Sitting in a cubical trying to write about Splendour listening to Yeezy’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on repeat – 4 days on reality is still irrelevant…
The short version to describe Splendour In The Grass is easy: one word – Epic. The longer version is much more complex. For starters, my present is a pathetic debacle of prospects:
1. Facing having my entire hard drive at work completely wiped out, a year and half’s worth of work gone. Kaput.
2. Sitting in a cubicle 9 to 5 (craptastic fun).
3. Back to sourdough rye salad sangas for lunch. ☹
These 3 factors would be depressing in their own right, but after coming off the back of one of the highest weekends of my year, it’s even more excruciating than climbing that hill from hell repeatedly for 4 days to get to the Splendour spread. But enough woes, these words belong to the wonder that was Splendour In The Grass 2011 and to Woodford.
The “epic” hit as soon as we landed in Brisvegas airport Thursday afternoon – otherwise known as peak our traffic. Then after a supply stock up at Woodford Safeway, we all witnessed a monstrous car crash unfold before our eyes (me in the drivers seat of the rental car shitting myself, thinking ‘lucky I waited that extra second’). Adrenaline in full swing, we put it to good use, pitching our tents in record time, shovelling down a couple Safeway Roast Chickens before swaggering up the steep hill that lead to the guest entrance of Splendour.
Hard to see what lay out before us as I allowed myself to be led in the dark by my friends who seemed to know where they were going (I had no idea). Eventually we’d hit the Jager Hunting Lodge. But alas our time there was too short as the boys began their epic fail of a mission to score some last minute Golden Drinks tickets (after trying to purchase drinks with money – denied). So it wasn’t long before the only swag we were getting on was our sleeping bags.
Friday – the first day of epicness.
Like many others, we were up, up and away early, hitting Mix Up to see starters World’s End Press impress the larger than expected morning crowd. We hung around to catch fellow Melbourne local, Tranter, do his DJ thing. “Lucky bastard gets the best slot to be able to catch all the great bands for the rest of the weekend without having to work! Let’s come back as DJs next year” one of us mused.
Hunger monkeys starting to make noise, we sought out our first taste of the fine food on offer from the plentiful stalls that scattered throughout the massive layout. I mean this place had everything –including a Mexican cantina, its own Grilled Burger bar, Pizza, Dumplings, Turkish Gozleme (my fave) and saaaa much more – the mouth waters just reminiscing. But forget the food (and there was a lot of it over the festival), Splendour was and is ALL about the music.
The first big band booming out the blocks was Jebediah. The Amphitheatre in itself was of massive proportions; a giant field of sloped hillside enclosed by giant trees and port-a-loos. Kevin Mitchell was clearly in his element as he cruised through Control, before moving straight into their classic, Leaving Home. With a couple of the boys getting chomped on by ticks (serves them right for going sans showers the dirty slobs), they decided to make a hasty retreat to camp. I stayed to watched the uber cool, The Kills. So much swagger. How does one band manage to be so cool, I ponder?
With a slight clash, I made it just in time to catch the much hyped set of James Blake; right before he banged out Limit To Your Love no less. Hard to believe the Brit lad is only 21! Some more food and boring camp crap later (mostly clambering on the warm gears as the sun set), we were all back at the Amphitheatre to watch Modest Mouse along with 20,000 others. It kind of felt like most of the hill side punters were there to retain their spot for Yeezy.
As more bodies flood the Amphitheatre, The Hives gave out a cracker of a show. It wierds me out a little how Pelle can still manage to sound Dutch despite his emphasis on the heavy Elvis 1950’s rock talk. But accents aside these boys bring the noise, playfully ‘pulling the crowds strings’ with a mash of hard and fast rock anthems before blowing us away with Tick Tick Tick BOOM and Pelle jumping into the mosh.
Following on from what could have been a closing night set, soon came the real deal, Kanye West. And surprisingly he wasn’t the diva many had doubted he’d be. Vocally on his game, Autotune aside, Yeezy appeared humbled at the sheer size of the audience that lay before him (Splendour can do that). It’s hard for anyone to meet the mass hype that surrounds someone like Kanye West but his highly entertaining and choreographed show, featuring 20 ballet dancers and an energetic Kanye running around on the all white stage, got even those sceptics commending his Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I’m still listening to that album as I write this – incredible.
The spectacular set list (of which even I was surprised at how many songs I knew),
which included his rap from E.T. had the whole hillside on their feet. “Hey Splendour In The Grass, how the f*ck y’all feelin’ make some noise” shouted Kanye. So we did; see he abducted us so he can tell us what to do, what to do, what to do.
