Awakening on day two of the event to glorious sunshine amongst the infinite sore heads and croaky voices emerging from buses and tents, it would not have been a far-fetched notion to imagine the entirety of the involved attendees to be singing Phil Collins’ Another Day In Paradise in unison. However, considering that Mr. Collins was not to be appearing at Splendour In The Grass, Windang’s surf-pop duo Hockey Dad were the best option on offer.
Laura provided the energy boost required for the early start, especially with Billy Fleming’s maniacal drumming (he was consequently rewarded with an unwanted SHOEY thanks to crowd pressure), A Night Out With provoked the party spirit further as did Ray Gun and So Tired. As aforementioned, there wasn’t to be any trace of Sussudio but when it comes to opening a festival of this magnitude, Hockey Dad established that they are a very safe bet.
From the east coast to the south, Australia’s current best answer to Hot Water Music, Hobart’s Luca Brasi brought the friendship punk tunes to the amphitheatre. Sadly there was a bit of a deficit in attendance (it was still early afternoon), but the morale was undoubtedly high. The Cascade Blues (a rightfully entitled Tasmanian anthem), Got To Give, Say It Back, a cover of Paul Kelly’s How To Make Gravy, Anything Near Conviction were crowning moments and it was all nicely capped off with a guest appearance from The Sugarcanes. Thanks to the Taswegians, momentum was unquestionably building.
In nearly a complete change of scenery musically, Tennessee’s emotional ambient folk songstress Julien Baker then set about capturing the hearts and souls of those nearby; she succeeded. A young bijou woman with a voice that could conquer stadiums and silence thunder; a comparison to Jeff Buckley in terms of virtuosity and distinction would be fitting. Blacktop, Everybody Does, Vessels, Funeral Pyre, When I Turn Out The Lights (new song), Rejoice and Something were above compelling. With a new LP due to be released in October, Ms. Baker will assuredly become a tidal wave of her own.
Adelaide needed a flag bearer to perform at Splendour and thankfully our great pub rock mates Bad Dreems were rostered on to wave it proudly. The audience in the tent not only grew exponentially; it became a riot, but that’s what this Occa outfit can and will do. Feeling Remains (Keith Wilson, father of drummer Miles, featured on saxophone), My Only Friend, Spring Rain (featuring Robert Forster), Gutful and the epic Mob Rule were chaotic and pandemonium ensued. Congratulations Bad Dreems, you unquestionably showed Splendour why we are “Heaps Good” and “SA Great”.
Imagine Henry Rollins fronting and indie pop band under the guidance of Ian Curtis, that is essentially Samuel T. Herring who is the vocalist for Baltimore’s Future Islands. He is rabid, psychotic, possessed and enthralling to watch – a true hurricane on stage. Without doubt many would have been taken back by his fear before the march of flames live attitude; however, literally thousands were enamoured especially during Seasons (Waiting On You).
Brit’s Catfish And The Bottlemen may have had a tough task set before them following the maniac that preceded them, but they were not going to succumb to trepidation. They were at the event to put on a rock show and they triumphed. Twice was eccentric to the point of arena rock a la Oasis but with the attitude of New Zealand favourites Shihad – let’s be honest, sometimes a musician’s teeth are a better tool to play guitar with.
Although blues duo Royal Blood are technically Poms, it would be fair to say Australia is their home from home – that’s how they attacked the stage, as if they were home. Erratic would almost be a solid description, but still an understatement. Their vigour during Lights Out was a deranged as the film clip and the overuse yet highly demanded cowbell was simply splendid. Honestly the band spent as much time off their instruments toying with the audience in true entertainers’ fashion – this elevation in popularity and worldwide reverence really does suit them.
The modern day “rockstar” is definitely becoming more of a myth with the canning music industry, but when California’s hard rock titans Queens Of The Stone Age come to play, they DEMAND attention. Josh Homme is more akin to a deity than human – he engulfs the respect and charms thousands into submission once he begins. No-one Knows, Feel Good Hit Of The Summer and the The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret were flawless in delivery and still timeless rock anthems. John Theodore is more machine than man with his percussion abilities; however the entire QOTSA army are weapons of musical seduction. If new single The Way You Used To Do is anything to go by, look out 2017, a different sort of stone age is approaching.
Splendour In The Grass
North Byron Parklands
21-23 July 2017
By Will Oakeshott
Saturday 22nd July 2017