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Splendour In The Grass Day Two Review

After an absolutely incredible day one of Splendour In The Grass full of great food, great company, a wonderful atmosphere, plenty of moshing, crumping, and of course LCD Soundsystem, day two had a hell of a lot to live up to. Thanks to the remarkable lineup of artists performing however, this was never going to be a problem.

Predictably, Saturday was probably my favourite all round day of the festival, complete with stunning music from start to finish, and the same great atmosphere everyone had come to know and love by then. There really wasn’t a dull moment; not a single disappointing act or period with no-one to see.

[Jonathan Boulet]

Starting the day for me at the Ampitheater Stage was Australia’s own Jonathan Boulet. I had seen him live several times before, and each time he still had the feeling of a normal guy just caught up in the hype around his music- someone genuinely just happy to be there.

This has its positives and its negatives, but was probably fair enough when you consider Jonathan started his solo project by picking up and playing around with a bandmate’s guitar after practicing with his main band Parades. Chuck in a few skater friends, a mention of your music on Kanye West’s blog, and a very good debut album, and you suddenly have yourself a band.

The point is, judging by Jonathan Boulet’s Speldnour set, him and his bandmates are past the ‘just happy to be here’ stage, and are becoming a very tight live act in their own right.

An impressive crowd gathered around the Amiptheater Stage, and others still opted for a more relaxed vantage point from the grass. Jonathan and his band, complete with no less than three percussionists, proceeded to real off a set full of favourites from their debut self-titled album.

They started, as is customary, with a musical chant of “We will soldier on!”, but after this wasted no time in playing well-known track such as Continue Calling, 321 Ready Or Not, and North To South East To You. The crowd clearly knew Jonathan’s debut album very well, and each song off it was greeted with loud applause.

The band produced a very impressive sound indeed, and brief moments that saw all three percussionists beating passionately on their drums were breath taking.

Ones Who Fly Twos Who Die was as awesome as ever, getting the crowd moving quite a bit which was an achievement for a band playing so early in the day.

45 minutes was much too long for the band to play however. Jonathan himself seemed to know this, filling the time with extended and needless banter and protracted vocal-free jams that simply didn’t work. On the bright side, the mystery of why band members threw water bottles at each other mid-set last time I saw them was solved, as Jonathan explained that whenever one of them plays another artist’s song, the rest of the band have a license to throw stuff at him.

Fair enough. The drummer nailed Jonathan in the head with a perfect throw of a water bottle that drew laughs from the crowd and an ‘I deserved that’ from Jonathan.

All negative thoughts and unmemorable jams were immediately forgotten with the final song of Jonathan’s set, the always great A Community Service Announcement. It’s no wonder this track has got international attention, including a brief writeup on Pitchfork. Somehow all its elements just combine perfectly to form one of the most instantly likable and catchy songs I have ever heard. It loses none of its charm live, and it was the perfect way to end the first act of day two.

[Yacht Club DJs]

They are all kinds of awesome. I arrived at the Mix Up Stage just in time to jump along to a danced up version of Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle (pre-emo), sing along loudly to The Living End’s Prisoner Of Society, and see one half of the duo crowdsurfing in an inflatable boat.

That was in the space of four minutes. Literally four minutes. I don’t think I really need to say anything more.

[Two Door Cinema Club]

Following the mass exodus after Yacht Club DJs, I managed to get a spot front and center on the barrier, which was a relief because Two Door Cinema Club were among the artists I was most looking forward to on day two.

These guys clearly vastly underestimated their popularity at the start of their Australian tour. Their Melbourne sideshow was initially scheduled at the smaller East Brunswick Club venue, before selling out in a matter of seconds and promptly getting a huge upgrade to the much more sizable Billboard venue. True to form, Splendour punters proceeded to pack out the tent in the leadup to the scheduled arrival of the band.

The guys took to the stage, looking very young and genuinely surprised at the massive crowd that has assembled in and around the tent and the deafening sounds of adoration now emanating from this crowd.

