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Live Review: Splendour In The Grass 2019 - Day Two

#TheMusicAtSITG

 Kwame @ Splendour In The Grass. Pic by Peter Dovgan

Kwame @ Splendour In The Grass. Pic by Peter Dovgan

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Are you staying hydrated? How’s the head? Do you need to call your mum? We’ve stumbled out of our tents and are defrosting in the sunshine, reminiscing about day two and all the amazing music we saw and the terrible choices we made. Come join us.

Midday, day two at the Amphitheatre. It was a big ask. Particularly when security wouldn’t let anyone in until the set had already begun. However, up-and-coming artist Fergus James made the most of it. By the time punters trickled in, James was already drenched in sweat and giving his all. A small crowd formed around the stage while less game punters found shade on the hill. His big indie-pop tunes were good and got people moving but it was his slower acoustic hits that really stole the show. Bleary-eyed punters swayed along as James gently introduced them to the day; the perfect start to day two.



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Fergus James. Pic by Clare Hawley

Dear Seattle hit the Ampitheatre right in the feels, the faithful crowd getting around Daytime TV’s gang vocals and The Meadows’ cathartic “fuck being sad”. Flanked by Beavis & Butthead on stage, arms locked around mates as we collectively swayed to a Missy Higgins-approved cover of The Special Two. There was nothing but love and gratitude coming from frontman Brae Fisher as we raised a beer to the sky to toast his old man - Fisher, we were fragile, don’t make us cry.

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Dear Seattle. Pic by Peter Dovgan

With dancers AND a horn section on stage, the big soul band feels of Thandi Phoenix had the Mix Up tent pumping before 1pm. Phoenix controlled the audience with just her little finger, and certified bops, including her Like A Version of Portishead's Glory Box, had people sprinting towards the stage.



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Thandi Phoenix. Pic by Peter Dovgan

Shaking off the weariness of the first day is no easy task but when you’re craving dirty pop-punk music in your ears, who better than Moaning Lisa? The four-piece, originally from Canberra (but now partly Melbourne), have been picking up fans quickly over the past 12 months and for good reason. They fucking rock. "Holy guacamole, good morning, Splendour! I never thought I'd say that", announced singer and guitarist Charlie Versegi

Coincidentally playing on the same bill as the band that inspired their name (Wolf Alice), they deservedly drew more and more people into the GW McLennan tent. Hilarious banter and instrument swaps kept things light and Take You Out slowed it down a little after a feverish start. "I'm fucking hot, my tits are sweaty, I love you, Byron!" shared Versegi. There was so much to love about this group and their set pointed towards an exciting future. 



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Moaning Lisa. Pic by Peter Dovgan

It didn’t matter if you had no idea who Channel Tres was, he and his back-up dancers grooved their way through the set and people came streaming into the Mix Up tent from all angles to see who was making this infectious sound. Halfway through the set the music cut out and he treated the crowd to a badass acapella-style rap. Following this, he walked off stage, returning a couple of moments later, shirtless. Strutting up to the mic, he drove the crowd wild with a saucy rendition of a new, unreleased tune. You don’t have to like house or rap music to like this guy - his energy is so infectious, if you see him live once, you’ll leave a fan.



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Channel Tres. Pic by Clare Hawley

The Nude Party were greeted by a party of their own as a group of party hat laden revellers pulled up at the barrier for the smooth rock extravaganza. Bringing 2019 back to the mid-‘70s with their Bob Seger Band-tinged guitar jams, the North Carolina boys laid it down easy for the small crowd.

“We’re a shitty punk band from Newcastle,” saw Trophy Eyes onto the stage, the crowd showing that they too had a “soft spot for getting fucked up”. It was the last show for guitarist Kevin Cross and he was in fine form, whipping out the jager and yelling at the animals in the mosh shouting for shoeys: "l drink from a bottle you pieces of shit.” Nice one mate. The set was tight - classic punk melodies and good vibes all around.



