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Splendour In The Grass Day One Review

Splendour In The Grass 2010 was the best music event I have ever been to. It was the most thoroughly enjoyable musical experience of my life. Let’s get that out of the way immediately. And I think that many of the other 30,000 people there would hold a similar sentiment.

There are very few negative things that I can say about Splendour: the venue was spectacular, the food was varied and delicious, the atmosphere was just incredible, the people were great, the markets were interesting, the camp ground was adequate, and the organisation was very capable.

Oh and the music was pretty good as well.

I’m going to do my best to review this event, but really it was pretty indescribable. It’s hard to encapsulate such an awesome and chilled atmosphere in words, just like it is impossible to mention every small thing that made this festival special. I will never be able to do justice to the feeling of seeing 20,000 people jumping up and down at the same time in rhythm with Little Secrets. But anyway, here goes.

[Getting There]

I flew out of Melbourne ridiculously early Friday morning, after going to the Mumford and Sons sideshow the night before. Unfortunately fog meant that we circled Brisbane airport for at least an hour before landing, basically condemning me to missing at least the first few acts of the day.

This certainly wasn’t the ideal start, however the ease of catching the organised Splendour shuttle from the airport was a big relief. It may have been just fortunate timing, but I managed to simply stroll onto the shuttle, and the trip itself was quite quick all things considering.

We arrived at the venue, and a very token bag check (which merely involved vaguely patting down bags, I have no idea what they were trying to gain from that) later, we were at Splendour In The Grass.

My late arrival meant that I had already missed Jinja Safari and The Joy Formidable. I was a bit disappointed at this: I was really looking forward to the former live, and I have enjoyed The Joy Formidable’s studio stuff for a while now. However I will see them both as support acts in the coming months for Art Vs Science and Passion Pit respectively, so it wasn’t a disaster.

The campsite was a very small walk away from the entry point, so I wasted no time in setting up my tent (very poorly), and promptly set about exploring the festival.

[First Impressions]

The venue for Splendour In The Grass this year can be summed up in two words: awesome, and massive. The scope of the festival was just huge, which was a good thing because 30,000 people were in attendance. It was a good 10 minutes walk between the three main stages, and this would become up to half an hour in the extremely congested conditions in between acts. This made my planned jumping between stages impossible, but this was of small matter when you consider just how much depth there was to this festival.

There was just so much character in the location, the shops, the stages, and even the food. Splendour was like one hell of a gated community, and you really did get the sense you were part of something special. Around every corner was something you hadn’t noticed before, something you wanted to buy, or something you wanted to eat. You had to appreciate the effort the organisers had put into the small details of this event, as well as the music.

It was the most unique and most impressive setup for a festival I have ever seen. There would have been 50 different food stalls spread out across the massive festival grounds, which had the interesting result of forcing the smaller stalls to specialise in a niche in order to be successful, which in turn led to some very cool and interesting food such as the Mango Hut that would become a thing of legend over the weekend.

Likewise there were countless market stalls, and they really knew their audience- in fact I’m sure many stores were directly marketed at drunk people attracted to shiny things. On that note, there was a massive selection of places to drink, from simple walk-in-walk-out bars that operated on drink tokens to the awesome Mexican themed bar (complete with dancefloor and DJ), to a secluded wine garden, to the Smirnoff Cube.

I actually didn’t drink at all over the weekend in an attempt to save money, which is not only really lame but also means that I can’t tell you much about prices and stuff. I’m told they were decent, if only for mid-strength drinks.

Exploring over (for now), it was time to head to my first act.

[British India]

First up for me was British India. I’ve seen these guys several times before, so choosing them over Washington was more about getting a good spot for Yeasayer than anything, but I also knew that they would be a huge amount of fun, and a very energetic way to start the festival.

Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed.

British India delivered a knockout set designed to get punters ready for a party, even in the considerable heat. Those who had seen them before live knew exactly what to expect: no holding back, plenty of hits, and a healthy mosh from the crowd at the Ampitheater Stage.

The Ampitheater was a stunning sight to behold: a massive, towering stage surrounded by a vast ground area, and behind this, a simply enormous slope, several football fields across in size, stretching into the distance and all the way around the stage. It provided a great opportunity for those that wanted to chill and watch the music while sitting down, whilst also not being afraid to allow people to get up close and personal to the stage.

British India did it justice, playing a broad range of fan favourites from their three studio albums in what was a very fast-paced set. This is a band that is just made to play festivals like this. You Will Die And I Will Take Over provided an early sing along, and Run The Red Light saw the mosh get started in what was a very enjoyable experience indeed to start my Splendour.

Tie Up My Hands and God Is Dead, Meet The Kids were another couple of crowd favourites, as Declan (minus trademark hoodie in the heat) revved up the crowd merely by mentioning “Splendour in the GRASSSSHHH”, and was met with a round of applause when he said it was the best festival lineup they had ever been a part of.

Vanilla was clearly the highlight of their set, as it saw the hundreds of people crowded around the stage chant along with the band: “I can’t breath underwater, I can’t stand in the air”. They’re odd lyrics- more like self-evidentiary statements really- but they sounded pretty special when sung by everyone at The Ampitheater.

