Set into North Byron Parklands, Splendour in the Grass has you wanting to do it all from the moment you walk through the front gates. The sheer size of the place can be daunting. It makes you want to get to everything before you miss out on anything. But let’s face it; Splendour isn’t in it’s nineteenth year without thinking these things through. The layout of the festival would have any town planner standing on his feet in applause.
No matter where you happen to be, there seems to be no sound crossover between stages, tents or DJ areas. And somehow, Splendour has accomplished this without the need to stick on your running shoes just to make it to the next act. It is this kind of planning and attention to detail that allows a festival-goer at Splendour to satisfy their wish list without dilution or distraction. Here are five things I managed to tick off the wish list over the weekend.
1. Witnessing Cool Happen On The Mix Up Stage
The closest stage to the entrance is the Mix Up Stage. If you think of the three main stages forming a triangle, Mix Up Stage sits in the right corner.
Saturday afternoon, just as the first breeze freshened an otherwise Summerly day, UK artist Little Simz took to the stage. Pink overalls, a set of Cons and off the back of her 2019 Album, Grey Area, Little Simz oozed cool as she set the stage alight with her lyrical jazz fused hip-hop style.
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2. Watching The Next Big Things Play The GW McLennan Tent
The GW McLennan Tent, positioned at the far point of the triangle of main stages was host to at least two unforgettable shows over the weekend. Saturday night at ten offered a great treat for any fan of the Sydney-born indie rock powerhouse, Courtney Barnett in seeing her perform in a relatively small setting. Playing much from her 2018 album, Tell me how you really feel, Barnett turned her amps up and unleashed an explosive set to a head-banging crowd of true followers.
Then, it was four-fifteen Sunday afternoon when the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets took to the stage. The Perth-native five piece have a 70s vibe about them. They are cool and what’s better is they don’t even seem to know how cool they are. The crowd had filled out the entire GW McLennan tent by the start of the first song, but it was clear there were many more fans on their way. By the start of the second song, those who were at the back of the tent, were in the middle of the crowd. With their 2019 album, And Now For The Whatchamacallit, crowd favourites like Bill’s Mandolin set the mosh into a circle pit frenzy. “One more song!” was chanted at the closing of their set, confirming that these guys have earned themselves a solid fan base.
3. Being Part Of Childish Gambino’s Amphitheatre Church Service
The Amphitheatre completes the triangle of main stages down at the bottom left point. Set at the base of an enormous hillside, the line of site to the stage is excellent from any spot you choose. The weekend at Splendour saw two jaw-dropping finishers.
The hype leading up to Childish Gambino’s appearance at Splendour this year had obviously impacted everyone within the grounds. The hoards of fans making their way into the Amphitheatre had a pilgrimage appeal to it. Gambino hit the stage in all whites, appearing more like a preacher than a rapper. He addressed the crowd: “I have two rules for tonight. Love me and love yourselves. And, put your phone down.” Like a spiritual leader, he gave the audience a second to calm and then continued with, “This is for us; this is church tonight.” He then broke into ‘Summertime Magic’, sending the crowd into raptures. The dancers, his dancing, the laser show and the production was another level; it’s hard to say what his strongest element is. Whilst there is no doubt that Childish Gambino’s music speaks for itself, the impact of what he does visually certainly takes his stage show to another dimension.
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With Sunday’s headliner dropping out last minute, Hilltop Hoods were given a chance to rap. Well, no, they were the obvious choice and were simply offered the spot, which they filled in the true professionalism we’ve come to expect from Australia’s biggest hip-hop artists. Starting off with their 2009 hit, ‘Chase That Feeling’, the Amphitheatre became instantly electric. From there on in, it was hit after hit with guest after guest, including Adrian Eagle and Illy, just to name a few.
4. Fitting In Some Education
Science class isn’t perhaps for everyone, (and I did initially think I’d just pop my head in) but Dr Alex Thomson just had a way with words when discussing the virtue and potentials of algae.
Over the weekend, I’d had heard too many good things about the film, Mystify, playing in the Forum area, to not go. It chronicled a fragile and humble INXS frontman, Michael Hutchence, offering insight into an intellectual and complex personality.
5. Finding Spaces To Retreat To
Between watching your favourite musicians, having a drink, or just processing the highly-eclectic fashion tastes of those around you while grabbing lunch at one of the many food stalls, there was always that moment in the day where you needed a little less. Thankfully, there were a number of places to take it easy to recharge the batteries for the next gig.
The Bohemian Lounge was a smallish tent, decked out with carpets, bean-bags and sofas where Chelsea Storm serenaded the room with the gentle sounds from her acoustic set. Some were sleeping, some chatting quietly and others just sat and enjoyed the relaxing music.
The Tipi Forrest was another place to chill out. Surrounding a sand-marked, heart-shaped dance floor were a number of tipis filled with cushions. Splendour utilised the Tipi Forrest as an avenue for feedback, offering the chance to festival-goers to write what they’d wish for and what they’d change. The general feedback: it was perfect just as it was.
Photo: Aimee Catt
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