From the minute I entered the venue on day two, I found myself feeling much more a part of the festival atmosphere than I did the day prior. What would go on to happen today and the next would prove Splendour 2010 to be the best festival I’ve ever attended in the Southern Hemisphere – with the smile on my face rarely parting ways from the rest of my already exhausted body.
After checking out the Splendid Art installations, I made my way to the Amphitheatre for Jonathan Boulet (pictured above), who delivered pretty much the same set I’ve now seen plenty of times – although it lacked the energy I’ve seen at recent performances such as Groovin’ The Moo. Still, it was a fun set in which “Community Service Announcement” went off and the group continue to prove themselves an up and coming powerhouse in the national music scene.
I made my way over to Ernest Ellis (above) next, who unfortunately clashed with the majority of Boulet’s set. Knowing only a few tracks, I was quite surprised to just how much of a little gem the Australian singer/songwriter is. Throughout the few tracks I made it in time to experience, I experienced something beautiful and melodic, with Ernest and friends channelling a little bit of Radiohead and a little bit of White Lies to make something wholly their own. An impressive set - I’ll go out of my way to see a full set next time around!
While I still had a full sideshow at the Oxford Art Factory to look forward to, I nonetheless headed to the main stage to enjoy a dose of one of my favourite bands of late, Band of Skulls. The three piece failed to disappoint, playing near perfect renditions of tracks off their debut LP, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. “Patterns” was of particular mention, as was “Dead by Diamonds and Pearls”. The crowd received them extremely well – with plenty of fans making up the growing attendance. “Impossible” closed up the set, as I made my way over to the overflowing Mix Up tent for Two Door Cinema Club.
This is a band who are a bit of an enigma to me. As in, I'm not really sure where they came from, or when they got so damn popular! Before the Splendour lineup was announced, I’d never even heard of the band – but between then and now, I’ve been hearing of them everywhere, as has the rest of Australia, with their sideshows selling out in seconds, upgraded to larger venues, and then selling out in seconds all over again. Hailing from Northern Island, the three piece have become radio and nightclub mainstays with tracks like "Something Good Can Work" and "I Can Talk". Live, this translates spectacularly well. It helped, too, that the crowd, well rested from the night before, were giving them the reception of a lifetime.
“Undercover Martyn”, another favourite, was also played early in the set to fantastic reception. While I own their album, Tourist History, I can’t say I’m overly familiar with each song, so to find myself singing along to almost every one, shows just how undeniably fun and catchy this band is, even for those who had probably never heard them before! This was truly one of those “oh – I GET WHY THEY’RE SO POPULAR NOW!” moments.
Yet another clash was before us, and I regretfully left Two Door early to catch The Drums (pictured above). They certainly make some great music, but it’s far from as fun as Two Door, and far more self indulgent. But it’s nonetheless a joy to experience live, with Jonathan Piece waltzing around the stage with confidence and bravado. “Let’s Go Surfing” was naturally the song everyone came to see, and it was followed by the superb “Down By The Water” to close out the set. Plenty of good tunes are just around the corner for the Brooklyn four piece. Certainly a band to watch.
Gradually making my way back to the Mix Up tent (I should mention it was quite a trek between these stages), it was time to re-experience Delphic, who I caught in the intimate surrounds of the Oxford Art Factory earlier this year, as I recovered from a SXSW hangover. Back then, I was impressed by the band’s instrumental perfection, and resonance with the crowd. However, their set today, which was opened by “Clarion Call” was overwhelmingly an unexpected highlight of Splendour 2010, sending them to another level entirely. Put simply: they sounded AMAZING and couldn’t have better suited the festival environment. “Red Lights” was an epic highlight, and the set ended with the beautiful, close to ten minute instrumental “Acolyte”, which I remain impressed that they play live at all! "Doubt", "This Momentary", "Halcyon", "Counterpoint" were the rest of the tracks to make an appearance in the epic set.
