Festival Review: Splendour In The Grass 2023 – Day One (21.07.23)

Ever had an existential crisis at a festival? Because I sure did at day one of Splendour In The Grass 2023. Respectively looking and feeling 10 and 25 years older than the median age of all attendees, it dawned on me as I walked into the festival that I’m surely coming towards the end of my festival days. Sore back, knees weak (mum’s spaghetti), constantly thinking about how staying up late will mess with my work-induced body clock, I preface this all by noting I’ve been to 8 SITGs since 2012, so have seen the festival (and myself) change from its days at Belongil Fields to their now permanent home in Yelgun. And let me tell you, change it has.
Claire Rosinkranz

Returning to the North Byron Parklands for the first time since the 2019 edition, I’d only heard horror stories of last year’s festival and hoped/wished to any higher being that this year the festival could get back to their best. With mother nature smiling down on the Splendour faithful, I headed over to see Claire Rosinkranz really kick things off in the GW Mclennan tent. With her brand of catchy indie pop really doing a number on me and the sizeable crowd, she was personable and got my festival off to a clean and crisp start. Heading over to the Amphitheatre for Skegss, the band blitzed through fan favourites “Up In the Clouds” and “Stranger Days” before closing on “New York California”, lead by bassist Toby Cregan who was playing his final set with the band. A passionate closing five minutes left the crowd with all the feels, before Toby left the Skegss stage one final time.


Over at the Mix Up tent, May-A blitzed through her set of evidently festival ready bangers, despite starting a little late. The back-to-back sets in the GW tent of Jack River and Cub Sport proved to the highlights of the day, as Jack River’s hour long set featured a sneaky appearance from the best looking and most charismatic sports reporter Tony Armstrong, and then a surprise cover of ABBA’s “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme”. High vibes and higher praise for Jack River and co after their set as we hung around waiting for Cub Sport to play a myriad of hits, ranging from “Chasin’, “Party Pill”, and sentimental closer “Come On Mess Me Up”. Western Sydney’s Hooligan Hefs repped the 2767 in their pumping set over at the Mix Up (#Doonieforlife) as the crowd grew peckish and treated themselves to a very decent variety of food offerings at dinner time.

One thing I will note that I wasn’t stoked about was the general cost of everything. Yeah, I get inflation is sky high and the cost of living crisis is hitting everyone (including the festival), but charging $18 for a beer served in a plastic cup is nothing short of daylight robbery. In the words of former Manly Sea Eagles National Rugby League coach Geoff Toovey, “there’s gotta be an investigation”. All jokes aside, the cost of anything in a festival is simple supply and demand in action, but still doesnt mean it’s the right thing to do to punters who’ve evidently lost a little faith in the Splendour brand over the past 12 months.

Having played the festival plenty of times prior to this year, Brisbane legends Ball Park Music tore the GW a new one as they smashed through an hour’s worth of hits, including “Sunscreen”, “Spark Up” and “Cherub”, before closing on “Sad Rude Future Dude”. Frontman Sam Cromack won the fashion stakes with his t-shirt that simply said ‘I hate Byron Bay and surfing.’ The set was tight, with limited fuss and left a more than packed tent fully satisfied.

Awarded the honour of headlining the night was Lizzo. With a live show that features plenty of backing dancers, an Auslan interpreter, flute interludes, signing of a fans ass, and multiple outfit changes, you’d almost forgive Lizzo if she forgot to sing any songs. Fortunately she came trough with the goods, including “Cuz I Love You”, “Good As Hell” and “About Damn Time”. An empowering headliner, you very easily could feel the goodwill she had created in the crowd and festival over her 75 minute slot.

Heading back to the car park after the 30 minute walk from the Amphitheatre, we were greeted with a 2hr long exit before finally making it out back to the highway. After promising they’d fixed the congestion issues following years of complaints, it seems this is one area the festival could look at investing even further into moving forward. Heading home for the night, I’m still not sure if I’ve aged out of the festival life. Probably. Maybe. Who knows. Tune in tomorrow for day two, and to find out if my legs and lower back have recovered remotely well.

All photos: Bruce Baker – check out more of Bruce’s photos from the day HERE