Live Review: Splendour In The Grass Live

30 July 2012 | 8:39 am | Staff Writer

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Throughout the Splendour In The Grass weekend the team from were on the ground at the Byron Bay festival and after as many shows as we could get to, and at the behest of the 3G and wi-fi Gods they filed straight after the sets finished.

Check out their Insta-Reviews here.


Melbourne lad Nick Murphy kicks off proceedings at the GW McClennan tent with a soulful rendition of Burial's Archangel, much to his sizeable audience's delight. All humility and low-key wonder, he marvels at the size of the show at which he has found himself performing ("this is probably the biggest show I've ever played, heh") before being joined onstage by compatriots on bass and drums, and a guy who looks entirely too much like a scarecrow on guitar. He then proceeds to win even more hearts with pitch-perfect runs of Terms and Conditions and Run to You, much to the delight of a nearby lady in the crowd, who enthuses, "it's my wedding song!" It's a fine start, and a solid bar-setter for the three days to come.

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- Mitch Knox


Pond open in a blaze of noise beer kicking into a lengthy play on the riff for MC5's Kick Out The Jams.

A chirpy When It Explodes appears out of the riffery; Nick Allbrook's appearance and stage presence reminiscent of a Pablo Honey-era Thom Yorke.

The band all have some kind of lurgy; they're "hocking it up everywhere" onstage.

They seamlessly run through song after song, the tunes occasionally punctuated by controlled fits of guitar noise.

The huge riffs they dish out are just made for the main stage and an over-half-full tent looking on makes it feel even bigger and better.

A Bo Diddley feel here, a Zeppelin riff there; it's hardly original but it's executed with the kind of energy and sense of fun that just makes it such a joy to watch.

"Holy shit, thanks for giving us so much love... Motherfuckers" the guitarist remarks before the band launch into a brand new song; equal parts early-80s oz swamp rock/mid 70s American glam with a crazy, heavy, loud psyched out ending. "This is a short version of our last song. We have six minutes."

- Dan Condon


Michael Kiwanuka and band waltz on stage and launch into "I'll be along", the mixture of his beautiful, warm vocal and the slick lounge-y folk/soul backing of his dapper band just feels comforting.

Worry Walks Beside Me is dark and yearning, featuring a tasteful guitar solo that jumps in and out of the box with precision.

The mood picks up with the chirpy Bones; it's the kinda song that'd send any potential romantic partner weak at the knees, it's late-50s rock'n'roll/early 60s soul influence utterly timeless.

"are there any Hendrix fans in the audience?" gets a huge cheer "me too," Kiwanuka says before launching into May This Be Love (Waterfall). A respectful rendition.

I'm Getting Ready is two minutes of sheer beauty, while a call for a singalong during Home Again gets the desired response from the knowing few.

The tent is only half-full, but he'll be back after your parents have heard him and he'll get plenty more people along.

You won't see a smoother act at Splendour this year.

- Dan Condon


We haven't seen Spiderbait as a while but the crowd hasn't forgotten them.

Shazam has the crowd screaming, Kram's call and response tricks working a charm to rile the crowd up.

The Janet English-lead Outta My Head is irresistible as it was way back when, Pack It Up still packs a punch (as does Kram's furious drumming which ends it) and the juvenile Fuckin' Awesome still doesn't seem ridiculous, for some insane reason, and it's such a great festival singalong song.

Speaking of singalongs, Buy Me A Pony incites a huge one, even though the rendition is quiet and restrained - just clean guitars and kick drum.

No such treatment for Old Man Sam, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Black Betty and Calypso, both of those songs delivered at full throttle. Seriously good fun, and good to see the support for the band is still there.

-Dan Condon


Local lass Lanie Lane wastes no time at all showing what she's made of over at the GW McLennan tent, her healthy mix of country, rock, soul and good times brought to the fore immediately with a pitch-perfect rendition of What Do I Do, from last year's To The Horses.

The affable Lane wins hearts with ease, her laid-back and friendly demeanor the perfect warmer for the chilled evening air. Special mention must be made for her extremely talented backing band - guitarist Aiden Roberts, double bassist Zoe Hartman and drummer "Dero" - who flesh out the rollicking countrified vibes with aplomb as the foursome power through the Jack White-produced My Man.

