Splendour in the Grass 2014: REVIEW
Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on August 1, 2014
Splendour in the Grass 2014 was a success in every way. The weather was incredible, the sets were outstanding, the crowd were (for the most part) brilliant and the main problem was that we now have to wait another year for the next one. There were five lucky Scenewavers who attended the Byron Bay festival so instead of reviewing the festival in your average day-by-day or ‘things we learnt’ style, we’ve each compiled our ‘top five moments’ from Splendour ‘14. Sit back, relax and enjoy!
1. Red Bull Music Academy Pre-Party
I had intended to head to the official Splendour pre-party at The Northern in Byron Bay, but by the time we’d arrived and set up camp it was too late to head back out. So, we headed to the Red Bull Music Academy tent for their own pre-party which featured the Indian Summer, Yahtzel and LDRU and more. Being the only stage open that night, it was jam packed. Drinks flowed, beats dropped and three days of dancing and good times commenced. It was the best possible way to begin a brilliant weekend.
2. The weather
I’ll admit it: I wasn’t anywhere near as excited for Splendour as I should have been – and this was largely due to the impending doom of rain and cold weather. My bag was packed full of rain gear, wellies, thermals, gloves, scarves and more. And while I needed them after dark, the days were blissful. It did rain on the second day, but it was light, sparse, and surprisingly warm. Weather makes such a difference to the general vibe of camping festivals, and Mother Nature absolutely on form this year.
3. Hip Hop erryday
In recent years I’ve found a deep love of hip hop – especially live, and Splendour was no exception. From the first night’s foray into clubbing at the Smirnoff and Red Bull tents to the live sets, hip hop was in abundance throughout and three days. Childish Gambino and Danny Brown fucking owned the Mix-Up stage with electric energy and endless hype. Special thanks goes to Outkast for clashing with Gambino – being one of the few who chose to miss the start of the headlining set, I managed to get right up the front for the second half of Gambino, just in time for a blistering 3005. And while I’m admittedly not the biggest Outkast fan around, being in a sea of tens of thousands of bodies singing along to Miss Jackson was out of this world.
4. Darkside fucking blew my mind
I hadn’t heard any Darkside tracks before their set, and truthfully wasn’t expecting to watch the duo of electrolegend Nicolas Jaar and multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington – but BOY am I glad I did. I have no words to give this set justice. It was the perfect mixture of everything I love in both electronic and rock: thundering bass and hard hitting down(ish)-tempo electronic beats, with wailing Pink Floyd-esque guitar solos overhead. That guitar. I can’t even. Growing in volume, intricacy and ecstasy throughout, my mind may have actually exploded a bit. Easily my favourite live discovery in recent memory.
5. The music in general
An obvious highlight. Each and every artist, regardless of genre, were on form and played some of the best sets I’ve seen in a long time. Besides those I‘ve already mentioned, Kelis played a brilliant set with tracks ranging from her latest album Food to a wonderful mashup of pop hits Milkshake and Trick Me– not to mention the fact that she is possibly the most gorgeous woman on earth today. City and Colour and Foals were both beyond breathtaking at the Amphitheatre, and other personal favourites included tUnE-yArDs, Oscar Key Sung, DZ Deathrays and The Preatures.
1. Nabbing a Courtney Barnett set list
Courtney Barnett was my personal highlight from the festival and I wrote a pretty in depth article about it here. I was pretty stoked to get a hand written set list from her at the end; that was icing on the cake. For years I’ve been heaping shit on anyone who waits around for a piece a paper with a list of songs on it that they could go home and type out themselves, but I totally understand that kind of fandom now.
- 2. Not all cops are bad cops
I saw a really positive interaction between some punters and police during Outkast’s headlining set on Friday, the first night. A small group of friends were chilling out after a long day of sunshine and music, way up on the far side of the hill at the amphitheatre. I didn’t blame them; the biggest act of the festival had drawn a crowd of around twenty thousand – the sea of lights and faces makes for a breathtaking view. When the group lit up a joint, one of three cops sitting 15 metres behind them called out to the group, but he went unnoticed. He then rolled a water bottle down the hill to get their attention. Despite the bottle rolling directly into one of the girls, she didn’t turn around. The cops just shook their heads, laughed and left it at that.