A cover of Fight For Your Right (To Party) was rudely interrupted by a sound outage, but the band carried on anyway with the crowd lending a hand with vocals. The return of sound heralded an even bigger rise in energy within the Ampitheater that saw every single person jumping up and down together.

The widely-known chant of “This Ain’t No Fucking Disco” was screamed by us all, putting a smile on Declan’s face as he added “Like I won’t be dancing to LCD Soundsystem tonight”. British India finished their set with an ironic dedication to Empire Of The Sun frontman Luke Steele, as is tradition, and This Dance Is Loaded, which closed their brief but very energetic and enjoyable set with a bang.

[Yeasayer]

Many punters rushed off immediately after British India, no doubt in a hurry to get to Foals over at another stage. This allowed me to get a spot front and center on the barrier in the leadup to the arrival of Yeasayer, which was unexpected but very nice indeed.

The Ampitheater slope area was starting to fill up, as many punters evidently preferred to just relax and enjoy the festivities from a distance for the first day. The result was a relatively small crowd around the stage when Yeasayer took the stage, which was a bit disappointing. This crowd grew significantly throughout the performance however, and did nothing to detract from the sheer awesomeness of what we witnessd.

I’m not the biggest fan of Yeasayer’s studio albums to be honest. Their good songs are fucking awesome, but most of their music comes off as filler to me. This couldn’t have been different for their live performance, where every song lit up the Ampitheater and seemed to have the crowd in some kind of adoring trance.

Wait For The Summer was quite simply magical with its extended introduction and swinging guitar part, while 2080 was predictably fun. I didn’t recognise many of the songs they played, but this didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying them all. Madder Red got the crowd swaying and ‘Oooh’ing, but unquestionably the highlight of the set was Ambling Alp, the opening beats of which were met with deafening applause from the now sizeable crowd. ONE was also of course a lot of fun.

This was music to lose yourself in. The band were charming, complete with their odd selection of clothing, ranging from head wraps to pyjama pants to basketball tops. The suggestion of them moving to Australia when they retire was met with huge applause.

As the first major international band that I witnessed at Splendour, Yeasayer were brilliant.

[Little Red]

Food, shopping, wandering, hearing about how awesome Foals had been, and exploring were in order after Yeasayer, but soon enough I returned to The Ampitheater, only this time on the grassy slope to just relax.

I’ve never been a massive fan of Little Red, having seen them as a bit gimmicky and cliched. Clearly though, I’ve been missing out on something, because they drew an enormous and energetic crowd at The Ampitheater, and played an impressively fun set.

I only recognised a couple of their songs, namely the double-punch of Coca Cola and Rock It that finished their set. Both were bouncy and cool, if far from revolutionary. It was my first chance to witness a packed out ground area of The Ampitheater doing its thing, and it was a true sight to behold.

[Hot Chip]

Hot Chip absolutely packed out the smaller Mix Up stage, which was essentially one hell of a tent. The crowd was spilling out on all sides of the tent, creating for a real bubbling atmosphere. I arrived about halfway through their set, having allowed ample time to wander and get dinner.

It’s hard to describe just how electric everything felt inside that tent. Everyone was packed in tighter than humans should be, the sound was deafening, and the mosh was well and truly going. This only made it more surprising that the gentlemen causing all this commotion from the stage were easily the geekiest looking musicians I have ever seen.

As someone who isn’t very familiar with Hot Chip, seeing them for the first time was definitely a surprise. I managed to get a spot a few rows from the front and a bit to the side thanks to a skilled friend, and simply basked in the glory of the atmosphere in that mammoth tent.

I’m only familiar with Hot Chip’s latest album, so all I can tell you really is that Hand Me Down Your Love was brilliant, with that pulsating keyboard riff that lifted the atmosphere even further, and I Feel Better was pretty great as well. They were impressive as a live act, but for me they were really just a warm up for the one and only LCD Soundsystem.

[LCD Soundsystem]

Surprisingly, quite a few people left the Mix Up stage after Hot Chip, perhaps to seek other stages or perhaps because they just couldn’t take two hour in the stuffy, packed environment. Luckily for me this meant that I could secure a spot on the barrier, to the left in front of a speaker stack, in the lead up for LCD Soundsystem. I was a little bit excited.

The set up was an intricate and masterful process that left the stage looking like some kind of set from a retro science fiction movie. The wait dragged on forever, but eventually, the LCD Soundsystem band took the stage to a roar that I won’t even bother trying to describe. It was clear that this was a main attraction of Splendour for many people. Shortly after, James Murphy himself was on stage, looking dishevelled and relaxed, but ready to put on a show.

What followed was quite simply a blistering powerhouse of a set that left Splendour In The Grass stunned and very, very happy.

Opener Us v Them set the tone straight away, and made it immediately clear that this was a live band to be reckoned with. The entire crowd was moving as one, there was a constant buzzing of adoring shrieks and cheers, but overwhelming everything was the dominating sound emanating from the stage.