I sat high atop the hill next to the GW McLennan for the next act of the day, The Magic Numbers, and enjoyed some songs of new and old wash over me as I watched the sun set over the Splendour grounds. I moseyed on over to Tame Impala (pictured below) at the main stage next, which was starting to get quite full of people staking out their spot for The Strokes. In fact, by the time Florence came on, the entire Amphitheatre was closed off, with mayhem taking hold as people tried to get into the venue. Many were unable, thanks in part to their choice to hit up Art Vs Science – who I’m sure were amazing, but clashed with Florence! Pity about that... Meanwhile, Tame Impala absolutely killed it on the main stage. They sounded fantastic, playing through tracks off their EP and InnerSpeaker - the crowd went mental! It was no doubt one of the largest shows they’ve ever played, but they owned the stage with confidence and skill.
I ran over to the Mix Up tent next to catch Laura Marling in action, supported in part by Mumford and Sons (as was the case on her records). Album closer and namesake “I Speak Because I Can” closed out her impressive set, although “Alpha Shadows” off the same album was the highlight of the few songs I managed to catch. She’s truly a talent – a beautiful, powerful voice, that filled up the GW McLennan tent with goosebump inducing splendour. Sometimes playing solo, othertimes with the Mumford backing ensemble, this was a truly special set to enjoy. My only regret is not getting to experience more! Next time... next time...
As Laura finished up her set, I made my way back through the crowds to the main stage, just before they closed off the D-Barrier, getting my spot for Florence and The Machine and The Strokes. But still playing were Wolfmother (pictured below), who were sounding great on the mainstage. While I very much got over this band about 4 years ago, I couldn’t help but have a good singalong during “Joker and the Thief” – and let’s face it, Andrew Stockdale is a machine on the stage, an ever improving guitarist and a showman through and through.
The eagerly anticipated Florence and the Machine (pictured below) set would easily go down as a highlight for many at the festival – it was the first time I’d seen the crowd at the main stage truly lose themselves in the moment, as Florence weaved her beautiful spell over the crowd. Even those there just to see The Strokes were taking up in it. I heard many exclaim “I totally get her now...” as they later left the Amphitheatre. And if you just so happen to fall in love with Florence in the process, then that’s just part of the fun, too! Or was that just me?
The hour long set played as something quite similar to what we saw at the Laneway Festival earlier this year. And it went as follows: “Drumming Song”, “My Boy Builds Coffins”, “Between Two Lungs”, “Cosmic Love”, “Blinding Play”, “Strangeness & Charm”, “Howl”, “You've Got The Love”, “Dog Days Are Over”, “Kiss With A Fist”, and just as at Laneway, “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” closed things up.
One major difference was the inclusion of “Strangeness & Charm”, a new number which was first debuted in May, and proved itself to be a pretty fantastic tune. It’s a good sign that there’s some new material in the works, and that it’s going to sound pretty damn fantastic. Bring it on! And as for tonight, Florence’s spell lasted well into our dreams – her music is the sort that sticks with you long after you finish listening to it. And live this is something amplified by a superb performance and an impeccable voice.
Finally, the band we’d all been waiting years to experience again – the icons that are The Strokes. Jumping out of their van, onto the stage, and then back into their van in true rockstar fashion, we were all here to lose our minds to what was thankfully a fantastic performance by the New Yorkers. Julian Casablancas even tried his hand at a bit of banter, which never works too well for him at these larger shows! As he admitted, “I always come across as ironic, or sarcastic, but I don’t mean to!” (not verbatim).
The set only got better as it went along, trading in what sounded like new material for hit after hit, with spectacular sound, light show and bravado. “Last Night” and “Reptilia” both went off just as you’d expect – absolute mayhem ensued. These tracks were single handedly responsible for placing me in quite a lot of pain the next day - and I wasn't even amongst the mosh!
To answer my own prayers, “Juicebox” and “Heart In A Cage” were both played just before they closed out the night with "Take It Or Leave It" (part of an epic 5 song encore), leaving me to look up to the stars, thank them, and then remark to myself that this was just about the most perfect of festival days – a non-stop offering of bands, an epic headliner climax, great weather, great food, great atmosphere – I almost couldn’t believe I’d get to do it all over again the next day!
What was once just a great lineup, was now showing itself to be one of the best weekends I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Bring on the final day! And let it never end...