I spent the weekend reviewing the fourteenth Splendour In The Grass for The Music. You can read a full coverage of the event over at the site, or just my own insights below.
Tky Maidza injects the Mix Up stage with a shot of youthful energy from her genre-bending set of technicolor hip-hop. Her delivery is flashy and fast, although often lacking in substance. Traditional hip-hop heads may not find much of an appeal in Maidza’s music, but the happy trap sounds of Money Over Bitches, EDM beats of Brontasaurus, and dinosaur onesies say all there is to know about her generation of fans.
DMAs act like they’re the most famous band in the world, which they could well be if they keep churning out songs as pretty as Delete. Lead singer Tommy O’Dell shakes a tambourine like a reverend bestowing blessings on his congregation as his four guitarists lay down cathedral-sized instrumentals. They play a new song called Lay Down, and the Sydney band still manages to sound more British than any British bands making music at the moment.
It’s a hike over the hill to the Amphitheatre where DZ Deathrays are tearing the crowd apart with their riffs as as sharp as lazerbeams and as jagged as their overgrown fringes. They race through well known songs Gina Works At Hearts and No Sleep to the the joy of passionate and sweaty crowd below them. Their visceral power carries them through the set, but it’s hardly an ideal time of day to be hearing these loud songs in the oppressive heat.
Wordlife have weeded out the ravers from the punters and have a committed and receptive dance floor soaking up their house grooves. The Sydney duo are playing a live show with plenty of technology onstage to produce simple-sounding music that possesses delicious-quality bass. It may sound like a bad metaphor for life, but the feelings change during their set while the tempo remains the same.
It’s hard to find a band more humble than Hoodoo Gurus. “Thanks for coming to see us, I know there’s a lot of things on,” says frontman Dave Faulkner. They may not have released an album recently, but their retrospective tracklist isn’t lost on the young crowd members. “This song saved our bacon,” he introduces What’s My Scene. Come Anytime and Like Wow-Wipeout also receive singalong treatment from the adoring crowd. They finish by inviting both current and past Guru bass and drum players onto the stage, delivering a thunderous rendition of their first single Leilani.
Headlining the Glen McLennan tent tonight is Angus and Julia Stone. There’s plenty of banjos and beards on stage as their tight band winds through songs off their upcoming self-titled album. Australia’s safest musical siblings meanwhile murmur and croon their way through For You and their biggest easy-listening hit yet, Big Jet Plane. Angus seems stuck in a perpetual state of having just woken up, while Julia’s glacial-paced cover promotes more public displays of affection than we’ve seen all day.
Mas Ysa is drinking from a bottle of champagne at midday. The Canadian musician’s performance is intense, lightened occasionally by his absurd sense of humour. “I’m playing a six hour set,” he says. It’s tempting to dance to his music, but you’re too concerned for the guy to takes your eyes off him, as he continues in his turmoil surrounded by motherboards and electronics. Perhaps the best way to describe his set it to quote the man himself, as he introduces Shame. “This song’s a bummer. Try to make out and cry at the same time.”
Fishing are DJing after on the Mix Up stage, and present a wholly different brand of exotic dance music. Their bouncing beats are mostly foreign-language tunes, adding to their international vibe. Their dance moves are unorthodox but charming, and after a few songs Byron Bay legend Tommy Franklin can be see getting down in the crowd, almost stealing the show.
As Sticky Fingers walk onto the stage and there’s already two band members not wearing shirts. If you thought Australia’s most incognito ska band couldn’t get any chiller, you thought wrong. Their new album is out next week, and the five piece play Gold Snafu and Just For You to rapturous fans. Tommy O’Dell from DMAs stops by to help out on vocals at one point, sounding just as nasally-congested as the Fingers’ frontman Dylan Frost. Older songs Australia Street and Caress Your Soul go down a treat in the afternoon sun.
Art vs. Science may have named themselves after an intellectual dilemma, but their music is very simple. This being said, their aim is also very true. They’re set at Splendour has been calibrated to facilitate the maximum amount of partying possible, and that’s exactly what the three Sydney men achieve. Opening with their most recent songs Create//Destroy and Create Of The Night is obvious the direction this party will be taking. After visiting Magic Fountain, it’s not long before they close they set with a ten-minute extended jam of Parlez-Vous Francais.