Sure, they weren’t doing the “right” thing, but they weren’t doing the wrong thing either. It was really positive and relieving to see police officers use their own discretion and make a distinction between the two.
3. Future Islands know how to put on a show
While Courtney Barnett was my personal favourite, I’ve got to say, objectively, that Future Islands were far and away the best act. It was as much a stage show as it was a live set and I’m glad I got there early to see it up close. Those lucky enough to be right up the front savoured the stray flecks of spit and sweat that found their way cascading into the audience as Sam acted out every song as if it were a story. Easily the most passionate performance I’ve ever seen. Imagine the viral video of the band performing on Letterman, but times ten.
4. Thousands of lighters flickering on the amphitheatre
Sitting on hill of the amphitheatre at night, you could see a swathe of white spots amongst the thousands of festival goers with their smartphone screens illuminated. Also witnessed (albeit less frequently) were the small flashes of orange flame, heralding in a lit cigarette or joint. When notoriously 420 friendly band Violent Soho started playing Covered In Chrome, I found the sea of lighters flickering in the dark astoundingly beautiful against the heavy, grunge rock of the band. Hell fuck yeah!
5. Parquet Courts
The crowd at Parquet Courts, collectively known as “My Favourite People at Splendour” were awesome. I was a little disappointed to see such a small turn out for one of my favourite post-punk acts to emerge in recent years, but they are still finding their audience here in Australia. Those who were lucky enough to be there rocked fucking hard and it was a dustbowl up front. I’m pretty sure I did a Nathan Williams (of Wavves) who was recently told by his doctor he had permanent whiplash from too much head banging.
1. Samuel T Herring from Future Islands.
Nothing about this man is normal. He is weird in the most wonderful of ways, an artist so full of passion and creativity. He led a live performance that simultaneously enchanted me and enriched my life. That voice, that song, that set. Jesus Fingerlicking Christ.
2. Watching people’s faces as Whale Titties inflated
For those people who had never heard of or seen Patricia Piccinini Skywhale, watching giant tits inflate into a monstrous beast could have been terrifying. For me, it was a delightful surprise to see that the art piece, last seen creeping around Hobart festival Dark Mofo was travelling the nation and making Splendour even more insane.
3. Bleeding noses at DZ Deathrays
It was 3pm and blood was gushing from his nose. It ran down his neck, mingling with sweat and staining his white t-shirt a slimy pink. A huge grin was plastered across this random punter’s face; he’d just experienced one of the greatest moshes, to one of the greatest Australian bands. DZ were incredibly energetic, and the crowd even more so. One of my favourite acts of the weekend.
4. Super Size Kaleidoscope
While sceptic at first, queuing up for a large black cylinder was one of the best decisions I made at Splendour. “It’s worth it” said one guy, walking away serenely with glazed eyes. I looked at the tube. What could possibly be inside there that was so great? Free coke? Andre 3000? A heat lamp?
Pressing my freezing face against the black rubber I was immediately immersed in a twisting warped universe of colour, shifting through spectrums of green, red, purple, yellow and orange. It was incredible. If you also stuck your head in the matrix tube, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
5. Sonder at the Amphitheatre
A good friend of mine once told me about a new word he’d found, ‘sonder:’ “The realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own”. In the darkness, I could see nothing. As soon as the lights from Outkast illuminated the crowd, I experienced sonder. The hill was flooded with people as far as I could see, each with hopes and dreams, highs and lows, fears and crazy adventures, stories and lives. We were united for a few days, basking in the ecstasy of music. Moments like this make me realise how fucking great it is to be alive.
1. Foals at the Amphitheatre
In particular, Spanish Sahara. This was an extremely personal and ethereal moment that I will remember for a very long time. I looked out around me to see so many others feeling exactly how I was feeling, with all of us sharing knowing nods and smiles with strangers as Yannis Philippakis cried, “I’m the ghost in the back of your head.” It was at this moment that I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of people sharing this moment with me, and I actually began to cry. I knew they were going to be incredible, but I wasn’t ready for that. My seventeen-year-old self was in awe of how mighty their sound was, and how they literally had thousands of people in the mythical palm of their hand. Two Door Cinema Who?
