Frenzal Rhomb guitarist, ex-Triple J presenter, media man about town and renowned nonsense-talker Lindsay ‘The Doctor’ McDougall brings his seasoned take on the latest bullshit in the music world to Music Feeds.
The Splendour In The Grass lineup is almost here! A whole bunch of excellent local and overseas bands to accentuate the perfect (insert humorous, maybe slightly bawdy “Splendour In The Grass” rhyme here) weekend.
Frenzal Rhomb were on two of the first three Splendour lineups (back when quality musical groups mustn’t have been too important to them) and through that and working at triple j I’ve been to almost every one of those weekends. SO, when it comes to predicting a lineup, I’m your guy.
Not the names of the bands as such, or even the genres, hometowns or even outfits*, but I can predict, using the ghosts of Splendours past, just a few things the bands on the lineup are definitely gonna do at (insert another, less humorous, barely even rhyming “Splendour In The Grass” rhyme here).
*actually, there’ll be a farmer band. There’s always one of those dungaree-wearing Mumford and the Whale farmer bands. They’re good for the local agriculture.
The obvious headliner that the cool kids groan about but after their third beer go nuts for.
A festival staple but never more that at SiTG, which although selling so many more tickets every year than the 7500 they started with, still retains that double-edged “cool cred” sword. Kanye had the hits (and the ballerinas) to sway the haters, and case-in-point Coldplay, who have played twice and I’m pretty sure brought the house down (in an aurally safe and responsible way) both times.
The obvious headliner who got stuck in an unextended cherry picker for an extended period of time.
Look, Kanye’s pulled the scissor-lifter stunt in so many festivals it’s hard to remember if this was Splendour or the Big Day Out. But the point is try to imagine Kanye, ready to open his show, crouched down in his leather skirt on the platform of a cherry picker in the middle of the crowd, thousands of drunk fans all around him, and just having to stay there, knees hurting from his half-sit/half-stand, as his in-ear monitors occasionally tell him “Not long now mate”, “We’re working on this” and “Has anyone seen the keys to this thing?”
“I miss the old forklift/ Straight from the go forklift”
The obvious headliner with the movie star wife who makes life a little bit difficult backstage
Sorry Chris, but it was annoying that we weren’t allowed near the stage because Gwyneth was “on site”. Not Rage Against The Machine at the BDO or Green Day at Rock It Festival annoying, but still a bit of a hassle. (Remind me to write a column on all the hilarious Rock Star Lock Downs I’ve seen backstage at festivals.)
The band who pays someone 5 pounds to request their own music at the afterparty.
There’s always that one group, wide-eyed with the excitement of a headlining spot, who come up to one of the publicists near the bar and slyly slip a fresh five pound note into her hand, pointing towards the DJ booth.
Once again I can’t go naming names but… oh hell yes I can, it was Kele from Bloc Party and why the hell not?! They were in Australia in 2005 and riding high on the amazing Silent Alarm album, a record spawning so many hits that the lucky publicist made another 5 pounds when she accidentally requested the WRONG Bloc Party song, and had to ask for another.
The band who reunite and promise to play their big album in full, but forget to practise it (or look like they’re having fun),
The Strokes and Outcast were brilliant. The MC5 played with Mark Arm from Mudhoney on vocals! (I think I can remember it). But come on Frank & Joey, I love you, but the Velouria riff isn’t that hard, and you had 20 years to learn it. (While we’re at this, why can no guitarist post-Jim Martin play the solo in Faith No More’s Easy cover?)
The band who racks up on the outdoor BBQ.
So there’s this bar at Splendour in the grass, just for band members and other AAA types. It’s not in the main area or near the VIP, in fact it’s so hard to find I remember one year you had to climb in the back door of a broken down bus, walk through its insides and then out the front to magically find this bar (100% true. In fact I’m probably gonna be hunted down and disciplined for even talking about it).
This bar is beholden to the same laws and rules as the real world, but I do remember one year a certain young up and comer deciding to risk the rancid fat and dirty meat juice on the metal top of one of those coin-operated BBQ plates to indulge in some no-doubt overpriced and underperforming decadence. Such is the true magic of rock n’ roll.
The band who team up with a legend of Australian music for an unmissable piece of gold.
Highlights include Mumford And Bros inviting Boy & Bear and Angus & Julia Stone, Peking Duk inviting everyone, but seeing Magic Dirt invite Tex Perkins up to rip through the Stooges classic TV Eye, wouldn’t it be just great if I could find that on the internet? I can’t, so here’s something just as great.
Mark Ronson who brought out almost every living collaborator on stage, from MNDR, Theophilus London and Andrew Wyatt, to our very own Daniel Merriweather and, in this clip, Kevin bloody Parker from Tame Impala, Kirin J. Callinan and a drummer who looks a lot like (but I’m pretty sure isn’t) Patrick Carney from The Black Keys.
The band who got their bag stolen and lost their hire car keys.
Okay, this wasn’t a band, this was me. A whole bunch of bags got nicked from the afterparty at the Byron Bay institution The Piggery one year. My backpack was one of them, and so I had to just leave the hire car parked somewhere impractical and catch a very slow taxi out of Byron to Coolangatta airport. Sorry Avis.
The band playing to no one whilst one band plays to everyone due to a harsh timetable clash.
There’s 12 stages and close to 150 bands, so it’s bound to happen, although staggered set times give you a chance to see a bit of everything. BUT, someone always has to go up against the big guys, and it’s usually that smallish band who would do okay unless they’ve got the pulling power of Mark Ronson or Outkast dragging their audience away.
EXCEPT for that one time when one of the UK’s one time biggest stars, Richard Ashcroft from The Verve was playing at the same time as Pixies and Empire Of The Sun. Here’s a dodgy video of that symphony that was definitely more bitter than sweet.
The band who pulls out far too late.
Dumb sex jokes aside, there’s always someone who announces they’re not playing in the days leading up to Splendour, resulting in the risk of not so much STIs and pregnancy but a whole bunch of really annoyed fans, so you better have a good excuse.
Jane’s Addiction did it in 2009 with the age-old “Drummer has an infectious disease on his elbow” justification. Frank Ocean hurt his throat singing, which is embarrassing for a singer. Allday had a family emergency, London Grammar got sick, and Catfish And The Bottlemen probably took one look at their band name and had to sit down and have a rethink of the whole situation. LUCKILY, there’s always these people:
The last minute heroes flying in to save the day.
The Living End were caught stealing Jane’s Addiction’s spot, The Presets were the one to fill London Grammar’s spot. Allday was replaced by a small child eating an orange for an hour, DZ Deathrays proved a cool band name and guitars will always save us when Bottlemen bottle it, and… seeya Frank, hi there Lorde!
Lorde hadn’t even heard of Splendour when she got the phone call to replace Mr Ocean. Also in about a month she was number one on the US charts, so let’s hear it for the Splendour bump!
The band who got John Butler to be their actual butler on stage.
It was 2003, he was on the bill, it seemed like a sensible thing to do, but we never thought we’d get the actual John Butler. But believe it or not, in Byron Bay it’s not that hard to find a dreadlocked JB lookalike. So as stage time drew near we located our Butlerganger, gave him a tray and some beers and instructed him to take to the stage as we played our on-topic love song I went out with a hippy and now I love everyone except for her.
But instead, at exactly the right moment, who comes out but ONLY JOHN MOTHER EFFING BUTLER! I don’t think he’d heard the line of the song where he’s referenced by that stage. Love you John, thank you for the beers.
UPDATE 13/04/15: The official Splendour In The Grass 2016 lineup is here.