-by Dariya Salmin
What started off as a small Byron Bay ‘locals only’ festival has now turned into THE biggest festival held in Australia. Splendour In The Grass kicked off on July 21st with more than 30, 000 people present for a weekend filled with once in a lifetime headliners, epic bands, djs, diverse and delicious food, art & craft and clothing stalls, and all the usual camping antics.
North Byron Parklands looked like a different place in comparison to last years muddy mess, as the bright blue sky and hot sun gave the impression of three warm summers days. For the campers who arrived Thursday afternoon, it was a slow and steady start on the Friday after a big night that saw Touch Sensitive and Wave Racer get the party started. The rest of the festival goers cruised in with excitement and anticipation with many making their way to the Methyl Ethel set at the GW McLennan tent. Doing Perth proud, the up and coming trio played to an overflowing and completely packed crowd. Starting with an ominous intro and cruising into Rogues it was a chilled and perfect way to kick off the day. The talented indie rock three-piece flowed really well together and held the audience the entire set. However, it was Idee Fixe followed by Twilight Driving which got a strong crowd reaction with everyone grooving and singing word for word. Finishing off with a funky and upbeat new song, Methyl Ethel cemented their growing popularity and love from all over Australia and the world.
After a beautiful Welcome To Country Indigenous performance at the Amphitheatre, DMA’S made a late appearance to massive crowd applause. The three-piece band from Newtown became a seven-piece for the performance, creating a strong instrumental presence which held the boys mellower sounds for a larger audience. The amphitheatre slowly filled out as they played hit songs from their debut album Hill’s End such as Too Soon, Lay Down, So We Know and Delete. Lead singer Tommy O’Dell’s raspy voice managed to captivate the audience, however other than holding out his arms a few times their stage presence was minimal. Ending on Laced, it was a joyful and euphoric moment for many fans.
As the day cooled down, the vibes warmed up as Hayden James got the largely overflowing tent at the Mix Up Stage partying and grooving to his funky, pop and electro sounds. James hit the nail on the head with today’s youths love for dance music. The gritty undertones of Just A Lover mixed with the intensity of the light show was a crowd favourite. James proceeded to keep everyone hyped up with a remix of Duke Dumont’s Ocean Drive and then finished off with his hit tune Something About You which saw majority of the crowd with people on their shoulders singing the anthem word for word.
Splendour regulars Violent Soho took to the Amphitheatre and played to a very packed and eager Violent Soho mosh. Smashing out So Sentimental, Like Soda and Viceroy first, everyone was already clapping and singing along, and the front section of the amphitheatre was pretty much just bodies being thrown around. Saramona Said and Fur Eyes were the classic singalong anthems of the night. Probably one of the most energetic and authentic bands coming out of Australia at the moment, Violent Soho’s audience at Splendour has grown massively in the past two years. Ending on crowd favourites, Jesus stole my girlfriend and Covered in Chrome this set was definitely a highlight of the night for many.
The long ten year wait for the new Avalanches album Wildflower was well worth it and so was their 2016 Splendour In The Grass performance. The Melbourne band completely filled the Amphitheatre as thousands waited in anticipation. Their futuristic, super synthy, electro soundscape was incredible as they played the majority of songs off their new album such as Pablo’s Cruise, which includes a sample of Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles, Subways, and of course their hit single Frankie Sinatra, which had everyone singing and jumping up and down. The Avalanches had a few guest performers and had an extremely professional and lively stage presence. The highlight of the set was their closing song Frontier Psychiatrist from their first album Since I Left You, which they remixed with Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy. It was a beautiful yet haunting mess which was mesmerising to be a part of.
Hermitude may have clashed with The Strokes but that didn’t stop them from holding down a packed tent at the Mix Up Stage. Everyone was having a great time as the two boys, Luke Dubs and Elgusto, kept the crowd interaction to a high. Dedicating songs to ‘all the lovers out there’, remixing Rihanna’s Work, Odesza’s Say My Name, and playing all their “bangerz” such as All of You and the crowd favourite Hyperparadise Flume remix, which built up to a much appreciated drop and had everyone weak at the knees.
Closing the Amphitheatre was the largely anticipated indie rock legends The Strokes. They were everything you’d hope for if not more. With epic guitar riffs that go straight through the soul, awesome chord progressions and Julian Casablancas’ effortlessly cool vocals, the band cannot be faulted. Playing classics such as Reptilia, Someday, Heart In a Cage, Hard to Explain, and New York City Cops, The Strokes left a sense of euphoric nostalgia which hit an all-time high when they closed their set with Last Nite. An epic end to Splendour Day One for most, but not for all, as many ventured onwards into the mystic trance trap that is the tipi forest.