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Trophy Eyes. Pic by Peter Dovgan

Being the only Aussie hip hop artist on the bill (until the last-minute addition of Hilltop Hoods) meant there was some definite pressure for Kwame, but the Western Sydney prodigy, with a full band behind him, stepped up to the plate - and more. Wasting no time, he dropped No Time and the crowd were right there with him, spilling out of the Mix Up tent. When he asked them to bounce, they did, when he asked them to clap, they did. He and the big sound from his band kept the vibe going consistently for the whole set. 

“I don't want to be one of those artists that say, 'I've always wanted to play Splendour,’ but this has been a dream of mine." Kwame was taking it in and even as he did, the ”Kwame” chant rose above it all. The rise and rise of Kwame is exciting to see and for his finale of Clouds and Wow he could have just let the crowd sing the whole thing; pretty much a sign that you've made it. 



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Kwame. Pic by Peter Dovgan

We loved Pub Choir. Singing along to a banger of a song (this instance Meg Mac’s Roll Up Your Sleeves) with a massive crowd of people will always be a life-affirming delight. But what elevated the experience was the fact director/choir leader/all-round legend Astrid Jorgensen was fucking hilarious. Between that PowerPoint presentation (“If you’re thinking, ‘’I can’t follow these instructions,’ stop taking pingers.”), complete with dog GIFs, and the man-voice microphone, our cheeks still hurt from smiling so much. Once we learnt our parts, Meg Mac finally graced the stage, looking as boss as ever, and it was legit, we're official back-up singers.

Pond took the stage at the Amphitheatre mid-afternoon for their second performance of the festival. Frontman Nic Allbrook well and truly lived up to his messy reputation, haphazardly dancing his way around the stage and testing security’s nerves by spending half the set halfway over the barrier getting up close and personal with the chill crowd. The man lives in his own little world, lying belly down on the stage at one point and whispering into the mic. Despite his chaotic energy, the set delivered the sun-soaked psychedelic pop-rock sound the boys are known for. Throwing in a Madonna and Bee Gees cover for good measure, the set successfully set the tone for the rest of the evening. You never know what to expect at a Pond gig, but you can guarantee it’ll be weird.  



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Pond. Pic by Peter Dovgan

Back at the Mix Up tent, a good group had assembled for Little Simz' set, an artist that has been on “best-of” lists for a while now. Coming out using a megaphone for Boss, her energy was immediate, asking the crowd for the same and getting it in spades. The song, God Bless Mary, dedicated to her sister, was a beautiful moment and Pressure had hands flailing wildly in the air. 

"I'm gonna rap for you, but when it drops, you've gotta fucking lose it." Her rapid-fire delivery on Backrest was something else and the tent ate it up, with a huge roar. She declared that Australia "gets it", and judging by this performance, she was 100% right. 



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Little Simz. Pic by Peter Dovgan

Packing out the McLennan tent further than the eye can see, Ruby Fields and her band of merry men were suitably awestruck. Opening with the huge sing-along of I Wanna, it was hard to believe this set was going to be anything but a highlight of the weekend. The love was real. Running through hit after hit of hers before busting out a surprise Britney Spears cover of Toxic, the volume from the stage had to be turned up to cope with the crowd. Culminating in the insanity of Hottest 100 hotfooter Dinosaurs, the crowd exploded beyond capacity. Peak crowd mayhem came with a punter climbing the scaffolding ten metres above the crowd for a triumphant Splendour set from Fields and co. 



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Ruby Fields. Pic by Clare Hawley

Just as the sun began to sink beneath the hills, Dean Lewis took the stage at the Amphitheatre, ready to give the huge crowd the show of his life. Despite his fast and widespread success over the past few years, Lewis has still managed to maintain his humility and seemed genuinely shocked by the amount of people there to see him. “This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever played to by far,” he said. 

