They don’t call it Australia’s biggest winter music festival for nothing. Heading into the festival with a huge line-up, with sets from worldwide like QOTSA, LCD Soundsystem, The xx, Haim and homegrown heroes in Vance Joy, Tash Sultana and Bernard Fanning, there was no doubt this year’s event was going to be fearless in every single way.
And with the grass green and the weather perfect, the North Byron Parklands played the perfect host to the seventeenth annual Splendour in the Grass Music and Arts Festival, offering up the event’s biggest ever program of music, art, craft, food, discussion and debate to date.
While there’s nothing to fault about the festival itself, let it be known that it was god damn freezing this year, despite the stunning blue skies. The temperatures barely reached 20 degrees and the nights truly felt like we were in the depths of winter, but that didn’t deter festival-goers from showing off some skin as many channeled their inner-hippy with see-through mesh tops, lace dresses, velvet, eighties denim, silver and gold, and law-enforced bum bags.
Among the 35,000 people who attended each day of Splendour in the Grass, it was all about the glitter this year, creatively painted on cheekbones, hair, beards, and there was even a ‘disco boob’ glitter trend taking over, with an abundance of revellers lining up for their share at the Glitoris body art tent between sets (yep that’s a real thing!). If anything, I am impressed with their commitment to opt for a glitter bra despite the freezing cold temps that had me rugged up like an Eskimo.
As for the music? Well Splendour really lived up to its name with some stellar performances across the three days. Friday places as my favourite, with sets from Vance Joy, Kingswood, Tash Sultana, RL Grime, Maggie Rogers, Banks, Cut Copy and San Cisco taking over the Parklands.
Personally, it was Peking Duk’s massive Amphitheatre set that took the cake for the whole weekend. Teasing fans with a promise of surprises in the Splendour lead up, the guys made sure their live show debut was one to remember. With a history for bringing crazy party antics to their sets, the duo topped any previous performance by stepping out from behind the decks to play an array of different instruments, from bass guitar, keyboards and live horns, on stage.
But it wasn’t just the epic production and bombastic partying, or even the Stephen Curry video intro and premiere of the Duk’s remix of Lorde’s ‘Perfect Places’ that made Peking Duk the highlight, it was the all-star cast of guests. Bringing in the likes of Ben from SAFIA, a surprise solo from Dan Sultan, AlunaGeorge, Ivan Ooze and an appearance from Vera Blue, playing the part of Elliphant for ‘Stranger’, the surprise line-up only added to the blockbuster show that looked, sounded, and felt like a headlining set in every way, except for the time slot of course.
On Saturday Dune Rats were early party starters, throwing inflatable tinnies to the crowd and inviting Aussie rock mainstay Phil Jamieson on stage prior to the Amphitheatre, becoming a haven for riff-lovers with back-to-back sets from Catfish And The Bottlemen and Royal Blood. But California’s Queen of the Stone Age were the kings of the evening.
In saying that, it was Bernard Fanning’s performance which shocked fans with a surprise Powderfinger reunion that had crowds running to the Amphitheatre from all directions. Marking 10 years since Powderfinger played at Splendour, it was one hell of an anniversary party.
It was a strong final day for Splendour in the Grass with early adoring sets from Amy Shark and Kuren, through to heroic performances from Smith Street Band, Thundamentals, a feel-good spectacle by Client Liaison and a final hurrah from LCD Soundsystem, with a marathon set laden with all the bangers and finishing off with ‘All My Friends’.
Splendour is one of those places where you blink and you miss something incredible. Whatever you were seeking at Splendour, and even what you didn’t know you were, finding it was more than possible with the diverse array of artists on this year’s line-up.
Despite the usual festival issues with parking, transport and toilet cleanliness, the wealth of talent spread across the three days is more than enough to admonish any ill-thoughts. And scraping the drink token process was a real winner for the festival – improving lines and speeding up beverage consumption – until of course some of us got too ‘tap-happy’ and pay-waved all her money away (guilty).
The real winners of the day are the treasured memories we’ll leave North Byron Parklands with, which are linked with ferocious rhymes, happy vibes, a whole bar dedicated to the Yak beer collection (my fave), the giant inflatable Happy Kanye which made for some wicked selfies, stunning voices, and of course, a shit tonne of glitter.
Until next year friends, keep the Splendour good vibes flowing!
When: Friday 21 July, Saturday 22 July, Sunday 23 July
Where: North Byron Parklands
Reviewed by Talia Rinaldo
Featured photo by Charlie Hardy