It was Saturday night, in Byron Bay, at Splendour In The Grass and it was about to get loud!
You could feel the bass rumbling through the mud well before you could hear Purity Ring’s hypnotic electro pop coming from the Mix Up tent. As the warmth of todays sun faded, thousands huddled in and around the tent waving arms through a dizzying light show. While the heavy beats and gritty synths had the crowd moving it was the oh so sweet voice of Megan James that had fans screaming lyrics back to popular songs Push Pull and Body Ache while an orchestra of a thousand screams pierced the air when the build ups peaked and the bass….wait for it…. drrrropped! One show pony thought it would be a good idea to climb the tents ropes but was pulled down before reaching the top. Others danced on top of wheelie bins or mates shoulders. With the set coming to a close the crowd began moving away from the stage, on a mission to catch the next circle on their programme, but were all pulled straight back in with one of the Canadian duos best, Begin Again.
Garage rock behemoths The Dandy Warhols, the toast of Portland, played a career-spanning set to yet another packed out Amphitheatre. Get Off had the sizeable and intimidating mosh pit thronging, and I Love You, in a surprise highlight, was woozier and more tripped out than the version fans have become accustomed to, decorated with additional synths and pedals. The crowd was so overzealous with its desperate Instagramming, Facebooking and “WHERE ARE YOU WE’RE AT DANDYS” texts that the mobile data network, which had been incredibly reliable all festival long, slowed to a snails pace for some punters. Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s vocals felt a little shaky at times, but veterans as the band are, that hardly seemed to matter as fans from varying generations lifted their heads to the sky and belted out the chorus of The Last High. It goes without saying, of course, that We Used To Be Friends (or the Veronica Mars theme song, depending on your age) stole the show.
Decked out in sun glasses, boots and not much else, Azealia Banks returned to Splendour for what we all hoped would last longer than the previous year’s set of 17 minutes. Joined on stage by back up dancers, drummer Dave and DJ Cosmo, the sharp tounged New York MC was moving and grinding to beats with out missing a rhyme, and there were a mouthful of ’em! The female lyricist owned the stage, strutting her infamous ‘don’t f*ck with me’ attitude while fans put their hands in the air on demand. It was girl power as Banks dedicated BBD (Bad Bitches Do) to the ladies, and she delivered plenty of raw hip hop for everyone to nod their heads to. The show was equally choreographed dancing as it was rapping, with the jungle style beats of Fierce inviting everyone to shake what their mama’s gave them.
But the loudest roar of all came as 100’s more screaming Banks fans bolted through the mud to get deeper into the pit for the grand finale of the set, monster hit and festival pleaser 212.
Best Coast appeared to be having some technical difficulties before kicking off their set, which marked their long-awaited return to Australian shores – but despite the delay, the crowd still gave the band a very warm welcome when all systems were go. True to their roots every time, the band opened with their ode to California, The Only Place, which was a little more punked-out and loose (but engagingly so) than it is on the album that shares its name. The slight tweaking of fan favourites was a trend that continued throughout the set: Heaven Sent was given a sultry twist, Do You Love Me Like You Used To was beautifully coloured with a downbeat tone, and an opalescent underwater-esque pedal added depth to the outro of Crazy For You. It was a solid hour of Cosentino’s pleasingly grungey wails delivering her trademark diary-style lyrics – she has truly taken every dismissive notion the world has about (usually female) singer songwriters and turned them on their heads.
Later in the night at the Mix Up tent, the airplane style announcement “Welcome aboard” came over the speakers, followed by a dim glow of ‘FF’ stage pieces – it was time for the on board entertainment – Flight Facilities. The Sydney duo were allocated the 10pm time slot, and on a Saturday night that can only mean one thing – they better be bringing a party! The set list was a never ending mix of hit after disco drenched hit with a list of cameo appearances equally as impressive. If you were feeling day 2 fatigue that was all about to change with feel good grooves, showering confetti and 20 illuminated beach balls bouncing around to the funky bass line of Sunshine. Joining the disc jokeys on stage were some of the countries most recognizable female voices, with appearances from Elizabeth Rose on I Didn’t Believe, Emma Louise for Two Bodies (performing live with FF for the very first time) and Owl Eyes for the lush Crave You. After a fun rendition of The Love Boat our flight came to an end with a sing a long we all knew the words to – Happy Birthday to co-pilot Hugo James.
Finally, the moment that had been the catalyst tipping point for countless Splendour-goers to pony up the cash for a ticket was here. Everyone’s homegirl – and we do mean EVERYONE – touched a lot of souls at the closing of Day 2. Ever the ethereal goddess, Florence Welsh of Florence and the Machine played to the biggest audience we’ve seen so far at Splendour; the campsite was a virtual graveyard. Sweet Nothing got off to a stripped back start, with a piano, Florence’s majestic voice and those of her harmonious backing singers taking centre stage. It was two thirds of the way through the song before any other instruments kicked in, starting out subdued and building to a glorious apex point. How Big How Blue How Beautiful, Welsh told us, is a song that sprung from the feeling that she was “in love, and not just with a person, but with every face I saw and every city I went to”. That rung true, not only in her nuanced and passionate delivery, which peaked and troughed with soaring wails and hushed moments; but with the spirit of the audience, and the spirit of Splendour as a whole. Punters from all walks of life became one under Florence’s gentle guidance. She lept and bounded across the stage, all red hair and bare feet and swirling sleeves, as she ripped through Say My Name. Dog Days Are Over, her smash hit and ode to rebirth, closed – and audience member Jenni’s description summed the song and the entire set up best: “Watching Florence is like watching a dove cry.” In one last display of freedom and expression and lust for the moment, Florence ripped off her top and ran offstage, arms in the air.
With Day 3 upon us, we saddle up for another 14 hours of swamp walks from one rockin’ stage to another, for all the right reasons!