A special appearance from old friend Kram (of Spiderbait fame) for a duet of Nick Cave's Henry Lee is a real treat, as is the appearance of new song No Sound, for which Lane half-seriously asks the audience for permission to include on her next album (they agree wholeheartedly).

Right through to the closing strains of the ubiquitous (Oh Well) That's What You Get (Falling In Love With A Cowboy), Lane and co. can walk away from this show with heads held high. They've done themselves supremely proud, and have no doubt won themselves a few new fans in the process.

- Mitch Knox


The Afghan Whigs thrilled a small but besotted throng of devotees with their first ever show in these parts, the six-piece emerging all in clad in stately black and proceeding to smash out an hour of elegant, intense soul-specked rock that put their younger counterparts to shame. Frontman Greg Dulli is no stranger to Splendour having smashed it in this same GW McLennan tent a few years back with the Gutter Twins, but that was nothing compared to seeing him here in all his glory, owning the stage as he and his clearly stoked band show just why they're so revered. Scintillating...

- Steve Bell


"Well hello, Splendour. Thanks for coming to the... tent... and coming to see us. I know it got a little cold and muddy earlier on; we can't help you with the mud, but grab somebody close and we'll help you get warm. We're called Explosions in the Sky, and we're from Texas. Here we go."

So begins the luscious beauty of the Texan four-piece's set, with the only words they need to make their point. Those without someone to hold close might miss out on the literal warming, but the band's brand of atmospheric post rock is chicken soup for the soul, too, and the gently swaying, appreciative attendees know it. In a strange mirroring of the Mogwai/Kanye clash at last year's festival, some have bailed on other, arguably more iconic, bands to be here, a fact not lost on Explosions themselves, and they bring their A-game as they seemingly effortlessly glide their way through their sprawling soundscapes.

This is a tight outfit; the dynamics are crystal clear, the instrumentation polished to a shine - the flow from The Birth And Death of The Day to Your Hand In Mine is simply sublime; the finale of Six Days At The Bottom Of The Ocean is nothing short of epic - and the result is one of the most rewarding showings of Day One, without question. Sure, my fingers are numb as I type this from the side of the pit (not without a few mocking glances in my direction), and Explosions never sing a note, but you know what? Keep your vocals. With music as considered and layered as this, words ruin everything. I'll leave you with just one instead: inspiring.

- Mitch Knox


Even though we were half expecting it, it's still disconcerting when after 45 minutes Jack White's band marches off with little fanfare and is immediately replaced with an all-female ensemble. Given his other outfits it somehow makes more sense to see Jack surrounded by the ladies, and it changes the whole tone of proceedings, still rocking but slightly more refined. Hotel Yorba gets a great response and they deliver a cracking version of The Saboteurs' Top Yourself, followed by a ripper read of The White Stripes' I'm Slowly Turning Into You. A true festival showman, White has saved his trump card for last, the opening notes of Seven Nation Army sending the packed tent into raptures. They draw it out for everything it's worth - a massive communal celebration to signify stumps of day one - and suddenly White is centrestage surrounded by both of his bands, a group hug turning into a mass farewell bow. Despite immense clammering for an encore none is forthcoming. Bring on day two!
- Steve Bell


The hour may be early and the crowd might be smallish, but the dual-drum-toting Wolf & Cub are attacking our eardrums in the best way possible, audible speaker crackle and occasional feedback spike notwithstanding. Hey, it's still early, and the sound guys are probably still coming out of yesterday's fog. No big deal. Wolf & Cub drop old favourites and some new material, much to the delight of those in attendance - the number of whom spikes dramatically in the space of two songs. For their first Splendour ever, this band sure carries an air of professionalism that some veteran acts would do well to learn from. Tremendous stuff.
- Mitch Knox


Jesus Christ, the Irish produce some fantastic bands. Hailing from the same country that gave us amazing acts such as Adebisi Shank and Marvin's Revolt - and taking cues from both, moreso than from the oft-compared Foals (take note, triple j) - Dublin-based four-piece The Cast Of Cheers are no exception, winning us over early with their dexterous, technical guitar work, good-natured banter and infectious enthusiasm. The easy drive of Human Elevator sends hips across the tent into an involuntary sway, as mouths curl upwards into helpless smiles. Party times abound throughout, though, and even the most elitist of math rock/pop fans (ahem) can't stay too snobbish watching the churning sea of appreciative bodies in action. Their immensely popular Family - by no means their strongest song - is a hit with the punters, as is their deliciously groovy finisher, the name of which escapes me right now (what am I, an encyclopaedia of song titles? Cut me some slack here). These boys can go home with heads held high for a set that is nothing short of joyous, triumphant, and unforgettable. Smiles and shamrocks all round. God bless the Irish.
- Mitch Knox


