When I joined eager punters at DMA’s festival-opener at the GW McLennan stage for Splendour day one, I was expecting a five-song set. Their debut EP is five tracks long and to be honest, I just never thought about the fact that they might have other songs. D’oh.
I also expected three guys on stage. That’s how many are on the EP cover. There were six. D’oh squared.
The audience built quickly from what was a chilled-out group enjoying the fresh grass (oh first day festival joy) to a throbbing mass passing around spliffs. I assume they were spliffs, because surely no-one in this day and age still smokes cigarettes, right?
Are they worth the hype? Well let’s face it, there’d be no hype if magazines like ours stopped referring to it, but since exploding onto the live music scene (they were signed before they’d ever performed a show), these guys have pricked ears and sold out venues. They’re still quite understated on stage. One of them kinda hides behind his guitar. The tent was packed ten minutes into their set and the chatter was minimal.
And they did play ‘those’ five tracks, but they had some new songs as well as songs which must have pre-dated the EP. And they did make for the first festival singalong when they played Delete. And maybe it’s my age, but when I see a festival opener at 1.00pm and they have oodles more energy than the audience, it just doesn’t work. But DMA’s brought that audience with them through the 45 minute set and I can honestly say I was sorry to have to move on.
DMA’s (don’t get me started on that apostrophe) are the darling boys of label I OH YOU right now. But truth be told, it feels like the label’s Johann Ponniah can do no wrong as far as hand-picked Aussie finery is concerned.
DMA’s (pictured in feature image) were one of four label appearances at Splendour. Yes, four (Bleeding Knees Club played a DJ set)! That may not sound like a lot but when you consider the label’s humble beginnings (basically throwing some house parties to pay the bills), and the fact that it’s only been a short five years since launching, I OH YOU is onto something good. And then some.
When asked about advice to new musicians, Johann has previously said “write good songs, be good dudes.” And maybe that’s his secret, because with his signings now include Bleeding Knees Club, City Calm Down, DZ Deathrays, Snakadaktal and Violent Soho, that formula of good songs // good dudes, seems to be working.
But back to Splendour …
While DMA’s were charming the pants off one side of the festival, fellow I OH YOU label mates DZ Deathrays were ripping shirts off at the amphitheatre stage.
Splendour in the Grass is done right if you open up your morning with crash hot party-thrash like this. The crowd slowing built with their feet shuffling and moshing (the ‘Splendour in the Dust’ jokes began to rise). Crashing straight into No Sleep followed by Cops Capacity, arguably two of the heaviest songs in the groups repertoire, this was the way to begin a three day camping festival. Sweat, and lots of it. Well played, boys.
Circle pits are the norm at a DZ Deathrays show, but few are as brutal as the pits that emerged at this performance. Moshing showdowns between dudes dressed as the Pope and Batman. Also a crowd surfing Gumby thrown into the mix. A healthy blend of old and new found a place in DZ’s set and both were equally digested by the punters. Newies like Ocean Exploder turned the ampitheatre into a dust bowl and shoegaze slow-burner Northern Lights was a welcome addition to help sort out those out of breath.
Nonetheless, DZ Deathrays are an important asset to Australia’s festival scene. Whether tearing down a heaving tent or being dwarfed by the incredibly over sized stage at the amphitheatre, DZ put on one hell of a rock show.
Given the number of Violent Soho (pictured below) shirts I saw around the Splendour it was no surprise that they managed to pack out the Amphitheatre. With what was unarguably the most energetic mosh pit seen at Splendour 2014 one punter summed it up perfectly, saying ‘Violent Soho? More like Violent so good!”
Storming the stage with the heavy riffs and catchy lyrics the band reminded audiences that the Australian rock scene was alive and well. Smashing out most of the songs from their 2013 album Hungry Ghosts the guys finished with a bang, singing their massive hit Covered In Chrome. The entire audience was on their feet, screaming out the famous “Hell F**K Yeah” to the heavens as the sun set on the Violent Soho set.
With 20,000 people shouting out your lyrics you could be overwhelmed, but the band took the crowd’s energy and channeled it into flailing limbs, head banging and overall greatness. With the crowds so raring to get closer to the band, they broke down the security gate protecting the mosh pit, this is definitely a Splendour set to remember.
Violent Soho wrapped up Covered in Chrome by jamming a guitar into a speaker and with Luke Henery hoisting his toddler son onto his shoulders after the lad had been standing first at the side of the stage, and then front and centre as the boys finished their epic set.
So, yeah, I OH YOU, whatever the formula is, keep chipping away, because if DMA’s, DZs and Violent Soho are anything to go by, rock and roll is far from dead and we over here are crying out for more, more, more.