REVIEW: Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay Parklands

I have to say that after last year’s mud-filled and poorly executed Splendour In The Grass I was almost ready to write off what is commonly referred to as Australia’s version of Glastonbury. Thank God I didn’t, as this year’s festival was everything I’d hoped! Thursday saw the sun shining as tens of thousands of people arrived at the Byron Bay site. With new environmentally friendly amenities and plenty of drainage the organisers earned massive ticks from the eager punters – Christie Ots

Another welcome addition this year, was distance markers from the outlying carparks to the entrance gates. Admittedly, we could park a lot closer to the gates for Falls than Splendour but when, I begrudgingly set out for the long trek to the festival grounds from the car and saw the first distance marker at less than 1.5 kilometres, I realised how lame I was being and just got on with the walk. The queues for drink tickets were so long for the first half of that first day, I actually never bothered getting any. There’s an alcohol reduction policy in action right there – Samantha Morris

 

Friday 25 July

The real festivities kicked off on Friday, with campers and visitors alike flooding into the festival grounds. With many tried and tested musical acts showcasing their talent on the first day, cough Outkast cough, the first real showstopper of the day for me was Asgeir. Packing out the GW Mclennan tent, his cover of Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box set the crowd alight. As the audience stood as his music peaked and crashed around them, his almost otherworldly sound captivated hundreds. Closing with his two most commercially successful songs Stolen Dance and King And Cross he sent punters streaming from the GW tent in a good mood – Christie Ots

Frontwomen were in total force at this year’s Splendour and to usher them in with style was the Preatures’ banging Friday afternoon set. The band’s leader, Isabella Manfredi, had style, charisma and was just downright sexy as she grooved and jived through the group’s catalogue of Aussie rock classics. Still without an album– expect it before the year is out – the Melbourne group hold so much confidence and attitude in their young career. Kicking off their mid-afternoon set with their latest single, Two Tone Melody was perhaps a bold move, but proved invaluable as the remainder of the performance held many surprises. They paid a fitting tribute to Doc Neeson and the late, great Chrissy Amphlett by dropping the festival’s first cover, Am I Ever Going to See Your Face Again? The crowd ate it up – The Preatures were born for stages like these. Coming to the closure of their set, Isabella then ripped into the Hottest 100 hit Is This How You Feel. Festival goers sprinted down the amphitheatre’s steep hill in order to boogie with their fellow Splendour patrons – Jake Wilton

With one of the most devastating set clashes of the night I had to abandon Interpol in favour of The Hoodoo Gurus. Time has not taken anything away from these veteran rockers, as they smashed out songs like My Girl, with lead singer Dave Faulkner joking that if the song had been written five years ago he probably would have been ripped apart for being desperate and trying to write a commercial hit. In a great tribute to the band’s beginnings former members James Baker and Clyde Bramley joined the band in the final song, creating double drums and bass – Christie Ots

Missing the twenty thousand strong army that was headed towards the Amphitheatre for Outkast, I stayed at the GW and prepared to see Angus and Julia Stone. As a long time fan that stumbled when their latest album was released I wasn’t sure what to expect from this set. Opening with new song A Heartbreak they instantly drew me into their world of beautiful melodies and stunning vocals. After a long hiatus from their duo work to spend time working on their individual projects, you can hear the difference in the opening chords of a primarily Angus song to a Julia song, however their new material is more intertwined than their previous releases as a duo. Paying homage to their history and fans they played For You and Big Jet Plane before Julia launched into her incomparable cover of The One That I Want – Christie Ots

With an internationally famed hip-hop group like Outkast about the take the stage, the amphitheatre is lit up and has zero wiggle room. Speculation was high following the group’s somewhat flat comeback show at this year’s Coachella Festival. Yet out comes Big Boi and Andre 3000 launching into B.O.B and suddenly, we were in the presence of royalty. Over the next 100 minutes, Outkast swaggered and sassed through their hits – and boy do they have them! First, let’s talk fashion; Andre wearing a jumpsuit with ‘thinking deeply about shallow shit’ written on it. Big Boi green and orange, pocket-plenty rain jacket and sunglasses. The set was bookended with both members on stage and each had their respective solo performances of Speakboxxx/The Love Below songs. Then comes the moment the entire festival was yearning for, Hey Ya voted the world’s best pop song on countless music polls, this was an experience to never forget. Andre brings 10-odd girls from the audience to be his posse and sing the song of their lifetime.

