North Byron Parklands, Friday July 25 – Sunday July 27 (photo by Ashley Mar)
Splendour In The Grass 2014 kicked off on a Friday that saw a sea of kids, oldies, (actual) kids and happy revellers all get in and begin to get cozy for a big weekend of music in what turned out to be some amazing Byron weather. If you were playing festival fashion bingo and you had Docs, ill-advised open toe footwear, every major ’90s trend, ironic onesies, a few Where’s Wallys and understudies for the entire USA Basketball Team, you were onto a winner.
Day One turned the sunny weather up to 11, and Tkay Maidza turned the Mix Up tent up to something like 13 – the Adelaide pocket rocket rapper grinning and jumping around the stage and just generally killing it in her midday slot. DMA’s, the band who you’d be most likely to avoid eye contact with if you ran into them on public transport, showed the genesis of their success to date, and DZ Deathrays played a set worthy of the biggest lounge room ever, literally setting the stage on fire with the aid of pyrotechnics.
Precocious Irish teens The Strypes took the stage with all the attitude of baby Gallaghers before Ball Park Music led the crowd in an epic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ cover as the sun dipped below the hill. Peking Duk drew a massive crowd to prove to Australia they’d arrived, while on the main stage, Spiderbait reminded everyone they’d been together for 25 years, yet failed to really grab the audience.
Kelis was the undeniable queen of Splendour, with her gold lame backdrop, purple velour gown and wild hair. She wowed with a sultry set that kicked off with ‘Trick Me’ and featured a bossa nova rendition of ‘Milkshake’. Childish Gambino then took over like a more down-to-earth Kanye, impressing everyone with a tight live band and some amazing visuals. Over at the Amphitheatre, Outkast thankfully gave everyone the set they were hoping for, and were a highlight of the weekend. André 3000 was at his most wonderfully weird, donning an alien wig and spacesuit as he death-growled a lot of his vocals. The chemistry between he and Big Boi was thick, with both obviously having a great time onstage and going through a full catalogue of hits old and new, keeping the whole crowd smiling ear-to-ear.
Saturday was all about show-stealing, with Violent Soho showing a massive crowd why they’re the next kings of Australian rock, and harking back to the glory days of Grinspoon’s oft-loved BDO sets. Foals then made us completely forget who the other band they replaced even were, while being easily the tightest and most slick group of the weekend. In between the two, 360 gave the kids something to smile about, while City And Colour went electric – Dallas Green revealed an Americana tint to many of his songs, but it was back to basics for ‘Body In A Box’ and triumphant closer ‘The Girl’.
Day three kicked off with The Creases offering shoegazey psych rock, before Broods’ Georgia Nott evoked a sports-luxe Lana Del Rey, and Jungle were ridiculously danceable. Courtney Barnett crushed it over at the GW McLennan Tent with a refreshingly laidback set that was rendered even cooler by her lack of affectation, before gold-clad First Aid Kit and their impossibly gorgeous harmonies mesmerised.
Hilltop Hoods held onto the Aussie hip hop crown with a set of hits featuring Plutonic Lab on live drums, while Danny Brown tore the Mix Up tent a new one a few times over, becoming one of the stage’s highlights. It was Lily Allen who headlined the Amphitheatre, delivering a cheekily provocative pop party to close the festival. Bouncing around a forest of neon baby bottles in front of a backdrop of naked guys with the trappings of wealth preserving their dignity (which bookended the booty chicks of Outkast perfectly), Allen gave good show. As did Splendour 2014. Two thumbs up.
Julian Ramundi and Natalie Amat