festival

Review: Splendour In The Grass 2018

25 July 2018

A Triple J employee came up to us on Friday when we were eating lunch and asked us to describe Splendour in three words. We threw around a few words and barely coherent descriptions, but we struggled to narrow it down because Splendour is a lot of things.

Splendour is connecting with old friends and making new ones in a campsite or a crowd. Splendour is getting drunk in a tent. Splendour is discovering new bands and appreciating your old favourites. Splendour is the blue feeling you get when it’s all over and you’re re-listening to your favourite acts.

That being said, Splendour is also a mess of a time. It’s next morning hangovers and drinking and drug culture. It’s rough crowds where people often get hurt or even assaulted. It’s gross toilets and showers which have been used by one thousand people before you.

But above all else, Splendour is music—good music. It’s impossible to see everything you want at Splendour, with a massive lineup of diverse acts. There’s also just way too much to talk about, so I’ll just be mentioning my main highlights of the weekend.

 

FRIDAY

This Splendour was the first time Jack River (Holly Rankin) performed in front of an audience since the release of her debut album Sugar Mountain, an album filled with the emotions of her 11-year-old sister’s death when Rankin was 14. On 7.30, Rankin confessed that losing her sister “accelerate the emotions” within her and she wrote around 200 songs between the ages of 14 and 21. While you can’t squeeze much into a 45-minute slot, Jack River managed to fit in “Talk Like That” and “Palo Alto” from the old EP alongside her most popular Sugar Mountain hits, and surprised us with a cover of Tal Bachman’s “She’s So High”.

I think you have to go into any Angus & Julia Stone set knowing that it’s not going to be high energy. I know a lot of people felt bored during the set, but starting off the festival in a slow way isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Plus, there’s an adorable video going around of a man proposing to his partner during “Chateau”—an incredibly beautiful love song.

The Friday headliner was New-Zealand 21-year-old Lorde, another act on the slow side. She played a fairly even mixture of songs from 2017 album Melodrama and the album which initially shot her to fame, Pure Heroine. I think a lot of us were expecting Lorde to bring on Khalid, who played directly before her, to help her out with “Homemade Dynamite”—after his remix with SZA and Post Malone quickly became more popular than the original. One of her final songs was a slow cover of Powderfinger’s “My Happiness”, which she said she’d never done before and would probably never do again.

 

SATURDAY

I went into G Flip’s set not knowing who the Triple J Unearthed superstar was or any of her songs, but she turned out to be a festival highlight. She mentioned that she’s only released two songs so far, so I didn’t feel out of place not knowing any lyrics. She had a crowd of thousands which grooved throughout the entire set, despite the majority of her songs being unfamiliar. A triple threat—she started out singing and on drums, then later switched to guitar. I think we can expect an EP or album from G Flip in the near future, and I’m calling it now that she’s going to be massive.

I tried really hard not to cry when Alex the Astronaut played “Not Worth Hiding”, but she cried too so it felt okay. It’s a song about her experience being gay, and about acceptance and tolerance. She asks the audience, “So tell me, anyone/If you love them as a daughter, could you love them as a son?”, a nod to transgender children and the necessity for their families to support them. The final line of the last verse also really hits home: “But the cages that they’ve made us should soon just rust away/And this song just won’t need singing, but for now, I’ll let it play”. The song is sad and happy at the same time, and I think she felt that when the audience wouldn’t stop clapping after it stopped.

Alex Lahey hinted at an upcoming new album or EP, which I found surprising (but exciting) given that I Love You Like A Brother was released only late last year. She said that she wanted to close the old album and bring in the new music “in a fun way”, which led into a cover of Avril Lavigne’s hit song “Complicated”. From Melbourne local artist to indie pop superstar, it was great to see Lahey performing her relatable songs to a massive crowd on the Splendour mainstage.

I don’t think I will ever stop talking about Gang of Youths, and more specifically their Aria award-winning Go Farther In Lightness album. Go Farther In Lightness tells lead singer Dave Le’aupepe’s tale of recovery from his depression, suicidal tendencies, and divorce. The album ends with its most optimistic song “Say Yes To Life”, and so did Gang of Youths’ Splendour set. The song is about exactly what you think it is: choosing to live. It’s also not just about Le’aupepe’s experience—he’s telling others that they’re not alone: “And I won’t leave you hanging in the wind/So let me love with a vengeance/My sad, sweet and unfinished friend”. Before the band played the song, Le’aupepe reminded the crowd to look out for each other. It’s a great way to end the set, and a great way to move on from one of Gang of Youths’ most popular tracks, “Magnolia”, which tells the story of the night Le’aupepe tried to commit suicide but was reminded of the beauty of life while sitting under his father’s magnolia tree. Having been nominated for the “best live act” Aria award from 2015 through to 2017, it’s no surprise that watching rock band Gang of Youths perform is an absolute joy.

 

SUNDAY

This was the fourth time I saw Angie McMahon and boy does she get better every time. Watch out because she’s going to become the next big thing. Her voice is incredible in its strength, and her lyrics are relatable in the way that only a small local act can be. You can check her out performing single “Slow Mover” at Splendour here.

The Wombats performed an incredible set despite the back speakers being blown on the Sunday night, meaning that they were quieter than they would usually be. What shocks me about The Wombats is that their new album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, is just as good as their original music which shot them to popularity. It’s important for Splendour to feature good, fun live bands that the crowd can groove to—and The Wombats is one of the best examples of that. And as the penultimate band on the main stage, they were a great way to hype the crowd up for the final act, Kendrick Lamar.

I know you’re all waiting for me to say something about Kendrick Lamar, the Sunday headliner and Triple J Hottest 100 2017 winner. I’m definitely not an expert on his music, so I don’t think anything I write about his set could really do it justice. The Amphitheatre was packed to the brim, as it always is for the final act on the final day. Kendrick let the crowd sing parts of “HUMBLE.” without his help, and we jumped in synchronisation and made the ground shake. It was a great set, and a great way to finish the hell of a weekend that was Splendour In The Grass 2018.

See you next year.

Artist: Jack river.
Photographer: Miranda Stokkel.

Artist: Angus & Julia Stone
Photographer: Aimee Catt

Artist: Lorde
Photographer: Jess Gleeson

Artist: G Flip
Photographer: Bianca Holderness

Artist: Alex the Astronaut
Photographer: Aimee Catt

Artist: Alex Lahey
Photographer: Charlie Hardy

Artist: Gang of Youths
Photographer: Jess Gleeson

Artist: Angie McMahon
Photographer: Aimee Catt

Artist: The Wombats
Photographer: Ian Laidlaw

Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Photographer: Ian Laidlaw


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