutes swimming upstream like the helpless festival salmon we were. When we emerged we realised that everyone was trying to cram into the tent to avoid the unrelenting rain that had started. We walked the short distance to the adjacent food tent and watched from afar. I took this opportunity to slay some premium festival dumplings because screw your Michelin Stars, bro.
As much as we yearned for Mark Ronson and his myriad of special guests, the deluge was simply too strong and I sure as hell wasn’t going to stand in it. We decided to call it a night and head back to our luxurious motor home for some much needed sleep.
FRIDAYS FAVOURITE: Gotta give it to Death Cab for blowing me away once again, but VERY closely followed by Client Liaison and Monte’s fantastic hair.
Waking up a little fragile on Saturday morning and feeling inspired by toothbrush girl’s dental prowess, I decide it would be best to brave the shower line. It was certainly worth the wait. “Oh what a feeling!” I screamed as I held in the button that allowed the water to inconsistently spray forth at one, unchangeable temperature. How lucky I was to experience such extravagance.
Feeling brand new, we decided to celebrate with a few plastic cups of hydrating water and get on into the festival. First up, Eves the Behaviour. I wasn’t familiar with her pre-Splendour, but her set was enjoyable nonetheless. After telling the crowd that it was soon to be her 21st birthday, the cheers were loud and boisterous whilst I felt old and unaccomplished.
After some time well spent at the old Mo’Rockin Wine bar, we headed over to the main stage to watch old mates Dune Rats tear it up with some help from a couple of “whacky waving inflatable flailing arm tube men”. The bands stage presence both musically and as entertainers is incredibly fun and if I got to party with one band, Dune Rats for sure.
We hung around the amphitheatre to watch the start of The Smith Street Band. Whilst I think that the Australian accent sounds horrible when accentuated in music, I must admit that I really enjoyed the guys as a live band, as did the inflatable Harry Potter doll who was just a total fiend for a good crowd surf.
Kristen on the other hand happens to be a total fiend for Meg Mac, so we trudged through the mud to the GW McLennan Tent to watch her play. I’m not a big fan, but I appreciated her performance and Kristen’s dancing.
After her set we decided that while we were close to the camp site, we would go back for some refreshing, revitalising water in celebration of a bloody great time. Undoubtedly feeling the financial pressure of this whole ordeal, I clearly didn’t require my bank card anymore and decided (unconsciously) that losing it was the only acceptable course of action. After realising and promptly cancelling the card, we had missed Purity Ring and Pond, but pressed on to the amphitheatre to watch The Dandy Warhols.
The band played a fantastic set which was interrupted by a very funny gentlemen with an obvious Go Pro strapped to his chest, asking if I would like to buy some “ebola” or “drugs”. After politely declining, he returned two more times to ask me again. A true master of comedy.
After this we loitered around the Mix Up tent (at the bar, of course) until Flight Facilities came on. We positioned ourselves fairly close to the action and waited for the guys to take the stage. This was it. This was the best one. They put on the most incredible show of the entire day without a doubt. Everyone was dancing, the light show was amazing and hit after hit was played. If you get the chance, see this band or never know what true happiness feels like.
We watched the last half of Florence and the Machine amongst a packed out amphitheatre. Maybe it was where we were standing, but after Flight Facilities, she felt a little flat. Not to say she was bad, it was just a hard act to follow. We stumbled back to our vansion (see what I did there?) and collapsed.
SATURDAY FAVOURITE: Flight Facilities, duh!
Wrecked is an accurate word for how we felt on Sunday morning. Like my bank card, my spirits were lost somewhere in the mud. Undoubtedly, the hardest part of Splendour is getting back up on that horse, but in light of the good times we had the night before, we both decided that we would just walk beside the horse today.
We mustered all the reserve energy we had left and went in search of some food and a comfortable place to sit. We found our way into the Forum tent and watched a documentary on fracking coal seam gas followed by a panel with the stars of the film and a couple of jerks that no one liked.
Felling a little more alive, we watched Last Dinosaurs at the amphitheatre, putting on a good show for a crowd of mostly half-dead people. By this stage the natural amphitheatre of green hills resembled a brown slip-and-slide, with most revellers struggling to stay on their feet. Being the responsible adult I am, I definitely did not find any humour in the droves of people falling over in the mud.*
We wandered around a little after this, visiting some food stalls and just generally making the most of the beautiful day it turned out to be, making sure we were back at the amphitheatre by 6pm for Jamie T. We managed to get to the inside of the barrier and had a good view of the band, which was great because his set was outstanding and contained one of the longest pauses between the intro and verse of a song I’ve ever heard. Of course, the song was Zombie and the crowd lapped it up. At some point during the set, the Mayor of Splendour rode an inflatable couch which was both cool and hilarious.
FULL SET OF ROYAL BLOOD, WATCH IT HERE
We stuck around for Royal Blood who sure know how to get the crowd going. I spent most of the set trying to figure out how he gets his bass to sound like a guitar. After a bit of research, I discovered that bassist Mike Kerr uses ‘Bi-Amping’ to achieve this, which is basically using a lot of fancy effects pedals but either way, for a two-piece band, they create a massive sound.
Tame Impala were up next and the crowd only got bigger. Perched on the side of the hill, we had an amazing view of the band and the trippy visuals on display behind them, not to mention the infinite conga line of people clutching the hessian fence in order to get down the hill. Fun fact – a lot of the fence in question had been used as a urinal. Yikes! Musically, the guys were on point as you’d expect, delivering a flawless set. My only criticism would be that they didn’t play ‘Cause I’m a Man’ and that song is the tits.
Gambling our prime spot for Blur, we went back to the Mix Up tent to watch Earl Sweatshirt. I’m a big fan of Earl so I was keen to see him and curious as to what he was going to play. The first fifteen minutes of his set was his DJ being a DJ, which I found frightfully confusing. Did he pull out? Is that him? Is he just doing a DJ set? Eventually he entered the stage and my fears were allayed. It was a good set, the highlights being ‘Faucet’ and ‘Grief’ from his latest album, but songs like ‘Whoa’ and ‘Sunday’ were disappointingly absent, but fair considering the guest spots in both songs.
Unfortunately we were unable to get back into the amphitheatre to watch the rest of Blur as it was completely packed and they weren’t letting anyone in. Bummer.
SUNDAY FAVOURITE: It was a photo-finish with Tame Impala just nudging ahead of Earl Sweatshirt.
All-in-all, 2015 was a brilliant year for Splendour in the Grass. Sure, it was muddy, but with a cracking line-up of bands, it’s hard to even remember the mud at all. Here’s hoping that they can top it all again next year!