Music Reviews


John Treadgold • 31 July 2012

Day 1.

It didn’t matter that our shoes had disappeared into the mud below us, or that our hands were turning blue around our beer cans or that our clothes were sprayed a damp shade of brown, we had The Shins, Jack White, At the Drive In and Spiderbait all in top form. Kram put it best as he shouted to a howling crowd, “I’m at the best festival in Australia and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be!” He then proceeded to belt out a nuanced rendition of ‘Smells like Teen sprit’, solo! Not bad for a drummer.

The first day of Splendour in the Grass 2012 kicked off with sunshine and a bustling Byron Bay. Coffee shops were full, beers were being cracked for breakfast and short shorts were worn in optimistic hope. As we hit the road the sky turned grey and the rain came, then a savage lashing of hail, our bare legs and sun-creamed noses were looking a little silly as the reality of a winter festival set-in.

The sunshine soon returnd, but the mud was here to stay. Gumboots were being worn with aplomb, as were stockings and cut-off shorts, woollen poncho’s and Indian Chiefs feather headdresses. There was music too… First up were Yacht Club DJ’s, their sexy remixes were just what we needed to get the feet moving. From there we traversed Belongil Fields to see Michael Kiwanuka, his soulful blues floated through the afternoon air crisp and pure. From his mellow mood we dashed for a dose of Kram and Spirderbait. And then, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – we caught their final song where a barrage of trumpets and tubas, saxophones and trombones filled the early night air.

Then it was The Shins. They were looking comfortable. The crowd was singing along, their warm melodies kept everyone packed close together. We were stomping through the mud with little thought to where our feet were landing. Everyone adopted a loping wide footed stance to keep their balance.

The evening was wearing on and there remained only one name on everybody’s lips, Jack White… His drummer set the tone as he erupted in a flurry of flailing arms. Mr White strode on to the stage and abused his milky white guitar straight off the bat. He had a full band, even a violin and a double bass. His drummer kept the energy levels high, it was starting to get difficult to move one’s feet but Mr White’s raspy vocals had everyone rapt. He even had a mid-set band change from his all dude band, to his all chick band. All class. ‘Seven Nation Army’ became the rally call for the Splendour masses – the perfect anthem for the mud soaked revelers.

We called it quits after Jack’s final riff and headed with the herd out onto the streets. Tomorrow we would return with bigger boots, thicker socks and even more frothing energy. Stay tuned.

Day 2.

Blessed sunshine greeted our weary heads on Day two. After a champagne breakfast and a quick burrito it was back to Belongil fields. Band of Skulls had pulled a big crowd as they jumped straight into their riff heavy set. Their fans sang along and the uncomplicated, driving bass-lines were a good start to the day.

The mud wasn’t as ferocious today and with the appropriate dress everyone seemed to be in far more jovial spirits. We wandered over to see the Beautiful Girls who had almost filled the big top before they even played a note. We’d heard it all before but it didn’t matter, they were great.

Another act that didn’t disappoint was Tame Impala. They played loud and bright, their psychedelic wailing was returned with cheers and their new tracks were sounding super smooth, different, a little more riff heavy, but still drawn out and epic. A fav for the weekend for most.

Miike Snow was a welcome surprise… when he threw into ‘Animal’ and ‘Paddling Out’ we had our hands in the air, singing along. Then there was Bloc Party. This was to be a highlight for many. We started down the back but the sound was awful and the crowd comatose. We pushed through and at the half way point the music hit us and the crowd was heaving. Kele had everyone in the palm of his hand as they belted out all the fav’s and even some fresh tracks.

The walk home was a little harder on night two, but there was still so much more to look forward to…

Day 3.

Our gumboots probably deserve a mention as being the best performers of the weekend, they collaborated with woollen socks to deliver the warmest and driest performance one could hope for. But by Sunday the sun was working hard to firm up the mud and most importantly the rain had stayed away.

Metric didn’t seem to mind the cool weather as Emily Haines took to the stage in some very short shorts (we’re not complaining) and some very loud Indie rock. Apart from some minor technical difficulties, they kept people’s feet moving. Haines’ energy was infectious as was the lead guitarist, Jimmy Shaw, he was gyrating and he was shredding that guitar – the crowd loved it.

Wolfmother returned from the wilderness to play a set. There was lots of hair, synths, wa-wa guitars and strung-out rock-star head thrashing, nothing much new here. We took it up a notch when we headed over to Nina Las Vegas at the Mix-up tent. Nina knew her audience, she belted out all the freshest remixes and club tracks, she had hands in the air and she wasn’t ignorant to the fact that she was getting everyone warmed up for Miss Azealia Banks.

The cheering grew louder and everyone crammed in closer as Miss Banks hit the stage. She was looking fine in a flowing white shirt that was all wrapped up in skin-tight printed tights and impossible heels. She was flanked by her incredibly agile go-go dancers as she spat some tight rhymes. The girl polarises opinion but that’s the way with fame, she put on a hell of a show. She’s a girly-girl and wasn’t shy about it, but she’s also got a potty mouth, it’s a cute combo and it’s earned her a legion of fans. ‘212’ tore the canvas off the tent as the crowd lost their shit! So loud, so good. But only 25 long. She left the crowd wanting more.

We caught the Kooks final tracks and bobbed along with everyone. Legs were growing weary but my ears knew they were in for a treat. We waded through the mud one more time and settled in for the Smashing Pumpkins. There was a lot of anticipation and it was clear that most of the crowd were weaned on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The Gossip could be heard pounding from next door, but everyone at the Pumpkins swayed and sang and revelled in some of the world’s finest rock’n’roll at one of Australia’s finest festivals.

Good times and welcome back to Byron Bay Splendour!