It’s amazing, what a good debut album can do.

In a short space of time however they had thoroughly justified this love, with an inspired set that ensured not a single still person was in the Mix Up tent. If music is meant to be fun, then these guys are masters, even at such a young age and only in their musical infancy.

Opener Cigarettes In The Theatre got thing started. Immediately it was obvious that Two Door Cinema Club had a well honed live show. Many electro-pop-dance-whatever acts struggle to reproduce their energy in a live show format, let alone to a massive festival crowd, but the young Irish lads pulled it off with absurd ease.

In fact, they were so confident that they played their biggest song second.

“And she spoke words that would melt in your hands. She spoke words of wisdom.”

They are lyrics that have oddly come to define the year in music for whatever reason, and I will never forget bellowing them along with thousands of other people, completely unable to hear my own voice and completely not caring. Undercover Martyn was magic.

Playing your biggest song so early is always a risk, but Two Door had the charm, grace, and hits to make it work. In fact I’d go as far as to say that the unconventional placement of Undercover Martyn was a masterstroke, wasting no time in getting the crowd to boiling point and shaking off any lingering tiredness or hangover.

What You Know was greeted with loving applause the moment those its instantly recognisable jangly guitar beat began, but it was trumped by the equally recognisable chant that begins I Can Talk, which saw the Mix Up tent moving and singing as one once again.

A surprise of their set for me was Do You Want It All, a song I generally skim over when listening to ‘Tourist History’ that took on a charm all of its own when played live, surrounded by louder dance tracks, and with the awesome looping chorus of “All because you want to be all, because you want to be all”. There were no surprises with Come Back Home however, which was pure and unadulterated fun.

By the time Two Door Cinema Club departed the stage they had not only played a blisteringly awesome set but also completely charmed the massive audience with repeated banter of how awesome the festival was, how great the lineup was, and how much fun they were having. This was a band genuinely blown away by the reception they received, but yet to their credit they did not let it overwhelm them, and went about their business as if it was their duty to ensure every single person sung until they were hoarse, which many of us did.

Those willing to sacrifice the sheer indie coolness of The Drums over at the Ampitheater were rewarded with a set that got every single person moving and was fun, in the purest possible sense of the word.

[John Steel Singers]

There was just enough time to quickly dash over to the much smaller GW McLennan Stage in time to see some of the John Steel Singers. I was delighted to see that the Aussie boys had attracted a simply massive crowd- the last time I saw them live was in a small room with only a handful of people, as the opened for Philadelphia Grand Jury.

Luckily for me I arrived in time to catch the majority of their set and see most of their songs that I know and love. They are such a delightful live band, full of quirks, energy, and uniqueness. They even got a bit of a mosh going at one point which was very fun indeed.

Masochist, my favourite song of theirs, is just great live. It features the John Steel Singers’ trademark galloping drum beat and heavy bass, and smooth vocals carry the track magnificently. The addition of plenty of horns doesn’t hurt either, and the band impressively managed to get a proper brass setup going at Splendour, which was appreciated by everyone under the tent.

They must have been saving their hits for the end of their set, because next up was the wonderful Strawberry Wine, which included even more ample use of trumpets and trombones and was impossible not to enjoy. This is a band onto big things, with a live show that should be envied by many more established acts.

The boys said a big thank-you to the massive crowd that had assembled, which you have to think would easily be the biggest of their career so far. Then, came the return of the horse masks. I remember seeing the John Steel Singers playing with these masks at Falls, and it was absolutely awesome, but they had told the crowd at a later show that they had been retired. This clearly was not the case, as four horse mask dancers appeared on stage from nowhere and proceeded to perform a delicate dance, made only more difficult by their protruding masks.

The set finished with a massive line dance on the stage, featuring all band members and their horse-masked companions, who received a huge cheer from the crowd. It was a very memorable image indeed, seeing them all lined up on stage, running/dancing in time with the opening beats of the excellent Evolution, which heralded the end of the set.