Brisbane boys Last Dinosaurs are not the sort of band to waste time, launching straight into enthusiastically received jangle of Time And Place, which allows nary a booty to stay still with its catchy hooks and slow-groove outro. Far from their humble beginnings, the quartet proves without a doubt that they belong on a festival main stage as they expertly deliver earworm upon earworm, much to the delight of the utterly packed Supertop audience. They're not ungrateful, either, acknowledging this "is the best crowd we've played to for a while" before dropping the easy drive of Satin - it's kind of hard to tell what part of that sentence the audience is cheering loudest for, much to their credit. I Can't Help You is a standout, as are their now-staple cover of Spiller's Groovejet (If This Ain't Love) and infectious original Andy. Old favourite Honolulu makes a late appearance, but honestly, next to newer content such as super hook-filled closer Zoom, they could be forgiven for dropping it from their set at this point. It's a song from pretty early days, and they're a million years away from that standard now. Eh? EH?! Don't worry, I'll see myself out.
- Mitch Knox


Here We Go Magic launch straight into the deep groove of Make Up Your Mind, the band locking in nice and tight.

Hard To Be Close follows, sounding a lot more open and almost freeform; both these elements work as well as each other and both equally showcase the sensational rhythm section who lay down strong and complex grooves for the guitars and keys to colour.

The funk-inspired guitar interplay of I Believe In Action is a definite set highlight, the only downer being that I see two young girls literally dragged away by security midway through.

The peppier songs work better for mine, but the crowd  -of a mere 200 or so - lap it all up. Though Over The Ocean and A Different Ship, almost '80s soft rock kind of fare, work surprisingly well.

Collector brings the biggest cheer from the dedicated few, it's a great song, no doubt, but it doesn't feel as inspired as the majority of the songs delivered in their fine set this afternoon. How Do I Know is similarly simple, but more fully proves their ability to keep things simple, after a largely technically proficient set. Very pleasant stuff indeed.
- Dan Condon


It's weird seeing Mudhoney play to a bunch of Lana Del Rey fans... They do their all-in psych up onstage - which they claim ruins the mystique - and we wonder whether that's die to that young lady's plants taking up space.

Anyway, as they always do, the grunge legends dominate. They give so goddamn much on stage and deliver a set littered with classics.

Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More kinda seems pertinent, there might be a few sweet young things in the crowd tonight. Good Enough slays, as does You Got It, but it's weird that the crowd don't even know the chorus to Touch Me I'm Sick. Oh well.

Suck You Dry starts sloppy but is fucking wonderful and In N Outta Grace works so well in a festival stage with its classic breakdown.

Mark Arm ditches the guitar for I'm Now, just in case anyone questioned his frontman capabilities.

There's a mishap in the last ten minutes that stops the band in their tracks, but they power through Arm takes the piss out of bands calling for the crowd to clap along with the music and they close on a ripping version of The Dicks' Hate The Police.

A fucking killer rock show that has hopefully converted a few who weren't even here to see them.

- Dan Condon


Curtains shroud The Dirty Three as they close out the GW McLelland stage, and they waste no time launching into a truly iconic set. Ringleader Warren Ellis flails about like a malevolent scarecrow, ranting about writing emails to dead idols, opening sushi shops after discovering Buddhism, and Gina Rhinehart and Bono's pie shop.

Such madness never supersedes the trio's majestic dynamics though, as they swing between new tracks like the squalling The Pier to old classics like Restless Waves and the haunting maelstrom that informs Some Summers They Drop Like Flies. Whilst Ellis remains the devilish frontman with the most abused violin ever whittled, the growing prominence of Jim White on the skins increases the impact of their songs - he is undoubtedly one of the most underrated drummers. Mick Turner, as always, remains their core, ensuring that their wilder moments stay in check.

