Splendour in the Grass Festival Review: Friday (24.07.15)

Pictured: Harts. Photo by Andrew Wade.

Rain thankfully held back for the most part, blessing the official first day of Splendour in the Grass with relatively clear skies and drying up some of the thick mud that covered the parklands; at least until the headliners.

Harts won the opening slot, with a head-spinning display of musicianship over at the GW McLennan tent, drawing a huge early afternoon crowd and shredding like a madman for extended guitar solos that were met with wild ovations.

Racing forward to the 2pm slot, Marmozets (pictured below) stomped out a heavy cover of Black Sabbath amongst their weighty alt-rock at the Ampitheatre stage. The punchy, circle pit-inspiring rock set the scene nicely for last-minute additions DZ Deathrays, who unsurprisingly caused absolute, mud-flinging chaos.

A rush to see the end of George Maple over at the Mix-Up Stage was worth it, with an incredible atmosphere soaking up her ending song, "Talk Talk"; a massive crowd shouting the lyrics back at her. Maple's band was small but effective, rounding out her electronic-heavy soul with some deep live drumming.

Over at the Red Bull Music Academy stage, the crowd was slow to grow but that made it all the more enjoyable to watch rising Aussie soul artist Queen Magic do his thing. The one man band stood over an MPC with guitar in hand, adding funky licks to his dreamy slow-motion R&B. His falsetto live is enough draw you in, even without the tender beats that match up with his vocals beautifully.

"Godfathers of dance music" The Meeting Tree (the duo of Raph from Jackie Onassis, and Joyride) tore up the first floor of the Smirnoff house, filling the space with their own productions mixed with 'turn up' anthems from the likes of Waka Flocka Flame.

Meanwhile over at the Mix Up Stage a very anticipated set from Tkay Maidza drew in the biggest crowd of the day so far. Her playful energy had her bouncing around the stage, mirroring the crowd as she delivered a mix of old and new tracks that all had that current of pop-friendly house rap she has become known for. Tkay played a bit earlier in the day at Splendour last year, to a crowd not even half as big as this one; it was a testament to the very strong year she has had. "U-Huh", "Switch Lanes", and "Brontosaurus" hit the hardest, particularly the latter for which she brought out a dozen crowd members who were all quickly dressed in dinosaur costumes to jump around her. Not even a stage invader could stop Tkay from tearing through a very crowd-pleasing set, proving a valuable festival staple.

Almost everyone in the festival seemed to rush straight for a spot at the Ampitheatre for Death Cab for Cutie (pictured above) and Of Monsters and Men, leaving many of the other stages relatively empty which made watching an entire set from Spiritualized quite relaxing. The legendary rockers were at their best with the slower, more poignant tracks like "Shine a Light" and "Rated X" with Jason Pierce's vulnerable vocals echoing through the GW McLennan tent. This was contrasted with the wild crashes of sound that would often come at the end of each song; instrumentals which would become recklessly fast and build into beautiful bursts of sonic brilliance. What all seven musicians on stage built in front of us was beautiful, topped with the anthemic "Come Together".

And then the rain came. What mud had hardened during the day turned straight back into slime, deeper than before as navigating the grounds in the dark became more about remembering the shallow bits were than anything else, assuming you didn't have the good sense of wearing high gumboots.

Despite that, the Ampitheatre was mostly packed for Mark Ronson and his own mini festival as he worked in guest after guest to help with his extensive and varied catalogue. It was one big party here, a powerful and incredibly fun hour and a half with the likes of Kevin Parker, Andrew Wyatt, Daniel Merriweather, and Keyone Starr, that began with an emcee filling it for Mystikal with "Feel Right", Ghostface Killah for "Ooh Wee" and Q-Tip for "Bang Bang Bang". The latter was a big highlight with Aussie vocalist Ella Thompson (whose band GL are performing on Sunday) filling in for MNDR.

Rain didn't let up but neither did the fans, held securely in place by Ronson's lively production, dancers, and guests. Kyle Falconer and two very theatrical bike riders helped along "The Bike Song" but the set really picked up with the triumphant sing-a-long that accompanied Daniel Merriweather who stayed on for "Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before" and "Change".

Both Kevin Parker and Andrew Wyatt helped along three songs each, the former (whose Tame Impala play before Blur on Sunday) in fine form for "Summer Breaking" to "Leaving Los Feliz" with a dapper Kirin J Callinan adding some live twists to the instrumental.

Wyatt's "Animal" and "Somebody to Love Me" were big moments, but none as big as the heartfelt "Valerie" which needed no guests as Amy Winehouse' blessed vocals rang out across the natural Ampitheatre. As Ronson said: one of the best voices of all time.

Of course "Uptown Funk" ended the set with style, cutting through the downpour with a celebratory bang before all musicians took to the stage and thanked the elated crowd.

Over at the Mix Up Stage Peking Duk, who closed their set with the explosive, euphoric "Higher", filled up the tent and then some. Their mammoth dance anthems filled the entire area and bled through to Generik on the Tiny Dancer Stage.

My night ended with Nosaj Thing at the now slightly flooded Red Bull Music Academy. The man most well known for "Cold Stares" with Chance the Rapper delivered a finish of gorgeous, dense productions that felt like a therapeutic escape compared to the sounds at every other stage. Having only just made it over from Ronson in time for his last few tunes, I only got a taste of what the man is capable of, but it was more than enough to know that his free gig in Sydney tonight is essential.

Most of the side stages continued with late-night beats until 2am but most of the crowd seemed keen to go back and try wash all the mud off before they had to sleep in it. It was a long day, made even longer by the decelerating and sticky grounds, but excellent sets from Queen Magic, Tkay Maidza, Spiritualized, and Mark Ronson more than made up for it.


Use #AUxSITG on Instagram for snaps and videos from Splendour in the Grass. All photos above by Andrew Wade. Check out the full gallery HERE.

Saturday Essentials: Eves the Behavior, Safia, Skegss, Meg Mac, Hau, Baro, The Smith Street Band, The Grates, Purity Ring, The Church, Knxwledge, Flight Facilities, Florence & the Machine.