His set was the perfect mix of old and new, with older songs like Half A Man, which started his career, as well as new hits like 7 Minutes and of course crowd favourite Be Alright. His powerhouse vocals paid tribute to The Killers with a badass cover of When We Were Young. Then to round out the set, he finished with Waves, having one last dance with the adoring crowd. 



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Dean Lewis. Pic by Clare Hawley

English electronic duo Maribou State made for the perfect sunset set at Splendour. Combining a mix of electronica, rock and world music, they're not to be pigeon-holed and it's best just to let the rhythms consume you, particularly with a live drummer and percussionist. 

When joined by vocalist Holly Walker they flourished, but either way they got you moving. Her voice was glorious and brought the crowd right into it. Instrumental tracks like Glasshouses and Beginner’s Luck showcased the musicianship of a group that are clearly mega-talented. People that visited the stage to see what the hype was about found themselves staying, such was the atmosphere and sheer joy of a group that were really hitting their straps. A joy to witness.



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Maribou State. Pic by Peter Dovgan

Seeing Tropical Fuck Storm is less of a wholesome festival type experience, and more of a barrage on your soul. Gareth Liddiard not holding back at all, running through the monstrous jam of You Let My Tyres Down while the first circle pit of the day at GW McLennan tent opened up. From this moment, Liddiard’s rage busted out of its cage, throwing around guitars, refusing to bend to his wicked desire and slagging the young crowd. "These next few songs you won't hear on triple j, we’re too old and too smart for you dumb cunts." This marked the beginning of the end of the set, the Tropical Fuck Storm cohort squeezing in more aggression and anti-Splendour attitude with two more songs.

We sprinted back to the Ampitheatre to get up close and personal with London’s Wolf Alice. Don’t Delete The Kisses gave the band their “first festival moment”, as they proved to a devoted following just how bloody good they are - who needs a Mercury Prize? Oh wait they have that too. We were jealous of bassist Theo Ellis’ Pokémon shirt and pin-stripe suit combo and really just wanted to be best friends with Ellie Rowsell.



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Wolf Alice. Pic by Peter Dovgan

The temperature was well and truly dropping as night fell. Many passers-by found refuge from the chill in the cosy World Tent and in doing so stumbled upon the insanely groovy Nicky Bomba. Donning a fedora, holding a guitar and flanked by a bongo player, drummer and tambourine player, Bomba was bringing infectious reggae tunes to Splendour. A man of many talents, he unleashed a small drum solo before playing guitar with a drumstick. Whether you were there for the whole set or just a few songs, Bomba welcomed you in and gave you a good time. 

The old souls don't seem to get much of a run at Splendour, either on or off stage. But when the young crowds gathered at the GW McLennan tent for a moderate set from Jacob Banks, it became obvious the oldies weren’t unwelcome. Banks is an old soul through and through, swooning on stage as a sea of young budding soul aficionados had their eyes turn into love hearts. One crowd member moreso than others, an ecstatic girl performing a short dance sequence which blew away the crowd. While this looked like a scheduled dance sequence, the look on Banks face suggested otherwise. Regardless, that level of expression is what Splendour needs, so respect to the mystery dancer! 

The food vendors seemed to empty suddenly as people made a beeline towards the Mix Up for the very intriguing Allday & Friends set. There's no doubt of his popularity with there being barely any room under the tent right from the start and opener, Right Now. The crowd were already yelling every word.

Allday proceeded to bring out friend after friend to rapturous cheering. Japanese Wallpaper, Memphis LK and Simon Lam (Kilo) were already on stage as part of the band, but they were joined by Asta to start, followed by NYNE on Sides. All seemingly asked to wear ill-fitting suits, the friends would flit on and off with barely a word, in between a mix of old and new tracks.

The big ones were left to the end. First, Mallrat delivered UFO to huge screams, before the most well-known secret was finally revealed as The Veronicas arrived to perform their new collaboration, Restless. The crowd were already almost delirious, but when the opening strings of Untouched were played, the reaction was chaos. Allday added in his own verse to the iconic hit and people were giddy with glee. It will certainly go down as one of the highlights of the whole festival.