[Delphic]

After the awesomeness of the John Steel Singers it was back to the Mix Up Stage for the dance act taking the world by storm at the moment, Delphic. These guys had just toured Australia earlier this year, but having missed them then I was very excited to get the opportunity to see them again so quickly, and wasted no time in securing a favourable position around the middle of the packed tent.

This was an interesting set. The five guys have clearly worked very hard indeed on crafting a live outdoors show to suit their dance music which is probably more at home in a club than anywhere else. To their credit, they pulled this off. There was pretty much no gaps in between songs, which created almost a rave-like atmosphere in the tent as people went mental with no downtime whatsoever. For me, it also had the unintended effect of making all their songs sound very similar, much more so than they do one their debut album ‘Acolyte’.

It was a highly enjoyable set however. The double hit of Clarion Call and Doubt got the party started, just like it does on Delphic’s debut album. However the band then mixed things up a bit with an extended and awesome version of Red Lights, which saw the crowd screaming “I wouldn’t stop for red lights, I wouldn’t come up for air”.

Easily the highlight of their set came in the form of Halcyon, with the great lyrics of “Just give me something I can believe in” which were echoed by the Mix Up tent at large. A general lack of banter was a bit disappointing, but the guys were clearly pleased to be back in Australia playing to such and excitable crowd, and prolonged talking would not have served the continuity of the set that they were clearly trying so hard to uphold.

“We have one more song to play,” screamed frontman James Cook over the constant noise in the tent, “But it’s alright, because it goes for ten minutes”. Sure enough, it was the epic Acolyte that perhaps overstayed its welcome ever so slightly but was still thoroughly enjoyable.

Delphic’s set was an interesting one for a festival, almost trying to emulate the DJs that played in between sets at the Mix Up stage. But, whatever they did, it worked. The tent was transformed into a huge party for the duration of their set, including a disproportionate amount of Pool Noodles waving in the air. It was a lot of fun, even if it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

[Bluejuice]

Yes, I saw Bluejuice instead of Tame Impala. I know, indie cred: gone.

I don’t regret it either. These guys are Splendour veterans who are quite simply masters at revving up a crowd into a frenzy, and you can say what you like about them, but their live show is surprisingly clinical and so very, very fun.

From the moment the stage curtain was pulled aside to reveal the stage decked out in orange glow in the dark paint, the sizable crowd knew that we were in for a great time. This was only furthered when Bluejuice appeared on this stage wearing skin-tight suits painted in the same glow paint, complete with feather vests and leggings. Bluejuice, in a nutshell.

Of course it’s gimmicky, and it would come off a very try-hard if the band took themselves seriously. But they really don’t, so instead it’s just awesome (I remember seeing an interview with a member of Bluejuice who said with a very straight face: “I think we need to stop all the stage antics and gimmicks, trying to rev the crowd up. I think it detracts from the beauty of our music and comes off as a bit desperate”).

Miss Johnston saw a healthy jumping in the crowd get started, and it was so enjoyable to just get caught up in the child-like fun of the band, forgetting about everything else. (Ain’t) Telling The Truth made a surprise early-set appearance to ensure that the crowd got a chance to take over lead vocals nice and early, and we didn’t let the band down.

The likes of Little Emperor, Head Of The Hawk (with its wonderful synth interludes) and the furious Medication ensured the set didn’t lull, and Bluejuice gradually started to remove items of clothing, as is customary, to the point where they were wearing only the lower halves of their skin tight suits and feather leggings. “I look like my cock is hanging out,” observed Jake blatantly.

The band had saved their biggest hits for last. The latter part of their set saw the simply awesome Vitriol light up Splendour In The Grass with singing that I’m sure could have been heard all around the festival grounds and jumping that reduced the already soft ground to mud. Man it was fun. “Good luck and don’t dare give up, give it a little bit of vitriol”.

