Splendour in the Grass

by

By Kathleen Calderwood

Photos by Craig Tanzer

Splendour before anyone was really awake yet...

Splendour before anyone was really awake yet...

12 months ago a naïve 17-year-old embarked on her first fully-fledged festival adventure. Arriving unaware and ill-prepared for the weekend ahead, she departed early Monday morning for the real world with the satisfaction of knowing she’d just experienced one of the best weekends of her life. This time round with high anticipations she packed the woolies – scarfs, socks, gloves – the whole lot, to ensure her Splendour experience was not marred by the cold (although she did unfortunately go sans gumboots. Not ideal).

To start off her 2009 Splendour Saturday she indulged in an obligatory Byron Bay Organic donut. Seriously, these are a Byron institution, if you haven’t tried one yet, you NEED to get into it. It will make you a better person! She caught the last song of Art Vs. Science before rocking out at Yves Klein Blue. Last year, in her aforementioned naivety, she neglected to check bus times and consequently missed the Brissy boys Sunday arvo set, much to her dismay. This year, however, she was sure to be there early and was duly rewarded. Starting off with some classic YKB, AKA Silence is Distance, the boys launched into an epic set with the perfect balance of earlier songs for their die-hard fans, most notably their slightly rastafarian rework of Blasphemy, and tunes off their recent debut album Ragged and Ecstatic, including a rocking rendition of Digital Love and popular releases Make Up Your Mind and Polka. The rousing Summer Sheets, the boys’ tribute to  ‘fantastic sex’ as frontman Michael Tomlinson put it, saw guests from The John Steel Singers on the brass. Despite the lack of her personal faves Queeny and Gin Sling, they did indulge in a cover of a Boz song, apparently the band’s latest obsession. Finishing on a high with Getting Wise, the crowd was screaming so much that Tomlinson couldn’t help but join them, albeit in a slightly uncoordinated manner. So what, awkward’s the new cool, and these boys are very, very cool.

Heading over to the GW McLennan Tent (she often wonders who GW was, but her research skills do not extend that far), it was time for some Bridezilla. These youngins were obviously feeling some nerves but managed to perform an entrancing set. They might be young, but their greatest achievement is that they’ve managed to confidently produce a really unique sound, captivating and beautiful. With a new album on the way produced by ex-Ween member, Mark Kramer, and mastered only the night before, they had some interesting and promising songs including Forth and Fine. Their performance of Brown Paper Bag, off their EP released a year and a half ago and receiving significant radio play, was familiar and enticing. Holiday Sidewinder’s deep, penetrating voice is just so unusual, and complemented so well by the violin and saxophone. Keep an eye out for this immensely talented band in the future, as they’re sure to make waves.

Wandering over to the Supertop for a futile attempt to see some Little Red, our protagonist managed to get her fix of Taka Honda’s delightful drumming (he seriously does not stop smiling and bopping. It’s almost hypnotic) and Tom Hartney’s rebel sex appeal in Little Annie. She bolted back to GW where some more harmonious lads, Dappled Cities were just getting started. Squeezing her way to the front, she refused to stop dancing the entire set, even when slightly or more than slightly inappropriate. It must be noted her deep-seated love for this band. Along with YKB, they were the first to instil the local and live music passion in her psyche at the tender age of 16, at Brisbane’s edgy and evocative Powerhouse, and have been rewarded with her dedicated support ever since. So, she managed not to faint whilst they belted out their experimental sounds, punctuated by Alex Moore’s curious and unusual vocal contributions. They performed tracks from their new album, which looks like it’s going to be excessively awesome, including newest release The Price, and old faves like Fire, fire, fire, Colour Coding and Holy Chord (oooooooooooooo – that was an enjoyable sing-a-long and a half !)

