Splendour In The Grass
North Byron Parklands, NSW
July 21st – 23rd, 2017
Featuring: Loads of Hipsters, Floral Headpieces, Freezing Temperatures and Some Really Good Bands.
Splendour In The Grass is one of those tricky festivals for rock and metal lovers in Australia. There are always a few acts that are worth seeing, but to fork out the money only to get a festival predominantly covered in indie/pop/EDM fusions; it may make you second guess. Geared with a bit of booze, an excruciating urge to pat the sniffer dogs and a slightly less fabulous outfit (jeans and a Pink Floyd t-shirt) than my surrounding festival goers, I entered to explore, listen, mosh and review.
Friday 21st July – Day 1
Every morning was an early morning when the cold wakes you up at 4am, despite wearing every piece of clothing available. The festival began with a mixture of a mild hangover, crippling anticipation for the warm sun to come up, and a mind set to blow all of the days energy on Melbourne’s nu-metal beasts; Ocean Grove.
To be honest, I was expecting to be surrounded by a relatively weak crowd due to the show starting in the middle of the day, but that wasn’t the case. The first thing I noticed was bass player and clean vocalist, Dale Tanner, dressed in an eccentric bright yellow shirt with 70s style sunglasses and a cheeky grin hiding an explosive amount of energy for the performance to come. Nu-metal is clearly still a genre people groove to with songs like ‘Intimate Alien’ really activating the crowd. ‘Lights On Kind Of Lover’ from their previous album Black Label proved how large this band has crafted their sound to be; the balance of piercing aggression from unclean vocalist Luke Holmes and sing along choruses from Tanner makes it a song I’d recommend everyone to put on their live set bucket list. ‘The Wrong Way’, ‘Mr Centipede’ and ‘Beers’ also fuelled the mosh pit to a spectacular level.
With sweat spilling from all band members, the grand finale of songs came to the stage with special guest, Running Touch. Dressed in full black and black paint around his eyes, Running Touch was an awesome addition to the set list. Mysteriously gliding around the stage through his surprisingly impressive skills on rollerblades added that awesome original aspect to a performance that I believe makes a truly great band.
Ocean Grove was the only band I saw that took the time to pay public respects to the passing of Chester Bennington as well. It’s a risk to kill the mood by bringing up sensitive topics; however I believe it was a necessary call and I have think highly of the band for doing so. Aside from OG the food at SITG was the only thing that really grabbed my attention. Peking Duk, Tash Sultana and Banks were some of the more memorable artists I visited, but it was difficult to connect with the crowds’ energy. They put on a good show, both musically and visually, but I could imagine many rock/metal fans preferring to move to a bar or returning to their campgrounds.
Saturday 22nd July – Day 2
Luca Brasi, the Tasmanian punk-rock four-piece took to the stage as the first proper rock act of Saturday. Performing at 2pm, my hopes were sitting with the energy levels of Ocean Grove. Credits definitely need to be dished out to the group as they played well, played the songs everyone wanted to hear and played with convincing energy. Unfortunately, I don’t believe it was enough to blow anyone away and spark too many new fans. After a few of their better well known songs like ‘Anything Near Conviction’ and new single, ‘Got To Give’, all I could think was I’ve already seen this band at every local venue’s weekly band-fest night. At the end of a concert, I want to be pumped for more music that fires my veins with emotion, energy and adrenaline. Festivals are also the time to make an epic visual impression on the audience too. Wearing full plain blacks with a simple flag behind the band is the bare basic set up for any band.
Maybe I’m not at the age where I can connect with the music, or maybe I hadn’t woken up properly, or maybe the band just isn’t for me. Check them out anyway as a new album from the band is coming our way; hopefully they get you grooving…
“FUCK YEAH DUNIES!!”
If I had a job of summing up the performance Dune Rats put on, there is my answer. Out of all acts at SITG, Dune Rats hands down did the best job of putting on a show. Opening with a video featuring Shannon Noll and Dune Rats plotting to have Shannon appear out of a cake on stage unfortunately didn’t become a reality; however, the three dudes entered the arena on motorbikes which instantly compensated for the lack of Shannon. I have never seen an act look so happy to be on-stage before and it’s without a doubt contagious. If anyone had any weed, or a cigarette on them, it was lit as the amount of smoke hovering over the crowd doubled since the last act – typical Dune Rats. ‘Red Light Green Light’ and ‘Scott Green’ sent everyone wild. Standing at the back of the main pit, it looked like a sea of hyperactive grass hoppers with the amount of shoes, thongs and beer cans being catapulted into the air.
‘Bullshit’, ‘6 Pack’ and ‘Dalai Lama Big Banana Marijuana’ were other songs that fired the crowd up a bit more than others, but it was the boys’ cover of Grinspoon’s ‘Just Ace’ that took things to the next level. Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon lead vocalist) and James Tidswell (Violent Soho guitarist) came on stage to assist. Whilst this was going on, two inflatable boats were sailed across the crowd carrying two blokes that were clearly having the time of their lives. At another section of the concert there was also a few jumbo blow up beer cans, with ‘Dunies’ written onto them, released into the crowd for everyone to enjoy. Even though I’m normally after more heavy and serious music, I think I could call this the most fun concert I’ve ever been to. The next time my mates and I whip out a carton of beers for a good night, Dune Rats will be my go-to band on the stereo.
