Splendour In The Grass — it’s day two. The festival mentality has well and truly kicked in. Accept the chaos and advance from there.
The Babe Rainbow
The Babe Rainbow float in focus. These Byron locals have played shows round these parts before. But not like this.
‘Bella Luna’ drifts sweetly across the crowd. “Just a little bit, of your love.” It feels like a breeze, yet there’s a lot of rhythmic complexity under the surface. But whether digging deep or just dancing around, people are digging it.
The Rainbow shuffle gives their audience licence to move with a gentle bop. Angus Dowling’s vocals float above the top. But then they cut into a double-timed version of ‘Supermoon’. This is where it really starts moving.
Then ‘Monky Disco’. It’s opening riffs come immediately recognisable, but the group sit back in a lock groove just to build suspense. Angus performs a few stunts to raucous applause. When this crowd couldn’t be hungering for it one more bit, the band release. It’s a bliss point and everyone standing is moving. Real gone.
‘Eureka’ carries the dance-friendly vibration. Word is they’re big fans of James Brown. But then they also love to surf.
Marie DeVita fronts WAAX. Right now, she’s throwing herself across the stage. Everyone in the pit is losing it. ‘I For An Eye’ punches the air.
The band is tight and Marie’s her usual theatrical self. For those unfamiliar, this woman thrashes about somewhere between a delinquent and rock god. She vomits her demons onto the crowd and thrashes her body. She’s high-energy and the band are backing her every step. Emotionally torn, her lyrics come dragged through vicious personal agony. Suffice to say she projects presence.
“Wots happening? You feelin’ good today?!”
Splendour In The Grass is something WAAX have wanted to do for a long time, Marie shares a little before breaking into ‘Nothing Is Always’. The set hits hard. This group have been working to break through into something bigger for a few years and they’re getting towards those goals step-by-step.
They’re the traditional archetype of a hard-slogging band and there’s many who have faith they can get there. Powderfinger’s Bernard Fanning is one. He joins WAAX onstage to cover ‘Don’t Wanna Be Left Out’.
Superorganism. They’re the new sensation. But what’s the deal exactly?
Well, let’s go to the Mix-Up Stage and find out. The band is taking up close to the entire stage, there’s eight of them. At the centre of it all, Orono Noguchi. A 17-year-old Japanese-American student who started making music with a few New Zealanders online and never went back to school.
Currently, she’s talking to the crowd. Seems interesting. Let’s see what she has to say.
“I LOVE THESE C***S! Am I RIGHT? GUYS, I said it.” What the heck?
She’s got chutzpah. When she speaks it’s in a thick American drawl. She kind of sounds like Julian Casablancas or perhaps it’s closer to her musical hero, Pavement’s Steve Malkmus. Yet when she gets really excited, she snaps back into something closer to what you might expect from a hyper-excitable teen.
If you hadn’t guess it, she talks a lot. Almost as if she’s perpetually fanning out. A natural presence.
The lowdown on the rest of the band is this. There’s seven all up. The boys — Tucan, Emily and Harry — provide the music. The others go under the pseudonyms ‘Ruby’, ‘B’ and ‘Soul’. These three act a kind of chorus section. They’re there to provide backup vocals but occasionally each drops in for a leading part.
Live the band are totally ridiculous. Is it a put on? Yes ‘n’ no.
The whole postmodern cross-national collective narrative could be a little misleading, but they’re a tight band. It’s also a knockout performance. The group’s masterminds have studied the history of pop and as a result, they put across both hooks and lyrics that stick. There’s a dazzling live show to boot.
‘Something For Your Mind’ and ‘Everybody Wants to Be Famous’ are the biggest pleasers. Squelching electro groovers, both. They keep their audience plied and supplied with songs from their self-titled debut.
So Superorganism are pop sensation sure. But also, an ambitious band trying to craft great music. Same as it ever was. But they live up their promise.
Everything Is Forgotten is just one of those albums that has legs. This second record just keeps pushing Methyl Ethyl to new heights. Single ‘Ubu’ went Gold just a scant week before this festival kicked off. It’s no small feat, especially for a group who, only four or so years before, were sitting at the fringes of Perth’s music scene.
This band know how to make an audience want it. They slide through an early set, punctuated with lengthy jams. They’re well-received, but the Splendour In The Grass crowd — as ever — are hungry for The Hits.
So just when the energy feels like it’s about to flag, ‘No.28’ drops. ‘Twilight Driving’ immediately follows. Back-to-back these songs are something else. When Methyl Ethyl cut into their stride, they’re cosmic.