You Am I

You Am I

So coming off that high note, she had a bit of a chill, stopped by Bluejuice, who always go off, and You Am I momentarily and before she knew it, it was time for Birds of Tokyo. To be perfectly honest, her Birds of Tokyo observation was purely obligatory, as this was the arranged meeting place of her crew. However, that plan went awry (it is Splendour, what did she expect?) and instead she was subjected to numerous crushing hugs from a drunken(?) Byron hippy, to the soundtrack of Wild Eyed Boy, which was admittedly pretty darn epic. Taking the first chance to escape, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start scoring some free drinks. So, sheepishly darting around people’s dancing feet a collection of dirty, crushed cans was formed and exchanged for valuable drink tickets, which then transformed into a non-descript alcoholic beverage, thanks to a generous bar lady who ‘neglected’ to count each ticket (thankyou indeed).

Living End

Living End

After reuniting with the crew, Little Birdy was up and surprisingly impressive. Has Katy Steele got a voice or what? Seriously, how cool would it be to be in that family? Their set was pumping and sprinkled with romance, thanks to a surprise proposal, kind of ruined by Katy. Oops. She said yes anyway, it doesn’t matter. Now was the time for the Tipi forest and some innate, mind-numbing trance. Yet after this, somewhat of a blackhole emerged due to the lack of Jane’s Addiction, by the end of which our protagonist was left buddyless. Bloody pikers!  Idiotically, she managed to neglect checking out The Specials, with the exception of one song, Ghost Town, which despite its haunting ska beats didn’t trigger any recognition of their glory in her weary mind. That was a big oops.

Phil Jamieson joins the Living End to sing a Janes Addiction cover in their absence.

Phil Jamieson joins the Living End to sing a Janes Addiction cover in their absence.

One of the advantages of being a festival loner, is that you can do whatever the eff you want. So instead of suffering through The Living End, she wandered over to see some Sarah Blasko. Sarah was lovely and eccentric but the highlight of this particular set was plucking up the courage to talk to Alex Moore, of Dappled Cities. With intentions of looking ultra cool and not like a crazed fan, she waltzed over (he was really only just a metre away) and awkwardly announced how much she loved the set and is looking forward to the new album, Zounds. He graciously returned the gesture, assuring her he enjoyed the set too, and she sheepishly stepped aside and subtlely tried to compose herself. So worth it. (If you’re reading this, gentlemen of Dappled Cities, be assured, not a deluded, crazed fan.)

Bloc Party

Bloc Party

Now it was business time. Bolting to the Supertop to make it to lovely London lads Bloc Party, she had to endure a painful and uncomfortably intimate entry into Splendour’s newly introduced D barrier. It was not fun, but friends, acquaintances at least, were made. The masses waited in anticipation and as soon as those boys hit the stage screams erupted. The best thing about Bloc Party is they’re engulfing, your mind doesn’t wander and your body moves fluidly, carried by the music. They played a phenomenally energetic set, as one would expect, ripping out The Prayer, Song for Clay, Hunting for Witches, Mercury, Signs, Helicopter, Flux and latest release One More Chance, before finishing up with a naughty encore of Like Eating Glass. Whoever made it to the Great Northern on Friday night are lucky bastards to get an intimate performance with the fellas. Kele seems to have a genuine affection for Australia (despite a rather risky statement which one chooses to put down to simple ignorance) commenting they love coming here, and it’s believable considering their last visit was in December. Regardless, one thing is definitely clear, Aussie’s love Bloc Party!!

Blessed with a quick and easy bus ride home to Lennox, met by a hot spa upon arrival, our protagonist slept soundly in anticipation of the day yet to unfold, and the treasures yet to be discovered.

On Sunday, after a much needed breakfast feast and the drive to Belongil Fields, her extended crew was enlightened to the ways of the aforementioned amazing donuts then caught some Kram. The few songs observed were surprisingly folk for the Spiderbait drummer and Mullumbimby resident (now that’s a valuable piece of trivia. Thankyou Splendour book and your fountain of useless knowledge.) But the real destination was The White Lies. Not only were they very impressive to the previously ignorant ears of our protagonist but vocalist Harry McVeigh is oozing sex appeal, with eyes that entrance.

