So, as my job title is Culture Maven after all, I think it is quite fair that I, Liberty Carter, should experience one of the world’s best festivals right here at home- Splendour In The Grass 2018. Lock in my annual leave and book me that flight because with such an incredible lineup, there was no way I was missing this.
Now to get things straight, this ain’t my first Splendour rodeo, in fact I was lucky enough to party the weekend away back in 2016. But that was two years ago and this is now. So, what’s changed? Who sounded the best? What tasted the best? And what was the biggest fashion trend of this year’s Splendour? I’m scraping the back of my now-sober-brain to fill you in on all of the above.
Environmentally friendly glitter? ✓
Dancing shoes that you don’t mind getting trashed? ✓
A can-do attitude and abundance of energy to boogie the day/night away? ✓✓✓
It’s day one, and I’m feeling as fresh as a daisy (let’s be real… this is as good as I will be feeling for the next 3 days so let me enjoy it whilst it lasts). I’m staying in the small town of Bangalow, around a 30 minute bus trip into the Splendour grounds. I’ve got my sparkly bag ready and my red sunglasses on. Let’s do this.
We kick the afternoon off with a bouncy, electric set from Riton & Kah-lo, the DJ and rap duo who certainly know how to create the ultimate party tune. Coming up on the likes of Triple J and Nova, these guys warmed things up fast with their killer tracks like ‘Ginger’ and ‘Fake ID’, and Kah-Lo controlled the crowd with her energetic and sassy stage presence.
We then move onto up and coming Aboriginal royalty- Baker Boy and his B-Boy Troupe. Baker Boy has had a stellar past year, with his tracks spinning across the radio and landing himself two spots in the Hottest 100 (which is an epic feat). Think hip-hop meets street dance meets old school rap. Baker Boy brought his best performance all the way from Milingimbi Island in the Northern Territory, and showed off his bars on ‘Cloud 9’ and ‘Mr La Di Da Di’, mixing English with his mother tongue Yolŋu Matha to create the ultimate in Aussie-Indigenous musical excellence.
DMA’s… what’s not to love? Closely compared with Brit band Oasis, the Western Sydney lads jumped on stage and got the amphitheatre crowd singing along to their classic, now staple sounds. The boys took everyone by surprise when they performed for the first ever time live, their cover of Cher’s ‘Believe’. And you better believe we loved every moment of it.
We run to the opposite side of the festival grounds to get front and centre for electro music legends, The Presets. Filling in for US act Chromeo who couldn’t make the trip down under, there was nothing to be missed as the duo belted out their incredible new album Hi Viz. Erratic strobe lights and heavy bass filled the Mix-Up tent where The Presets played, capturing every heart and soul who were lucky enough to witness their magic.
The rest of the night saw me bouncing across a few acts like Lorde and Dune Rats, but in my honest and rum-inspired opinion, they didn’t really match up to the hype and excitement of everyone I’d seen earlier in the day.
- Fashion Trend – statement colours, chunky boots, retro and tiny glasses, teddy bear jackets and lots of glitter.
- Drink of Choice – Captain Morgan’s Rum… and too much of it.
- Popular Food – Festival goers really seemed to be loving anything and everything pulled pork.
- Best Act of the Day – Personally, I’m going to choose Riton & Kah-lo, with The Presets a close second.
Ouch… feeling a little dusty but THAT WILL NOT STOP ME. Nothing will stop me. I am a lady on a mission and I vow to see all of the acts I want to see… just after I finish this Berocca and water thank you very much.
Straight back on the bus I go and I’m inside the festival gates. Quick pit-stop to get some well needed food into my stomach and we’re off again.
I decide to take a bit of an explorer’s route and visit the Smirnoff tent, fitted out with bars, DJ decks, swinging seats and heaters (let me tell you, those heaters were a godsend). There was quite a few sponsor activations dotted around the festival grounds, and they were actually quite fun? For some reason I was expecting the sponsor areas to be a little on the bland side, but I can happily report I was pleasantly surprised by the theming and fun staff who were inside. Especially the Captain Morgan’s tent. But maybe that’s because I drank too much spiced rum. And maybe that’s why they gave me a free captain’s hat… for drinking too much rum… anyhoo that’s a different story for a different time. For now, LET’S TALK MUSIC.
LDRU & Yahtzel. When two individual DJs play an unreal set, then both come on stage to perform under one name, Carmada, only one thing can be expected, and that is total madness. The Splendour crowd absolutely erupt at the sounds of Carmada’s biggest tunes, both ‘Maybe’ and ‘On Fire’ proving to be festival favourites. The sun goes down as the duo finish their set, and the Splendour crowd is feeling amped and quite literally on fire.
A quick run over to the Amphitheatre sees Franz Ferdinand take to the main stage. The old-school rockers pull a pretty hefty audience who are obviously there to hear their pub classic ‘Take Me Out’, to which they do play but for some reason I’m kind of disappointed? Well, not disappointed. I think I was just expecting a bigger hype and hit of music. The set just felt a slight bit vanilla to me. But hey, vanilla is a great, universal flavour in which most people enjoy.
As the crowd disperses, I prepare my body to be front and centre for Scottish band Chvrches. Okay first of all, the lead singer is an absolute babe with a very cool accent. And secondly, WHAT A SET. Wow. The band take total power over the stage and immerse the mosh and surrounding audience into an ethereal land of 80’s synth, incredible melody and killer drum lines. Their entire new album went down a treat, with Aussie fans reciting words back like they were taught to us in school. I am totally brainwashed and captivated by their performance, and lead lady Lauren Mayberry leaves nothing behind, giving us an incredible show with me never wanting it to end.
