Day One: The War Between Humans And Mud

28 July 2012 | 10:01 am | Celline Narinli

Mud, music and a meltdown. Splendour Day One.

Splendour In The Grass 2012 Day One kicked off with the most perfect of perfect weathers, a buzzing campsite and rush of pre-festival adrenalin. Punters were more than happy to see the festival return back to its home of Byron Bay Belongil Fields.

Opening the GW McLennan stage, Chet Faker eased the crowd into one of the more busier and popular days of the three-day weekend. Nick Murphy started off with a quiet, solo rendition of Burial's Archangel. The intimacy between him and his piano was hard to feel in the festival environment, especially because it was only 12:45pm and people were just getting started. Murphy was thankful for the overwhelming turn out, humbly telling the audience that this was probably the biggest crowd he's ever played to – a tent doesn't usually pack out the way it did for Murphy when a band opens a stage – which is proof of the Melbourne artist's quick and sudden rise to success.

Chet Faker at SITG 2012 pic by Stephen Booth

Playing sultry hits from his EP Thinking In Textures, people were definitely feeling the sexuality that is highly present his music – example a: a couple to the left of me were happily grinding away for the entire duration of his set. But it wasn't just all about the sex, the crowd sang along word for word to songs like I'm Into You and, of course, his Blackstreet cover No Diggity, which closed his set. Playing as a four-piece live band, the set fell a little flat at times, most probably because of the inability to meld down-tempo r'n'b with a buzzing, daytime festival crowd – but this could have been fixed with a fuller, denser and bassier sound.

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From one extreme to the other, Pond were completely off their chops. Lead singer, Nick Allbrook's banter was predominantly jibberish as he told the audience about the cough medicine bottle that he had been nursing on stage, calling it his 'purple drank' and then referring to Lil' Wayne. To be honest, we lost him half way through that little spiel. But musically, the band were thriving, completely belting out their psych-rock offerings at full force and letting loose on stage.

Pond at SITG 2012 pic by Stephen Booth

Starting in the highest, most painful pitch, Youth Lagoon – aka Trevor Powers – hit the Mix-Up Tent with his buddy on electric guitar. Thankfully, the sound levels improved, but since Powers' vocals are already of a high frequency, combining that with his shrieking synths really destroyed our eardrums. Playing the melancholic electro-pop songs from his debut, The Year In Hibernation, Powers extended the languid melodies and outros of each song – highlights including closer Seventeen and Montana – providing the perfect soundscape as the clouds rolled in. It was during Powers' set that the psychotic storm took over Byron Bay with heavy rain and hail, which was to begin the war between humans and mud.

Mud. Let's not even get started on the mud. Some fell face down in it, others were just soaked up to their shins. Now we know why they used to call it Splendour In The Mud. But mud aside, The Shins were about to take the stage. And to hide from the cold, I thought I'd experience their show side of stage. Probably not the best idea as the quality of the sound was far poorer, and the tech guys were preparing for the reunited At The Drive-In set that was to follow on the main stage.

The Shins took to the stage and jumped straight into one of their most loved tracks, Caring Is Creepy. Shortly followed by Australia, it was a little disappointing not to see James Mercer crack a joke or throw a dedication our way. Maybe that would've been too cheesy for him, but it would've been nice!

Having never seen The Shins perform with their original line-up, it's hard for me to compare the two. The six-piece that Mercer recruited as his band were tight and in total control of their sound.  You'd think that they've been touring and performing together for years.

Mercer didn't put much effort into his banter, but to be honest, you don't really need much showmanship from Mercer to be impressed with The Shins. All he needs to do is open his mouth and sing, as his voice is The Shins – and this also goes for the haters of the new line-up (if there are any out there). The warmth and homeliness of their music came to life at the SuperTop when I think punters needed it most (6:30pm was around the time energy levels started to crumble away).

And with a new band, of course, comes a different dimension to The Shins sound. New arrangements were heard like New Slang's included female harmonies. For a song that is so popular and probably immensely overplayed, seeing it in this new angle was refreshing but as equally mesmerising as its original.

At the end of the day, it was only fair for a young lady (such as myself) to have a meltdown due to the overwhelming amount of mud, exhaustion and freezing cold weather of Splendour Day One. But hey, it was all totally worth it.