At festivals there will always be that one band you’ve heard of but never had time to get into. That band for me was Catfish and the Bottlemen. Sometimes that band can be insanely surprising and thankfully in this case, they were. After a few songs I realised how many of these songs I actually knew and how many of the songs I subconsciously loved. Kicking off the show with ‘Homesick’, their first song from 2014 album, The Balcony, it was a perfect crescendo of energy to get everyone’s attention. The band portrays a mature flavour of rock that hints at strong flavours of Oasis and Kings of Leon with a younger, more modern twist. At the fresh age of 24, lead vocalist Van McCann smashes all of the notes and expression heard from studio versions with extra, juicy energy pumped into the way he moves and makes love to his microphone. Other songs such as ‘Kathleen’, ‘Soundcheck’, ‘Pacifier’ and ‘Cocoon’ injected the crowd with an infectious need to dance while large ballads like ‘7′ gave enough wind-down to satisfy the heart throb seekers.
After realising that Catfish only side-showed at Sydney, Melbourne and Wooloongong, I feel extremely lucky to have experienced these rock troopers. If SITG was filled with more bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen instead of indie/pop/EDM fusions, I think they would make a lot of deprived rock fans happy in Australia.
Saturday night was the big night to be at. Following Catfish, UK’s two piece rock super-weapon, Royal Blood, took to the stage for the next hour to prove how full and satisfying 2 instruments plus one voice can sound. Ben Thatcher (drums) walked onto the stage and stared down his fans with a red cup in hand. A concoction of authority and tease with an eerie lack of facial expression glowed from the man as the crowd started to cheer for his entrance and for his companion, Michael Kerr (lead vox/bass), to arrive. Kerr took to the stage and they assumed positions.
The undeniably groovy ‘Where Are You Know?’ tune opened Royal Blood’s exhibition of sweat, sweet melodies and sickly amounts of head banging. Continuing the excitement of hearing fresh new music, ‘Lights Out’ followed (both songs coming from the 2017 album ‘How Did We Get So Dark’). Front to back, the concert was a first-class representation of what a rock concert should be. Released on the 16th of June 2017, How Did We Get So Dark? is Royal Blood’s 2nd album and fans made it obvious that they enjoy it just as much, if not more than their previous self-titled album (2014). As well as the first two songs on the set-list, ‘I Only Lie When I Love You’ and its unforgettable cowbell-bashing beat was featured. The classics from their debut album such as ‘Come On Over’, ‘Out Of The Black’ and ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’ also made an unforgettable musical atmosphere.
Kerr jumped and danced around the stage with his orange bass supported by a small wall of amplifiers behind him. Joining Thatcher to smack some cymbals whilst playing bass with his other hand made Kerr an instant rock-god of SITG 2017. Putting Royal Blood close to the top of the line-up makes so much sense when every song they pump out in the studio and on stage has 100% effort and energy thrown in. This concert was definitely a huge highlight of SITG.
- Where are you now?
- Lights Out
- Come on Over
- Hook, Line & Sinker
- Little Monster
- I Only Lie When I Love You
- Hole In Your Heart
- Figure It Out
- Loose Change
- Ten Tonne Skeleton
- Out Of The Black
By the time Queens of the Stone Age entered the amphitheatre, the crowd was a little knackered. Catfish and the Bottlemen and Royal Blood slammed tremendously awesome concerts on the audience, but we still had room for one more.
From the USA, our seasoned rock connoisseurs and performers entered the stage to pour the musical juices of ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire’ onto all onlookers and listeners. Although lead singer, Josh Homme, toned the song back and sang instead of screamed, the crowd instantly forgot about their sore feet and cold temperature. Like the previous two acts, everyone was pumped and ready to enjoy a full concert of quality anthems as soon as sound hit them. ‘No One Knows’ followed, then ‘Smooth Sailing’ and ‘I Sat by the Ocean’; all getting the fans moving harder and satisfying the ears in and around the now very healthy looking mosh pit. It’s quite apparent after seeing these guys, being over 40 is no excuse to not bleed out a thick blanket of excitement and relish over many thousands of music lovers.
Josh Homme, shows that his style has aged with classy taste like a fine wine. During a song break, if a lead singer whips out a comb and confidently adjusts his slick back hair, you would probably think they’re a pretentious tosser. Well Homme is one of the few that can pull it off. Giggles and cheers seep out of the crowd as he does so indicating everyone was loving him and the band more with each minute. Except for one guy. During Queen’s previously released single, ‘The Way You Used To’, some young whipper-snapper felt like standing on his mate’s shoulders and flipped the bird towards the stage. The song came to an end before the heckler got verbally annihilated by Homme.
