AU ABROAD

Splendour in the Grass Festival Review: Saturday - North Byron Parklands (25.07.15)


Photo Credit: Andrew Wade

Day two of Splendour in the Grass was full of big moments spread throughout the entire day, the biggest unsurprisingly being headliner Florence & The Machine. Rain didn't play a factor at all, though the mud situation only slightly improved from piles and piles of wood chips scattered around the grounds to make for helpful paths, particularly in the area in front of the main entrance which was second in thickness only to the entire space between the Mix-Up Stage and Red Bull Music Academy.

Byron locals Skegss kicked off the main stage with raw, punk-paced rock which included a cover of The Rembrandts "I'll Be There for You" and only really slowed down for the melodic "L.S.D", which was appropriately accompanied by a glowing sun as the line "I just want to enjoy the sunshine" was echoed on and off stage.

Across the parklands on the Mix-Up Stage, Eves the Behavior was proving to be a strong contender for sleeper-hit of the festival, rising up from her relatively low profile with a stunning, mesmerising voice that whirled around balanced electronic pop productions. Her strong vocals were rightfully the focus, drawing more and more to the tent until her 45 minutes were over. I think it's safe to say she'll be billed from now on.

The Mix-Up Stage proved the place to be for the first few hours of Saturday, with both Elliphant and SAFIA smashing their sets. The latter had the tent overflowing and their delicate sounds floating well beyond the immediate area. As soon as people around the tent heard the late-night soul of "Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues", it seemed like there was a mass, muddy stampede to get into the tent, similar to last year when Sam Smith delivered the magnetic "Stay With Me" on the same stage.


Photo Credit: Andrew Wade

The Tiny Dancer stage did suffer some noise-bleed but trio I'lls were unstoppable as they beat out their quirky, misshapen productions which were layered with several drum machines and other instruments on stage.

Back across on the Ampitheatre stage was The Smith Street Band who seemed genuinely shocked at the amount of people that turned up to see them plow through their material from the last five years. Wil Wagner's voice was forceful, punching above the instrumentals which would have been no easy feat. They unrolled a big 'Real Australians Say Welcome' poster to a loud ovation, Wagner speaking for those who seek asylum with as much passion as they all poured into the set.

Meg Mac had the GW McLennan tent packed out, her strong voice adding to the crowd desperately trying to get a good spot, but it quickly off to a secret acoustic set by The Wombats for us. Taking place in a cosy cabin in the woods, the very in-demand UK rockers slowed their hits down on a very small stage hosted by the folks at Levi's, Splendour's sole presenting fashion partner this year. It was a good reminder of just how fun, and infectious, their songs have become over the past few years, a sentiment mirrored on stage later in their set where they delivered the biggest Splendour sing-a-long yet with "Let's Dance to Joy Division".


Photo Credit: Lincoln Jubb for Levi's.

Purity Ring were one of our highlights of the day, with a set at the Mix-Up Stage that was a consistent, non-stop showcase of jaw-dropping electro pop that could have easily bodied the Ampitheatre. Exciting and varied from opener "Stranger Than Earth" to the very end. Many stayed put for a warm up from Ara Koufax before the queen of Social Media shade Azealia Banks stepped up to stage, starting off painfully weak before gradually building into something the crowd deserved.

It was clear Banks' voice was crackling when she would sing, the weakness in her voice barely rising above the booming production that filled the tent. Choppy starts aside, Azealia did plow through a full set of her most reliable party starters, the strongest of which was "Desperado", a track which shows off her undeniable flow with ease. "212" unsurprisingly shook things up and the explosion of energy from the crowd was incredible.


Photo Credit: Stephen Booth

Nearby on at the Red Bull Music Academy, Melbourne emcee Baro and his crew gave a confident, effective set which wouldn't feel out of place before an Odd Future gig. The 18 year old emcee and his crew share a similar aesthetic to the notorious U.S collective, with DIY beats capturing the best parts of soul, jazz, and down-beat electronica and giving each emcee a coherent backdrop to navigate. Flowing with finesse and complementing each other perfectly, the four-deep crew powered through their set, which included Baro deftly rhyming over Alison Wonderland's "Ignore". Though, the young rapper is at his best over more leisurely, jazz-tinged beats, his adaptable style allowed for an impressively diverse display of hip hop.

Tuka, who just released his third solo LP and was performing it for the first time, took to RBMA next and the crowd showed out in full force. As part of Thundamentals (who play GW McLennan tent on Sunday), Tuka has always been a formiddable figure on the hip hop scene, and it was no different here. You could feel the power and passion he poured into the set, reminding us all of how beautiful hip hop can be as a form of artistic expression.

Helped along by Sydney band Left, Tuka's material benefited greatly from the soulful backing vocals of Sarah Corry, keeping the quality of the sound high until a bouncy end, him always maintaining that razor sharp wit with each of his impactful bars.

Florence & The Machine was always going to a big moment, and the weather thankfully behaved itself for the headline set. The Ampitheatre was full, giving Florence and ready, willing, and able choir to help her sing through her ethereal music. That gorgeous voice lifted through the space and reached all the way to the top of the hills as Florence would twirl and twist around the stage on the bigger, powerful parts of songs like "What the Water Gave Me" and "Shake It Out", both of which were highlights of the first half. The fans were understandably elated to soak up her spirited voice and shoot it straight back at her in the form of tens of thousands of voices all chanting the words. It felt like Carols by Candlelight, only with one of contemporary music's greatest new voices jumping around stage, looking like a glow of angelic white and fiery orange from a distance.


Photo Credit: Andrew Wade

My night ended with hip hop producer Knxwledge smashing out a chilled set at Red Bull Music Academy. His off-kilter sensibility likens him to the late, great J Dilla, and he certainly lives up to that comparison with unexpected, interesting ideas that take mostly 90's hip hop and underground neo-soul and splice them with a whole range of sounds. Consistently banging, Knxwledge played through one of the best sets I've seen from a DJ of his kind, raising eyebrows with blends like Jay-Z's "Dead Presidents I" and Foster Sylver's "Misdemeanor" which blew my mind.

Certainly favouring the adaptable rhymes of rap greats like Styles P, Jadakiss, and Cam'Ron, the increasingly in-demand producer was creative and versatile as he casually spun his final track and quietly thanked us before walking off stage. He may not have won the Saturday clash in terms of crowd size, but he definitely won a whole heap of new fans who will undoubtedly be checking out the excellent Hud Dreams as soon as they bid farewell to this mud-covered playground.

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Sunday Essentials: Bad//Dreems, The Delta Riggs, Shlohmo, MØ, Alpine, GL, Thandi Phoenix, JMSN, Ms Mr, Thundamentals, Megan Washington, Royal Blood, Jamie T, Earl Sweatshirt, Blur.