Well, Splendour in the Grass is over for another year. Our gumboots got a workout, we danced the nights away, and our eardrums were blessed with hours upon hours of local and international indie, electronic, hip hop and more. Six Howl & Echoes contributors attended the Byron Bay festival this year, and we’ve each compiled our five favourite festival moments. An intimate and fond reflection on what is undoubtedly one of Australian music’s best weekends, we can’t wait until next year!
Royal Blood being the greatest thing in the world
This is second festival where I’ve seen Royal Blood and the second time I’ve walked away from that festival saying that they were my favourite act. The intensity, power and sheer talent held by these two casual-looking British blokes will never cease to astound me. Royal Blood (and their subsequent mosh-pits) take me back to my teenage years of heavy metal and hard rock, of bruises and huge riffs and sweat and more. And it is abso-fucking-lutely delightful. Not since I popped my DZ Deathrays cherry about four years ago have I asked myself, “How the fuck do two guys make so much noise?” with such amazement. And that insane Black Sabbath Iron Man jam at the end? GODDAMN. Sabbath are without doubt my all time favourite metal band, so that was the dark and demented icing on the most deliciously heavy cake I could’ve ever asked for.
I actually saw far more Australian acts than I did international ones this Splendour, and by no means did this leave me with mediocre musical memories. From Art of Sleeping and Holy Holy bringing in the early afternoon crowds, to Baro, Total Giovanni, Slumberjack, Just A Gent and more dominating the RBMA stage, to the stunning songstress Meg Mac and more, it was hour after hour of Aussie greats. My favourite local set would have to have come from Sydney trio Seekae, who, despite the fact that I’ve seen them like 15 times over the years, continue to amaze and excite me. Australian music gets better every year, and I couldn’t be happier that I’m right in the midst of it.
Electronic music + instruments = the best
Big ups to artists like Shlohmo and the aforementioned Seekae for blending their unique electronic sounds with live instrumentation. Without fail, every time I see live instruments in live electronica, it absolutely makes a show. Alex Cameron’s dance between vocals and drums was a sight to behold, but the real winner here is Shlohmo, whose stage set-up essentially looked like it was a rock band. Having (thankfully) delayed his set from 1 pm to 4 as the result of Allday’s late cancellation, he delivered a powerful, memorable, entirely satisfying set that I’d been waiting many, many months to see.
Stepping out of my comfort zone and into an awesome-fun-times-boogie experience
I saw a lot of acts that I usually wouldn’t bat an eyelid over. My tastes within electronic genres tend toward the obscure or the hip hop-infused, and I’ve never been a fan of most house, disco, electro-pop and EDM. That said, I caught acts like Flight Facilities, Client Liaison, Purity Ring, Porter Robinson and Hayden James throughout the weekend’s mudfest, and loved every one of them. It was great to step out of my comfort zone, boogie with my mates, and enjoy music that, while I’m not putting it on my Spotify playlist, I really adored seeing live. That’s ultimately my favourite part about music festivals in general: you’re here, you’ve got hundreds of acts to choose from. Why not see someone you wouldn’t normally pay attention to?
Finally, shout out to the weather. The mud. I have never seen mud quite like I saw at Splendour in the Grass 2015, and it’s a memory that will stay with me for a long, long time. Mud notwithstanding, the weather was actually really lovely – with the exception of immense rain on the first night. The mud also served as a constant comic outlet. Trudging through the carnage – especially at night – you had to just laugh at how ridiculous everyone and everything became throughout the weekend. The seven-year-old inside me had the time of her fucking life.
Tkay Maidza reaching peak Tkay
It was truly something special to be at Tkay’s Splendour set as she completely packed out the Mix Up Tent on Friday night. Her face was priceless as she launched into her smash hits Switch Lanes, U-Huh and of course, M.O.B. As she looked around totally bewildered but loving every second of it (including an unwelcome stage invader), whatever question left regarding her wealth of potential and star-powered was definitely answered. I was late to the Tkay party, but this set only reaffirmed for me that I’m not going anywhere. She is definitely our next big thing, and you only have to see her in action for maybe 5 seconds to be convinced.
