With an impressive third day line up, there was little time to meander around the chilled town of Byron Bay, we had a 12-hour day packed full and a lot of musical ground to cover. With a deep and happy sigh created from sore feet, sore heads and sore backs, it was back on the bus , met with yet another superb day of blue skies and crisp warm air. Today, at Splendour in the Grass we proudly conquered the most eclectic group of artists and bands including Blossoms, Lapsley, City Calm Down, Tegan & Sara, Jagwar Ma, The Jungle Giants, Boy & Bear, James Blake and the mighty Sigur Ros.
Compared to the madness that presented itself on day one of Splendour, day three had a far more relaxed vibe with many of us now settled into the routine of wandering the fields of music and the usual queues that we came accustom to. With the skies above remained perfectly blue and the sun offered enough warmth to cleanse the skin, we made our way back to the amphitheatre to watch one of BBC’s Radio 6 “bands to watch”, Blossoms. For a band that grows in popularity across the UK, we were surprised that so few music devotees missed the set, although their was a good gathering of huddled supporters sitting under the shade of single tree while a few fans bundled stage front.
In true British spirit, Blossoms played with confidence and power, seemingly just happy to be playing this Aussie festival, lead singer Tom Ogden even remarked about the summery weather for a winter festival and throughout the set, showed gratitude while radiating charm and friendly banter, introducing each band member throughout the set. Blossoms blitzed an impressive set, playing tracks from their soon to be released self-titled album, each track shimmering with a 60’s feel and catchy pop melodies, the dapple of harmonies in particular songs were a perfect way to create a Sunday festival vibe. Lead singles ‘Getaway’ and ‘My Favourite Room’ proved the bands ability to write a solid tune and upon the release of their anticipated album, will no doubt have the band back on our sandy shores to headline their own tour.
Keeping the UK spirit alive, we battled the steep climb over the Amphitheatre, across to the Mix Up stage to be swooned by Lapsley, perhaps the indie folks answer to Adele (sorry Lapsley) both in her writing style and the carefree banter she mad with the audience throughout her set. Lapsley’ s debut album is filled with gems of soulful tunes, minimal in their composition, live it allowed Holly Lapsley Fletcher to fill each track with her strong vocal and obvious vocal effects. Live, her performance was entirely mesmerising and completely soul-soothing, the tent was close to capacity as Lapsley, dressed all in white serenaded a devoted crowd, the words LAPSLEY projected behind her. Her voice hit some beautiful moments, in particular, her more upbeat track of the set, ‘Operator’ that got the strongest reaction from the crowd. ‘Love is Blind’ was touching and euphoric, the devoted fans singing in harmony, Lapsley clearly overwhelmed by the packed tent, declared her love for Australian food and told the audience that she would meet them at the bar after the show. It was at that point we were reminded that Holly is only 19 years old, a sheer talented and such an illustrious career on the cards for her.
City Calm Down have had a strong 2016 and their supporters continue to grow from gig to gig so there was no surprise to see a gathering crowd with a few City Calm Down T-shirts adorned by a few lads who were seen running to the front of the stage. With the band’s name in bold font hanging behind the drums the band were met with a fair round of applause, as they played through their usual set that we become familiar with, having seen the band a number of times now. Although there were no big surprises in their set, the band played a great set although the mix did seem to lose some of the more textural moments of their songs. Lead singer Jack Bourke stalking the stage in his trademark style, his baritone vocal sometimes missing the mark. We look forward to hearing some new material from them.
As the sun hid behind the hills, the amphitheatre crowd was building with buzz and excitement as the sugary pop duo Tegan & Sara ran on stage to an enthusiastic applause from a crowd of very young supporters. You can help feel that each of their songs were written for an episode of a young teen flick, the songs are light, lyrically referenced to love, boyfriends and not fitting in but equally their something mature and accomplished about their brand of pop music. The duo were adorable to watch, presenting wonderful banter with the crowd and had a way to bring the festival together and create a real community spirit. Perhaps not The Wandering Lambs top of the list but no denying we loved their set.