2. The 20,000 strong “Hell Fuck Yeah!” at Violent Soho
Violent Soho is quickly becoming one of my favourite Australian bands. They were on my “Must Not Miss” list for the weekend, and I was not disappointed. Standing at the back of the Amphitheatre seeing everyone scream out this now anthemic song, grinning with a strange sense of pride in the band and my fellow punters, it was pretty epic to be a part of! Arms flung around mates and strangers joining together to pay homage to the grunge gods was an unreal experience, and these three words were particularly gnarly.
3. The general lack of dickheads
It can become almost too easy to stereotype festival goers, but I found that, in spite of the unnecessary amount of Indian headdresses and bindis, everyone was actually pretty cool! Cigarettes, lighters, sips of beers and water, high fives and free hugs flowed freely through the masses, with minimal douchebag encounters. I don’t want to get too corny here, but there is something to be said for that many people gathering for a shared love of music that just can’t be beaten.
4. Buraka Som Sistema
If you didn’t catch these guys, you missed out! Some friends stumbled across them on the Friday – and literally did not shut up about “the crazy Brazilian band” until we all agreed to go see them again on Sunday. We were not disappointed though! Think Santigold + M.I.A + more butt + more foreign languages + a thousand times the party vibes. It was literally just a big party, with two drummers, a guy on some decks, and three MCs killing it for about 40 minutes. Sunday afternoon well spent!
5. The Girl Power
Being the outgoing feminist that I am, I couldn’t help but notice how many women were up on the stages, doing their thing in front of thousands of adoring fans – and killing it! Kelis, Lauren Mayberry from Chrvches, Sky Ferreira, Isabella Manfredi from The Preatures, Lily Allen, KLP, Nina Las Vegas – the list goes on! Sisters are doin’ it for themselves!
Honourable mention also goes to my Bindi Irwin sighting.
Dancing like there is no tomorrow after an amazing weekend at Splendour In The Grass. #splendour2014 pic.twitter.com/8oSpxX6bir
— Bindi Irwin (@BindiIrwin) July 28, 2014
With a polished set that peaked at all the right moments, British electropop legends Metronomy played a selection of tracks spanning all four of their albums, and even finished on the seminal You Could Easily Have Me. The Look and Radio Ladio were also personal highlights, as well as bassist Gbenga Adelekan’s magnificent performance during Boy Racers, a slick instrumental track from the band’s most recent album, Love Letters.
Yet again, festival food proved a burden on the budget, but at least there was a wide selection to choose from. A special mention must go to Harry’s, however, for feeding me the best goddamn schnitzel wrap of my life. With egg and bacon and everything. Ron Swanson would be proud.
Given the quality of their recently released debut album, I knew these guys would be good, but they managed to exceed any expectations I had. They also fulfilled their obligation, as Englishmen, to complain about the weather: ‘It’s too fucking hot. It’s meant to be winter, come on.’ It was fitting, then, that they kicked off their set with The Heat. Finishing on the bombastic Busy Earnin’, which the crowd adored, Jungle were thoroughly captivating for the full hour. Julia was another personal highlight.
Last year’s Splendour was sadly lacking in Amphitheatre (but would have been too muddy, anyway). Fortunately, the sun shone on the hill this year, providing a place to simply relax and enjoy the music. There are times when being amongst a crowd of like-minded people is fun, but, overall, I prefer to step back from the throng and just listen. With bands like Ball Park Music, Interpol, Grouplove and Foster the People, as well as the legendary Outkast, to enjoy, sitting on the Amphitheatre hill was naturally a massive festival highlight.
Forced to miss the start of their set through a sadistic timetable clash with Metronomy, I galloped into the Amphitheatre as frontman Yannis Philipakis sang the final notes of Providence. Next came the gorgeous Spanish Sahara and, as the song reached its climax, I somehow stumbled upon my friends in a crowd of thousands. It was an incredible stroke of luck, but my timing could not have been better. Holding my girlfriend as Yannis serenaded us through the drizzle was Hollywood material, and will undoubtedly remain with me as the best moment of Splendour 2014.