These Perth psych rockers are in serious contention for Set of The Weekend thanks to their Saturday performance. Not holding back, they delivered the best set I’ve ever seen from them (I’ve seen them nine times), and I am not over-exaggerating when I say my neck was sore from whipping my belly-button length hair for the duration of the set. Nothing can quite compare to Midnight Mass live.
Okay I admit it, I had never listened to Royal Blood properly before this Splendour. I don’t know why, I just never did. However, that is no longer the case. My jaw could not drop any more from their first song, and as my friends and I watched from the top of the amphitheatre in total awe, I realised that I was totally wrong about them not being my thing. They are 100% my thing, and they are astounding.
Anyone who had any interaction with me for the entirety of Splendour or in fact the entirety of my teenage/adult life knows there was one reason for me being at this year’s festival, and that’s Tame Impala. This was the twelfth time I had seen them, they are my favourite band ever and there are no words to describe the emotions I experienced watching them perform this year. Currents made me cry, and to see even just a couple of songs from that album mixed in with stellar tracks like Alter Ego, Why Won’t They Talk To Me? or even the bigger hits like Elephant was something else entirely. It goes without saying they were my favourite set of the weekend, and probably this year.
I was one hungover lady come Sunday, and the thought of a 1pm set to see Shlohmo was one that took me a long time to come to terms with. Thankfully it was delayed to a more appropriate timeslot, and whilst I didn’t think anything could beat the Allday faithfuls faces try to comprehend the sensory assault that was Shlohmo’s live set, the set itself was like a very weird, very strange, very intense dream come true.
Just A Gent’s headlining act on Thursday night
I near damn lost my mind when Just A Gent opened with Phantom of the Opera before dropping into some dirty, grinding love trap at the RBMA Stage at Thursday night’s opening party. Just A Gent melds familiar tunes with shoulder-shaking, gritty electronica, and I’ve not once seen him not get a crowd going. A great way to kick things off. I was fortunate to interview the smart chap Just A Gent moments before his set, where he was cool as a cucumber despite losing a vest to the oppressive mud – read his interview here.
Client Liaison at the Mix Up Stage
Oh, sweet Jesus I love these two. Not to be completely predictable, but Client Liaison were (and frankly, will likely always be) the heart-stopping, show-stealing highlight for me. Unapologetically extravagant as always, the pastel-donned heartthrobs Monte Morgan and Harvey Miler brought their incomparable 80s synth disco to a thirsty crowd and fucking killed it. Did their saxophone solos rise to heights even the 80s didn’t see? ‘Ken oath they did. Did they kill a cover of INXS’ Need You Tonight? My bloody word. If you haven’t seen these two Melbournians shake up the stage, find yourself a ticket to Listen Out immediately. The sky is the limit for these two.
Royal Blood teaching me about rock music
This English rock duo have a sound that couldn’t be further from what I enjoy listening to, but Splendour is all about new experiences and, since all my friends had this as one of their top picks, I wanted to see what real rock music was all about. Gingerly standing about 400 metres from any sort of mosh pit, I was pretty astounded by Royal Blood’s performance: an “I fucking own this place” stage presence coupled with electrifying guitar, powerful vocals and smashing drums were a sight to behold. It wasn’t a mere taste of rock music, rather someone tipped my head back and made me skull the whole thing, and I’m really glad I did.
MS MR embodying the word ‘humble’
I caught this American indie pop duo by surprise, and they threw everything they had into this fierce and impressive set (catch our review of their sideshow here). Frontwoman Lizzy Plapinger’s bright scarlet curls became slick with sweat as she danced like her life depended on it through songs like Reckless, Fantasy and Painted and was visibly overwhelmed and humbled by the reception of the audience, which was such a delight to watch.
Holy Holy’s chilled afternoon set
I knew it would be good when Holy Holy opened with my favourite song from their new album, If I Were You and proceeded to deliver a gorgeous, bluesy afternoon set, filled with the epic guitar solos and crisp vocals we know and love from songs like You Cannot Call for Love Like a Dog, History and House of Cards. They only had a modest reception, but this made for a super chilled set with blissful summer vibes, which is exactly what one needed on the last day of Splendour.
