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Splendour In The Grass @ Belongil Fields, 25 – 26/07/09

July 30, 2009


“It’s a splendid thing”. Much of what I heard through the festival’s history could be summed up by this silly pun. Unfortunately, the munted-ness of the crowd couldn’t make the occasion even one iota splendid this year. More like splendidly horrific. As you probably would see scattered through this review, the acts of people not on stage semi ruined this experience for me, which is a bit of a shame come to think of it.

What could also be faulted was half the music on display during the weekend, I don’t know if it was the weed that is prominent up here or what, but some of the announced performances was not really up to standard for what has become one of the country’s major festivals. Let’s start off with Saturday.

Art Vs Science was the first set I sauntered into, and to be seeing so many people so early in the day dancing their arse off to a band which was virtually unknown last year was a stunning site. Call me snobby, but I couldn’t really get into the tracks which were served up. Too repetitive and structurally boring if you ask me (i.e., one particular repeating of a French line and one simple riff don’t make a song). I can see why they have a massive following though. The amount of time I have seen Bridezilla play I have seen them progressively get less and less connected with their audience as well as seemingly with their tunes. In a live sense at least, no different with this Splendour set. Daisy M Tully’s frenetic violin work was the only thing that grabbed me, while everyone else was standing around looking like stunned pikelets. You were never like this Bridezilla a few years ago – what happened?

Same thing could be said of the little bit of Little Red’s set (see what I did there?), but rather than sticking around for that I decided to get some organic donuts and enjoy a pretty vibed up Dappled Cities play a mixture of old and new. These guys were looking to have a bit of fun and the amazingly rocking Tim Rogers with You Am I even made the day a little more better for me musically. By this time of the day it was simply just about fun rocking out in the main tent.

Yuksek saw to me getting those expectations of musical acts down to the gutter again though. What was up with this boring listless music on the Saturday in the Mix Up tent? Additionally, across the fields, Birds Of Tokyo were giving us boring listless acoustic numbers. I think these guys should be dubbed the “Nickelback of Australia” they were that boring. Where did this boring yawn fest of a band come from and why do people like them? Plodding through a bunch of songs like you’re at rehearsal is not how you perform at festivals guys.

the specialsLittle Birdy plundered through their set very nicely and much like Dappled played a good mix of new and old tracks in their set, while fellow local band Augie March fare welled audiences to a special set of career highlights too. Unfortunately half the crowd dispersed after the token hit “One Crowded Hour” and missed out on what is really their masterpiece – “Hole In Your Roof”. Things picked immensely with The Specials too with a set of spell bounding reggae and dub that picked up the crowd, shook them around and demanded they have a simply good time. The yell when “A Message To You (Rudy)” was started was as loud as I would ever hear the whole weekend. Sarah Blasko and her interesting hand movement sideshow at the GW McLennan tent rounded up the performances there for the Saturday. Sporting an interesting costume change from black robe to twee red dress, Sarah was invariably enjoying herself up there dancing and jumping about which put a smile on me up until I ventured to The Mix Up tent again.

The Happy Mondays was also just as listless as the other acts mentioned who played earlier in the day. I couldn’t decipher anything Shaun Ryder was singing (or was that blabbering?) about. He literally looked simply wasted on stage too. I know that’s your kind of shtick Shaun, but couldn’t you at least a bit entertaining?

Early morn of the next day proved to be a ghost town in the morning especially with the Deer Republic warming things up to a small but somewhat intrigued crowd, and then The Middle East wowing them with the beautiful and uplifting brand of folk appropriate for that time of the day. Dananananakroyd were the ones that really stunned the crowd up with their jumping, crazy running around the stage and almost screamo like vocals. The band’s “Wall Of Cuddles” was an interesting idea, and I think everyone got one except me. I got a “Wall Of Shoulder Charge” instead from some hack who decided to run around crazily when it all happened.