There’s Dido playing on the stage speakers before Gossling walks on, and it’s just the kind of change we need at this stage in the night. The serene sounds of Helen Croome’s ethereal voice float through the night like a feather. She starts the set with Challenge, a bold song concerning the anonymous abuse, whether online or from crowds. The audience loves her set, as she includes Never Expire, I Was Young, and her heartbreaking ballad A Lover’s Spat to eager ears.
Suppressing all impulses to do a 180 and walk back in the opposite direction from the Amphitheatre where 360 is playing, we find the Melbourne rapper continuing to rally against nothing in particular. He plays the usual songs you would expect, and may have had the misfortune of hearing on the radio, such as Live It Up and Boys Like You. There are a few guest appearances for the novelty factor, whose low-key status remains to be where 360 belongs.
Chrome Sparks eases us into the morning at the Mix Up stage. The Brooklyn producer has brought a drummer and instrumentalist, and they work up tense, polyrhythmic magic while he layers synthesiser arpeggios on top. The emotional outpouring and explosive sounds of Send The Pain On soon give way to the melting groove of Marijuana. The band are now loosened up, and finish the set with a feverishly passionate performance of Losing U and Goddess.
There’s a large crowd for BROODS this afternoon, but the hype seems to have preceded the band. The young New Zealand duo are accompanied by a drummer, although their stage presence is still slight. Georgia Nott’s voice proves incomprehensible over Caleb Nott’s thin-sounding synthesisers, and they seem to be at a loss as for knowing how to move around onstage. Nonetheless, the spectre of what the band could be hangs over the performance as they burn through Bridges and Mother & Father.
Mount Warning may be the first place to see the sun rise in Australia, but MT WARNING are not an equally bright epiphany yet. Their live show is compelling and adds electronic elements to an evocative soundscape over which Mikey Bee sings about hope and desperation, but the New South Whales band haven’t quite solved the equation when it comes to relating to an audience. Their set comes across as urgent, although the message is lost somewhere in a bottle.
Illy plays his feel-good brand of Australian hip-hop to a packed tent of fans. He works the crowd with the standard hip-hop textbook moves of call and response, hand gestures, and a good pair of baggy jeans. Onstage with a drummer and DJ, his instrumentals are coloured nicely by the live playing, which add a sense to drama to his music, and bring his performance closer to his cinematic vision. The backing tracks help him out on the choruses, and the crowd love On and On and Cigarettes so much that he barely needs to try sing himself, which is most rapper’s Achilles’ heel.
They’re either the ones that started it all, or the ones that are truly to blame, depending on your preference towards Australian rappers. Adelaide long-stayers Hilltop Hoods are trying to recapture the vibe tonight, playing an oddly-structured set of early album classics and recent hits. The Nosebleed Section gets and early showing, while Dan Sultan is brought out for The Hard Road and Won’t Let You Down. We’re still trying to decided whether a whole song about handshakes is the most hip-hop concept we’ve ever heard of, of the stupidest. It’s quite possibly both, but the trio, accompanied by Plutonic Lab on drums, close out their set as proud originators of what is now a huge sub-genre.
- I’ve started writing for Australian street press The Music. Here’s some of my favourite work:
Joakim - Tropics of Love
La Roux - Trouble In Paradise
Client Liaison at Alhambra Lounge, May 2014
The Swiss at Alhambra Lounge, May 2014
- Audrey Hepburn is often quoted as saying, “I was born with an enormous need for affection, and a terrible need to give it.” I have always felt an intense desire to share things that I love.
Whether this started at school, when I would enjoy trying to teach my high school friend the meaning behind the novels we were assigned, or whether it was simply from being brought up spending a lot of time with older kids who I felt the need to impress, I am not sure.
Either way, I never feel like I have full emotional closure until I’ve shared what I’ve experienced with someone else. It feel selfish to withhold a new favourite song, sentence, or sentiment.
With this in mind, I thought I would share a few mixtape tracklists I have made for friends over the last few years. I hope you enjoy them, as I enjoyed making them.