With hearts and minds full of sugary pop, we missed the majority set of Jagwar Ma, literally running disoriented back over to the Mix Up stage, but despite only catching the last 3 tracks, it was clearly going to be listed as one of the best sets of the festival. The energy was fierce, the visuals intense, the crowd dancing and feeding off every bass line and psychedelic synth glitch. Jagwar Ma have always been known for the exceptional live shows and we were completely blown away by the sheer force of their music, live it transcended into clubland, music that was entirely unique, intelligent and progressive. An outstanding few moments leaving us with a fire in our belly and had ask kicking ourselves for not being their sooner. Our respect for the band was confirmed.
Back on the GW McClennan stage, The Jungle Giants, were equally stirring a frenzy of sheer excitement, with yet another capacity tent that felt more like a warehouse rave than it did a band performance. Watching from the side lines the packed crowd was almost and entire moshpit of dancing bodies, a few crowd surfing moments and a lot of big grins of the revellers faces. At this point the festival appeared to peak, The Jungle Giants has always been known to conjure a party vibe and with overdrive force of their power pop songs, the crowd peaked and set yet another benchmark for festival madness, the crowd clearly wanting more and chanting an encore, which never happened.
Next up was Mark Lanegan Band, sadly the turnout was minimal, a clear indication that the majority of the punters at this festival were too young and wired to want to drop things to a 1st gear and appreciate a man who has influence many of those who take lead line-up. We had promised to be at Boy & Bear playing the Amphitheatre so only catched a glimpse of Lenagan, who despite the turnout appeared to be a top form.
Boy & Bear continue to do no wrong, they are a band much-loved by Australian music fans and tonight it was certainly proven but the amount of people gathered on the ground and perched on the surrounding slopes. Boy & Bear are as far from Rock n Roll as you can get, they are crowd responsive, charming, grateful and of course write such easy listening music it’s easy music to absorb at a festival especially with crisp, clear skies and 2 days worth of good music in your soul. The five Sydneysider delivered an impeccable set of pitch perfect songs from all three of their albums, lead singer Dave Hosking as charming as a front man could be, his vocal sounding strong in tonight’s set, the band playing the tightest we have heard them play. With no big surprises, the band closed their set with ‘Walk The Wire’, while the crowd chanted and friends sung to one another with cheesy grins.
James Blake had built a massive following and it is was made relevant when we saw the influx of fans flood into the amphitheatre to listen to the mesmerising and minimal sounds of Blake, that combine a rare mix of electronica and R&B. Understanding James Blake’s immense talent comes with listening to his albums on headphones to experience it’s production and clever song writing. Live however, it’s a challenge to gain that same experience, the diversity, the minimalist approach washed over many people who were keen to hear what the fuss was about. Still, Blake’s production offered a visual delight and there were true moments of beauty. With his set clashing with our much-anticipated Sigur Ros experience, we literally sprinted over, back to the Mix Up tent.
Sigur Ros, had the battle to play across the same time slot as James Blake & Flume but with such adversity in their music styles there would have been few festival goers who would struggle to choose between Flume and Sigur Ros. Being fortunate to have experienced the Icelandic power force many times before, we knew exactly what we were about to experience with almost a sense of smugness knowing that many amongst us would experience Sigur Ros for the first time.
Standing amongst friends who had little knowledge of the band, the experience was overwhelming and a few of them left, perhaps not a band for everyone. Either way, in true style, the wave of eerie soundscapes bellowed through the PA, while the stage lights slowly pulsated almost calling the newly confirmed three-piece band to the show. As expected, the light show and visuals were by the far biggest visual delight of the entire festival, the band played back to back songs from their back catalogue, opening with their latest haunting single ‘Ovedur’, then following with a hit parade of songs from the past.
‘Glosoli’ was epic (as are every Sigur Ros song) and had the audience completely mesmerised and somewhat overwhelmed both through the music and the visuals, an assault of the senses on all levels. ‘Festival’ tore the hearts out of many of us fans and reminded us of just how unique the band are, expelling such power for just 3 musicians. Closing with ‘Popplagio’ from their untitled album, their performance was heart stopping, disturbing and uplifting. Those of us who experienced their set knew we just witnessed something special, and perhaps the band did too, as the words “takk” projected on the screens (Thank you in Icelandic) and the band returning to the stage for a respectful bow and an applause of thanks to the audience.
Splendour in the Grass has earned its stripes as one of the best festivals in the world, offering us music fans so much diversity on so many levels and despite all the problems that the organisers had to face with transport coordination, Splendour delivered as did the weather and so marks an event that The Wandering Lamb will celebrate each year. See you at Splendour 2017.