Then it was time for Broken Leg which ensured the set ended perfectly. Bluejuice have never been one for grand statements of appreciation (see “Hi all you immigrant cunts” from Jake at this years Big Day Out”), but it was very clear to see that even they appreciated the huge response their received at Splendour when, to be perfectly honest, there were many much more skilled musicians playing on other stages.

Bluejuice are what they are, and in their own way they are incredibly skilled live performers. ‘Fun’ doesn’t begin to describe this set, and I stumbled out of the Mix Up tent with extremely sore feet, a hoarse voice, mud covering the lower parts of my legs, but a huge smile on my face.

[Florence And The Machine]

After a bit of a break for dinner and a wander, it was time to brave the packed Ampitheater stage for Florence And The Machine in the leadup to The Strokes. The plan was to get a good spot in the ground area and hold it until Julian Casablancas and co. arrived, but the mad rush to see Florence prevented this. I mean I knew she was popular, but wow. I think that was the most tightly packed I have ever seen humans, it was simply impossible to move when you got anywhere close to the stage.

In the end we settled for a decent view from the side of the stage, deciding that there was no way we were going to get that squashed in the leadup to Florence. I copped a lot of crap for the indifferent review I gave Florence for my Laneway review, and her music still really doesn’t do all that much for me, but I have to say that she was impressive at Splendour.

She has one hell of a voice. In fact she is probably the most powerful female vocalist going around at the moment. This created an interesting contrast however: during her songs Florence was an all powerful being, screaming into her mic, waving her white dress, and commanding drums with a mere wave of her hand. Between songs however she was surprisingly timid and cute. Whether this juxtaposition was by design or was just natural, I found it slightly unsettling.

Her performance though was impeccable. If her music is your kind of thing, then this must have surely been one of your highlights of Splendour. Opening track Drumming Song got the front of the crowd moving incredibly, and Kiss With A Fist was predictably brutal and powerful. The highlight of her set for me was Dog Days Are Over, where she instructed the crowd in a dance move she wanted us to perform that coincidentally very closely mimicked the jumping up and down that most of the crowd were already doing anyway.

Florence was one of the most captivating frontwomen I have ever seen, quirks and all. She somehow managed to be charming and dominating at the same time, and there was constantly a sense of mystery and intrigue about her that had the adoring crowd absolutely fascinated.

Like I said, I’m not the biggest Florence fan, and I still really enjoyed this set, so that’s saying something. Plus witnessing the Ampitheater stage losing its collective mind from within was a true sight to witness.

[The Strokes]

This was it. The headliner of Splendour In The Grass and my most anticipated act. I was, to put it very mildly, extremely excited for The Strokes. So much so that I left the friends I was with, who were opting for a more safe view from the side, and headed into the packed crowd  by myself, which was actually slightly less busy following the departures after Florence.I managed to secure a spot about five rows from the front, right in the middle of things. It was difficult to hold, with thousands of people pressing against me, but it would prove to be worth it.

The stage manager made the interesting announcement that the ground area would be closed off (this was greeted with cheers by those already in it), and that more people needed to fit into the grassy slope area. This statement due many laughs from those in the ground crowd, who could only see a collective mass of ten thousand people or more when looking up at the slope. It is impossible to do this sight justice- everyone standing, everyone anticipating the arrival of The Strokes… it was just so many people. It was surreal.

But, we were all here for the music. A very uncomfortable 45 minute wait later, Julian Casablancas and The Strokes strode out confidently onto the stage, and the world exploded. The sound was insane, as was the atmosphere towards the front of the crowd. I’m pretty sure we were moshing before the first song had begun, just in anticipation of what was to come.

Julian Casablancas, as cool as all hell, broke into New York City Cops. Not a bad opening track. It was incredible to be part of thousands of people jumping up and down to the music, hands stretching towards the stage and the dark sky, with the teeming mass of people on the slope behind us. This was what a music festival is about.

