The Highs & Lows of Splendour 2015: A Retrospective

They say hindsight is 20/20, so we’re putting that to the test. One week on from #SITG2015, Liz Ansley and James Wills take a look back at the highs & lows of the festival…

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LOW/HIGH: Mud/#NakedMudMan

Mud. Sh*t loads of it. Thousands upon thousands of people limping through the swampy, thick, squidgy stuff. While the majority tried to avoid the sludge, others went full ham and became one with it. If you haven’t seen the #NakedMudMan by now, we don’t know what to say to you except you’re welcome.

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HIGH: The food

Market stalls dotted the North Byron Parklands, peddling everything from lust-have fashion pieces to healing crystals to records, but the best of all was the insanely diverse array of delicious food from around the globe. Tsuru, a Sydney-based food truck that sold mouthwatering pork belly buns saved our bacon more than once, and the Jamaican stall (run by French men funnily enough) that we frequented for lunch and dinner was our pick for fine festival dining. If you needed to wash your fare down with a beverage, there was no shortage of options, with pop up pubs, night clubs and wine bars catering to all ages and palettes. Homestyle lemonade? You got it. Champagne? Sure. Just be prepared to whip your wallet out big time because…

LOW: The prices

Yes, the food and drink was a veritable smorgasbord of choices and all of it was fantastic, but with an average drink priced at $10 the one thing that wasn’t being catered to was the festival goer’s budgets. We all know that alcohol at festivals is extremely exxy (we saw large numbers of people stumbling through the entry gates throughout the weekend, safe to say that a fair portion of the partying was taking place in the campgrounds, as is tradition), but the food prices weren’t exactly akin to pocket change either. Got less than a tenner? Your options are limited to hot chips or the soggy crackers in your esky.

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HIGH: The layout

Splendour in the Grass is always sprawling and totally jam-packed, with main stages, smaller stages, stalls, food tents, portaloos, art installations and much more to squeeze into the parkland space, not to mention the insane tent cities that prop up in the campgrounds just outside the festival gates. Add to that 30 000+ people and you’ve got a potential logistical nightmare on your hands. Last year was just the sophomore year of SITG’s North Byron Parklands residency, and there were still a few issues with the layout of the festival that left punters just trying to get around confused, frustrated and feeling kind of like herded cattle. Those problems were mercifully gone this year, with no narrow corridors to squeeze down and plenty of open space and convenient alternate paths to whatever destination you were heading for. The only thing we’d ask the organisers to change next year is to please, PLEASE put sawdust boxes in the campground toilets, for the love of god.

LOW: Dogs

Nobody here ever thought we’d be talking about doggos in a negative light, but here we are. With a lit up podium-style maze, giant hay bales, Little Splendour for the kids, the Tipi forest, fire places and a VIP Gold Bar backing on to the Main Stage Amphitheatre, the festive village was a wondrous place for 30 thousand of us to call home for 3 days, and felt more like a colourful fantasy land, a thriving creative hub of a pop-up city, for the brief time it existed. But each day as punters approached the main gates, sniffer dogs led by the boys in blue greeted them, and whether or not you had reason to feel anxious, you couldn’t help but feel your free spirited party vibes get as damp as the people who chose to stick it out for Mark Ronson’s full set. With just 92 drug-related arrests, and thousands putting their hands up to the Delta Riggs’ question “Who here had pingas last night?”, we couldn’t help but wonder what the point of it all was anyway. Bit of a downer.

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HIGH: Aussies know how to get down

We Aussies love shapes – not just the savoury kind packed with flavour you can see – but pulling them. And what a variety of shapes, too. We saw intoxicated fans on top of wheelie bins, topless girls flailing their arms around on their mate’s shoulders, lovers swaying together in the mud as their favourite band slow jammed, cartwheels, handstands, the chicken dance, line dancing… basically, if it’s a shape the human body is capable of pulling, we saw it. We were all there for the same reason – to let our hair down for 72+ hours and get our groove on to the music we listened to on the way to work each week. The music we listened to in high school when bands were making history with ground breaking genres and trend setting (sometimes terrible) fashion. The music that was the soundtrack to a memorable party, a blossoming relationship… or the opposite, an overseas trip or a poster on your bedroom wall, it was all a taking place right here, in the muddy banks of North Byron Parklands, giving new meaning to these songs, as well as giving birth to new memories.

LOW: Azealia Banks’ post-Splendour media troubles

Azealia has earned herself a reputation for speaking her mind, something we should all be able to get behind. Much of the time she has pertinent and insightful things to say about music, race, and gender politics, and if she’s angry, well – maybe she has good reason to be. She’s been unfairly written off as being a “brat” or a “diva” (which kind of proves her points re: gender politics anyway), and now the people who’d been tagging her as such all along are gleefully rubbing their hands together and folding their arms with smug grins. Azealia is not happy with the way she was treated at Splendour – and maybe her sideshows too, as she called out Aussie audiences for being “violent and belligerent”. We didn’t spot any violent behaviour at her Splendour set (or at Splendour at all, how good is that?), but it seems she’s also angry at Splendour organisers for the way they described her in their handbook. The language used does seem incendiary, but this sort of thing is usually signed off on by the artists’ PR team, no? We’re not sure if that’s the case, or really what went down exactly, but the long and short of it is now Banks is feuding with radio announcer Paul Brown, copping tons of online hate, and has vowed not to return to the country. And that really sucks, because whatever your views on her as a person are, she’s a top notch artist.

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HIGH: #1 Dads’ smooth AF swansong

Nobody does tranquil-sexy quite like #1 Dads, and over the span of their 4-year run, they’ve acquired a dedicated fanbase who love nothing more than to chill the hell out to untraditional song structures, dropped-back beats, crooning from Tom Iansek and friends, and the odd sensuous saxophone. Since Splendour, they’ve indicated they’re on a “break”, which has those fans feeling much hopeful than they did before – as far as we knew during their festival set, this was the last time we’d see the Dads onstage. Of course, we’ve got all our fingers and toes crossed that they do Return To us, but if they don’t, what a way to go out. It was a tent-full of silky vocals (shout out to Tom Snowdon, how are you even real?) and a hushed, brooding atmosphere which built up to an achingly provocative finale in the form of their Like A Version cover of FKA twigs‘ Two Weeks. Massive, massive props.

Our mud encrusted gumboots are still sitting on our porches, and although we’ve done load after load of post-Splendour laundry, we’re not sure our clothes will ever be the same again – but it was so worth it. It’s only 51 weeks until Splendour In The Grass 2016 and it couldn’t come quickly enough!

Thanks for the good times SITG, until next time.

Words by Liz Ansley & James Wills

Images by James Wills, Russell Privett, Savannah Van Der Niet, Bianca Holderness, Claudia Ciapocha, Liz Ansley.

 

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