Bands, dust, injuries, bands, burritos, bands, margaritas, bands, traffic jams and bands; It’s Splendour In The Grass and for another year, it is sadly over.
In its tenth year on this planet, Splendour grew up, kicked out some unforgettable sets and blew our minds with consistently brilliant sound. This time around it was Splendour on pink elephants as 32,000 punters enjoyed three of the best days of Australian music festivities our fair country has ever seen.
While many campers got stuck in the ten km traffic jam leading into the Woodford site on Thursday, our trip in was smooth sailing. After being directed to a nice little patch of heaven on top of a secluded cliff, we set up camp and proceeded to get giddy on our imported ‘water’.
Friday morning dawned bright and sunny with no hint of the cool weather Splendour promoters convinced us would be nipping at our heels. Icy cold showers aside, life seemed good in Tent City.
Making out way into the festival Horrorshow broke our Splendour 2010 virginity. The two boys from Petersham kicked out a killer set in the Mix Up Tent and after the party (and bullshit, and party, and bullshit) we made our way over to Violent Soho.
Fresh from the US where their single Jesus Stole My Girlfriend has achieved Alternative radio success, Violent Soho introduced us to the beautiful Woodfordia natural Amphitheatre in spectacular fashion. Performing tracks from their newly (re) released album, the boys from Mansfield played to a small, but highly appreciative audience.
Friday flew by in a blur of Foals with an incredible math rock set, Little Red Rock(ing) It at the Amphitheatre and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club getting down, dirty and just a little bit sexy with the crowd.
And that’s when things got ugly. When making my way down from the Amphitheatre post BRMC, thinking I could get a quick phone charge in at the Virgin Mobile van and still make it to the end of Hot Chip, I fell down the hill. And, like the awkward human that I am, couldn’t get back up. Luckily two lovely strangers carried my down the bottom and on to the Medic Tent where I sat for the next four hours. Yes. Four hours.
While I’m not one to complain, I just don’t understand why there were no crutches available on site? I was the 14th ankle of the day the lovely medical students told me, that means that 13 other, probably equally as intoxicated, fools were out there hobbling around and holding up eager festival goers. Anyway, moral of this tale is Amphitheatre Hill = 1, Keely = 0.
Through the walls of the Mixt Up Medical tent, I could hear LCD Soundsystem take the stage. They belted through Drunk Girls & I Can Change as well as classics like Daft Punk is Playing At My House and All My Friends before closing with Losing My Edge. One sweaty punter who had been hanging off the sound tent fence said they “blew [her] face off”. Parts of said face are currently still missing.
Saturday. The Sabbath. The day of rest. Well, not for 32,000 people in south-western QLD. A cheeky trip to Caboolcha and a pair of killer crutches later, day two’s sonic boom erupted.
Braving the slope of Amphitheatre hill on crutches, I settled myself down for a day of main stage frivolity. We didn’t want to party party, but we did ‘cause Philadelphia Grand Jury were fantastic, Operator Please threw down the gauntlet with tracks from their new album Gloves and Tame Impala hypnotised the crowd with their own brand of psychedelic rock.
But the real winner on the day? Three words: Guzman Y Gomez. Burritos Y Margaritas. Delicious Y Deliciouser. Yes, and while the Burritos and frozen cocktails of tasty doom had all run out by the Sunday, that moment on the Saturday, sitting in the Guzman tent with a mariachi band filling my ears while beans & chicken filled my stomach really could have been a perfect moment. It’s sad, but it’s true.
Still basking in the glory of the burrito no one was prepared for the almost-riot that was about to occur. Heading back to the main stage as Florence belted out her last, theatrical notes and as her legions of ‘oh-my-god-she-was-AMMAAZZINNGGGG’ fans spewed out of the two-gate entry/exit to the floor of the amphitheatre stage, we faced ourselves with a conundrum. How. The. Hell. Were we supposed to get through those tiny gates to see The Strokes?