I was thrilled to see none other than Michael Tomlinson, leader singer of Yves Klein Blue and one of my personal heroes, dancing like a man possessed in the VIP section in front of the barrier and singing along to every word. He is clearly an LCD fan, and was clearly enjoying the moment just as everyone else in the tent.

Drunk Girls was magnificent live. I have no idea how the band manage to produce such a rapturous and commanding sound with such sparse arrangements of instruments and seeming odds-and-ends, but they do. James Murphy was a perfect and unique frontman, complete with his trademark vintage mic and slow running dance moves, and he had the crowd captivated.

Daft Punk Is Playing At My House was all kinds of fun, and got the energy in the Mix Up to the highest level I had seen so far. Unfortunately to call this set ‘loud’ would be a severe understatement, and my ears simply couldn’t take the punishment of standing in front of the speakers any longer, so I had to retreat a couple of rows for some relief. I’d say the show was unreasonably loud, but really, would we want it any other way? I had no problem moving a bit further back, and even though the barrier was nice, the set was still very enjoyable from a bit further back.

An early highlight of Splendour for me came in the form of All My Friends. It is, simply put, one of the best songs ever written. It was great to see James Murphy and co. don’t dumb it down for live performances either- there was still the constant onslaught of sincere lyrics, and still the beating extended introduction. It was wonderful.

The start of Tribulations was greeted by a suitably loud roar, and provided itself a real Splendour dance number as it got everyone moving and singing. I couldn’t make out any banter amongst the chaos of the set, which was slightly disappointing, but James Murphy’s mere presence was captivating. He just had something about him: he is a born performer.

The Crass Version of Yeah was absolutely massive, booming around the tent, and closer Losing My Edge was likewise. All of a sudden, the set was over. And what a set it had been.

One of my favourite LCD tracks, New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, was missing, but it wouldn’t have fit into this setlist anyway. It was clear right from the start of this performance what James Murphy wanted to do: to simply blow the roof off the Mix Up tent. And that he did.

It is hard to describe the power of this performance. It was intense from starts to finish, and it was glorious.

[Ben Harper]

The dazed punters stumbling away after the end of LCD Soundsystem had two choices- a chilled end to the night with Ben Harper, or a dancey end to the night with the Scissor Sisters. I chose the former, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t slightly regret it.

By this point technical difficulties at the Ampitheater stage had taken their toll, and the stage was running a good 20 minutes behind schedule. This meant I managed to get a spot on the barrier for Ben Harper, which only served to illustrate that he was an inescapably odd choice to headline the first night of proceedings. There can be no doubting that LCD Soundsystem was the spiritual headliner of the first day of Splendour.

I don’t know much of Ben Harper’s music and I was hoping to just be swept away in some lush guitar, but- for me anyway- there wasn’t a lot to like about this set. His slide guitar took way too long to reach crescendo when it made an appearance, and despite the obvious coherence between him and his bandmembers it was a pretty restrained set and not a suitable way to end the first night.

Diamonds On The Inside was good though.

[Wrap Up]

After a troubled start to the day (for me anyway), this became a sensational day of music. Spearheaded by LCD Soundsystem and James Murphy, this was a day to remember and savour. The great festival setup and organisation didn’t hurt either, and by the end of Friday I knew I was in for one hell of a weekend.

Whew, that’s day one done. I’m going to try and have the whole festival reviewed by the weekend, but it’s actually quite an effort doing this all myself, so if you liked the review or have anything to add on the festival or bands I didn’t get to see, by all means drop me a comment.

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2 Responses to “Splendour In The Grass Day One Review”

  1. Rusty Goldsworthy Reply August 9, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Great review but you didn’t do ben Harper Justice and no mention of Never Tear Us Apart with the INXS drummer.. Shame on you…..

    Other than that you are spot on I missed New York I Love you as well but as you said it, it wouldn’t suit the set. hearing Daft Punk’s Playing at My House was awesome like some drunk wedding band that had a past live as a punk cover bank. Totally Awesome!

    Really enjoying your reviews so far and must admit that I saw about 90% of the bands you did!!!!

    You missed out Miami Horror who nailed their set and got me more excited than an ADD Kid with a full bottle of neat Rasberry Cordial when they covered Manfred Mann’s (or Bruce Springsteen if you want to be technical) – Blinded by the Light.

    With an honorable mention to the punters who pulled me off the ground (all 6’4″ and over 100kg’s of me) after stacking it no less than twice down the amphitheatre with a Hot Roast Beef Roll and and a can of MID-STRENGTH Bundy and a cup of Redbull and vodka the first time and a double fist of the bundy and Redbull + Vod the second time.

    I can’t wait for your review of Passion Pit and the veracity of the crowd punching through the security barriers to get into the ‘D’ for it. Lastly the cover of Dreams was like a wet dream (fun while your there, devastating when you have finished)

    • Thanks, appreciate the comment. A few people have said that about Ben Harper actually, I’m beginning to think I just wasn’t in the mood for it, because I enjoyed him when I saw him last year.

      I like your description of ‘Dreams’, I might steal that…

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