ON the scene: Splendour in the Grass 2016 – review

The collective erupting into Splendour, Day 2. Old friends and new. PHOTO: Some rando we met.

Splendour, Day 2. Old friends and new. PHOTO: Some rando we met.

ANNABEL WILSON offers her perspective on Byron Bay’s infamous music festival.

A music festival experience is a series of encapsulated moments. A collection of vignettes loosely linked to form an overall impression. Every punter’s showreel of recollections is unique, with a few collective overlaps. They’re the kind of highlights you chatter about when debriefing with fellow attendees afterwards. They’re what draw you back when you vow to return. These are a few of my favourite moments from Byron Bay’s Splendour in the Grass, 2016. Snapshots of three days escaping into a world of music, art and misadventures with old mates and new crew.

Hello sunshine. PHOTO: ONmag.

Hello sunshine. PHOTO: ONmag.

It started with a sunrise. Avoiding the carnage of camping, I was fortunate to be staying with local friends in the Byron Bay hinterland. Awoken by the chortle of magpies, I slipped outside to sit on the deck and watch dawn break over the hills. Rolling pastures and plantations were bathed in golden light. The warm glow heralding Splendour In The Grass  was complemented later by the appearance of a random blimp in the sky. These factors felt like a positive affirmation of the events to follow.

Mr Poopie. This shit is real. PHOTO: Byron Shire News.

Mr Poopie. This shit is real. PHOTO: Byron Shire News.

The beguiling Mr Poopie. Walking into Splendour, the first major landmark we sighted was a giant smiling pink swirl that looked like a cross between the turd emoji and an icecream. It was quickly declared our group’s meeting point “if you’re having a shit time”. Made by the Barcelona-based art collective Hungry Castle, this was a cool space to regroup. One of several rad art installations at the festival.

Come on baby light my fire. PHOTO: ONmag.

Come on baby light my fire. PHOTO: ONmag.

Our alternative meet up zone was the Gold Bar – a lush haven serving proper drinks rather than RTDs, with a sweet set up of picnic tables, its own dj booth, burger bar, flushing loos, shady trees and festoons of golden mirror balls above a friendly crowd. Well worth the upgrade price.

The Kills. Exquisite rock. PHOTO: musicfeeds.com.au

The Kills. Exquisite rock. PHOTO: musicfeeds.com.au

The Kills. Rocking the Amphitheatre stage in a leopard shirt and wowing the crowd with her gritty PJ Harvey-esque voice, surly singer Alison Mosshart kick-started the first night’s partying. Duo mate guitarist Jamie Hince dropping in a little Strokes riff from Someday in a playful reference to the next act was also widely appreciated. In fact every riff and guitar change was cherished all the more when, as the guy next to me reminded: “he hurt his hand!” in a freak accident in which he slammed his miff in the door, requiring six operations earlier this year. Ouch. That may have sucked even more than breaking up with Kate Moss. Much respect and kudos to both rockstars that comprise The Kills.

The Avalanches reunion. PHOTO: abc.net.au

The Avalanches reunion. PHOTO: abc.net.au

Melbournites coined by Monster Children a “national treasure”, The Avalanches impressed with an energetic, ecstatic, smoke-machine laced set in their first full band comeback in over a decade. They brought us up and chilled us out, mixing up the vibe with panache.

❤️ #thestrokes #someday 💔

A video posted by Di Alwill (@dide04) on

How good were The Strokes? So so good. A seamless, banging, bopping set had us leaping about and singing along to entire much loved songs: You say you wanna be by my side / Darlin’ your head’s not right / See, alone we stand, together we fall apart / Yeah I think I’ll be alright / I’m working so I won’t have to try SO! HARD! / Tables they turn sometimes… while some stole kisses from strangers. Such was the exuberance incited by the only Australian show of these New York indie darlings.

The funny folk at the Splendour Comedy Club. When I rocked up, Luke Heggie was busting out some amusing repartee about festishists and it was tres drole. This was a sweet spot to visit between music gigs.

Peter Bjorn & John. My homies and I dropped into the GW McLennan Tent just in time to hear these beautiful Swedish strummers play Young Folks. Peter Bjorn & John had the crowd’s arms raised in surrender to the music then jiving to some badass dirty guitar.

Beneath the branches of the tree at the Gold Bar, close encounters and conversations. PHOTO: ONmag.

Beneath the branches of the tree at the Gold Bar, close encounters and conversations. PHOTO: ONmag.

Random encounters. One of the cool factors that a festival provides is the propensity for random chatter with other like-minded souls. On day one we met some new friends that we pretty much hijacked and took back to our place to hang out and have breakfast the next day before doing it all again. Splendid. I also met someone wearing some cool as pyjamas who said they were Flume, but I think they were joking. Under the tree in the Gold Bar, a lot of friendships were forged and a few magic tricks played. Oh the delightful choreography of propinquity.

En route to an epic set from Santigold, we stopped in at the Moët & Chandon Moroccan-themed champagne bar. And got sidetracked for some time, thanks to the delightful service of a barperson called Laurie.

Tegan & Sara were the best at between-songs banter as well as totally owning their set. Yes.

Someone swooped in like a seagull and stole my golden sunhat. Boo. But still, nice move.

The Cure ONstage at Splendour. PHOTO: abc.net.au

The Cure ONstage at Splendour. PHOTO: abc.net.au

When The Cure belted out their much-loved 1980s tracks like “Pictures of You”, it felt like their seminal music floated above the crowd. They opened the songbook on their early stuff, played for two and a half hours and concluded with “Boys Don’t Cry” as their encore. Just wow.

Fashion in the field. There was the obligatory naked guy – only this was someone who stripped to their jocks and played their whole set in the nude. The Where’s Wally tribe, pyjama wearers, a lot of lingerie seen through mesh or just plain old exposed, tight leggings, braids, flower child sparkly paint and just a little mankini. What you wear at a festival is whatever you’re into, times ten.

Courtney Barnett on Sunday got us dancing again as her tunes made us swoon. Down-to-earth, overtly of-a-time-and-place lyrics about everything from nasi goreng to dead possums. Lines like taxidermy kangaroos are littered on the shoulders / A possum Jackson Pollock is painted on the tar kept it real for ravers on day three of their hedonistic reverie.

All the pretty lights. Lanterns lined the way into the festivities and between stages. At the World Stage, Joe Crossley and whanau made a luminous lotus flower mural – an emblem of the peaceful intentions and community vibe of Splendour In The Grass alongside a nod to ancient tribal rites.

  • ANNABEL WILSON

For ON-the-ball previews, promotion, advertising, interviews, reviews and photography for your cool happenings and concepts, contact annabel@onmag.co.nz.

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