Brunswick Heads on the Thursday evening before Splendour was a very different prospect to the town during Bluesfest some months before. No less than two stretch Hummers blocked the main street, dropping off punters to see Sydney’s Yolanda B Cool’s set at the Brunswick Arms’. One lady exiting a Hummer warned that the new festival site was a mess. “It’s pretty fucked up out there – wear ya boots tomorrow,” she said as she tried to get some of the caked on mud off her Nudie Jeans.
The threatened quagmire didn’t eventuate the next day at North Byron Parklands. The queues were a joke: our shuttle driver was forced to drop us 50 minutes walk from the main entrance. That’s nearly an hour.
British band Daughter soothed the seething early afternoon masses in the GW McLennan Tent with a set of delicate and intricate slow-pop. Front woman Elena Tonra’s understated soulfulness had hearts aflutter as they played tracks from all three of their EP’s and this year’s debut album If You Leave.
Portugal. The Man’s set never really took off. Playing in the same tent as Tonra and co, and with an obviously larger sound, they couldn’t hit the sonic snarl and hustle that made this year’s Danger Mouse produced album Evil Friends such a success.
Darkness reigned supreme in the Supertop when TV On The Radio emerged. The Brooklyn five-piece offered up classic cuts Wolf Like Me and Staring At The Sun early, which is luxury afforded by a frontman as magnanimous as Tunde Adebimpe.
Something For Kate provided one of the highlights of Saturday in the Supertop when they pulled out their excellent cover of Florence + The Machine’s ‘Sweet Nothing’. People were whooping and squealing for joy and Paul Dempsey even allowed himself to give partner/bassist Stephanie Ashworth a loving face-to-shoulder nuzzle. It was a nice touch from a lanky gent who is perhaps unfairly portrayed as a bit of a buzzkill.
Cold War Kids followed on the same stage and, similarly to TOTR the night before, dropped their hits early. ‘Hang Me Up To Dry’ bled into ‘Something Is Not Right With Me’, but more recent tunes from this year’s Miss Lonely Hearts didn’t get much love from the crowd. Singer Nathan Willett was noticeably miffed. Ah well. Write better stuff.
Later in the evening The Polyphonic Spree Perform The Rocky Horror Picture Show experiment over in the GW McLennan Tent failed horribly. People were confused, slightly disturbed and after ‘Timewarp’ the band were left on their own.
Alpine are too much for 2pm on a Sunday. The case could be made Alpine’s saccharine attempts at art-pop are too much any time, but this is particularly true when there’s no hope of seeing Frank Ocean later the same evening. Phoebe Baker and Louisa James bayed back and forth across the stage far more in sync than at Laneway earlier this year, when the former was clearly not interested in sharing the stage. Still, they didn’t throw ice-creams at each other which was a plus.
Enter Passion Pit to give a master class in high energy pop. Front man Michael Angelakos has previously spoken about how the band’s early days were marred by consistently shit live performances. It’s not as polished as when I last saw them in 2010 at The Metro, yet the rough ‘n ready seems kinda better. Angelakos hits high notes that castrati’s (don’t) have wet dreams about, and the one-two punch of ‘Little Secrets’ and ‘Sleepyhead’ leaves the slack-jawed punters in the Supertop reeling.
BY BENJAMIN COOPER