Signing off with a blistering version of Sue's Last Ride, Dirty Three enforce their iconic place in Australian - nay, global - musical history, the dotted line signed in their own feverish blood.

- Brendan Telford


For a little lady, Gossling (aka Helen Croome) packs one hell of a voice.

Thankfully, the tunes that back said vocals are adequately subdued for the time of day and point in the festival at which she's playing. Even though some folks are probably yet to leave their campsite, plenty have made the effort to show their support for the talented singer/songwriter (and her backing band, who definitely deserve a mention for their complementary but unobtrusive presence).

Her Like A Version cover of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool's 2009 hit Dance The Way I Feel is a standout moment of upbeat jive in a set otherwise laced with sultry, hip-swinging, grab-someone-you-love-and-sway-the-hangovers-away-style good-timery. Croome is endearingly appreciative in her acknowledgements to the crowd - even a little funny, as she tells one suggestive punter, "YOU sing the Woolies song!" Her natural finisher, Wild Love, is a pitch-perfect conclusion for the pint-sized performer, and a lovely way to ease into the final day of festivities.

- Mitch Knox


London-based indie rock quartet Zulu Winter provide an energetic lift for the early afternoon, their atmospheric, infectious tunes a welcome sound to help combat the inevitable onset of fatigue that emanates from their barely moving, but still obviously engaged, audience.

We Should Be Swimming is an early highlight, and vocalist Will Daunt does everything he can to not only win our hearts with song, but speech as well: "When we first arrived, it was like Glastonbury two years ago, with the mud... But this [today] is it. This is the nicest festival we've ever been to in the world."

That sentiment seems to instill a bit more physical enthusiasm, as folks start to more obviously groove along to the aptly titled Let's Move Back to Front. Daunt continues with the good natured interaction, telling us this is the first festival at which he's come away sunburnt, to which - for some reason - the audience applauds.

"Why are you clapping?" he asks. "That's not cool!"

It's all good fun though, even if the band gives off the sense that they're capable of so much more, composition-wise. Still, they do what they do really goddamn well, and by the time they finish up with the slow burn of People That You Must Remember - a point by which their crowd has finally swollen to a more than respectable size - it's hard to heed the Stark family words of "Winter is coming", because Winter came, Winter saw, and Winter conquered.

- Mitch Knox


Yuksek has a three-quarter full Mix Up tent going nuts. Extraball never lets up, every time the beat kicks back in at full force it has a little more power.

The Edge brings things down a little - though its cute little keyboard hook is pretty irresistible - and Off The Wall shows that crossover is well and truly Yuksek's game.

The light show is simple but stunning and it sounds fantastic, but I end up leaving before the end as everyone else in the tent is far better looking than I and I begin to feel self-conscious.

I announce my intention to leave to my friend, to which he replies "Thank fuck!". Make of that what you will.

- Dan Condon


The people have turned out in droves for New York's Fun., and they start off strongly with the dance-vibe ignition of One Foot, barely pausing for breath before plunging into the hyper-kinesis of Walking The Dog.

Granted, frontman Nate Ruess' facial expressions are almost farcically sensual during Why Am I the One? but unintentional physical hilarity aside, the six members on stage are clearly seasoned performers, and they bring a party-down, good-time feel to the masses with such a casual air that it's a little hard not to hate them a tiny bit for being such talented folks.

All the Pretty Girls goes off with a bang, and to Ruess' credit, the man really can wail. Ex-Straylight Run member and Fun.'s touring drummer, Will Noon, is rocking the sleaziest moustache of the festival, but he's an animal on the skins, while guitarist Jack Antonoff plugs fellow New Yorkers Friends with his choice of attire and even joins in for some tom-pounding during Barlights, which descends into unchecked cacophony at its conclusion, in the best kind of way.

It's a surprisingly uplifting performance, and suddenly their meteoric rise makes a little more sense as they demonstrate a depth that isn't obvious from their ultra-inoffensive mega-hit We Are Young, the popularity of which has always been a bit mystifying. Speaking of that little ditty, it makes a natural appearance late in the set, much to the packed tent's audible delight - the response and sing-along are nothing short of massive.

Ruess makes multiple references to how much he loves Australia throughout their performance, and it's clear by the time they wrap up - if the sea of smiles leaving the Supertop is any indication - that it's certainly not a one-way affair.

- Mitch Knox