My trip to Splendour In The Grass started with hell. I’ve left the state once, and that was to the Sydney CBD where I stayed at a Kings Cross Youth Hostel. As you can imagine, anything for me was a big deal and planes were an even bigger deal than that. Despite how the festival went down, travelling to Splendour was a waking nightmare. After checking into my flight, I promptly left for a quieter space in the airport to have my quiet little panic attack, nervously missing my flight. It was this detail that gave me the fabulous opportunity to welcome an extra $200 to my bill and to the festival event of Australia. Weirdly enough, it still wasn’t that cold compared to the morning weather I’d left in Melbourne.
Pray For Plagues
In my time going off to festivals, I’ve always longed for a mud fight. It probably stems from 1994’s Woodstock, where a Green Day fresh from of the success of Dookie covered the crowd in muck and Nine Inch Nails came out completely soaked. You might have heard of that Splendour had a bit of an overnight shower. First of all, fuck being in a tent for all that and also, fuck pitching a tent in that – but beggars can’t be choosers and sometimes life makes you set up a tent as you desperately hope that you don’t miss Tkay Maidza. Thankfully I caught the ‘Switch Lanes’ rapper showcase just why she’s been selling out shows with a truly powerful presence, but at this point in time, the muck has had become truly unavoidable. It’s a trial that could be compared to about 25 metres of the Kokoda trail however; this wasn’t a march into war, this is a music festival. Unfortunately, some of the punters around me hadn’t figured that out. Everyone in about fifty looked as if they had turned up to the stage immediately after being dragged out of some quick mud. Amazingly, every now and then a person would flash past, undeterred by the terrain, their gumboots a symbol of a level of preparedness I can only aspire to.
Splendour In The Grass is a much different affair than your Big Day Outs and your Future Music Festivals. People were reading. Reading! Waking up and just being surrounded by this weird party vibe with folk reading was insane, and I say this after growing up in a place where public transit passengers would refuse to open a page. It’s a completely alien feeling to someone like me, just like living in a camp larger than your hometown full of people who are only there to shout and dance and enjoy themselves. Thankfully the rain didn’t wash out this attitude the first night there (the resistance to this I am squarely pinning on the after effects of Mark Ronson’s gargantuan set). Music would be radiating from every point of camp in the background, a mix of heavy electronic music to juxtapose the mostly analogue line-up. Not that it’s something to get mad about, since most folks that have rocked up in anything other than a camper van have retired to the fact that they won’t be getting any decent rest for the entirety of the festival.
The Closest You’ll Get To The US (But Still Not That Close…)
Before I actually arrived at the festival, I imagined Splendour as this big Coachella-esque happening of big names converging, but afterwards, I’m not really sure I agree with that. Everything had this easy flow feeling as soon as you were out from the shadows of any stage, and any plan I had before attending dissolved as soon as I stepped through the gates. Instead of sticking to the result of rigorous planning I found myself floating from stage to stage, soaking in the Australian accents firing off in all different directions. It’s difficult to imagine the massive machine music festival in the Cali sun letting the bending guitar of Eves The Behaviour blare out over the crowd, engulfed in her guitar, or letting Dune Rats set up the world’s largest compression session. It’s that wholly Australian feel, a laid back nature that is rarely broken (though when it is broken, it breaks in a big way, as the Earl Sweatshirt crowd showed).
War is Hell
I had the joy of being one of the last to leave the campgrounds and, well, you know how they say cows and horses are destroying Australia since their hooves dig up the dirt? Well, animals haven’t got shit on 20,000 Australians all trying their bests to flee the sniffer dog. (On that topic, I’m thankful I managed to avoid them since I have no idea how to prove I actually have a valid prescription two states north of home). The Earth looked as if it had been liquefied and morphed into a tsunami before returning to a solid and despite the success and love I felt through the weekend, it feels like a bit of reflection should be done on the damage such memories can create. With that moment of silence over, it’s time for some highlights from the weekend.
Highlights and Lowlights:
- That feeling of hometown pride you get when The Smith Street Band unfurl their ‘real Australians say welcome’ flag and prove they’re well worth skipping #QandA for.
- And the feeling of defeated compromise when someone you don’t like (Azalea Banks) puts on a hell of a set.
- The tragedy of missing Ecca Vandal.
- When Florence asks the audience to touch faces and kiss but the combination of poor self-upkeep and issues with personal space + interaction with others leaves you alienated and alone.
- The feeling when you and surprisingly few of the crowd only know two Blur songs (for those playing at home yes, those two songs were ‘Song 2’ and ‘Parklife’)
- The feeling when Johnny Marr does a better Morrissey voice than modern day Morrissey.
- The sight of people cosplaying batman villain Clayface the moment you arrive at the fest.
- The joy of seeing Tame Impala blow up to the size of Tame Impala’s hype.
- The sense of primal fear that runs down your spine when you see the (massive) Dune Rats crowd.
- The rush of seeing Kevin Parker off stage with Mark Ronson even though everyone knew it was going to go down.