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review, Splendour In The Grass 2014, Splendour, In, The, Grass, 2014, cinema, cinema reviews, music, artist



By Charlie David Page
26th July 2014

Splendour in the Grass seems to be a festival of illusions. For one, it's winter, but the sun is shining strong, people are running around with shorts and shirts. Secondly, a non-existent city has popped up in the middle of the North Byron Parklands with everything you could probably need: food, beverages, clothing, supplies, accommodation and, of course, music. Finally, there's an illusion of harmony between the festival-goers... preppy just-18 schoolkids and hippies mingling with ravers and rockers.

But that's the beauty of Splendour. There truly is something here for everyone. Over the three days, I plan to experience and relay back as many of these diverse acts as possible, along with a little glimpse at the inner workings of the festival itself.

I missed these guys last time they were in Australia, and given I love their music, wanted to make sure I didn't miss them playing at Splendour. It's safe to say I wasn't disappointed. This band just has so much fun on stage. Everyone sings and plays, and they're not afraid to mingle with their bandmates. They're a well-oiled piece of machinery - they even look it, bobbing and swaying in time together, feeling the beat pass through them. Their guitars are loose, their vocals are luscious and their abilities are multitalented.

The small but dedicated crowd appreciated every tune delivered to them. 'Shake' appeared early on, but a more boisterous, cantankerous version than the album. 'Ghosts' really comes into its own during the movement change, with vibrant harmonies, sliding subtly between tempos. Then Charity Rose Thielen took over for 'Summertime' - very appropriate for our Byron surrounds: laid back, joyful, and carefree.

Vocalist Josiah Johnson makes a sparse space intimate with 'Lost In My Mind'; you're forced to watch and take notice of him with the power of his voice. As the song builds, the band closes on itself, unafraid to share microphones or personal space to create an close performance. An unexpectedly hearty drum solo then leads into 'Down In The Valley' - such a gentle song, generating such loud appreciation from the crowd. The song rises to a powerful climax: a cacophony of noise meshing together so beautifully, escalating in a joyous, gentle conclusion.

As the performances goes on, and the spine-tingling harmonies consistently fill the fill the GW McLennan tent, I begin to understand some of the limitations of the recording process; in a live arena, The Head and the Heart present their songs the way they were meant to be heard.

Closing with 'Rivers and Roads', The Head and the Heart provide a stirring conclusion to an impressive set. They pour every ounce of themselves into the song to expel these holy sounds from their bodies. Which isn't a bad way to describe this performance: it was not dissimilar to a religious experience.

I've been really impressed by what I've heard from this Irish four-piece rock band, particularly the single 'What A Shame'. Nonetheless, I was unprepared for the live performance that ensued: these guys blew me away.

Arriving on stage with an incendiary guitar riff, they launch straight into their modern brand of rock 'n' roll (with a healthy serving of harmonica, of course). The four pint-sized performers (they're all between 16 and 18 years old) managed to create a wild sound and a full-on rock show, sunglasses and all.

Their music offers absolutely ferocious in two and a half minute bursts, and was delivered in a tight performance that could have been an absolute mess live. They showed off with some absolutely jaw-dropping guitar riffs you'd be lucky to get out of players with decades of experience.


With such a tight set and frenetic energy, The Strypes were definitely one of the best surprises of the day. I can't wait to see more of these guys.

It was already pretty impressive turnout at the amphitheatre for the Brisbane band, before Ball Park Music launched into 'Literally Baby', causing (literally) an avalanche of people running towards the front of the stage. Singer Sam Cromack decreed, "Splendour, make some noise!" and they did. Towards the end, they went into a freestyle performance of the song; a constantly escalating chaos, yet under the safe control of the skillful band members on stage.

. The crowd danced like nerds for 'Sad Rude Future Dude'; clearly self-degradation is still a relatable quality. There was a real honour for BPM's earlier tunes - 'iFly' also made an appearance.

That's not to say 'Puddinghead' didn't get a good run. 'Trippin' the Light Fantastic' was a big hit, and considering the complexity of the song, the band provided a very faithful performance of the track. Sam dedicated 'Everything Is Shit Except My Friendship With You' to the Splendour crowd.

"We wrote our set list in Comic Sans today, for good luck," Sam explained, before the band launched into ''It's Nice To Be Alive', causing yet another onslaught of people to run downhill in the directiono of the stage. The energy and dynamism they put into that song, it could so easily have been the set finale... but no. The band went on to play for another 20 minutes, much to the pleasure of the crowd.

When they launched into 'She Only Loves Me When I'm There', you'd be mistaken for thinking it was the rock concert of the year the way the crowd went off. Yet in its own way it was - the drums, bass guitar and synth played a prominent role in getting the crowd onto their feet. The more subdued 'Coming Down' did nothing to quell them; a song that would normally disperse a crowd at a festival had them singing it right back at Sam, hands in the air. In return, he and the band performed a really honest rendition, played beautifully live.

When it did come to the closing tune, Ball Park Music chose something from outside their repertoire - 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. It was an unusual (if not extremely popular) finale, quite impressively pulled off by the band.

These guys seriously don't take themselves too seriously on stage. They perform a solid set, and have a crapload of fun doing it. They band seemed almost oblivious to the endless hoards; they played as if they may have been rehearsing in their lounge room. Remaining unfazed by the situation and keeping their cool, it's clearly one of the reasons Ball Park Music garnered such popularity for their Splendour performance.

Arriving right at the beginning of the set, I knew I had immediately made a huge mistake - the tent was already packed to capacity. In fact, the crowd was so dense that there was a radius of people sitting and standing for metres around the venue. Of what I did hear, it was beautiful, heartfelt and touching, and immensely appreciated by the audience. Note to self: get in early for evening performances to secure a decent spot.

It's stunning to think that these guys have been around for 25 years. As singer/drummer Mark Maher put it, "any friendship that lasts 25 years is pretty impressive, let alone a band." They brought a vicious kind of rock 'n' roll to the stage that's as good today as it was 25 years ago.

It's one of the few bands with a drummer for a lead singer, which always leaves less of a presence In a live arena, but anything Spiderbait were missing was made up for with their raw ferocity.

There's nothing subtle about Spiderbait's brand of rock - it's sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll turned up to 11. Mark had the audience in the palm of his hand, calling for screams from the crowd, and call and response lyrics returned with zeal. Mark's mighty reign was interspersed with tunes where bass guitarist Janet English took over the vocals, like 'Outta My Head' and 'Calypso'.

The band were joined on stage by Dan Sultan for a top rendition of 'I'm Not Your Slave', before Mark got up from behind the drums and headed out front (and Janet temporarily taking over the kit). All of a sudden, the chemistry really flew - Mark was like a kid with ADHD jumping around on the stage, as he belted out 'Buy Me A Pony'. He looked every bit a rockstar - from the long hair to the soles of his shoes.

Just before the big finale, he brought his young daughter Elkie on to the stage (apparently his son is too "introspective") and introduced her as "the future of rock and roll". This led into the band's wild finale, 'Black Betty', a cacophony of light and sound. If there's one thing you can say about Spiderbait, it's that they perform exactly the way you think a rock band should be like.

This Melbourne nine-piece band definitely sounds it - it's such a lively sound, brought stunningly to your ears with the assistance of the glorious singer, Nkechi Anele. It's the kind of live performance guaranteed to leave a smile on your face - funky, groovy tunes expertly executed. Their brand of old-time feel-good music is irresistible, certainly to leave you tapping your feet.

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