Of course it was the radio-friendly hits that made the Splendour crowd move but it was their stage personas and back-and-forth made for a truly entertaining hip-hop show. It may have been excitement-turned-worriment when Outkast announced their 20th anniversary run around the world, but the group still stand as one of the world’s finest. So fresh, so clean – Jake Wilton

 

Saturday 26 July

Saturday brought with it the cloud cover, and as the wind picked up I made my way to the Amphitheatre for Sticky Fingers. Playing an acoustic start to Caress Your Soul they were eventually joined on stage by DMA’s Tommy O’Dell for a new track from their upcoming album. As they wound up their high energy set confetti cannons went off, showering the audience in an array of glitter that soared as high as the crowd who watched them – Christie Ots

Pop stars come and go but few are as exciting and honest in their delivery as Sky Ferriera. Greasy black hair, reflective sunglasses and dressed in leather, this isn’t your everyday pop star. Beaming straight into 24 Hours, there’s an instant mix of vulnerability and “F you” sensibility in the tent. Sky put her heart on the line when bashing out these pop hits and it truly showed. Yet her oozing sex appeal and dominatrix personality shone through bright. Although modern pop stars operate like clockwork when it comes to performance, Sky chose to pour all her emotions into the set. Singles like You’re Not the One and I Blame Myself ripped through the audience as did Sky – Jake Wilton

Sure, we all know the video from Letterman, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the most physical and enjoyable set from this year’s festival. Future Islands reckon they’re too pussy to be labelled as punk music (according to their Twitter description), but beside the straight up jolt-punk from Parquet Courts or crushing mosh-friendly rock of Violent Soho, Future Islands are easily the most punk band on the bill. While their music strays back and forth from melodic synth-dance to indie rock, the group, especially frontman, Sam Herring are incredibly punk. Like the infamous Letterman performance, Sam was a motivating force of ‘70s prowess in his dance moves and stage acrobatics. Body rolls, crotch grabs and Ian Curtis-like thrusting and striding, Sam’s moves were utterly captivating. While it seemed like all the energy was drawn from Sam’s pulsating dance moves, the rest of the band were extremely tight. The set consisted of many new tracks from the group’s breakout new record, Singles, with a few oldies thrown into the mix for the fans. Seasons (Waiting on You) was thankfully welcomed with Sam’s powerful screams and provided the festival with another monster singalong moment. If you weren’t moved, both emotionally and physically, by that set you are a heartless robot – Jake Wilton

No matter what mood I may be in, the Jezabels put me in a good one. It was an emotional night for lead woman Hayley Mary – the group have been away for some time playing shows to worldwide acclaim. Now with one comeback show at Australia’s largest music festival, an easy ten thousand plus crowd welcomed Hayley and the rest of the band. Just like the Preatures’ Isabella Manfredi and Sky Ferriera, who had performed early in the festival, Hayley was eccentric and bursting with confidence. She possesses one of Australia’s largest and most daring voices of this generation. Give her an amphitheatre and a Splendour in the Grass festival crowd and Hayley is born for this stage. The first appearance of rain for the weekend drops from the clouds during the Jezabels’ set. Something inside Hayley puts two-and-two together and she begins making waterworks of her own. She tells the crowd she’s having trouble singing due to being over-emotional from the very special moment. Ending with earlier hit Hurt Me, the Jezabels just prove how truly distinctive they are to Australian music – Jake Wilton

In contrast to the absolutely body slamming set Violent Soho provided (see our I OH YOU story), headliners for the night City & Colour were like a cold glass of water on a hot day. While others may disagree, I found that the lull in high-energy sets was welcome. Dallas Green’s voice is flawless and floated over the audience and straight into your soul. Opening his set with Thirst he managed to hold his own in the Amphitheatre and created a picnic blanket and star gazing kind of atmosphere – Christie Ots

 

Sunday 27 July

The third and final day of Splendour dawned and it was a scorcher. Making the midday trek to the Amphitheatre I witnessed my surprise favourite of the festival, Skaters. These New York locals released their debut album Manhattan earlier this year and with songs like Schemers they had the dance floor moving. With a great punk rock sound it was just the kick-start to the Sunday that many punters were looking for – Christie Ots

Sticking around to watch Kingswood we were joined by the Nayor of Splendour. In the middle of singing recent release Ohio the band paused, and lead singer Fergus Linacre shouted, “Let’s do this song Sticky Fingers style!” before the band launched into a reggae riff version of their song. Watching the band perform their current hit I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me I feel it is safe to say that the Aussie sock scene is in solid hands at the moment as these guys absolutely blasted audiences away – Christie Ots

 

 

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