With the rumour running rampant through the Twitter channels that Jay-Z was in town, there was definitely a few sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for him to walk out on stage, but as Monster came and went we realised it wasn’t going to happen. Though I was still hopeful he’d rear his head even after the poignant finale Lost In The World and Who Will Survive In America.
One thing you quickly come to realise about Splendour, is that it is exactly what it’s name depicts: an over-the-top, all out onslaught of music made to move the mind to madness as there is no way you can keep your feet on mother earth so best not even try.
Saturday – so much win.
It kicked off with an hour and a half wait for the shower (hygiene is important), followed by the best Gozleme of my life(!). There was a lot more wondering round the spoils of Splendour’s food selection before finding Foster The People, who gave one of the best shows of the festival. Kele kept the party going, playing a lot of Bloc Party tunes amongst his own, which then blurred into The Grates Patience Hodgson stage diving and wrapping up their Amped set with the sexy single Turn Me On.
Sitting patiently on the hill as we waited for The Mars Volta, I’ll admit I did not fully comprehend the intensity that was coming. Seeing them live for the first time, I now fully understand why fans love them so much – so much sex, swagger and screaming, I have never craved a greasy Mexican more in my life (inside festival joke). As one friend pointed out, “when the brother’s were on heroin the shows were even more intense” – how is that even possible? Stocking up on some bevies at the Gold Bar, we proceeded on to the Mix Up stage to close the day off with PNAU. Why has the river flood, still gotta die for someone so why not in a packed tent with PNAU banging out Embrace? Fuckin’ amazing.
Sunday – all good things must come to an end.
After smashing ‘em back in the Smirnoff bar till closing time on Saturday, the ultra early start to Sunday morning came with the sounds of Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall streaming over the hillside from a Coldplay sound check (purposefully played louder than normal volume). A 2 hour line up for the shower later, I was up and over at the Amphitheatre to catch a stage side viewing of Alpine. The Holidays set was next followed by a DJ set from HOOPS (aka Nina Las Vegas and co). Thus followed by yet more food before planting our feet back at Mix Up for the tres French popstress Yelle.
As I said in my tweets, I couldn’t understand much of the lyrics but it didn’t really matter cause the set was nothin’ but tunes. Yelle (Julie Budet) was quite a sight herself, tressed up in a skin tight orangey-red lycra hooded body suit – what a bod (jealous much, um, yeah)!
Sorely walking up the steep climb to the tippy top of the Amphitheatre, we sat ourselves down on our equally as sore arses and settled in for Cloud Control. Just in time, we were treated to a surprise (and hilarious) Circle Of Life video clip from their recently kidded-up bass player, Jeremy Kelshaw with a human avalanche of crazies running up and down the side of hill beside us (to the bands delight). The lightness of mind apparent, we took a little Sunday arvo snooze.
Rebooted I wandered over to join a couple thousand at the GW Mclennan tent in a sing-a-long to Bohemian Rhapsody before Noah & The Whale took the stage (all very impressed by our efforts might I add). L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N sounded out their debut Australian set (which spells out ‘Life Goes On’ I explained to a couple of trippers walking out of the tent beside before their heads exploded). Rejoining the bulk of my posse, I made it back in time to witness a chaotic final 15 minutes of Friendly Fires and their Kiss Of Life closer.
From there it was a mad dash back over to the Amphitheatre for the final EVER (sob) Australian live performance of Pulp. A very chatty Jarvis Cocker charismatically crooned and cracked jokes, comically noting the smell of wafting shit from the ill conceived line of portaloos that ran along the top of the hill. (As it turns out, Pulp and Coldplay produced more shite than Kanye West so a timely ‘dumping’ was required by poo crews during the final 60 minutes of Pulps set.)
A very sad and emotionally ending by the Common People, and Cocker had left the stage “cause we’ve got to get off for Coldplay”, he joked (sort of). Just as emotional was the incredible 90 minute set that followed.
Now I’ve been a fan since they first released Yellow, so you’ll have to forgive me for shedding a tear at finally getting to see a band I’ve loved for so long in such an amazing surrounds, in such a relax state and as the closing act of what had indeed been a splendid weekend (no less). Yes, I welled up when beams of yellow lights flooded the front stage and Yellow streamed out the speakers. Yes, a tear fell during Chris Martin’s corny encore tribute to Amy Winehouse before breaking into Fix You, (hey it was bloody sad she died ok). And yes, I was still quite teary after Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall – their closing song.
Heck, I’m a little teary now that this blog is all finished and my Splendid journey has finally come to a close, well and truly. Well, at least for 2011 anyway.
Michelle Sawyer, August 2011