Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Splendid Saturday In The Grass

Aside from the new layout of things, there have been a multitude of new areas and activities to explore over the weekend. Of the new features this years Splendour also offered a forum that invited industry professionals, musicians, celebs, artists, tech heads and comedians to come and explore thought provoking questions and engage in debates. The most appealing of which kicked off the festival on the Friday and gave the punters the opportunity to chat with Splendour promoters Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco. 

Two other major changes to stages/arenas at the festival were Ibeefa and the Tipi forest. Any regular Splendour punter can tell you one thing you must experience at the festival is the famous circle of tipis hidden amongst the forest. The Tipi Forest is continuously pulsating with a vast number of dance music genres. From tech to prog, electro to minimal, trance to dub this is a must for any fans of electronic music. This year the techno-organic circus that usually offers punters everything including performers, dancers, and lighting displays was practically empty every time I visited. Perhaps this was due to the fact that it was quite away from the main stages, in its own neck of the woods and punters also had to pass by the enticing beats of Ibeefa and the Smirnoff Light Exchange and cocktail bar.

 You know a festival is good when every second you’re discovering something new. Whether it be a new band, a new drink or a new friend. At Splendour the discoveries were endless.  Another of the new additions to this years Splendour is The Very Small Mall, where you can shop ‘til you drop when you’re too tired to bop”. Offering retailers that included General Pants, Ksubi, Cheap Monday and many niche up and coming designers. 

 (Earnest Ellis)

Opening the amphitheatre on Saturday, our very own Jonathan Boulet was doing his best to charm the audience. The drummer for Sydney band Parades played with a quirky enthusiasm that is his own. On the other side of the festival supporters at the GW McLennan tent were enjoying the striking vocals of folk-rock Sydneysider, Earnest Ellis. Back in towards the natural amphitheatre in the now scorching sun Band of Sculls were heating things up in their own right. Originally playing under the moniker Fleeing New York, this UK trio put on a perfectly balanced set that despite being an alternate rock band had a clear pop edge and a fair amount of sexy. The sweeping melodies and sultry vocals of bassist Emma Richardson was contrasted as lead was thrown back and forth between herself and guitarist Russell Marsden. Heightened by punchy, gritty vocals this boy/girl combination of blues-rock was well received by the audience. Despite playing the tracks out of order we thankfully got through the slower songs during the first half of the set which meant the final half hour would be what we really came for, especially when Death By Diamonds began to take shape. This track, earning the band regular allusions to the White Stripes – what a compliment.  

Other compliments go to Irish trio Two Door Cinema Club for a stellar performance on Saturday.  Despite playing a 2-ish time slot, the Mix Up stage was overflowing with an enthusiastic horde desperately trying to seek shelter from the blistering sun. And who calls this Winter? Since recently being signed to French electronic label Kitsune, TDCC have been getting some well deserved recognition. The electro pop/indie 3 piece was incredible and showcased a keen enthusiasm and talent for this genre. With an effortless ease the bands live performance was a high energy mix of feel good tracks with a guitar heavy lead. A good selection of tracks from Tourist History mixed by Phillipe Zdar of Cassius made appreciated appearances on Saturday.  The beautifully delicate vocals of Alex Trimble during I can Talk and Undercover Martin were much more powerful live, and when that chorus dropped euphoria kicked in and I witnessed (and participated in) some of the most utterly retarded dancing I have ever seen

Back over at the amphitheatre the Brooklyn oozy surf rockers The Drums were playing their simple tunes with just the slightest drizzling of synths. Despite generating a whirlwind of hype this band was nothing out of the ordinary. Lacking that element of surprise, these indie pop lads have clear elements of post punk with the odd 60’s influence that sent music bloggers in a frenzy when Lets go surfing was released last year.  On stage Jonathan Pierce epitomised spoiled brat, his thank you’s felt forced and insincere and even introducing the final track - I need fun, “this song is about having fun cos’ it’s the only thing that matters” was unenthusiastic and staged. 

The vibe at this event is always energetic with a lot of younger festival goers, everyone eager to see their favourites and willing to do whatever needs to be done to get in prime position. Aside from Pontoon bar, Ibeefa had the most wicked setup of the whole festival. The Dj’s and decks were on a boat and the punters on the land or relaxing on a man made beach. Easily, Saturday afternoons set by Kato a highlight with this Sydney lad laying down some killer tracks.

Alternative dance masters Delphic later ensured the gathered horde at the Mix Up tent soon became a sweaty mass. The English four piece blew a lot of minds at this year’s Splendour in the Grass with their modern dance rock that would make New Order proud. Opening each track with a slightly extended intro this set was highly danceable and proved the indie-rave scene has survived the many short lived new wave genres. With the sweetest synth and willowing vocals this made for some killer dance floor moments especially when the start of counter point broke through the speakers. 

