After a very muddy 2015, this year’s Splendour in the Grass music festival was all about the sunshine and the glitter. The staple gumboots and skinny jeans were left in tents as punters were transported to a summery paradise for three days of music at the North Byron Parklands last weekend.
As the sun set on Sunday afternoon, Tegan and Sara (pictured, below) walked onto a stripped-back main stage and instantly had the crowd on their feet with “Back In Your Head”. Amongst a collective of synthy-dance hits and powerful ballads, the dynamic duo’s witty banter between songs added a personal touch I hadn’t seen from other acts at Splendour. In their first Australian appearance in over three years, Tegan and Sara dedicated a beautiful performance of “Nineteen” to all the old Tegan and Sara fans. With the old came the new including an ode to George Michael, “U Turn”, from their latest album Love You to Death. The Canadians wrapped up their earnest and beautiful set list encouraging all to “dance this s–t out” to “Closer”. Tegan and Sara proved as lovable and energetic as ever and were an absolute pleasure to experience live.
With a simple, enthusiastic “Hey!” the Queen of Quirk Courtney Barnett (pictured, below) took to the amphitheatre on Splendour’s final night. Opening with “Dead Fox,” Barnett’s storytelling was accompanied by an array of kaleidoscopic imagery, video footage and animation which truly added another dimension to her live show. While some may not appreciate her voice, nothing but good can be said of her incredibly catchy and authentic song writing and ability to shred. Under a mop of brown hair, Barnett busted out a guitar solo at the crescendo of “Small Poppies” and fronted a melancholic singalong to “Depreston”. To break up the calmer vibes, “Pedestrian at Best” got the crowd up off their feet as did her final number “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party.” Barnett’s art is both relatable and original and provided Splendour in the Grass with something completely authentic.
Previously, the triple-header of Violent Soho, The Avalanches and The Strokes had everyone talking on the festival’s first day. Violent Soho (pictured, below) opened up with 90’s nostalgia anthem, Like Soda, which well and truly warmed the voices of the crowd. Despite playing a far more behaved set than usual, the Brisbane boys still delivered a flawless performance, musically, to their no doubt biggest crowd of “Hell F–k Yeah” screaming fans.
After the come down from Violent Soho, there was much speculation about what The Avalanches (pictured, below) would deliver. Having usually performed as a DJ live act, all apprehension was quickly dissolved when a full band took the stage. The Avalanches, comprised this time of MC, female vocalist, guitarist, DJ and drummer, produced an energetic and varied celebration of rap, soul and electronica. Whilst the crowd were hungry for the classic “Frontier Psychiatrist” in full, its mash-up with Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” was a successful substitute.
The Strokes’ (pictured, below) performance, though starting late and finishing early, left no member of the audience disappointed. Musically, it was almost impossible to differentiate the live production from their records. Their set list surprisingly omitted 2011 comeback single “Under Cover of Darkness”, however, there were plenty of older tracks to satisfy the audience. The New York outfit played cool as cucumbers resembling somewhat of an English rock band from a bygone era. The Strokes wrapped up the night with encore “Last Nite”, much to the crowd’s absolute delight.
Montaigne (pictured, below), who has well and truly graduated from her Triple J Unearthed High Class of 2012, opened the GW McLennan tent on a perfect 26 degree Saturday with nothing but her flawless unaccompanied vocals. Dressed in red, white and black, Montaigne put on a classy and mature performance, fooling all as to her age and experience. The young breakthrough featured tracks from her upcoming debut album, Glorious Heights (out August 5), including recent single “Because I Love You”. Her rendition of “I’m a Fantastic Wreck” was kooky, genuine and 100% enjoyable to watch. Not only can her voice soar, but her guitar prowess was also exhibited in a captivating performance of “Clip My Wings”. Montaigne is a delight to experience live and there’s no doubt this is only the beginning.
The veteran headliner of the festival, The Cure, was the perfect act to wind down a warm Splendour Saturday. Opening with “Plainsong”, The Cure’s broody rock poured out over the hill into a surprisingly mix-aged crowd. The voice of remaining original member, frontman Robert Smith (pictured, below), was untouched by age and sung effortlessly along with his guitar. Whilst the set arrangement was quite unusual, the crowd were pleasantly surprised when “Friday I’m in Love” interrupted the middle of a massive three hour set. These gothic rock legends closed the night with “Boys Don’t Cry” and proved to all that youth still runs in the veins of The Cure.
Tegan and Sara and The Avalanches photos by Bianca Holderness. Courtney Barnett photo by Stephen Booth. Montaigne photo by Jess Gleeson. Violent Soho photo by Mitch Lowe. The Strokes photo by Ian Laidlaw. The Cure photo by Stills In Time.