The Strokes didn’t hold back their hits, either. The Modern Age and Hard To Explain followed, both of which saw the crowd singing every word with an almost religious knowledge of the The Strokes’ music. Then came one of the highlights of the entire festival for me: You Only Live Once. It was so awesome to chant that great opening verse, along with everyone else, while jumping up and down, attempting not to be squashed from all directions, without a care for how stupid you might look. At the time it seemed crazy to even contemplate doing anything else, and those not into the music were unceremoniously forced back as the rush of people extended forwards, an unstoppable force.

Julian Casablancas isn’t known for his banter, but he is just so effortlessly cool that everything he said turned to gold. “You guys enjoy Flo Mo?” caught the crowd off guard, until he explained, “You know, Florence and the Machine? She was amazing, you guys have already had an incredible night. So, you know, no presh”. Looking down at the crowd even he couldn’t help but be slightly amazed, describing the area in front of him aptly as a “human cauldron”.

Is This It saw the crowd drown out the band’s vocals temporarily as every person bar none chanted that famous opening of “Can’t you see I’m trying, I don’t even like it, I just lied to get to your apartment”. Soon after this Vision Of Division saw the mosh reach a new level. The sound that greeted the end of every single song was other-worldly, to the point where no matter how loud you screamed your joy and appreciation there was simply no way you were ever going to hear your own voice.

Next up in the procession of amazing songs was Reptilia, which was thoroughly enjoyable but instantly outdone by the song that followed it, Last Nite. It was perfect, the entire crowd singing every word, jumping in time with that distinctive guitar riff, and simply losing it during the extended refrain of “Last night…”. It was very special, and heralded the end of the main set.

The band departed the stage to rapturous applause, but a groundswell in noise ensured that they returned almost immediately to play an epic five song encore. This included such songs as Juicebox and Heart In A Cage, but was spearheaded by the timeless Someday. “In many ways, they’ll miss the good old days someday, someday. Yeah it hurts to say, but I want you to stay sometimes, sometimes”.  To hear this legendary song live for the first time, in such a perfect atmosphere, was amazing. The crowd and the band both ensured nothing was left in the tank leading up to the end of the gig, letting off every last shred of energy.

Then, with the dying sounds of Take It Or Leave It, it was over. Encore included, the band had played for the entirety of their one hour and fifteen minute slot, significantly longer than most of their recent sideshows.

Their performance was so incredible that I was perfectly confident in prematurely proclaiming them the best act of Splendour 2010. As things turned out the next day of course, I was wrong (ooooo, cliffhanger much?). They were the perfect live band, with just enough banter, just enough energy, and way, way, way too much cool. I walked out of the Ampitheater drenched with sweat despite the coldness of the night, but was perfectly happy with the world, knowing that I had just witnessed something truly awesome.

[Wrap Up]

Day two of Splendour In The Grass was probably the most rewarding day of my life musically. There was no downtime, from the fun of Two Door Cinema Club and Bluejuice, the party that was Delphic, John Steel Singers’ great performance and fantastic horsemasks, to witnessing the masters themselves, The Strokes, perform.

As the night of music wound to a close and people departed either back to their tents for a well earned night of sleep or took The Strokes’ words to heart and decided “Yeah the night’s not over, you’re not trying hard enough”, there was a feeling of complete contentment in Woodfordia.

For everyone knew that it doesn’t really get much better than this.

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

  1. I have to say reading your posts and blogs have become an endless journey of pleasures and stimulations. I never thought that the passion and enjoyment i get from music in its many forms and guises would ever be understood by anyone else, never mind coommunicated so effectively. Iknow I am tagging this on the review of day 2 of splendour..but it goes for the whole creative wonder you have started and continue here…btw, you hit the nail on the head with most parts of your review of the day…I was converted by the florence performance, swooned over the strokes, loved that we saw a rehashed Doors (Tame Impala) followed by Black Sabbath (wolfmother)…but thats another story…Keep this wonderful festival at woodford…and keep writing my friend…
    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=724676858&v=wall&story_fbid=119275014789112&ref=notif&notif_t=like#!/profile.php?id=100001434580909

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