Gang of Youths
An oral history of Gang of Youths as told by the drunk person walking behind you: “They were here at Falls in 2015. They played the same stage, but really early in the day. They just would have been babies. Tonight, I’m surprised they’re not going on later. It’s not like they can’t draw the crowd.” Not wrong.
Are David Le’aupepe vocals sounding just that little bit ragged? He’s lucky to be holding on to them at all after losing them entirely in May. It put a halt to the group’s US tour.
There was probably a question mark hanging over this Splendour appearance too. Difference is that this group are still trying to break it in The States. Here in Australia, they’ve found their audience and for a sizeable portion of these supporters, Gang of Youths are more than just another popular band. These fans are true believers. They’re in it for life. This band aren’t intent on letting them down.
They don’t. Gang of Youths are giving it everything, and if there’s any imperfections, the crowd doesn’t notice. Not one single bit. They’re roaring at Dave’s every motion, cheering every song. Who cares if Bruce Springsteen gives a bum note. Or Bob Dylan fumbles a chord? Some artists just loom so large in their fans’ imaginations – in their hearts – such smaller details cease to matter.
Gang of Youths have paid their dues. This is their moment. When the band surges into this performance it isn’t just Le’aupepe singing, it’s thousands.
The diehards have already cleared something out in their minds. This is their standout set, it’s been that way since before this band even set foot onstage. 35,000 came to this festival to escape their lives for a few days and right now the better part of them are here losing themselves in the moment.
The set builds and builds. Each moment comes impossibly larger than the last. There’s been comparisons drawn between Gang of Youths and INXS. But the latter was never this hot out the pen.
Even if a listener has dropped out from Franz Ferdinand for a few years or even a decade the band can pull you in with that famous groove. You know the one hard stomping dance tunes with all the energy of rock. Or was it the other around?
Alex Kapranos is always in motion. All the band are for that matter. There’s little pause, just hard-stomping rock.
‘Do You Want To’ leads off. It’s followed closely by ‘Always Ascending’. This one comes from their latest record of the same title. It’s the kind song which when a fan first hears they might begrudgingly admit to themselves that it sounds on par with Franz’s mid-range classics. But the more times its heard, the more plays through the head, the more it sinks. Eventually, a steady realisation creeps in and seeing it live hammers in the confirmation. ‘Always Ascending’ might just sit up there with the all-time greats. The band is sharp as they shred into an ever-colossal haze of high-energy rock.
Extended intro. We’re saying really drawn out here. “And if you’re lonely…” Bedlam. “You know I’m here waiting for you/I’m just a crosshair/Just a shard away from you.” Thump, Thump, Thump, solo. “I say don’t you know/You say you don’t know!” ‘Take Me Out’.
‘This Fire’ comes next. All banger no mash.
Given all that was said about Gang of Youths, the Scottish effortlessly follow suit. This isn’t one-upmanship, just a continuation of some self-same moment. Two bands who hit into impossible peaks and then take it higher still.
Lauren Mayberry casts a striking presence. It’s the dress. Not to mention her voice is perfect. No discredit to CHVRCHES’ Iain Andrew Cook and Martin Clifford, mind you. But once again it’s the raw vocal talent which is stealing the show.
Please don’t take what follows as slandering the band. Every Open Eye and Love Is Dead were strong albums but the sheer visceral impact of ‘The Mother We Share’ suggest that these three are still striving to top The Bones of What You Believe.
A lot has changed since Vampire Weekend headlined Splendour In The Grass back in ‘08. Fluro singlets, Kanye glasses and pluggers?! Was this really the hip ideal and lofty peak of festival fashion. WHAT WERE WE THINKING? And that whole preppy-meets-indie thing. Again, WHAT WERE WE THINKING?
The regrettable fashions have long departed but these songs still sound great. Vampire’s debut threw literate lyricisms over West African guitar lines to create a hit record. It disrupted the format of popular music and there hasn’t been a record like it since.
Tonight, many of its song’s fill Vampire’s a dynamic set. Interestingly enough, it seems like it would be a nostalgic crowd. Yet many of the fans here are first-timers.
It’s easy to forget but this band’s impact has been further-reaching than just those who picked up on them from the indie or festival scene. Crowds sing ‘A-Punk’ is sports stadiums. But here in the Amphitheatre is where they’re heard best.
Before closing out we should probably throw in two little titbits for those interested in the covers! There were a few more in addition to the ‘Like A Dog’ which we mentioned above. Amy Shark did Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’. But perhaps even topping them all No Mono rendered an emotional version of ‘Unchained Melody’.
- Dancing for no reason.
- Pouring one back at the campsite.
- Tea in the media tent. No really, we appreciate it.
- That one guy who won’t leave your campsite. Take a hint mate.