Missing the great brother/sister dynamics of The Magic Numbers they did receive a few compliments across the site. Although much older than when they started and when I last saw them, Operator Please seemed to have gotten more immature and more poppy(if that’s possible). Playing both old and new tracks Amandah Wilkinson and Taylor Henderson later broke out into a ‘pop mash up’ performing unconvincing renditions of Destiny’s Child Loose - My Breath, No Doubt - Hella Good and a final equally horrendous number. Dancing as if two 12 year olds donned  their mothers’ 80’s glam rock wardrobe and were performing in front of their bedroom mirror. This was a severe low point for Operator Please. Slightly redeeming themselves with crowd favourites Logic, and an oldie but goodie – Just A Song About Ping Pong. It became clear these guys are not moving forward, sticking to essentially the same pop hooks. If, this Gold Coast quintet want to remain, they need to try something a little more daring.

Thankfully this Operator please experience was just in preparation for the following 4 bands at the main stage – Tame impala, Wolfmother, Florence And The Machine and of course The Strokes.

Since touring quite a bit of the back of their EP, Tame Impala are back on our shores and playing to their biggest crowd yet. Expecting a midday time slot, Perth four piece fronted by Kevin Parker were thrilled by their Saturday evening turn out. “We’ve even got chicks on shoulders!” Eerie vocals with paisley pop tinged vibes created a stunning performance from this late-60s American psychedelic influence group.  Receiving regular Jimi Hendrix references the swirling guitars and psychedelic melodies were played with sheer perfection. Playing their usual Blue Boy cover – Remember Me Parker’s soaring vocals soon reached the towering chorus of Half Full Glass Of Wine. Sometimes criticised for a less than entertaining gig, for me, their music mentally conjures a technicolour storm with each melting into the last and simply closing my eyes and listing to their unique sound is perfect enough

From good to bad Wolfmother’s self indulgent Andrew Stockdale finally took to the stage. With a unique balance of robust metal groans and stoner-rock melodies, Wolfmmother (aside from Stockdale) were absolutely Colossal to watch. Their sonic booms, heavy power chords and woozy riffs struck a common chord and usually incite Led Zeppelin/Black Sabbath references. Andrew Stockdale's soaring vocals are in a world of their own, only he is disturbingly egotistical to watch. With fleeting attempts to amp up the crowd it became apparent he was unimpressed with the response. The highlight of this set was the moves, showmanship and entertainment factor of Ian Peres on keys. Intensely striking that machine and before finally jumping on the apparatus and playing while mounted on top. Sick.

Half expecting a large proportion of the audience to leave after each set not many people budged. They all had the same idea. These 6 or so hrs were all being spent the same way. I just feel sorry for the poor people who wait for hours only to have to make a bolt to the bathroom with less than an hour before the act they were waiting for.

Throughout the day, I counted several proposals and “I love you" to Florence Welsh sprawled across clothing. She earned it. Her stunning vocals and unique wedding gown like costume quickly became a Splendour Highlight. Again joined on stage by her band and of course the famous harp,Welch’s performance was powerfully delicate and she - slightly mysterious yet ever so breathtaking. The gratitude of her fans was strikingly evident and although often singing with eyes closed, the look on her face when she opened them to discover a fan standing upon someone’s shoulders, shirtless and with the image of Lungs (album cover) painted across his chest was incredible. It was almost as if she forgot the lyrics for a split second. These two now level headed, both screaming the lyrics ever so passionately, and the boy with just as much emotion and power. Opening with Drumming Song and closing with Kiss With a Fist Welch was, as always, immaculate to watch, her voice meticulously beautiful and her character gracefully surreal.
 (The Fan)

Reminding us who the fuck The Strokes are the raw sound of this iconic band finally reached the long awaiting audience. With the slightest of introductions New York City Cops off their 2001 debut album This Is It opened the set and paved the way for a solid collection of their major hits including Soma, Sometimes and You Only Live Once. Gripping the mic with both hands the showmanship of Julian Casablancas was applaudable, he and his band untouchably cool. Despite walking off stage and down the back stairs only 40 min into their set, no one in the audience even considered this is it. We knew they would be back and they were. In between song banter and affectionate nicknames for the audience and “fo-mo” (Florence and the machine) broke up the deeply seductive droning vocals of Casablancas.  They were phenomenal but I have to say I do feel sorry for Melbourne’s Midnight Juggernaughts who had the daunting task of having to compete with this legendary band. Word around camp was they played to a half full tent but hey, It could have been worse

Leaving the festival via Ibeefa, the blissfully sleek house sounds of local duo Flight Facilities were beginning. Gaining incredible recognition with Crave You ft. Giselle I will have to wait till next time to catch these guys.
 Photos and Post By Bec Clark

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