Meg Mac shatters my heart
What a fantastic set from an absolutely honey-throated siren. I’m still unsure as to whether dearest Meg could hear my marriage proposals from way up the back of her absolutely gargantuan crowd, but if you could find someone under that tent who didn’t have body-covering goosebumps as she belted through a bone-chilling rendition of Every Lie or ended with the mammothRoll Up Your Sleeves, the latter of which left me with a tear or two rolling down my cheek, then you’d have yourself a liar.
Palma Violets catch me at my peak
There’s something about noisy, shouty rock and roll that Great Britain just does so goddamn well. I’d seen these chaps play at Splendour 2013 but, possibly because I was utterly fuck-eyed on cheap scotch at the time, they just didn’t seem as good back then as they did two years later. This time around they flew under the radar and straight murdered it, and I thoroughly enjoyed crab walking around the moshpit for the majority of their set and then screaming every meaningful word to Best Friend to cap it off. This was the peak of both my drunkenness and happiness over the three days so that may have contributed. Still doesn’t diminish the fun Palma Violets were.
The Vaccines get me shaking
Sticking with the British Isles, this was an absolutely flawless set from a band I’d been fiending to see for a long, long time. The raucous Wreckin’ Bar and 20/20 were a joy to mosh to, the beautiful Post Break-Up Sex andWetsuit were stunning singalongs and the straight one-two punch set closing fatality of If You Wanna and Nørgaard had me stomping around in the mud as though nobody could see how embarrassing I was (they could). Every member of the band gave off so much energy and enthusiasm, but none more so than frontman Justin Young, who captivated the crowd like a lion-tamer throughout.
Jamie T brings me back to life
Sundown on the third and final day, a lot of people (well, me) were utterly buckled and wondering how the fuck they were going to make it through the rest of the evening. Cue old mate Jamie to go full showman, come through in the clutch and deliver an absolute ripper of a set. He was John Travolta with an adrenaline needle to my muddy, near-comatose Uma Thurman. Jesus H. Fuck, the monolithic combination of those last four songs, (Sheila, If You Got The Money, Sticks N’ Stones and Zombie) injected me with such a renewed vigour that I was ready to go another three days no sweat whatsoever. When its mid-song pause finally ended and Zombie kicked the fuck in, that was spine-tingling and one of my favourite moments of the entire festival.
The DZ Deathrays moshpit validates my faith
I still have bruises from this, and I’m still glad DZs stepped up to the plate at the ninth inning for Catfish And The Bottlemen. I’ll accept Azealia Banks taking issue with the few absolute tossers in her crowd Neanderthal enough to throw shit. What I won’t accept is her whitewashing all Australian crowds as ‘violent’ and ‘belligerent’. Look no further than the moshpit for DZs, a true example of the untamed wildness but also the wonderful benevolence of Aussie crowds. I looked back from the front at one point and saw no less than four of the most insane circle pits I’ve ever witnessed happening at once with everyone going bonkers. And yet through it all, if anyone (including myself more than a few times) was knocked over or having a rough time, the rest of the crowd made sure to part like the Red Sea, help them out immediately and pull them to their feet with a pat on the back and a ‘how’s it going?’. Everyone was most importantly having an utter blast. So pull your head in on that front Azealia, that’s what Splendour and 99.9% of Down Under crowds are really all about.
#1 Dads’ swansong
This little side project from Tom Iansek has already well and truly achieved cult status. Even with such understated, even sad songs, Iansek and friends absolutely captivated their adoring Splendour audience for an hour. Lighters waved throughout and, as we hoped, all the album’s guests were wheeled out – Tom Snowdon, Airling, Ainslie Wills. And as hoped, the band finished their too-short career with their spine-chillingly beautiful FKA Twigs cover – a track which, if you ask me, is going to have a good crack at next year’s Hottest 100.