I am torn in two directions as to how to end my night, so I decide to #yolo and do both. The first of two final acts of the evening sees me running, again, like a mad chicken over to see Hilltop Hoods, a.k.a the disciples of Australian hip hop. Banger after banger rings out into the audience who spill out of the tent like molten lava. There are people everywhere, and it’s clear to see and hear why. ‘Nosebleed Section’ starts to drop with its iconic flute solo and cheers ring across the site. Follow this up with ‘Cosby Sweater’ and ‘1955’ with a surprise appearance from Montaigne, the crowd is loving it sick. When I’m happy with what I’ve seen, it’s time to to end the night with Vampire Weekend. I arrive just over halfway through their set and I don’t think I could have timed it any better! I manage to hear all of their absolute classics, ‘Diane Young’, ‘A-Punk’ and ‘Oxford Comma’. Given these guys haven’t toured to Australia in over 8 years, they sound impeccable to say the least. I have an absolute ball and a half dancing along to their tunes, before it’s time to say goodnight to day 2 to get some well-needed rest.
- Fashion Trend – teddy bear jackets again, lots of hair accessories, cargo pants (why?!) and army print.
- Drink of Choice – Captain Morgan’s Rum again… so god help me.
- Popular Food – Pasta was the winner today!
- Best Act of the Day – Chvrches no doubt.
I’m not quite sure how I arrived here, nevertheless how I am still alive and somehow breathing. The Splendour gods have shown mercy on my soul. I scrape the remains of my body off my bed, put on another heap of glitter and jump on the bus one final time. Pray for me.
I harness the energy to throw back a spiced rum (by now this should be of no surprise to you), and bounce my way over to see Brisbane teen Mallrat take to the stage. She’s a total gem of a performer who brings her youthful presence to stage, belting out her ever popular tunes ‘Tokyo Drift’ and ‘Groceries’. The entire tent sings lyrics back to Mallrat, and I can’t help but imagine how crazy it must feel to be 19 years young with such a dedicated following. She rocks back and forth across the stage, thanking her fans for all of their support. A part of me wishes I was this cool and talented, but I’m also loving being in the mosh squeezing every inch out of her brilliant set.
I take some time to have a final look through the crazy clothing and food stalls before making my way front and centre for one of my all time favourite Aussie acts, Pnau. I’ve seen the band already this year but only at smaller gigs. This time it’s massive. Pnau take to the stage in front of a thousand-strong crowd who are busting at the seams to hear new tracks from their album ‘Changa’, as well as good old favourites that embedded Pnau into the hearts of music-lovers alike. The neon stage and glowing lights set the tone for one of the most upbeat and incredible sets of Splendour. The bass takes control of the amphitheatre and voices join together in a chorus to sing ‘Baby’, ‘Chameleon’ and ‘Embrace’. It’s a set I’ll never forget, and I’m left wanting more with a ginormous smile across my face. Two big thumbs up.
The highly-anticipated MGMT come onto the main stage next. The band hasn’t toured to Australia in years, and there’s a heavy presence of people anxiously waiting for their music to ring into ears. Of course, they play their world-famous tracks ‘Electric Feel’ and ‘Kids’, which everyone jumps around to. Their newer songs, I must admit, lack a bit of their well known sound, and don’t really par up to the old music they used to make. But look, no complaints here, it’s always a good time when dancing to your favourite ear-worm.
The second-last act of Splendour sees British band The Wombats come back to grace our stage. This is the third time this year the band are performing in Australia, and we’re ever so glad to welcome them again. Their brilliant new album ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ is already well-rehearsed by the crowd. It’s one of their most popular albums to date, and I yell each lyric back to the band so that they can hear just how much I love them. No feet stood still this set… not one. We jump, dance, scream and shout. It’s sad when The Wombats wrap up their set, but every minute of it was perfection. I’m a huge fan now.
And the moment we’ve all been waiting for- the closing act and highly anticipated Kendrick Lamar finally takes to the amphitheatre after what feels like a lifetime of waiting in sardines. The hill is cramped with around 30,000 bodies waiting to see one of the best rappers of our generation. Kendrick’s set reels in and out of a karate-style film, taking us on an inner journey to ‘find ourselves’. He begins, and it’s absolute madness. ‘m.A.A.d City’ makes the crowd go ape, arms flail and fists are pumped. The crowd is totally amped, and we’re taken to the streets of Compton to hear and feel every word Kendrick has to say. ‘DNA’ is popular among the Aussie troupes who chant along, and ‘King Kunta’ which was #1 in Triple J’s hottest 100 blares across Byron. We’re sweaty and squished, but Kendrick isn’t done yet. He decides to close with crowd-favourite ‘Humble’, but this time he doesn’t need a backing track. It’s just Kendrick and our voices. Voices only. And it’s pretty powerful stuff to witness. I jump onto shoulders and look around from a higher view… and wow. It’s a sea of bodies absolutely infatuated by Kendrick’s words. I’ve never witnessed anything like it before. I sing, rap, swear and clap. And before we know it, the lights are out and Kendrick’s gone. We’re left reeling, but nothing will compare to that.
I somehow squeeze my body out of the mosh and leave with ears ringing, feet sore, newfound friends and glitter everywhere. I’ve done Splendour right, and I’d do it again any day of the week. An incredible three days summed up nicely by the stellar amount of talent that graced the festival this year. If you haven’t experienced Splendour in the Grass, put it on your bucket list and get your dancing shoes ready, because it’s sure to be one of the most exciting weekends of your life.
- Fashion Trend – Teddy bear jackets… yep, braided hair, ripped shirts and jeans, filthy sneakers.
- Drink of Choice – Guys I don’t even need to tell you that it’s spiced rum again. You should expect this by now.
- Popular Food – You can’t go to a festival without getting corn on the cob. And it was popular!
- Best Act of the Day – A three-way tie between Pnau, The Wombats and Kendrick Lamar.