It was July, which meant it was time for everyone to get on a bus, plane, car, boat, to set sail for Byron Bay for Australia’s most iconic music and arts festival, Splendour in the Grass. The festival has been running for 15 years and has found a cosy home in the Northern Byron Parklands. Now, I do consider myself an educated festival goer having attended everything from Stereosonic to Soundwave (R.I.P.), but I found myself a complete Splendour virgin.
Friday soon arrived which meant day one was upon us, and for the first time in Splendour history, the weather was sunny, hot, and no gumboots were needed. Even better, it stayed like this the whole weekend.
The grounds were huge in comparison to other festivals where you can see everything in sight. Grill’d provided the goods with a pop-up restaurant and their Splendour burger was my go-to for the weekend. Followed by a colour party similar to the Holi Festival in India to launch Contiki’s new group tour featuring Bollywood dancers.
Fat White Family was the first for the day in terms of bands and hands down, one of the best. They managed to take their unusual sound and make it 10x better live, but what got people talking was lead singer, Lias Saoudi, who stripped completely naked for the remaining half of the band’s set. Top tunes, courageous front man, probably won’t be allowed back ever!
“Glitter is a Splendour necessity.”
Venturing off into the Amphitheatre, we found where all the festivalgoers were hiding, and joined the queue to buy drink tokens. DMAs played in the background to a huge crowd for an early afternoon slot, however not particularly surprising with them selling out their entire tour last month. Not too far from the Amphitheatre was the popular (more so at night) Tepee forest. For all the electronic fans, this was the place to be.
The 1975 and Violent Soho ended our evening both playing to huge crowds in the main arena. Both bands always kill it in their retrospective genres, especially Matt Healey of The 1975 who is undoubtedly one of the best showmen going around at the moment. Before calling in a night, we ventured through the global village to the world stage to watch an unusual dance act, much different to anything else on the Splendour bill. Although with a minimal crowd, the world stage was not a place to discourage, but often showcasing some of the most intricate, interesting, and unique artists over the entire weekend.
An early morning drink at the Smirnoff House Party (decorated like an American Frat party) kicked off day two. DJ’s were cranking the tunes all weekend and had a scenic balcony looking over the grounds. Next on the trying-to-do-everything list the Bohemian lounge had a line-up of its own including psychedelic yoga. BYO exercise pants.
Market stalls, food tents, and the ever so popular body art tent littered the paths to the stages with clothing, henna, crystals, massage, and everything in between. Glitter is a Splendour necessity.
British duo Snakehips surprisingly managed themselves a big crowd for a late afternoon slot. Their hugely popular song ‘All My Friends’ encouraged a huge sing-a-long, however I’m totally more digging their song ‘Cruel’ which got a nice feature in the middle.
Somehow later that night, we found ourselves belting out Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ in Miss Saigon, a pop-up karaoke bar. After getting a huge applause and texting my mum to let her know I killed my Splendour performance, we ventured to the main arena to catch rock babe Courtney Barnett who played a killer set showing us the female power we need to be embracing. Soon to be followed by the huge act everyone had been waiting for The Cure. Despite the couple wrinkles they had gotten over the years, they surprised me at how tight as a band they were live and they played a huge three-hour set. We stuck around to hear the huge sing-a-long of you guessed it, ‘Friday I’m In Love’, except it was Saturday. Finishing our night with Matt Corby who for a set that was rivalling The Cure had a huge crowd. The previous Australian Idol star has sure turned his career around, and brought his unique style to the indie world – a style mixed with his top flute playing skills left many young fans in a fit of screams.
“Splendour isn’t just music, it’s art, it’s expression, it’s fashion, it’s community, it’s an experience, it’s anything you want it to be.”
Venturing in nice and early to enjoy the little of Splendour we had left on the final day, we caught English singer/songwriter Låpsley making her Australian debut. Despite containing a set list of ballads, her voice is all one needs to hear to be convinced to give her music a listen, and all the fans already knew it. Visiting the make-up stalls was followed, and enjoying the little freebies Rimmel were handing out. Free make-up for the win!
After a feed, we made our way to Tiny Dancer, a smaller stage showcasing the younger upcoming Australian musicians, and we certainly were here for an act that has previously ticked all my live show boxes – Remi. What can we say, the man is meant to be on the stage, he knows how to get a crowd involved even when they don’t know the words to his songs. Having followed him since 2014, it was great to see the MC gaining a legion of fans, and he sure delivered a show, even toying some of his new music from the upcoming album.
James Blake was about to take the main stage and we had managed to secure a close spot to the stage partly to get a good spot for Flume, partly because the Sunday night had come in at a cold 13 degrees. In a world of music, where almost everything seems to have been done, Blake has managed to create a musical style completely his own, which many artists are in awe and often drawing inspiration from.
The grand finale had arrived; One of Australia’s biggest musical exports, Flume, was here. Hinting on Facebook a special something, the Splendour crowd were treated with a cross section of upcoming Australian acts to perform the vocals on his tracks, including Remi, Baro, Vera Blue, and Jess Kent. First of all, this move took the experience of his set to the next level having live vocalists there, but secondly, he showed just how humble and appreciative he was to be in his position. Many people question the musicianship of producers’ live shows, but the live elements including a drumming section showcased the true musician he is. Flume finished Splendour with his remix of Disclosure’s ‘You & Me’ as confetti blasted everywhere.
Splendour could be a week long and you still wouldn’t find time to see and experience everything. Splendour isn’t just music, it’s art, it’s expression, it’s fashion, it’s community, it’s an experience, it’s anything you want it to be. At times it hurt, it went fast, a little bit rough, but I’m so ready for the next time, and that folks, is how I lost my Splendour virginity.