Just when you thought the weather couldn’t get any better, Byron gave Splendour a 28 degree day which caused many fragile humans to leave their tents in the early hours of the morning. To cope with the heat people either started drinking again, found shade, bought slushies or waited in line for an hour to put gold tattoos and free glitter on their faces. Apparently glitter is a thing and so are neck ties.
Slum Sociable provided the perfect way to ease into day two as they played some sweet, easy-breezy, jazzy tunes. An extremely youthful band, the lead singer was the highlight as he carried the rest of the boys. Charismatic and bubbly, he danced around stage with his tambourine and performed their well-known single Apartment and closed with All Night. However it was their cover of Kanye West’s Runaway which had the crowd excited and grooving.
Despite the heat, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard pulled a massive crowd down to the amphitheatre with everyone letting loose and really getting into their sweet pysc rock sounds. This seven-piece band from Melbourne has rapidly grown a large following and it’s understandable why. With epic rock riffs, mixed with psychedelic feedback, a mixture of electric instruments and the lead singer’s haunting vocals, everyone was having a great time. Lots of hair whipping and many crowd surfing to favourites such as Robot Surf, People Vultures and Gamma Knife.
The Amphitheatre chilled out a bit for Gang Of Youths, however lead singer David Le’aupepe put on an eccentric and dynamic performance as he danced around channelling his inner Beyoncé. The band’s fans at the front of the stage would have gotten a real treat as he jumped into the audience and crowd surfed for their hit song Magnolia which was then followed by a massive burst of confetti, exciting for fans, startling for passers-by.
Snakehips put on a real hip hop dance electro set at the Mix Up Stage which had everyone dancing in an energetic and euphoric state. Covering fellow Splendour artists such as Flume and Hermitude, as well as breaking out their own tracks Cruel and Days With You. However you could tell everyone was waiting for their number one song All My Friends which they played at the end of their set and spirits were soaring high. Back at the Tiny Dancer stage, Paces was putting on a just as pumping performance. Taking to the deck solo Mikey Perry aka Paces remixed some Hermitude bangers and Anne Marie’s Do It Right. But it was his special guest Guy Sebastian which had everyone’s full enthusiasm as he covered LDRU’s Keeping Score. An amazingly talented performer if you weren’t team Guy before, you were now. Except for that one guy in the crowd who was holding up the Shannon Noll banner, coincidence? We’ll never know.
Opiou was another solo performer that got everyone jumping and dancing. Using an electric drum, he played tracks with a real heavy drum and bass feel to them. The light show was epic and went perfectly with the music. Ball Park Music was a direct clash with Opiou, Crystal Fighters and At The Drive In, however it felt like majority of Splendour was watching them at the GW McLennan tent. It’s no surprise considering they put on such a super energetic show with an awesome dynamic between all band members. Smashing out hit tunes such as Surrender, Coming Down, Everything Is Shit Except My Friendship With You, Trippin’ The Light Fantastic and an acoustic version of Nice To Be Alive, however it was their single She Only Loves Me When I’m There that got the biggest crowd response of Splendour so far with the crowd singing the song exactly word for word.
What So Not probably takes the title for the best dj/dance music of the night, with the Mix Up Stage tent pouring out at the seams. Everyone was dancing their little hearts out as Emoh Instead remixed hit songs Runaway, Middle and I’m Yours. He also got Tkay Maidza out on stage with a cover of Kendrick Lamar’s We Gon Be Alright and then George Maple to sing her song Buried. Finishing the set off with a Purple Rain Prince tribute and then his two biggest songs Jaguar and Lone which were received very very enthusiastically. LDRU was another strong contender as he played his Carmada collaboration song Maybe first, setting up his set for one epic song after the next. Next To You was built up by the whole crowd clapping to the drop, then to slow it down a bit, he did a cover of The Pixies Where Is My Mind which gave everyone time to revive for 50 Cent’s PIMP, Gold Digger and then the final song Dancing In The Moonlight.