People pleaded, people complained and I think a girl almost cried. These were The Strokes! It wasn’t like they came here every day! We had to get in there; we had to get into that amphitheatre. I saw people climb the walls. People were going bush just to get a glimpse of Julian Casablancas in his oh so attractive leathers. It was like a cattle crush. The bottleneck crowd crush from hell. One more wrong move and these promoters were facing a riot. Then, finally, twp minutes out from the opening act, the bars of life opened up. The red sea parted. Those bloody gates opened up, and in we rushed, as though our lives depended on it. Me, limping and with crutches, the others, pushing their way past me to chance a glimpse of the hero of our generation.
The Strokes, it has to be said, are a pretty good band. They aren’t my favourite, ill be honest with you, they aren’t. But they are pretty good. Their splendour set, however, was FANTASTIC. Capitals on purpose. For a hardcore lover or a weekend fan, The Strokes, on that winter night in July (or was it August) delivered. Playing all their hits, and a few of their lesser known, but still hip as a replacement tracks, the Strokes entertained one and all… what a ridiculously good end to a killer Saturday.
The third day, the frost, except this isn’t a John Marsden book, and this winter in Queensland seem determined never to get cold. So the third day, the third awesome summer-in-winters day in a row, I guess that title seems more appropriate, dawned in spectacular style. Leaving the knob jockey crutches at the campsite, I chucked on some gumboots and we moved with the crowds into the festival site, swigging the last of our illegal ‘water’.
The mix up tent produced Miike Snow; the quirky and fantastic Indie electro act out of Sweden, playing a flawless set which included rad new song The Rabbit and a guest appearance by a man in a gorilla mask climbing the tent poles during set closer Animal. Brilliant.
We Are Scientists played to a slightly empty amphitheatre, and while the set was good, nothing about them grabbed me, in fact, as a band, We Are Scientists have failed to grab me since their first album. Not their fault, just not my cup of tea. Still, people seemed to dig it. Nice for them.
And so began the last of our Amphitheatre marathons. Over the next four hours The Vines, Passion Pit, Mumford & Sons & Pixies graced us with their sonically awesome presence.
Other than having teenage flashbacks to Get Free, the best part of The Vines set was seeing Craig Nichols looking healthy on stage. He powered through the 7 or 8 songs, even engaging with the audience, seems like break from touring had a very positive effect. Lets hope it lasts.
Possibly the best set of the festival, definitely the best crowd of the festival was Passion Pit. The falsetto vocals engulfed the audience cracking a smile on even the harshest of faces and a bounce in the stiffest of legs. Punching out tracks from their debut album Manners and their EP Chunk Of Change, the lads rallied the audience into a bouncing, singing, sweating whole. While Passion Pit can seem a little distant and disconnected in a club show, they are a band that is perfectly suited to playing to hordes of slightly worn down, in need of a boost festivalgoers.
The mood was set for current musical darlings Mumford & Sons to take the stage and wow us with their nu-folk stylings. Joined at times by Julia Stone and Boy & Bear, the English four-piece went through their well-oiled motions, and they managed a fairly decent show. It was just a pity that their performance was overshadowed by the amazing set which had come before them. Unlike Passion Pit, Mumford & Sons are more suited to intimate, smaller venues where their music can really connect with its audience. In a setting like the Amphitheatre, it seemed as though the feeling behind their music was almost lost.
Bringing Splendour In The Grass 2010 home were godfathers of alternative music, Pixies. While it has been drummed into my brain for as long as I can remember that this band is awesome, I just didn’t feel it. Even signature tracks Galvanize and Where Is My Mind felt flat and, to be perfectly honest, boring. The hill was cold which distracted audience attention, and people just seemed to be staying more out of ‘Oh man, it’s the Pixies, you HAVE to see them’ than out of actual enjoyment. It could have been that the excitement hadn’t returned so soon after their last visit, but overall, it wasn’t a great end to what had been an outstanding festival. Shouldn’t have left it at Passion Pit and we all would have gone home happy.
Splendour In The Grass is the countries premiere festival. It is smartly set up with bands enough to cater for every punters music tastes, expertly run with no real hiccups and long enough to feel as though you have really embraced the festival experience without leaving you too drained and wishing it were over. The festival injected $18 million into the Woodford community, so it’s no wonder they are petitioning to have it stay in the area. Whether next year it moves to its new home in North Byron or sees another year at the well set out Woodfordia, Splendour In The Grass 2011 is sure to be one hell of a ride. Strap in kiddies.