‘Oh baby it’s alright to feel like a fat child in a push chair’
I’m a massive proponent of Everything Everything and it was a real thrill for me to see them in this kind of form. After queuing forever for a burger we only just caught the start of their set and I was much further back in the Mix Up Tent than I would have liked. My fears were allayed as the band’s inimitable brand of canned pop wit fizzed around the tent, captivating even the brusses beside us who I heard saying before, ‘who the fuck are these dickheads’. On a weekend of unabashed joy, the synth climax on new album highlight No Reptiles was particularly touching.
Whatever that weird tent was with the dudes in costumes
I just have the most surreal memory of slow dancing in front of a smoke machine with a guy dressed in a very un-PC Arab costume wielding a plastic AK-47.
Real Australians Say Welcome
I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour, standing on the amphitheatre hill, so it took me about five minutes to realise The Smith Street Band had even started playing. I sprinted down through the mud and by the bottom I was dead set covered in the stuff but at least by that point I was roaring along to Wil Wagner’s every word. And then everyone went bloody ballistic when they gave a big fuck-you to Tony Abbott, rolled out a giant ‘Real Australians Say Welcome’ banner behind them and played Wipe That Shit-Eating Grin Off Your Punchable Face. A proper Aussie rock band to be proud of.
What can I say? Damon Albarn ranks in my top three musical heroes of all time. To get within inches of him during Blur’s brilliant set, no matter how sore my pins were or how lethargic the crowd was by Sunday night, was just thrilling and something I’ll never forget.
I don’t know how I feel about Jonathan Higgs‘ garish blonde haircut, but I do know how I feel about his band Everything Everything. The Manchester outfit are on a high after releasing their third and most cohesive album, Get to Heaven. The Friday night of Splendour 2015 saw numerous cuts from this album played alongside old favourites such as Cough Cough, MY KZ, UR BF and Photoshop Handsome. The raucous To the Blade was an invigorating start to the set, while recent singles Regret and Distant Past were warmly received by the sizeable crowd.
Another highlight of the Mix-Up stage came on Sunday, when Melbourne’s Alpine, also elated by their new album and recent national tour, had the crowd in raptures. Alpine blend crisp intricacy with bold, charismatic melodies; this is largely due to the effervescence of their frontwomen, Phoebe Baker and Lou James. The energy that these two bounce off one another and the crowd is phenomenal, and their vocal harmonies are delightful. I believe that the best acts at Splendour are often those as excited to be there as their fans are; Alpine were a perfect example of this. Highlights from their set included Gasoline, Damn Baby and Foolish, which is one of my favourite songs of the year.
The Amphitheatre Hill
This isn’t a moment, as such, but a great highlight of Splendour 2015 was spending almost the entirety of Sunday on a picnic blanket in the shade, watching band after band on the expansive hill beside the Amphitheatre stage. Bad//Dreems, The Delta Riggs, Wolf Alice, Last Dinosaurs and The Vaccines is a Sunday well spent, I reckon.
I think we can all agree that, for the most part, band merchandise is average and overpriced. Of course, we buy it anyway because we want to show our unwavering support for our favourite bands (and something about Splendour induces reckless spending). This year, however, I found a t-shirt that I was absolutely willing to fork out $40 for. Sydney duo Flight Facilities brought a The Simpsons-inspired design to the festival, complete with ‘2015 Splendour’ across the front, in that familiar Springfield font. Now, in the true spirit of efficiency and/or capitalism, I can advertise three things at once.
In early 2011, the year after Tame Impala‘s glorious, fuzzy Innerspeaker was released, I visited France. I was 16, and had just discovered that listening to albums from start to finish was a worthwhile and, in the case of Innerspeaker, transcendent experience. Consequently, when I listen to that album I feel an intense nostalgia about that trip to France. So when Kevin Parker and his band – the make-up of which has changed considerably since then – performed Alter Ego, perhaps my favourite cut from Innerspeaker, on stage at Splendour, it added further depth to the tremendous pool of emotion that Tame Impala evokes within me. I had waited a long time to see Tame Impala, and their set that night was everything I could possibly have asked for. Other highlights for me were The Moment, The Less I Know the Better and Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.