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Allday. Pic by Peter Dovgan

The Amphitheatre was almost at capacity as more and more people streamed in for Ocean Alley’s set. When the boys walked onstage they seemed unphased and launched straight into a set filled with singable tunes. With hits ranging from Yellow Mellow to Infinity to their Like A Version cover Baby Come Back, the crowd sang every word back to them. Apparently men of little words, they kept the chit chat to a minimum, focusing on squeezing in as many bangers as possible. Despite their polished performance, their set could have better if put in an earlier time slot. The crooning guitar solos and slow progressions of their music yearned for the afternoon sun and without it, some of their charm was lost.

The new location of the GW McLennan tent made it easy to find a vantage point on the adjacent hill to watch Angus Stone and his Dope Lemon project perform their low-key indie stylings. Lucky too, because the tent was rammed proving his solo stuff is just as popular as his sibling duo.

Marinade, an older track, received a loud pop from the crowd, followed by a lot of singing to the riff and gleeful swaying. He's definitely got those chill vibes down pat in everything from his banter to his relaxed stage presence. 

The newer songs from the freshly squeezed Smooth Big Cat were also received well, the bass line to Hey You rolling easily over the site. A horn section livened things up a little near the end, but you’d never expect anything too outlandish from the Byron local. Very easy to listen to.



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Dope Lemon. Pic by Peter Dovgan

A Catfish & The Bottlemen show is not an alien concept for Australians, earlier this year the UK chaps were on our shores for Falls Festival and here they were again for a similarly stoked Splendour crowd. With a new album out, we were treated to an absolute ringer of new material but what got the packed Ampitheatere yelling out with varying degrees of thick British inflection was the classics such as and Coccoon. The set was the usual masterclass of stadium rock to be expected from Catfish & The Bottlemen, not that there's anything wrong with that.



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Catfish & The Bottlemen. Pic by Peter Dovgan

Despite performing just before Childish Gambino was due to take the main stage, Courtney Barnett managed to draw a decent crowd to GW McLennan and intended to make the most of it. Tearing through a set is of old songs and new, she was clearly having a great time. As things amped up towards the middle of her set she removed her jacket and got to work shredding on the guitar. The enthusiastic crowd head banged along, singing all her lyrics back to her. 



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Courtney Barnett. Pic by Peter Dovgan

We made a bold choice and headed to the Mix Up tent over Gambino. It’s Mike fucking Skinner, alright. And you know what? It paid off. The Streets were excellent. Like, really good. Think champagne sprays, crushed pingers and some dude dressed up as Freddie Mercury who got pulled up onto the stage and took a bow to close the show. And yes, you don’t even need to ask; we rapped Fit But You Know It verbatim.



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The Streets. Pic by Peter Dovgan

It's felt like many more years in the making than reality for Aussie shores to get our last taste of the Childish Gambino experience. Yet somehow the wait was so worth it, we could have waited another decade. Gambino had two rules: love yourself and him (understandable) and no phones, ‘cause it's church.

Walking through the various stages of his career comfortably, the music genius scripted dancers and stage set-up changes to flow along with a full band revamping his back catalogue. The undeniable energy of This is America took over the stacked Ampitheatre, the music video came to reality as dancers busted the hell DOWN, and the earth-shaking groove of Redbone gripped us all by the hips. 



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Childish Gambino. Pic by Clare Hawley

It wasn't all fresh hits and Awaken, My Love! cuts though, the new Feels Like Summer accompanied by palm tree projections was a treat in the four degree cold. But the huge singalong to 3005 and Worldstar was what really got the lungs working. The spectacle of Gambino’s show was no small feat to bring to our shores, with six huge light pillars moving around throughout the set. But with Gambino spending a good deal of time appreciating the audience, it was all with love.