Jack Ladder did his crooning balladry which was enjoyable enough. I couldn’t help but think that this guy could be Gen Y’s Nick Cave throughout the set. Once again though the middle of the day proved to be where the shit came out to fruition Friendly Fires were plagued with sound issues and when they did make sound, it didn’t sound great. Same could be said for Kisschasy. Their brand of weird emo power indie stuff just doesn’t do it for me and was miffed as to how anyone could like this.

After mulling abound for a bit and spending time in the Jager Cube dancing to some bad 90’s crap that Golden Ron was playing, I saw what was the most mesmerising show of the day. Doves just literally blew the roof off a set which included a range of masterpieces throughout their 4 album career. I couldn’t have fathomed a better performance throughout the weekend and was just enthralled by the spectacle the trio + 1 gave us. The Gutter Twins were a slight disappointment in a way. They all looked a little too relaxed for a festival act, and more suited to a sit down joint. The small crowd for them was a disappointment as well, and the constant talking throughout the set just added to the frustration of seeing this band. HOpefully those theatre shows is where it’s at with those guys.

Flaming LipsI then proceeded to stand through an hour of droll that was apparently known as “Grinspoon” and sat through even more worse droll from overseas with MGMT. Once again, much like their Meredith set, the band played like they were simply not enthused and they have no idea how to play to a festival crowd. The fact that everyone on stage looked stoic made the first 20 minutes awkward, and much like Bridezilla on Saturday, just didn’t make for an engaging show. I have never seen so many people simply stand still for so long, especially with those new songs they played for us. Of course when “Kids” & “Electric Feel” came along everyone was on everyone else’s shoulders and everyone else just went nutso. Such is the complexity of the bands following it seems.

The Flaming Lips brought the excitement to the end of Sunday, but once again disappointment came in with them only playing seven songs, which wasn’t helped with their major long intro featuring band members coming through a projected image of a woman’s nether regions and Wayne floating around in an inflatable ball. All of this plus the multitude of balloons and party time on stage was fantastic and awe inspiring, but why the hour long set for the headliners Splendour organisers? Seems a bit silly to me.

And so another Byron Bay Splendour Weekender has gone by, and everyone who had invaded the town has gone home (except me – I’m up here for another two weeks and probably give you a few more reviews of gigs that happen up here). I’m now here thinking what has become of this festival. The music content has garnered itself as quality throughout the years the event has happened up here, the crowds however have slightly gone downhill in terms of appreciation of festival etiquette.

(photo’s of The Flaming Lips & The Specials care of Splendour’s Flickr)

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Daniel permalink
    July 30, 2009 7:08 pm

    “Call me snobby, but ….”

    such a snob Phil!

    Love Daniel

  2. July 30, 2009 9:51 pm

    The line up sounds horrible.

    I’d only pay to see the Flaming Lips.

    Someone needs to punch Katie Steele in the throat.

  3. Alexandra permalink
    July 31, 2009 9:21 am

    W3rd about Katy Steele, Nancy.
    Sounds like it was a bit of a fail-boat, Phil.
    Bummer :(

  4. Sarah C permalink
    July 31, 2009 10:15 am

    What a shame that ATP was postponed this year. And what a shame the Lips were only given an hour (they were amazing at Festival Hall here)

  5. Philippe permalink
    August 2, 2009 5:28 pm

    Yeah Sarah – majorly bummed about ATP, hopefully they think of doing it bi-annually or something like that…

    Daniel – I pride myself on snobbiness (maybe)!

  6. August 3, 2009 1:06 pm

    “Unfortunately, the munted-ness of the crowd couldn’t make the occasion even one iota splendid this year. More like splendidly horrific.”

    I feel for you, it’s one of the things that turned me off returning to Falls Lorne for the time-being. That said, I managed to avoid the munted ones for the majority of the festival and think I did fairly lucky.

  7. Michael permalink
    August 4, 2009 8:41 pm

    Glad I saved my money for Peats Ridge!

  8. Michael permalink
    August 4, 2009 8:41 pm

    P.S major lulage @ Birds of Tokyo call.

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