Splendour Bender: Part One
Despite a promising forecast for the four days, a week of persistent drizzle had left the Splendour site of Belongil Fields absolutely saturated, with some areas of the site a complete mud bath. Unphased, some thirty thousand punters spilled through the gates as the long awaited Splendour in the Grass 2012.
Our day kicked off with opening acts for the Supertop, Kingswood. Fresh off the back of a national tour with Money for Rope and Damn Terran, the guys seemed battle-hardened as they ripped through a set of hairy, ballsy rock and roll. Though not the most interesting of bands, their energy was certainly enviable, and their cheesy posturing was more charming than grating, with a guest appearance by Lindsay ‘The Doctor’ McDougal. Dual guitar solos, crowd surfing, you name it. A pretty engaging start to the proceedings if there ever was one.
Melbournian, beard-clad Chet Faker opened proceedings in the GW McLennan tent. He’s come a long way since his chilled remix of Backstreet’s No Diggity made its debut on YouTube, and we’re sure it had to be one of the biggest crowds he has faced. There is an air of maturity in Nick Murphy’s performance these days, something we gather has come from months of touring the international stage. Playing beautifully slick tracks from his self-titled EP, Murphy opened the festival with all the class and polish we have come to expect from this superstar.
Though the little cousin of the much lauded Tame Impala, Pond have established themselves as a must-see band in their own right, who were next at the Supertop. Although some of the band members were sufferings colds as a result of “the west to east traveling”, the band seemed unperturbed as they stormed through their blend of classic rock and psychedelia. Blending the songs together into a seamless riff-o-rama; and with their pint-sized front man strutting like a young Mick Jagger, they proved to be one of the standout performances of the festival.
Over at the Mix Up Stage, Vulture favourite Youth Lagoon commenced his set, complete with trademark baggy hat, with a stunningly flawless rendition of the second track of his 2011 release The Year of Hibernation. The beauty in Trevor Powers’ compositions is the lyrics are often undecipherable, leading to the undulating tones to simply wash over you. Having seen Youth Lagoon at a much smaller venue earlier this year, we must admit we prefer the more intimate venues. Powers’ is a beautiful, honest performer, and we enjoy sharing space with him rather than having to look up at him on an elevated stage.
Our enjoyment of the gorgeously sunny, low 20s Friday was rudely interrupted when the heavens chose to unleash hell. First rain, thunder and then hail pelted the already dampened site, causing punters to sprint for cover anywhere they could find.
The only thing more relentless than the downpour was DZ Deathrays, who were commanding the main stage with a set of blistering garage rock. As the rain intensified, it seemed the roof was under threat; rain was making its way through the tarp and onto the stage. As the crew fought hard to keep the proceedings running, DZ lapped up the intensity of the moment, taking turns to crowd surf between their sonic expressions.
The rain died down, but its toll was felt for the rest of the festival. Clothes were saturated, Volley’s and Con’s were destroyed, but it would take a lot to bring the energy of this crowd down.
Yacht Club DJs put on a pretty raucous sesh in the Mix Up tent. Clad in Ghostbusters outfits, the guys put on a set of mash-up bangers, which a wet and eager crowd lapped up. A good party to be sure, but chucking on ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ on without any creative additions or reworking meant any kid with an auxiliary chord and a Ghostbusters outfit could have put on a similarly bitchin’ party.
The bombastic LA troupe Hypnotic Brass Ensemble strutted out onto the Mix Up stage and asked, “are y’all ready for 45 minutes of absolutely ill shit?!” Whether anyone was ready, ill shit was what they got. The outfit have to be applauded for their stamina as much as their songs, and moving around as much as they did with a tuba in tow couldn’t be easy.
As night closed in and the temperature dropped, the crowd started to flood into the Supertop, so much so that the barricades had to be erected to keep the At the Drive-In fans at bay during an absolutely flawless Shins set.
James Mercer is a fucking professional. Bellowing out a combination of new and old (of course, ‘Australia’ was a crowd favourite), it seemed impossible the band had taken such a long hiatus. There were no disappointed faces to be seen; the Shins ensured the crowd heard the songs they would have wanted to hear, including ‘New Slang’ in which we all fantasised about Natalie Portman in Garden State. His voice is distinct, their performance was perfection and it’s why they remain one of the most revered bands ever.
Tensions mounted between punters and security as people surged through the bottleneck and eventually the barricades gave way, people were trampled into the mud for At the Drive-In. The band stormed on stage, all except Omar, who meekly shuffled onto the stage and faced his amp. Launching into the one-two punch of ‘Arc Arsenal’ and ‘Pattern Against User’, the crowd was in raptures. However as the set wore on, the crowd became disinterested, and front man Cedric Bixlar-Zavala became more combative. Belligerent at the best of times; his banter ranged from the obtuse, “yeah, I fucked with cabbage” to, “any girls in the crowd with bunions? No? Oh so you’re all perfect are you?” As the set wore on, it became apparent the devout fans were few and far between, with more concerned about getting a good spot for Jack White, who was a little too polished for our liking.
Ex-front man for the White Stripes, we’ve come to expect a lot from legendary multi-instrumentalist and superb poet Jack White, but we can’t put our finger on why we just didn’t feel it this time. Perhaps his performance was a little too rehearsed. Many of the people in the crowd frankly didn’t know who the hell he was, including some blonde yelling, “I love you, Michael Jackson,” *facepalm* and the next morning, “that Jack guy was sweet.” Oh dear.!It was surprising to hear a few old White Stripes songs, including the fantastically toe-tapping ‘Hotel Yorba’ from White Blood Cells. He certainly catered to the crowd, closing with ‘Seven Nation Army’, which of course, EVERYONE knew the words to. Fun and electric but it was all just a bit too perfected.
Tagged At the Drive-in, belongil fields, cedric bixlar-zavala, chet faker, damn terran, DZ Deathrays, hail, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Jack White, james mercer, Kingswood, Mick Jagger, Money for Rope, mud, nick murphy, Pond, Rain, shins, SITG, Splendour in the Grass, stephen booth, Tame Impala, the doctor, The White Stripes, trevor powers, triple j, Yacht Club DJs, Youth Lagoon