Santigold put on a surprisingly artistic performance and the Mix Up Tent was packed to the brim. She is such an unbelievable performer and holds the crowd’s complete and utter attention the whole time. Incredible costumes and back up dancers, she sings her great hits Rendezvous Girl, Disparate Youth and Big Mouth. Down at the Amphitheatre The Cure have been playing for the past hour and a half. A three hour set, the final half sees the crowd a lot more spacious and mellower in comparison to when they opened. Everyone is still having a great time and it seems The Cure have left all their most memorable songs for the last hour. Friday I’m In Love, Love Song, Close to Me and Let’s Go to Bed have people dancing with the biggest smiles as they relive many nostalgic memories. Robert Smith’s voice is even more perfect live and his quirkiness and energy is so respectable taken his age and the time frame of their set. A few small breaks in between songs, The Cure ends on Boys Don’t Cry and it is absolutely beautiful. A perfect end for day two at the amphitheatre where I’m sure a few boys DID cry.
Day three is always the day where you wake up and say “nope that’s it I’m done” or you find some inner hidden energy that gives you strength you never knew you had so you can get through the next 24 hours. Surprisingly everyone was in high spirits on the Sunday, as the weather cooled down and people found that inner strength to smash out a whole bunch of exciting and incredible sets.
After having an impressive past year, Perth indie rockers Tired Lion demonstrated to the Splendour masses just how great their musicianship is. Lead singer Sophie Hopes kept the crowd’s full attention with her effortlessly cool vocals and charisma. Playing their hit songs Not My Friends and I Don’t Think You Like Me, Tired Lion manage to get everyone pumped at an early hour of the day. Urthboy was on next at the Mix Up Stage and boy did he deliver. An extremely intelligent and modest rapper he provided cruisy and soulful vibes that had everyone feeling great. Kira Puru joined on stage to perform touching song Daughter Of The Light as well as his last song- a cover of Meg Mac’s Roll Up Your Sleeves.
Next up was the bluesy and soul tunes of The Internet. This six-piece American group were super energetic and really got the crowd at The Mix Up stage vibing for the night. Kicking off with their hit song Get Away and then Just Saying, audience participation was cruisy and minimal. Lead singer Syd Bennett got everyone pumped for the song as she got the crowd to chant “you fucked up” and then got everyone to put their “hands up”. With more enthusiasm from the crowd, next up was Girl and then after a “hell yeah” chant came Special Affair. Jagwar Ma soon followed as the sun set and the party vibes started. A whole lot of moshing and crowd surfing went hand in hand with Howlin’, OB1 and Let Her Go.
Golden Features was definitely the most hectic mosh of them all. Once you were in it, there was no escape (unless you wanted a flying limb to punch you in the face). Despite the density of the crowd, everyone was having the absolute BEST time. Wearing his gold mask, Golden Features played his hit tracks Tell Me, No One, Guillotine and Do You? matched with an amazing golden light show I’m sure there were plenty of festi-goers who could have stayed there all night listening to those dirty techno beats. Remixes of Justice’s D.A.N.C.E and Route 94’s My Love was received enthusiastically but it was the final song Telescope which sealed the deal.
James Blake was a three-piece tonight as he was joined on stage by a drummer and a fellow keyboardist. His performance really and truly was something spectacular. Playing majority of songs off his new album The Colour In Anything, such as I Need a Forest Fire, Radio Silence, Timeless, Love Me Whatever Way and songs off his past albums such as Limit To Your Love, Retrograde and Voyeur. With some technical difficulties Blake states how he doesn’t use a laptop thanks to these two amazing musicians besides him. Playing a song his dad wrote, his modesty and laid back stage presence is infectious as well as his angelic voice which surely brought a tear to some. Blake closed with The Wilhelm Scream and it was heaven.
Sigur Ros clashed with Flume which clearly had a massive impact on their crowd attendance as it was a very small and intimate audience. That being said, it was probably for the best so there wasn’t anyone to disrupt the beauty, magnificence and gracefulness that is Sigur Ros. All the way from Iceland, this band is perfection, however watching them you either wanted to cry or fall asleep, so if you wanted to end Splendour on a banger, Flume was where it was at.
And boy did he deliver. Playing to an absolutely packed to the brim Amphitheatre, Flume closed Splendour with an absolute bang. He smashed out all his hit songs such as Holding On, Insane, Never Be Like You, Take A Chance and his remixes of Lorde’s Tennis Court and Hermitude’s Hyperparadise. With many guest performers helping him out on stage such as Jess Kent, Remi, Vera Blue and Ngaiire, he states his gratitude at being able to close his “favourite” festival, having only just played the mid-day slot a few years ago. Looking around at the crowd which is pretty much the whole of Splendour, you can’t help but feel a mix of proudness for the 24 year old and sadness that 2016 Splendour In the Grass has come to an end.
Photo Credit: Splendour In The Grass