Kram

Kram

One of the few visits made to the Mix Up tent was for Decoder Ring. Well-known by teenage girls (specifically the ones in the crowd screaming incessantly) for their soundtrack to Somersault, which admittedly was enticingly beautiful, they played some new unconventional melodies including latest release Beat the Twilight. These gents created an atmosphere which was enticing and replenishing, their soothing instrumentals invigorating those tiring as the festival drew toward its close.

It was now time to bunker down in the Supertop. Reuniting with the crew, they secured a spot close to the front and committed to the long haul. Reluctantly, she endured the entire Grinspoon set which to her surprise, was epic and thoroughly enjoyable. One Aussie rock band she has neglected and rejected in the past, they pumped out powerful festival anthems, most notably Chemical Heart which brought about nostalgic memories of her awkward and unruly early adolescence. Their closing rendition of Dead Cat, performed live for the first time in a decade, surely made every punter in the tent feel pretty darn privileged to witness it. They most certainly knew how to rile up the crowd and established why they are such an Australian festival institution.

The highly anticipated MGMT were up next and the suspense grew as the crowd was teased with songs over the speakers. When the duo finally graced the stage, the hordes, as one would expect, went psycho. The Brooklyn Boys opened with Destrokk off the Time to Pretend EP, re-released and re-mastered this year, before belting out a couple of new songs and more familiar tunes from phenomenal debut album, Oracular Spectacular including Weekend Wars, Pieces of What, Time to Pretend and The Youth. They performed with reasonable ease alternating between more mellow melodies and outright ‘dance your pants off’ tunes. Electric Feel was a powerhouse which consumed even the most weary or sceptical punters, but it was closer Kids that really amped up the energy and commanded the crowd. The set as a whole seemed slightly empty, the duo wrapping up a good ten minutes before they had to, but nonetheless it was impossible to remain idle during and she was left buzzing long afterwards.

MGMT

MGMT

Sympathies go out to Hilltop Hoods and Josh Pyke, who assumedly had significantly depleted crowds, competing with legends The Flaming Lips.

The Flaming Lips showered the crowd with confetti and giant balloons.

The Flaming Lips showered the crowd with confetti and giant balloons.

The last time the band were out was for Big Day Out 1998, when she was a mere seven-years-old, and they certainly made up for it in the first 15 minutes of the set with their spectacular, yet slightly disconcerting entrance. Main man Wayne Coyne rode the audience in a giant inflatable ball, before being replaced above the masses with dozens of orange and white jumbo floating balls which remained airborne for the set’s entirety. Streamers were deployed periodically, via pseudo bazookas – for entertainment purposes only. Coyne preceded their performance of The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song with a bit of George Bush slander and a more encouraging opinion of Barack Obama. There were more stage antics, including dancing frogs and skantily-clad, bunny-costumed females, before Coyne ripped out the megaphone for a commanding closing performance of Do You Realise? It was a more than adequate concluding set to the epic festival which buried memories of the biting cold and left her with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction to see her through the long drive and recovery ahead.

The Flaming Lips put on a colourful show.

The Flaming Lips put on a colourful show.

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4 Responses to “Splendour in the Grass”

  1. Kathleen Says:

    I must personally and sincerely apologise for referring to Dave from Dappled Cities as Alex. I am rather ashamed as a passionate follower of the band and a budding journalist. Why I have been misled this long I do not know, however I will be sure to never repeat this mistake.

    Sincerely,
    Kathleen

  2. Kathleen Says:

    PS. The lesson to be learnt from this is that Wikipedia is not the best fact-checking medium. Remember that. =D

  3. hope Says:

    wow that was epic, so lovely to read the perspective of a youngun not jaded by overcrowded festivals!!!

  4. Kathleen Says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it!!! thanks so much for taking the time out to read it despite its considerable length… much appreciated =D

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