Festival Review: Splendour In The Grass (Day One) Ft. OutKast + Interpol + Spiderbait (25.07.14)

The official first day of Splendour In The Grass 2014 set things into motion quite quickly, with punters flooding into the sun-kissed North Byron Parklands as soon as the gates opened, quickly spreading amongst the pop-up community which this great festival has now become. From The Preatures and Ball Park Music to the 25th anniversary of Spiderbait and the 20th anniversary of the almighty OutKast, we were treated to a consistently excellent stream of live performances, and this was only on the main stage.

Before the three main stages even opened, people had already begun to skid across the dance floor of stages like the two-storey Smirnoff Cocktail Bar, which echoed with the sounds of Brisbane-based producers, carefully curated by Akimbo. Hip-Hop was twisted into electro mainly, acting as a wake up call to the early arrivals and soundtracking their adjustment to Splendour's vibe.

A bit behind the stage lay the G.W McLennan tent, opened by the double-hit of Mark Zito's Fractures and the rabidly popular DMA's, who brought their Oasis-dipped numbers and spread the festival's first great sing-a-long all around the area. Meanwhile, a handful of early ravers descended upon the insular Tipi Forest nearby, setting the scene for what would be a massive, hedonistic bush doof by the end of the day.

The Mix Up Stage fared well with Tkay Maidza's wobbly electro-rap and the very clean sounding electronics of Charles Murdoch. The Mix Up Stage was the scene for most of the festival's younger punters, bringing a great line-up of trendy dance styles and experimental live bands from the likes of Wordlife, Buraka Som Sistema, Yacht Club DJs and Kelis. While Kelis criminally ignored her older material, despite keeping the crowd satisfied from the get-go, it was Childish Gambino and Indian Summer who seemed the most popular of the day. The latter DJ-producer duo are really emerging as stars of the weekend, with a set at the Red Bull Music Academy on Thursday that went over so well with the crowd that their Friday set led to a mass rush to the Mix Up Tent when they were on; and unfortunately the worst bottleneck I've ever been in on the narrow walkway of the Very Small Mall.

The festival's small bar, Miss Saigon is a funky hangout, with a decorated stage for drunken karaoke at night; past that sits the pop-up Red Bull Music Academy, home to their characteristically diverse, curated line-up. Friday saw Young Franco open the stage with an extended set, followed up by the ever-loved Japanese Wallpaper and the very impressive Flamingo. The latter Adelaide trio have an intoxicating style, branding their live electronica with distinctive vocals and a sound which could soundtrack a early morning drive as easily as a late-night party.

Back to the Ampitheatre and the great DZ Deathrays tore through the huge area; The Preatures gave us a preview of their new album while proving to be festival favourites, the crowd roaring every word back to the off-the-wall Isabella Manfredi following the band's cover of The Angels' "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?", which was dedicated to Doc Neeson and Chrissy Amphlett. Just as gutsy was the follow-up of Ball Park Music which brought one of the year's best albums - Puddinghead - and rained it all over the adoring crowd. Punters showed out in force for the indie-pop darlings, who surprised us all by actually having the guts to tackle a cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", even more surprising – it actually worked, It certainly helps that Sam Cromack's vocal work is incredibly diverse, and that the entire crowd was in sync every step of the way.

If anything, the afternoon at the Ampitheatre reiterated that both The Peatures and Ball Park Music have moved far beyond the mid-card and place as two of the best, relatively young bands in this country.

Moving onto veterans, the 25th anniversary from Spiderbait saw Kram getting a bit nostalgic on stage, heralding how important and great Splendour In The Grass has been – and will continue to be – for them. There are many people who haven't seen Spiderbait live for a long time, and so this was a nice, loud reminder that they are one of the best live Australian bands in Australian rock history. "25 years is a very a long time for a friendship, let alone a fucking band", shouted Kram before he took place behind the gigantic drum kit and let the kick drum wash over us before he led the band through a set with absolutely no down time. Dan Sultan came out as a surprise guest, shredding his guitar in a battle against Damian Whitty, blending in perfectly with the trio who welcomed Dan as if he was a long-lost member, watching with proud smiles painted on their faces as he performed a solo during "I'm Not Your Slave". Kram's stadium-fitted wails paired with the energetic crowd for extended set closer "Black Betty", but set highlight was undoubtedly "Calypso", with the vocals of Janet English weaving through the classic soft-to-loud jam

Always-reliable, The Presets came and more than made up for the absence of London Grammar by carting along their full live show just days after they were announced as replacements for the UK trio. Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes both seemed to be in high spirits, with Hamilton constantly leaving his gadget-packed platform to get up close to the crowd and hype them up during stadium-electro gems like "My People" and "Talk Like That".

