Featuring glitter boobs, crisp yet freezing weather, reunions and huge guest appearances, the 2017 iteration of Australia’s favourite music shindig, Splendour In The Grass, has come and gone again. And blimey was the fest over and done for quickly – almost as quickly, in fact, as the version of ‘All My Friends’ headliners LCD Soundsystem smashed out on Sunday evening.
With the Mix-Up Tent hosting homegrown talent on Thursday, the added evening of solid performances proved a treat for eager campers. GL, Sampa The Great and Mansionair all graced the stage, and if their set was anything to go by, Mansionair’s debut album is a release to anticipate.
Much loved local artists played huge crowds on Friday, with Winston Surfshirt, Tash Sultana and Peking Duk all blowing punters away. Peking Duk’s explosion of a show was an assault on the senses in the best possible sense, and even if the gang switched between live show and DJ set several times the pace wasn’t ruined for an instant. But between wavering sound levels, confetti and countless guests (Vera Blue, Nicole Miller and Safia’s Ben Woolner all made an appearance), the real highlight was seeing the duo get behind their guitars for the first time in a live setting.
While the Haim sisters skipped the theatrics, The XX’s reflective and rotating staging thrust their set firmly into mesmerising territory. Romy Croft and Oliver Sim were almost unrecognisably confident up front, while the legendary Jamie Smith hung back on percussion, slinking behind the decks. Thrillingly, the British trio bumped up the tempo on classics like ‘Islands’ and ‘VCR’, ensuring old and new melded seamlessly together. The serendipitous inclusion of ‘Loud Places’ from Smith’s 2016 solo album was a standout, while the group’s latest single ‘On Hold’ provided another one of those famous, unforgettable Splendour moments to cap off their set.
The great music kept coming thick and fast as a heaving and overjoyed crowd went nuts for Bag Raiders’ meme-tastic 2009 earworm ‘Shooting Stars’ early on day two. There were also cameos aplenty, as Airling were joined by Tom Iansek, Dune Rats by Phil Jamieson and Bad//Dreems by Robert Forster, with the latter in particular proving a collision of two of Aussie music’s most beloved acts.
But none of those guest appearances could have prepared fans for what Bernard Fanning had in store, and the icon gifted Splendour with the ultimate surprise in the form of a Powderfinger reunion. Fanning hardly needed to open his mouth for ‘(Baby, I’ve Got You) On My Mind’ and ‘These Days’, as a massive crowd sing-along roared over the hill and carried the song away from him.
By the time the evening chill hit, it was hard to be torn away from the Amphitheatre as Future Islands, Royal Blood and Queens of The Stone Age all delivered an evening of ferocious, dynamic and hip-shaking rock. Although the three acts enthralled the masses equally, pumping out truly visceral sets, QOTSA’s Josh Homme proved why he has so few contemporary rivals, and right from the moment he threw his cane into the crowd on arrival, he revealed himself to be one of Splendour’s standout performers.
All types of dance set the tone for day three as Moonbase defrosted revellers early on with a booming set of floor fillers, including ‘It Don’t Matter’ and a live version of ‘Oblivion’ performed with the help of Ecca Vandal. Then it was time for Client Liaison, who mirrored Peking Duk’s day one blockbuster with their signature brand of Australian cool. From their deliciously corny choreography to the jaw-dropping appearance of queen Tina Arena and her flawless vocals on ‘Foreign Affair’, the band proved their worth even to their detractors.
Between the trees and over at the GW McLennan tent was a lineup worthy of the main stage as Pond, Meg Mac and King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard all played to overwhelming crowds, each of them giving theatrics-free, stellar performances as their new and old tracks were met with equal and justified amounts of love.
As the frosty air and fog set in one last time, Bonobo conjured a toasty jungle rave with his catalogue of sublime – and mostly instrumental – tracks to close the Mix-Up Tent, while LCD Soundsystem saw the weekend out to the delight of an adoring audience. It was epic, to say the least. As a digital clock counted down the minutes onstage during ‘All My Friends’, frontman James Murphy playfully kicked it over, basking in the moment alongside the 30,000 odd punters who had been given a weekend that will be hard for them to forget.
Header image by Bianca Holderness.