The prospect of mingling with packs of counter-terrorism police didn’t stop 32,000 music fans descending on North Byron Parklands for a sundrenched Splendour in the Grass Arts & Music Festival 2017, writes Georgina Bible.
There’s something about the long walk from the carpark to the Splendour site, that promises magic even before you get there. It’s as if the crowd is being welcomed into another land, as the flat gives way to the rolling hills and the cradle of this beautiful valley. Every year the Splendour call goes out to the increasing thousands of people who fly in from all over the world for one of Australia’s best-loved music festival, and like homing pigeons, many of us return for, not just the music, but the incredible atmosphere, landscape and art-works that make up Splendour in the Grass.
This year, back in my own region for the first time after a few years away, I came as a local rather than as a visitor, and it was lovely to feel so strongly connected to the Splendour community. I’ve been covering the Festival for nine years now and of course this year, for the first time ever, Splendour came up against the intrusion of the outside world in the form of the possible threat of terrorism. But the organisers dealt with it calmly and sensibly so that the presence of the extra 150 police, the wands on entry and the limitation on bag size, really hardly impinged on the flow of visitors – and if anything added an extra layer of comfort to the event. Apart from the somewhat startling amount of young women who seemed to have given up clothes for gaffer tape and glitter, and the always-eclectic crowd mingled and moved happily between the stages. However, the trend for baring all did cause various hash tags on social media to ‘encourage’ the use of clothing, such as #bringbackthepants.
But apart from the shortage of female clothing it was music business usual as usual – and wow – the stages were on fire this year. Things got off to an amazing start.
Splendour co-producers Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco said, “Splendour 2017 is up there with our best events ever.”
“Thanks so much to our incredible Splendour community, for looking out for each other and embracing all the crazy shit we dream up. It’s you guys that make this event so special. Safe travels and we’ll see you all again next year (hopefully with pants on)!” they added.
Day One acts that stole the show included Tash Sultana, Peking Duk and The xx.
Melbourne phenomenon, Tash Sultana, proved to be the ultimate multitasker dazzling the crowd with her one-woman band show. Her loop-pedal driven music which incorporates original jazz sounds with rock inspired guitar captivated a spell-bound audience.
Enter festival favourites, Peking Duk, who had joined the Splendour line up at the last minute after George Ezra cancelled. The Canberra dance duo stepped out from behind the decks for the first time, delivering a supercharged set peppered with multiple guest appearances by fellow artists that included Vera Blue and Dan Sultan.
Friday headliners, The xx, were probably one of the most anticipated acts of this year’s line-up. The brooding Brit trio didn’t disappoint. They delivered a hypnotic set laced with new and old classics, including favourites, Intro and Crystalised. The groups unique synthesised soundscape was the perfect close to a mind-blowing Day One.
The stellar Day Two line-up delivered lovers of rock into music heaven, starting with Bernard Fanning, who had crowds running to the Amphitheatre from all directions when he announced a surprise Powderfinger reunion. The group kicked off with the timeless, (Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind followed by the megahit, These Days, before Fanning wrapped the set with Wish You Well.
Enter the night and a double serve of heavy. English drum and bass guitar duo Royal Blood hit the stage and whipped the crowd into a literal whirlpool. The sweat covered crowd slammed into each other through a thumping set of hits. The pair closed with a massive version of Out of The Black, which saw drummer Ben Thatcher jump off the Amphitheatre stage before heading back to smash-up his drum kit.
Queens of the Stone Age was an anticipated headliner for Splendour after having been absent from the festival line-up for several years. The wait was worth it. The group delivered a greatest hit set including the classics, If I Had a Tail, No One Knows and Little Sister. Singer Josh Homme also gave the Amphitheatre crowd a taste of his famous acidic tongue, as one heckler copped a brutal serve.
Day Three, and enter retro dance masters, Client Liaison. The Melbourne duo delivered a stunned Amphitheatre audience into pop heaven when they invited Australian music icon, Tina Arena, to the stage. Arena joined the Triple J favourites to perform their collaboration A Foreign Affair, along with her own nineties mega hit Sorrento Moon and a glorious version of Womack & Womack’s Teardrops.
Fans assumed LCD Soundsystems’ performance at Splendour 2010 would be their last Australian gig after they had announced their breakup. Fortunately, the break-up didn’t stick. Bathed in blue and red lights and under a giant hovering disco ball, singer James Murphy led the group through a killer set, featuring hits like Dance Yrself Clean, New York I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down and Daft Punk Is Playing at My House. LCD Soundsystem closed Splendour 2017 with the Amphitheatre singing along to the all-time classic, All My Friends.