“Get out; it’s past your fucking bed time son, haha! No seriously it is past your bed time. The goal is to dance with a young lady, not stand on your best friend’s head. Unless you’re that fucking guy (points to the guy).”
The crowd roared in support and surely enough the guy sunk away without making any more disruptions. Back to the music. An almighty cow bell washed away any negativity and bought ‘Little Sister’ to the audience and once again everyone danced and continued having a killer time. ‘Make It Wit Chu’, one of the more chill songs by Queens Of The Stone Age was performed allowing the crowd to relax and enjoy the groovy stoner elements integrated into their music. The finale of the night and what I’d easily call the best day of SITG 2017, was ‘Song For the Dead’ from their 2002 album, Songs for the Deaf. No encore accompanied the main set-list once this song came to an end; however the satisfaction level in the crowd had surely hit the roof. SITG 2017 had seen its epitome of rock’n’roll performance.
- You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
- No One Knows
- Smooth Sailing
- I Sat by the Ocean
- Misfit Love
- Sick, Sick, Sick
- Feel Good Hit of the Summer
- If I had a Tail
- The Way You Used to Do
- Little Sister
- Make It Wit Chu
- My God Is the Sun
- Go With the Flow
- A Song for the Dead
Sunday 23rd July – Day 3
The last day of the festival came and unfortunately for the rock/metal lover, it was the most disappointing. Saturday was undoubtedly the prime day while Friday still managed to tickle the main stage with a few acts worth seeing.
The Smith Street Band was the only act that I enjoyed for the day; however, personally it’s not a style of music that I would pay to see. Nevertheless, the Melbourne based folk-punk band dished out a performance that at least made Sunday worth going to. Wil Wagner (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and his band of happy musicians took to the stage and welcomed all with ‘Forrest’, a song from their 4th studio album released in April 2017, More Scared of You than You Are of Me. It’s a song that offers no introduction so everyone on stage and in the crowd were straight into it. How Wagner’s singing accent was conjured is still a mystery to me with; it’s as if the Hilltop Hoods were raised in a pub and didn’t rap… An original singing voice mixed in a bowl full of angsty and sometimes intricate lyrics plus their interesting blend of music genres is what makes The Smith Street Band special. ‘Birthdays’ and ‘Song For You’ followed, off the new album, before ‘Ducks Fly Together’ from their first self-titled EP was performed. Unfortunately the attempted singalong introduction didn’t receive as much dedication from the audience as one might have hoped, but things picked up when the rest of the band members joined in.
The band and their style falls short of the power Saturday night’s bands portrayed, so the overall concert energy seemed to come in waves as opposed to being up the whole time. When ‘Surrender’ was played everyone in the crowd started to react much more positively, but as expected, it was ‘Death To The Lads’ that brought everyone together in a sea of dancing and drinking. Pink streamers shot over the now whirling ocean of people and a surprising amount of three-person shoulder totems towered over surrounding fans in the crowd. ‘Throw Me In The River’ followed, but it was Smith Street’s cover of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’ that defined the show’s climax. The denser, front section of the crowd began by ducking down to the ground in anticipation for the drum roll to explode into the main beat. Everyone rocketed themselves into the air and suddenly crowd surfing was everyone’s favourite activity. A bit of Nirvana can never do any harm if done properly! The Smith Street Band do the song fair justice, but aren’t in the same league to be compared to the original composers. That was the end of music I considered enjoyable for the rest of the day.
- Song For You
- Ducks Fly Together
- Young Drunks
- Don’t Want To Die Anymore
- Death To The Lads
- Throw Me In The River
- Territorial Pissings (Nirvana Cover)
Previously in the day Amy Shark was an act that I saw with some friends of mine that have more of a ‘chill’ style interest in music. There were several artists like this across the three days of SITG; artists that do a great job of playing music well and giving the crowd what their ears want, but in terms of performance, a little dry. Some artists still need to understand that visuals at a live performance are half of the show. Maybe the essence of the visuals were to be minimalistic due to her music being pretty laid back, but it gets boring. The only time when the crowd roared was when a monkey of a human nearly managed to climb past the barrier to the tent-supporting pillars. If the crowd roars and cheers for an average Joe trying to get some climbing practice done more than the musician performing, that says something.
Splendour In The Grass had many uncomfortably cold nights, but also some very memorable highlights; predominantly Queens of the Stone Age, Royal Blood, Ocean Grove and Catfish and the Bottlemen. Of course it had its fair share of acts that would have turned heavy enthusiasts away from the festival, and in that sense, the festival is still not quite worth the (roughly) $500 of camping, music and discomfort. Explore all the festival stores or have a bit of fun sneaking in a box of goon under your car bonnet (don’t actually bother trying that) and you should see a memorable time. The food there is absolutely worth it and an unnecessarily large blow-up face of Kanye West will spark a giggle in your cheeky mind every time you walk past. No rain this year, but the sun made a significant amount of Oompa Loompas. Fingers crossed for the introduction of a proper heavy festival but that is how Splendour In The Grass went in 2017.
Sit tight for next year.
Reviewed by Kurt Boldy