Ahead of Interpol, punters came flooding into the Ampitheatre, talking excitedly about their highlights of the day so far; The Strypes and Asgeir were names most frequently mentioned.

The constant movement of the acts that came before them were of no concern to Interpol, with each member content on standing calm and collected, working studiously to bring us precise translations of a nice range of their back catalogue. It's been awhile since we've seen this brooding indie-rock in Australia and so far fans made the most of this moment, singing loudly to gems like "Narc", "Stella Was a Driver and She Was Always Down", and "Slow Hands".

Interpol Set List
Say Hello to the Angels
My Desire
Hands Away
Not Even Jail
All the Rage Back Home
Slow Hands

By this point, the massive area surrounding the Ampitheatre was swelling with swaying bodies eager to get as close to OutKast as possible. It's always hard to describe the feeling of seeing two artists who you grew up listening to, and who you thought you would never get the chance of seeing in the flesh; even harder to describe the feeling after you are left with no trace of disappointment, with no glaring omissions to rage about or live remixes which don't live up to their original versions. Every album (with the exception of Idlewood) was represented well in the almost-two-hour set with Big Boi, Andre 3000 and special guest Sleepy Brown, bringing some of the greatest work in hip-hop straight to Byron Bay.

It felt surreal. OutKast are the yin and yang of hip-hop, the quintessential rap duo who are so different from each other, yet fuse so well together. The unparalleled chemistry between the two fiery emcees was captured perfectly live, beginning with floor-rattler "B.O.B" and ending with the sing-a-long funk of "The Whole World"; sandwiched in between was a love letter to fans both old and new, from Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik to Speakerboxxx/The Love Below; they even threw in their verses from UGK's "Int'l Player's Anthem (I Choose You)" and dedicated it to their long-time friends Bun-B and the late, great Pimp C.

Those of us with little rhythm were reborn into two-stepping, soul-clapping fanatics, Andre flashing us those pearly whites beneath his flappy snow-white hat, looking at us with approval while we vibed to everything from "ATLiens" and "Spottieottiedopaliscious" to "The Way You Move" and "Hey Ya" with fluid, hilarious (R rated - "Puss on Neck" is now a phrase to describe girls on guys shoulders) banter.

3000 initially wore an all-black hoodie with white text that read, 'Thinking deeply about shallow shit' and a large white price tag sticking out of his pockets with a dollar sign attached to it, which he flipped over after they performed mega hit "Ms Jackson", so it read 'SOLD'. The small theatrics and fluid, charismatic interplay between the two certainly made up for them not bringing their full live show over with them.

With the performance in different segments grouped by album, OutKast bounced through the retrospective of their entire career with a ridiculously infectious sense of fun, quite clearly as ecstatic to be performing for the very first time in Australia as we were for witnessing a complete justification of OutKast's status as the most consistent, acclaimed and respected hip-hop act of all time. Tracks like a full version of "Aquemini", the short-but-sweet funk explosion of "Spottieottie...", soulful "Da Art of Storytelling (Part 1)" and "Player's Ball" were each twisted at just the right moments, layers of bass added or hand-claps added to slightly tweak the classic beats to give them real stadium-rap force.

What better way to continue the hip-hop vibe than fork straight to Peanut Butter Wolf closing the Red Bull Music Academy with a two-hour DJ set? A casual stream of hip-hop classics from the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and A Tribe Called Quest - with some Radiohead and The Beatles thrown in with surprising appropriateness – played us out of day 1 of Splendour In The Grass.

OutKast Set List

Gasoline Dreams
Skew It on the Bar-B
Rosa Parks
Da Art of Storytellin', Part 1
Ms. Jackson

Kryptonite (I'm on It) (Big Boi's Verse)
The Way You Move

She Lives in My Lap
Hey Ya!

Hootie Hoo
Crumblin' Erb
Player's Ball
Elevators (Me & You)
So Fresh, So Clean
Int'l Player's Anthem (I Choose You)
The Whole World


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