Splendour in the Grass 2013
However you see Splendour in the Grass; as a romanticized loved up festival on a grassy knoll in the warm winter sun or as a muddy swamp of messy, chaotic fun it is undeniably one of Australia’s quintessential festivals. With a stellar line up of talent covering a broad spectrum of genres and showcased over 3 days in the beautiful setting of North Byron Parklands the festival was sold out in a number of minutes and brimming with smiling, enthusiastic fans.
The entertainment for the weekend started strongly with well loved Indie Pop outfit Flight Facilities lulling their malleable crowd into a state of hazy bliss before Mumford & Sons injected them with their usual amount of effervescence and jaunty Folk Rock.
Much of my day was spent comfortably nestled at the Red Bull Tent which was hosted this year for the first time to celebrate Red Bull Music Academy’s 15th birthday. Without being overly biased the tent was as lush as a festival space could be. Not only was it spacious, clean and boasted the best bar and toilets it also become the hub for all the beautiful industry people to hang. Anyone that knew their Australian music, were loyal fans or creatively inspired by our vastly expanding musical landscape could be found there, mixing, networking and partying together.
Charles Murdoch warmed up the Red Bull tent in the early hours of the afternoon with his signature mellow, euphoric electronica. Having been recently signed to Future Classic he’s definitely an artist to watch. His foresight and commitment to the depth and integrity of his music is well aligned with the modus operandi of international producers like Moderat, Maya Jane Coles and Joy Orbison whose gorgeously minimal yet profoundly complex sounds are yet to really be understood locally. Artists like Murdoch are an intrinsic component in assisting these genres to be openly accepted by the growing Australian musical landscape.
Onra’s set was reflective of his approach to music production; refreshing. His set was inherently driven by a ubiquitous bass but flicked through endless unexpected samples from jazz to hip hop to foreign musical instruments and ambient electronica.
Proving to be home to the industry kids and Byron locals alike we were privileged to catch sight of the infamous Byron dancing man during Onra’s set at the Red Bull tent. Rumour has it that this man kicked depression by literally dancing his ass off. Dressed in an American flag onesie, sporting a hefty red beard and dripping sweat his dance moves were both obscenely well choreographed and completely captivating.
Discrow aka Ryan Crowe, resident at a variety of Australian clubs and renown for his ability to toe the line between cheekily warm and intoxicatingly deep usually errs on the lighter, disco side of life. His heavier approach to the late night set was full of jarring bass, intensifying tempo and even the odd Wu Tang clan sample. It was my surprise stand out act for the weekend, and, even in the cold, it was worthy of a boob flash. Hey, I’m highly excitable.
I tried to be angry at Chet Faker throughout Splendour, feeling that he was probably partially responsible for the amount of bearded men cutting around. However, witnessing him play his acoustic folk version of No Diggity live quickly replaced the rage blazing in my eyes with love heart cut outs. Chet was nothing short of mesmerizing and I could feel the hearts of smitten girls breaking ferociously as his voice resonated around the tent.
Later on Saturday afternoon Drapht proudly flew the flag for Aussie Hip Hop with his energetic set, dripping in swagger and wooing the audience with his colloquial Australian charm. The lyrics to J.R Jimmy Recard quickly evolved into a catchy chant and could be heard resonating around the festival for the rest of the weekend.
Alison Wonderland’s early evening set can best be compared to pack of assorted party mix confectionary; fun for everyone and full of well recognised tracks best consumed on a dance floor. The highlight was her banging out her original track, Get Ready and being joined on stage by lead vocalist from Fishing who rapped out his lines while crowd surfing. It sounds lame but lapping up the infectious vibe of her set made me proud to be a chick, and all that feminist stuff. Yeeaaaaah.
Over at the Red Bull tent Saturday was strictly business, showcasing a gorgeous spectrum of sounds from a variety of talented producers. Julien Love, one of Red Bull Music Academy’s 2013 winners shared his token smooth disco vibes to begin the evening before Kano who delivered a set slanted with his eclectic jazz and funk influence.
Ladi6 brought a fresh sound to the tent with the New Zealander’s soulful vocals and hip hop beats blissing the crowd out for a well needed reprise in their day. Wajeed brought the heaving tent to a solid close with a banging set spiked with wonky Von Stroke samples and some weighty acid house.
Australia’s golden child Flume delivered a solid set to close the second night of the festival. In a blur of bass and sweeping electronica the intensity of his now well renown anthems washed over the crowd filling ears with a euphoric buzz that comes from witnessing something gorgeously familiar that naturally signposts a moment in time.
For many of us Sunday was a little bit of a struggle and with the party vibe slowly subsiding and the wet wether threatening it brought a slightly more subdued end to the festival. The day may have been less amped but it certainly didn’t lack in substance.
It gives me so much pleasure to say that Hermitude delivered my favourite set of the entire festival. Despite not having performed in such a large arena they delivered an engaging performance, captivating the crowd with token larrikin antics balanced with the allowance for introspective moments. The playlist ranged from favourites of the popular Hyperparadise album to the depth and earnestness of their old stuff, namely Threads. Poignantly dedicated to anyone who had ever had their heart broken. On the flipside they gave us a special slice of insight into some of their new tracks. All of them oozing the unapologetic depth, swagger and finesse for which the duo are so well known.
Its safe to say that most of the crowd was rendered speechless by James Blake’s divine performance. Despite the setting he pacified his audience with the unwavering profundity and harrowing beauty of his music.
The elusive Cassius Select took to the deck of the Red Bull stage towards the end of Sunday evening. The artist known by multiple names; Guerre and Lavern Lee delivered a techno heavy set peppered with influences of experimental tribal tones.
I was in two minds about seeing The Presets at the end of Sunday. In my experience their music is better delivered indoors in smaller, more intimate settings. However, I was happy for my faith in the god fathers of Australian electronica to be restored as they completely smashed the set out of the ball park. As if they’d acquired the assistance of the heavens the sky opened up and poured rain on the crowd. People were squashed beyond moving, sweat and rain melted together and others were genuinely stuck in shin deep mud but looking around the only expressions on the faces of audiences was that of pure ecstasy.
Of Monsters & Men delivered a set that encouraged what I can only describe as a picturesque, idyllic Splendour postcard moment. Happy mud covered punters skipped in the puddles, threw their heads back and sung into the rain with reckless, joyful abandon. It was the perfect high note to end the festival and as we all traipsed towards the exit there were smiles and shiny eyes as far as one could see.
Overall Splendour lived up to its reputation, providing Australians access to an amazing selection of music in a beautiful outdoor setting. There were teething problems in the move to North Byron Parklands though and as such thousands of people waited hours for transportation back to Byron Bay on day 1 leaving the crowds more than a little disgruntled and disenchanted. By day2 most of the issues were sorted though and the organisers were profusely apologetic. Splendour crowd were a pleasure to be amongst; everyone was there to engage in their own personal musical moment and as such there wasn’t the usual fuckwittage and superficial hyper that accompanies many of our larger festivals. Instead everyone was mellow, friendly and brightly optimistic. The Aussie love of a dress up wasn’t abandoned either with a large proportion of people slipping into an animal onesie or tribal print poncho and 99% of feet stomping around in gumboots. None of the above detracted from our inevitable, unwavering love of partying though and the longevity of the event guaranteed that the crowd was consistently festive over the whole 3 days with no real down time and many-a splendid moment.
Words – The Other Jess & Connor Mackay