[Live Review] SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS 2017

North Byron Parklands, Wooyung
Thursday July 20 – Sunday July 23, 2017 :

While some of us may have reawakened our adolescent hearts, many would have shed their infant skins venturing into the exciting and unknown territory that is Splendour in the Grass. Whether it was the surprise Powderfinger blast from the past or the empowerment that the Glitoris glitter gypsies were spreading from nipple to nipple, we all banded together to celebrate the phenomenal talent that was this year’s line-up.

This extraordinary line-up is what prompted me to jump out of my comfort zone and into a pair of gumboots as I took on the event solo. I received mixed responses from fellow campers on my solo venture… “Oh how sad” was the general consensus but my confidence was unshakable thanks to Confidence Man at the Mix Up tent on Saturday. An early peak that was undoubtedly one of the top acts of the day shocked everyone out of their hung stupors. Some serious sass from Janet Planet and Sugar Bones had the boys pining and the girls dutty wining. An interesting choice of accessory for the other two band members Reggie and Clarence who were donning black veils, which may or may not suggest a contradiction to confidence but hell it looked cool.

The controversial accessory also made an appearance less than a day earlier when Banks seduced a crowd full of hungry followers on the same stage. Two haunting dancers jolted their bodies back and forth next to the striking figure in black while wearing the popular accessory. Widespread favourites ‘Beggin’ for Thread’ and ‘Gemini Feed’ went down glowingly but when the first lines of ‘Judas’ began we were instantly thrust into a sensual sweaty frenzy of lust and desire. To an unbeknown onlooker, it would have looked like a pit of possessed puppets ready to hand over their souls to the tall mysterious goddess commanding the stage. The carefully constructed concept of her live show plays on the tone of her music, encompasses her persona as an artist and proves that creativity within live spaces is evolving in a very exciting way.

Client Liaison is among those pushing the performance barriers and playing to their style strengths. Their sundown Sunday set had the Amphitheatre packed with punters ready to electric slide their way into the night. Jumping around a scene similar to that of their ‘Wild Life’ video, the guys delivered crowd pleaser ‘Off White Limousine’ during which a huge fan-made cardboard limousine floated over our heads. ‘The voice of our nation’, Tina Arena appeared and the atmosphere erupted as she sang ‘A Foreign Affair’ and ‘Sorrento Moon’. Feelings of nostalgia flooded in as Monte’s ’80s influences were apparent in his performance yet modernised in a way that relates to a younger generation.

Regardless of the contrast of each night’s Amphitheatre headliners, they all managed to draw in and captivate the masses. The XX are truly magical beings. With potential to lose the interest of an audience so large, the trio charmed us all with their cutesy movements and British modesty.

“Alright now hit that goddamn cow bell”, Josh Homme suavely proclaims after he annihilates a foolish heckler. Queens of the Stone Age will never miss a beat but I’m still not sold on the newest track ‘The Way You Used To Do’. As someone who hasn’t given LCD Soundsystem a proper go, I can’t be one to judge their reunion on Sunday night. I can however vouch for the overwhelming excitement in the air and the incredible musicianship portrayed in their performance.

Dance favourites RL Grime and Slumberjack had me feeling like a warm sardine in the Mix Up tent (I probably smelt like one too). Old favourites Cut Copy can still muster a crowd, while Sydney based producer Moonbase certainly deserved one with his Anderson .Paak collaboration ‘It Don’t Matter’ shifting us into gear on Sunday afternoon.

UK grime artist Stormzy had the tent shaking as he spat out ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Big For Your Boots’. Considering he was competing for time against Meg Mac and Sigur Ros, Stormzy drew one of the biggest crowds of the festival cementing the fact that grime isn’t just ‘a bunch of young men…dancing aggressively on stage’, it’s an art form and it’s moving in on Aus.

Sipping cider in the warmth of the sun while listening to D.D Dumbo chime, twinkle and surf their sounds around the GW tent on Friday was my idea of utopia. Serving as a multi-instrumentalists haven, the GW tent also saw the likes of Dan Sultan, Asgeir, Amy Shark and POND create their own versions of unforgettable Splendour arrangements, with people spilling out of the tent just to see Amy sing the five letter word ‘Adore’.

A comfy looking chair and the promise of restoration led me into the Forum. What I wasn’t expecting was the emotional rollercoaster I was about to undergo. “Women of Letters – A Letter to the Song I Wish I’d Written” was just beginning and first up was comedy duo Freudian Nip. They proceeded with a literary analysis of the song ‘This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race’ by Fallout Boy. The tent was in stitches as they unveiled political premonitions within the song as they sang along with the video. Next up was Kalyani Mumtaz from Willow Beats. On a more reflective note, Kalyani addresses her letter to Bjork. She takes us on a journey through her life’s lessons, relationships and personal revelations with this beautifully written outpouring influenced by Bjork’s ‘Venus As A Boy’. Kalyani’s vulnerability and honest delivery of her letter resonated with everyone listening. Michelle Brasier delivered the most heart-wrenching letter of all. She told a haunting story of her unbreakable bond with her father and brother, only to lose them both to cancer. The lump in my throat was growing as she spoke of her regret. Her brother had asked her to record a song from their favourite artist before he listened to their new album. He wanted to hear her version of the song first. But she never did and he passed away before she got the chance. At the end of her letter Michelle played us the song and it was truly touching, it’s hard not to cry even now as I’m writing this. She is an inspiring woman!

Splendour in the Grass has typically been known to bring in big international acts and although this year certainly succumbed to this, the weekend showcased an array of stellar Aussie artists who proved they could pull massive crowds just as big if not bigger than the heavy weights. The Smith Street Band played an epic set at the Amphitheatre on Sunday and they couldn’t hide how bloody stoked they were about it. Although sometimes put in the same basket as Dune Rats, the Smithy’s have an underlying sense of familiarity and ageless tone that will see their success continue for many years to come.

Then there was the Bernard Fanning set, which turned into a spontaneous Powderfinger reunion. Just when I thought dancing to ‘Baby I Got You On My Mind’ was a bygone dream only to be imitated by a mediocre tribute band, I was pulling shapes to the real deal.

Memories were made and as William Wordsworth once said:
…Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind; …

Reviewer : Louie Smith
Photographer : Peter Dovgan

DAY FOUR – SUNDAY JULY 23, 2017

DAY THREE – SATURDAY JULY 22, 2017

DAY TWO – FRIDAY JULY 21, 2017

DAY ONE – THURSDAY JULY 20, 2017

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